It’s a little difficult to explain why this outing worked so well this year, but it was indeed a most enjoyable success.
In the run up to the match, I had a sense of foreboding about the trip, in particular when Charles “Charley the Gent Malloy” Bartlett let me know that his knee was so bad he had brought his surgery forward and was unable to join me at Lord’s for day one of the first test (hence Simon “Awesome Simo” Jacobs joined me as a supersub). Charles said then that he was “still hoping to make it” for Edgbaston.
I started to suspect that all would in fact be well when Chas wrote, 10 days or so before the event:
“I need to see how my first car drive goes on Saturday, I also need to talk to ‘Razor’ and ‘Knuckles’ both Essex members as they offered to take my tickets off me…if I didn’t recover in time – let me see how the drive goes over the weekend and how they respond to the disappointment.”
Razor and Knuckles sound like absolutely delightful company; indeed possibly preferable to the original candidates for the roles…
A week later, it became clear that Razor and Knuckles were set to remain in their Essex lairs; Chas again:
To confirm I’ll be bringing some 1st day food up with me on Wednesday. Dot’s happy to provide some sandwiches – corn beef and mustard on soft white and egg mayonnaise on soft white. I have some other stuff (old favourites) and some (new stuff) that looks ok, too!
In fact, Dot’s first day sandwich feast also included heaps of ham on brown and cheese on brown too. We struggled…in a good way, saving most of the other less perishable delicacies (Harish and I had also brought quite a few of those) for the later days.
So, the night before the match it was just me and Nigel dining and at the hotel, as reported here. Chas and Nick “The Boy Malloy” turned up very early on the morning of the match (Nigel and I were still at breakfast). Nigel and I had planned to walk to the ground; Nick and Chas were cabbing it. Harish was a little delayed in traffic, but, still keen to walk, ambled to the ground on his own that morning.
We were all at the ground in time for the toss. Nigel was smarting a bit, in part because the walk was perhaps a bit much for his knees, in part through the indignity of having his minimally-concealed Shiraz-in-a-flask seized at the gate.
I had determined in any case to enjoy the Edgbaston cricket dry during the day again this year, making space for a glass or two in the evening.
The three days of cricket were wonderful. At the end of day one we were all unsure whether England had scored enough runs. At the end of day two we were sure they hadn’t and that Pakistan were close to total control. At the end of day three we knew that England had all-but wrested control back from Pakistan.
We played our traditional sweepstake game all three days; this year, unusually, Harish swept the board, especially on one of the days. I wanted him tested for performance enhancing substances but Harish mysteriously failed to turn up for the tests.
Harish and I were keen to walk to and from the hotel each morning and evening. After that first morning, Nigel bowed out of the walk until the Friday evening. On one of our walks, I think it was Friday morning, Harish and I had a very interesting chat about music. We schemed a tabla/ukulele jam for next time but struggled to work out whether some of Harish’s favourite tabla rhythms could possibly work with western tunes, which are usually relentlessly 4/4 or occasionally 3/4 time signatures.
Harish pointed me to the work of Zakir Hussain – click here for a fine short example – on tabla. He also pointed me towards rupak taal (songs in seven beat rhythm – here is an example of one of those with Zakir Hussain again. I’m not sure about adapting western songs to these rhythms – beyond my skills anyway, but we could probably manage some haunting, simple variations on well-known tunes if I work up some broken chords with seven plucks per chord.
On the Wednesday evening, Chas and Nick didn’t feel like coming out at all. Following an extensive investigation on our way back from the ground, Harish and I settled on Mr Idly, which Harish was pretty sure was a refurbed version of the good Southern Indian place he and Nigel had enjoyed the year before. Nigel was certainly up for that, so off we all went. Excellent dosa in my opinion. The idly, which we shared as a starter, was OK but I recalled that idly is not so much to my taste as dosa.
On the Thursday evening, Nick had arranged to meet a friend in the evening but the rest of us were keen to try/return to Colbeh, which Nigel and I had enjoyed so much on the Tuesday evening. We were not disappointed.
I tried the slow-cooked lamb shank this time, while Nigel and Chas shared the full works of grills. Harish tried one of the vegetarian stews. Again, all the trimmings were wonderful, not least the amazing aubergine and mango sauce (not really a chutney, or at least not a sour chutney), which was new to me because, as we were proudly informed by the (other) son who looked after us this time, that sauce is his mother’s own recipe. To paraphrase Nigel’s eloquent recollection in the comments section from our previous visit, that makes it our sort of place.
On the Friday, all of us but Nigel headed home after the day’s play; in Harish’s and my case via the hotel, which had kindly offered safe custody to our vehicles, baggage and (in my case) Benjy the Baritone Ukulele. Nigel swore on the way home that he wouldn’t eat a thing that evening after three days of feasting and it seems he kept his word – Nigel’s subsequent e-mail report:
My plans for a quiet evening on Friday were ruined by Sharon and Kev’s engagement celebration in the hotel function suite, that really did feel like it was taking place in the next room. After the three day grazing, I took the unsolicited advice barely audible from a Ukulele shaped bag suggesting it wouldn’t harm that big bloke to miss a meal or two. That thing does have attitude.
In short, the whole trip was a great success. It’s a bit difficult to explain how or why spending several days with old friends doing so little can be so satisfying and relaxing, but it is. I guess the whole idea of five day cricket is hard to explain to the uninitiated. Nigel again, writing on the Sunday morning, just before the start of Day Five:
We have once again enjoyed a fascinating Test match, which only really began to be resolved during the last session. Into the fifth day and it is still compelling. It would be impossible to explain that to the Georgian Cabbie, seen to register disbelief at Charles’ response to “who won?” at the end of day one.