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).

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.

An Impromptu Evening At Lord’s, Middlesex v Hampshire T20, plus a Quick Dinner At Crocker’s Folly, 18 June 2015

I was toying with the idea of going to Lord’s that evening, as there was a T20 match, but I hadn’t arranged to meet anyone and those matches don’t tend to make the cut for me these days unless I have made arrangements.

Then, out of the blue, an e-mail from my friend Stephen, aka “Stentor Baritone”:

I arrived back in London last night and hope to go to Lords this evening for the 20/20

Will you be there? And if so would you like a bite with me  at some time ?

Why not? Thus the arrangement was made.

Both of us thought that arriving 30 minutes or so before the start would enable us to secure good pavilion seats but none of it. I texted Stentor:

Heaving – no seats to be found – did you have more luck. I am up on the sun deck.

Within moments the reply:

So am I

…then just a few moments later we spotted each other.

We managed to find reasonable seats in the Upper Allen, near the scene of the crime of the 2009 King Cricket report I linked earlier – here’s the link again.

Stentor said he’d been meaning to try the recently refurbished Crocker’s Folly, which I was also keen to try. It is suitably close to Lord’s, so we booked a table from the comfort of the Upper Allen and toddled across at the innings break.

We had a very tasty one course meal at Crocker’s, served with due speed, once we informed Crocker’s that we were at crickers. I kept an eye on the score, within reason, once the game resumed. Stentor very generously insisted on treating me to the meal.

We missed the first 9 or 10 overs of Middlesex’s reply to Hampshire’s quite hefty score, but felt that Middlesex were making a very good fist of it when we returned to our seats at HQ.

But then some wickets fell and the result seemed in little doubt. In any case, Stentor is very much an MCC man, caring for England and good cricket, but not particularly caring fro Middlesex. So Stentor gave up and headed for home after watching for less than 30 minutes after the resumption. I bowed to the inevitable a couple of overs later, to avoid the heave of the exiting crowd. Here’s a link to the scorecard.

Still, an unexpected and very enjoyable evening in NW8, in good company.

 

Hampshire v Middlesex T20 Match, MTWD Futurology Match Report, 23 June 2009

In what appears to have been a first (and mercifully last) attempt to produce an MTWD match report before the match took place, Ged produced the following piece for MTWD.

Hawks Prove Too Much For Panthers – click here.

Just in case anything ever happens to MTWD, I have scraped the piece to Ogblog – only click the link below if the link above doesn’t work:

Middlesex till we die – Hawks Prove Too Much For Panthers

The reason I did this, I suspect, was that the match was a televised match and we hadn’t managed to find someone to commit to writing a post match report. Also, of course, because Middlesex were predictably awful in the T20 tournament that year, despite having won it the year before.

Here is a link to the predictably awful scorecard.

It certainly says something about commentator predictability and cliche, as the MTWD piece and the comments below it attest. King Cricket lovers will no doubt appreciate the sentiments.

Sunday Afternoon In Richmond With Miss Daisy, Middlesex v Hampshire T20, 22 June 2008

By the second weekend of the 2008 domestic T20 tournament, I was getting quite excited about it, as Middlesex had won five out of five matches.

Janie (Daisy) and I went to the Hampstead Theatre on the Friday evening – click here for the Ogblog piece on that.

Middlesex’s first loss of the tournament on that Friday evening – away to Kent – click here for the scorecard – did not dampen my enthusiasm. It had been a rain-affected eight-overs-a-side affair in Beckenham against one of the very best teams – anything can happen in those.

The MTWD report on the Beckenham match was a Barmy Kev classic – “Made It To Becks But No Posh” – click here. Do not click there if you are a fan of the Beckenham ground.

Anyway, Janie and I resolved for sure to go to Richmond on the Sunday, weather permitting.

The weather permitted.

Daisy and I recall conversing with a Hampshire-supporting gentleman and his young son. The gentleman was quite opinionated about cricket and spoke in very critical terms about Freddie Flintoff, suggesting that he was over-rated, divisive and that England would be better off without him. Daisy in particular argued this point with the man.

The son then persistently asked me questions about the players and cricket generally, which (with the benefit of hindsight) probably irritated the father no end, as surely dad’s opinions would have more value than those of this callow stranger.

We also recall not taking a picnic with us, as we were hoping for a Middlesex out-ground hog roast. We think this was the occasion when we arrived to find that there was no hog roast (although it might have been the occasion when the queue for hog roast was too long for us to bear). One way or another, we went roast-less. If I recall correctly, we thought about going in to Richmond after the match for some Spanish food, but decided in the end simply to go home and raid our own fridge for scraps. Tragic.

Middlesex didn’t have a great day either. Click here for the scorecard. It was a grubby pitch. We thought that the bowlers had held Hampshire to a modest, get-able score, but 133 turned out to be a good score on that pitch; too good for Middlesex.

Janie was left wondering what all the fuss was about this season; the only T20 game she had seen, Middlesex had lost, “as usual”.

The MTWD match reporter was Lizzy J. Here is a link to her report. 

I think I should explain her references to the MTWD editor’s instructions for her to investigate the colour of Nic Pothas’s underpants. It was a known fact that the Hampshire wicket-keeper, Nic Pothas, superstitiously wore different coloured underpants depending on whether he was batting, wicket-keeping, training or whatever. I had merely suggested that Lizzie attempt to get an investigative journalist’s interview with Pothas, to get to the bottom of that story (as it were). Enough said.

“We’re On Our Way To Delhi”, Hampshire v Middlesex T20 MTWD Match Report, 11 June 2008

This one’s going to take quite a bit of explaining…

Here is a link to the MTWD match report in question, authored by Hippity the Green Bunny – click here.

 

This is going to take quite a bit of explaining.

The evening of 11 June 2008 was the first Domestic T20 match of the year for Middlesex. I was editing the Middlesex Till We Die (MTWD) website along with Barmy Kev at that time.

We were finding it difficult to generate much interest for the T20 tournament among Middlesex fans – this was to be the sixth year of the tournament and Middlesex had  rarely managed to avoid humiliating defeats and low positions in the qualifying tables so far – not once had our beloved team even managed a quarter-final berth.

Indeed, to try and generate some interest, I wrote a “cut out and keep” glossary which I published that morning – click here – the piece subsequently updated but you can see by the article date and the comments that the piece originated that day.

Just in case anything ever happens to MTWD, I have scraped the pieces to Ogblog – only click the links below if the links above don’t work:

Middlesex till we die – We’re On Our Way To Delhi

Middlesex till we die – MTWD Glossary

So deep was the low interest quotient, we were struggling to find match reporters for several of the matches, including the first. I agreed to “commission Hippity” to write a piece based on listening to the internet radio for the first match, which was away in Southampton, if no-one came forward to volunteer.

Then a full day’s work (for me, not for Hippity). Clients in the morning, a dash across town to London Bridge City Pier and a Z/Yen boat trip aboard the Lady Daphne that afternoon. Also, if I recall correctly, I needed to stay on a while and entertain one or two of the guests after the boat trip before dashing home.

I must have missed much of the Middlesex innings, as this extract from my e-mail to Kevin Hand at BBC Radio London (not to be confused with Barmy Kev of MTWD) attests:

Kevin/Big Al

Enjoying your commentary tonight enormously.  Fun fun fun etc.

Problem is, I got home from work c 7:40 so missed the first 35-40 minutes of the game.

At the risk of boring less workaholic listeners, could you both update me…

“Big Al” was pace bowler Alan Richardson, who was injured at the time. Not Big Al DeLarge of my more recent King Cricket reports.

Middlesex did very well that night. Hampshire had consistently been one of the most successful teams at T20; Middlesex had gone to Southampton and was winning the game well.

I got over-excited; even the BBC commentary team got over-excited, as this later extract from my e-mails to them attests:

Kev/Al

Get a grip.

Stumped/bowled/lbw – surely you can tell the difference. From here…I would say it was probably hit wicket.

Luvvvvvvvv the commentary.

Here’s the scorecard – click here.

So I decided that “Hippity” needed to file his match report in a hurry. To generate and/or build some interest in tournament. As much as anything else, I had meetings scheduled throughout the following day and was due to go straight to that evening’s game at Lord’s with a gang of people, so the report needed to go up quickly or not at all.

Why “Hippity” got it into his bean-filled head that one win meant that Middlesex were well on their way to winning the tournament, goodness only knows, but for once his mindless optimism proved to be justified.

Why “Hippity” thought that Delhi might have anything to do with it is more of a mystery. There was a shot at the ill-fated Champions League for the top teams, but I don’t think the Indian organisers had ever intended that tournament to take place in Delhi. In the end it was scheduled for Mumbai but had to be cancelled at the last minute following a hideous terrorist incident.

Anyway, given the late hour and early start scheduled for the next day, you can imagine how much time “Hippity” spent rattling off his rah-rah piece – here’s the link again. Indeed, looking at the timings on my e-mails to live commentators and the publishing time for the piece, “Hippity” must have written it before the match had completely finished.

The only other thing that needs explaining here is Hippity’s references to Gnomic the Leprechaun. At that time, Hippity had an imaginary friend of that name, who occasionally manifested as Charles Bartlett’s toy Yoda (see photo above). That now said, the matter seems to me to be fully elucidated, entirely normal and thus requires no further explanation.