Four Days In A Row At Lord’s For Either Tennis, Cricket Or Both, 18 to 21 September 2017

No, not bageled at tennis

Monday 18 September 

After work, I went to Lord’s for my long-awaited round of 16 tournament fixture, tennis racket and baroq-ulele in hand.

The least said about my performance at tennis the better. I wasn’t bageled in either set is about as far as “the positives” will go. Perhaps I would have played better tennis with my baroq-ulele than with my racket.

Afterwards I went on to DJs place for a very enjoyable guitar/baroq-ulele jam.

Tuesday 19 September

A day of county cricket between Middlesex and Lancashire at Lord’s with Escamillo Escapillo. After an early visit to the gym, I got to Lord’s a few minutes after play had started. Middlesex were batting and had lost two early wickets by the time I got to HQ. Things didn’t improve for Middlesex that first hour, with four early wickets going down.

We had an excellent lunch of roast beef baps and salad from the Long Room bar; Escamillo’s idea and treat to spare me the picnic preparation. A superb idea it was too.

It was an excellent day of company and cricket, the latter of which got better, then worse, then better again for Middlesex. Escamillo seemed a little conflicted, as a Lancashire supporter who nevertheless wanted to see Middlesex survive in the first division.

At the end of the day, Escamillo Escapillo joined me as a guest at the sponsors’ party in the Thomas Lord Suite, which was very pleasant. I scored a half case of wine in the raffle, which put paid to any thoughts of walking home after the party.

Wednesday 20 September

Early start, as I had agreed to play the real tennis equivalent of a “naughty boy net” at 9:00 (a doubles partnering Mark Ryan) and needed to prepare my share of the Charley The Gent Malloy picnic before heading to Lord’s. Charley and I had agreed to share the picnic duties.

The above photograph shows my share of the picnic, which includes several food items which were to be the subject of foodie debates which, I hope, will form future King Cricket pieces, which will be linked here if/when published.

I performed well in my naughty-boy doubles and got changed in time to secure good seats for me and Chas before Chas arrived, a few minutes after the start of play. Middlesex took a wicket while I was signing Chas into the pavilion.

Charley, being an Essex supporter, was able to give his full support to Middlesex today, as Essex had already won the county championship last week.

We nibbled little during the morning, as I had a tennis singles at 13:00. Chas came and watched some of that match, which went very well for me.

When I returned to the pavilion, the sides were off for bad light and Chas was chatting with a blind member who was visiting with a partially-sighted pal who was enjoying a day at Lord’s for the first time. Delightful company, those two were.

Much like my day with Escamillo yesterday, Chas and I retired to the Warner Stand for the second half of the day. More comfortable seating than the pavilion and a similar view. Nice coffee available in that new stand too.

The centrepiece of my share of the picnic is there to be seen in the above photo; the centrepiece of Chas’s picnic was a plentiful supply Dot’s speciality corned beef baps.

Colin, who used to be on the Warwickshire committee and who acted as my guide at Edgbaston earlier in the season, joined us for a while, enabling some good chat including reminiscence of many Edgbaston visits passim.

Middlesex got into a good position but then subsided in the second innings to leave the match tantalisingly poised overnight.

How quickly the season has been and gone, Chas and I agreed, as we parted company at cricket for the last time in 2017.

I supped on a couple of Dot;s corned beef baps with salad.

Thursday 21 September

Working at home today, while following the latter stages of the Middlesex v Lancashire match. I went to the gym mid morning and heard some of the match on the radio; a couple of early wickets for Middlesex not quite settling my nerves, but improving my outlook for the match. It was a tight finish, but Middlesex were ahead of the curve in taking wickets for most of the day.

Here is a link to the scorecard and Cricinfo resource on the match.

Soon after Middlesex won the match, it started to rain. Not long after that, I set off for Lord’s to play in the quarter-finals of the doubles tournament.

My good performances from the day before did not translate into performance in the big match that mattered. It was a tough fixture, especially as my doubles partner had been on holiday and therefore not played for a few weeks. We fought hard but came second, so that is the end of the internal tournament season for me.

As I left Lord’s that evening, I ran into several members of the Lord’s staff who had clearly been in end of season goodbyes mode for the last few hours with members leaving the ground after the last professional cricket match of the season.  “Winter well”, “see you next year”, that sort of tone.

“See you Tuesday”. I responded. That’s when I’ll be back at Lord’s, picking up again on the fragments of my so-called real tennis career.

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).

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.

Day/Night Test Match, England v West Indies, Edgbaston, 17 to 19 August 2017

After a super meal at Colbeh – reported here – and a good night’s sleep at the Eaton Hotel, Daisy and I would have been fit and ready to walk to Edgbaston for an 11:00 start…

…but this was a day/night test match, so instead I arranged to have a music lesson with Ian Pittaway in Stourbridge. It bucketed down with rain on the way to Stourbridge, which made me wonder whether Edgbaston would be fit for cricket by 14:00, but I needn’t have worried. Day/Night One of the match turned out to be a very sunny although slightly chilly affair.

Daisy and I walked to the ground in dry, improving weather. Security was tight but well organised this year, so we joined the others at about 13:40. The others were Charley The Gent Malloy, The Boy Malloy, Nigel “Father Barry” White and Harsha Goble.

Mrs Malloy had made a splendid picnic for us all, consisting mostly of an extremely plentiful supply of big bap sandwiches. Chas went into major-domo mode, insisting that we tuck in at regular intervals, saying:

“I cannot report back to Dot that any of these sandwiches remained uneaten.”

At the end of Day One I sent some thoughts about our day/night experience to King Cricket, who published my thoughts along with those of others –  click here.

Daisy took loads of pictures, which you can see on Flickr – click here – a sample of which are shown below.

 

A shot from the first session
Things seemed to be going England’s way
Lunch at four in the afternoon? Getaway!
Shadows lengthen on the Eric Hollies Stand opposite

After the instruction “Nessun Dorma” (reported on King Cricket), Daisy stayed awake to take the following lovely shot after sunset:

Stunning, although it looks a bit René Magritte

The weather forecast for Day Two was not so special – indeed it was obvious that the weather would close in sometime between 19:00 and 20:00 and there would then be no further play that day.

Daisy, Nigel and I went over to Chas and Nick’s hotel on that Day two morning, hatching a plan that we should eat relatively light at the ground that day with a view to eating a good meal together in Colbeh to make up for the session of cricket that we looked likely to lose. If the weather by chance relented, we could always stay at the ground and eat from the selection of increasingly interesting and decent food outlets at Edgbaston these days.

Daisy captures the look of the pink ball on the big screen

Harsha had, unfortunately, needed to return to London for a funeral on the Friday, but was expecting to arrive back at Edgbaston around 19:00.

The rain arrived as expected around 19:30. We had redirected Harsha towards the “dining at Colbeh rather than watching the rain come down” plan.

Much better than sitting at Edgbaston watching the rain

Once again, Colbeh was excellent.

In truth, it was great to have the opportunity to have a meal together and “chew the fat” after the cricket – this aspect (which would normally be absent for a day/night match) is the biggest down side to such match timing…the colder evenings being less of an issue, although…

…Day Three did turn out to be a chilly day.

Daisy and I walked to the ground all three days; Day Three being the most pleasant walking conditions of the three – sunny but a tad cooler than Day One.

We saw an interesting sight on the way to the ground:

An Ethiopian Orthodox Service at St Georges Church on a Saturday
It looked half service, half church fete.
Dawid Malan fielding right in front of us…I don’t think he spotted me!
There was some freezing cold business with lads behind us clearly not dressed for the occasion and divesting themselves of what little clothing they had
Members of the Mexican community behind the Eric Hollies Stand looked more suitably dressed for a chilly day/night match…
…members of the Flintstone community behind the Eric Hollies Stand less so.

England were all over the West indies like a rash on Day Three. Here is the Cricinfo summary of the  match.

The others bailed out before the end of the match, as Chas, Nick and Harish were travelling home that night and Nigel wanted a lift back to the hotel.

We’d all had a good time – three days had just flown by.

Daisy and I stuck it out until the last ball – the first time I had ever seen a whole first class match, let alone a test:

Close to the last moments of the game

Gosh it was cold by the end; we thought about bailing out a couple of times, but then a wicket would fall. We walked back to the Eaton Hotel that night to warm ourselves up, which worked rather well.

A very one-sided match but also a very enjoyable few days.

A Day With The Deacons, Music Exchange & Lord’s, 8 August 2017

Paul Deacon got in touch to say that he and his family would be over from Canada about this time and that he quite fancied a visit to Record & Tape Exchange for old time’s sake – click here for insight into those days of yore – as one element of a meet up. Some cricket at Lord’s wouldn’t go amiss either.

We concluded that 8 August would be the best day for this – my timings were completely flexible (apart from a hot date with the Mrs in the evening) and it was Day 3 of the county match between Middlesex & Warwickshire; that seemed a good bet.

With the Deacons scheduled to arrive at the flat at 12:00, I had time to write up the events of 25 years ago – the day Janie and I met – click here – and also get to the gym for a decent work out.

I hadn’t met Christine or Anya before, but it almost felt as though we all knew each other from the outset. We had some tea and a chat at the flat, while Paul studied my singles collection – there are indeed a few dozen singles yet to digitise from those old Slipped Disc visits and my dad’s serendipitous purchases – another autumn/winter task.

The girls fancied a bite of lunch, so we dropped them off at Paul Rhodes while Paul and I strolled down a few doors further and down memory lane at Music Exchange.

Paul, game face on, studies singles, while I browse albums – just like the old days

We had a look upstairs and in the bargain basement, but Paul only bought a handful from the ground level selection:

Unlike the old days, only Paul purchases anything and only a few discs

There are some more Music Exchange photos on Flickr – click here.

After a quick reviving snack in Paul Rhodes with the girls, we then hot-footed it to Lord’s.

I hadn’t kept up with cricket events at all during the day, but knew from my visit to Lord’s and the Meet The Players Party the previous day, that the pitch had flattened out quite a lot. So my fears from Day One, when 20 wickets fell, that there might not be much/any play on Tuesday afternoon were surely unfounded…

…or were they?…

…I tapped in to Cricinfo on the way to the ground and exclaimed, “oh no! Middlesex have collapsed. We’re nine down. We probably won’t see any cricket at all.”

But we were only 10 minutes from the ground and we managed to navigate the formalities to get The Deacons in the Allen Stand gap to see some cricket. Between overs, we even got into the pavilion for the last few overs before the inevitable ending came. So the Deacons were actually in the Long Room to witness the end of the match and the traditional end of match civilities. In many ways, that made it an extra special treat for the Deacons. It would have been more special for me had it been a Middlesex win.

Still, that meant we had plenty of time and less distraction for an informal tour of Lord’s, starting with the grand tour of the pavilion itself.

I didn’t realise when we arranged the day, but Anya plays cricket at school in Canada – I imagined that she’s be largely unfamiliar with the game – so the Lord’s visit was quite special for her.

Paul and Anya on the Pavilion terrace, “borrowed” with thanks from Paul’s Facebook photo stack

Janie arrived just a few minutes after the match had finished – she seems to make a bit of a habit of doing that for county championship matches – we finally tracked her down after some comedy business where Janie must have sort of been following us around the pavilion without us actually meeting up.

Me, Christine and Anya just before Janie tracked us down, pushing the “no photos in the pavilion” rule to its limits, “borrowed” with thanks from Paul’s Facebook photo stack

With Janie, we went and looked at the Lord’s Shop and the Cricket Academy, walked back round the ground making a full circuit, had a quick look at the real tennis court and then retired to the Bowler’s Bar in the pavilion for a well-deserved drink.

Paul’s words and more pictures can be found on Paul’s Facebook posting – here.

The afternoon had gone so quickly. We all had evening events to get to; Anya had arranged to see some old pals south of the river, Paul and Christine were meeting some friends for an evening at Ronnie Scott’s, while Janie and I had our hot anniversary date to get to.

A multi-serlfie by Paul, back at the flat, using shelf and timer, “borrowed” with thanks from Paul’s Facebook photo stack

It was a really enjoyable day; one of those special gatherings that will live long in the memory and which brought back plenty of other memories too.

Z/Yen Team Outing To See Middlesex Hammered By Hampshire At Lord’s, 3 August 2017

Lord’s Resplendent Early Evening, Photograph by Alexandra Karathodorou

For several years, the traditional fixture for the annual Z/Yen visit to Lord’s has been a Middlesex v Surrey match, ever since the Z/Yen Awayday during which Garry Sobers watched the Z/Yen team play cricket – click here for that story; most years the T20 game.

But this year, several key people were unavailable for the Middlesex v Surrey T20 fixture whereas, unusually, most people were available on 3 August for the Middlesex v Hampshire game.

Our Z/Yen contingent contained representatives from across the globe, ranging from “home of cricket” places such as India and Middlesex, through moderately-cricketing places such as Nepal to places where cricket is a rarity, such as the USA, Greece, Germany and Surrey. (I couldn’t help myself).

On this occasion, pretty much everyone got behind Middlesex (why not) although Linda, with her Southampton F.C. connection, felt torn between the two sides.

But we had to forgive Linda, because she had brought the food. Loads of it. Following the success of Xueyi’s Chinese picnic choices last year, Linda had returned to Xueyi’s recommended place and mostly stocked up with delicious Chinese nibbles.

Linda Likes Her Food Choices, Photograph By Alexandra Karathodorou

There was a good crowd at the match and a very jolly atmosphere. Unlike last year’s good close match, Middlesex, a depleted side by this stage of the tournament this year, didn’t put up much of a fight – click here for scorecard.

Possibly the most interesting moment on the field of play was towards the end, when a fox invaded the pitch. How it got through Lord’s security without a ticket and (worse) entered a hallowed part of Lord’s inappropriately attired is anybody’s guess.

Z/Yen At Lord’s Under Lights, Photograph By Alexandra Karathodorou

But in many ways these outings are as much about being convivial team picnic outings as they are about the cricket. The weather smiled on us; a mixture of sun and clouds, but no rain. The Lord’s experience is always charming and special – and because we chose to come a bit later in the season than usual, Z/Yen people got to see Lord’s properly under lights when it got dark, which is differently special.

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.

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”.

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.

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.