Two Forms Of Soaking And Two Friendly Gatherings In One Day, Uxbridge and Southwark, 13 September 2017

I’m not sure I’d seen Fran Erdunast (formerly Weingott) since the build up to my somewhat eventful house party in 1979, but we have been reconnected through Facebook for some time and discovered that we share an enthusiasm for cricket, not least Middlesex.

Fran likes to go to Middlesex out-ground matches, so we hatched a quasi-plan to meet up at the four-day game between Middlesex & Hampshire at Uxbridge CC late season.

Both the weather and my work commitments seemed to be conspiring against this idea, but the forecast for the afternoon of 13 September was, in the end, rather encouraging (sunny with a small chance of showers) and I realised that we should get to see a few hours of cricket at Uxbridge between my morning meeting and the early evening wine tasting in Southwark.

That was the plan…

…and the early part of the plan worked. I got to Uxbridge just before the start of play after lunch and saw a figure who was unmistakably Fran sitting conveniently near to the Gatting Way entrance. She introduced me to Simon, who turns out to be equally keen on county cricket, albeit a Yorkshire supporter (he hails from Leeds). They had arrived about 5 minutes ahead of me and were sorting out some well-appointed seats for the three of us.

After two or three overs, we felt a few spots of rain, which seemed to send the umpires into a tizzy and the players all came off, much to the disgust of the tiny crowd.

A light sprinkling and covering before the deluge

“I think the umpires and ground staff must know something we don’t”, I said, suggesting that we head for the pavilion before the deluge.

Deluge it was. Lashings of proper, wet rain, for about 20 minutes or so.

In an intriguing echo of the “Ian turning up over-dressed” story from 1980, which emerges from my other recent BBYO reunion with Mark Lewis, I realised that I was ludicrously overdressed for the Uxbridge pavilion in my business suit.

I was even more ludicrously dressed for slogging through the sludge of Uxbridge CC after the rain. I rolled up my trousers to avoid mud on suit misery. Jeff Coleman threatened to take my picture for the Middlesex or MTWD website, which I actively encouraged, as I thought it must look very funny, but Jeff kindly relented in the interests of my dignity.

On the way back to the slightly less soggy patch where our seats were now drying in the sun, I decided to have my one “Thatcher” 99 Whippy ice cream of the year, offering to treat Fran and Simon, who both declined politely.

Fran described the intricacies of the dental work she does while I ate the ice cream, presumably to ensure that I was not tempted to try any further sweet treats that day. Simon tried to avoid fainting during this conversation. I tried to put Simon at his ease by admitting to being squeamish when Janie talks about some of the intricacies of her podiatry work, at which point Fran demonstrated her considerable medical knowledge by explaining the difference between mouths and feet. When Simon and I both showed signs of imminent fainting, Fran stopped talking about medical procedures.

Ice cream at Uxbridge on a cold day brought to mind my previous visit to that ground, which Dumbo (my Suzuki Jimny) reported on King Cricket – here.

We watched the ground staff try to remove ludicrous quantities of surface water from the pitch, ably assisted by Angus Fraser and even some of the players. The efforts looked futile and indeed after about 30 minutes of sunshine and hard labour, the umpires came out and concluded that it would be impossible to get anything going again today.

Fran kindly invited me back to her place in Pinner along with Simon for some tea. It would be a chance to continue our chat about the good old days, cricket and cricket in the good old days, which is exactly what we did.

Fran hardly seemed to have changed in the decades since we last met. I am consistently surprised when I reconnect with friends from my teenage years how little they have changed in essence. Fran articulated it well in a note later that day:

…bemused by the surreal vision of grown up Ian Harris sitting on my sofa…[t]he 16-17 year old version I last saw kept reappearing ghost-like during the afternoon.

Fran displayed Essex beating up Warwickshire as background entertainment on the TV; it was clear that both Simon and Fran follow county cricket avidly and know a lot about it. Simon mentioned that Jack Simmons was one of his favourite cricketers; coincidentally Janie had spent a long time chatting with Simon’s hero when we were at Southport earlier in the season. I forgot to ask Simon why, as a Yorkshire supporter, his hero was a Lancastrian. Perhaps Simon will chime in with the answer to that conundrum.

16:30 came around ever so quickly and Fran very kindly insisted on taking me to Pinner station, worrying that I might otherwise be late for my 18:00 wine tasting. Indeed, by the time she had picked a couple of pears from her garden for Charley The Gent Malloy to sample next week (I’ll report back on how the Pinner Conferences go down with pear specialist Charley), even I thought I might have cut it a bit fine for Southwark.

I had forgotten how quick the Metropolitan Line is and hadn’t thought about Southwark, on the Jubilee Line, being a simple hop of a change from the Met line. Once I entered Pinner Station, of course, my brain went back onto automatic from all those visits out that way in my youth, to see Simon, Caroline and others at the Pinner club.

Still, I was surprised when I emerged into the Southwark sunshine at 17:20, a full forty minutes early. Time for a coffee and (sorry Fran) another somewhat sweet treat for fortification (pain au raisin).

Then to the Mousse wine tasting, which this time was on Lebanese wines. Janie arrived only a tiny bit late…

…but much earlier than this photo which Janie took quite a bit later in the evening:

Say “halloumi cheese”: Ian, Helen and Donna

We got to try a few different wines; Chateau Musar (naturally), a top notch wine from Chateau Kefraya plus several excellent wines from Massaya, with which Janie and I were unfamiliar. Helen also served a couple of French examples by way of comparison.

Massaya is less than 20 years old, so didn’t even exist when Janie and I visited Lebanon, tried Musar and Kefraya wines aplenty and also went to the Ksara caves to taste wine:

Tasting Wine at Ksara, Lebanon in 1997
He’s at Ksara…not the Massaya, he’s a very naughty boy

If you want to see the full stack of photos from our 1997 sojourn to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Eilat, click here.

My favourite wines from the Mousse wine tasting evening were a couple of the Massaya ones; Le Colombier (entry level but very gluggable) and the Silver Selection wine which I thought was cracking good. I also really liked the Marsanne-based Hermitage white which Helen served by way of comparison. I have never been much taken with the Lebanese whites, whereas Leb red can hit the spot more often than not.

Janie asked us all to look natural, so of course…

Janie’s attempts to photograph several of us by asking us to look natural were naturally more likely to fail than succeed. The picture above was the best of the bunch. If you want a laugh at the rest, feel free to click through here.

Helen always gathers an interesting, eclectic crowd for her wine tastings, so you don’t just learn a lot about wine, you do so in very agreeable company.

Janie and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening, which we rounded off with Maroush shawarmas and a bottle of Asti Spumante.  (OK, I made up that last bit).

Simon Jacobs, Circle Line, Album Launch Showcase, Old Paradise Yard, 10 September 2017

To Old Paradise Yard in North Lambeth to join Simon Jacobs, friends, family and groupies for the launch of Simon’s long-awaited album, Circle Line.

I say long-awaited…some tracks on the album, the song Circle Line included, I recall Simon playing and me bootlegging onto cassette 35 to 40 years ago.

People had come from far and wide for this launch. As far west as Bristol, where Simon’s kid sister Sue lives…

Sue and Ian swap tales of the wild west

As far north as Lincolnshire, where several of Simon’s family members live. As far south-east as Hong Kong, from whence the delightful and redoubtable Ting Ting had ventured specially to support the launch.

Party time at IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, before the performance

The venue was Eduard’s IKLECTIK Lab at Old Paradise Yard. Eduard himself was one of several really interesting, good company people we got to meet and chat with over the evening. Timothy, Lydia and Ting Ting were similarly people we met for the first time with whom Janie and I felt immediately at ease.

Then the performance/launch:

Simon announced…
…Simon sang…
…Simon stomped…
…Simon tinkled the grand piano ivories.

Although Simon did not quite tinkle in the András Schiff, Well Tempered Claiver stylee Janie and I had experienced a few days earlier, Simon did emulate the great man by not doing an encore.

“I don’t have any more…just relax and party”, said Simon.

And so we did.

Mark Lewis turned up, which was a very pleasant surprise, having not seen him for decades. Janie enjoyed meeting him too. Mark triggered an old memory or three that I must retro-blog soon while the memories are fresh. Indeed, seeing several members of the Jacobs family gathered together again, including Simon’s mum, brought back many memories too.

It was a very enjoyable evening, the purpose of which was to launch Simon’s Album Circle Line, which is available from iTunes (where I indeed found it simply by searching the term Circle Line) and also on Amazon, from whence I actually bought the download, as it was 10p cheaper there.

Don’t just sit there, click through and buy the darn thing. You’ll love it.

We had a great evening – thanks Simon.

Three Days At The Lord’s Test, England v West Indies, 7 to 9 September 2017

Day One – Thursday 7 September 2017

One guest today, Escamillo Escapillo, our Lancastrian nephew-in-law.  A veteran of The Lord’s Throdkin, he appreciated  the slight variation to the recipe from last time and agreed with me that the flavour and texture were somewhat improved. Some conjecture on this point might well follow on Ogblog, King Cricket or both.

There was also some ingratitude in the matter of special cream cheese and its pairing with smoked salmon, about which I intend to publish at length elsewhere.

But other than those controversial culinary matters, the day progressed as only a relaxing day of test cricket at Lord’s could and should.

West Indies chose to bat and struggled through a difficult morning and early afternoon, only to collapse in a heap as the afternoon went on.

Jimmy Anderson bowling with only 499 wickets to his name.

Postscript: we encountered a superb arachnid upstaging us in our front row seats – that aspect of our day now published on King Cricket – click here.

Ben Stokes bowled beautifully and deserved the bulk of the wickets:

England found it no easier once they were asked to bat that day.

By that time, Escamillo Escapillo had left early to go to a function with his wife, our niece, Lavender. Daisy had spent the day with Lavender and took pains to bring the young couple together in Marylebone, while also swiping Escamillo Escapillo’s ticket and spending the last 90 minutes or so of play with me.

It got very dark and very cold towards the end of play – so much so that we escaped early, but only an over or two before bad light (even with floodlights) intervened.

Daisy and I spent the latter part of the evening at the Proms – click here.

Day Two – 8 September 2017

The weather forecast was distinctly iffy for Day 2. Brian sent me a “what’s happening if…?” e-mail and I sent my response to him and both of the others. There was general consensus that we go to the ground, hope for some cricket before the rain and see what happens.

Brian came round to my place just as I was finishing the picnic and getting ready to go; we travelled to the ground together. As we were nice and early, I showed Brian the real tennis which immediately grabbed his fascination.

Real tennis and baritone ukulele – photo from another day – click here for that day!

I went off to meet Ian and Graham, leaving Brian with the tennis (at his request), who then joined the rest of us when play started, around 11:15.

But soon after play started, the rain returned, so we all decided to wander round to the dedans to watch real tennis; Brian wanted to see more, Graham had never seen it before and wanted to, the other Ian had seen it before but was happy to see it again.

Brian observed that we had four very similar, uber-English names; Ian, Ian, Brian and Graham. As everyone traditionally has a pseudonym in my cricket pieces, I think we can improve and simplify.

As it happens the other Ian is already “Iain Spellright”; King Cricket has not yet published the outstanding piece about him from 2014, but it does exist. Brian should be known as “Ian Borne” and Graham should be “Iain Insteadman”.

That should make the rest of this piece really easy to follow.

It was clear from the TV screen in the dedans that the rain was getting harder and harder; I went to rescue our picnic around 12:30 in the sodden gloom and felt very little optimism for the prospects of play.

At least we had the picnic, so we tucked into The Lord’s Throdkin with Iain Spellright’s utterly delicious bottle of Barollo. Janie was envious when I told her.

By around 13:30, Ian Borne, being the most sensible of us, concluded that the prospects of play were very poor. Also, having told me excitedly about the interesting projects he’s working on at the moment, I suspect that the lure of those projects was greater than the lure of watching it rain at Lord’s.

However, soon after Ian Borne left, the announcer reported an expected start time of 14:15 and the weather forecast changed from “no hope after 15:00-16:00” to “no more rain expected until after stumps”.

So, we the remaining threesome resumed our seats and hunkered down with a super-sized picnic and several hours of cricket to watch.

Good cricket it was too, with England working hard in still difficult batting conditions to press ahead with a reasonable lead.

We had some interesting number-crunching business, trying to decide what a decent and realistic first innings target might be. Iain Spellright was looking to double the West Indies score, but soon backtracked a little. Iain Insteadman and I thought 50 to 60 would be a decent, admittedly not insurmountable lead. 71 lead was the outcome.

Then England started bowling and very, very soon, Jimmy Anderson took that historic 500th test wicket:

West Indies then batted in the fading light, but not gloom, so the floodlights could keep the show on the road and I don’t think I have ever seen Lord’s looking quite so special at dusk before – aided by the double-rainbow to the south-east as some heavy clouds threatened but passed us by.

First a single rainbow…
…then a double rainbow.
The pavilion end looking equally special.

Against all the odds, we got a more than decent day’s play; very relaxed, relaxing and enjoyable. I think this was the latest test match finish I have experienced live; 19:30. After saying goodbye to Iain and Iain, I (Ian) walked home.

Day Three – 9 September 2017

I stayed at the flat overnight and got my few bits and pieces together quickly and easily enough – Daisy was doing the main picnic.

I walked to Lord’s and secured some good seats. I ran into one of my real tennis pals so we chatted for a while. Then Daisy arrived. Then Alan and his pal Jonathan came over in search of some throdkin cookies, which I had promised Alan the last time I saw him at Lord’s.

England made reasonably light work of finishing off the West Indies; three more wickets before lunch, then the last four soon after. Jimmy Anderson was the pick of the bowlers.

Daisy didn’t think to photograph England bowling…
…but did photograph England batting

We continued to tuck in to Daisy’s enormous picnic while England tucked in to West Indies demoralised bowling and won the match.

Henry Bloefeld did a lap of honour to celebrate his final match as a commentator:

Henry, followed around by Aggers and Vic…
…Henry seule
Daisy and I

…contrary to rumours and cinematic evidence broadcast to all corners of the earth – click here,  Daisy and I were very happy; we just looked tired and emotional on the screen.

For sure we were ideally located, not only to be caught on camera but also to see the presentation ceremony, which took place right in front of us in the Warner Stand.

One of many presentation ceremony pictures

More photos can be found on my Flickr stack – here.

Full scorecard and Cricinfo resource on the match – here.

That’s three days at Lord’s for Janie this year – all three being days when England won the match at took the ceremonial plaudits. Daisy must be a lucky mascot for England when she’s in that new stand. She should visit more often.

The Well Tempered Clavier, András Schiff, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, 7 September 2017

It’s years since we have been to the proms. I used to go regularly, even before I met Janie.

Then in our early days together…indeed for many, many years, we would take The Duchess (Janie’s mum), as she liked the place and the concerts. But once the Duchess went off the idea of going out to concerts, we focused our concert-going on smaller, more intimate venues such as The Wigmore Hall and St John’s Smith Square.

Anyway, Janie called me excitedly earlier in the week, as she was with Joyce Ma, who had excellent tickets for this concert and couldn’t use them. Would we like them?

It was hard to say no to such a kind and generous offer. We both love Bach and we both thought it would make a real change for us to visit the Proms again.

Further, as Janie was spending the day with Charlotte and I was spending the day at Lord’s with Chris – it was a very practicable arrangement for Janie and I to meet up and go on to the concert via a scrub and change at the flat – click here.

This concert was the very first time that the whole of Book One of The Well Tempered Clavier had been performed at the Proms. Interesting choice for a late night concert, as the 21:00 start meant for a 23:00 finish.

Imagine my delight when we entered the hall and I realised that Joyce had chosen pretty much exactly the seats I would have chosen myself “back in the day”, when I used to choose my seats with a connoisseur’s precision.

András Schiff performed the whole of The Well Temered Clavier Book One from memory, which seemed the most extraordinary feat in itself to me. He also performed with a wonderfully light touch and supreme confidence.

Michael Church in The Independent gave the performance a rave five star review – click here.

Fiona Maddocks in The Guardian also went for five stars – the Schiff is reviewed right at the end of her composite piece – here.

Boyd Tonkin at theartsdesk.com also gave a rave review and shows some lovely photos – here.

Both Janie and I nodded off at times – that is a compliment in a way because the music was so relaxing. In truth, The Well Tempered Clavier is not, to my taste, the most interesting work for listening rapt with attention. But it is delightfully easy on the ear if you listen to relax. This performance was a classic of a classic; it was just wonderful to end our day with it.

Janie took her own photos when Schiff took his well-deserved standing ovation and bow:

More…more…more…
No encore? Humph…just kidding!

A very special evening – thanks again, Joyce!

Drinks and Nibbles With The Dedanists’ Society, The Estorick Collection, Islington, 5 September 2017

To Islington for a Dedanists’ Society fundraising event to raise funds for the The British Real Tennis Academy.

The event was held at The Estorick Collection…

...housed in a Georgian villa set in its own garden.  The galleries and garden will be open to all.  On show will be a new exhibition of the graphic designs of Franco Grignani (art as design 1950-90) and the gallery's standing collection of early 20th century Italian art.
An example of the Franco Grignani

Janie took most of the photographs. The tale of the evening is mostly well-told in pictures.

An example of the early 20th century Italian art

Toni Friend (not to be confused with her realist/dedanist/husband Tony Friend) joined us for the evening, which was most enjoyable.

Me and Toni posing quite convincingly as proper art aficionados

Actually we spent the first hour or 90 minutes of the evening not looking at the art at all – the evening was blessed with fine late summer weather, so we spent plenty of time early evening in the garden chatting with Dedanists – many of whom I know from the short time I have been playing real tennis. An interesting and pleasant group of people for a party.

There was fizz and some very tasty nibbles – prosciutto wrapped around grissini sticks and some buffalo mozzarella with tomato nibbly-things to help soak up the grape juice.

After surveying the galleries and chatting with people some more, we ventured back into the garden after dark, to find the look of the exterior of the house and the garden even more magical in artificial light. The last few photographs, which we took just before we left, show that magical quality

Some interesting work in the garden too
Janie does her Narcissus thing
See how beautiful the Georgian architecture looks…
…with modern illumination to set it off
One last snap of me and Toni as we leave the beautiful house and garden
I had prepared a light repast at the flat for me and Janie, passing on the Turkish meal which many of the Dedanists went on to enjoy after the party. I was to play real tennis the next day and then spend the following three at Lord’s eating, drinking and watching cricket, so light seemed right.