Almanac Cricket: Pees and Queues



One of the toilet queues at Old Trafford. Really!



There is no denying that the England cricket team is currently playing a thrilling brand of Test cricket. And don’t their supporters let you know it! I suspect that is this new-found cricket-watching joy that makes queuing for anything and everything so much more palatable and tolerable for them. Long renowned for their stoicism, the English cricket fans stoked a new level of admiration within me as I bore witness to the confoundingly long queues. And to a man*, with little or no accompanying whingeing, they graciously accepted their lot.


In 2013, I was on-hand at Old Trafford to witness a likely Australian romp to victory being laid to waste by the Manchester rain. Ten years on, it was England who suffered the same fate after dominating the first three days. Details of the first match are sketchy, lost in a haze of vodka and a good times, but I do recall Ryan Harris looking like he was going to run through them. Although my memory is not what it was, I do know that a decade ago the queues were just not like this. Last week at Old Trafford there were queues for food, queues for alcohol, and queues for the toilets. There were queues to get in the queues. I suspect there were punters queuing on a hunch, not really sure whether their queue would lead to the “Gents” or the bar. These were not your regulation “I’ll be back in five minutes” queues, these queues were the longest and most time-consuming queues since the animals lined up to board Noah’s ark. Which, given how the match concluded, is quite apt.


At lunch on Day 1, our gang gathered at the back of the ‘party stand’, out near the nets. We found ourselves watching the end of a long, snaking toilet queue inch slowly toward us. When we re-convened in the very same spot at lunch on Day 2, we were astounded to find that we were adjacent only to the mid-point of the queue. The toilets were at least fifty metres away from us. In this particular expanse, there was not even one big screen to occupy those in the lines, but we saw nary a grumble of complaint from this self-satisfied lot.


Our seats on Day 2 were located high in the Lightning Stand, 196 steps up into the mostly leaden skies. A trek which demanded the climbing skills of a sherpa, this fantastic journey also necessitated the concentration powers of a chess grandmaster when carrying a cardboard tray laden with four pints of ale. Planning and pacing oneself was also of the utmost importance, for over-indulging would naturally result in too frequent trips back to the restrooms on terra firma and, of course, the end of an interminable queue. I decided on a few cocktails on Day 3, merely because there were little or no queues in front of the cocktail caravan. I longed for the bladder of my younger self; and I marvelled at what majesty a media pass would hold, as I gazed jealously at the player and media centre, all of whom ensconced within most likely oblivious to the travails of us desperate toilet-queuing plebs. And me, an Australian, having to suffer even greater humilities by being subjected to the English fans going on and on about BazBall while my team copped a pasting out on the field. The system was one of “in one door and out the other”, and any larrikin attempt to circumvent this process was given the short shrift by the security guards positioned outside the exit doors.


Portaloos were dotted about the place randomly, with seemingly little thought given to their positioning. But queuing for these little slices of heaven was a lottery. For even if one was fortunate enough to join the smallest of queues, who knew how many punters ahead of you might be doing a “number 2”?


On one trudge to the toilet, down a corridor below the members pavilion, I was confronted by a queue moving at a snail’s pace. After finally reaching the piss-troughs, I discovered that they had been placed in a cul-de-sac arrangement, meaning that everybody had to exit the same way they had entered, creating a traffic jam of Punt Road proportions. I was at pains to make my displeasure known, venting that the MCG Boxing Day queues were infinitesimal in comparison. The English queuers merely shrugged compliantly. Given the capacity of Old Trafford is approximately 26,000 for cricket matches, the queues were extraordinary, and at times it seemed like half the ground’s population was queuing for something or other.


Despite all this, there was one cohort who saw great humour in the men’s queuing misfortunes: the female spectators. Test match cricket crowds are overwhelmingly male, and the women could not help but laugh at the fact that there were no queues at all for the Ladies.



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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Given the disastrous English experience with privatisation of the water supply and waste disposal I suspect they are on a 2 pee a day rationing system. Talk about spend a penny! Macquarie Bank and other “bottom feeders” (appropriate) took the up front profits and invested bugger all in infrastructure maintenance and upgrades.
    Former singer Feargal Sharkey is the lead campaigner on the issue. The money needed to fix years of neglect and corruption is astonishing.
    Mind you the lack of facilities for the general public (not members) at UK cricket venues has been going on for decades. I had a similar experience to you at Arundel at the start of the 1993 Tour. I wrote a piece about it for Long Bombs to Snake 2…………………………

  2. Daryl Schramm says

    Lords wasn’t too bad. Headingly required careful planning. It’s one thing the Poms do very well. Queue and wait their turn.

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