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A cultural comedy tour with the Barmy Army.,
This review is from: Australia Blues: A Scot at the Ashes (Paperback)
What a gem of a book. I myself am a Scottish cricket fan, and in fact live near The [Kennington/Fosters/Aviva/whatever] Oval, and so I did wonder if I might have seen the author, who is perhaps writing under a nom de plume.
The tale starts predictably enough like many of these tales do, with a drunken bet made in a pub, that Croll can survive six weeks following the Barmy army on the Ashes tour of Australia, and that kind of sets the timbre of his writing throughout, he writes like a very entertaining pub raconteur, drawing you in and cajoling you towards the end of any particular chapter, where the climax is not usually a crescendo, but some kind of frustration at cricket fans touring life.
If it's a gem, then there are several facets to the cutting of the stone; there's the cricket, obviously, there's the travelogue writing about Australian cities [although this does by its nature concentrate on cricket loving towns, there's no Alice Springs or Uluru Ayers Rock] there's the chummy expose of what it's like to travel with the Barmy Army, and there's Croll interior psychology trying to deal with his sense of betrayal at being a scot supporting England in a country where there are more virulent scots than he's ever met.
And it really works. The book moves if not seamlessly then cyclically round these topics, the cricketing talk is accessible enough for the travel readers, the Scottish cultural humour is broad enough to connect with anyone who has a regional bigotry in their heart, and the travelogue writing, while not making me want to jump on the next plane, left me feeling that my Australian chums here in London are not as alien as I had previously thought, believing them to have grown up in a wooden shed with an outside dunny, in the mood of the Bradman legend.
It's not perfect though; Croll and Alexander have successfully avoided the team writing sin of making it obvious who wrote what, the voice in this book is charmingly constant, although I did find it drifting from contemporary scots to Clive James, but that's just how I react to Australian stuff. They've clearly self-published this, and that means they haven't had access to what you get from a proper outfit; a fearless editor to cut some of the connective tissue, and desist Croll from a slight habit of repeating jokes. For a travel book, it should be printed on lighter paper. And the jacket is just horrible. But these are minor concerns in the days of Kindle and ipad, and don't at all impinge on the underlying hilarity of Croll and Alexander's cack-handed wing and several prayers jaunt around a world that in several senses, isn't theirs.