Trinis deny Gestapo-like rules at World Cup

If there’s one aspect of modern life I cannot stand, it’s the nanny state. I’ve ranted about it before but, on the eve of the World Cup, nanny is back: and she wants more.

This is probably less about a nanny state, more corporate greed. Plastic bottles, tins and alcoholic drinks are all banned at every match venue in the Caribbean (some claim this is for health and safety reasons; others have their doubts). Consequently, the prices inside the grounds are exorbitant as Michelle McDonald discovered.

I scanned the concession stands for meals and prices. I was on the hunt for two fish meals. One stand was selling steamed fish which would have been ideal. Price? J$800 each. Normally, such a meal would cost approximately J$350 maximum, sometimes less. I continued my search, scanning price lists as I went along.

The bottle of water, thrown into a Pepsi cup, was indeed J$150. A Red Stripe Beer was $200. A beer drinker said he would normally have paid J$150 – J$160. I saw a friend with Tropicana Fruit drinks, lamenting the high J$180 price tag. What would have been a normal price, I asked. “J$80!” she exclaimed.

With some creative combining, for my J$1,000, I managed to get a Tofu meal, a small Tofu wrap, a small cup of spilt peas soup and one bottle of water. We would have to share the water.

Quite remarkable, and it’s happening all over the world. I’m sure it isn’t limited just to cricket, either. But the West Indians aren’t going to be all British about it (moan, complain, stiffen the upper lip and “get on with it” [1]). They’re fighting it:

When fans got into the venue and realised that all the food and drink prices, nuts and doubles included, were in US dollars, that was another story.

By yesterday’s match between Pakistan and South Africa, we Trinis found the way to beat the rules. It was no longer rum, beer, water, juice and soft drinks in bottles and cans, but zip-lock bags.

At the end of yesterday’s games, some people were boasting how many bags of beer they drank and others how many bags of rum they had guzzled. A couple of people also hid small plastic bottles of water and less sobering drinks in between their sandwiches and lunch boxes and were able to sneak pass the security checks.

Rock on, Trinis! That zip-lock-bag trick is one to remember.

To what extent these Gestapo-like rules (copyright M Atherton) will affect the traditional Caribbean atmosphere normally associated at grounds in the West Indies, we’ll find out soon. It’s dispiriting though. The region’s addiction with cricket has waned in the past decade and, although this World Cup should aid the sport’s resurgence, the public should just be allowed to have some fun – rum, beer, water, picnics or whatever they wish.

[1] Reminds me of a joke Eddie Izzard once told. Wondering why the British Empire collapsed, he suggested it was the Englishman’s tendency to say “Oh, really?” and “Jolly good!”)

The anguish of Adelaide

I often enjoy Simon Barnes’s pieces at The Times and he’s produced a really crisp and imaginative recollection of the nightmare of the 2nd Test at Adelaide.

It was cricket as it might have been written by Kafka: a hideous punishment, as unjust as it was incomprehensible, inflicted on people who had earned the right to expect better things from life. It was like playing cricket against the Gestapo: cricket as a form of atrocity in which resistance is useless. It was cricket as torture, in which pain and hatred become distorted into a loving and grateful submission to the torturer.

I shall never forget the streets of Adelaide afterwards, the numb shock of the England supporters. These things don’t happen. We couldn’t have seen that. Brains simply refused to process the information they had received. The England press corps, a more resilient bunch on the whole, were to be found the next day at the airport, each with the thousand-yard stare of the Vietnam vet.

That the torture only lasted an hour was something of a reprieve for us, for England. It was quick – still painful – and violent, and will never be forgotten. Like someone slitting a capillary on their wrist, England bled fatally. Barnes even goes as far to say that “it was the most extraordinary passage of cricket I have seen and one of the most shocking things I have witnessed in any sport”. I’m not sure I can quite agree, but nevertheless it was a period of play which must go down as one of the most captivating (or unwatchable, depending on which side of the fence you sit) in modern times.