After a three month break from overseas trips a time that didn't, I have to admit, find me in my happiest mood the August bank holiday revolved essentially around sport starting with the warm up match between Middlesex and the Indians being held at Lord's on the Friday.
My Irish friend, Mary Magee, is as big a fan of Mahendra Singh Dhoni as I am so I suggested that she might like to think about coming over for the match as I could sign her into the Pavilion and that we might conveniently bump into the Indian captain... She accepted and I felt the pressure immediately to do my best to make the introduction! Mary flew in from Dublin the previous evening whilst I decided to take the 5am Megabus from close to my home into Victoria. Naturally enough, there wasn't much about at that hour and in fact the only life I saw whilst walking to the bus stop was a fox. The bus was on time, full of sleeping people and got in so early that I decided to walk to Paddington where I met Mary.

Ever since I made a televised speech for Dhoni in March 2006, he has always been very good to me and always stopped for a chat in the Long Room at Lord's. I readily accept that I am always a little nervous beforehand as he has plenty of better and more important things to do but he has always been extremely friendly. I keep a beady eye to see when he is coming in, try my best not to appear to be loitering with great intent and it was remarkable this time that my modus operandi should fail so dismally. Dhoni came in, saw me first and had said hello before I even knew that he was there... I'll blame the early start. Anyway, as always, he was extremely nice and the introduction to Mary went so well and was a dream come true for her and a considerable relief for me! She refused having water thrown over her to calm her down but did accept the white wine later which I had brought along.

Never mind that it wasn't much of a game. We would have liked to have seen Dhoni bat but, as always, it is always a privilege to watch cricket from the Lord's Pavilion and I am sure that Mary enjoyed her day also. I'm afraid that my gentlemanly conduct didn't extend to cancelling my Belgian trip to escort Mary around London... Well, I had warned her and, when she said that her next day would be spent shopping, as a bloke with frugal tendencies and who only excels at the variety of shopping which involves windows, I felt Brussels the safer bet. After all, we are going to India in October and I have been dragooned into shopping there and have reluctantly agreed. In all seriousness, our Lord's day was wonderful for both of us and we went our separate ways, Mary to Paddington and me to Enfield Chase where I put up in the welcoming Comfort Inn.
Mary was delighted to have met MSD and be back at Lord's

I was delighted and relieved to have introduced Mary to MSD and being back at Lord's!

The impressive architecture around Brussels's Grand Place

The view of Eau Rouge at the Belgian Grand Prix

Go! The second lap of the Belgian Grand Prix

The view looking down from Eau Rouge

The damp scene at Lord's where no play was possible between the England and Indian Women
Off early the next day, I was quickly at King's Cross and checked in for the 1058 departure to Brussels. It was a quick two hour journey which was spent reading and dozing in the Channel Tunnel and arrival was on time at 2.05 pm. I even found the Park Inn by Radisson where I was staying I'd remembered our Eurostar rep's directions when two of us were kindly taken on a day trip to Brussels and it is an extremely convenient and comfortable place. I was even upgraded in the hotel which was even nicer.

A two and a quarter hour walk allowed me to see the main highlights of the city but also return to the Place Rogier and Boulevard Adolphe Max where I had stayed on my first overseas trip by myself almost thirty years ago. There wasn't a Eurostar then and I remember going by train and boat but the Adolphe Max seemed familiar. Having been asked to give directions to a lady speaking in French, I was pleased to find that my grasp of the language wasn't as rudimentary as I had expected so became braver and was rather chuffed with the results.

On Sunday, I took the 8.58 am train to Verviers which went smoothly but the onward bus journey was a bit of a trial after a longish wait and then being stuck in the inevitable traffic. If nothing else, I was glad that I didn't leave Brussels on the next train an hour later. Probably one of the great spectacles of Grand Prix racing, Eau Rouge, was an awesome view on arrival. The twist and quite dramatic climb on this, the longest circuit in Formula 1, is a daunting sight. There are days when you can drive your own car or be driven around Spa and I have to say that I'd be very interested... Mind you, I reckon I'd be taking Eau Rouge in second gear and naturally at far inferior speed than the cars on display on Sunday.

I also found a fair position with my general admission ticket to take some pictures at the start just after the first corner. The weather was glorious and the predicted forecast of 40% chance of rain was completely wrong as there was absolutely none. It was a shame that the main talking point after the race was the clash between the title-chasing Mercedes drivers. I don't know enough about Formula 1 and it is certainly not my position to comment but one would hope for decorous behaviour both on and off the track. The eventual winner, Ricciardo, I see is not that far behind either Mercedes driver now.

The bus journey back left just in time to allow us to take the 4.37pm train from Verviers back to Brussels by the very skin of our teeth. Back in my room at 6.15pm, I had a reasonable meal close to the Midi station and I must add that this area, whilst there are parts of it which you might tend not to linger at, is certainly convenient for hotels and restaurants.

I had booked back on the first Eurostar of the day, at 8.52am, so that I could return to Lords for another England and India encounter, this time the women. I had been warned that the weather might not be good after all, it was a bank holiday and the prediction was entirely correct. I turned up dutifully at Lord's but persistent drizzle made play highly unlikely and the main activity was the photographing of the teams in the Long Room. I'd have to say that the photographing of the opposition was a bit chaotic with the Indian ladies thinking that they had performed their duty only for someone else coming along with a further request. As about the only M.C.C member outside the Pavilion, my only drama was to walk on to the concourse brandishing a bottle of wine I had carelessly bought one with a cork and needed to borrow a corkscrew from the restaurant whilst the Indian captain, Mithali Raj, was being interviewed.

If anything, the weather worsened during the afternoon and a lovely weekend finished drearily, drenched and sitting in a packed and not unduly peaceful Victoria Coach Station. We weren't told why our bus back was delayed after arriving twenty minutes early but the driver made up time. It must have been raining heavily in the Swindon area as another England and India ODI had been abandoned at Bristol without a ball bowled and, whilst I'm not sure what their collective term is, an infestation of slugs had gathered in my back garden to greet my arrival home.