In a departure from the regular Ged report format, indeed a departure from all cognitive normality, there follows a four-part report describing several days visiting Birmingham, not least for the Edgbaston County Championship match between Warwickshire and Middlesex, in September 2015. The four parts comprise the same story told by Benjy the Baritone Ukulele, Ivan the Smart Phone, Dumbo Jimny and finally Ged himself.
THE SOUND AND THE FURY – PART ONE: BENJY’S VERSION
By Benjy the Baritone Ukulele
♬ Sun is shining in the sky, there ain’t a cloud in sight… ♬
…nothing in sight in fact, I’m stuck under this tarpaulin…
♬ I’m on my way, big wheels turning… ♬
♬ …”shaving razor’s old and it stings…cheer up sleepy Jean”… ♬
…I can hear them singing…Ged, Dumbo, Ivan, Daisy (and she’s not even with us), some old gits whose voices I don’t recognise. What about me? You don’t normally sing that song without me?…
♬ …oh what can it mean?… ♬
♬ … now I’ve been long gone, boy I’ve got the Birmingham blues… ♬
Dumbo’s finally stopped. Must be Edgbaston…
♬ …Sunshine came softly through my window… ♬
…no, wait a minute…
♬ …feel the power of the rain making the garden grow… ♬
♬ …one fine day…sunny, thank you for the sunshine bouquet… ♬
♬ …I’m standing in the rain, I’m waiting all alone… ♬
…well, me and Dumbo, but Dumbo is in no mood to talk or sing. Why didn’t you take me in with you, Ged? We could be having fun while you are waiting around for nothing. We could be…
♬ …jammin’ , I want to jam it with you… ♬
…you must be as bored shitless in there as I am out here! At last, here come Ged and Ivan; we’re off…
♬ … hotel, motel, what you gonna do today (say what)… my head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop for the night… ♬
…three nights actually. Ged dumps me in the hotel room and goes straight out again with Ivan…
♬ …it’s stopped raining…see how the sun shines brightly in the City…in my lonely room… ♬
…play with me, Ged, please come back and play with me – yeh, he’s back…
♬ …it’s my turn…if you leave me a hundred times, a hundred times I’ll take you back…crazy words, crazy tune… vo-do-do-de-do…cheer up sleepy Jean…let’s do the time warp again! Nights in white satin… ♬
Two more days, two more nights, same routine…Ged and Ivan go off in the morning…back in the evening…Ivan tunes me up…Ged and I play…Ivan calls…”hello Daisy”
♬ …have you seen her?…she’s not there! ♬
♬ Friday I got travelin’ on my mind …the six o’clock alarm…homeward bound… ♬
…Ivan and Dumbo start arguing hammer and tongs…Ged, suited and booted, keeps saying, “whoa, boy” and “shut up Ivan”; Dumbo stops…
♬ What’s going on?…love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight…it’s a thin line between love and hate… ♬
…smell of petrol, surely not…
♬ …Fire!…burn baby burn?… ♬
…no. Sound of the engine starting, we’re…
♬ on the road again…for miles and miles and miles…London calling… ♬
Ged stops at the house, drops me off with some bags… Daisy…
♬ …gives him a great big kiss, Mwah!… ♬
…then off Ged goes again with Ivan and Dumbo for the rest of the working day. Still, what an exciting few days cricket holiday we’ve all had.
THE SOUND AND THE FURY – PART TWO: IVAN’S VERSION
By Ivan the Smart Phone
I don’t suppose you have a clue what we all got up to in Birmingham if all you have read is Benjy’s version of the story. Benjy’s version, a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.
Of course, Ged will tell you that he planned it all with Percy the PC. But their sort of planning is ridiculous, old-fashioned advanced planning. Ged even prints out reservations and street walking maps; what a dinosaur! When we get into the theatre of operations (as I like to call it), I come into my own. I have apps for it all. Ged’s paper is a total waste of time; it usually goes straight from printer to bag, from bag to pocket and from pocket to bin. Once we’re out there, it’s down to my app-titude. I do it all.
On the Tuesday morning, we set off from the house quite early, as Ged wanted to get to Edgbaston in time for the start of the match and September matches start at 10:30. Ged listens to Today on BBC Radio 4 as we are driving along. I’m in charge of directions. At one point, a couple of old crooners from a sixties rock/pop combo named The Monkees jabber away incessantly and then start singing Daydream Believer quite badly, a capella. Soon after they finish, I pick up a call from Daisy and we all start singing Daydream Believer very badly, a capella. Benjy can’t join in, because he is under the tarpaulin. “Hands-free” phone does not mean “so you can use your hands to strum the ukulele instead.” I told you he’s an idiot.
I get us to Edgbaston without further ado. The weather forecast isn’t special but it isn’t too bad. But there has been rain and when we get inside we learn that the covers have leaked and there’ll be no play for a while. By the time they dry out the damp patches it starts raining again and so it goes on all day. I could have predicted that. Ged and his hosts pass the time by eating, drinking and quizzing each other about cricket facts. I have apps with answers to all those questions – why do they bother to quiz and guess?
I find us a good route to our hotel, by which time the sun is out (I could have predicted that) so Ged and I go off for a walk – in search of the slum where his great uncle lived before the great war. Surprise surprise, it’s a council estate now. I could have predicted that.
Back to the hotel and I tune up Benjy. It’s a fairly futile exercise, this tuning business. My tuning app means we can meticulously tune each of Benjy’s strings to perfection. Then Ged strums the strings haphazardly and sings out of tune and out of key. There’s no app for tuning Ged, sadly; I could do with one of those.
Each morning Ged and I go off on foot for early business meetings in the City Centre (dull, dull, dull), then we walk back out of town to Edgbaston, to catch a few minutes play before lunch and spend the rest of the day enjoying the hospitality and cricket. Then we walk back to the hotel, I do my futile uke tuning bit and also take calls from Daisy.
On the Friday we drive back to London early. Dumbo and I have a big tiff on the way home. I don’t really want to talk about it, but basically, if you are going to use an expert like me to navigate your journeys, you shouldn’t disobey my directions; EVER. I can forgive Benjy for being an idiot – he has no circuit boards, but Dumbo has plenty and should know better; the great lummox. We drop Benjy at the house. Then Dumbo, Ged and I go straight off for another of Ged’s long, dull business meetings to end the week.
THE SOUND AND THE FURY – PART THREE: DUMBO’S VERSION
By Dumbo Jimny
I was very excited on that Tuesday morning, as I was on duty to take Ged, Ivan and Benjy up to Edgbaston for a few days of work and cricket. This was to be my first long-distance business trip for Ged, which filled me with some trepidation, but I was really looking forward to the cricket bit.
Ged was listening to my radio on the way up. At one point, a couple of chatty old men broke into song, at which point Ged joined. Then Daisy phoned in and started singing with Ged over the loud speaker and Benjy started whining from the back, “you’re singing our song…what about me?” . It was so much fun…well, perhaps you had to be there…or at least on the end of the phone.
We went to the Edgbaston ground first. I was really hoping I’d get to watch from the sidelines, like I was able to do at Clontarf, or at least get to park and see the second team pitch, like at Uxbridge, or view the historic Nursery Ground, like when I finally got in to see Lord’s. We were greeted warmly at the gate, but told to park in a concrete car park that looked a bit like…any car park. I asked Ged to park me up with a cricket view, but he said there is no such parking place in Edgbaston. Then a kindly steward advised us to move to a part of the car park where the puddles weren’t quite so deep, which didn’t augur well for a prompt start to play this morning, although the sun was out at that time.
Indeed, the whole day was punctuated by optimistic tannoy announcements followed shortly after by the patter of rain on my roof, then long silences, apart from Benjy whining and complaining from the back that Ged should be playing with him inside the ground. At least Benjy was wrapped up warm and dry at the back. I was the one getting wet.
Then the announcer said that play had been abandoned for the day (in bright sunshine again, naturally), Ged returned with Ivan and we drove across to a hotel on the Hagley Road, at which point I was off duty for the next two-and-a-half days. So much so normal for me, except this week I’m waiting around overlooking the Hagley Road – how cool is that? Well, not very cool according to the other vehicles at the hotel, but never mind.
Every morning Ged and Ivan would walk past me in one direction, saying “morning Dumbo”, then in the evening they’d return on foot from the other direction, saying “evening Dumbo”.
On the Friday morning Ged came down with Ivan, Benjy and the baggage much earlier than the other days. “Giddy up Dumbo”, said Ged, “ride like the wind”. As I have explained before, I actually am an imaginary horse, which is much more fun than merely imagining that you ride an imaginary horse.
I reminded Ged that I was hungry and that we wouldn’t get to our destination without a pit stop. As soon as I saw an opportunity for a guzzle, out M42 way, I made a bee-line for the fuel services. Ivan started screaming “turn around when possible…turn around when possible” and I probably made matters worse by whinnying and braying like the hungry equine I imagine myself to be. Well, at least my protest made sure we got home safely and then on to Ged’s next business meeting.
THE SOUND AND THE FURY – PART FOUR: GED’S VERSION
I planned an early September trip to Birmingham, cunningly mixing a few business meetings with pleasure such that I’d get to see best part of three day’s cricket for two days off work. I’d get some ukulele practice and some reading done in the evenings too.
The weather forecast was quite promising for September, although I did notice that Brum expected a bit of overnight rain before the start of the match, so I wondered whether the game would start on time. As it turned out, it didn’t start on the Tuesday at all. Sunshine for most of the day, but confounding showers at precisely the wrong times…we cricket lovers have all suffered such days.
A quick drive across Edgbaston to my hotel, where the receptionist said, “ah, you must have stayed here before, you have requested a quiet room at the back.” I should have just smiled and nodded, but instead I said, “no. I requested a quiet room because I intend to give Benjy the Bartitone Ukulele here a good thrashing and don’t want to disturb other residents”. The receptionist gave one of those nervous laughs and I thought I saw her check the location of her panic button.
Walking from the City centre to the ground after my meetings on Wednesday morning, I passed a small posse of low lives on the edge of the ring road, who greeted me warmly, “hello mate”, and to whom I waved. I left my hat on the hat stand at Edgbaston at stumps that evening and only realised my mistake half way back to the hotel. On the Thursday, walking the same route from the City to the ground, I encountered the same low lives and one of them called out, “oy, mate, where’s your hat?” You get a very sartorially aware type of low life in Birmingham these days. I was most impressed.
(Daisy was concerned, when I read her the first draft of this piece, that the low lives who hang around at King Cricket might object to my use of the term “low lives” to describe Brummy rough sleepers. But I reassured Daisy that King Cricket low lives are an entirely different class of low lives.)
Each evening I had a good opportunity to practice ukulele with Benjy and speak with Daisy and make a start on reading PostCapitalism by Paul Mason, which I ended up reviewing under my other nom de plume here. I must choose more upbeat books for the cricket next summer, this was just as grim as my Uxbridge read earlier in the season.
Soon after my low-life hat interaction on Thursday, my Friday afternoon London client had called to ask, “could you be here for early lunchtime instead?” It was one of those statement-type questions requiring the answer “yes”. This meant that my planned Friday leisurely amble back to London became an early getaway from Brum.
Realising that Dumbo was low on fuel, I decided to stop at the first service station along the way. It was one of those “drive a loop-the-loop” service stations, which got Ivan’s Waze app into a fluster, saying, “turn around when possible”. When I went to pay, the cashier asked me, “which pump?” When I twisted around to check and Ivan blurted once more. “turn around when possible.” I smiled and explained to the cashier that the service station’s loopy routing had caused a bit of a barney between Ivan’s sat-nav app and Dumbo. The cashier laughed one of those nervous laughs and I think I saw him check the location of his panic button before taking my money.
A quick pit stop at the house to drop off Benjy and my bags, with only enough time to say “hello” and “goodbye” to Daisy…
♬ …sealed with a kiss… ♬
…as Benjy might put it.
Still, at least the early meeting meant an early end to the working week, if you seriously can describe such a week thus.