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Going Barmy : Despatches from a Cricketing Foot Soldier By Paul Winslow

Release date: 11th October, 2012
Publisher: Sportsbooks Ltd

List Price: £8.99
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Graeme Swann's foreword to Going Barmy leaves you in no doubt about the extent to which England's cricketers hold their loyal, raucous travelling support, aka the Barmy Army, in esteem.

"Those hardy souls who travel the globe are especially favoured," he writes, adding, "Paul Winslow is definitely one of these."

The stage appears set, presumably for a romp-a-page tale of (mostly) boys on tour and everything that encompasses: archaic rules, frequent drinking penalties and other time-honoured forfeits. But thankfully, Going Barmy is not simply a collection of regurgitated, beer-infused anecdotes which were probably hilarious at the time, but fall a little short in the humour department in the cold light of day.

This is because Winslow is primarily a cricket fan. The point at which he first took an interest in the game came as an 11 year-old, although it clearly failed to make an immediate impression. It was, he says, like playing with "the girl next doorÖwithout knowingÖshe was the most captivating, beautifulÖthing I would ever lay eyes on."

It was not until 16 years later, when back-packing around the world and having spent more than three months in South America that he became determined to go to Australia to watch an Ashes series.

He was lucky enough to witness an English victory Down Under, but he also enjoyed his first taste of life with the Barmy Army, a group of otherwise perfectly respectable individuals who chanted lines such as "You all live in a convict colony" (to the tune of Yellow Submarine) to the Australian supporters.

By the time you reach the second chapter, you find you're singing along to some rather witty (some less so) versions of songs to other well-known tunes including the Australian National Anthem, Waltzing Matilda and House of the Rising Sun.

Not surprisingly, this is a tale of camaraderie, long-standing friendships, unexpected delights and how cricket's occasional quirky nature breeds welcome eccentricity. If it has an unfortunate aspect, it's Jimmy Saville. No, not that Jimmy Saville, but poor Victor Flowers, a high-profile Barmy Army regular whose nicknamed after the now disgraced former DJ.

Set this aside and Winslow has written what is often an extremely funny book. It's not great literature, although he never claims it is, but this is a perfect Christmas gift for any cricket lover


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