Nassim by Nassim Soleimanpour, Bush Studio, 29 July 2017

We loved this innovative, short piece.

It is described well, along with all the information you could possibly want, on the Bush site – here.

It is performed (alongside the author) by a different performer each night, who has not seen the script.  We got Phelim McDermott, who is one of the artistic directors of Improbable. He was very good.

The piece is, on the surface, very simple, childish even. Yet the more you think about it, the more you realise that Nassim is making profound points about freedom of speech, not least the pains people like him go through when they leave their home country (in his case Iran) in order to communicate what they have to say in a foreign place and a foreign language.

We sat right at the front but managed to avoid the worst elements of the audience participation. Having said that, I got the dirtiest of dirty looks from Phelim when I tried to help him follow his instructions, by pointing to an “X marks the spot” which was located next to my seat.

We weren’t just moved and thoughtful; we laughed a lot during the 70 minutes or so. Nassim is clearly a very innovative and skilled dramatist; we’ll certainly look out for his work again.

This Bush run is an Edinburgh preview – I think this piece will go down very well in Edinburgh. It is then returning to The Bush for a while after Edinburgh – I recommend that you grab a ticket for that while/if you still can, if you like this sort of thing.

Janie and I had a crazy craving for Iranian food after Nassim’s homesick piece, so decided to try Rice Chiswick, which we found very satisfactory. Not quite Mohsen’s standard, but close and very convenient for the Bush.

A splendid evening.

Sussex Sojourn Part Two: Monk’s House, Berwick Church and Cricket At 1st Central County Ground Hove, 28 July 2017

It’s a small miracle that I could still sit…

Janie was inspired to see some more of the Blooomsbury trail Day Two, although we hadn’t planned it, following our very pleasurable afternoon at Charleston Day One. Specifically, Monk’s House (Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Sussex home), found its way onto Janie’s radar.

Actually, when we rose at the Hotel Una that morning, I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to do anything that day; the mattress had been so soft and uncomfortable that my back and neck felt well crocked. Possibly the worst hostelry mattress I have encountered since my 2006 nightmare experience in a half way house posing as a hotel on The Bristol Road, Edgbaston.

Janie was not well pleased with the deep-stained bed linen either, so got to task with the sweet staff, who swapped our mattress over and adorned the better mattress with clean linen ahead of our second night.

I heaped praise on my former geography teacher, Mike Jones, for helping us to find the Hotel Una a couple of years ago, so now he needs to share the blame for the Una’s apparent decline since then. A reputable former geography teacher should be able to predict the timing of a hostelry’s decline and forewarn you, no?

Monk’s House doesn’t open until lunchtime, which unfortunately coincided with the weather forecast’s prediction of heavy showers in Sussex. Still, showers can be dodged on a visit to a house and garden, so we resolved to follow the test match in the morning and go off towards Lewes as soon as lunch was called at The Oval.

Monk’s House is very different from Charleston. It must have been a far more orderly place back in the day and is now a National Trust run place. However, unlike Charleston, we were allowed to take pictures inside…

Is that a baroq-ulele I see in the tapestry?

…but understandably there are rules, such as “no food and drink inside” and “don’t touch things or place stuff on things”.

One couple who entered just after us seemed hell bent on breaking every one of the rules within 30 seconds of arrival, sending the charming but bossy volunteer/guide lady into fits of polite reprimand.

Leonard Woolf looks on disapprovingly

On chatting with that same lady later, Janie and I were also reprimanded, but in our case for going to Charleston without visiting the Berwick Church, which the lady swore was the very best example of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s work. “You simply MUST go”, she said.

“Is that an instruction?”, I asked.  “Yes, absolutely”, she said, “even if you say on TripAdvisor that I am the most terrible bossy-boots…I’m telling you, you really MUST see that Church”.

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf’s house-minder? Me. I thought we’d better conform and go to church. Initially I  thought maybe tomorrow on the way home, but actually Monk’s House is quite small, so I started quietly plotting a reasonably rapid exit from Monk’s, after seeing the garden; we should still have plenty of time to go back out Charleston way to the church and then back to Brighton/Hove for the cricket match.

Virginia Woolf’s Writing Lodge in the Garden at Monk’s House
The Woolfs (Wolves?) played bowls regularly in their garden, apparently
Leonard Woolf remembered in the garden
Monk’s House as seen from the garden

We did a good job of dodging the showers while in the Monk’s Garden and worried less about those as we headed off to Berwick Church – click here for the church website, pictures of and information on all the murals.

I must say, the charming but bossy guide lady at Monk’s House was absolutely right – the Berwick Church murals are wonderful and well worth seeing.

Just a few examples

In particular, I thought Duncan Grant’s work in this church is extraordinarily powerful and well done.

Well worth the visit

All the photographs for this trip, including those shown in the blog pieces and many more besides, can be found on the Flickr album here.

We got back to the hotel in good time to get ready to go out to the cricket. The weather improved and we were both chuffed to bits to discover that Toby Roland-Jones had taken three wickets in his first spell on test match debut at the Oval, while we were driving…and then a fourth which we saw on the TV when we got back to the hotel.

The weather improved enough for us to brave the walk from the hotel to the Hove cricket ground; a very pleasant walk it was too.

The Hove Pavilion Board Room

The Sussex CCC hospitality was warm, friendly and informal; ideal for a T20 match. To make matters better, the match even started on time:

But the weather forecast was iffy to say the least and after a while the brollies went up…Middlesex were not doing so well at that point.

Not the late July weather we had been hoping for
At least we can stay dry in here

The match resumed for a while and Middlesex’s fortunes improved after the resumption, with fours and sixes punctuated with flames,which Janie took great pains to capture on camera:

But then the rain returned and remained until the match was abandoned. Then it stopped raining again so Janie and I could walk back to the hotel.

We hadn’t seen much cricket, but we had enjoyed a very convivial evening in good company.

We were both in very good spirits; we’d had two very enjoyable days sojourning in Sussex.

Sussex Sojourn Part One: Charleston Farmhouse, Then Dinner With Sidney & Joan Pizan At The Jetty, 27 July 2017

The Charleston Farmhouse – That Well-Known Den Of Iniquity

Janie and I arranged a short trip to Sussex, primarily to visit cousin Sidney & Joan Pizan, but cunningly co-ordinated with Janie’s desire to see the Charleston Farmhouse and my desire to see Middlesex’s only game at Sussex-by-the-sea this season; a Friday evening T20 fixture.

The cricket and some other interesting touring will be written up in Part Two of this piece.

All the photographs for the trip, including those shown in the blog pieces and many more besides, can be found on the Flickr album here.

So, we stopped off at Charleston, a short detour on the way to Brighton. The sun shone that afternoon, which was good news for the visit as the place comprises beautiful gardens as well as the fascinating house.

The house was the home of Vanessa Bell and her entourage and has been restored/preserved in its Bloomsbury artists form. In the modern parlance, the whole house is a kind of installation art work, with many of the walls, furnishings, artefacts etc. having been decorated by one of the many artists who lived or hung out at the house over the years.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the house, but Janie did buy a book with lots of pictures (as well as words), so if you ask her nicely she can show you pictures of the interiors.

We took lots of pictures in the lovely gardens – see Flickr album. A few of the best of them follow.

Daisy Resplendent In Charleston Garden
Ged Looking Eeyoreishly At Thistles In Charleston Garden
For Reasons Unexplained, Daisy Poses As A Documentary Narrator
Vanessa Bell Didn’t Bath Much, But She Did Jump In This Pond Occasionally

After Charleston, we checked in to the Hotel Una again, as we did on our last visit to Brighton in 2016

…and indeed the time before in 2015.

Then on to see Sidney and Joan at The Jetty Restaurant at The Brighton Harbour Hotel.

Left To Right: Janie, Joan, Sidney, Ian

It is always a pleasure to see Sidney and Joan. The Jetty seemed to be a good choice of restaurant for this gathering; interesting dishes aplenty but not overly fussy food. Sparing Sidney the cooking job (which was his original plan) allowed the four of us to concentrate on catching up on each other’s news and chatting about all sorts.

Considering That Janie Was In Strident Chat Mode, Sidney And I Look Surprisingly Serene

Sidney and Joan cabbed it back to Hove while Janie and I chose to walk off a bit of our dinner. It had been a really pleasant evening, which had passed all too quickly.

An Evening At Oklava Restaurant With Lisa Opie and Toni Friend, 24 July 2017

This was Lisa’s idea – she spotted that Restaurant Oklava was doing a couple of special tasting menu evenings and thought that sounded like such a good idea that she would book first, find companions later.

When Lisa suggested the idea a couple of week’s earlier, Janie said yes straight away without checking her diary – whereas I was sure that there was something about that date. When we did check, oh joy, that “something” was the fact that we had booked the day off, either to recover from or as the reserve day for The Women’s Cricket World Cup Final. 

Janie and I were still full of the cup on the Monday evening, until we got into the meal, at which point we were soon getting full with the meal. Modern Turkish food – but this is Turkish as we’d never tasted it before; really subtle flavours and fascinating combinations.

Wonderful menu – in case you couldn’t tell

Each dish was delicious, with the octopus and the lamb in particular being the standout dishes for both me and Janie; perhaps indeed all of us. We enjoyed the wine matching idea, which gave us a chance to try several Turkish wines at a modest additional price.

Chef Selin Kiazim must have been exhausted at the end of the evening – we had a late booking, but she didn’t show it…

…she even signed the back of Janie’s menu as a keepsake to insert in the excellent Oklava book, which Toni had kindly given to Janie a few week’s earlier…

…and even kindly posed with us for a picture or two before we left:

The Girls Monday Night Out Comes To An End

I’d been an honorary girl for the evening. This restaurant gathering, the day after The Women’s World Cup Final (have I mentioned that Janie and I went to that?), brought a very successful girlie long weekend to a most enjoyable conclusion.

When Everything Went The Right Way, Women’s World Cup Final, Lord’s, 23 July 2017

Back in October 2016, when the Women’s World Cup dates and venues were announced, I mentioned to Janie that we should book out 23 July for that match and also suggested that we ask Chas and Dot (aka Charley the Gent and Mrs Malloy).

“Don’t put me and Dot through the embarrassment of her constructing excuses for not coming to the cricket”, said Janie, “she really doesn’t like cricket”.

“But I know they enjoy watching women’s cricket together; they often go to Chelmsford to watch it…let’s leave it for now”, I replied.

Less than 48 hours later, I received an e-mail from Chas:

…I know this may sound a strange ask, but Dot likes the English ladies cricket, she has seem them play at Essex for a number of years and really enjoys watching them.

I mentioned the women’s world cup final at Lord’s next year and she expressed an interest to go!…

…My favour to ask, do you have any influence in getting reasonable seats?

I called Janie to have a gloat, knowing that she would make me suffer for it at some stage, but still Janie expressed delight at the idea and instructed me to get tickets for all four of us.

My reply to Chas:

Really funny that you wrote to me about this today, because I mentioned it as an idea to Janie over the weekend. Janie said that she’d be up for it but as Dot had said no to the pavilion the other week and to Edgbaston in August, Janie was sure that Dot would be uninterested and that we should stop putting pressure on her to do things she doesn’t want to do blah blah.

Anyway, members’ area seats will go on sale in a private December mailing after the ICC public sale. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble snapping up enough tickets to enable all four of us to go, as long as I leap in quick for the initial members’ sale, which I shall of course do.

And so I did.

On a high before the start of play

There was much doubt about the weather in the run up to finals day; every time I looked at the weather forecast it changed, but the nearer we got to the day the more ominous the “risk of showers” sounded. On the morning itself, it looked as though the afternoon rain might be so bad that the match would be rain reduced or even held over to Monday, which would have been such a shame.

As it turned out, apart from a couple of sudden but blustery/blow-over type showers, which did not even interrupt play, the weather smiled on Lord’s for the whole match.

We had managed to persuade Chas and Dot to accept our hospitality picnic-wise, not least because I had enjoyed their picnic hospitality at Chelmsford recently and would enjoy it again for the start of the Edgbaston test in August.

Ceremony before the match

Hence the large fillet of dry-aged beef which graced our table on Friday after my MCC v HAC match and then bulged out of the large brioche rolls for Sunday; with wasabi mayonnaise to bring out the flavours. Janie’s other culinary masterpiece was equally enormous brioche rolls stuffed with Duchy of Cornwall turkey, enhanced with a lemon mayonnaise. But we all agreed that the beef was the standout.

Daisy and I brought a jolly Provencal rose wine to grace the turkey and a bold southern hemisphere Cabernet Sauvignon to support the beef. Plus various small nibbles, vegetables and fruit – not least pears for Chas – although all the pears came home with us. Chas and Dot also brought a bottle of fruity Riesling, lots of nibbles and plenty of sweet stuff, most of which went home with them again. Plus soft drinks and waters, most of which didn’t make it home.

We had probably just finished munching the turkey rolls when Daisy took this picture

As the England innings went on, we reduced our estimates of what a par score might be. In the end Chas reckoned 225 and I reckoned 240, so when the England innings closed at 228, we agreed that we should have a good match on our hands.

The interval entertainment was a gospel choir singing some soul and gospel standards at high volume and with great intensity. Far more to our taste than the usual test match fare of marching bands, bagpipe bands or Yorkshire Tea folk with tea mugs on their heads and brass instruments in their mouths.

While Chas and Dot were taking a stroll in the interval, Daisy wanted to take a double selfie in similar style to the one she took at the test match two week’s previously.

Easier said than done, this selfie business, especially the double-selfie. After about five attempts I was getting a little exasperated, although I’m sure it didn’t show on my face…

Enough, already, of the double-selfies

…and soon we were both seeing the funny side of it:

Look out for the gentleman in the blue shirt behind us, showing his daughter something on his smart phone

Strangely, I chose the above photo (from a batch of many) without noticing the blue-shirted gentleman and his daughter behind us in just that one picture.

About five minutes after Janie took that photo, when she popped out briefly and just before Chas and Dot returned, I heard someone bellow, “IAN” at high volume. I turned around and saw the blue-shirted gentleman waving at me.

“Hello Ian,” he said as I wandered up to speak with him, “I’m Jeff Tye’s son”.

“Chris!”, I said, “it’s been years and years. How did you recognise me?”

“I wasn’t 100% sure, but I knew that, if it was you, you’d turn around if I shouted out your name loud enough.”

Chris’s dad, Big “Papa Zambezi” Jeff is one of our Heavy Roller’s clan, last seen with us at Edgbaston in 2015. 

More on Big “Papa Zambezi” Jeff and our tales of derring-do can be found in the MTWD archive – click here.

Chris was very pleased to learn that Chas was also with us, so we all spent a few minutes chatting at the end of the interval. Chris’s daughter (Jeff’s grand-daughter) must have wondered what all the fuss was about.

The second half of the match was so exciting yet it seemed to pass so quickly. An early wicket, then a good stand, then a smart run-out, then another good stand…

…India looked as though they had the match in the bag at 190-odd for three. Just before that point, Chas had said game over. I said it looked grim but one wicket could change the whole thing and I still gave England a one-in-three chance around that point.

Daisy kept telling us that we weren’t getting behind the team enough and was yelling, “come on England” at high volume as only she can.

Then a wicket…no, two wickets…no, a flurry of wickets…then some incredibly tense cricket…then an England win.

When Anya Shrubsole took her fifth wicket, the little boy who was sitting with his mum next to us, scoring the whole match carefully in a big red scorebook, told Chas proudly that Anya Shrubsole’s dad was his PE teacher. That was a bit of an “oh, wow!” moment for all of us. Soon after that, Anya took her sixth wicket and quite rightly won the player of the match. The little boy looked incredibly happy.

The scorecard and everything you ever wanted to know (apart from Ogblog of course) can be found here.

England Women Receive The Trophy Right In Front Of The Warner Stand
Double-selfie once slightly more-oiled and celebratory than the earlier double-selfies
Heather Knight while the lap of honour stops down our way
One last toast with Chas and Dot before we part company

It had been a great day for us; everything had gone our way.

But more importantly, I think it had been a great tournament and a great day for women’s cricket. The standard of women’s cricket is improving so quickly now; this was genuinely entertaining sport at a very high level of skill. This year’s women’s world cup has shown off that improvement in the best possible way, with several high quality and nail-biting matches at the conclusion of the tournament, not least the high-profile final which we had just witnessed.

Lord’s had been a sell-out, with a really good vibe all day – a far cry from the corporate Champagne-swilling of the tests or the muscular beer-swilling of the T20 sell-outs – a different style crowd enjoying the cricket and many people enjoying seeing cricket at Lord’s for the first time.

As the interval gospel choir had put it, “Oh Happy Day”.

Big Match Weekend At Lord’s Part One: MCC v HAC Real Tennis Match, 21 July 2017

Them and Us, Thanks To Sidney Yankson For The Pictures

Not content with the idea of attending one heck of a big match at Lord’s on Sunday, I found myself selected to represent the MCC at real tennis there on the preceding Friday evening,

I arrived early for my rubber, keen to see a bit of the earlier action. In fact I arrived at the same time as our non-playing captain, Brian. As soon as we arrived, Sidney exclaimed, “oh great, we’re all here; let’s have a team photo right now”. Hence my appearance on court sporting weekend casuals rather than whites.

In fact we weren’t all here; Tony Friend (my team mate from battles gone by) was between his singles and double rubber, while neither his partner, Oliver, nor my partner to be, “Dangerous Deane”, nor indeed our opponents to be had arrived yet.

Early and late arrivals at the MCC real tennis ball

Sidney was captaining the Honourable Artillery Company team and had organised the whole fixture. He (mercifully) had some flexibility in deciding who should play whom, as several of the players are eligible to play for either or both organisations, as is often the case with real tennis matches and there had been a few late changes to the dramatis personae, as is equally often the case.

“We’ve been around since 15:37″, said Sidney, which didn’t seem unreasonable to me for a match that was scheduled to start at 4:00 pm…”the HAC is probably the oldest active real tennis team in the world.”

Ah, he meant, 1537. Back in Henry VIII’s time. Some of us suggested that one or two of our more senior but still active MCC players might precede the date of HAC’s foundation.

When it was my turn to play, Sidney risked life and limb to take photos of our warm up, shouting, “please don’t hit me” as he scurried around the court in search of the perfect shot of a perfect shot:

A perfect shot of a slightly imperfect shot, bravely snapped by Sidney Yankson

Once the game was in progress, Sidney took more pictures from the relative safety of the dedans:

I was strategically stationed to guard the side galleries, while “Dangerous Deane” soaked up most of the pressure; Deane had one opponent so well covered you cannot even see him in this picture, which was safely snapped by Sidney Yankson

“So what was the result of the match?”, I hear readers cry.

MCC won the fixture 4-1.

“May we have more specific details about what happened in the match, such as the individual scores of the rubbers therein and tales of derring-do that led to those scores?”, the readers’ cries continue.

Now, now; what happens on the MCC tennis court stays on the MCC tennis court.

Suffice it to say that, as usual, the match was highly convivial, enabling me to meet several more realists and get to know some others a bit better than before.

A few dedicated souls retired to a local hostelry (The Lord’s Tavern) for dinner and libations after the match, but I retreated to Noddyland, where preparations for Sunday’s other big match at Lord’s were in full sway. That big fillet of dry-aged beef was not going to carve and partially eat itself, now was it?

 

 

 

An Enjoyable Excursion Into Domestic Cricket Neutrality, Surrey v Essex, T20, Oval, 19 July 2017

The Oval At Nightfall

In early May I received an e-mail from John White, out of the blue:

I have been invited to the Oval on 19th July and have been asked if I would like to bring a friend!  It could only be you Ian.  Are you free?  We will be the guest of WE Communications and we get to go in the members area.

My first thought was that this must be the test match, but when I looked up the date I discovered that it was an evening domestic T20 match between Surrey and Essex.

It occurred to me that I haven’t been to a domestic cricket match as a neutral (i.e. without my county, Middlesex, playing), since I was a kid. Those experiences, as a kid, were all at The Oval, as it happens. This scorecard – click here – might be an example of one of those – I need to check the old diaries but for sure I saw once saw Barry Richards dominate the bowling there, while all others made it look like hard work.

Indeed all my early experience of seeing professional cricket was at the Oval – here is one especially odd set of experiences at the Oval from 40 years ago, including an encounter with Bob Willis on the tube after play, which I have already Ogblogged.

John’s e-mail was not terribly informative and (after accepting the invitation with relish) I didn’t give the event a great deal of thought again until it was imminent.

As it happens, on the day, I was working from home, interrupted only by a marathon session of tennis mid morning at Lord’s.

On reflection, I should have pipped John an e-mail about the extent to which this might be formal entertaining, mode of dress, etc., but instead I picked up Marcus’s e-mail, Googled WE Communications and decided for myself that this must be corporate entertaining of some scale and that I’d better turn up suited and booted. I even put my little case of business cards in my jacket pocket.

As it turned out, the evening was in fact a very informal set up with Marcus (who is a Surrey member), his colleague Josh (who is in fact a fellow MCC yellow-carder), me and John. All the others were in “dress-down, evening out” attire.

It was a very enjoyable evening. Really good company; people who know and enjoy their cricket while at the same time keeping the conversation suitably varied and interesting on many topics.

I really liked that feeling of neutrality at the match. I was watching cricket, simply hoping to see a good match, without any emotional equity in the result. It was strangely refreshing. In particular I think the neutrality worked for me because I was in good company.

After the game, although John was demob happy, he was keen to start his long journey home and I was keen to get home quite early as I had a long working day ahead the next day.

The evening was great fun; I’m sure we’ll do something like that again next season – perhaps at Lord’s, so that Marcus can experience that slightly oblivious feeling of cricket watching neutrality.

Out of the Deep, The Cardinall’s Musick, Wigmore Hall, 18 July 2017

The Boy (Morales) From Seville

Janie and I really like this sort of 16th century music and here was a rare chance to listen to Cristóbal de Morales’s requiem, along with a swathe of English stuff from a similar period.

Morales was from Seville although his sound is heavily influenced by his years in Rome too.

Here is a link to the Wigmore Hall’s information on the gig.

Jolly it wasn’t, but then what do you expect when you choose to hear requiem masses, Jeremiah’s lamentations and that sort of thing?

But very beautiful it was.

I especially enjoyed the Morales, which was the main reason I booked the concert. We hear quite a lot of the 16th century English stuff, whereas the Morales felt like a rare treat.

This type of music (mostly 10 voices in five parts) works so well in the Wigmore Hall and The Cardinall’s Musick are really superb at delivering this stuff. Andrew Carwood always explains the context in detail, but not painful detail.

The audience lapped it all up and managed to coax the team back onto the pitch for an encore – I think it was the first two verses from Tallis’s Psalm 1 setting.

It was a Tuesday evening and Janie had early patients etc. the next day, so we didn’t dine together – I think Janie got home just before the heavens opened. Good job I was in the flat when the rains came – it was torrential and I had left windows open. There’d have been Jeremiah-style lamentations from me if my computer and/or baroq-ulele had got wet.

Dinosaur, Wigmore Hall Lates, 14 July 2017

“Hello, we’re a couple of Dinosaurs”, I said, as we arrived at the Wigmore Hall for the late night concert.  The programme notes distributor smiled; perhaps a knowing smile – she probably thinks of all of us Wigmore Hall-istas as dinosaurs.

Wigmore Hall, like Lord’s, is one of the very few places in the world where I might still be addressed as “young man”.

But this was quite a youthful concert – a young jazz combo, Dinosaur,  playing an interesting mix of styles, a bit jazz-blues-rocky, a bit avant-garde, a bit electric.

The Wigmore Hall information had revealed little about them – click here –  but we like these late night concerts and I sampled a bit of Dinosaur on-line and liked the sound. I think I might have sampled the following piece:

This type of music works better live than recorded, in our view. It certainly did work well at the Wigmore Hall.

Laura Jurd seemed genuinely awe-inspired by playing at the Wig, which was rather sweet. Dinosaur played several tracks from their acclaimed first album plus one or two bits of new material.

They are all genuinely talented musicians.

The bass player played acoustic double bass as well as an electric bass guitar – an unusual-looking five-course jobbie rather than the conventional four course instrument shown in the above vid.

Before the  concert, I served dinner at the flat; the very last of Big Al DeLarge’s meatballs with pasta and salad. We also had time for a drink at The Wig before the concert.

We stayed for an after concert drink and some more jazz in the bar – simply a pianist playing in a hotel lobby or restaurant style (second time in a row), rather than the more unusual/interesting stuff we got in earlier years after Wigmore Hall Lates – oh well.

Three Days At The Lord’s Test, England v South Africa, 6, 7 & 9 July 2017

Day One – Thursday 6th July

This will probably be my last day of cricket at Lord’s with Alastair “Big Al DeLarge” Little, as he is due to emigrate to Australia in a few week’s time, as explained in my recent piece, Tragedy of Epicurean Proportions, click here.

It seems that Al’s culinary legacy was explained to the world recently via the BBC – click here to listen or download the Food Programme special about him.

I asked Al if he could do the central element of the picnic, as I knew I would be away in Brum for the few days leading up to this test.

Given that Al is temporarily a chef without a proper kitchen, I realised that this request might discombobulate him.  I emphasised that it needn’t be anything special, just easy-eating grub for the two of us at the cricket. Al doesn’t exactly need to prove to me that he can cook, does he? But a week before the outing I got a text from Al:

…does lamb cutlets sound like something to eat at the cricket?…”

…my reply…

…it does now!

So Al turns up with a wonderful centrepiece picnic meal of delicious lamb cutlets with a top notch potato salad and cold Keralan-style beans. Also some fine Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese and crackers. Plus a lightly-chilled Valpolicella.

My contribution was a very jolly Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, a selection of fresh fruit and lots of water. The latter came in especially handy as this particular day was hot, hot, hot and our front row seats in the Lower Compton were in the sun all day.

We chatted at times with a couple of charming chaps who were sitting next to us…”irredeemably posh” as Al described them, although they spent most of the day elsewhere – drinking Pimms and eating posh nosh by their description.

Al and I discussed foody subjects rather a lot throughout the day. Why were we there?  Oh yes, cricket. We also talked about cricket.

England had a poor morning, from which they extricated themselves as the day went on.

I had some difficulty concentrating on the match until after tea, as I was also following the denouement of the Warwickshire v Middlesex match. I tried to be disciplined and only look once every half hour. But at one point I was providing a county cricket score service for MCC stewards, who aren’t allowed to look, so my “look rate” increased a little towards the end.

But the long last session had my undivided attention and in fact it was an excellent day of test cricket throughout, with England turning a poor position into a very good one by the end of the day.

Al and I walked together to Warwick Avenue, from whence Al tubed home and I walked.

A super day out.

Day Two – Friday 7th July

Today my guest was Charles “Charley The Gent Malloy” Bartlett. This time it was my job to do the picnic and Charley did the sweet stuff, wine and water. We agreed in advance that one bottle of wine would be enough for the two of us, not least after Charley’s wobbly denouement last time we met at Lord’s.

I went for a “Charley The Gent traditional” picnic, all of which I procured or ordered before I went to Brum; smoked Alaskan salmon bagels, prosciutto and manchego English muffins, selection of fruit (naturally including pears) and nuts.

In food terms, Chas is the very antithesis of Al – Chas takes some mysterious sort of pride in the fact that he cannot even boil an egg. Mercifully “Mrs Malloy” does good picnic for our Chelmsford adventures. 

But I digress.

Chas had arrived at Lord’s even earlier than me to avoid the gate crush and get through security in good time.

Experts pontificating

We were hoping to see the boy Root get a double-hundred and break records and stuff, but it wasn’t to be. Still, England built on its good position throughout the day.

Again the Lower Compton front row, again very pleasant, chatty neighbours. Posh, but not as irredeemably posh as the previous day’s neighbours.

Chas and I chatted about all manner of things, not least plans for the women’s world cup final and Edgbaston.

The day flew by. It was another very hot day in the sun, but not quite as hot as Thursday had been. The smaller quantity of drink helped.

Chas and I walked together to Warwick Avenue, but today I also took the tube, as I was going straight to Noddyland. Chas and I parted company at Oxford Circus, but not before Chas had made a joke about Janie probably waiting to hose me down before I’d be allowed into the house.

When I got to Noddyland, next door neighbour Marcie was in her front garden watering; I wondered (briefly) whether she has been stationed there to hose me down on arrival.

Day Four – Sunday 9th July

Daisy and I had a quiet day on the Saturday (playing tennis, massage, following the Lord’s cricket and the Wimbledon tennis). Daisy did much of the picnic preparation the night before. We had some very tasty roast pork that evening and Daisy cooked, along with the Saturday joint, a stash of very yummy mini sausages for our picnic.

The remainder of the picnic comprised of simple but tasty stuff; dips (mostly fishy ones – too many – we brought a few home), sourdough crispbread bites, carrots, tomatoes, grapes and some yummy thin biscuits. We took a fruity little Chardonnay-Viognier with us, plus a tiny bottle of Rioja for “just in case”/sun-downer purposes.

An easy, mostly pre-prepared picnic. So we were able to set off nice and early Sunday to secure decent seats in the new Warner Stand. The top level was full by the time we got there at 9:30 – it was full by 9:15, but in fact the seats we got on the lower level in row 9 were probably even better for us – sun until about 11:30, shady thereafter.

While waiting, watched the Saffers with big balls warming up

Very pleasant people all around us, including a family behind us I am sure were behind us the previous time we sat around that section of the Warner.

At lunchtime I took a stroll and met up briefly with Edwardian Cricket from the King Cricket website. Edwardian has volunteered to write a match report for KC, thank goodness.

At teatime Daisy and I took a stroll to meet Alan and Alex briefly. They were sitting in the same stand as us, but on the pavilion side rather than the Grandstand side.

England collapsed early in the day but I always felt that they had enough runs and that the Saffers would follow suit on that pitch, although not quite as dramatically as it turned out.

Saffers on the verge of collapse.

On leaving the ground, Daisy and I ran into Mr Johnny Friendly. I had already run into him on the Friday by the Tavern Stand loos – I always seem to run into him there – but this time gave us a chance to walk a while, chat and wait with Mr Johnny Friendly until his carriage (aka the No 414) arrived. Daisy and I then strolled a while before hailing a Hackney carriage.

When we got home, I found a message from Fran to say that she’d seen me and Daisy on the TV – she’d even confirmed same by winding back her Sky thingie – but she hadn’t thought to record or screen-grab us, so we’ll just have to take her word for it.

In the absence of Fran’s lack of screen grab from Sky, this double-selfie by Daisy must suffice.

We’d had a super day.  We hadn’t expected to see the match conclude on the Sunday, but we did – see scorecard. This enabled us to have a quite day at home Monday playing and then following the Wimbledon tennis, which was very good that day. I’d had a super few test match days, even the Day 5 with no cricket.