The day started with a 20 minutes walk, just to find the end of the queue. People in plaid shorts and white trainers, and with straw hats on their heads, were all in the same hurry as us to get to the end of the longest queue I've ever seen. The system is quite sophisticated, leading people up and down through the streets of St.John's Wood in Western London. To form an English queue, all you need is seven friendly stewards (for over one mile!) to tell people in which direction to go, and to make sure people don't push in. Besides that, it works automatically. Only youngsters might be cheeky enough to push in, but are immediately, yet never unfriendly, told off by the others and sent to the end of the queue. This reaction is usually accepted by the cheat, who already had the guilty face before even thinking of pushing in. I am honestly and deeply impressed by English queues. Not even a Monday morning line like this can deprive a Brit of his patience. No barrier tape is needed to keep the excited folk on the right side of the footpath - they do it naturally to let others pass. Friendly words are exchanged between queue neighbours. All in all, the end of the line arrives without much of a to-do, and everyone gets what they want.
In this case: a cricket ticket.
It is the final day of the 100th test match between England and India. Without going into the detail of cricket rules, the day is all about England bowling out India in their second innings (any questions?). The better the sportsmen play, the longer the game lasts, but never longer than five days. This Test game between the world's leading teams (by the way nothing to do with a "test run", that's just what they call it, and it's a real game) needed a fifth day, which everyone found out on Sunday. Tickets went on sale at 8:30 in the morning, one ticket per person, cash only. After two hours of queueing (thanks to the cash only rule the queue never stopped moving) we made it in to Lord's Cricket Ground, one of London's most prestigious sporting venues. If you don't know the game at all, you won't understand what it says on the scoreboard and you might think that the players are standing around the whole day, balling some balls. It's a bit more complicated than football indeed, and some explanations from an expert are useful. Also bring your own radio to listen to the commentator. We had one with a dynamo. Besides giving you something to do, this is also a very environment friendly solution.
Another thing a newcomer should know: you can bring a picnic and a bottle of wine per person into the ground. Food and drinks are crucial, because there is another British institutional part to the game: Lunch and Afternoon Tea. The game is interrupted at 1 pm for a 45 minute lunch break (for players and spectators alike) and once again at 4 pm for tea. No joke! Remember Asterix and Obelix in Britain when British stop the war for tea? Same deal.
What struck me most, was the peaceful and friendly atmosphere of the sport. Indian and English fans were sitting together, shoulder to shoulder, respectfully applauding the other player's runs. No hooligan problems in cricket! When India star batsman, Tendulkar (the "Roger Federer" of the cricket world) entered the court, all 26'000 fans stood up and gave him a huge ovation. During the tea break I heard a father saying to his son: "It's nice and civilised, isn't it?" After weeks of particularly devastating news - the Oslo twin attacks, the famine in Somalia, the death of the talented Amy Winehouse - simple words to describe how this world could be.