During the long winter months I like to read classic cricket books to keep me going until the new season begins.
Recently I read Alan Ross’s Australia 63 and Australia 55, his reviews and travelogues of two memorable Ashes series.
Of the two books, for me 55 is better as it was his first trip to Australia, or certainly his first trip to Australia to report on an England tour. Ross vividly describes the Australian landscape, its cities and its people.
Ross was a wonderfully poetic writer and an enthusiastic Epicurean. In the introduction to 55 he writes, “incidentally, the wines of Australia, though they lack the bouquet of European wines, were a revelation.”
He uses wine as a simile to describe and contrast the batting of Colin Cowdrey and Jim Parks: “Cowdrey to him is as a burgundy to a sparkling wine, and on a tour of this kind body is preferable to fizz.”
He mentions drinking Lacroma Cristi at Naples during the voyage out, Hunter River claret at the Melbourne Club, and Chablis at Lennon Hotel in Brisbane.
In Australia 63, he describes “agreeable junketing at Yalumba, the Smith vineyards in the Barossa Valley” on the rest day during the fourth test at Adelaide.
Ross also notes how the Chinese used to purchase bêche-de-mer from the Great Barrier Reef to use in soups. But now – in 1956 – “the Chinese have inclined to spend their money on other things”. Plus ça change…