A hush descends around the ground, the sun beats down on commentators and spectators alike giddily waiting to see who will win the toss. Will we get to see Australia bat or bowl today? While it’s still Christmas day here in Chile the boxing day test is set to start a little later, the best of both worlds. But forget Boxing Day for now, far more important at this minute is the now famous Pucon Christmas day test. With a healthy dose of Aussies, a Kiwi and even a couple of poms we take the heaviest bat ever fashioned out of a piece of 4×2 timber to educate the rest of the world in the essential machinations of an Aussie Christmas. The heavy club a perfect metaphor to ‘educate’ in the British imperial sense, be it used for cricket or otherwise.
In the crowd of people here it’s become customary to name each other simply by nationality. With the anticipation of cricket swaying from excitement to uncertain fear based on your current name, a snapshot of the UN gathers for Christmas lunch. Over the whines of northerners opining the necessity for cold at Christmas it becomes clear that the education must begin early. Kiwi is making the warm weather case for the southern hemisphere and Costa Rica is shunning the cold weather doomsayers with gusto as fifty or so nomads pack into a hodge-podge front lawn dining hall. The lake glistens before us and the volcano towers above to the sound of muted hunger being swept aside in a sea of turkey, salads and so much more. The worlds children put aside differences over the most common of shared interests, food. And a delicious spread it is; there’s no seafood but not a southern hemisphere voice rings out in objection, we’re stuffed to bursting and it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Having many of us well into the alcohol reserves already does nothing to hurt the mood either.
This glorious lunch however is metaphorically little more than getting the chips and finding your seat in the stands, the first ball is about to be bowled. Australia takes the first cherry to the USA and it’s a disastrous start for the tourists with USA taking a crude slog to cow corner leaving the bat somewhere just wide of mid-on, unbelievably landing safely on the road. Thats out USA. Costa Rica shows determination taking a series of blows to the body from well directed beamers off the intimidating Australian attack; it’s possible that might have been me: Australia well on top. But Portugal, France and Mexico bring hope for the tourists with strong partnerships while Germany and Brazil put aside recent soccer world cup bitterness to right the ship for the unenlightened, the ANZAC stranglehold on this match is loosening.
The tide turns further as marauding Australians pad up to bat for the visitors; the bowling change is called. The wicket keeper strides to his mark to a hushed surprise, history in the making and you’re hearing it here first on BitJealous radio 702. Steaming in to the cheers of the footpath stand the steepling tennis ball like bounce; of the tennis ball, climbs past the edge of the bat, the crowd salivates. The slips cordon sledge on the pressure as the fired-up bowler extends his follow through to glare face to face with the marauding turncoat from the ‘free state’ north shore. This test has it all, flourishing batting, determined fight backs and now some Aussie intimidation to make Lillie shed a tear. Ok, that might have also been me, test cricket is alive and well ladies and gentlemen. Bowling in tight partnership with Kiwi we manage to send the free-stater packing to the cheers and vexatious howls of the parochial ‘home’ crowd.
This game of cricket has it all. An on-drive elegantly lofted by England ends up sliding unbelievably into the slightly open window of a ute parked on the long-on boundary. To the raptures of the footpath and jetty pavilions the vehicles timing is perfect and the driver begins to pull away from the kerb chased by the howling fielders from short mid on and deep square leg. The ball is eventually retrieved; play resumes. Off the dodgy arm action of USA’s bowling the resident dog Tiki fields and even does a bit of good old fashioned Pakistani ball tampering, running off into the lake chased by an exasperated wicky. Through a torrent of first ball mulligans, one hand one bounce catches, sixes and outs and the customary visit from the police the Pucon Christmas day test is indeed the best possible advertisement for the game. It also serves to silence the northerners lament for the cold with all nations embracing an Australasian christmas in the most typical of fashions. Yes, it’s definitely feeling a lot like Christmas and the crowd is getting their moneys worth.
Neither side is quite taking control of the game as umpires call drinks. Sadly drinks take longer than usual today and that means it’s stumps on the first days riveting action brought to you by the BitJealous radio team. It’s a really long drinks break.
The haze of Christmas day descends on our first attempt at making Pisco Sours and enough mixing of alcohol to prompt a national awareness campaign. Safe to say that your humble author will skip through any attempt at sharp detail of this period in time for obvious reason; ahem. We’re missing loved ones from home as is unavoidable at this time of year and without internet strong enough to make calls our minds are instead filled with the people we know and love. What is certain though is that regardless of where we are or our company, this is an Aussie Christmas for all money, our lament drowned in the comfortable succour of the familiar.
But this day is not done, not by a long shot. With Charlie safe in bed for a few hours now I head off at about 4am to our little camper van of luxury. Climbing in and slamming the door with all my might as is necessary to close it, I wake up Charlie along with the entire hostel I’m sure; sorry about that. Charlie takes the chance to get up and stand stark naked in the night and have a pee: still drunk it seems. Fidgeting around with his foot into the ground for a long few minutes and swaying like a squat poplar in a southerly I enquire if he’s ok. The conversation goes like this:
C: Incoherent murmur.
(repeat seven times continuing to sway naked in the hostel yard)
C: See… River.
S: Babe, what are you talking about?
C: River (insert exasperated tone)
S: What fucking river?
C: Get me the river
S: The river? What do you mean ‘the river’?
(I’m barely controlling my laughter at this point)
S: Are you speaking Spanish? River means running water, I don’t have any of those on me right now. (I can’t resist taking the piss here)
C: Fuck off Steven. (yes my full name was used)
S: Do you want to go to the river? (seriously going to wet the bed now)
C: Incoherent murmur
This is too funny not to explore, it seems we’re off to the river.
S: Ok lets get dressed and go to the river
C: Incoherent murmur
Charlie waits freezing with only shorts on in the hostel common yard.
S: Do you want clothes
C: (Pause) Yes please
And we begin to walk out of the hostel to a place Charlie only knows. There’s no rivers near here as far as I can tell so this should be interesting if nothing else. As the gate clicks behind us Charlie partially seems to snap out of it, the drink spiking from Germany or Brazil seems to be wearing off. I am not controlling myself at all here but he’s too incoherent to really notice I think. I suggest we go to the river just to see where he goes. Off to the lake it seems. Over the next twenty or so metres it seems the ridiculousness of the situation is starting to dawn on Charlie. We pause at the end of the jetty with my entire body gripped in a seizure of suppressed laughter, I need a panty liner badly. After a pause I offer that we might want to go back to bed. It seems that the river isn’t all it was cracked up to be and Charlie simply turns from a dazzling crescent moon over the lake to retreat to our hippie camper van of love.
Funniest. Moment. Ever… Ever.
We sign off a long day of food, drink, laughs, cricket and a type of comical drunken story that christmas wouldn’t be complete without. That ocean to home seems little more than, dare I say it, a river as we fashion what can only be described as the purest Aussie Christmas ever witnessed abroad. Indeed, feliz navidad.