WITLESS 2002

 WITLESS 2001

Index

WITLESS 2003

 

A tribute to the Bristol-bound Kent Stanley.

Another fine mess, Stanley…

A Kiwi who will be missed
            Named after the brand of cigarettes, the gin distiller, Lord Nelson’s mistress and the man who discovered Dr. Livingstone, Kent Gordon Hamilton Stanley first answered our cricketing call to arms in 1998. The then captain Jock Dawson was scratching around for players for that year’s ritual humiliation by the Champ and, having asked this writer to assume the skipper’s duties for the following season, asked me if I knew anyone who might like a game. Liz Stanley mentioned that her husband played a bit, and so M.C.C.’s loss was the St Radegund’s gain.

Most memories of that first game have faded, though the image of Kent at the wicket, carving away with the bat in cavalier fashion before running out his batting partner, remains as fresh as ever. Respect for the St Radegund’s traditions must have impressed the young New Zealander, as the roll call of batsmen he has been running out ever since reads like a Who’s Who of Rad cricket: Steve‘Wizzer’ Wilson, The Yorkshire Sipper and Bin Laden to name but a few.

Kent’s innings were, by and large, constructed along similar lines: an over of playing and missing, an over of finding the field, five overs of belting the ball to all parts. Thereafter, it became a simple question of whether he was going to get himself out, his partner out, or a big score. More often than not it was the last.

            Of all the characters he met in his time, he held special affection for Davy Jones of the Champ, and came to look upon him as a mentor. Legend has it that on a visit to the Harbhajan Singh of Greene King’s mountain retreat the pair sat facing each other cross-legged on a raffia mat, tossing a cricket ball between them. Kent showed Jonesy the off-break. Jonesy showed Kent the door.

            Undeterred, Kent abandoned spin in favour of charging in and scaring batsmen to death with his raw pace and loud appeals, which were of such ferocity that they would often disturb Sam Walton’s nap. He would field with the enthusiasm of one used to bodysurfing off Sydney’s beaches, though often found that the lush greensward of Jesus College offered more in the way of resistance than the Tasman Sea.

            Off the pitch Kent was the self-effacing type: modest in discussion of his own achievements, quietly encouraging when others failed. In his cups he kept himself to himself, rarely offering anyone his opinion, and often struggled to make himself heard over the clamorous din of a packed pub. Well, almost.

            His stint as captain in 2000 brought him the rare distinction of being only the second Radegundian in nine years to lift the fabled King Street Trophy, a feat which earned him Bunter’s wrath and led to his being stripped of the captaincy on charges of general enthusiasm for the game and all round competence. His replacement was Chris Metcalfe.

            And so it was that, at the following year’s Champ match, Kent met his nemesis in the form of a familiar if unkempt and generally shabby-looking figure. Eight runs shy of his half century and needing only one more run to average exactly forty for the season, Kent found himself facing the bowling of Pryce Jones, who proceeded to beguile the hapless Kiwi with his devilish arts. Sure enough Jonesy got his wicket, and Kent, like the wedding guest who listens to the Ancient Mariner’s yarn, woke the morrow morn a sadder and a wiser man.

            The decline was swift: conkers, arm wrestling, you name it. No sport could Kent try but Jonesy was his better. Emotionally shattered by the experience, Kent sought help from his G.P., who recommended a spell of therapeutic rehabilitation at a Bristol sanatorium.

            In losing this paragon of St. Radegund cricketing virtues to the wilds of the West Country, it can only be the earnest wish of all that in leaving to build boats, he won’t burn his bridges. Good luck, mate!

Steven Haslemere

 

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Terry 'Bunter' Kavanagh pulls no punches in his account of the 2002 tour to Gloucestershire

Westward Ho! Ho! Ho!
Days of Infamy in the Severn Vale

            August Bank Holiday marked the first summer cricket tour of the St. Radegund cricket team: they played a match against Slimbridge Cricket Club on the Saturday and a six-a-side competition at Cam Cricket Club the following day. The exploits of these games need not concern us here as full match reports appear elsewhere in the almanack; it is the shenanigans between times that are reported below.

           
The George Inn at Frocester was chosen as the Friday rendezvous for the sojourn to Gloucestershire. We travelled there by road, by train and, in the case of two
brave souls, by bicycle. There was a hint of the Japanese invasion of Malaya during World War Two about it. The senior samurai officers commandeered the George, while the other ranks camped in the field next door.

After a few Hook Nortons a reconnaissance in strength was planned, with the objective being The Old Spot at Dursley. This recce soon fell behind schedule and almost faltered due to transport problems: the initial shock troops could not advance fast enough and, to prevent chaos, transport officer ‘Banzai’ Bunter was relieved of his command for incompetence. Things went more smoothly thereafter and The Old Spot was taken after a brief struggle trying to prevent landlord Ric Sainty buying too many jugs of beer.

The main carrier force led by Richard ‘Nagumo’ Naisby was late on the scene, which upset strike leader Kent ‘Kamikaze’ Stanley. Another late arrival was commanding officer and team captain ‘Bushido’ Barrett, who had been delayed taking an Aegean island en route. Mastermind of the whole operation Rod‘Yamamoto’ Thomas was not overall impressed, and with James ‘Fatwa’ Hill complained there were too many ‘comfort women’ along for a cricket tour.

The Old Spot proved to be a classic: one of a dying breed of genuine English country pubs. Landlord Ric (I told you not to mention his name again, sweetheart!) Sainty was a great host and a passable Hemingway look alike. He certainly had ‘Papa’s’ drinking ability and many of the party were hard pressed to keep up with him: before the night ended many made pigs’ ears of themselves.

Saturday was match day. All we had planned for during the past six months was half-nobbled owing to several hangovers. On arrival at the ground we were all taken aback on seeing soccer goalposts on the cricket pitch. Is nothing sacred? Efforts to remove them were worthy of Cooper and Sykes in The Plank. It took all hands to remove the most stubborn of the posts, the scene recalling Rosenthal’s famous WW2 photo of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima.

Before the game had even started team mascot Razzle was given her marching orders, given out for excessive barking, and was led away by Liz Stanley on a tour of Gloucestershire. It’s a dog’s life, for sure. Talking of which, it was the hair of the dog that most members of the team needed and thankfully beer was at hand courtesy of Bin Laden who provided a pin of Jupiter.

Not that it helped the cricket, the team going down to Slimbridge, thought not by much in the end. After the game both teams went to The White Lion in Cambridge (Glos.) for a few beers and‘Buckets’ presented a St Radegund Summer Tour pennant to Slimbridgeskipper Steve Gallagher. Bunter received a hefty fine for missing most of the game because he wanted to see more of the county than just the inside of its pubs! Yeah, right! Guilty!

With the stomach swishing with beer the delights of the Frocester Beer Festival awaited and it was back to the George for a couple, then over to the camp site for a good barbecue admirably arranged by Gareth and Lisa with able assistance from‘Mini’ Cooper, Julia and Rob.

The beer festival itself? It was very well organised: pre-paid tickets made sure the service was hard and fast at the bar. Some deafening rock music squinted a bit for such an event, though there were some among us who actually liked it! The heavens had more taste and lashed a rainstorm on the band for the rest of the evening, driving most people to the far end of the tent where even a loud compressor emitted better sounds. We ended up at the Uley Brewery bar.

After nine o’clock there was no beer left under 5% A.B.V. Some of the locals gathered round the bar were well away… the well-oiled of Uley perhaps? ‘Fatwa’Hill was well fuelled up on even stronger stuff being dispensed our end of the tent: he reckoned he had five pints of cider well over 7% A.B.V. and was forced to sit in Ric’s chair until the feeling came back into his legs. Fines were being delivered thick and fast and the sock was growing heavier. Its toe was so full of coins that the sock stretched over ‘Bread Of’ Evans’ shoulder almost touching the ground, like a Lebanese donkey’s dong!

The beer festival ended sharply at 11.00pm, but any thoughts of it being the last alcohol of the night and early to bed (with the exception of Steve ‘Sayonara’ Haslemere and his lady Liz, who ducked out early) were swiftly blown away on returning to the George. ‘Hawaiian Shirt’ Phil felt like tying one on; so did we. Round after round of beer, cider, Glenfiddich, Jamesons, and Havana Club 7-year old were greedily swallowed, and by three in the morning ‘Saki’ Sipper had taken over as DJ and found many an old musical war horse to really get the party going. Shirts were off and some prancing-dancing put one in mind of a San Francisco gay club! Where were you, Coach? Some, I am told – including the breakfast cook – were at it until well after four in the morning.

Sunday’s hangovers were worse than Saturday’s, and a listless group stood aimlessly around outside the George waiting to be taken to the six-a-side tournament in nearby Cam. In our state it turned out to be the perfect venue. The bar was open at 11.00am and the atmosphere so laid back that even the most jaded of spirits was lifted. The cricket was a laugh a minute and so was the banter. Five hundred sheep on a nearby hill seemed to get excited on sensing ‘Bread of’Evans’s presence. It later transpired that there was another Welshman serving behind the bar so maybe the sheep just fancied a change. A great way to spend a Sunday, although I cannot in all honesty claim to know what it was all about.

Amazingly, one of the St Radegund teams was called up to receive a prize: paper plates for the ultimate losers…not bad considering there were only six teams taking part! It was suggested that a tournament along similar lines be held between the Cambridge (Cambs.) pubs at Fenner’s next year.

Back to The Old Spot, where more beer and a barbecue awaited us. There was some very tasty roast pork (Old Spot himself?) served with apple sauce and stuffing, the third one we received over the weekend. Kent joined the limping wounded having blasted a ball into the inside of his foot. He was laid up on a settle with a hopsack under his damaged foot like some crusty old Colonel suffering from a severe attack of gout. He was having no fun and went back to the campsite early, having earned the Emperor’s ‘Cherry Blossom’ for valour under fire.

A weaker Otter beer from Honiton was the order of the evening and by ten o’clock we were swimming like otters in it. It proved too tame for Jak who decided to up the tempo with a couple of banzai charges of tequila. Transport was again proving a problem and sacked transport officer Bunter sat back smugly while it took three hours to sort out. Propaganda broadcaster Mary ‘Hari’ did her best to sort it out and tried talking a taxi into the pub, but it was Bin Laden who finally solved the logistical problem by making Ric’s wife El an official employee of Milton Brewery for the princely sum of one penny so the tired troops could be taken back to Frocester. ‘Saki’ Sipper, who didn’t really fancy riding his bike back to Cambridge the following day, was frustrated to find the George all locked up (they knew, didn’t they?) and his bike locked in the cellar, scuppering his plan to have Richard take it back in his van. At this point,‘Fatwa’ Hill decided to desert and went back to The Old Spot for more West Country Champagne (he even had caviar for breakfast, so I hear. Now that is style!).

Alan eventually solved the problem of Sipper’s bike, kindly agreeing to take it in the back of his car on Monday. At some point during Sunday evening Captain ‘Bushido’ Barrett fell on his sword, having lost face with the twin defeats of the tour, and passed over command to Evans-San, who promptly disappeared by bike into the depths of the Black Mountains to seek out a Welsh equivalent of Mt. Fuji, and inspiration for the next campaign.

There followed on Monday morning an orderly retreat into the rising sun back to the Far East and Cambridge. Riding with them were hangovers, a bulging sock and dim memories of having had a good time. God willing our next Summer Tour will be to Croatia in September 2003, with a match on Vis. Is the Adriatic ready for our invasion?

‘Banzai’ Bunter

cartoons by 'Sugar' Ray Banyard

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Beard on Frocester Beer Festival
 
From Beer to Infirmity

Richard‘Bin Laden’ Naisby takes a busman’s holiday
            One hundred real ales, twenty-odd ciders and some of those muddy looking drinks that Fatty seems to enjoy; things looked promising at the start of the Saturday session at Frocester Beer Festival. As Gareth, Lisa and‘Mini’ Cooper fired up the six shot barbecue I headed towards the tent looking for liquid action. Apparently Frocester isn't that kind of festival so I had to make do with beer instead.

           
Beers are paid for with a Stalinist ticketing system that means you hand over your folding to the babushkas at the entrance and spend the rest of the night losing the strips of tickets you get in exchange. Prices were steep. Ordinary session bitters cost around £2.30 - pretty outrageous considering it's a field!

            I was genuinely surprised to find four Milton beers at the festival. A quick half of Electra to check it was on form - it was- and off to do some proper tasting.

            Wychwood Brewery is always a good place to start and the Fiddlers Elbow was light, refreshing and hoppy: just what the doctor ordered after an afternoon thrashing around at the cricket. Oakham White Dwarf is a tremendous beer from Peterborough and rarely seen in Cambridge, so it was good to see it in deepest Gloucestershire. Very pale, bitter and hoppy, it is the current Champion Wheat Beer of Britain so no surprise it was good!

            Fatty was on the ciders as usual. Kent and Sipper looked less sure of theirs. "Tastes off" said Kent, "Like ropy vinegar" concurred Sipper. Battery acid more like. Two pints went on the grass to cause burns: UN weapons inspectors would have accused the Rad of using Agent Orange on tour. Fatty supped on regardless.

            Mauldons Black Adder upped the ante. 5.3% and black as night. A couple of roasty tasting pints slipped down all too easily. The Uley Brewery stand was doing a roaring trade. Brewer Chas Wright was on hand to "supervise" proceedings - a tricky job but someone has to check on the quality of the ale! All the Uley beers were in fine fettle, with the Old Spot a particular favourite.

            Meanwhile the Agent Orange was clearly having an effect on Fatty as he somehow failed to notice that the blond he was bouncing on his knee was in fact Ric's ex-wife! The bearded wonder himself was in roaring form, making the Uley end of the tent the place to be. Apart from anything else when the band got going it was the only place where you could hear yourself think.

            A quick trip around the tent revealed emptier and emptier stillages as the beers ran out. A few hazily remembered halves (Caledonian? Thwaites?) and it was back to the Uley bar for a few before chucking out time.

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Bunter introduces the readership to the delights of a small Adriatic island.

Vis - 'The Business'

            Most cricket lovers are aware that the game is played on Corfu, but on Vis? Few people even know where Vis is, which is a pity as it is a beautiful and interesting island, part of modern Croatia and about thirty miles west of Split. Like Corfu, it has always been of great strategic value and both were Royal Navy bases during the Napoleonic Wars. Bored English sailors played cricket on Vis between forays harassing the French fleet. Unlike on Corfu, cricket ceased to be played when the Royal Navy pulled out and handed Dalmatia over to the Austrians in 1815. No wonder the Hapsburg Empire collapsed!

            The dream of Visonian Niko Roki is to revive the game on the island. He became interested in cricket and grew to love the game while living in Australia during his formative years. Like many islanders his family emigrated after World War Two. On his return he took over the family vineyards and opened a restaurant at Plisko Polji, a small village inland.During the war Vis briefly became the headquarters of Tito’s partisans and the Allies built a base near the village to enable damaged bombers to land there on their return from bombing raids, rather than to their bases in Italy. The old airfield is one of the few flat parts of the island and is where Niko proposes to build a cricket pitch.

            Armed with this scant information, I visited Niko and his wife Valeria at their home in Plisko Polji in May 2002, where they kindly invited me to lunch and to sample some of Niko’s excellent wine. Most of our conversation was about cricket, and I was shown over the old airfield. It would be perfect for a pitch, if a bit on the small side. Preparing the wicket could also prove a problem, but not an insoluble one. Guess whom I have in mind to play in this revival game? Yes YOU, playmates! Just think about it: a beautiful sunny Adriatic island, and a pitch next to a vineyard and restaurant: the perfect place for a future St. Radegund summer cricket tour.

            It was a much earlier summer tour that brought the Royal Navy to Vis in 1808. Admiral Collingwood put Captain Hoste in charge of the Adriatic Station. Hoste, like Nelson, was a Norfolk man and looked upon the viscount as his second father. Through family connections Hoste became Nelson’s captain’s servant and was with him at the battle of Cape St. Vincent and at Tenerife where Nelson lost an arm. When he arrived on Vis he wasn’t even thirty and had been a captain since he was eighteen: a bit younger than most of the St. Radegund skippers!

            When not at sea there was little for the sailors to do on the island save for swimming, fishing and walking. In a letter home sent some time in 1810 Hoste writes: “We have established a cricket-club in this wretched place and, when we do get anchored for a few hours it passes away an hour very well.” Hoste’s Brother Teddy became captain of the Amphion XI but he does not make it clear whether he played cricket himself.

            The following year, on the 12th March 1811, Hoste became a hero. All his life he had dreamed of emulating Nelson and, as a large French fleet approached Vis harbour, his chance for glory came. Outgunned and outnumbered by two ships to one Hoste raised the flag that read ‘Remember Nelson’ and quickly smashed the French fleet, his own gunners on Amphion putting three Frenchies on the bottom the Adriatic: some sort of tricorn hat-trick perhaps?

            Vis is unique. Until recently it has remained a closed military base with few tourists visiting since World War Two. One of the benefits has been that pesticides have never been introduced there, and so all of the island’s produce is organic. Having been locked in a time warp for so long, Vis is now very much ahead of its time.

            The gauntlet has been laid down and, if all goes well, a revival of cricket will happen on Vis some time in September 2003. Some of you sampled the excellent Roki wine prior to the Rad vs. Champ game last July. Copious quantities will be available for all brave enough to travel to Croatia for the match. This writer played for the Commonwealth XI against Corfu in Athens during the early seventies and hopes to complete an eastern Mediterranean double against Vis next year.

Bunter

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A couple of match reports. First, Sipper covers the Champ match.

            The height of summer, and a day of mixed omens for the challengers of the St Radegund. The timbre of antipodean vowels resonated forebodingly in the away dressing room; though worse yet was to come as the arrival of the dreaded Pryce Jones saw the Diggers relegated to umpiring duties.

            In the blue corner, meanwhile, Richard the Beard opened his kit bag and unleashed a cocktail of noxious chemicals so foul it was worthy of Saddam in his pomp. His team mates ran for cover. Grown men wept. Even Fatty was appalled.

            With Helios's full fury beating down on The Close, wily Rad captain Barrett won the toss and condemned the holders to an afternoon of toil in the field. Opener Haslemere let a ferocious Roberts in-swinger through the gate, and though Stanley promised much with some lusty blows, he too perished in the same vein before long. Newcomer Major demonstrated a greater mastery of spin than his famous namesake, luring an increasingly frustrated Metcalfe into one rash shot too many, and with three down for 42, stoic resistance was required of the middle order.

            The call, surprisingly, was answered by the ordinarily pugnacious Hill, though with its usual comedic interludes, Fatty's odyssey in the middle owed more to Homer Simpson than Homer of Smyrna. Always keen to turn twos into ones at the best of times, in heat like Hephaestus's forge he was reduced to smiting any loose offerings for four, pausing often to restore his powers with his favoured elixir. The Beard, too, proved as hard to shift from the crease as from his more usual Sunday afternoon station in the pub, as the pair ground out 64 runs in over an hour before Cracknell turned back the clock with a terrific effort in the deep. “By Jupiter” came the cries, though Pryce Jones mistook this as an exhortation to avail himself of yet more of Naisby's nectar in the pavilion.

            Once again, the muse deserted Thomas, who holed out first ball, and his successor fared no better, repeating his duck of the previous week to make a Bartlett pair. The tail nonetheless wagged courtesy of a lively cameo from the skipper, given able support by the mercurial ‘Mini’ Cooper. As the mortal enemies paused for refreshment, the Champ's task was clear: 182 to win.

            The resumption of hostilities brought Pryce Jones and Arthur Elmer to the frontline. Still bristling at being inexplicably underused with the ball, Jones thrashed at Cooper as if plagued by hornets, but nevertheless scored two more than last year.

            From the other end, the ever-consistent Stanley worked like a Trojan; indeed, his appeals had enough ferocity to make a Trojan hoarse. Reward came with the uprooting of Elmer's middle stump and the Furies were with him as Roberts skied one straight back. Having succeeded in prising the ball from his grip, Bartlett then drew on his reserves of guile to outwit danger man Dixon.

            The Champ middle order nevertheless staged a recovery to mirror that of the St Radegund, with Cracknell content to play second fiddle to the ever-aggressive Twitchett. The floodgates were finally closed when the former offered the thinnest of edges to a Hill away-swinger, Metcalfe reacting as ever with panther-like speed (the taxi firm, that is). Their spirits broken, a succession of batsmen fell on their swords, and yet more meagre fare from Stanley made their task a labour of Hercules as the run rate spiralled. The tortoise had beaten the hare by 18 runs, and the St Radegund's warriors would give thanks in the temples of Bacchus for hours to come.

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And Steven Haslemere gives the tour match in Gloucestershire the once over.

            Had the runs flowed as freely as the beer the night before, then the St. Radegund might have fancied themselves to complete a famous win on their inaugural tour. As it turned out reports of Slimbridge C. C.’s prowess weren’t exaggerated: a solid league team built on a mix of maturity and youthful exuberance saw off the tourists’ challenge with aplomb and relative ease.

            The bucolic surroundings - the wide expanse of the Severn vale flanked by the Cotswold escarpment on one side and the Forest of Dean on the other – may have added to the distraction of the Rad’s batsmen after a heavy night, but on a strip that was little more than a combination of mud and sawdust, resembling a circus ring pitched on the Somme, and against such distinguished opposition surely the occasion demanded stout hearts, not fragile heads.

            A succession of St. Radegund batsmen succumbed to the temptation to have a go at veteran bowler Bill Church, who turned the ball well, had Stanley caught going for a big heave on 10, and Haslemere (2) and Metcalfe (8) bowled with similar deliveries, the hapless batsmen both playing on after nicking an inside edge.

            Fatty Hill, a man who shudders at the mere mention of the word ‘sobers’, nevertheless attempted to emulate the great Sir Garfield by smiting successive deliveries into hedges and adjoining fields. His innings of 34 was the bedrock of a poor total, and did the job of stirring the middle order into life, though not before Thomas had offered Stayte a straightforward caught and bowled without scoring.

            The skipper Barrett toiled for his 8 runs, but was run out by Hill going for a second that wasn’t there, but probably should have been. Bin Laden (6), having impressed the locals with his more than passing resemblance to native son W. G. Grace, became Church’s fifth victim of the day. ‘Mini’ Cooper spared the tourists’ blushes, hitting a quick 12 that made him the Rad’s second highest scorer, and Chris Evans capped a miserable season with the bat by recording another duck.

            Dawson Jnr. put down a marker for next season, and showed a promise that belied claims he’d never played before. Gareth’s maiden innings of 3 was made under the watchful eye of lofty lefty ‘Stretch’ Marshall, who never looked ruffled in helping himself to a handsome 5 not out.

            A score of 104 was never going to be big enough to defend. Early strikes by Stanley, who finished with his season’s best return of 4 for 13, couldn’t disguise some tinkering with the Slimbridge batting order that made the arrival at the crease of the recognised batsmen all the harder to bear. Wicketkeeper Corfield it was who drove the final nail into the coffin with an unbeaten 59.

            Bunter had been threatening his full array of spoiling tactics to nobble the match in the Rad’s favour, and it had even been mooted that we educate some of the opposition colts in the ways of Milton Brewery ale in order to secure a result. So amicable was the spirit between the two sides that such devious tactics were unnecessary. Not that Bunter cared by this stage. Our illustrious patron had decided to clear off and check out a local hostelry rather than witness the throes of what was only the Rad’s second defeat of the season. Cheers, Bunter.

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St Radegund public house, 129 King Street. Cambridge CB1 1LD. Tel: 01223 311794