This year more than ever I have been lamenting the lack of fall colour in our yard. When we first moved here the autumn brought such magnificent displays, the big maple right by our deck looked like it was on fire when the sun was behind it. We are surrounded by thousands of trees and stretching across the landscape on a crisp autumn morning was a kaleidoscope of red, orange, yellow and even rich russet brown. No more, well at least not lately. The last several years have brought briefer times between the first hint of yellow to total drop of drab beige/brown leaves. This year was barely yellow and seemed to go almost straight from green to gone.

I know why.

Scientists and clever boffins with letters after their names tell us that it is because of global warming. The sugars in leaves need sharp frosts at exactly the right time to produce that glorious display and that has been happening less and later in the year. The scientists and clever boffins are wrong. The cause is something else entirely. A seismic shift in the world that has been subtle and for me at least, unnoticed. A travesty. A change so fundamental it has obviously shifted the world’s axis and undermined the balance of nature.

I am speaking of cricket.

I was having lunch at Montana’s when I happened to put my glasses on and glanced up at the TV. Various interviews were going on with gentlemen clad in bright green, red, orange, etc. I assumed they were footballers (soccer for those who think I might be referring that other game that involves very little in the way of feet but that’s another blog).

Not so. They were cricketers. Cricketers! In colours! I swear I reeled in shock.

Cricket should only ever involve a slight hint of colour, creamy beige jumpers (sweaters), perhaps a jaunty flash of red stripe in the umpire’s cap and a gentle blush of red on the front of white trousers (more of that later). The rest should be white, pristine and crisp, highlighting the green grass, the blue sky and fluffy white clouds, or as a sharp counterpoint to slate grey skies pregnant with impending rain. Pressed long trousers and long sleeved shirts, sleeves rolled to elbow to display well honed forearms.

There is one exception permitted to this rule but it also has strict guidelines. Bright coloured shirts and shorts are acceptable but should be worn by young people as they play cricket on the beaches or back streets of places like Barbados (memories of my youth).

Apart from that there should only be two types of cricket and in both cases the clothes worn should be white.

The first is the posh kind, bores me witless but seems to make my brother and nephews happy, played at places like Lord’s with the aim of winning some pile of ashes from the Australians. This goes on for days and days, interrupted by rain and tea, and is accompanied by subtle clapping and the odd cheer.

The best kind of cricket involves a bit of planning but is truly worth the effort. I am writing this from a woman’s point of view. I suspect men have a different opinion but then when have men ever made any sense?

First, on one of those glorious summer days that only really happen in England, call a friend, sister or, in a pinch, random woman off the street.  Pack a nice blanket, some wine and things to snack on. Wine can be substituted with cider (called hard cider in North America) or bubbles if you want to push the boat out.  Nothing too hard though. You want a gentle buzz, not to be comatose oblivious of the view.

Next find a village green where they are setting up for a cricket match. It doesn’t really matter which green or who is playing, you won’t understand it anyway. Settle down, preferably under a tree, pour some wine, have some high calorie cheese or chocolate or whatever you fancy, and watch. Soon a dozen or so very nice young men will appear and position themselves at random intervals on the grass, and
some middle aged and even older men, that’s OK they all look good in the outfits. Every now and then two of the men will run towards each other, pass, and sometimes run back again for no apparent reason. You will notice how well the tight white trousers accent chuchy bottoms as they lope by. Should you feel a bit naughty you will also notice that over the course of the match the bowler rubs the ball (the red one, the cricket ball) down the front of his trousers. Apparently this polishes it. Whatever. It does leave a slight defining pinky red shadow in a pertinent place which if you are very near sighted like me, gives you a signpost for where to look.

If this all makes you feel a bit of a flushed and flustered it is perfectly alright to lie back and have a little nap. The game will go on for hours and no one will notice. Just sit back up, raise your glass and say ‘Well done that man!’ or ‘Here, here!’, and everyone will think you have a clue about what it is they are actually supposed to be doing. If you get tired of one lot they very kindly swap in new gentlemen at regular intervals.

The health benefits of this sport are phenomenal. It lowers your blood pressure. The wine is good for your cholesterol. The sit ups on your blanket strengthen core tummy muscles. The dappled sunshine gives you an excellent boost of Vitamin D.

I fear for our future now that coloured strip has been introduced as mainstream. I am all in favour of progress but some things are sacrosanct.

:o)

Bet I get flamed for this one.

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This is my Tripadvisor review of our stay at the Barbados Almond Beach Club and Spa. This is not a picture of the entire trip which was great of course, so bear in mind there is more to this than immediately mentioned here

As mentioned before, 99% of the staff members are amazingly friendly and helpful though nametags would be useful. They all introduce themselves but I have a hard enough time remembering my own name. Only one or two of the staff seem to find it hard to crack a smile, but they are definitely the exception to the rule. Food. We thought it was great. Plenty of fresh fruit, salads and vegetables. I am not a dessert person but what I could see looked good. Loved the sausages they serve at breakfast. The main restaurant works on a first come/first served basis. You must make reservations for the much smaller specialty restaurants and we recommend that you try them at least once, the food is well worth it. If you do venture out to eat bear in mind that many places close during September for renovations and repairs and to allow staff a break before the height of the season over the winter months. We had dinner at Daphne’s, which is not far from the hotel, and it was absolutely amazing. We also had lunch at the Sandy Lane Country club, which was also very good indeed. Can also recommend Tides. Be aware though, restaurants are very, very expensive in Barbados. You have to remember the fact that nearly everything has to be imported. So if you prefer not to pay extra, stick to the three Almond Beach locations, you could probably eat something different every night for months. The drinks flow well, perhaps too well for some, more of that later. It would be nice to have access to iced water as well as tea and coffee at that beverage station. The tap water in Barbados is safe, but it’s tepid and we didn’t find the ice-machine until the 3rd day, maybe it should be added to the general map they leave in the room. The only other place to get ice is from the bars and if they are not open, you’re out of luck. We found there were plenty of loungers on the beach – more limited by pools of course. The instructions with regard to the beach towels were a bit odd. In the orientation they stress that you must return the towels on the last day to the white hut on the beach or a charge will be levied. We did so but no one made any note of our room number or name, you simply drop them in a basket so I don’t really see how they can tell if they have been returned. The pools are pretty, though with that sea out there we didn’t use them much. Actually we found it quite surprising to see how few guests went into the water of either kind. The geographic location is perfect for us. Near to family and friends, convenient for shops, banks, etc. The beach is rocky but this is the west coast after all and there is a sandy beach just a minute walk away. A bit tricky at high tide. Tide tables would be useful. The spa is fantastic. Definitely add it to your holiday spending money budget

OK now to the not-so-good stuff. The room. It was damp but this has been the wettest September since records began so I’m prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. We had some problems with housekeeping that we have addressed with the hotel. Our biggest gripe was the location of the room. When I booked I did so directly through their website and followed up on the phone, no airline deals for us. I asked what the levels of the rooms were like and was told there are three tiers. I opted for the middle one. It was a bit galling to meet someone else from Canada who had booked through an airline and got a beach front room at a fraction of the cost we paid. We were one floor above ground level in Block 4 – Room 242 – which backs onto a busy road but worse still, the Piano Bar. What’s wrong with that? Piano bars are usually mellow, quiet, laid back. NOT on Sundays and Wednesdays when they unleash Karaoke. They open at 11.00 p.m. and in theory close at 2.00 a.m. Not so, they close at 2.30 a.m. or later. So shortly after 11.00 p.m. the first drunks showed up from the other bars. Two delightful ladies got into a fight, using language that would make a sailor blush and I am ashamed to say they had English accents. Then some of the men in their party joined in. Such class, such style, makes me proud to be born in the UK – NOT! Note to self; try to lose the last of your English accent so that you will not be tarred with that brush. Eventually, either they knocked each other out, passed out or kissed and made up and went into the bar. Thus began one of the longest nights of my life. At times I feared my ears would start to bleed as I lay in bed staring up at the ceiling. Some time during the performance two ladies tackled Delilah. I know it was that song because when they paused to draw breath before the next screech I could hear the music. Gentlemen joined them in the chorus. There was never any danger of a single correct note being hit by any of the performers and I knew in my heart that somewhere Tom Jones was desperately trying to find a shovel so that he could dig a grave, lie down in it and roll over. However as I am a cup-half-full person I plan on trying my luck to recoup enough money to pay for a return visit by winning the next Nobel Prize for Science because this holiday brought a profound revelation to me about one of the world’s great mysteries. You know all those whales and dolphins that beach themselves every now and then? I believe that every last one of them has at some time spent a karaoke night in Block 4 at the Almond Beach Club and Spa and only way to stop the terrible ringing in their ears is, sadly, a last goodbye on the beach.