Lunch At Harry Morgan With Richard Goatley, Dinner At Mine With John Random and Rohan Candappa, 5 February 2015

Things were different back then, I realise at the time of writing (January 2017).

For a start, Harry Morgan was on the list of places I definitely wanted to eat, rather than (as now) a place that has gone downhill but still is my last local source of Jewish-style chicken soup and chopped liver, both of which they still do reasonably well.

Secondly, meeting up with Richard for lunch back then was simply a general catch up and chat during the cricket off-season. Richard was Deputy Chief Executive of Middlesex then and little did any of us know that he would find himself in the hot/top seat just a few months later. It’s hard to recall what we discussed; probably some aspects of the team and the clever new commercial arrangements with the MCC, which seemed to me (still seem to me) hugely beneficial for both clubs.


I now realise that the above lunch was postponed and took place on 12 March before dinner with John White – click here.

I had considered buying some “Jew food” for John and Rohan, but thought that twice in one day might be a bit much for me…and possibly that once in one day might be a bit much for them. Chopped liver is a wonderful, heart-warming dish for the initiated but can seem like a rather crude pate to the uninitiated.

So, even before Richard cancelled, I planned instead to serve them food from Tavola, Alistair “Big Al DeLarge” Little’s splendid deli. I guess I went on my way home from the gym, buying enough tempting Italian dishes, making the meal extremely quick and simple to prepare (once Al and his team have done almost all the hard work).

I know John Random from comedy writing at NewsRevue, i.e. since I was in my late twenties. I know Rohan Candappa from Alleyn’s – i.e. since I was eleven. They are both very good, very funny writers. Both are at stages of their lives/careers where the writing has taken a bit of a back seat, perhaps for too long, while providing for themselves and their families comes to the fore.

I simply thought that these two ought to know each other, without any particular agenda or ideas about why they should or what they might do about it. I also thought that it would be a pleasant evening for the three of us.

It was.

I especially recall one bit of the conversation when Rohan and I reminisced briefly about a big sporty lad at school known as Jumbo Jennings. Seemed able to turn his hand to any sport. Terrifyingly quick and bouncy bowling, I especially remember. Fiendish fives player too. John remarked that they didn’t have schools like Alleyn’s in Hartlepool, but he had always imagined that nicknames such as “Jumbo Jennings” were more the stuff of fiction than reality.

I should have instantly retorted that I’d always imagined that disappearing acts like that of John Darwin, the Hartlepool Canoe Man, were more the stuff of fiction than reality, until that fraud was exposed and we learned that John Random’s cousin was the subject of that proto fake news story.

I’m getting my witty retort in nearly two years late, aren’t I?

There was also some business with John’s bottle of Bulgarian Merlot, which I have documented in my Ivan Shakespeare note from a couple of weeks later – click here. 

An Uneventful Day Playing Fives, 9 June 1975

Without doubt my favourite game in the early days at Alleyn’s was fives. Specifically at Alleyn’s we played Rugby Fives.

It was the only sport at which I was good enough to represent the school and no doubt that selection only came through my comparative ability with the left-hand as well as the right. Let’s not call this ambidextrous, in my case more like ambiclumsy. In any case, my doubles partner was Alan Cooke and he was good. I probably got my team berth more on the back of Alan’s skills than my own.

Still, I wasn’t bad and there are lots of references to my successes and failures throughout my diaries, especially 1974 & the first half of 1975.

But looking back today, early February 2016, I thought I should write a short piece about this simple entry I found for 9 June 1975.

Uneventful day.  Beat Eltham 11-5, 11-5 in Q-Finals.

Now in my book, John Eltham was good at sport. Really good at sport. I’m not sure John played fives much, but he was generally good at sport.

I was not good at sport. Really, really, really not good at sport. There was the occasional success, of course, not least one goalkeeping tale of derring-do that I have promised not to blog about…

…for the time being…

…until I can find the reference and/or unless the promised hush money proves not to be forthcoming…

…but my point is, looking back, I don’t see how the two sentences in the above quote could possibly be talking about the same day. Beating John Eltham at any sport made it an eventful day. Heck, just having got to the Q-Finals of any sport made it an eventful day for me.

But perhaps my young mind, turned by some fleeting success, was by then looking beyond a semi-final appearance to greater glory than that achieved. The diary is silent on fives for the rest of the term, so I can only assume that the semi final which I (presumably) lost was on the same day and that I was so disappointed that I (unusually) couldn’t even bear to write down that particular losing result.

Anyone care/dare to own up to ruining this poor kid’s day by destroying his one chance at glory in the internal fives competition? I fancy a rematch.

Postscript One

John Eltham, on seeing this posting, e-mailed me the next day to say:

You modestly left out the fact that we had at least two national Rugby Fives champions in our year ! Hodson & Stendall.

Indeed we did, John. And indeed Jumbo Jennings latterly. I’d forgotten about Neil Hodson in that context.

I have a strange feeling that it might well have been Hodson who beat me in the semis – I have always had a sense of unfinished business with him and I probably would have been too gutted to report the loss. Whereas Chris Stendall was, like Alan Cooke, an old mate from primary school; I took my (more often than not) losses against them on the chin and regularly recorded those in the diary.

Postscript Two

After writing the above line “I fancy a rematch” and posting this piece, I then knelt down to put the 1975 diary back in the box under the bed and then…felt my left hammy twinge when I got up again. Perhaps a fives rematch at the age of 53 is not such a good idea after all.