Archive for June, 2016

Horse Racing at Singapore, Sunday 13th March 2016

June 30, 2016


One of the best things about my current job is that I get every fifth week off. That means that Jen and I can pick somewhere to visit and clear off for a holiday.

As it takes around four hours flying to get from Darwin to most of the places worth visiting in Australia, I had a look at the options to the north and for this trip we headed off to Singapore.

I’d read mixed reviews of the place, most of them mentioning that it was a bit dull. Sterile was a description that seemed to crop up. These people have obviously never been to somewhere like Billingham.

We stayed in Chinatown in an old hotel that tried to give the impression that its décor was based on a brothel. A sumptuous establishment from a century ago, that is, full of red velvet curtains, rather than the back room of a modern-day massage place with plastic covered mattresses and trafficked Chinese farm girls. I doubt the latter would go down well on Tripadvisor.


We landed early in the morning and after dropping off our bags took an MRT train to the north of the island and the Kranji racecourse. It was six dollars to get in to the general admission area, which is about three quid. That got us everywhere apart from the Gold Room, which requires a collared shirt and so ruled me out on sartorial grounds.


It was busy inside, with most of the punters choosing to watch the races on the televisions rather than through the windows of the grandstand or from out in the open air. It was amusing to watch people shouting home their horses on the televised races from Hong Kong and Australia that filled the gaps between live action, although I suppose that’s no different from me exclaiming “FFS” and yelling my disagreement with something someone has said on the news.


I started off by trying to do things properly and bought a form guide, before watching the horses make their circuits of the parade ring. I may as well not have bothered though as I’ve no real idea what I should be looking for as they walked around. None of them had an obvious limp, which would probably have been sufficient for me to rule them out, but apart from that none of them looked as if they were any faster than the others.


My selection process changed when I spotted that Alan Munro was riding. Maybe some of you remember him, he was the young lad who rode Generous to victory in the Derby back in the days when Colin Todd was in charge at the Boro and ‘ooh’ Andy Dibble was in his initial clean sheet spell on loan rather than the less successful return some years later. Does that seem a long time ago? It does to me. That’s because it was.

Anyway, on the basis that I couldn’t be arsed to read my form guide, I decided that life would be simpler if I just backed whatever horse Mr. Munro was riding. I realise he’s knocking on a bit but he must still be agile enough to ride horses or else he’d be doing something else by now. I’m sure Lester Piggott rode until he was about sixty and I doubt Alan Munro’s quite that old.


The racing was a mix of grass and polytrack. I watched some from outside and others from high up in the grandstand where I could benefit from the air-conditioning and take advantage of the food court. It was all cheap enough, with spring rolls for a dollar a go and coffee and coke not much more. There wasn’t any beer for sale, which seems strange for a race meeting.


We made a rare profit on the day, or at least on the six races that we stayed for, with Munro winning one and then coming in third on a sixty to one shot. As we made our way out, there were still people coming in.  Perhaps they had just got out of church.

Boxing at Darwin, Saturday 27th February 2016

June 28, 2016


There’s not much goes on in Darwin. It doesn’t tend to be included when bands are arranging their tour schedules and the sport is local rather than national level.

I was therefore quite pleased when I saw a night of boxing planned, particularly when I read that it featured a bout for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Really? In Darwin? Well, yes and no. It was for a heavyweight title, but that of the WBF.

It’s hard to keep track of all the champions these days but as belts go the WBF strap is in Bank of Princess Susy territory. I think Audley Harrison had it for a while and maybe even ‘Aussie’ Joe Bugner. They were definitely high points for the organisation though and this promotion was matching boxers with world rankings of 104 and 211 respectively.

Still, it’s a night out and with our $125 dollar tickets Jen and I got seats on the front row of the banked seating, just behind the tables of people scoffing steak and prawns.


If the headline fight promised little, the undercard delivered less. It was all heavyweights and the first bout appeared to be between two blokes who had just left the pub. The one with the bigger belly was nicknamed ‘The Knife’, something which I’m sure must have caused some trepidation for his opponent.

‘The Knife’ was less keen on fighting than he was on, say, chopping vegetables and he kept falling to the canvas whenever the other fella  aimed a punch in his direction. Eventually the ref could take no more and stopped proceedings on the three knockdown rule.

Fight two featured a baldy bouncer who had so many folds of fat on the back of his head that it looked like his brain was escaping. He also had little desire to stick around with someone trying to punch him in the chops and whilst he complained bitterly when the ref stepped in you could tell that his mind was already on a shower and a beer.


Next up was an aboriginal bloke who seemed to be fighting in underwear boxer shorts rather than boxing boxer shorts. He also just wore normal trainers. Despite his lack of proper gear he seemed quite good. Unfortunately he looked to have been matched against someone twice his size and the other bloke just pushed down on him until he wore him out.

Fight four had an international flavour to it with Clarence Tillman from New Orleans fighting what might have been a Russian bloke.The skinny Russian didn’t have much of a punch on him but it was sufficient to cause Tillman, who had bigger tits than most of the ring girls,to quit in his corner.


The penultimate bout was for the Australian Heavyweight Championship. It was won by Willie Nasio who looked a class above his determined but limited opponent. I reckon Nasio, despite his relative inexperience would have coped easily with either of the headlining heavyweights.

And so to the main event.  Peter ‘the Chief’ Graham from Australia against an American, Julius Long. Forty and thirty-eight years old respectively, it had probably been a while since either had dreamed of holding the Heavyweight Championship of the World.


Long, at an inch over seven feet tall, had an obvious reach advantage and Graham found it hard to get through to him. One lunge caused a clash of heads opening up a cut on the Australian’s head which a few rounds later was deemed severe enough for the fight to be stopped. The cut was ruled accidental and so it went to the cards. Graham was declared the winner.

I had Graham a point ahead at that stage, as did one of the judges. The other two officials had him four and five rounds in front respectively.

Whilst the majority of the crowd got the result that they had been hoping for, the confusing finish and the scoring that didn’t reflect the closeness of the fight caused a bit of an uproar. Peter Graham calmed things down by offering a re-match but I’d be surprised if it happens. I’ll be especially surprised if it happens in Darwin.

MK Dons v Middlesbrough, Tuesday 9th February 2016, 7.45pm

June 2, 2016


The second game of my UK visit was the Boro’s trip to Milton Keynes. I know, Franchise FC and all that. To be honest though, it wasn’t a difficult decision for me as to whether I should go or not. It shouldn’t have been allowed, we all know that, but lots of stuff happens that I don’t agree with and if I boycotted everything that I disapproved of then I’d rarely leave the house.

The actual dilemma facing me on this occasion was whether I should watch the Youth team at home instead. In an infuriating bit of re-arranged scheduling, somehow the Boro had managed to have their first team playing on the same night that the Under 19s were taking on Dinamo Kiev at the Riverside in a Champions League last sixteen game.

Yes, Champions League. Somehow we’d won the Kiddie Premier League the season before and then managed to progress to the last sixteen of the Champions League. If Stadium MK hadn’t been a new ground for me then I suspect I’d have watched Harry Chapman and his mates instead.

It’s a pity it wasn’t a two-legged tie as I’d have liked to seen an away leg. I visited Dinamo’s ground a few years ago when Paul and I called into Kiev to see a McCartney concert on the way back from Euro 2008. It looked a bit run-down at that stage and I understand that they got a nice new one in time for their turn hosting the European Championships four years later.


The Kiev concert was pretty good, despite the rain early on. Apparently there were 350,000 people there. A bit like the Port Vale game at Hartlepool in ’86 I suppose. The big open-air square was a far cry from the much smaller venues that I’ve seen McCartney play since, although in none of those other places did anyone rent me a rat for the purposes of placing on my head for a photo. It’s all the rage in Ukraine apparently.


And so to Mk Dons. I drove down with Tom and his mate Jones. I’ve no idea why so many of his friends get called by their surname. You’d think they’d all gone to Eton. Although I doubt that any of them have the foggiest about what fun you can have with a pig’s head.

There were a lot of average speed cameras on the M1. So many that I was regretting not having given my Australian driving licence to Hertz to avoid the points.

Despite the speed restrictions we were still there earlier than I’d expected. So early that the gates weren’t open. I bumped into Kirk and Esky outside the ground. I used to play football with them and whilst I occasionally see Kirk at games I hadn’t spoken to Esky for about ten years.


Stadium MK was quite impressive, although as we stood in the back row all game, we didn’t benefit from the padded seats. I wasn’t drinking so I can’t comment on the quality of the beer, but the Concrete Cow pie tasted okay.


I was surprised by how few fans MK Dons had. It seemed as if we’d brought more than were in the rest of the ground. I wondered how worthwhile the whole experiment was. Maybe it takes a few years for the kids who grow up with the team to start filling the ground, although if it’s as sparse as this every week I doubt many kids would ever be too excited by the prospect of going to the match.


As with the Blackburn game the previous weekend we were poor. Rhodes started on the bench to the disbelief of most people there and going a goal down early on didn’t improve the mood of the fans. I thought Stewy Downing was a bit ‘hollywood’, with too many unnecessary outside of his foot passes. His strength lies in keeping it simple, even if it doesn’t immediately catch the eye.

There was a fair bit of criticism of Karanka as the game went on and I suspect that had Rhodes not scored that injury time equaliser there would have been a lot more disquiet on the way out.


The drive north was quieter and we were home by two in the morning. The last-gasp point had enabled us to overtake Hull at the top, but it seemed more like another two dropped than one gained.