I had a game of real tennis at 10:00 and arranged (with Chris’s blessing) to play again at 16:00. I made a short, promised visit to the Committee Room; then to the writing room to do some reading and watch some cricket.
Expecting Chris (Escamillo Escapillo) to arrive around 14:30, I packed up my things and left the reading room to find a “just arrived” message from Chris just as I left the room – good timing.
I watched some good cricket with Chris for just shy of 90 minutes until tea – then went across to the real tennis court again. Towards the end of the hour, Chris came and watched the real tennis, then went back to the pavilion while I changed.
I changed quickly, found Chris in the Long Room and we watched the rest of the day’s play together over a drink. Some interesting chat, one amusing element of which will find its way to King Cricket in the fullness of time. Then one more drink for the road before parting company.
Chris wanted to get home to see the England v Iceland football match. So not a happy ending for Chris, but a happy afternoon for both of us to be sure.
These “Wigmore Hall Lates” always seem like a good idea when we book them, but unless we are out and about that evening, they always seem like a big effort late in the evening just for an hour long concert.
I placated Daisy for this one by preparing a dinner from Big Al DeLarge’s Emporium, Tavola. A veal ragu pasta preceded by a cold spinach soup.
Anyway, after the shock of the referendum result, we really didn’t much feel like going out but we did need some sustenance for the soul as well as for the body. This concert did the job.
The positive thing from the Wigmore Hall’s perspective, is that these late concerts do seem to be attracting a younger crowd, which must be part of the purpose. The not such good news is that, in the absence of a big name, the hall is far from full for these.
Anyway, Janie and I both agreed that, in the end, it had been worth the effort to go out for a one hour concert starting at 10:00. But then, my flat is mighty close to The Wig.
It was EU referendum day. In the future (possibly even before I’m gone) I expect economic and social historians will talk about “pre EU referendum” and “post EU referendum” as watershed points, certainly for the UK, possibly for Europe or even the whole western world. But today was referendum day itself.
It bucketed down with rain first thing, so I got quite a lot of work done while waiting for the rain to subside. I went to the gym mid morning, after the deluge, voted along the way and felt glad that the turnout was apparently very high despite the rain.
A light lunch, a bit more work and then over to Lord’s for a meeting with Richard to review the Middlesex strategy work, ahead of tonight’s televised T20 game. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best slot to choose for reviewing a document, as there was lots of to-ing and fro-ing for the match.
But the afternoon and evening did prove a good opportunity to meet some of Richard’s other advisory people; at that early stage Ed Griffiths and later on Ed Villiers. Meeting these two certainly helped prove to me Richard’s technique (not that it needed proving) of surrounding himself with useful informal advisors. In this case it also proved the old maxim that “two Eds are better than one”, although each of those two was most impressive even as a solo act.
Meanwhile I had planned to meet Jez Horne, as indeed we did the previous week, when we had sat in the pavilion under our brollies for some time until the match was abandoned without a ball being bowled. The weather forecast for the evening was again shocking. Jez texted me, initially to say that he would delay leaving the office and then again later to say that the weather situation looked so hopeless that he would go straight home. I didn’t blame him.
It did look pretty hopeless to be honest, but Lord’s dries quickly and efforts are no doubt doubled and redoubled when Sky are there with their expensive crew and equipment. He who pays the piper calls the tune, the cricket decisions, the referendum results…
…anyway, Richard, Ed Griffiths and I decamped to the pavilion, settling on the Committee Room (that’s where we met Ed Villers and also Guy Lavender and his son Jack from Somerset). We waited more in hope than in expectation, especially after another band of rain put paid to some mopping up work and the clock ticked relentlessly on.
But that further band proved to be the last and soon an announcement came that the umpires had agreed to a 75 minute or so match of 9 overs per side.
Anyway, it all went right on the night. We got to the neighbourhood ridiculously early, wanting to make sure we allowed time for the relatively long journey and time to park up without time pressure. As we had mistakenly written down 7:30 when in fact the play started at 8:00, we had plenty of time to anticipate the production.
A lady came and sat with us for a while, then in the interval did the same again, bringing her husband with her that time. Unusual.
The Playhouse is not all that comfy; we noted where we might prefer to sit for next time – only some rows have back support for example.
Lots of candlelight for this production, which pleased Janie. I liked the cockamamie set. It was a charming play – quite straightforwardly linear in telling the story of Marc and Bella Chagall. But the two leads, Marc Antolin and Audrey Brisson who really made the show; super talented and delightful to watch.
We’d had a terrific weekend of theatre; this one and Wild on Friday both really excellent. We celebrated with a take away from Mohsen’s – probably the best of the Persian places we have tried for Persian-style kebabs at least. Probably Jewish food would have been more fitting, but where can you get that at 22:30 on your way from Bankside to W3?
Funnily enough, the day before our visit, I had run into Vince Leigh (most recently of Orange Tree/The Brink fame) at the health club. I congratulated him on The Brink and we discussed theatre generally. When I mentioned our impending visit to see Wild, he said he was going to see it that very day. He also told me that the production had experienced some technical problems with the set, so although the press night was supposed to be that very day (the Thursday), press night had actually been put back to Monday.
When Janie and I got to the Hampstead on the Friday, I asked the front of house staff whether the technical problems had been resolved for this evening. Two of them exchanged glances and one said, “we’ll find out”!
Well, the coup de théâtre that had (very understandably) had some teething problems came off with aplomb. But it would be a shame if this play and production is remembered only for that.
The play is basically about a character, based on Edward Snowden, disoriented in a “hotel room” in Russia. The dialogue is fast paced and whizzes around a myriad of big, important issues like a maelstrom.
Coincidentally, I ran into Vince Leigh again the morning after the referendum result, this time on the street in Notting Hill Gate. He asked me how we found Wild. I told him and we agreed how good it was. Vince and I then also agreed what a strange day it was, everyone we had spoken to wandering around in a zombie-like state, trying not to cry about the result. I didn’t make the connection at the time, but our disorientation had something in common with that of the Snowden-like character. It felt like several of our walls had come down.
After doing Shakespeare’s Globe, we thought that 15:00ish would be a good time to see the New Tate – after the lunchtime crowd and before the “knock off work a little early” crowd. We were right; a bit of a queue, but not too bad.
We started at the bottom and worked our way up slowly, having been warned that the lifts would be a long wait. At the very bottom, a few small exhibitions in The Tanks, such as a weird video room where you lie on cushions and look at videos of naked young women screaming and shouting. Another was supposed to react to the noises we made but seemed unresponsive to our noises. Also down there, a musical event (see picture above) of musical instruments powered by air tanks and other geeky-looking gadgetry.
Then we wended our way up, having a quick look at the new exhibits. We were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t see the macaws in the Brazilian exhibit for “animal welfare” reasons, which clearly don’t extend to keeping the birds cooped up regularly per se.
We were especially taken by one exhibit with “lie down in a cage” potential – in my case because I liked the idea of a lie down at that stage; in Janie’s case because she saw it as a big-time photo opportunity.
Then we carried on to the top, taking a quick look at the restaurant (which looked a bit “uti” for its price) and then the stunning viewing gallery.
After the Tate, we went on to one of Helen Baker’s Mousse wine tastings. This one was fairly impromptu and well-timed for us as her place is just around the corner from the Tate Modern.
It was mostly roses: Les Mille Vignes Rose 2014 and Domaine Malmont Rose 2015. But actually the highlight was a most unusual white: Les Mille Vignes Muscat Sec 2014 – the most interesting dry muscat I have ever tasted.
As usual some really nice interesting people there – mostly the firm of architects who work in the building. Naturally the conversation turned to the referendum at times. We were unquestionably in with an in crowd.
Janie and I put aside this day primarily for a preview of the new Tate Modern building, as friends were invited for a sneak peek before the general public on the Tuesday evening or Wednesday before opening.
We also wanted to do the tour and exhibition think at Shakespeare’s Globe, which I joined a few months ago and which we would be visiting as audience members that Saturday.
As Janie turned up late at the flat and as I ascertained that we would not see the theatre itself on the tour unless we turned up by 12:30, it was indeed the 12:30 tour we took.
It was good. Our guide showed us around the main theatre itself inside and outside, explaining the background to the project and the extent to which they have attempted authenticity in design and build.
Soon we were thrown out because they were getting ready for the matinee. I suppose the building is all a bit über-mock-tudor, but then we know all about that on the Hanger Hill Garden Estate.
After lunch, back for a quick look around the exhibition, which I thought was cool. Lots of interactive toys to play with and a lot of stuff about Edward Alleyn as well as Shakespeare (not least the discovery of the Rose Theatre ruins which helped with the Globe’s design of course). Still, this interested me more than it interested Janie, who called time on the exhibition by disappearing.
I found her again soon enough outside the building and we moved on to the Tate Modern, which I shall write up separately.
However, I have agreed to play real tennis at 18:00, so it is part of my personal master plan not to eat and drink too much on this day. As I had so much stuff to bring (including my kit) I got a taxi to the ground this morning. In any case, walking with a picnic for four really is a bit too much for the poor old arms.
The East Gate was absolutely clear as I arrived – very easy entry. I wandered round to the tennis court to drop off my kit. I ran into Paul Cattermull there, who was fearful of rain today. I said that I didn’t think it would rain, so he introduced me to his pals as a forecaster who doesn’t trust forecasts. Anyway, on this occasion it didn’t rain.
We saw good cricket today. The picnic went down well with this group; supplemented by some delicious cherries (thank you, Iain Spellright) and Uncail Marcas’s famous local strawberries close to if not at their full-flavoured best. The others made up a bit for my low wine intake, especially as they all had a beer as well. Most of my bottle of Giesen survived for another day.
All of them were keen to get away a little before stumps, so we actually left our seats as a group at around 17:40 and parted company.
While I had been careful to drink very little and moderate my eating, especially the last hour or two, I realised that my body doesn’t move quite as well as it should after a day of sitting and watching cricket. In particular, my serve lacked the rhythm I have started to find for it. Still, I got better as the hour went on and my opponent (whom I hadn’t played for several weeks) felt that my game had come on markedly since we last played.
Taxi home – I got there about 19:40 – Janie turned up soon after – her late afternoon/early evening with Charlotte had gone well. Janie had walked home through Kensington Gardens, feeding birds from close quarters on the way.
A taxi nice and early (about 9:30/9:40) to secure decent seats. The temporary steward at the Grace Gate beefs about my returning bottle of Giesen as there is apparently a rule (unwritten as far as I know) about bottles that have already been opened, just in case someone smuggles in hard liquor that way. If I wanted to smuggle in hard liquor I think I’d find a better method than a disguise as a half-drunk bottle of wine from yesterday. The steward relented.
We wander round to the Grandstand (the Warner is still under construction) and I surmise correctly that our best bet is entrance B – neither the nearest from Grace Gate nor nearest from the North Gate. We found a couple of seats by the aisle just three rows back.
We got chatting with the people next to us. Christian, a barrister originally from my neck of the woods (Notting Hill Gate) and clearly still nostalgically attached to it, but now he lives in Cardiff and was there with a bunch of his Taffy mates. Nice bunch. Chatting to Christian was like spending the afternoon at a university debating society, except with test match cricket at Lord’s to watch while you debate. Mercifully there were no donkeys around to have their hind legs argued off.
Unusually, we stuck it out until the very end today. No hardship doing that when walking home via the Grace Gate.
Followed the match by radio/TV at the house after playing modern tennis Sunday. We were lucky to get our game of (modern) tennis in on that rainy day; the cricket was curtailed to about half a day.
On Monday, I drove home, dumped my things and then went to Lord’s by tube/foot to play real tennis. The weather forecast for the hours of (cricket) play was iffy, but the weather was gloomy but dry when I arrived at Lord’s.
I had a good game of real tennis, then (well prepared) hunkered down with my backlog of reading matter in the hope of seeing cricket. The weather flattered to deceive at times and we did get a few overs of play, but the main feature of the day for me was to catch up on my magazine reading before grabbing a taxi home in the damp gloom.
I’d baked the Lord’s Throdkins and prepared the glazed drunken prawns (recipe to follow on the King Cricket site at some point way in the future) the night before. Still, an early start for me that day to get the picnic ready.
In particular, the dance music, it turns out that Al was really into that Motown and Stax stuff back then – he even saw the Stax/Volt tour in Nelson, 1967 – lucky chap. It also turns out, when I mentioned that the lists had Joe Boyd’s blessing, that Al knows him well; another peculiar coincidence.
Just one other point to add. When I took Alex round to see the real tennis court, I deposited a small packet of the Lord’s Throdkins with Rachel on the reception desk. The following day I deposited a few more with Adam. If all goes according to plan, the Lord’s Throdkin really will become “a thing” at Lord’s.
Janie had kept most of the afternoon clear and I had arranged to play real tennis before the lecture, so we hatched a plan for Janie to join me at Lord’s early and use the dedans gallery for a spot of watching and reading. She was yet to see me play until that day.
The plan worked well; Janie arrived soon after me, so by the time I’d changed she was already in the dedans gallery having a look at the combatants. Meanwhile, I had found out, somewhat to my surprise, that I was to play doubles that day, with Chris Swallow the coach as my partner and a couple of experienced doubles players as our opponents. It would be good experience for me but quite a challenge as I had only played doubles a couple of times before. It all went well enough and Janie said she enjoyed watching it.
I watched the next pair with her for a while, then went to sauna, shower and change before watching the end of that later pair’s game for a while. Then we put my equipment into the car (Janie had found a top spot on the St John’s Wood Road) and then wandered round to the Nursery Pavilion for the event.
The first hour was a drinks reception; very pleasant. We met Ian Lovett as we went in and spent some time talking with him, Mike O’Farrell, his wife Sue (whom we met for the first time that evening), Geoff Norris and a gentleman named Tim whom I’ve spoken to at Middlesex events in the past. Ian also introduced me to Colin Graves, who seemed very pleasant once you get used to his slightly scary grimace-like smile.
We spotted a little late that most people had filed into the lecture area, but I also realised that it was the central block and the near block that had almost filled up. We quickly walked around the front to the furthest block, where we were able to get excellent seats in the second row quite near the podium. I realised how good the seats were shortly after, when I realised that Mike Brearley and Andrew Strauss had taken up seats in the row behind us.
We sat next to a couple of antipodean gentlemen, both named Mike, which was easy to remember as I observed that the podium stood empty except for two mikes awaiting McCullum’s speech. The antipodean Mikes reported that they had been drinking in the tavern before the reception and had shared a jar with Brendon McCullum in there; they showed us photographic evidence which seemed pretty incriminating. The two Mikes were jolly company for the few minutes we waited for the speech.
Then the speech, the full transcript of which is available here. Public speaking is clearly not what Brendon McCullum does best. Janie said afterwards that she didn’t think Brendon McCullum was coherent. Actually I think he was both eloquent and coherent in the content of his material, which was scripted, but he was a little garbled in delivery. Whether that was nerves or the Dutch courage he took before the lecture or a bit of both it’s hard to tell. In any case, it was very interesting and it was a privilege to attend and hear the lecture live.
Then after a quick podium change, video malfunction and tie-clip mike malfunction, a round table discussion led well by Mark Nicholas, with Kumar Sangakkara and Eoin Morgan joining Brendon McCullum to answer questions. Interesting, but our tummy’s were rumbling by the end of it, especially as Janie had been led to expect Big Al DeLarge’s veal meatballs with pasta and salad for dinner, which in the circumstances was a relaxing and enjoyable alternative to the grand pavilion dinner which we had considered and rejected.
We discussed Kumar Sangakkara’s erudition, relative to that of Brendon McCullum, but Janie opined that she had heard enough of Sangakkara for now, “we all know how clever he is”, so she awarded higher marks to McCullum for bravery. An interesting echo of their relative cricketing skills/appeal too, perhaps.
Regardless of all that, we’d both had a very enjoyable afternoon and evening at Lord’s.