Sports Tickets International are the “official” ticket reseller for NZRU are well known to Kiwis in the Northern Hemisphere for whacking a massive 50% on to the face value of All Black tickets. Last year I estimated that this dodgy practice earned them around 1.8 million New Zealand dollars from five tests. The New Zealand Herald even rand a story on it titled titled Fans put hard word on NZRU over agent’s ticket charges.
I wrote a blog entry on it and one fan even commented that he and his mates had sued STIL for breach of terms and conditions and they had won thousands of dollars.
The other problem with STIL’s offering this year is that ALL of the ticket packages include the All Blacks v Barbarians match at the end of the tour on the 5th of December. To me this is the test I am least likely to attend.
STIL’s ticket packages are available to purchase here.
The test dates for the end of year tour are as follows:
31 Oct All Blacks v Wallabies Tokyo
07 Nov All Blacks v Wales Cardiff
14 Nov All Blacks v Italy Milan
21 Nov All Blacks v England London
28 Nov All Blacks v France Marseille
05 Dec All Blacks v Barbarians London
As far as I can tell NZRU haven’t made any official announcement regarding last years Herald article so it’s hard to know if fans will be any better off this year. Anyone looking to book tickets for the Italy, France and the Barbarians tests online and avoid any mark-up form STIL can buy them from these alternative sites.
Last weekend Grant, Masha and I went up to Edinburgh for the wedding of Magnus and Katie. It was a fantastic Scottish and English styled wedding just north of the border with loads of bagpipes, kilts and whisky (we spoke English).
On the Sunday we had some time to do so we went to the Royal Highland Show where we saw all manner of huge beasts ate great farm food and watched all manner of farming related food and events.
By pure coincidence Grant and I ran into a teacher from our high school who was teaching there while we were there. Miss (Carolyn) Aish runs a small business that sells Kiwi made products in the UK. In her own words:
KiwiKate brings to the UK possum, possum-merino, merino and sheepskin lovely, warm, practical wear from The Land of the Long White Cloud, Aoteoroa, NZ. Awesome.
Yesterday was my birthday and I got the best present ever.
My mum has been struggling with her dodgy old hips and has been on the waiting list to get them replaced via the New Zealand Health service. Yesterday after months of waiting they finally said she had done enough and admitted her to a private hospital to get the first one replaced.
Because she is a tough old bird they did it with keyhole surgery without a general anaesthetic. All mum had was an epidural which made her completely numb from the waist down. The last time my mum has an epidural was um lets see almost exactly 37 years ago when I was born :)
I spoke to her this morning and she is s in great spirits although that might be the morphine wearing off.
As previously mentioned I went to Normandy in France to see the historic sites associated with the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944 to free the world of Nazi tyranny.
On the fist day we visited strategically important Pegasus Bridge the site of the first action when British commandos landed gliders and surprised the German defenders to captured the bridge with few casualties. Later we visited the Merville Battery where allied paratroopers attacked a heavily defended German artillery position encased in concrete and surrounded by machine guns, barbed wire and land mines. Expecting to have over 700 paratroopers for the assault the allied colonel in charge found he had only 150 men and none of the heavy equipment he needed. Knowing that the battery could fire directly onto the landing beaches causing massive loss of life they charged the battery anyway eventually routing out the last of the defenders with brutal hand to had combat. When the guns fell silent only 6 Germans were still unscathed from 130 and 65 allied soldiers were dead. The story of D-day is a lot like the attack on the Merville Battery. The chaos of the night time glider and parachute landing meant that Allied troops were badly scattered and often had to improvise and attack with who and what they had to hand. The Germans didn’t realise that this was the the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany defended bravely and both side suffered huge loss of life.
During the weekend we visited the Ranville War Cemetery and Ranville Churchyard, Bayer Cemetery, Normandy American Cemetery and the German Military Cemetery which combined contained tens of thousands of graves of young soldiers who fought and died in Normandy. The cemeteries are very well looked after and very moving especially when you consider how young they all were. One thing that surprised me was the number of allied veterans who visited the German Military Cemetery to pay respects to the young German men who had died trying to kill the allied veterans.
Our coach had six veterans on it. One from the Gulf War, one from the Korean War and four from the war against the Nazis in Europe. One of our veterans even got an OBE from the King for charging all over Europe shooting people with nothing more that a camera and a few spare rolls of film. Shortly after D-day he had to dive into a bomb crater with some other soldiers to escape a German fighter strafing the beach. When the danger had passed he got up and said “well that was close chaps” before he realised everyone else in the crater was dead. Another veteran I met at Arromanche called Dick was shot twice in the back while retreating from a German counter-attack in North Africa. A retreating Maori soldier picked him up and carried him to safety. He only found out what had happened weeks later when he woke up in hospital. He never met the man who saved him and he didn’t even learn his name. The more you talk to the vets and the more you hear their stories the more you realise that war is a complete lottery for all involved.
During the weekend we also visited Sword Beach where the Brits came ashore against relatively light defences and advanced inland several kilometres. Next we visited Gold beach where defences were stiffer and finally Omaha beach where the American 1st and 29th infantry divisions were cut to pieces by veteran Germans defending inhospitable terrain. The official record stated that “within 10 minutes of the ramps being lowered, [the leading] company had become inert, leaderless and almost incapable of action. Every officer and sergeant had been killed or wounded [...] It had become a struggle for survival and rescue”. Looking at the narrow gulley that the Americans fought their way up it’s hard to imagine how any survived.
On Saturday we tried to visit the Arromanche museum but it was close because of visiting dignitaries. Two hours later of standing in the rain with hundreds of veterans who were mostly over 83 years old and Prime Minister Gordon Brown turned up to rapturous booing from the British in the Crowd. The booing was so much fun loud it made international news.
I have followed politics in NZ and England since I was a teenager and never before have I seen a politician unite the public against themselves so effectively. Several times during the weekend random people I was chatting to raise the subject of how much they disliked Gordon Brown. And I wasn’t even wearing my “I hate Gordon Brown” t-shirt :)
Heading home after a thoroughly enjoyable politician booing we realised that our coach was one veteran short. Two hours later we had finally tracked him down. Can I just say that there can be few harder places to find a white haired old veteran in a blue blazer with loads of medals on the front than at a Normandy beach on the anniversary of D-day. It was like a really hard version of Where’s Veteran Wally.
Overall the weekend was excellent an my coach full of oldies were excellent value. I might go back one day when it isn’t so crowded and I have more time to wander around the sites.
Tomorrow morning I am heading to Normandy in France to take part in the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France. I will be doing it the easy way taking a luxury coach and a ferry from Dover to Calais. Not the hard way like the American, British, Canadian and French soldiers who did it under a hail of artillery and machine gun fire on the morning of the 6th of June 1944.
The weather looks pretty average but I will try to get some photos for flickr for when I get back.
Tonight I rode across London to the Tooting Bec Lido because the Lido near my house at Parliament Hill closes at 6pm for some bizarre reason. The weather was warm and the ride was awesome.
Tooting Bec Lido is the biggest outdoor pool in England and it’s lucky that it is because they have to cram a lot of filth into it. The list of things I managed to identify on the bottom of the pool included: dirt (lots of), sand (lots of), leaves, twigs, band aids, toilet paper (I think) and a panty liner. Disgusting.
As one of the other swimmers said it was, “it’s good for your immune system”. My personal opinion is that if you swim regularly in the Tooting Bec Lido and you don’t die then you probably have nothing to fear from swine flu.
This photo is stitched together from two photos taken using my not-very-wide-angle Canon Ixus 970 using the magic of photoshop.
I completely don’t get this war memorial and the tens of thousands of pounds that must have been spent on it. I mean it’s not like a signal animal will ever come to visit it and appreciate its significance. Not even a really smart monkey with a massive head would have any clue what this massive waste of tax payers money means.