OPINION: 'No sofas.'
Mike and I sag at the knees and drop our heavy Chesterfield on the pavement. There are not many cricket grounds with a 'No Sofas' sign outside.
There are 13 other 'no something or another' instructions, including 'No Vuvuzelas' in particularly large script, above the entrance to Wellington's Basin Reserve. It is a sign of the times.
"Do you think they allow chaises lounges?" asks Mike.
"Is that the plural?" I reply.
Okay, so we didn't really have this conversation outside the Basin on the first morning of the test match, but cricket has always involved daydreaming.
As I finally reached the head of the 30-minute queue to buy a ticket, it was hard to ignore the yellow sign telling us about all the things you can and cannot do in this day and age.
Mike 'the Lavmeister' is already inside the ground having cleverly pre-purchased his ticket online. Ten dollars cheaper too.
But somehow I think he is missing something by not queueing with like-minded souls to get in. That sense of expectation and camaraderie.
That hope that you might reach the solitary person selling tickets before the players go off for lunch.
A lady reaches the top of the line and goes into the sort of negotiation that usually takes place in Indian post offices.
She wants a match pass for all five days but they only sell those on the other side of the ground. I check my watch. It says 2013, but I think I must be running fast by 80 years.
A murmur goes up around the ground. We crane our necks in order to try to see the first ball of the test match through the arch.
All we can see is a page of faces that seems to have been torn from an old sporting annual. But we can hear the faint strains of Jerusalem as the visiting Barmy Army welcome a new day of cricket.
We pavement fans have missed the first ball but somehow it doesn't seem to matter.
Queuing on the first day of a test match is to be young again, looking up, overhearing conversations, wondering about the day that stretches so far ahead, a day that will probably never end.
At last I am buying my ticket, walking round, waiting by the sightscreen, then carefully stepping over all the legs splayed out on the mound.
I sit down and wonder about how many tartan picnic blankets there are in the world and then I see it.
This is the Basin. Is there a finer cricket ground in the world?
England has its timeless gems, the crooked spire at Chesterfield, the Edwardian charm of New Road.
Worcester's county ground is late, late Victorian really, but it should be Edwardian - graceful, flannelled, stiff upper lip, holding out against the horror of war, the cathedral in the background, the river Severn always threatening to burst its banks.
But the Basin dazzles in the sunshine, cradled by the hills behind, a swath of green in the middle of concrete and drought.
The 'new' stand is just right, foregoing the monstrous vanity that persuaded some daft men and women to build a stadium that Dunedin doesn't need and cannot afford.
The old stand is condemned but still there. There are historical cricket books for sale on the tables outside and apparently you are allowed in the museum under the stand.
Strange. Maybe our only way to cricketing immortality is to be buried by an earthquake amidst the memorabilia because, let's face it, most of us are never going to be Compton.
But one young man is. Nick Compton, son of the great Denis, is opening the innings for England.
Grandfather Denis played with 'timeless grace' according to the 'cider with Rosie' voice of John Arlott and you can see it in the grandson.
He stands tall at the crease and is quickly into the pull or leaning into the cover drive with a classically high left elbow.
Then the cricket seems to go into slow motion. Alistair Cook, a man for whom runs just flow through the fingers, is out.
Neil Wagner - his 'creams' much more stylish than England's whites - is wheeling away in celebration and Cook looks shocked.
My Sri Lankan doctor friend, who cannot get to the ground until Saturday, will now not get to see Cook's treasured cut with a vertical bat.
Instead we now have Trott, short, balding, stodgy, South African.
The next day I will read about his "turgid century", but it didn't seem like that in the Thursday sunshine.
Maybe it was the pink lunchtime wine, but Trott seemed to play like Tendulkar, the little genius.
Time and again he leaned over the ball and drove it through the tiniest gap between midwicket and mid-on.
By now the Barmy Army is in full swing. The bloke formerly known as Jimmy Savile, straw hair and dark glasses, is shoulder-to-shoulder with a man in full naval costume leading a chant of 'Barmy Army, Captain Cook'.
Compton now also has his century, leaping off the ground, punching the air in delight, his exuberance contrasting with Trott's artisan acceptance of another job well done.
The crowd is on its feet applauding the young man.
And as we drive back over the hill to the Wairarapa, Mike reminiscing about John Snow, son of a vicar, England fast bowler and clumsy poet, the mind settles at the end of a perfect day.
Test cricket dead? Not in this country, not with grounds like the Basin Reserve, a green heart in this Village of the Blessed.
Someone needs to add one more negative to that bright yellow sign outside the hallowed ground.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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