Being a long time member of the Barmy Army has its benefits. For one thing, it's a great excuse to travel to warmer climes during the English winter. Actually, I like to say I'm part of the balmy army...enjoying winter cricket tours to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and ... my favourite cricketing location, the West Indies.
I grew up in the 80s when the West Indies were really on top of their game. Holding, Richards, Garner, Marshall, Walsh, Lloyd...all absolute world class players who were a pleasure to watch (when they weren't playing England). Of course, we had Botham, Willis, Gatting, Gower, Randall, Gooch, Lamb, Pringle....to name just a few off the top of my head (while no doubt annoying you, dear reader, for missing out on your county heroes who also played for England). I'd watch the tests on my small TV, just hoping to one day see my heroes in person.
And so, as soon as I had established my business, I went to follow the England time abroad. My first test series was the Ashes series of 1998-99 down under. My first experience was a baptism by lightning storm. Brisbane through everything at us: hail stones the size of golf balls, lightning strikes that were too close for comfort...and Glenn McGrath. We drew that match thanks to the aforementioned acts of God, but went on to lose the series. Despite that, I absolutely fell in love with following cricket abroad. The mix of travel and watching my favourite sport became an addiction that, to this day, I am still in the grip of.
I'm off the the West Indies this January to follow England once more. The players come and go, but many of us fans have stayed loyal throughout. I have made many friends through watching England, and I hope to meet many new faces in the future on my travels.