(With all due respect to Ben Dirs...)
13:30 – Welcome to Tours airport. Beautiful day here. I haven’t been as excited about doing text commentary on a Money Programme tour since the heady days of Watchett, 1995 when Chris Marshall asked for that infamous “Large Baileys” and it all “got a bit big on him”. Luckily, this team have matured somewhat in the ensuing years – can’t see another vomiting episode from this bunch of pros.
Gimpy requires a few lessons on photographic light and shade...
15.07 – We’re off and, oh – a streaky drive from Skip as he revisits the toll booth on the Tours turnpike not once but twice. Looking at the replay, it appears Troy’s Sat Nav skills have let him down a bit. One has to say that’s poor form from a tour rookie who should really just be sitting back and soaking up the atmosphere – much like his colleague Goochie who regards the whole airport-hotel transit debacle with the bemused expression of a callow fetish-enthusiast who has just had his gob stuffed with his very first billiard ball.
16.13 – Money Programme getting into their rhythm here – steadily picking up the ones and twos… of premium grand pressions from the jubilant proprietor of the Café de la Place. It looks like they could rack up a decent total here – although P Marshall blots the copybook with his persistent requests for “boutille de eau, s’il vu plait… tap…TAP!” Doesn’t look like he’s going to trouble the scorers much this evening.
"Wish I could be with you lads, but the wife has selfishly gone into labour. Besides – if all the opposition’s jail-bait daughters are popping sprogs, I’ll have nobody to hoon round the town with in my Audi convertible."
Tim Marshall via text.
18.57 – Ooooh! Dangerous tactics from Goochie! Daddio’s nagging line-and-length around the topic of whips and leather trousers produces the first indiscretion of the innings, as the young pup rocks out incriminating mobile-phone photos of him grinning nervously in a “torture garden” with a French paramour. Plenty of sledging from the close-in fielders, with “Way to go, Gimpy!” being the general gist of the comments picked up by stump-mic.
20.36 – We’re in familiar territory now at the Grand Bleu with the Money Programme middle order folding like a deck of cards after the traditional crime of “peaking too early”. Refuelling after an afternoon session of heavy scoring is vital, though Gatorade Sport is probably preferable to several flagons of distinctly adequate (and curiously chocolate-tasting) red wine. Mike and Johnny try to inject some class by ordering a pricey Chablis – but frankly we might as well be downing Toilet Duck at this stage for all our taste buds can tell.
"Why do English tourists always make a bleeding racket while I’m trying to enjoy a romantic evening with the wife? My granny can take her ale better than these louts and she’s been dead since 1957. Luckily the missus can’t hear anything as she had her ears heavily bandaged this afternoon after stepping out of line while we were discussing Alan Knott’s gloveman-ship and I happened to have a tyre-iron in my hand." G. Boycott – on Test Match Special
01.00 – Wickets falling at regular intervals now. Gordo, still jet-lagged from his heroics in Adelaide, misses a straight one and walks without looking back to survey his shattered timbers, while… GONE! Gimpy is caught by the kebab house trying to engage passers-by in discussions about the Marquis de Sade. Only Troy (equally adept with snooker cue and cricket bat) and Skip miraculously end the innings not out (unconscious by the river) and planning a romantic stroll round a chateau early next morning. Everybody else has passed out…
01.34 - …Except Big Dave, who is caught well short of his ground in a late-night dash for the pavilion, and can only hurl his guts up all over the popping crease (or, more accurately, his only pair of decent shorts and several other treasured personal possessions. And our carpet.)
All aboard the G-Train
08.30 – Pitch inspection. Big Dave surveys the damage and decides only a liberal coating of shower gel on the chunks of spew just short of a length will avoid a mandatory soiling charge from Cristal Hotel officials. Our room now smells like a diseased badger has smothered himself in Radox before crawling under the bed to die.
12.30 (Greenwich Maund Time) / 10.30 (actual) – “Come on lads, chop chop!” chirps Johnny, tapping his watch briskly. “Hmmmph! I sneaked into Johnny’s room and put his watch forward 2 hours. Snigger. He still hasn’t noticed,” says Dan smugly.
14.00 – 19.00 – Cricket of some description… Difficult to tell exactly what’s going on out there, but Peter seems to be stomping off to the woods again and various charming foreigners are displaying mixed cricketing ability in the face of some pretty challenging alcohol fumes emanating from the tourists. German is dispatched early and the Money Programme prevail by nine hangovers to nil.
Maund O'Clock? - time to crack on with the white wine - I'd better get my ass down to Oddbins
"Looks like the Pudding is playing beautifully – I reckon even I could taken Darren to pieces this year…"
K Lester, via some kind of short-wave radio affair at an airfield in Burgundy
21.37 – Tony and Mrs. Tony are building a solid partnership based on substantial meat products and a selection of tasty hors d’oeuvres leaving most guests sated, and Mike looking close to his first runs of the tour after consuming one too many curried quail eggs. Vincent is resplendent in linen robes and looking to recruit some gullible Englishmen to his newly formed cult. Goochie looks like the most likely candidate, but he faces a tug-of-love “cult-off” scenario from room-mate Dan, who continues to ask him searching questions about his most intimate private moments.
22.58 – “Ding ding!” Saumur skipper Brian makes a charming and erudite speech welcoming the Money Programme to French shores for the 12th year running.
23.01 – “Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!” MP Spokesman Dunlop returns the compliment with a slightly more long-winded and directionless (though no less enjoyable for that) ramble down memory lane, candidly recounting his previous 11 tours and segueing haphazardly into his own personal hopes and fears for the future. Troy (who is still only half-way through his very first tour) proves an adept heckler despite his inexperience. Big balls there from the Aussie as Dan shoots him a withering look. There could be blood on the wicket come bed-time…
23.49 – Loose delivery from Tom, who takes a wrong turn on the way back to the town and ends up in a nightclub car park that looks suspiciously like it doubles as the Loire Valley’s premier dogging venue. Steamed up windows all round, and Mikey starts to rue his recent rash engagement commitment as the car is briefly surrounded by drunk, incapable, willowy French teenagers.
00.59 – Last minute switch in venue for the last rites of the evening, as the Liverpool is deemed unfit for play. Cue some table football in the charming Guinness Pub, which is about as Irish as Pepe le Pugh in a Parisian brothel with a string of garlic round his neck.
11.30 – More like it. Bright start from the Money Programme, who look up for it from the get-go as they take over the outside space at the Brussels, giving the owner with the ridiculous spectacles much to ponder as he comes in off the long run with some lunch menus. Nobody fancies the hock of ham, but several strong lagers are sucked down with the tartiflette, with only Skip going for something white and fizzy, the enormous girl.
2pm – 6pm – More actual cricket, would you believe. Tom retires from batting for the 37th time after an anaemic prod to cover second ball. Don’t know what happened after that and I don’t care. I hate you all
20.21 – After 11 years of reasonably priced accommodation services and countless nights spent desperately scrambling between channels 10 and 11 after the French porn authorities switched the smut, the Money Programme CC finally deign to dine at the Cristal Hotel. And what a shout that is – Hawkeye shows a perfect inswinging escargot to Daddio’s gullet, while the rest of us feast upon tender pave de boeuf, spectacular profiteroles and some seriously decent local plonk. Probably a good thing that Peter has left by this stage, as the bill would probably have made him expire from cardiac arrest before he’d clapped eyes on his first grandson.
22.35 – Surely a record: a second Liverpool-less night on the bounce (a stat that would have no doubt sent Bill Frindall scrabbling for his linear scorebooks of previous tours. If he wasn’t dead.). Instead, we take on the Midsummer Music festival, and record another Saumur first – as Troy is nearly decapitated by a crowd-surfing thrash metal enthusiast.
23.48 - With specialist fielder Pete Clarke and chums on as twelfth man for the departed Marshall Senior, thoughts inevitably turn to a last hurrah, and a seedily sign-posted dive bar tucked away in a tawdry spot some distance from the main drag looks to be a suitable location for Goochie to practice his chat-up lines on some ladies of easy virtue. Unfortunately, after sauntering past security it becomes abundantly clear that is not, in fact, a strip joint – but IS … another fucking pool bar.
Well that’s it folks – 12 Saumurian tours down – what price a Serbian odyssey in 2010…