The red double-decker bus was packed with celebrities in various stages of decay. Actors, singers, sportsmen and then there was me. The reason we were all riding the bus? A celebrity pub crawl to introduce a slew of imported beers into Australia. Carlsberg Elephant Beer, Grolsch, Corona to name a few. The rest escape my mind, my memory is hazy at best; completely gone at worst.
Why was I there?? I was writing an article for a trade publication for which I worked. Yes, dear reader, I got paid to drink and write about it. It was tough, but I think that I applied myself with the type of vigour only a true lush can summon.
Paid to drink beer
The pub crawl had started in Paddington, The Four in Hand Hotel. A lovely quiet little pub. This was all before it became trendy to buy a pub and rip its guts out and then start charging patrons the equivalent of their weekly mortgage payment for a glass of shitty red and a meal.
The Elephant beer lived up to its name. I felt certain that if you drank any more than half a dozen you would feel as though you had been sat on by a Pachyderm. It had a kick like…well an Elephant. Most of the celebrities appeared to enjoy it….it certainly made you sit up!
We jumped back on the bus and headed to our next destination. The Lord Nelson Hotel in The Rocks where we were served Grolsch. I loved the packaging. The glass stopper on the bottle reminded me of my Granny’s obsession with all things Fowler Vacola. The Grolsch wasn’t as punchy as the Elephant Beer, thank goodness. It had a wheaty after taste and was quite easy to consume. One of the celebrities, an actor of stage, screen and television was beginning to speak in rather a loud voice and enunciated his words with the prowess of a hardened alcoholic. His nose was bulbous and a hideous mixture of red and blue hues.
It’s so very easy to judge someone who is decades older than oneself. The ignorant vanity of youth is just as ugly. I was 25, blonde, dressed in a black business suit, albeit with a mini skirt and legs that went for days. Black stockings and stilettos. I was all business, well until the alcohol really kicked in.
Our third stop was another pub in Paddington, the Paddington Inn. We were given two beers to sample. The long-neck Corona’s were served with the now ubiquitous wedge of lime in the neck of the bottle. The aging thespian screamed, “take that fuckin shit out of my beer ya bastard”. We could only concur. We couldn’t understand why you needed citrus with beer. We drank our Coronas and the consensus was that it was indeed “shite”. Thank goodness, we were then served a bottle of Tooth’s Crown Lager. Now there’s a beer! It went down like the golden nectar of the Gods that it is. We all rejoiced that an Aussie beer had just shat upon an imported ale from a great height. We felt a mixture of national pride and pissed!
Beer, footballers and actors don’t mix
Back on the bus and a retired footballer, who shall only be known by his initials, J.R., began an argument with the ageing thespian. Two drunks arguing, a situation as old as time itself and one that never ends well. The bus driver took matters into his own hands, he slammed on the brakes and told them both to, “shut your pie holes”.
Our next stop was the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel. Certainly not the most salubrious of establishments. Nonetheless your intrepid reporter was determined to make the most of what was to be the second last stop of this now hellish bus ride.
As I walked through to the bar I felt a tap on my shoulder. I never ever turned around for a wolf whistle or a tap on the shoulder. I kept going. Then I heard the strangest sound…the shoulder tapper said, “Eee up, what’s your name then?” It was the thickest Yorkshire accent I had ever heard. Almost unintelligible. I stopped, turned and saw a man with the cheekiest lop-sided grin and the most sparkling blue eyes smiling at me. I thought to myself, might as well have a little play, I’m bored. I answered, my name is Georgina. He replied, “Eee Georgie”. I shot back, “No not ever Georgie, The Seekers scarred me for life, don’t ever call me Georgie”. I asked, “what’s your name?” He answered, “Geoff”. I said, “Hello Geoffrey!”
Once I got a good look at him, I knew who he was. I wasn’t going to let on that I knew, so I said, “Where are you from Geoffrey, what do you do for a crust?” He said, “I’m from Yorkshire, ya daft bugger and I’m a sports commentator.”
Geoffrey… the sports commentator from Yorkshire
He asked if I would like to join him and his friend for a drink. His friend was a renowned publicist, a fellow Brit and larger than life man named Max. I said yes, Vodka and ice thank you. Geoffrey then made a remark about my legs. He said, “Those legs of yours, go all the way to your neck”. Hmmm, I replied, “you certainly are observant.” I don’t know why but I always had an overwhelming urge to take the piss with Geoffrey. He possessed the kind of confidence that elite sportsmen exude in spades. I wanted to knock him down a peg or two, in a delightfully playful way of course. He loved it. We chatted for around half an hour. It was time for the bus to go. I said to him, I must leave. He said, “Eee up, don’t go, come with me and have dinner with me instead”. I weighed things up for all of 2 seconds and decided dinner with Geoffrey was infinitely preferable to one more beer with the bus-load of pissheads.
We said good-bye to Max. Geoffrey had a limo waiting for him. I climbed in and helped myself to the Champagne. He shot me a disapproving look. I said to him….” C’mon Geoffrey loosen up, live a little what’s the worst that could happen, England losing to Australia??”.
He laughed and took my hand. He said, “You’re a cheeky bint”. I said, “Oh honey, you have no idea”. We arrived at his digs at The Wentworth Hotel.
As we were eating dinner he told me that he had only just retired from playing cricket. He was 47 and seemed to be more than a little lost without a bat in hand. He told me that his autobiography had just been published and that he was just starting a new job as a commentator. We got along famously, he was seriously charming and I was…well I was me.
He suggested that we go back to his room, I suggested that he call his driver and have him take me home. Geoffrey looked crestfallen, I don’t think he was used to rebuffs from females. I gave him my work phone number and said, call me.
I arrived at work the next day and at 9am I received a call from Mr Boycott inviting me out for dinner that night.
He said he was going to move into the Gentlemen’s accommodation at Royal Sydney Golf Club in Rose Bay and would I like to come and meet him there.
Royal Sydney Golf Club
Fine, I replied I will be there around 6ish. Having never been inside such a salubrious establishment as Royal Sydney Golf Club, I had no idea what I might find. I waltzed into the bar, and I swear I was the youngest person there by at least 40 years. I was given the once over by almost every old girl in the place and I was clearly found wanting. Not only did I not have the good taste to be wearing a twin-set and pearls, I had the bloody hide to be a blonde and not sporting a blue or pink rinse!!!
Geoffrey was at the bar, grinning like a bloody Cheshire cat. I planted a kiss straight on his lips, and said let’s get out here. He said, ‘ang on, lass let’s just have one drink here first. He proceeded to regale me with tales of his “shockin’ puttin’”. It took me a minute or 3 before I could decipher what he was talking about. When I finally deduced that he was talking about his golf putting and how bad it had been that day, I stopped him. I said, you mean to tell me that the worst thing that has happened to you all day is that you couldn’t sink a fucking putt. Yeah, he replied, I’m fookin’ depressed. I told him to get a grip pal, it’s a quality problem. He was just so competitive, he had to be the best at everything. There was no losing with him, his dedication to improving his golfing was serious business.
As we left the bar I walked ahead of him. He called to me and said, eeye up, only the Queen walks ahead of her fella. I turned and said, Geoffrey just keep your eyes on my arse and you won’t regret walking behind. He was quiet for a few moments and then said, eye lass you’re right!
We went for dinner in King Cross and he was really struggling with a low mood. He said he felt lost not playing anymore and wasn’t sure about a career in commentary. I began to understand how after decades of a life lived wholly and solely for cricket it had left no time for anything else. He didn’t know how to just have fun. I felt sad for him and said that we would begin to try and remedy that situation.
As we were finishing our desserts the waiter approached our table with his hands behind his back. He said to Geoffrey, excuse me Mr Boycott, our chef is a cricket tragic and he is beside himself that you are here eating in his restaurant. From behind his back the waiter produced a cricket bat with several signatures on it. He asked Geoffrey if he would sign the bat, that it was the chef’s most prized possession and Geoff’s signature would mean the world to him.
His eyes lit up
I watched Geoffrey’s body language as this little situation unfolded. He sat up straighter, his chest pushed outwards, his eyes lit up. He smiled his cheeky crooked smile at the waiter and took the bat to sign it. He read the other signatures on the bat, Greg & Ian Chappell, Ian Botham, Tony Greig, Rod Marsh, Jeff Thomson. He said to the waiter, these guys are my mates. He was almost teary-eyed. We left the restaurant, a decidedly buoyant Geoffrey laughing and flirting with me. Our bill was taken care of by the chef and we went back to the Golf Club.
At breakfast, the next day he said to me, if you want to know more about me, read this. He duly handed me a copy of his book. He signed the inside…To Georgie, with great affection, Geoff B. It was a surreal moment for me, I didn’t normally find out more about my men by reading their bloody biographies.
We spent the whole Summer together. We alternated between staying at my flat in Vaucluse and staying in an apartment in Kirribilli that belonged to Tony Greig’s parents. My birthday coincided with us being at Kirribilli. I came home from work with the expectation of a gift of some sort. Geoffrey said, go look in the wardrobe your present is in there. My mind immediately went to visions of a fur coat (it was the 80’s fur was still kosher) or perhaps a nice frock. I found a large box, inside was a pedestal fan. I was gobsmacked but not without the ability to voice my disappointment. I walked back into the lounge-room and said, darling this will look fabulous hanging around my neck. He replied, I only buy practical gifts. Your bedroom is so fookin’ hot, I need something to cool me down. We attended most of the summer sporting events. He took me to watch a Test Match, thank God for Champagne in the Members Stand is all I can say about that experience. We went to the tennis at White City and sat in a corporate box. We went to the races at Randwick and everywhere we went people wanted his autograph. He always obliged and always got a big kick out of it.
The truth about why he came to cricket
When we stayed at Vaucluse I took him down to Parsley Bay. It was my local beach. Sadly, he had never learned to swim and was afraid of the water. I asked him why he had never learned to swim. He told me that when he was eight the school Sports Master gathered the children together and told them they had the choice of either learning to swim or learning to play cricket. Geoff said, “I was living in Yorkshire, the middle of bloody UK, not a drop of water for hundreds of miles.” “I thought I’m not gonna get outta here and will probably end up down pit.” So, he chose cricket. This decision at that tender age completely altered the course of his life.
At the end of the summer he left for home. I missed him greatly, we had spent all our free time together in those three months. About a month after he went home a parcel arrived at my house. Inside was a beautiful three strand opera length pearl necklace and a postcard with a picture of Geoffrey scoring his 100th 100 at Headingly. He wrote on the back, love Geoff. I had to laugh, or it just wouldn’t be cricket.