The Ashes: How To Travel Barmy Army Style

Gnat's piss beer, unfriendly locals, communism and crippling debt are all to be considered before you jet off to follow England in Australia. Luckily for you, our man is a seasoned veteran.
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So you’ve checked that those credit cards can withstand a barrage of abuse from a weak Australian Dollar, you’ve raided that savings account and lost a year’s interest for not providing the bank with enough notice to withdraw your own cash. All that’s left now is for you to check those usual bargain travel sites and you should be heading halfway around the world in no time. However, what should you know in advance of your first cricket trip abroad to watch our glorious team retain the prized urn?

Firstly you’ll find that all those romantic stopover destinations en-route such as Singapore or Bangkok are either unavailable or were booked months in advance by the type of annoying anorak who continually bores you about his trip of a lifetime. The type of trip he’ll enjoy, discuss incessantly but never repeat whilst you continue to drink excessively in various foreign locations under the pretence of watching sport until your liver finally admits defeat. The only availability that you’ll find at a decent price will be via the People’s Republic of China and more than likely the hellhole of an airport that masquerades under the name of Shanghai Pudong. Be careful to allow plenty of time to catch your connecting flight as the helpful Chinese airport system requires you to collect your baggage, walk halfway around a poorly signposted terminal and then queue for a transit visa in a never ending line that confirms every negative thought you’ve ever had about living under the rule of Communism.

Providing you escape from this cesspit of bureaucracy and make the next leg of your journey, you’ll soon be settling down to another portion of cold fish dumpling stew and a kung fu film without subtitles. Best advice is to neck a couple of Temazepam, stick on the iPod and close your eyes whilst dreaming of the golden beaches and suntanned sheilas that await you in a little under twelve hours. It’s not all plain sailing yet though as Australian Immigration await to interrogate pale skinned ‘Poms’ such as yourself - asking why you want to watch their team destroyed by Australia’s finest - whilst you hope that e-visa application you attempted on your IPhone actually worked and their computer doesn’t spot that minor conviction you acquired fifteen years ago during a lively cup tie at West Ham away.

I am prepared to stick my neck on the line and agree with the increasingly popular verdict of most tourists and state that what you’ll be served can only be politely described as ‘urine of the gnat’.

Upon exit from your Australian port of entry, you’ll no doubt feel like the proverbial ‘death warmed up’ and gallantly intend to catch up on much needed beauty sleep in a vain attempt to combat the impending jetlag. However what you will do of course is chuck your bag into the hotel room, change into a stylish polo shirt & shorts regardless of the weather before hitting the local alehouse in order to sample the Aussie brew. Now I’m no connoisseur of alcohol. In fact my reputation is solely based round my history of drinking anything with a percentage label on the side until I invariably collapse on the floor. However I am prepared to stick my neck on the line and agree with the increasingly popular verdict of most tourists and state that what you’ll be served can only be politely described as ‘urine of the gnat’. Beer tends to be traditionally weak in the vain hope that levels of domestic violence and antisocial behaviour decrease following the daily drinking routine of the Australian male. However merely watering down their self proclaimed ’amber nectar’ fails to actually alter the thinking pattern of possibly the most annoying nationality in the world, and so expect plenty of abuse ranging from the good natured to the damn right insulting. How you deal with this remains completely down to yourself. However don’t expect witty banter and intellectual sparring. They don’t even include these phrases in the dictionary around these parts.

Once you’ve acclimatised and got more familiar with your surroundings, perhaps even ventured into the ground for the start of play in the test match, you’ll encounter your follow travelling England cricket supporters. An eclectic mix which includes middle class holidaymakers resplendent in tasteless official merchandise, hippy backpackers whose ability to follow the team extensively on little more than a handful of loose change each day is a continual source of admiration amongst their peers, ex pats from various locations around the globe, determined to demonstrate their Englishness despite buggering off from our shores at the first chance of sunshine and a 19 year old wife who fits into a size eight dress, and former football lads enjoying a change of sporting scenery whilst reminiscing about the time they took 500 proper firm to Sheffield Wednesday in the Milk Cup semi finals.

Talk to many and you’ll receive differing opinions about the familiar and oft used term ‘Barmy Army’. Some are happy to use this name as a collective title for the entire English travelling support, others moan about cliques and the sellout to commercialism and limited company status. Whatever your view, the main purpose of your visit is to predominantly support the lads on the field of play, catch some rays and enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two.

If you’re making the effort, don’t let the current exchange rate get you down, sing loud & proud and look forward to Andrew Strauss lifting that tiny urn in Sydney.

See you down under.

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