The perfect summer is England doing well in the Ashes while you have an Australian visitor staying - or so I thought

I've got the cricket bug bad, and have been haranguing the poor guy relentlessly. Then we played tennis...

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The Independent Online

There is only one thing better than being an Englishman who is into cricket when England are doing well in the Ashes. That “thing” is to have an Australian around to give some stick to. This week, I was in luck. Friends of ours had a 14-year-old Australian cousin staying with them, and he was spending nearly every day with my kids. The poor guy just wanted to come to England and hang out having a good time – instead he found himself being harangued by a man in his mid-to-late-forties, who really should have known better.

He’d be minding his own business in the garden when suddenly a window would be flung open and he would have to listen to me screaming: “Another one down! Fancy some cricket lessons mate? You’ll be good enough for the team in a couple of weeks.”

As he was that rare thing, a polite Aussie, he would smile weakly at me while my daughter would look mortified and silently threaten me with death, or worse. Ten minutes later and I would burst into the games room to interrupt a frenetic bout of Wii dancing with an impromptu victory dance of my own, while chanting: “Barmy Army, Barmy Army….” Even while I was doing it I was having an embarrassed out-of-body experience in which I stared down on myself in shame and pity. There was nothing I could do about it however – I’ve got the cricket bug bad, and when an Aussie is near and in trouble, it is almost my patriotic duty to hurl random abuse.

For my Canadian wife, it was almost the last straw – having to watch her idiot husband tease and humiliate our pleasant, 14-year-old houseguest. After a day of this she had had enough. “You’ve got to get out of the house and stop watching this stupid game – go do some work, or… anything, just go….”

I briefly considered ringing immigration and having her deported, but decided against this course as she knows where the bodies are buried. I decided to hide in my office and watch cricket in there. This worked briefly until Finn got his “five-for...” and I burst out of the building, waving a loaf of bread at the bemused Aussie while telling him to take it and get on the boat home because “you’ve nothing left to do here….”

That was it and I was booted out of the house and told to take the kids into Cheltenham to play tennis and “not to listen to the bloody radio on the way”.

Now, as it so happens, tennis is a game that I’m rather good at, even if I do say so myself. Once on court I teamed up with my daughter against the Aussie and his 14-year-old English cousin. “Go easy on them…,” I whispered to my daughter. “I think I might have gone a bit far with the cricket stuff.” That was about the last thing I remember for three horrifying sets. The score at the end left little wriggle room – 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. It turned out that somebody had forgotten to tell me that our Aussie friend was the Victoria State junior champion. It was a quiet drive home. “How was the game?” Stacey asked, looking at me smugly – God, she’s good….

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