A Chocolate Orange kind of a week.

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This is a story based on a true story; as true as I remember it. Maybe it’s a fabrication based on some small points that I recall. I’m sure some of the other players in the tale remember it better than I.

Some time ago I lived in the front bedroom of a student house. It sounds a strange arrangement now, but at the time it made sense. As I was the one least likely to be asleep at any time, I was the one least likely to be woken up by anything.

Although it was a living room initially, it was very much a bedroom for me. If I entertained, it would be there, though I didn’t. I had a 2 metre high poster of the sleeve of Let Robeson Sing by the Manic Street Preachers on the wall by the door, and later, the line “Love’s The Greatest Thing” in the style of blur’s Tender on the other side of the room.

I was downstairs, then, and two of my friends were upstairs. In truth, only one of them spent any significant time upstairs as the other had a girlfriend in a different house, and he spent a good deal of his time there. It made for a cushy time, and we were happy.

A lot of things happened during the few years I lived in that house – too many to mention in just one tale – though this is the story of just one.

It was, for example, where I definitively stopped wearing jeans. One day, after walking home in the rain in jeans, I found my legs had gone blue in the bath. Never again, I vowed. Never again.

That was in the downstairs bathroom, a place that was forever cold and the site of some of my more spectacular nosebleeds.

There was also an upstairs bathroom, though this was seldom used – with two and a bit people in the house, it was an element of luxury seldom afforded to the student populous.

Well, it was for a while. The bathroom was on a corridor that ran along the length of the ceiling of my bedroom and the room itself was entirely over my room. Lucky it was not regularly used.

One day one of my housemates answered a call of nature upstairs and the toilet in that room omitted a noise we were unfamiliar with. As language students we were ill prepared for the realities of emergency plumbing, so we hoped the noise would stop and the problem would go away.

It did not.

Before too long, it was obvious that the water level of the toilet was not what it was. The pressure dropped and we thought it would pass.

Things do not work out like that with water. Overnight, it became very apparent that something far more was happening. The first sign was that the big poster peeled down, creating a hell of a racket as it peeled off the wall.

There is a time in situations like this, that things race away from you. I remember bullet points from the week, and there is a logical order to them, but I don’t recall how it all came about.

We got a plumber in; he fixed the problem about three days after it started. In that time, I had spent one night in my room with sewage dripping down the wall, ruining the electrics and laying waste to the paper and posters.

By the following night, the odour of faecal matter had become so strong that I couldn’t stay in the room – even with the door shut it was difficult even in the living room across the corridor.

The next day was different; a mad rush to rescue anything that was salvageable and dispose of what wasn’t. I learnt a lot that day. Primarily, that was a lot about what was permeable, and a lot about what was not but also a great deal about how you could fit the contents of one room into another.

There were other lessons, about how quickly one’s nose adapts to a smell and, later, how easily it can return to it. It was quite a day.

The next day, when the brown liquid had stopped drip drip dripping, the clean up operation began. It was painted wallpaper, and it took a long time scrubbing, and a lot of disinfectant but eventually it was sorted, a more pristine powder blue than it had been for many years.

The electrics were a different matter. More lessons were learned, and over a longer time. Plastic plus cleaner equals the smell of chocolate orange. A piercing, irreplaceable chocolate orange that lingers for many weeks. The sockets still worked, but they took on the role of air fresheners too.

I have never been able to listen to Let Robeson Sing since that week without thinking of it, and never really eaten a chocolate orange again either.

Capping It All Off 

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I have an old Chicago Cubs cap. If we’ve met, you’ve probably seen it. While I have other headgear, that is and has always been, my favourite.

I got the cap because I support the Chicago Cubs. I’ve never been to Wrigley Field, nor the Windy City, but I’ve been tied to the Cubs for 15 years and more.

Most of those years, the fun of baseball has been over early. Those years, I’ve been able to watch other teams enjoy their success a little longingly but consoled myself with the fact that, as with so many, there is always next year.

2016 is next year.

I have a very good friend who lives near Chicago. I told him before he moved that he should go watch the Cubs. I’ve told everyone I’ve known go to Chicago the same thing. Live my dream for me.

It might not have seemed so at the time, but he must have taken my advice on board. Maybe he was just amongst Cubs fans. 

Either way, it has been a delight seeing the last couple of years from the ‘inside’; I haven’t felt so close to the Cubs for years.

Even however many thousand miles away, something special was happening, something palpable. It was unnerving, but it was good. It was different.

There were seasons during which I watched all 162 games the Cubs played. 162. Not 179 like this year. The Cubs of the Neifi Effect and the perpetual ‘what might be’ of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.

They were fun days but they lingered. Constant failure is hard to stomach, but small successes make it sweeter.

I progressed from watching the Major League side to doubling up. There would be days go by that I would watch the Major League side, then listen to the Iowa Cubs and the Daytona Cubs. I had a few seasons with the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx before the Tennessee Smokies.

I thought of those teams last night. The endless hours of radio coverage I listened to, the adverts, the wins, the losses, the voices.

Bryant played for all three of those teams, though not while I was listening.

And yet for all that, I barely scratched the surface of Cub fandom. Over 108 years, a lot of people have put a lot into the Chicago Cubs. They will all be delighted at the moment; revelling in a moment that I’d almost trained myself to deny could happen.

Even in my short time with the Cubs, they’d found exciting new ways to disappoint. Losing was their thing, and they did it well.

That has changed now. The lovable losers are now machinated winners. They won 103 games this season. 103.

As the season progressed, people started getting excited by the Cubs. By the World Series my partner was watching the games. The 2016 Cubs belong to the world.

What they have done is truly historic. It is historic not for the 108 years that went before it, for as much as these young players will be aware of the past, they have never been weighed down by it.

They have opened a new chapter, closing the old one only because they had to. There is now the opportunity to win more, to establish the Chicago Cubs as one of the best teams that ever played the game – to make sure that this is just one amazing night in a clutch of them.

There is time for all of that. Now I can get a new cap. The old one will stand as a mark of the wait, not saying “I was there” but “I went through it”.

I support another team that have been champions in the recent past – and there is an interesting comparison to make.

By the time they stormed the field, the Cubs already had their champions merchandise; caps, shirts, everything. When Yorkshire won the County Championship, there was a wait of months before the champion tie was issued.

Cricket and baseball are different games. They might occupy the summer of their respective sports, but the finances and the standing of the two are completely different.

For now all that matters is that the 2016 Chicago Cubs are the World Series champions. They did it. Go Cubs, Go.

These are the happiest possible words,

Addison, Bryant and Rizz.

Trio of Cubs whose bats crackled and fizzed,

Addison, Bryant and Rizz.

Causing the Indians all kinds of trouble,

Scoring by homer, by single, by double,

Smashing a hundred year curse into rubble,

Addison, Bryant and Rizz.

Skittled – New Zealand do ‘a Bangladesh’

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You’ve got to be up pretty early in the morning to see a Bangladesh batting collapse, but there was one for the ages earlier this week. There was a whole load of historic stats about that one that saw them fall from 171/1 to 220 all out, the most prominent is that it was the joint second worst 9-wicket collapse from a team who reached 170 runs with just one wicket down.

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That’s the kind of wicket-losing that you don’t expect to see ever so often, so imagine my surprise when I got in from work in time to see New Zealand batting in the last ODI in India. Chasing 270 to win, they got off to a poor start (just like Bangladesh) before rallying. Then, just like Bangladesh, it all went wrong as the innings fell off a cliff.

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I factored both graphs with 250 runs, even though New Zealand got nowhere near that. This was just a curio while I’m looking through a bit of stuff about Bangladesh. Not sure if that will go anywhere, but this is here anyway.