WITLESS 2007-8

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WITLESS 2008-9

 

Rod Thomas on this year's Queen's Head match.

If You Can Keep Your Head…
            For two years running the Rad have played this fixture in Newton, so this year was a chance to repay the debt by playing on our patch. I say ‘our patch’, but Jesus College may feel some pangs of ownership, as they have been pootling about the Close since 1496. Be that as it may, the two sides met in the pub and their estimable leaders Rob and Fatty soon got down to the important business of drinking, and this pair knows more about its subtleties than their youthful appearance would have you believe. Over at The Close the weather stayed very British but playable and Beard’s beer was in good form. Barry Flanagan’s bronze ‘The Cricketer’ welcomed us as per, though a bowling rabbit is a conundrum; many batting rabbits for sure, but ho hum. I am now informed by my editor that said sculpture is, in fact, a hare. A fair cop, but give me style over fact any day of the week.

            Now as a Cricket correspondent I have to admit I failed to take notes and really very little notice of what gentlemen of the press call the Match. I remember vaguely Highball losing his lighter, and some fine shots through the covers by Rick and Nev but the Rad rarely panic unless we have a shortage of beer or tobacco. I even think I saw a classic cover drive from Alex‘Shut Up’ Page. So beautiful, in fact, that he repeated the shot to Alan Mitton’s next ball but without actually bruising his bat. Stonewall did that exquisite late cut of his, but otherwise was his usual stolid self. Fatty smote, I smoked. Our American Professional collapsed in a heap, a punishment for athleticism or, I now suspect, a complete fabrication allowing him more beer time. Young Corbin is learning far too much too soon.Ah yes now I recall a rather well played drinks break by both teams and some splendid off-field banter between yours truly and young Haslemere. As Aspden was about to enter the arena to do his gladiatorial thing, I suggested he do so carrying a lady’s favour on the tip of his lance. Highball, emerging from the lavatory, made a brief and graphic comment about the virtues of keeping army equipment free from dirt, which resulted in young Master Crabb nearly inhaling his pint.

            Aspinall bowled Aspden all ends up, which is easier to write than to say after a couple of ales. There was, unusually for this fixture, controversy, and most of it centred around Mr. Mitton, not least when his follow through obscured umpire Bones’s view of the plumbest of leg before shouts against Fatty. Recriminations from Mitton but Bones, rightly, held firm his ground. Then there was some malarkey about a disputed non-run out and more argument that made for a game Bones would probably, all told, rather forget. Thankfully there was plenty more to raise a chuckle or two: Fatty’s decision to declare on 161 for 7 looked, at first sight, a tad risky but was vindicated when the skipper swashed his buckle through the Queen’s Head reply with 4 for 18. Even young Evans got in on the act with a pair of wickets as straight as a Roman road. The Lad is not for turning.

            For many of us, though, the highlight was a small vignette of Tom Brown’s School Days performed ‘al dente’ by the St. Radegund Players.

FLASHMAN (Fatty)

Bowl you loathsome oik!

TOM BROWN (Sipper)

But please Sir I am fearsome unwell.

FLASHMAN (laughing cruelly)

I care not a jot, you vile weed. I am Captain of School House and will toast you like a muffin.

VIOLET ELIZABETH BOTT (Space Cadet)

Ooh you rotter Fatty. He hath been tho poorly I thall bowl inthtead.

            As you can see from the above by this stage I had lost the plot almost completely and was forced to declare an interest of sorts. But I believe we are scheduled to play the Queen’s Head again next year, possibly home and away, and the result will I hope prove to be as irrelevant as it was this time. To the Bar!

Rodders

*

Alex Page on The Free Press fixture...

The Case For Beer

            The sun shone high as I cycled down Victoria Avenue. I looked past the speed camera that had been my undoing on the previous night’s ride home and my eyes fixed on Jesus and The Close. As I thought of cricket and jollity, I forgot the large bruise on my left leg and the desire to exact revenge on this unwieldy unseater of cyclists drained out of my body. Though these devices are supposed to stop accidents not cause them I was in a forgiving mood, for the sporting life beckoned and after a few restoratives I’d be putting willow to leather.

           
The conditions were perfect for cricket. The blue sky was only adorned with the most Spartan cloud cover and things seemed right with world. A lavish tea had been promised so I could excel at my natural forte despite the intervention of two innings. Though the purist may not see it as such, this afternoon saw the opportuny to see two teams on top of their games, and provided a first class opportunity to study the effects of various tincture on pointless clapping and with barrels of beer and side on the boundary I felt the potential for non-sequiturs in the outfield.

            I arrived at HQ to find John ‘Space Cadet’Aspden sat gaily drinking at the bar. Here was the epitome of an XI that looked half like a special school outing and half like the before photograph in an advert for weight loss. I greeted him cheerily, things were going to plan. After knocking back a constitutional, I noticed the general dearth of opponents, and checked to confirm that I’d got the right day. I had, it seemed, but fearing that we might be playing some kind of abstemious Carmelite brotherhood, I wondered if I should go easy on the libations. S.C. dispelled these fears and informed me that as some of the oppo were a little wary of the better class of insult that accompanies Bunter’s beers the Free Press XI had decided to water on home turf. Reassured and confident, I slipped in a quick sherbert and sauntered towards the ground.With Fatty winning the toss I bathed in our reflected glory noting that even if we lost the cricket we could still claim one-all in the biathlon. Realising I would not be too encumbered for the foreseeable I reached for a glass and took in our breezy start which saw twenties from Highball and the Eagle. A few quick wickets brought in the skipper and Magnus Beerlegs strode out to the crease. His Royal Fatness, willow-in-hand, stood tall at the crease and I felt it was time for a captain’s innings. As the second ball flew fast off his bat I felt the we were back in it with the sort of unbridled joy experienced by that Archimedes fella when he leapt from his bath and ran through the streets shouting ‘I’ve just stolen the Emperor’s new clothes’. But, much like that bird felt when the local beak hauled him up for indecent exposure, this brief joy turned quickly sour: gravity interfered with glory and this would-be six was snaffled at short cow. I put on my pads as more wickets fell and with a lusty swing and not much contact I left Beard stranded as The Rad limped to 90 all-out.

            With tea in my belly and a small score to defend, I wanted to bowl like a tiger and field like a gazelle. But rather than resembling this peculiar chimera, I noted, I felt more like the disconsolate aftermath of the two beasts meeting. Thankfully my trademark dolly drops were not called on and we got off to an absolute flier. Burbs claimed a brace and Beard was one short of a hat trick. Highball bagged three scalps and the stage was set for Fatty’s overs and I thought we’d clean up. But somehow things changed. The ball seemed more oft to beat bat, bails and keeper, and the batsman, who’d previously played like the timorous beastie that the Scots witter about on Burns’ Night, began to knock off runs with consummate ease. Whilst catches had gone previously to hand, they now fell short and the fielding became more and more slipshod. One shot scudded to the side of Sipper who ran, chased, leapt and fell, ending up a fathom short and lying like a whale who wondered where the sea was. Perhaps a butterfly had flapped its wings in Japan. Then, with three overs to go, their number eight casually hooked an easy six, it was all over.

            The Rad had gone down by three wickets, but like a true scholar, I felt there was a lesson to be learnt in defeat. Whilst Fatty, ex of England and the top drawer, had been on the scrumpy, he had gone without wickets or runs. Whereas I, with a technique more from the top shelf, had been on the beer and managed a boundary as well as a catch, and despite showing no previous in terms of coordination, it seemed as if the same brew that had put Beard on a hat-trick had briefly taken me out of the world of the embarrassingly awful. Though I’m not exactly sure if this is the sort of thing they publish, I think the product testing types at Which? Magazine should take note: while it is not perhaps a panacea, Beard’s beer seems a veritable sports drink when compared to the fermented fluid of the forbidden fruit. Lucozade beware.

‘Shut Up’

*

The Veras President looks back at a close-run Veras match.

Thank God It’s Friday

            It couldn’t have been tighter: a win for the St Radegund off the last ball of this fifteen overs per side match made for an altogether exciting climax. Chasing 54 to win, four Rad wickets fell in quick succession with the scores tied before The Sipper and JD saw the beer drinkers home. As ever in this annual internal contest, however, the statistics do not do the game justice nor tell the whole sorry tale.

            The Veras’ President made his first mistake in allowing the Rad’s captain to adopt a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ method of divvying up the teams that left the Rad fielding a side comprising such Veras stalwarts as Crabbo Senior and Charlie Qua-Qua, and the Veras boasting the likes of Crabbo Junior, Beard and Space Cadet. The ranks were further swelled by Hotlips, whose participation was insisted upon by The Sipper, and Hash Grandmaster Jim Downing who turned up half way through looking for a game having just come from his own wedding rehearsal. Cue scratching of heads for the two skippers and an overworked scorer’s pencil.

            The President’s second mistake was to win the toss and elect to bat, and by the time Crabbo Junior made a solid fifteen runs comprised of his usual elegant stroke play, if the writing wasn’t already on the wall then the spray can had been given a thorough shaking in anticipation. Ollie apart, the top order made heavy weather of things, with Dawson Junior succumbing to an excellent catch by Walters Junior off the naggingly accurate bowling of Charlie. The Sipper weighed in with a rare wicket after he removed Razza with help from JD who, in taking a close catch, showed from whom his son gets his juggling prowess. Veras debutant Walters Senior thoroughly enjoyed himself in making a patient nine runs, but by the time the redoubtable Morris Thorne was run out cheaply and Hotlips had made a leggy three not out, the overs had all but been used up and with the waiting Veras’ big guns of Beard, Guy Qua-Qua, Crushy, Uncle Tom Corbin and (Highb)all failing to get out to the middle, a score of 54 from fifteen overs was looking, shall we say, a tad light. Anyway, the drinks break was a welcome diversion from such matters, and three litres of the finest gin spirit, courtesy of Bunter, El Presidente, and – above and beyond the call, this – Chris ‘Limp Member’ Howell, were dispatched in short order. A pity the Veras’batsmen had not shown such alacrity at the crease.

            The Rad’s reply started briskly, with Charlie Qua-Qua and Walters Junior putting on 25 for the first wicket against some becalmed Veras bowling. A powerful shot to square leg by Charlie was the highlight of this particular stand which saw half the deficit knocked off in double quick time. A couple of fortunate run outs, including Charlie and Rad mascot Lawlor-Anderson got the Veras something akin to back on track, and when El Presidente yorked both Walters Junior and Stonewall it looked like the Vera had had a stash of Get Out Of Jail Free cards newly printed for the occasion.

            With the score on 54 the Rad wickets started falling like ninepins with some interesting familial contests thrown in for good measure. First Rodders was stumped by Dawson Junior, but not before he had managed to run out his beloved wifeling, Jak. Then the elder Crabb undone in similar fashion off the bowling of the younger of the clan, in a pleasing piece of generational symmetry. The normally reliable Burberry was undone by a successful back foot leg before appeal from Razza for a golden, with Sam the Legal Eagle being dismissed by a beauty from Crabbo Junior. It looked very much like Game On, as things went down to the wire. Then the President made his final mistake.

            Forgetting he had twelve fielders on the pitch, he failed to give Walters Senior a bowl and awarded himself a second over with the ball. Fatty was appalled by this apparent attempt at taking the game seriously, and instructed JD and The Sipper to go out and bloody well win the match. A bye ran off the last ball saw the Rad home.

            As the players and on-lookers basked in the afterglow of a game played, more or less, according to the true spirit of cricket in this most picturesque of settings, they reflected that it would soon be time to return to the Rad and slake their thirsts further. Yes, it couldn’t have been tighter. And the match was a close one as well.

Highball

*

Dave Shelton finds himself distracted during the Blue Ball match.

Blue Ball’s Good Eggs Scotched

            I could tell you about the heat. And in a summer that will be remembered for its biblical rains and the refashioning of Gloucestershire as an oversized boating lake this rare scalding day of blazing sun was certainly singular enough to be worthy of mention. Or I could make much of the notion which struck me, as I compared the current Radegund XI (a side that we must finally admit wanders on occasion into the vicinity of near competence) with the Blue Ball XI (shambolic, distracted and spectacularly, magnificently late) and wondered if through some weird temporal anomaly we were playing ourselves from ten years earlier. Or I could relate in detail the Blue Ball's homage to events at Trent Bridge earlier in the week that saw a generous quantity of jellybeans distributed around the popping crease in a manner that was surely in no way repeated in every other amateur game taking place around the country that day. Or perhaps I might spend time singing the praises of Rod “Rolf”Thomas's veterinarian efforts to save and revive a baking hedgehog from its entanglement in some netting: the release of the creature from its stringy prison; the careful monitoring of its rehydration; the tearful farewell as, fully recovered, it buggered off... and all this before the Blue Ball side had even arrived. I could even, I suppose, tell you about the cricket.

            Except actually, no I couldn't. I don't honestly remember a great deal about it and my notes are scant at best. But in any case, would you really care that the Rad side, having lost the toss and been bewilderingly and gratefully inserted, batted with confidence, application and vigour (your correspondent and Tom Corbin aside who opted instead for brevity)? Does it matter in the deceptively spacious scheme of what we shall call "things" that three of the Rad's number (Ollie, JD and Sipper) all arrived unbeaten at the score of 25 that caused their enforced retirements, or that Fats and Burbs each only fell a handful of runs short of doing the same? Is it even worth mentioning the skipper's psychological twist of the knife in declaring the innings closed three and a bit overs early so confident was he that the score (169 for 4) was already sufficient to ensure victory? Surely not. For the game, enjoyable and well fought as it was, was really just the setting for an event of far greater import, like the frame to a great work of art… Dear reader, let me tell you about the tea.

            It is, of course, a foolish pursuit to compare works of art from separate mediums, to attempt to relate the qualities of this film to that novel, that opera to this sculpture, a poem to a painting, a comic book to a play, an Andrew Lloyd Webber show to music... And yet, and yet... were not the scotch eggs of the Blue Ball's spectacular tea a creation to rival anything that Shakespeare, Bach, Leonardo or Pam Ayres ever produced? A symphony in sausage meat, egg and mysterious other ingredients I dare not even guess at (ambrosia perhaps?) these were truly works of genius, profound masterpieces of the culinary art that eloquently rendered the highest achievements of other forms trivial by comparison. Michelangelo's ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Mere painting and decorating. Beethoven's Fifth? Lift music. War and Peace? A child's bedtime story. Hamlet? A cigar. None can lift the spirits, nor feed simultaneously the body and the soul of man, nor speak so directly to the very essence of existence, to every corner of our beings, to the very heart of the mystery that is the human condition as one of these scotch eggs. Blimey they were tasty. The sandwiches were quite good too.

            Naturally, the resumption of the game was a matter of virtual insignificance after the tea. Nonetheless, both teams set to their tasks with admirable commitment. The batsmen set about the substantial target with purpose and were never far off the asking rate in the earlier overs. The Rad though, benefiting from fielding in conditions that no longer threatened to set anyone alight, were equally purposeful in the field and the accuracy of their bowling ensured that Blue Ball wickets fell with pleasing regularity. Finlay Wilson batted excellently, though, reaching his retirement score in seemingly untroubled fashion. Dave OJ impressed too with some beautifully clean striking of the ball that ensured that the young man acting as his runner was seldom called upon to exert himself except in service of the chap at the other end. When that vital wicket fell though (a smart catch by Crabb off an LA Jack delivery) the ending was really beyond doubt. Burbs, miserly throughout, set about the lower order taking 3 for 10 and both he and Highball took wickets with consecutive balls as the endgame played out. The Blue Ball were pretty swiftly nine wickets down with only half the required total on the board. This brought the retiree Wilson, Finlay back to the crease to join Wilson, Fergus for a spirited, dogged last wicket partnership (the most productive of the innings) that was only finally ended by Crabb's very sharp catch off his own bowling.

            A victory, then, for the Radegund. But also, surely far more importantly, a triumph for egg-based savoury snacks.

Stonewall

*

The Muse strikes during the Champ match...

Lines written on the occasion of the sixteenth Rad versus Champ Match

by A. A. Page

Two hostelries, alike in their vicinity,

In that fair King Street where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new rivalry

Where cricket grounds make crick’ters’hands unclean.

From forth the licensed bars of these two foes

Two teams of long-hop lobbers took the field,

Where mistimed strikes gave rise to overthrows

From thick-edged shots as each his bat did wield.

As overs came and went through each inning

And wickets fell, clean bowled or by a catch,

The Rad and Champ fought out for the winning

Of this the annual King Street Trophy match.

As batsmen toiled and bowlers pitched it up,

The Champion made the run chase for the cup.

*

Introducing coverage of the tour to Yorkshire...

The Reintroduction of the East African Ebora tribe into its native habitat

An anthropological study by R. J. Thomas for National Geographic Magazine (unpublished extract)

Yorkshire Clan linked to Africa - BBC News, 24th January 2007

            The St. Radegund has a long and distinguished scientific pedigree. Professor Dunne, for example has long had worms and his study of schistosomiasis, or the ‘Dunney Worm’, caused quite a furore when some escaped at a recent lunch in his honour held by the Braan Boot Society. But without blowing my own euphonium, this was the society’s most ambitious project. The reintroduction of five East African natives to their homeland in Yorkshire or, as it is also known, The Land That Tim Forgot.

            Many years ago an intrepid Von Haslemere, disguised only as Roger Moore, captured a large specimen and presented the Beast to Countess Rachel of Milton as a pet. It is said that it could only be tamed by cruelty and vast quantities of curry.Others took up the Challenge, and the purchase of a breeding pair from Bradford Grammar Zoological Society spurred our research team to greater efforts. However, breeding in captivity was unsuccessful as their limited diet caused lethargy and they only perked up at ‘trough time’ (Dr. Pavlov noted trails of saliva as the pub opened they could be made to run around in excited circles at the sound of bolts dropping. (see ‘Wobbly Bits’ Vol. 3. It isn’t in there but it’s a better read.

            Despite this failure, the offer of a large reward, brought the notorious adventurer Captain ‘Black’ Rod out of retirement. Still in his slippers he set off to capture a specimen to enlarge the gene pool, shallow and murky as it is in the Rad at the best of times. His plan was simplicity itself: get someone else to do it and claim the reward for himself. As luck would have it he bumped into Gange, who wasn’t looking where he was going, and managed to recruit him. Then, owing to a spelling error, Gange returned with a Spaceman instead of a specimen. This native, Aspden, settled in well to his new environment but still failed to spawn. In fact the failure to find a mate may have contributed to the loss of his original fine plumage and he had to be hand reared by Dr. Lisa Dawson who kept him in the mistaken belief that he was a rare breed of aquatic mammal.

               Though sexing of the natives is banned by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, our research showed two distinct same sex social groups among the tribe: the cricketing Ebora and the boating Ebora. The boating are by nature solitary and appear unable to find their arse with both hands, whereas the cricketing are generally larger and prone to bouts of uncontrolled singing. Neither group are able to stay erect for long and the boating compensate for this by sitting down facing the wrong direction and being given two simple instructions (there is no word for ‘three’ in their language) in a very loud voice.

            The full text of this study can be found online at: http://www.rodsandsods.com

*

...and, in the same vein, that tour's single cricket match.
Going Native

Dear Sir Roderick

Further to our previous correspondence I must express my warmest congratulations on your new fence, and I cannot wait to work on the polka dot paint job that you requested. Yes, mother is well and baking toy soldiers as we speak.

Thank you for the dinner. Our reminiscences about Africa spurred my memory into action, and seeing as you were a little ‘hazy’ on some parts of our trip let me enlighten you with what I can remember. I believe it was the Saturday afternoon when Chief M’bolo invited us to play a quaint local game called “kri-ket” (the ‘kri’ pronounced, as I remember it, as a click in the throat). The chaps were delighted at this as they had been practising skittles on the boat over.

The ceremonials began with some of the local currency (a type of locally-grown bean, I believe) being thrown into the air. When it fell to earth the ground was believed to have been sanctified. Ship’s captain Fattorio was asked to for a blessing,and he exclaimed “For the Queen!” and so, apparently having won “the toss” we were invited to “bat”, whatever that means.

Now according to local custom the object of the game seems to be to hit a ball - constructed from the bark of a local tree and wrapped in animal hide – to the locals wandering around the edges of the sanctified ground. Dr. Gange and our prize-winning beast ‘The Beard’ did just that very quickly indeed, though T. C. B. B. D. Rubber, our American colleague,e missed the damned thing completely, only for the ball to hit his “stumps”. Upon consultation with the local seers and shamen this meant he was “out” having only just got “in”. How quaintly these savages use their prepositions!

            Some of our party showed more skills in this whole“run scoring” lark: Mr. Highball ran well for 12, Dr. Weeble showed promise but had yet to blanch the vision of the local females from his mind and lost concentration, and Ship’s Cadet Aspden had obviously spent so much time in captivity that he could not remember how to play.

Now, I take it partly as a case of severe dehydration, partly modesty that you did not realize your part in the St. Radegund “posting a score”. For shame, for it was indeed your good self and Dr. Edel- Weisenheimer (26* and 29* respectively) who scored most of our “runs”.According to local knowledge some of the “bowlers” performed admirably, most noticeably to my untrained eye the young natives Tresidder and Bradder. The figures (2-1-1-1) and (2-0-4-1) were etched beside their names onto the trunk of a nearby baobab by a tribal elder, but it is beyond me what they represent. Something for the faculty back in Cambridge to ponder over, I warrant.

As the balmy drizzle of the tropical rains continued “the cardinals” thought it best to get the game finished before the sun came out and threatened proceedings. Gamely the chaps decided to have “a go in the field”, and after being briefed about what this entailed (nothing more complicated than throwing the ball to each other, thank God!) we thought that with enough home grown “Yorkshire” talent in our side we would have a sporting’s of a win. It won’t spoil the story if I tell you we didn’twin, and that our effectiveness was not down to the savages we included in our number, but was more the natural athleticism and social superiority of the White Man that saw us through.

The mighty Dr. Weeble discovered himself to be quite a natural at “bowling”, and the Ship’s captain managed to combine bowling, keeping wicket, smoking, drinking, talking, sleeping, cogitating and tending to his pigs all in the space of a single “over”. Magnificent! Of the locals Fruiter (19), Buzzer (21*) and Mike (17*) did a fine job of keeping the game interesting, though sadly aided by one of our own locals, Sipper, who was about as idle as it is possible to be, and never offered the slightest lift of the smallest finger to help his team. In retrospect I fear our desire to learn more about these unfortunate wretches of the earth has robbed them of any desire other than to feed and mate: so graceful are they in their own habitat, so devoid of passion when indoctrinated into polite society. A shame and a waste if you ask me.

The evening grows cold and the candle burns low, but I have enough time to remind you of the several events that happened to you as you were feeling your way in the game: not only did you have two “drops”, a“wicket” off a “no ball” and a genuine “wicket” in one “over” (hang it, I shall never be comfortable with these arcane terms!), but from the “bowling” of the curvaceously proportioned tribal leader Ra-Zar (more clicks, I’m sure you realize) did you take a “catch”, only after our American investor T. C. B. B. D. Rubber juggled and passed the ball to you. There was great merriment, indeed I think a little bit of wee came out as I chuckled.

The result was a “tie”, apparently. This, I am assured, is not a form of neckerchief but a way of ensuring that honour is satisfied on both sides. I suppose it has to be easier than shooting the beggars, eh? Whatever, as a sporting gesture from our hosts it meant that both sides could hold their heads high, and this we did at the evening’s banquet, which I believe you have already detailed in your diaries (still to be published next year?).

Regards to the Lady Jacqueline, have enclosed the figurine of Prof. Dunne for the mantlepiece.

Yours ever,

Olivier de la Bouche

P.S. Fondest to Jugs


*


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