Two sports, three days and five bagels at the Home of Rain Interruptions (unless you’re playing real tennis)

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Regular King Cricket contributor Ged Ladd’s report from the 2022 England v South Africa Test at Lord’s…

Day 1

I did a few things in the morning, then stopped by at Papa Joe’s Bagel Emporium, ordering bagels for Awesome Simo’s visit the day after. I also bought a giant börek to eat after my early afternoon tennis match.

Lunch had been called by the time I arrived at Lord’s, entering through the newly named Rachael Heyhoe Flint Gate.

We were expecting our 2pm doubles to be an almost private affair during the hours of play, but about 10 minutes into our game we heard the sound of heavy rain on the roof. It was hosing it down. Soon the tennis viewing gallery was heaving with people. The only live sport at Lord’s for the rest of the day, tragically, turned out to be us.

When we came off court, some youngsters, who had been cheering loudly from the front of the gallery, asked to have their photos taken with me and my doubles partner.

After I had changed, it was still hosing, so I snuck across to the pavilion to find a quiet spot to eat my börek. Unsurprisingly, all the indoor seats were taken. I decided that a corner of the writing room floor, with my back to the wall, would be a suitably discreet and private spot for my munch. 

About two minutes into my börek, a gentleman approached me and asked, “Are you Ged?”

Fairly regular King Cricket lurker and occasional commentator, Jeffy, introduced himself and kindly offered to buy me a drink in the Bowler’s Bar after I had finished my börek. 

I felt quite grand chatting with Jeffy on the Bowler’s Bar Terrace. Me, a photo-opportunity tennis player. Me, a recognised cricket writer. 

Then a somewhat drunken gentleman approached us to ask me if I was Andy Zaltzman.

“Doesn’t he have red hair?” I replied by way of denial.

“I suppose he does,” said the gent, “but you know what I mean – that mad Professor look. Apologies for mistaking you.”

Mercifully, the rain relented soon after the authorities announced that there would be no further play, so I bade a fond farewell to Jeffy, who had been charming company for a couple of hours.

I wandered home in the dry. I had seen no cricket at all, but had strangely enjoyed five hours at Lord’s.

Day 2

“So you didn’t get cricket yesterday, you got rain instead,” said Papa Joe, mordantly, as I entered his Bagel Emporium, first thing in the morning.

“True,” I said, “but I did enjoy your börek.”

Papa Joe had my five bagels ready for me. “Proper boiled bagels you know,” said Papa Joe, “not fake baked ones.” Eager to try them, I dashed home to make the picnic.

I arrived at Lord’s around the same time as Awesome Simo. We agreed a vital playing condition for the day: no mention of “those” political clowns. (Editor: We do feel that our slow publishing speed adds a frisson of intrigue to otherwise straightforward references such as this. It’s August 2022 here, if you need a nudge.)

I then showed Simo the above photograph of the bagels and described the picnic: one smoked salmon bagel each, one ham and cheese bagel each, salad cups, strawberries and grapes.

Simo thought for a moment and said, “but there are five bagels in the photo.”

“I bought an extra bagel for my lunch tomorrow. I’m playing tennis and will need to eat something after play, if that’s okay, Simo?”

“Be like that,” said Simo in his passive-aggressive voice.

It was a warm sunny day and Simo had brought no head protection with him. He soon went for a stroll, returning with a bright red Ruth Strauss Foundation cap on his head.

“Lovely,” I said cheerfully.

“Hmm,” said Simo. “I sent a picture of it to the other half, who responded with a two-word message: ‘BURN IT’.”

We just about avoided discussing the clowns all day, thus we parted company in good spirits.

Day 3

I got to Lord’s in good time with my solo bagel and a portion of fruit. 

My first stop was the Warner Stand, but it was sunnier than the forecast predicted, so I retreated to the writing room, as my purpose was to do some writing that morning.

I was writing a short performance piece about wine, tennis and music in 14th century Burgundy. It might be the maddest idea for a performance piece I’ve ever had. Given my canon of fairly mad ideas, that’s quite a thing.

By the time I had played tennis, changed, showered and taken up a seat again, the cricket match was over.

I quietly ate the mystery fifth bagel and fruit before walking home.

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  1. Speaking of rain delays, I’ve used some of the time I would have spent watching cricket today to read this story about the ‘fake Indian cricket league’ that was in the news last year:

    Also, my top bagel tip, for those who care – Poppyseed bagels go very well with Pastrami/Salt Beef and mustard mayo (with pickles/gherkins of course, and maybe some cheese depending on your preference in those matters).

    1. Sage advice in the bagel department, APW.

      I love poppyseed ones, but tend to avoid them for cricket matches, on the grounds of potential “bits between the teeth with nowhere sensible to go to rectify the problem” misery. This theory has been tested in the past, but perhaps the “too much information” filter led to it going unreported here.

      As for pastrami and/or salt beef and/or reuben-style bagel sandwiches, it is wicked-hard to find good quality pickled beef in London these days. Supermarket slices of such stuff don’t cut the mustard…although heaps of mustard might disguise the beef’s shortcomings.

      There is a new bagel emporium in Westbourne Grove, 101 West, which I have yet to check out fully, but I did stop off there a couple of weeks ago, between appointments, for a smoked salmon bagel & a coffee. Very good indeed.

  2. You are leading my dream life, Ged. Hanging about Lords, drinking and writing. I just get the 4 yearly Ashes visit from down under.

    1. There are other days, Fred, not just the ones reported here or on Ogblog.

      Daisy was commenting earlier today, when we were struggling to find a slot for something next week, that I still seem to be working an awful lot for someone who is semi-retired. As is she. Especially so in the week AFTER taking some time off for cricket.

      But yes, we realise that we are lucky, getting to do far more dreamy stuff than most.

  3. It was indeed a most convivial occasion and Ged does it full justice in his report. Apart from meeting Ged, the other memorable thing that happened that match was that some sunglasses landed on my lap when I was sitting in front of the pavilion, near where Ged and Daisy were recently dancing. My immediate neighbour and I were having a Sherlock Holmes-type discussion about eliminating the impossible and being left with the truth, etc, and had more or less concluded that they had been dropped from the beak of a passing bird. Our discussion was interrupted by Kyle Verreynne turning up and claiming he had dropped them from the visitors’ balcony – we generously took him at his word.

    1. This is where Kyle Verreynne comes in and mentions another crowd interaction he had during that match.

      We’re on for an all-encompassing 3D match report from every angle here, people.

  4. Another fine match report.
    I thought five bagels meant Ged had won 6-0, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 6-0, if that is even possible in real tennis.

    1. Thanks, Chuck.

      Theoretically possible to string several bagels together in real tennis, but almost impossible in practice.

      We ordinary amateurs play using handicaps, which mean that the match should (and usually does) result in close scores. Our matches are almost always best of three sets.

      Major and open tournaments are played without handicaps and some matches are one-sided affairs. A “best of nine” match would be quite rare, I think. The World Championship (which completed yesterday) is currently a best of 13. There are one-sided matches in open tournaments, but somehow bagels (and certainly multiple-bagels) don’t happen. I think there is an unwritten code of etiquette that means that a top professional, if up against an up and coming pro or a top notch amateur, finds a way of conceding one or two games per set to spare the blushes and/or maintain the enthusiasm of the lesser player.

      I play lawn tennis a lot with Daisy and/but it is extremely rare for the match to be one-sided.

      In short, I rarely encounter even one bagel set in my own tennis play.

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