Ashes: The tales from England’s travelling fans in Australia

Joe Root poses for photos with fans after England's defeat in the first Test in Brisbane
Joe Root poses for photos with fans after England’s defeat in the first Test in Brisbane

For supporters of the England team, a trip to an Ashes series in Australia is top of the bucket list.

Not only are there the cricketing cathedrals of the MCG and the Adelaide Oval to be experienced, but also sights like the Sydney Opera House to be seen, beaches to laze on and winter sun to be worshipped.

Such a trip comes with a hefty price tag. And, if you want Christmas down under, you run the risk that the Ashes will be gone by the time you get there.

Ashes: The tales from England’s travelling fans in Australia
Ashes: The tales from England’s travelling fans in Australia

These are just some of the tales told by those who have travelled, or will travel, to Australia.

‘I made it to Brisbane without taking a flight’

Ed Miller is a 34-year-old British teacher who lives in Dubai. He quit his job after setting himself the challenge of travelling from London to the first Test in Brisbane without taking a flight.

“I’ve always loved the overland adventures of Charlie Boorman and Michael Palin, and I love cricket, so I thought why not see if I can do it.

“I started in London on the second day of The Oval Test in July. I inter-railed around Europe for about four weeks and ended up in Moscow. I took the Trans-Siberian railway to Beijing. From there I went to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

“I travelled through Malaysia and Singapore. It should have taken two or three days to get from Singapore to Bali, but day after day I was being told there were no ferries and that they wouldn’t be running for a month. When I did get one, it was a 30-hour journey in horrendous conditions. I was really wondering if it was worth it.

The England flat flies proudly despite impending defeat in the third Test at the Waca
The England flat flies proudly despite impending defeat in the third Test at the Waca

“After that, there was no commercial way of getting to Australia from Bali without flying, so I knew I had to find a way.

“I was going daily to the marina in Bali to find a yacht that would take me. It was the wrong time of year – all the yachts were going from Australia rather than the other way. It was coming to the last-chance saloon. A few more days and I would have had to take a flight or miss the first day of the Test, which I wasn’t prepared to do.

“There was a cruise ship coming in that I knew about. I’d contacted them and a got very firm “no”. Lots of friends and family got in touch and tried to wear them down. Eventually, the day before, they agreed. That was the first time I knew I was going to make it.

“It’s been 25 trains, 22 buses, eight boats and one road trip from Darwin to Brisbane.

“I went straight to the Gabba. Arriving, completing the challenge, was the best moment of the trip.”

‘I decorated Kevin Pietersen’s house’

Trevor Hewitt is a painter and decorator from Milton Keynes. The 56-year-old’s job has earned him the nickname ‘Deco’. He’s known by spectators and England players alike.

“I’ve always been a cricket fan. In 2003 my cricket club were going to Sri Lanka to watch England. I got bitten by the bug and I’ve hardly missed a tour since.

“I do whatever it takes to get here – working Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays. For three months of the year one company pays good money for me to work out of hours in offices, when all the staff have gone home.

“I’ll do eight in the morning until four in the afternoon at a house, go home for a shower and some food, then work from six in the evening until two or three in the morning. Every time I get tired, I just think of being out here.

Kevin Pietersen celebrates winning the 2013 Ashes in England
Kevin Pietersen celebrates winning the 2013 Ashes in England

“I know that, if I want to support the boys, that’s what I have to do. It’s a lifestyle choice and not for everyone, but I’m seen some marvellous cricket.

“Apart from one Test in the UAE and the trip where we were advised not to go to Bangladesh, I haven’t missed a tour in 14 years.

“In the 2011 World Cup in India, I got pick-pocketed. I saw Matt Prior and then met Kevin Pietersen, who found out that I was a decorator. He asked me if I’d like to work on a house he had just bought, so I hired some workers to help me decorate KP’s new house.

“All of the boys look after us. They might follow us on Twitter and help us if we can’t get hold of a ticket – that enhances my love for them because they are such nice people.

“If all I have to do is work 16 hours a day to be here, it’s worth it to me. When you work hard for something, you really appreciate it.”

‘I’d never been to a Test before’

Steve Tidy is 33 and from west London. A Brentford fan, he has been to 90 of the 92 grounds in the top four divisions of English football. Until this Ashes tour, he had never before been to a Test match.

“I have always loved travelling and wanted to do Australia. I’m a football fan really. I’d been to one T20 before, and that was really for the day out. You have to learn somewhere, don’t you, so I’m doing all five Tests.

“A lot of people in my family or who I work with are envious because this is something they have always wanted to do. I’ve got pals who love their cricket and they were asking, “Why? What are you doing?” I see the cricket as secondary to me enjoying Australia. Everyone thinks I’m mad and they wouldn’t be wrong.

Travelling supporters cheer on England during the third Test in Perth
Travelling supporters cheer on England during the third Test in Perth

“I love the atmosphere, the singing, the buzz in the stands – it’s better than Brentford at home, but not as good as Brentford away.

“Not only that, but I’m getting to see the five cities where the games are played and I’ve been to Cairns in between. It’s been billed as the trip of a lifetime, and that’s certainly what it has been.”

‘I’ve saved for 17 years’

Simon Harris, from Port Talbot, is 51. He and four friends are travelling out for the fifth Test with the Ashes already decided.

“We all played cricket together. In 2000 we said to our wives that we wanted to do a trip together, so we signed a direct debit for £20 a month that has accumulated over the years.

“At the time, we didn’t know when it would be, or that it would even be the Ashes. We wanted to watch sport, so it could have been to see the Lions play rugby. Maybe deep down we always knew it would be cricket.

A Charlie Chaplin lookalike makes an appearance at the Waca
A Charlie Chaplin lookalike makes an appearance at the Waca

“About 18 months ago we sat down and decided that the time is right and we settled on this Ashes series. We’d saved more than £5,000 and we’ve blown it all on accommodation and flights – we’re going to the front of the plane. We’ve rented a house in Coogee and we have tickets for all five days of the Test.

“I’m disappointed from a cricketing point of view. We’ve been pumped. It won’t take the edge of our trip – we’ll still enjoy it – but it does rankle with you when you have paid a lot of money.

“Still, I don’t wish I’d spent that money on something else. The cricket is just part of spending two weeks with four of my best friends, which will be really special. We’ll still enjoy it.”

‘I won a bet’

Ali Mather, 27, from Clapham, was part of an Australian rules football team in London. During the 2015 Ashes in the UK, he placed a wager with one of his Aussie team-mates.

“The team had a Whatsapp group that included 70 or 80 people, a lot of them Aussies.

“At the start of the last Ashes, I said to that group, ‘If Australia win the Ashes, I’ll put £200 behind the bar’. Josh Pearson, who had actually returned to Australia, said that was an awful bet and upped the stakes.

“If Australia won, I was paying for him to fly to the 2019 Ashes. If England won, I was getting a paid trip to this series.

“It was probably the most stupid bet I’ve ever said yes to – I’d never go to a casino and whack £1,300 on red or something like that – but, luckily, England managed to win.

A supporter dressed as the Queen addresses the crowd during the first Test at the Gabba
A supporter dressed as the Queen addresses the crowd during the first Test

“I had doubts at the start but, because so many people knew about it, there was no way that either of us would back out. I’m a man of my word and, to be fair to Josh, he has kept the promise.

“I’ll be at the fourth and fifth Tests, so I’ve arrived when the Ashes were lost. Still, there’s 30 of us going on Boxing Day, so that’s going to be great experience.

“I’m a little bit gutted that the series has turned out the way it has. Maybe we didn’t expect England to win, but the senior players haven’t stepped up. The players that we had doubts over have been fantastic. It’s upsetting, but I do think we can win one Test.

“I saw Josh for the first time in three years when I arrived in Sydney.

“I’m not sure I’d be taking a similar bet in the future – I might have to make some South African friends and take it up with them.”

‘I left my honeymoon for an Ashes Test’

George Gallantree, from Harlow, travelled to Australia for the 2006-07 Ashes. Three months after returning to the UK, he went back to live down under and went on to found the Brisbane Barmies.

“I’ve been back to England for every Ashes tour since I moved to Australia. Me and my now wife returned to the UK to get married and that coincided with an Ashes tour. We went on honeymoon in Spain and, two days in, I told her that I was flying to London for the Lord’s Test.

“Our daughter was born 13 months ago, so my mum wanted us to return to the UK for Christmas and her birthday. I was at the Gabba for the first Test of this series, but I am the die-hard England fan who lives in Australia that has actually left the country during the Ashes. My friends can’t believe it.

“On the last Ashes tour, when England were getting beaten in Adelaide, we learned about the Adelaide Barmies. We thought they would follow their footsteps in Brisbane. When this series was about a year away, we got our act together.

“There are so many ex-pats, but it’s hard for them to sit together at a Test because you’re usually only allowed to buy eight tickets at once. It took some persuasion, but Cricket Australia allowed us to sit as a group of ex-pats, next to the Barmy Army, so we could support our team in unison.

“When you live so far away from the place that you still call home, sport is something that brings you nearer to like-minded people. At the first Test, I was able to meet people who had previously just been names on the Brisbane Barmies Facebook page. That was fantastic. We hope to be doing the same for every Gabba Ashes Test.”

A member of England's Barmy Army signals a four
A member of England’s Barmy Army signals a four, a welcome moment of joy during a miserable tour on the pitch

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