A Miscellaneous, Mostly Middlesex, Day At Lord’s, 7 April 2016

I’m using some of my own time to help Middlesex CCC with its strategic planning. Richard Goatley, the new Chief Executive thought that AGM day would be a good opportunity to see lots of people, so I blocked out the whole day for Lord’s, starting there at 9:30, after clearing my e-mails and going to the gym.

I could describe the detailed conversations that morning with the MCC and ECB, but they are probably covered by the “I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you” protocol. (Unless you, dear reader, are Richard Goatley himself, in which case you wouldn’t need to read it here because you already have notes.)

After a pleasant lunch in The Lord’s Tavern, which Richard spent mostly signing forms for Dawid Malan, we met with Martin Hadland. Martin is doing a closely related piece of work around membership satisfaction and finding ways to boost membership. We went through the results of a members survey and discussed his impending focus groups with members. It all looks very well done so far and promises interesting ideas for improving the membership propositions.

I then had a pesky 90 minutes or so interval before the AGM. I had been expecting that interval, so had brought some reading matter with me. I went to the real tennis dedans viewing gallery. I shall eventually write up my new experience of learning to play real tennis. Suffice it to say here that I thought that I’d both get some reading done and also get my head into the game a little more.

I watched some very good players locked into a tight match. Then, just before 17:00, in walks a familiar face; Chris Stanton. He was in John Random’s Spring 1992 NewsRevue cast and was the lead performer on the first songs of mine that were ever performed there, two of which I have today blogged in honour of the chance encounter:

Chris and I had a very pleasant but brief chat, as his opponent turned up shortly after. I watched Chris play for a while, then left the viewing gallery to whizz through my e-mails before going to the meeting. Strangely, John Random had e-mailed one of his “Where Are They Now” messages to his NewsRevue alumni circle earlier in the day (Sarah Moyle spotted on the TV), so I e-mailed back to let everyone know that I had just seen Chris Stanton face-to-face!

Doubly ironic happenings, as real tennis is such a weird game, the rules could easily have emanated from a John Random sketch describing a fictitious game of John’s imagining. Richard Goatley doesn’t even believe that the game exists, despite the proximity of the Lord’s real tennis court to Richard’s office – like, next door!

I subsequently received the following missive from Random:

What a great idea. Real tennis is presumably the one where you don’t use the same prescriptions as Maria Sharapova.

 

My reply:

Absolutely not the same meds as Maria – she took Meldonium.  The performance enhancing drug of choice for real tennis is Sanatogen.

As a novice, I am sometimes asked to play with some of the more senior members – one pair I was up against when learning doubles had a combined age of around 178 and they are determined to still be playing next year as the world’s first ever nonagenarian tennis pair. Their secret simply has to be Sanatogen.

Next stop, the AGM. The formal part is covered by the aforementioned “I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you” protocol. Believe me, the substance of a Middlesex AGM is not worth dying for, nor even worth the effort to attend were it not for the subsequent elements to the evening.

Suffice it to say that new Chair, Mike O’Farrell, while not as funny as outgoing Chair, Ian Lovett, ran a tight ship for the AGM, getting through the meeting with all business thoroughly covered and in record time. One type of gem replacing another type of gem in the chair; that’s my view.

The AGM is always followed by a very interesting pre-season forum; this year Angus Fraser, Dawid Malan and Richard Scott joined Richard Goatley on the panel for a very interesting discussion about cricket. Apparently Middlesex is a cricket club. I wish I’d realised that when I started work on the Middlesex strategy. Oh well.

Then a very enjoyable party for those members willing to stump up an ayrton for wine, cheese and a convivial opportunity to catch up with friends, grandees and friendly grandees. After the party, the conviviality was set to continue in the Tavern. Tired, I attempted to make my apologies, keen not to become both tired AND emotional. I explained that the metaphorical umpire’s finger had been raised, so I had no option but to go. It is very hard for cricket lovers to object to you going, when you put it like that.

A fruitful day, a lovely chance encounter and a most enjoyable evening.

 

An Afternoon At Lord’s, Followed By The Seaxe Club AGM and Panel, 30 March 2016

Janie and I have booked a series of wine tastings this spring, the first of which was due to be this evening, so I was disappointed when the Seaxe Club papers came through with 30 March as the AGM/panel date; I always look forward to this event.

Then a fortunate change to the schedule for the wine tastings; the 30 March one has had to be postponed. Equally fortunate was the opportunity to play real tennis that afternoon; originally a one hour gig which in fact turned into a double-header. I shall write more about my experience learning to play real tennis in the fullness of time.

On this occasion, the big thing I learnt about real (or indeed probably any form of) tennis was that two hours on the trot is an exertion too far for me nowadays. It didn’t help falling over on that hard slate floor half-an-hour into the session in a most inglorious fashion – while clearing balls from the net gully into the ball basket. Both knees and my left shoulder are still bruised 10 days later. But in any case, I’m no longer the lad who could play five-setters of modern tennis against the Great Yorkshire Pudding (for example) for hours on end with seemingly no adverse effects.

When I started my two-hour court session, England looked to be on the wrong-end of the ICC World Twenty20 semi-final, with the Kiwis only one down, with 60 or 70 on the board in about 8 overs. But when I emerged after two hours, England looked to be cruising on 100/1 or so off 10 with only 154 to chase. I resolved to change slowly and follow the end of the match on the wonderfully well-positioned TV in the changing room.

While following the end of England’s successful semi-final, I chatted briefly with a visiting squash player from the West Midlands and latterly with Paul Cattermull, a friend and colleague from many years gone by. I had no idea that Paul was a real tennis aficionado or even an MCC member until he entered that changing room. Paul and I had time both to catch up and for him to give me some useful tips about the game.

I also had time to watch Paul play real tennis for about 15 minutes before I needed to hobble round to the President’s Box for the Seaxe Club AGM.

The sun shone on that early evening meeting, making the field of play look an absolute picture and making that President’s Box the ideal setting for appetite-whetting for the new season.

Of course, the AGM bit of the evening is not the main draw for me; indeed I am slightly allergic to those sorts of meetings. There are two reasons why I really look forward to the Seaxe Club AGM evening.

Firstly, it is an early opportunity to see some of the lovely people who work tirelessly for Middlesex cricket in some of the less glamorous roles. Seaxe Club folk are a really nice bunch of people.

Secondly, the Seaxe Club always arranges a really interesting cricket panel for the second half of the evening. This second half should really be described as a symposium, as wine is available between the two sessions (and therefore during the panel) to help lubricate the discussions. I think of this Seaxe Club annual event as one of the best kept secrets in Middlesex, despite the fact that it is always well publicised. I have no idea why it isn’t better attended as it is always so interesting and enjoyable.

On this occasion, there was a slightly depleted panel, as the two younger players scheduled to attend with Angus Fraser were both a bit poorly that day.  Gus had press-ganged Dawid Malan into attending in their place, which was a coup. I chatted with Dawid during the “drinks interval” before the panel. He had no idea that he was about to sit on a panel – he thought he had just been asked along to show his face and have a drink with us. I warned him that the Seaxe Club audience was the toughest gig in Middlesex and that he might get some really challenging questions. But just looking around the room, he knew I was kidding him.

The panel discussion, as always, was interesting. It is usually oriented towards the younger players, as one of the Seaxe Club’s key roles is to help develop the next generation of players. This year the discussion was less youth oriented but still it was interesting to hear Gus and Dawid’s take on the preparatory work the squad has done for the new season and some more general thoughts about county cricket.

Given my exertions earlier in the afternoon, my gammy knees and my bags of kit, I decided for once to tube-it home rather than my usual method, to walk-it.

 

 

Try To Remember/The Way We Won, Middlesex v Lancashire T20 Quarter Final, Oval, 8 July 2008

“The grass was greener
The skies were bluer
And smiles were bright”

…as Gladys Knight used to put it, back in the good old days.

I’m not sure that the grass at the Oval was greener than the grass is at Lord’s, but Middlesex had to play its hard-won home quarter-final away from Lord’s, as Lord’s was already taken for a traditional match of some description; armed services, varsity, eating an arrow, or whatever.

I’m not sure the skies were bluer in SE11 than they were in NW8 either, although the Oval is that tiny bit nearer the equator than Lord’s I suppose.

My smile was especially bright, not only at the end of the match when Middlesex won, but even before the match. I know for sure that I had gleaming gnashers that day, because my trusty diary tells me that I went to see Carita, the best dental hygienist in the world, that very morning.

My smile was certainly absent about 15-20 minutes into the match. Godleman, Shah, Joyce and Scott all back in the hutch for diddly-squat; not just defeat but the prospect of embarrassing defeat loomed. Televised potentially embarrassing defeat too.

I was sitting with MTWD stalwarts in the Oval pavilion. I particularly recall Neil “Lord of the Chairs” Walker and Chris Thomas. We also saved a seat for the late Barmy Kev who I think joined us while we were in the depths of despair. Jez I seem to remember was away, hoping to get back in time, but didn’t/couldn’t show in the end.

In brief, Dawid Malan saved the day, initially with Eoin Morgan, then subsequently with Typhoon Tyron Henderson, avoiding embarrassment and then posting a challenging score. Indeed, it turned out to be a winning score.

Here is a link to the scorecard.

Here is a link to the MTWD match report, an emotive piece by LizzieJ.

The mood in our group improved, to say the least, as the evening wore on. I don’t remember all that much about it, except that huge swing of emotions as the mood turned from despair to hope and eventually joy. I’m pretty sure there was some consumption of beer, unless there was some consumption of wine. I think more likely the former or a fair bit of both.

Perhaps some of the people who were there with me that evening have better memories of it and would care to chime in with some memories.

It was one heck of an evening. And if you were a Middlesex fan, you didn’t need to have seen Carita the dental hygienist that morning for the smiles to be bright, so bright.