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.