Rod Thomas waxes lyrical...
On this 12 score and 14 days since the battle of Mulberry Hill or some such twaddle usually supplies a useful intro to what I have always thought of as a Captaincy type of thing. The Captain’s Log joke has been well and truly done to the scattered ashes, and there is little point in going down with a ship that is defiantly buoyant and pootling merrily through calm waters, with a crew of amiable drunks who have no intention of repelling boarders when said boarders may turn out to bowl a useful Doosra or at least a near relation, and can be persuaded to stand a round of drinks.
I like to think my sojourn in the post has been a return to the traditions of the true art of Captaincy. Some might say it is a Captain’s job to sacrifice himself for his team in the interests of Morale but I tend toward the great days of Empire when the Captain stood a safe distance from any such danger and sipped a Gin Sling with the Mem whilst the oiks in the ranks were massacred to a man in the name of K & C. And then back to camp for Tiffin and a large Havana.
I can safely say none of this has happened: there has been no upheaval in the ranks, no momentous moment, no act of courage, no martyrdom, no sacrifice; just a shared sandwich and a gentle nudging of a companion towards the moister teacakes.
As Captain it has not been difficult to choose a batting order. We have no one who can bat. We have elegant blockers, dour defenders, bludgers and swishers, but we construct an innings as an igloo in the desert: foundations of sand and nothing to show for it but a damp patch by lunch.
Field placings are no more scientific. It matters not where the friendly lads of the St Radegund are placed for they are a gregarious lot and gather in clusters admiring the flora, inanely giggling as they try to concoct anagrams and hangover cures.
As Captain, I have often stood rolling my ‘Persian’ cigarettes, watching the smoke rise and shrouded myself in joyful bemusement at the evidence of my own eyes. How such a glorious game as Cricket, matured in English Oak for Centuries, can be turned to a game of so little grace, elegance or endeavour. Not to worry we are primarily a bowling side, and we bowl in a manner befitting our station, Low on the food chain as maybe but bringers of joy.
So as I return to the ranks am I a wiser man? No, that would imply there was some wisdom there in the first place. Am I humbler? Certainly not. The yoke of responsibility shall not be missed. I will be contented once again to wonder the Elysian outfield, a Golden Virgin clamped between my lips wondering what’s for tea or indulging in some lightly bantered slip fielding.
I have rarely enjoyed anything so much, with the possible exception of Cricket.
“Come on the Rad, Something big from the larder now! The bloody bar is open!“
... a Champ publican shows how to officiate.
Lawrence Dixon demonstrates the noble art of Umpiring
The Prince of Darkness emerges from the crypt with a tale to chill the bones...
Through A Glass Darkly...
Sean Hesketh gets mugged down the blind alley of memory
November 18th 2004,
The Eagle, Benet Street
‘Twas a dark and stormy night. Sean sat down, dross all around, and said, “Sam lad, tell us a story, because if you don’t and I don’t get my copy in by tomorrow and Bunter gets hold of me I’ll be thinking that Guy Fawkes got off lightly.” So Sam began, “’Twas a dark and stormy night (Champion of the Thames, January 1991), nobody sat down, dross all around and someone said Sam lad tell us a story so Sam began…
Now, this could go on for ever and a day and could be the easiest five hundred words I’ve ever written so I’d better digress and I will. The evening of the 18th of November 2004 was dark and snowy as was the night in January 1991 (and this is where the story really starts) which was stormy in more ways than one. Operation Desert Storm was in progress and despite the proliferation of Tomahawks, Tomcats and Tornados those present were more interested in bowling maiden overs. To be sure The Boy Winfield might have been more interested in bowling maidens over but that was about as likely then in that place as it is now.To put this all in context, those were the days when Lynton was not only alive but over-qualified for the Pete and Dud Tarzan sketch, Neil the Wheel was still Neil the Bus, leaving his Mill Road bound pensioners in their Stagecoach prison in Jesus Lane whilst their driver quaffed his two lunchtime constitutionals in the Champ, and David Pryce-Jones was yet to reach favouritism in the death pool…
But to get back to the point (or even a point (where the hell were we anyway…?))
Oh yes, nine inches of snow were on the ground, which seemingly was not enough for Mike Guy to dispense with his socks and sandals in favour of the suede brogues, and a challenge had been made by those Sons of Thunder; Nick and Chippy of The Baron of Beef. Those two walking disaster areas had had the crazy notion that the Champ should put together a cricket eleven to play The Baron of Beef. The craziest thing about this idea was not the fairly remote possibility that the Champ could paste together a team but that Nick and Chippy could organize anything other than a bowl of chips in The Blue Boar to evade the lack of beer on Sunday afternoons. Which is what, of course, happened, or rather didn’t happen. But what did happen that night was Barry Campany, Chris Kitteridge, Strait-Jacket Sam and others (Was I there? I can’t recall)...
And this is where the story really starts, but Sean looked up (November 2004, The Eagle) to find half the table asleep and where was Sam. Must have gone to feed Chalky. I’ll just have to dredge up what I can. Well, these are the facts to the best of my lack of recollection…
(To be continued)
A notable regular dispenses wisdom as an Agony Aunt...
Ask Doctor Dunne
Our resident Reader* in Immunoparasitology tackles your burning issues and tells it straight
A reader writes:
Ah chap, been on the West Country Champagne a bit too much and slight worry with the old chap on the totty situation.
- A Jism Hell
Don’t worry pal, the chances of your contracting a water-borne parasitic infection are practically zero. Are you a man or a mouse, you big southern jessy?
A reader writes:
Now then Dunney, as you know I ‘ave a penchant for ladies of a certain stature, preferably on the cusp of their sell by date, too much 'slap' and all the 'tickle' a Bradford born boy can handle on two steak pies and tatties. Now I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, but thing is I’ve lost my place as wicket keeper for the season, so I’m wondering whether allt jumping off wardrobe as owt to do wi’ it. Are you wi’ me?
- I’m Cat’s Felcher
What can you expect from a lad born wrong side of Penines? Why, the parasitic Schistosoma worm shows more backbone!
A reader writes:
My dear old thing, how the very devil's kidney etc. As you know I have a long history of facial hair and so forth' but there comes a time in a chap's stroll upon the mortal when he feels the need to settle on a trade mark style. I have toyed with a variety but feel that anything less than an Edwardian moustache plus the condiments forces me onto the back foot far too early in the shot. Yet and yet I need the advice of a stalwart of the crease, a chap a chap can rely on for the sort of sound heart to heart old Eyebrows used to pay Matron the extra Guinea so to speak. The drift well and truly fumbled on the boundary all help gratefully etc.
- Rabbi Clover
A reader writes:
What ho petals, its the chillies see - far too many again this year, so having a quick look you at the internet spotted their medicinal qualities and remembered seeing a medical programme on the telly (M*A*S*H Episode #9197 - 'Hotlips Gets Puckered') and I wondered if I could interest you in a couple of pounds? I have found that these chillies, when combined with cider, transmogrified my bowling action, modelled, as you know on cousin Curtley 'The Valleys' Ambrose, into an altogether more balletic affair, and wondered if you would lend your name to a marketing idea I have had for Evans’ Liquid Locomotion - The Unction preferred by Dunne the Doctor? If you require an independent assessment I popped a drop in Bunter’s morning tincture and Sipper swore he moved like Barishnikov in the Dying Swan or was that Barry's Naffed off with a Sausaged Goose?
Nas tauch boyo, and pitch it up.- Shriven Sac
Seeing as how Schistosoma evades the host's immune system, remaining in the blood stream for many years my guess is that your concoction would only exacerbate the condition. Give us a bell if you get patent rights and slip us a bottle in the mean time - I've got a big week coming up.
A reader writes:
Which of your predecessors was it - Bill Hartnell or Patrick Troughton - who faced the Ice Warriors back in the ‘sixties?- Royal Torn
Can’t help you, Eyes - I’m not that sort of Doctor.
(*since elevated to Professor - Ed.)
*Beard kicks off our round-up of match reports...
King’s is one of those modern places with “entertainment” provided. This seemed to consist of a large number of overweight men wearing white (good colour, very Islamic) waving pieces of wood at each other and an equally large number of slatternly women scandalously underdressed and flaunting flesh in a most decadent and Western way. More of the entertainment in a moment...
The maitre d’ took a long time finding us a table. Eventually everything was in order and we were seated at what he called a “boundary edge” table. I can’t think what he was talking about since the ground was flat for miles around (not like my own dear Tora Bora - where the only flat piece of ground was made by a Tomahawk cruise missile, the last time the Americans (bless ‘em!) missed me!).
The waiter (Sipper by name) brought some enticing amuse-gueules for us to snack upon. Chilli stuffed olives of a rare deliciousness were followed by a fairly ordinary hummus. The finest hummus I can remember was prepared by Walid Jumblatt, a fine upstanding man, though a Druze, in his little palace in West Beirut.
Meanwhile the entertainment was in full swing (though the other diners reckoned there was very little swing from the Barton Road end (whatever that means!). The tall skinny man seemed in a hurry as his wood waving lasted only a few balls before he rejoined the dinner whilst his partner (a fine strapping Talib whose nom-de-guerre seemed to be Fatty) smote the heathens hip and thigh with his enormous sword they call the “Big Kahuna” (so un-poetic these names!). The talib they named Ollie sported the beginnings of a fine Islamic beard and he danced a fine quadrille until the main course arrived.
I chose the curried goat as usual, though I dallied with the idea of the fishcakes (Yasser’s in Nablus do the finest I know). The service was abominably slow as an awful lot of the waiters seemed to watching the “entertainment”.
Ollie’s dance ended the chap behind him removed the bails (I don’t understand these infidel pursuits). Worse was to follow. A brief appearance by a bouffant named B’harat was followed by the shocking blasphemy of a HARLOT.
This shameless Jezebel danced, pirouetted and strutted with the effrontery of her type. Hair uncovered, bare armed, and worse - legs visible, she pranced brazenly for an hour with a succession of poor helpless wretches. Understandably seduced by this appalling woman they all contrived to return to the terraces as soon as decently possible. Disgusting behaviour.
Note to self – investigate aircraft movements around West Cambridge
So reviled was I by the sheer tartary of the occasion I cannot remember anything about my curried goat. The service continued to decline. Most of the waiters joined the entertainment and I had to go into the kitchen to help myself to pudding. To my horror there I found the infidels drinking alcohol, smoking and lounging in most un-Islamic postures. Very distressing.
The “entertainment” was very poor. The waiters did an awful lot of chasing the little red thing around but the stick men refused to come back to the welcoming warmth of the restaurant – how unlike the first lot!
Not until fourth Azan did the reserve stick men decided it was time for prayers and let their fellow Talib have a dance. By then, my raspberries and cream were warm, the delicious fruit juice I’d been drinking was low and the sun was beginning to set. The reserve stick men changed dancing partners very rapidly after that until the first dancer went back to join the dance.
Just as I was about to dispute the bill the waiters let out a great cheer and ran to join their dancing partners. Very odd. I haven’t seen such behaviour since my good friend Saddam got lost on his way home from the Ivy! Nobody would pose for a photo with me so I left. No wonder this country is going to the dogs.
Geraldine was very ill.
...Sipper indulges in some trademark self-mockery...
"Doctor Metcalfe, I presume?"
In what better place could one wish to spend a balmy May evening than The Close, that hallowed Jesus College turf on which we blunderers and buffoons of the St Radegund are oft times permitted to make idiots of ourselves? It has seen Dexter drive, it has seen Coleridge compose. And here sit I, a better bat than one, a better balladeer than the other, on a dreary November afternoon, charged with recording for posterity another display of staggering athletic ineptitude.
Blame our esteemed editor: by commissioning your humble correspondent to detail his first game of the season in the hope of receiving early copy, he has in fact allowed six months for dim memories to fade yet further. So, now that the Pimm's has given way to the egg nog, one struggles to recall a time when Hussain and Johnson led England; when Ronnie Reagan had yet to trigger a dead pool jackpot; when The Times crossword was to be found on the back page of a broadsheet (R.I.P.). But why let truth get in the way of a good story?
The tone for a good-spirited encounter was set before a ball was bowled, as Sipper renewed his acquaintance with quondam rugby chum Ian Steed, who, not unnaturally, assumed the former's academic endeavours complete after eight years of toil, and enquired by paraphrasing Stanley's question on encountering Livingstone. The mere suggestion of a completed doctorate predictably produced gales of laughter from those within earshot. Oh ye of little faith!
Another day at the office for the top
order. Would be pinch-hitter Barrett was castled on two, and neither Whitney
nor Aspden troubled the scorers, both beaten by the raw pace of the
enigmatically styled Sushi. Shelton embraced the shorter 20-over format by
upping his strike rate (8 off 26), but his removal by a parsimonious Steed
precipitated the entrance of a new slimline, clean-living "Fatty"
Hill, forsaking the dual stimuli of cigs and cider. Alas, the effects of
these deficiencies in his training regimen were all too apparent. You see,
it's all very well for those natural swordsmen who can dazzle a crowd with a
cavalier cover drive, but some of us scavengers thrive on the
meagre fare of the streaky single, the like of
which I happened to call. In truth, Douglas Bader would have hoped to make
his ground, but our Fats lacks his acceleration out of the blocks, and was
a foot shy on the inevitable direct hit.
More inelegant swatting across the line from yours truly (who struggled to find the middle, but then it was Haslemere's bat) was accompanied by a bravura slogfest from Rodders, leading by example with a brace of colossal sixes, to close the effort on 110 for 7. Radegund hearts sank as Rutter trudged to the crease to commence the reply resplendent in helmet, thigh pad, arm guard, cuddly toy and fondue set. But Haslemere is no respecter of mere reputation, and summoned his reserves of guile to undo him with the (even) slower ball. So often a Jekyll-and-Hyde cricketer in the past, the pride of Blackpool this time showed remarkable consistency of line and length in cutting a swath through the Jesuan rank-and-file to finish with 4 for 13, a career-best return which marked the start of an Indian summer with the ball.
For once, he was supported by a collective effort in the field which at times bordered on the competent, as the infantry held their nerve in unprecedented fashion to see the guests home with five runs to spare. A new dawn under a new skipper? Steady, now...
The Yorkshire Sipper
"Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got a Gin for me!"
Aggers: And welcome to Fitz for the roundup of today’s annual St Radegund versus Veras match, and a fine days play it was too, don’t you think, Blowers?
Blowers: Oh yes indeed, chipping. Not quite as good as the game back in 1938…
Aggers: Yes, okay Blowers. Anyway Rad batted first, opening with Beard and Frances Dawson. Very plucky I thought considering the lack of cricketing experience.
Blowers: Yes, but Frances helped him out.
Aggers: Indeed. Anyway JD and Rachel opened the bowling…
Bearded Wonder: Bowling underarm, you noticed?
Aggers: …but failed to see off their respective partners so Haslemere, the Vera’s captain, brought on the sylph-like frame of Woolf, who promptly bowled Frances first ball.
Blowers: Oh, dashed unsporting. What a cad.
Aggers: Not on really. But this did bring in Ollie Crabb…
Blowers: Crab? Bit early for lunch isn’t it?
Aggers: …resplendent in King Street Run tie to the wicket. He was lucky to survive a LBW, even luckier to survive a stumping in the next over, and was finally stumped by Ian Rule off the bowling of Evans.
Bearded Wonder: Well technically I had to put that one down as Out ‘because he probably deserved to be’!
Aggers: Then just as we get rid of one Crabb, along comes another.
Blowers: Bit like buses really!
Aggers: Don’t start. Anyway StRuth stomps to the wicket and promptly begins to sledge the entire fielding side, the supporters, and a passing pigeon.
Blowers: This is when the Rad brought on their demon bowler in the shape of young Millie.
Aggers: Beard never stood a chance really. Out first ball LBW.
Bearded Wonder: Well, Out- ‘bored-next’, technically.
Aggers: But still not bad first ball ever.
Blowers: Fine bit of running commentary at this point from Ruth I thought, shouting ‘I like that one’ as each ball is bowled.
Boycott: Eeeeee, but don’t forget the fine Yorkshire lad at t’other end.
Blowers: Who? Sipper? Well yes, with fully flourished side burns he dispatched the ball to all corners of the ground.
Bearded Wonder: As long as you call all corners of the ground Cow yes.
Aggers: Well he ticked the score along to 43 for 3 and it was time for drinks.
Blowers: Ah, a fine glass of Gin and Tonic supplied by the absent Terry Kavanagh.
Aggers: And as usual it had the effect of making Veras immediately lose a wicket in the shape of Ruth being caught behind.
Blowers: And in the very next over Sipper was undone in the end by making the fateful mistake of being slightly too good, and was caught…
Bearded Wonder: Well ‘close enough to be caught ‘ actually.
Aggers: … by Sarah from the bowling of Haslemere.
Blowers: By this time Liz Haslemere and Spud had come to the stumps.
Aggers: Notice how carefully Steve was bowling at this point?
Blowers: Too carefully really, as he was prodded in the ribs with the sharp end of a bat and told ‘Don’t patronise me,’ at one point.
Boycott: Aye well said. You’d never catch me patronizing women.
Bearded Wonder: Beard, the umpire, tried signaling five runs to the fielding side, but as his signal confused the hell out of everyone, it wasn’t noted.
Aggers: Anyway. Spud didn’t last long, his stumps tumbling to Greenfly.
Blowers: You know I thought the reason women didn’t play cricket was because they wouldn’t be seen dead wearing the same as 10 other women but Stella, who bowled an over at this point, must be the first person I know who actually made a fashion statement in Cricket whites.
Aggers: I supposed the large black hip belt helped. Think it’ll catch on?
Blowers: Don’t think so, somehow.
Aggers: Anyway, the innings was grinding it’s way out at this point. Emma Bonsall had a fine knock before finally being given out.
Bearded Wonder: Handled the ball according to the scorebook, but God knows in reality!
Aggers: Aspden and Dawson Jr. were both bowled, which left Rodders and Bones at the stumps.
Bearded Wonder: Then came my Champagne moment…
Blowers: Did somebody mention Champers?
Bearded Wonder: Sarah bowling, Rod drives the ball straight back down the line. Hits Sarah’s hand and cannons into the stumps leaving Bones at least 3 foot out of his ground. Fabulous.
Aggers: St Radegund all out for 78.
Blowers: Damn fine tea I thought, with some lovely chocolate cake made by Emma being passed round, and plenty more beer being downed.
Aggers: Then the Veras’ innings. Shelton and Jak opening with Emma and Rodders bowling.
Blowers: A quiet, slightly fuzzy start really. Not much happening until Beard gives 5 penalty runs to the batting side for knocking over a full pint of beer, and is sent off.
Aggers: Shelton and Jak were eventually bowled by Rod and Ollie, and were replaced by Crabbo Sr. and Rachel. With Ollie and Ruth bowling in tandem, Ruth eventually teased her husband into a caught behind.
Blowers: You know I still can’t believe that Aspden took that catch.
Bearded Wonder: Well Hawkeye did show it just bounced about 12 times before it reached the wicket keeper, but how was the umpire supposed to see that!
Aggers: JD to the crease wearing no pads, with Frances on to bowl her first over ever.
Blowers: Which prompted a fielding change to put everyone on to leg, I noticed.
Bearded Wonder: I did like putting Dawson, caught Dawson, bowled Dawson in the scorebook.
Blowers: Yes a fine diving catch close in from the boy wonder, obviously showing that married life hasn’t taken it out of him yet. Frances after getting a wicket maiden was promptly replaced and wasn’t allowed to bowl again!
Aggers: Rachel batted on well to 7 to make her the top scoring lady of the day…
Blowers: Extra coaching from Beard you think?
Aggers: ...before being bowled by Rodders. Russell was given out LBW ‘because Sipper hasn’t had a wicket since he was 13.’
Bearded Wonder: Interesting interpretation of the laws going on here.
Aggers: Stella, still looking as if she’s walked off a catwalk goes in the same way. Ian and Greenfly follow in their wake. Bringing in Sarah.
Blowers: Or was it Joe?
Aggers: Whatever. Rodders dispatched them back to the pavilion, bowled.
Blowers: Which left Lisa Dawson and Evans at the stumps with 7 required to win
Aggers: Evans playing and missing, but thankfully Lisa kept her head and guided the Veras to a deserved victory.
Bearded Wonder: Ah, I’m afraid the last one was one short (well actually Evans and Lisa average about 5 foot between them) so it’s actually a draw.
Blowers: And. But sadly, not a single bus all day.
Aggers: Well I did see a B-17 at one point.
Blowers: Doesn’t that go to Chelsea?
St Radegund public house, 129 King Street. Cambridge CB1 1LD. Tel: 01223 311794