“I’ve been a complete idiot,” said Big Al DeLarge when he phoned me on the Monday before the Test match. “I wrote the date down in the diary but not on the wall chart. My assistant has booked a holiday and I simply cannot take that day off now. I’m furious with myself and so sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it, Al,” I said.
But I had promised the Lancastrian nephew-in-law, Escamillo Escapillo that he wasn’t to be the token northerner – Big Al hails from Burnley – and I wasn’t so confident that I could drum up a replacement. I sent an e-mail to King Cricket in the hope that he might fancy a day at HQ and be able to come at short notice, but (as I suspected) he did fancy such a day but was otherwise engaged.
As good fortune would have it, in the gym the next morning I ran into Jim Hawkins, with whom I have discussed cricket for the twenty-or-so years we have both been going to that place. I know he is self-employed, so I thought he might well be up for a day at Lord’s on the off-chance. He was free – problem solved – except for the fact that Jim is not a northerner.
“You’ll be sitting with a strange assortment of folk,” I said. “Me, my old friend, Charley “The Gent” Malloy and the Lancastrian nephew-in-law, Escamillo Escapillo, who was hoping for the company of a northerner, so you might be a bit of a disappointment for him.”
“I love Test cricket at Lord’s,” said Jim. “I’d sit next to Hitler if need be.”
“I don’t think Test cricket would have quite been Hitler’s bag,” I said. “I can’t imagine The Führer getting the idea of playing for the draw towards the end of five days of battle.”
I had planned some culinary delights because Big Al loves his food – indeed by his own admission he can be “a bit cheffy”. So I had made the Lord’s Throdkin for this match and also produced some Hanoi-style Banh Mi sandwiches, as Big Al tends to like my take on oriental food. In any case, Daisy and I were also going to the match the next day and both ideas had the legs for two-days-worth of picnic.
The grub all went down very well with the lads. Escamillo-Escapillo remarked that his only previous encounter with throdkin had been gloopy, which he didn’t think would work as picnic food.
Sitting behind us were some idiotic posh boys, talking rubbish about the cricket and getting incredibly drunk, incredibly early in the day. They had brought several bottles of Champagne, which presumably were gone by the first drinks interval, at which point they switched to buying beer.
Much of the beer they were buying during the second hour, they somehow contrived to spill over our feet and bags, but plenty was surviving and going down their throats. It was a very hot day and we were exposed to the sun in the Upper Compo. I wondered how the posh boys would cope with a whole day of such excess. Answer – they returned after lunch briefly and then disappeared for the rest of the day. In short, they couldn’t cope.
Our group was certainly not quitting early, although Jim Hawkins got the call from his girlfriend around the time that stumps were supposed to be drawn and withdrew gracefully. The rest of us saw out the whole day and finished the last bottle of red as the sun set behind the Warner Stand. Bliss.
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