What could be nicer than a family gathering in rural Buckinghamshire for the Sunday repast?
Escamillo Escapillo and Lavender suggested a few possible dates to us. We chose this one because Escamillo’s aunt and uncle, Sue and Alan, were going to be staying with them. We’d met Sue and Alan at the wedding and got on well with them, so this seemed like a great opportunity for a gathering.
The youngsters chose The Plough at Cadsden – just a few miles up the road from their place. Neither Daisy nor I had heard of it, but according to its web site it is “probably the most famous Pub in England” and “[t]he Pub of Choice of Prime Ministers for many decades”.
Indeed, Escamillo took great pride in reporting that The Plough was the very pub in which David Cameron, famously, accidentally abandoned one of his children, a few days after Escamillo and Lavender’s wedding. Daisy and I made a mental note of how many people were in our party and therefore how many people we would needed to count as we left, to ensure that we were still complete.
We had a short debate on what to call the meal in question; lunch or dinner. With three Lancastrians and three southerners at the table, that match was always going to end as a draw. Given the portion sizes in The Plough. it was basically going to be a one proper meal day for all of us, whatever we called it.
We all decided to have a main and a desert, on the advice of Escamillo and Lavender who warned us about the portion sizes and suggested that the desserts were especially sproggy and good; they were right. The main course specials of the day revolved around roasts (surprise surprise on a Sunday). Daisy plumped for lamb while I plumped for pork. The others went for beef (mostly) or chicken. I went for the death by chocolate brownie and ice cream dessert which was very yummy and was the majority choice. Daisy went for apple pie and custard, which she said was also very good.
We talked a lot about cricket over lunch; Alan and Sue are very keen on it. Their reminiscences about the Lancashire leagues of old and their thoughts about the London Cricket Trust project, with which I’m now involved, were very interesting and insightful. We also all talked about county championship and test match cricket rather a lot.
Here is a photograph of all of us at table after the meal, with thanks to the nice waitress.
I am delighted to report that, on leaving The Plough, we took numerical stock and all six of us were still together. No-one got abandoned in The Plough or even in the grounds outside it when we all drove off. This I think proves beyond doubt that we could run the country better than David Cameron and his bunch of cronies.
Anyway, we’d had a really enjoyable meal and get together. I hope we get a chance to get together again soon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It has to be said that, up until this day, our attempts over the years, with Lavender and Escamillo Escapillo, to watch Middlesex and Lancashire play cricket, had been soggy experiences to say the least.
Indeed, previous attempts by just me and Escamillo Escapillo to watch our respective counties play each other had been thwarted for one reason or another until last season, where we managed to squeeze in a half day – Ogblogged here.
We aimed to get to the ground in time for the start, but hadn’t counted on the local Sunday trading laws, so although M&S (other sources of sandwiches, crisps and water are available) opens at 10:30, it doesn’t actually open the tills until 11:00.
Shopping is not something I like to do; I like to buy things I want/need, I don’t like to shop. So 10:35 to 11:00 that morning was not the most enjoyable/memorable part of the day. I won’t be making that mistake again on a Sunday morning.
Still, we had the Escamillo-mobile on stand-by, so we were still inside the ground and wandering around by 11:20.
We took up good front row seats in our chosen position quite quickly. Soon after that, Daisy got quite shirty with me because I didn’t want to start drinking at 12:00 on a Sunday. Escamillo Escapillo was driving anyway and I knew what was coming later, so we left it to the girls to start drinking that early in the day.
There were quite a few Middlesex supporters around on the Sunday – some came and sat quite close to us. Soon after lunch was called by the umpires, Barmy Kev came and joined us for a while.
Barmy Kev didn’t take it upon himself to remind me that I owe him a drink or three and I don’t need reminding. But I didn’t want to drink that early in the day; I knew what was coming later, plus I didn’t want to reciprocate Barmy Kev’s generous hospitality at Lord’s with the less salubrious (I really mean less expensive) offerings at the Trafalgar Ground.
Meanwhile Escamillo Escapillo and Lavender were both as happy as Larry; the former because Lancashire were doing well in the match, the latter because EE was as happy as Larry and she was getting a bit merry with Daisy on the fermented grape juice.
“So who is the third man?” I hear readers up and down the land asking, as we are now several paragraphs on from me setting that puzzle.
If that makes no sense to you, click the blithering link where the strangeness is explained. The long and short of it is that John Easom at Keele Alumni Central put me and Frank back in touch with each other and when I told Frank that we would be coming to Southport for the cricket in a couple of week’s time, he responded by saying that he had been half-planning to show up at that match anyway.
We’d bought plenty of sandwiches for everyone, while Frank wanted us to know unequivocally that, while we were visitors on his patch, he was going to buy the drinks aplenty. Perhaps there is some sort of by-law about this for Merseyside.
Escamillo Escapillo was becoming even happier than Larry, despite sticking strictly to driver’s lemonade, as Lancashire’s position went from good to seemingly impregnable. Lavender likewise for both of the reasons expressed earlier.
As tea came round, so the young couple said their goodbyes to us, as planned; they were heading home that afternoon/evening, whereas Daisy and I were staying on the extra night.
Frank said that he too would only stick around for another hour or so after the young couple left, but that was plenty of time for us to finish catching up with some of our news, swap some old stories and discuss the current political maelstrom.
In addition to his generosity with the drinks, Frank seems to have decided that I should be the curator of his Keele picture memorabilia, handing me an envelope with a few photographs, all of which will find their way onto Ogblog when I write up the relevant stories but can now all (all seven) be seen on Flickr, click here.
It was a really lovely day – at last Daisy and I have spent some time actually watching cricket with Lavender and Escamillo Escapillo – indeed it had been a lovely weekend with them. The years just fell away chatting with Frank; I do hope to see him again soon, probably in London next time.
We agreed that the weather forecast for Saturday looked shocking and (I thought) agreed that a day out in Liverpool would be a good substitute for sitting around in (probably) vain hope of any cricket. We also agreed to liaise in the morning.
About 9:00 a.m. Daisy received a text from Lavender to say that, as the weather was so poor, they had decided to take the train to Blackpool for the day.
“What’s Blackpool like?” asked Daisy.
“I’ve never been on a wet June day and I’m not about to either,” was my reply, “what the hell was wrong with the Liverpool idea; I thought we’d all agreed a plan last night?”
Daisy phoned Lavender to ascertain that she had, in fact, confused the names Blackpool and Liverpool. The whole of the north of England is just one huge swathe of vaguely-named towns and cities to some people.
So we were as one with the plans and headed off to Southport railway station. For the princely sum of £5.10 each we were awarded the freedom of the Wirral and Northern Lines for the day.
We ran into some Middlesex supporters as we went to board our train. They seemed to think there might be play from 11:30 and wondered why we were fleeing town. The truth will have dawned on them as the day panned out – there was no cricket at all that day.
From Liverpool Central, we headed towards Albert Docks; our first stop being the Tate Liverpool. Daisy took some photos along the way.
We were really impressed with the Tate Liverpool and spent quite some time there.
We started with the Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus exhibition. I’m not 100% sure about the connection between Blake and Emin – this seemed to me more a marketing ploy than a genuine connection – but I had never actually seen the Tracey Emin bed before, nor had I ever seen so many William Blake pictures gathered in one place. Well worthwhile.
We then went through the upper floor (i.e. same level as the Emin/Blake) of Constellations – which is the main regular exhibition at Tate Liverpool. We all enjoyed that enormously but felt in need of a sit down and some refreshment at that stage, so we went to the cafe for a while and then looked at the rest of Constellations.
Buoyed by our refreshments, we wandered round the block to the Beatles Experience, where there were long queues and a rather touristic look to the place, so we decided to go to the Cavern Club instead but, before leaving the docks area, to take Mike O’Farrell’s advice and visit the International Slavery Museum . I’m really glad we did.
I find it hard to try and articulate how that International Slavery Museum made me/us feel. It is very interesting. Some of it is shocking, not least the matter-of-fact inventories and documentation that makes it so clear that people were seen as commercial commodities. But much of first section of the museum is a wealth of information on the African culture from which so many of the slaves came and much of the last section is a celebration of the modern culture that has emerged through the descendants of former slaves.
One especially thought-provoking section is about modern slavery – in particular sex workers – which reminded me that slavery in all its horrible forms has not entirely gone.
Between the museums and the Cavern Club, we wanted to see Judy Chicago’s Fixing A Hole mural, at Stanley Dock near the Titanic Hotel. We took a cab there, on the advice of some helpful police-folk:
We didn’t hang around in the plush Titanic Hotel, nor the Stanley Dock. We were told we’d have no trouble getting a cab to the Cavern up on Great Howard Street, but we walked 5 minutes or more along that road without a sniff of a cab.
Chris cleverly suggested that we try Regent Road (along the side of the Mersey) instead. That worked rapidly…and we landed up with a Scouse cabby from central casting who told us his life story, how many he smokes and yet how far he walks, tales of seeing John Lennon’s ghost, everything he thought we ought to see in Liverpool…you get the picture. He was great.
We decided to head for a train between 18:00 and 18:15 to get us back to Southport in time to freshen up before dinner.
Dinner was at a family-run Italian restaurant named Volare, about 30 seconds crawl on hands and knees (not that we did it that way) from the hotel. The food was excellent and the staff helpful/friendly. The highlight (or perhaps low-light) of the evening was towards the end, when the staff with great fanfare played “Happy Birthday To You” at full volume over the sound system and presented a rather embarrassed-looking lady at the table behind me with a candle-lit tiramisu.
Unbeknown to me, Daisy signalled to the staff that it was also my birthday (which of course it wasn’t), so five minutes later they went through the rigmarole again for me, much to my discomfort and the glee of the other three. I shall exact my revenge; don’t know where, don’t know when, but the dish will be served cold.
In truth, we’d done many interesting things and had a lot of fun that day, despite most of it being distinctly “Plan B” activity.
Unusually, it was me who spotted this exhibition, in The Week, suggesting to Janie (who loves Zaha Hadid’s designs) that we should find time to see this exhibition before it comes off.
As we’d arranged to meet Lavender (Charlie) and Escamillo Escapillo (Chris) for dinner in Marylebone on the Friday, it seemed sensible for us to finish a bit early and take in the exhibition ahead of dinner.
The plan worked brilliantly. We arranged for Janie to get to mine at 16:00, which meant that she actually arrived just before 17:00, which in truth still gave us bags of time to see the small exhibition at leisure, wend our way gently to Marylebone on foot and still be a bit early for dinner.
Janie was originally a bit reluctant to walk all the way from the Serpentine to Marylebone, as it was a chilly evening, but once we got walking, she realised that it is a pleasing walk through Bayswater and Marylebone; worth it.
We had bags of time, so took in some shop windows and even open shops along the way. Neals Yard for some posh smellies and a bizarre tea shop with fancy tea pots, where Janie was finally able to replace a little glass pot in the style she likes to serve to her clients…jees she spoils them.
As we walked in, we saw, sitting very prominently at a table in the bar downstairs, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, holding court with some other besuited gentleman. I’m pretty sure he was spouting some very large numbers, but through the buzz of the downstairs bar I couldn’t tell if he was saying, “twelve billion” or “twelve trillion”. Nor could I tell whether that was pounds, dollars, euros or Indonesian Rupiah. Nor did I hear what the massive number referred to. Still, it’s always good to have heard it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Janie and I were grateful to be shown straight to our table upstairs, which was a large one and upstairs was much quieter at that hour. Soon enough the other two arrived.
Janie started with foie gras, I started with tuna three ways and the youngsters started with scallops. Janie and I both had the signature 100 layers lasagne, while Lavender had the lobster tagliolini and Escamillo Escapillo the sea bass. The food was all very good indeed.
Neither of the youngsters were drinking much; Lavender not at all (tut-tut; dry January hadn’t been invented when we were her age) and Escamillo Escapillo just one glass ahead of driving home from the station. Janie and I felt like lushes by downing a couple of glasses each over the evening.
Everyone was on good form, so we had a good chat about life, the universe and everything without letting much family-sh*t enter the conversation. Quite right on a Friday evening out too.
Kindly, the young couple absolutely insisted on picking up the bill, citing the “our turn” protocol, despite torrents of protest, in particular from Janie, who knows how to dole out generosity far better than she knows how to receive it. At one point I thought we might need the Governor of the Bank of England to arbitrate, but Janie eventually caved in and in any case Mark Carney had probably long-since left the place.
It was a very enjoyable late afternoon and evening all round.
Unusually, I spent Thursday night at the house, as the kitchen ceiling at the flat was being done over the Thursday/Friday.
I spent a couple of hours first thing, working on my latest “why Brexit would be an act of collective commercial and geopolitical seppuku” article.
Then I set off by tube for a mixed day of peripatetic work and leisure. First stop; Lord’s for a game of real tennis. I thought I played well again today; perhaps starting to get my head round some of the tactics needed to win big points and close out games.
I didn’t hang around too long at Lord’s, as I wanted to visit Lock and Co. before meeting Chris Harrison for lunch. My beaten up old Chepstow trilby really had become an embarrassment and yet was still a favourite hat; I probably wanted a direct replacement. I tried a few different ones, but basically concluded that in the Chepstow “I look like me” so went for it.
About 150 yards down the road, as I was walking past St James’s Palace, I walked past two young American women, one of whom said to me (without pausing for breath in the middle of her conversational sentence with her friend), “I really like your hat”, which I felt endorsed my buying decision.
Another 150 yards towards Chris’s offices, I am crossing The Mall at the pelican crossing there and I see a cyclist, who has stopped for me at the lights, who looked the spitting image of Boris Johnson. On closer inspection, I realised that it WAS Boris. “You’ve made a really bad call to go for Brexit, Boris”, I said, “a shocking and dangerous decision. Think about the geopolitics of it. Think about the world”.
“No I haven’t, no it isn’t” mumbled Boris as we parted company. I wonder whether I made him think at all? I wonder whether he liked my hat?
A delightful lunch with Chris, at which I handed over his ticket for Friday at the test. A small family-run Italian place near his offices; I had a very tasty seafood pasta. Good strong coffee afterwards too. I had texted Janie to let her know that I had accosted Boris in the street, so she phoned to make sure that I wasn’t joking and/or hadn’t had a psychotic episode. Chris and I wondered why Boris was cycling away from the Commons at lunchtime and where he might have been going.
After lunch, a tube ride to Hammersmith and time to do a spot more on the Brexit paper before my one client meeting of the day, which went very well. Then a simple tube ride back to North Ealing, beating Janie back to the house by a good few minutes.
After clearing my e-mails, it was time for a little ukulele practice with Benjy the Baritone Ukulele, who thus photo-bombed the above picture of me sporting my new hat. Janie and I then enjoyed an unusually early Persian food supper from Boof, a very good local Persian place.
Nigel “Jim Hawkins” Thorpe teased me when I suggested that Liam Plunkett could bat – I think Charley joined in the teasing, so I was very pleased when Plunkett demonstrated his batting skills with a nice cameo;
There were two players named Jayawardene playing for Sri Lanka that match. We tried to get a chant of “two Jayawardenes, there are only two Jayawardenes” going, but strangely that idea didn’t take off at Lord’s. Pity, really.
The diary is a bit sparse on what we actually did:
18 February Lord’s @18:00;
26 February Nets & Dinner 6:00;
12 March (Nets) 7:00 to 8:00.
The e-mail is not much additional help – me to E 14 March:
Very much enjoyed Friday evening nets and supper at Harry’s. Many thanks for treating us to the latter.
In the nets, I have a feeling we worked with Moses (Hallam Mosely) on most of those sessions. He taught me how to pivot to get a bit more umph on my deliveries.
I’m pretty sure Chas was still injured at that time, which is why he didn’t join us for nets that winter. My correspondence with him around that time is prely business related.
I’m pretty sure the girls joined us for the last two – i.e. both of the Friday evenings. Daisy recalls a restaurant in Marylebone on 26 February – we might dig out her diary or trawl Lavender’s memory for the details, but I think we treated the youngsters that night and then they treated us to Harry’s 12 March.
Further details might follow, if Daisy’s diary or the youngsters’ memories bear more fruit.
Not Marylebone 26 February, but The Cow on Westbourne Park Road – well remembered Escamillo & Lavender. Yes, we all agree, Harry’s for the second evening together.