Over Easter, the Lancastrian nephew-in-law, Escamillo Escapillo (EE) and I schemed to meet up for the Middlesex v Lancashire fixture at Lord’s this year, even if we could only manage half-a-day off during the working week.
In the flurry of subsequent e-mails and texts, I said that I could do day three (Tuesday) and he agreed wholeheartedly that the afternoon of the 12th would be splendid. So we agreed to meet at the Grace Gates at 3.30pm, entirely unaware of our miscommunication.
So, on the Monday afternoon, I was quietly minding my own business when I received a text from EE: “At the gate – where are you?…”
“…elsewhere – we agreed day 3 tuesday, no? – really sorry – cannot get there today…”
“…and I cannot get there tomorrow, might be good for wednesday though – depends on work”
“yes – should be fine for me – try for that,” I texted.
That Monday evening, Daisy remarked that such a diary confusion was a pretty poor show, “coming from two seemingly competent businessmen.” I thought that was a bit rich, given that she and the niece, Lavender, two seemingly competent professional women, are constantly getting their meeting times and locations messed-up.
By good fortune, my working week was, for once, really quite rejiggable. Equally by good fortune, it turned out that we’d have seen little (rain-interrupted) cricket, had we met up on either Monday or Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday, however, was set for glorious weather. By not such good fortune, though, Escamillo texted me on Wednesday morning: “No chance of cricket today – big deal on – see you saturday”.
So I wandered over to Lord’s on my own with a good book and some journal papers to read. I found a very quiet spot in the pavilion for the morning session. Sky had erected its camera platform on the middle balcony slightly to one side, leaving just a few unwanted seats on the wrong side for this match – north – right beside the Lancashire players’ balcony. No-one else would choose to sit there. The book was about the financial/money system and whether alternatives might be better. Given the mess we’re in, “better than the current system” seems a fairly low benchmark, so I think the answer is yes, although some of the suggested alternatives were quite daft.
After lunch, when the shade hits even that north side of the pavilion, I wandered around to the Mound Stand to continue my cricket watching and reading there in the sun. I ran into one of the old diehard fans who used to be a regular “Middlesex Till We Die” (MTWD) reader/contributor back in my day. We chatted a bit – agreeing that neither of us have visited MTWD for years. We also chatted about the internet radio commentary, which the nice fellow said he doesn’t like much because they chat about all sorts and don’t focus enough on the cricket. I thought about recommending the King Cricket match reports to him, but decided against.
I thought about returning to the pavilion as the end drew nigh, but it was so pleasant sitting in the early evening sunshine in the Mound Stand, I decided to stay put and make a speedy exit once stumps were drawn.
Escamillo and I got some serious ribbing from Lavender and Daisy about our temporal mishap, when the young couple came around for dinner shortly after. I tried to get my own back by playing my rendition of And It Stoned Me by Van Morrison on the baritone ukulele, but it must have been a truly beautiful sound because it brought tears to young Lavender’s eyes. Escamillo Escapillo suggested that I try some Oasis numbers instead. Typical.4 Appeals
Dandy Dan writes:
I recently met Price for a few beers for the first time since my rather glorious night of drinking with the England cricket team. The glory has somewhat been tainted by the events in the winter, but hey ho.
Anyway, I obviously wanted to talk about it again. I said to him my only regret was not actually having a chat with Cook instead of just sharing a nod at the urinals. Price wanted to know why I didn’t even say hello. I told him that there was loud music in the toilet and that he had come in and gone to the end urinal.
This displeased Price. He is firmly of the view that the England cricket captain should have enough alpha-male confidence to stride into any toilet situation and take the urinal closest to the middle, not one at the end.
Now I’m not sure I agree with him 100 per cent, but I can certainly see where he is coming from. There have been a couple of moments recently where Alastair has not demonstrated ‘pissing in the middle urinal’ captaincy. For example, in the first Test, he should have said: ‘Sorry Gary, I know it’s a ton at Lords but I’m going to declare and have a few overs at them tonight’. But he didn’t. He didn’t piss in the middle urinal.
We’re certainly going to be looking for examples of pissing in the middle urinal captaincy for the rest of our lives, and examples of where it should have been applied too. If I ever have the chance to meet Mike Brearley, I’ll mention it to him. He might want to include it in a revised edition of The Art of Captaincy.15 Appeals
It was a beautiful sunny day, the London Underground was on strike and I had arranged to work from home. I thought it would be a good idea to head over to Lord’s, catch some of the cricket and catch up with an increasingly large pile of background reading. The office staff more than understood.
I had a conference call scheduled for 10am and a few other bits and pieces of work to get out of the way before heading off. The call went as planned, but a few other bits and pieces came in while I was on the call. By 12.30pm, I realised that any thought of the morning session was futile, other than grabbing a quick bite of lunch at home and listening to that last half hour before lunch on the Internet radio while I ate.
The walk from my front door to the Grace Gate takes me 37 minutes, give or take one minute or so. That makes me 10% faster than Google Maps’ (other route planning apps are available) expectations. Conveniently, if I leave home as soon as the umpires call lunch, I know from experience that I can get to Lord’s on foot just before the resumption.
As I arrived at Lord’s, one of the female stewards said: “Hello, nice to see you. Hurry up, they’re just about ready to start,” as if the officials and players had been waiting for my arrival. I grabbed a seat at the sunny end of the Warner just in time. I soon relocated to the Grandstand for a while, before moving on to catch the end of the session in the Pavilion.
I read some stuff on big data. I also pondered three philosophical questions on ethics in financial services, the answer to all of which, sadly, was almost certainly no. I watched some cricket. I chatted briefly with some Middlesex friends before walking home.
I spent roughly as much time walking as I spent at cricket. It certainly was worth it.16 Appeals
Early season, I always try to take in a day of county cricket with my old friend, Charley “The Gent” Malloy. It helps us both to get over those winter withdrawal symptoms.
Charley has his favourite place to sit at the start of play – “Death Row” right at the front of the Pavilion, close to but not exactly behind the wicket. By 11am, we were well set in those seats. But Charley was in thoughtful mood.
“I’m going to be very careful what I say today,” said Charley.
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“Because anything I say might end up in your King Cricket report, showing me to be the idiot and you to be the clever clogs.”
“But if you don’t say anything worth reporting at all, you know I’ll just make stuff up,” I replied. Charley laughed.
We tucked in to smoked salmon rolls (whisky smoked – the salmon, not the rolls) with a nice little Alsatian Gewürztraminer to wash them down. Later we had Parma ham in Ciabatta bread, washed down with a rather elegant albeit Australian Shiraz. Between and beyond those major courses were other tasty morsels, including honey-roasted cashews, savoury sesame cracker-thingies and some very jolly posh chocolate biscuits.
We discussed many things during the day, including my latest hobby, learning to play the baritone ukulele very badly; the latest exploits of Charley’s son and daughter; together with news of the house refurbishment carried out by Charley and Mrs Malloy over the winter.
While in the Grandstand for the middle session of the day, a chap sitting with a friend not far behind us, started to snore, increasingly loudly as the session went on. At tea, the sleeper woke up and said: “It really is lovely being with you here at Lord’s,” to which his mate replied: “I’m not sure you have entirely been with me.”
“Hmm,” said the sleeper. “I suppose I might have nodded off for a moment just then.”
At stumps, Charley wondered what I might report about him on King Cricket. “Will you tell them about me trying to remember a pint-sized cricketer who looked a bit like that little-feller on the field of play, only to discover that the little feller was the very chap I was trying to remember?”
“Unlikely to make the cut”, I replied.
“What about me not realising that your baritone ukulele is different from the instruments that George Formby used to play?” asked Charley.
“A mistake that many would make, Charley. The baritone ukulele is normally tuned as a four-stringed guitar, very different from the banjolele and conventional ukulele, but the distinction is a bit music-geeky.”
Charley and I decided not to have a final, post-stumps drink – I needed to get home and prepare for work the next day. I walked home my usual route. Three minutes from home, as I’m walking past the Prince Edward, a loud voice rings out, “Ged Ladd” (or words to that effect).
“Stentor Baritone”, (or words to that effect), I reply. An extraordinary coincidence for several reasons, not least because I had never heard of a baritone ukulele, let alone a Stentor Baritone ukulele, when I granted my MCC friend that KC pseudonym some years ago. Also because Stentor no longer lives on my patch, nor does the publisher chum, also an acquaintance of mine, with whom Stentor was having an outside drink, en route to a restaurant.
Being an MCC member, Stentor Baritone was naturally unaware that today had been a match day at Lord’s, nor indeed that the cricket season had even begun. Equally naturally, I joined the pair for a quick drink, leaving my work preparation to a slightly foggier, later hour.6 Appeals
I didn’t even want a mobile phone but, after conceding that my post-Uni employability depended upon being contactable, I caved in and took on my schoolboy cousin’s chunky, silver Ericsson when he upgraded. It worked; I got a job and earned enough money to fly to Bombay to watch the first Test of the 2004 India v Australia series. I’ll always call it Bombay because that’s what it was when I first visited, as a 10 year old, in 1989. The trip was memorable because I got bad diarrhoea and we got stuck at the airport for ten hours on the way home.
Back to 2004. The plan was to stay with a cousin for two weeks, see the sights and watch the Test. My cousin, who had moved out there from London a few years beforehand, will tell you he gave me a bed, took me out and introduced me to his friends. That he did. However, if I tell you that ‘taking me out’ meant watching him work out at Gold’s Gym, you’ll get the idea that he didn’t change his routine much to accommodate me. He didn’t, in fact, change his routine at all.
At least I had the cricket to look forward to. There was talk of my cousin’s friend sorting out some tickets and taking me down there but by day three I realised it wasn’t going to happen and went on my own. The train down to the hilariously-named Wankhede was nice and cool because the carriages were open, like the ones on which American hobos hitch rides. The signage for the stations en-route was in the same style as the London Underground.
At the stadium I bought my 500 rupee (about a fiver) ticket and started queuing. They don’t bother with unnecessary luxuries such as stewards in India – they hire moustachioed coppers with wooden sticks. It was a couple of these who told me I couldn’t take my mobile phone into the stadium – a policy introduced after the Madrid train bombings. My protestations that extortionate roaming mobile charges meant that I couldn’t afford to detonate anything via text message fell on deaf ears, so I asked them what I should do with my weapon of mass destruction. Amazingly, they had no suggestions. There wasn’t even a bush nearby under which to hide it.
The phone was useless in India and worthless back home. It had served its purpose and I hadn’t paid for it. I chucked it away and joined the enthralled masses inside, who were roaring as if it was a rollercoaster T20 rather than a Test.
Except for some reason I didn’t do that. What I actually did was go back to my cousin’s flat, mobile millstone in hand, and watched the match on TV. I’d like to say it was on principle but I don’t think it was. As has been the case for much of my life, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or why.
The pitch was a raging turner, Michael Clarke took a six-for and Tendulkar made a sixty-something that was probably worth more than his many centuries. Australia were spun out cheaply and lost the match. It all happened on that third Day.
A few days later, deciding there was nothing else to detain me in the vibrant, exotic land of my forefathers, I cut short my stay and went home. Another sound decision, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Send your match reports to email@example.com and on no account mention the cricket itself.3 Appeals
Late season, I always try to take in a day of county cricket with my old friend, Charley “The Gent” Malloy. It helps us both to prepare for the inevitable winter withdrawal symptoms to come.
By 11am we were already tucking in to sesame bagels stuffed with honey roasted salmon, washed down with a perfumed Austrian Riesling, quite similar to the German jobbie we had enjoyed at Chester-le-Street.
“I did something very metrosexual the other week; about as metrosexual as it gets”, said Charley. “Can you guess what it was?”
I looked him up and down carefully. “Nothing to do with hair gel?” I stated, more than asked. “But was it something to do with clothes?”
“Listen carefully to what I said,” instructed Charley. “I DID something. Not wore something. But that’s more than enough clues. You have until one o’clock to guess what it was.”
The puzzle felt a bit light on clues, actually, but then Charley is like a TV quiz master without quiz structure. And without prizes.
Around 12:15, Charley said to me: “Any idea yet what my uber-metrosexual deed was, then?”
“Still, pondering, Charley, still pondering,” I said. “I’ve got until one o’clock anyway, so plenty of time to mull some more and possibly even watch some cricket just now.”
“You’ve got until 12:30,” said Charley. “That’s when lunch is being taken.”
“But you said one o’clock, Charley,” I protested. “I forgot that everything is half-an-hour earlier in September,” he replied.
Just shy of 12:30, I decided to distract Charley by changing the subject. “By the way, I saw your boy on the TV the other evening, right at the end of the Women’s Ashes T20 at Chelmsford. I’m certain it was him.” Charley smiled and said: “Yup, all three of us were there; the missus too. Well done. Had you worked it out all along then?”
“Worked it out? Oh…” I winked at Charley and secretly winked at myself.
“Taking the family to women’s cricket. It doesn’t get much more metrosexual than that, does it?” effused Charley. “Shame you spotted the boy on the TV – made my puzzle too easy for you.”
“I’m sure you’ll find something more challenging for next season, Charley,” I replied.6 Appeals
Dandy Dan writes:
As rain was forecast for most of the day, Becky and I decided not rush to Manchester. We both arrived at our salubrious Ibis hotel at lunchtime and headed immediately to the ground. Soon the rain returned so we spent the afternoon waiting to see this sign.
We cheered. Praying for rain gave me a nostalgic feeling for the 90s.
Leaving the ground we headed back to the hotel, showered and changed, and headed into the glittering Manchester evening. After dinner we went into a slightly wanky bar, but I couldn’t be arsed traipsing around. We ordered a very nice bottle of Beaujolais and propped up the bar.
After a while, I needed the toilet. Whilst I was in the gentlemen’s, Becky sent me a text that read ‘Keep your shit together’. Puzzled by this as that’s not normally the reason why you go to the toilet, I returned to the bar to be presented with the scene of KP, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott sitting at the bar. I calmly returned to my seat.
Obviously, I texted everyone I knew.
Price responded telling me I should tell Trott he needed to pull his finger out and score some runs. After a couple of minutes I caught Trott and Bell’s eye, nodded and raised a glass. They returned the gesture.
Fed up with playing it cool, Becky decided to go and chat to them. I duly followed suit. We were having a polite chat until Becky relayed Price’s message. Jonathan seemed less than impressed. A few moments later, Ali Cook, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann and Jimmy walked in and joined us. The evening was going well. We ordered another bottle of Beaujolais.
From then on, things start to go a little bit hazy. I had a discussion with Graeme about Led Zeppelin (he thinks they’re over rated. I corrected him. We agreed that Pink Floyd are very good). I’m sad to report that none of them had heard of/read King Cricket. Ian Bell was completely unaware of the Lord Megachief of Gold title that was bestowed upon him a couple of years ago. This saddened me. I didn’t get a chance to speak to Alastair. He didn’t stay very long but we did share a nod when we were stood next to the urinals. Tim was as cheery as you’d expect him to be.
I asked Jimmy if he remembered a man dressed as a vagina screaming at him at Headingley. He did and found it most amusing when I told him it was me. He immediately turned to Graeme and said: “You remember that vagina I told you I saw at Headingley? That was him.”
Graeme laughed and I felt somewhat proud that my antics had entered the England dressing room. Jimmy apologised to me for not coming over and signing my flaps and he bought me a drink to say sorry. I accepted his apology. Embarrassingly, I asked him for a photo. One of the bar staff did an excellent photobomb.
I told them that I had their names as table names at my wedding a couple weeks earlier. Graeme was pleased when I told him I had moved him up the order to number four (I lied). I didn’t tell Jimmy that I had put love hearts next to his name. I didn’t want him to think I was strange.
They decided to leave and Jimmy and Graeme invited us to join them in another bar. Not having any other plans, we accepted this offer.
I don’t remember getting back to the hotel.13 Appeals
I have never been to a cricket match of any description, level or length, even though it is my all time favourite sport. Despite that, or maybe because of it, I had absolutely no intention of attending the Ireland/England versus England/Ireland one-day international in Malahide in person. (Old Irish joke – why did Malahide? Because Terenure. I think it’s in Ulysses. You probably need to be from Dublin.)
However, a back injury sustained the previous Sunday evening by bending down to put a fork into/take a fork out of (my memory on this point is hazy) the dishwasher, while my able-bodied and supple-backed wife and three children looked on, meant that I would have to track the proceedings on Cricinfo from home as opposed to doing so from work.
Yes: dilemma. It’s easy skiving off work to follow the cricket scores, but how does one skive off being incapacitated to check the cricket scores?
By Tuesday, scarred by two nights of interrupted sleep, I didn’t get around to checking the score until about the point where Porterfield had scored his century. This is because of the slow and deliberate moves required to locate the power cord to our laptop, which the children had cunningly hidden in a location most likely to trouble somebody with a chronic back problem.
Lunch was not a picnic: no smoked salmon or Champagne, no Pimm’s or hot steak sandwiches from Jamie, no steak and kidney pie or pints of lager. No, lunch was a cheese toastie, two chocolate digestives and a cup of tea.
Given I was further scarred by the non rock ‘n’ roll nature of my back injury (I mean, what can people ask you? “So, what, were you putting on – a full power wash or an eco-cycle?”), my second visit to the ball-by-ball score was at the exciting point of England/Ireland being four wickets down with Morgan and Bopara at the crease.
Having by this time realised that the furtive joy of sneaking looks at the ball-by-ball coverage is more heightened in a work context (particularly a pressurised work situation) than a sick-at-home context, while also realising that the stage was set for a Morgan ton to do down his country of birth, my third and final look at Cricinfo coincided with Bopara’s ton and Morgan’s winning runs.
Didn’t do much for my back, as you can imagine, which took a further seven (seven!) days to heal. On the positive side, we are getting a cat, which I can only hope will be conspicuously indifferent to cricket.13 Appeals
A change of venue for the Heavy Rollers Test match jaunt this year; in the absence of a Test match at Edgbaston, we opted for the first three days at Chester-Le-Street. Nigel “Father Barry” White, Charley “The Gent” Malloy and I were the three regular rollers on display. Daisy joined us to make a fourth, honorary roller.
Charley “The Gent” was especially skittish in the evenings. He tried to sell Daisy several lines of bullshit about the Heavy Rollers’ exploits over the years and also took great pride in explaining his persuasion techniques for getting exactly what he wants when booking rooms, tickets, nets etc.
“You have to find the right person in authority and then gently persuade them; it’s just transactional analysis basically…”
By contrast, Nigel “Father Barry” White seemed quite subdued this year. He seemed especially irked when Charley tried to convince Daisy that Nigel is a top rate singer. I had never heard Nigel sing.
When we met Nigel at the ground just before the start of day three, he seemed like a man transformed; pumped even. The first bars of Jerusalem blared through the speakers and Nigel was off, singing Jerusalem at full pelt. Impressive singing too – more “Barry White” than “Father Barry”.
It transpired that Nigel’s mood had been improved by none other than Jonathan Agnew. Nigel had come to the ground very early in order to buy a personally signed copy of Aggers’ new cricket anthology at an early morning book signing. Back in the mists of time, Nigel had played in a friendly match against Aggers and had dropped him on his way to a rare 50. Aggers didn’t remember batting that well, nor the specific drop, but he did remember playing in those friendly games and reminisced briefly with Nigel. Aggers then emblazoned Nigel’s copy of the book: “To Nigel – even Geoffrey’s mum would have caught that,” which amused and pleased Nigel very much.
Charley “The Gent” studied the book and inscription very carefully before saying: “I fancy one of those for my boy. Let’s go to the shop at lunch.”
Of course, at lunch there was no actual Aggers book signing, but a pile of pre-signed copies available for purchase.
“I want a personal inscription,” said Charley to a sales assistant, showing her Nigel’s copy. “Look, he’s inscribed my friend’s copy. I want him to inscribe my copy too.”
“I’m sorry,” came the reply, “but Aggers isn’t coming here again today. He’s in the media centre doing his radio work. He’s coming here for another book signing early tomorrow morning.”
“But I’m not here tomorrow” said Charley. “I’ll be on my way home. Please take my copy of the book up to the commentary box and get him to inscribe it for me there. It’s the least you can do.”
“I’m really sorry, I cannot help you there,” came the predictable, polite reply.
“But it’s for my boy.” Charley cried. “Just a short inscription – corridor of uncertainty, grandmother, stick of rhubarb, something along those lines.” Charley continued to mumble, with decreasing confidence and increasing incoherence.
Nigel counselled Charley kindly. “The metaphorical umpire has lifted the finger, Charley. Tuck your book under your arm and stride away from the metaphorical crease while you still have your dignity.” Nigel then gently guided Charley out of the shop and back to his seat.
Daisy couldn’t stop laughing when Nigel related this sad tale. Charley disappeared a couple of times during the afternoon and evening sessions; we guessed he was returning to the shop to have another go. But Charley was silent about the matter for the rest of the day, so we suspect that his fail-safe persuasion techniques drew blanks that day. Goodness only knows what the shop staff made of Charley “The Gent,” mumbling Boycott Bingo phrases while seeking Aggers’ personal inscription.9 Appeals
Dandy Dan writes:
The day started well. I got married.
Once that was out of the way, the serious matters of the day came into view. I’ve been to a fair few weddings over the years and in most, I’ve found there to be a ‘lull’ at some point. Eager for this not to affect my own wedding, I asked The So Called Will to borrow a Kwik-Cricket set from his school and to organise a game.
The rules were established. Each batsman had one over to score as many runs as possible. Five runs would be deducted for each loss of wicket. Being the Groom, I went first.
Things started well. Will was bowling to me in a repetition of school holidays circa 1987-1995. A loose, short one outside off stump allowed me to execute a glorious back foot cut over Price’s head for four.
The next ball was flicked off my hips for an agreed two. A drive through mid-on brought four. Will was not enjoying this trip down memory lane. He focused on line and length. The right thing to do, but against a batsman in this sort of form, pointless. He was dispatched for a disputed six over his head.
Another cut brought a further four with a solid block ending the over. The block was slightly exaggerated just to prove the point that I could do it. 20 runs off the over. I was pleased with that.
Will and I swapped places. I opened with some off spin. This immediately brought turn AND bounce. First two balls went straight through the gate but narrowly missed the stumps. The third brought an LBW appeal. Will insisted it was going down leg-side. Knowing there was no way he could now overtake my score (and in the interests of keeping the spirit of the day friendly) I agreed. Not wanting to show off, I finished the over with some medium-fast.
Others came and tried to better my score, but fittingly no one managed to. My new cousin Kieran (age eight) enjoyed fetching the ball for the ‘grown-ups’. This was the first time I’ve ever found a use for a child at a wedding.
My Australian friend Kai (who had come all the way from Sydney for the event) did a pretty good job at being an Australian cricketer. He was rubbish. Mark J adopted the unusual fielding technique of biting on the plastic pint glass so he had two hands free for a catch. By doing this he had impressively kept both priorities at the top of his agenda.
Tanya got involved by first bravely adopting a position at silly mid-off and then later picking up the bat to face some of Gareth’s slow-medium. Ben showed disappointing form with the ball it has to be said. Didn’t see Price’s innings alas, but I know he didn’t score as many as me. My best man Rob was reasonably destructive with the plastic, although at one point he did hit my nephew’s girlfriend with a wild pull. The ball fired straight into the side of her rib-cage. She didn’t flinch. Good girl.
Inevitably, rain stopped play. However, we had to get on and have a first dance anyway so it all worked out well in the end.22 Appeals