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.

Southport Day Three: County Cricket En Famille Plus A Blast From My Keele Past, 11 June 2017

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.

I wrote up our first attempt, in a light-hearted-stylee, back in 2009, for King Cricket – click here.  (That day is also Ogblogged – here).

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.

So after yesterday’s washout – delightfully filled with activities in Liverpool instead – it was a joy to see blue skies on the Sunday morning and a forecast that suggested little or no interruptions to play.

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.

Cricket En Famille – But Who Is The Third Man?

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.

The third man is Frank Dillon, a good friend from the Keele days who lives in Merseyside. The reason for his appearance is partially explained in an Ogblog piece I wrote a few weeks ago about an old school-friends gathering – click here.

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.

Cricket, wine, water, memories, news, 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.

The picture of 1980/81 committee members (including Frank)  with Robert Plant I have already added to my Ogblog piece on that story – 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.

After Frank left, Daisy and I stuck around for a few more minutes until it started to get a bit chilly again. We wandered round to the hospitality tent and got a chance to say goodbye to Keith Hayhurst and one or two others who hadn’t been around when we said our goodbyes there on Friday – click here to read about election day and Day One of this match.

Southport Day Two: A Day Out In Liverpool, Tate Liverpool, International Slavery Museum, The Cavern Club and More, 10 June 2017

On the evening of 9 June, when Daisy and I returned from the Trafalgar Ground, Southport, we had an excellent dinner with Charlotte and Chris (Lavender and Escamillo Escapillo) in The Bold Hotel restaurant.

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.

Liverpool – more front than Blackpool?

“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.

Are you SURE we weren’t in Blackpool?

We were really impressed with the Tate Liverpool and spent quite some time there.

Tate Liverpool, Albert Dock

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:

Judy Chicago’s Beatles-Inspired Mural “Fixing A Hole”

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.

That late afternoon slot on a Saturday at The Cavern Club turns out to be great fun. We saw The Shakers – one of the house bands.

Yes, it is possible for Ged to look this spaced out after just a few sips of wine and no narcotics, honestly, officer.

As always, Janie was keen to demonstrate her skills at Sixties-style dancing in a hippy-hippy-shake-stylee:

These pictures look even better in the iPhone mini vid mode, but you should get the idea from the still. Escamillo Escapillo feigns not being with Daisy.
As we leave, Daisy chats with security but does not have her collar felt.

You can see all the photos from the Southport/Liverpool trip, including a couple of Daisy’s well dodgy vids, by linking through to Flickr, here.

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.

Election Day Plus The Start Of Our Long Weekend In Southport, 8 & 9 June 2017

Escape To Southport – Sounds Like The Title Of A Superb Movie

Last time there was a general election, in 2015, Janie and I escaped to the North-West after voting, reaching North Wales overnight and reaching Dublin by noon the next day – Ogblogged here.

This time our escape on election day was coincidental – we had planned this trip to Southport weeks before the election was called.

The main purpose was to spend the weekend at the county cricket match between Lancashire and Middlesex, with Charlotte and Chris (Lavender and Escamillo Escapillo). Daisy and I decided to take advantage of my/our honoured guest status and go up to Southport a day earlier, to take in Day One of the cricket that way on the Friday.

On Thursday morning I got a wave of memories from my first ever election day, which I Ogblogged – click here.

I linked that Ogblog through Facebook and kicked off a wave of memories from old friends – here.

Little did I realise that morning, holding my nose and voting in Notting Hill (soon to be renamed The Kensington Keele-like Kremlin On The Hill) what a momentous election it was going to be.

I then went to the gym and did some thorough exercise before loading up Dumbo and heading off to the house in Noddyland (otherwise known as The Egalitarian Enclave Of Ealing).

To the extent that any faffing about on this occasion was anyone’s fault, it was mine, as Janie was sort-of ready by 11:00 but we didn’t get away until just before 12:30. Traffic was awful around Birmingham and then again as soon as we got past Keele, so the journey ended up taking us over 6 hours including pit stop at that Toll Road service station.

We had booked into The Bold Hotel in Southport and were soon put at our ease thanks to the friendly staff there, not least Kathy who helped us to sort out all those little things that need sorting out on check-in.

When investigating Southport, I had liked the look of The Vincent Hotel, although I felt that the smaller Bold might be more to our taste as a residence. Still, I had liked the look of The Vincent for dining and suggested to Daisy that we dine there on the first night. This was a good idea.

We dined in The Vincent Pacific – a newly themed restaurant in that hotel specialising in Asian/Fusion cuisine. The chef seems to specialise in subtle marinades that make meat ultra tender and an unusual (some might say excessive) liking for raspberries. What it lacks in authenticity it more than made up for with quality ingredients, superb presentation, very tasty food and a very warm atmosphere (staff and ambience). One of the better meals we’ve had in the UK outside London. Expensive by North of England standards but, compared with Leftie-London prices, very good value.

Of course we didn’t realise that we were from Leftie-London while we dined, except that, towards the end of the meal, I felt a buzz from my mobile phone and saw that the BBC exit poll was predicting a hung parliament.

By the time we got back to our hotel room, I had received an e-mail from John White saying, “I can’t believe the exit polls!”. As I am a well-known sceptic on pre-election opinion polls but equally a well-known believer in the veracity of modern exit polls, I sent John a one word reply: “believe!”.

9 June 2017

So we woke up to find our once-great nation in political turmoil but never mind, we were off to the cricket, so nothing much matters on such a day.

It is a 40 minute or so walk from The Bold Hotel to the Trafalgar Road Ground – roughly the same length of walk as the walk from my flat to Lord’s. A very pleasant walk it was too.

Keith Hayhurst, who looked after me so well and kindly at Old Trafford last year – Ogblogged here – is also the host at Lancashire out-grounds. He took a shine to Daisy, who got the Lancashire CCC history in more detail in one session than I got in four days at Old Trafford, together with a generous copy of Keith’s book. She also got some fascinating snippets of Keith’s own life story, which were new to me and should really find their way into another book, if only Keith could be persuaded to realise what an unusual and interesting life he has led.

There were quite a lot of visitors from the Middlesex Committee at the ground on the Friday – I imagined that this fixture might not be so well attended but had underestimated the travelling tenacity of our dedicated Board.

The hospitality tent was heaving, not so much with Lancashire/Middlesex dignitaries but with an impressive number of corporate and individual hospitality customers. The Trafalgar Ground is a delightful setting for out-ground cricket; perhaps the envy of the county circuit for its setting and ability to stage a first rate (as well as first class) event.

Heaving Hospitality Tent

At lunch we sat next to David Kendix, who was concerned that anything he might say could be used in evidence against him on Ogblog. I promised faithfully not to breach any confidences on Ogblog, which (obviously) makes it very difficult for me to think of anything at all about that conversation that I can divulge.

One interesting and disclose-able fact came up in that conversation; the last time Middlesex had played Lancashire at the Trafalgar Road Ground was in 1981, including the day of the Royal Wedding between Charles and Di – scorecard here. Quite a contrast with the match that was starting to unfold in 2017 – scorecard link with trigger warning for Middlesex supporters of a nervous disposition.

I always enjoy chatting with David, who is a mine of information about cricket but wears his profound knowledge lightly and with great humour in conversation.

So before we knew it (Middlesex collapsing to allow an early tea at the innings break didn’t help) it was tea and we hadn’t really watched all that much cricket.

So after tea, Janie (Daisy) and I did a circuit of the ground, taking in some cricket from various vantage points and working out where might be the best place to sit with the youngsters over the weekend.

Will That Big Fella Please Sit Down Or At Least Move To Stop Blocking My View?

We decided that the area near the scoreboard mound was probably ideal for our weekend purposes, although Daisy particularly had big eyes on a little viewing deck that one of the neighbouring houses has built at the edge of their garden. Apparently they have done an informal deal with the club to allow the scoreboard to use their electricity in exchange for some of the best seats in (or I should say “just outside”) the ground.

After a couple of hours of that last (probably to be three hour) session, we started to feel a bit chilly and thought we should stroll back to the hotel, not least because Lavender and Escamillo Escapillo had texted us to announce their arrival. So we went back to the hospitality tent to say our goodbyes, then enjoyed the 40 minute walk back to The Bold.

The weather forecast for the next day was shocking, but we had a cunning plan…

…to be continued.

A Visit To Manchester, Mostly For Lancashire v Middlesex but also Some Real Tennis and an Evening With King Cricket, 12 to 15 September 2016

The view back to MediaCityUK when strolling from there to Old Trafford
The view back to MediaCityUK when strolling from there to Old Trafford.  The tall building is TheHeart.

This was my last away trip of the cricket season. Possibly because this was to be Middlesex’s last away match of the season. I decided to take in pretty much the whole match, driving up to Manchester on the first morning, staying three nights and returning to London on the final evening of the match.

Knowing Manchester reasonably well from business trips, I found TheHeart Serviced Apartments, a suitably located (MediaCityUK) facility, getting a late booking deal there; a two bedroom apartment for the price of a studio. Not a spacious apartment as it turned out, but plenty of room for just me and Benjy the baritone ukulele.

I also pre-arranged a couple of visits to the Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club in Salford, to play real tennis while up there.

Monday 12 September

I set off early from the house, hoping to avoid the rush hour; I largely succeeded, taking the M6 toll road to avoid the Birmingham crush. I expected to miss some of the first session with the September 10:30 starts and was pleased to arrive at Emirates Old Trafford (Old Trafford) around 11:00, thus missing little cricket.

Keith Hayhurst, Lancashire’s historian, was our wonderful host for all four days. I thought the instructions said to go to the Committee Board Room, but when I got there the only person to be found in there was Paul Allott, just finishing a phone call. Paul kindly took me to the suite on the opposite side of that floor, where Keith was hosting a small group of us.

Lancashire had won the toss and inserted Middlesex, much to the surprise of most observers. Middlesex batted well all day.

It was that stage of the season when eyes are on other scores as well well as one’s own; in Middlesex’s case at the top of the table, in Lancashire’s at the bottom. Most of the excitement elsewhere was at the top, where Yorkshire were making a surprisingly awful start against Somerset, despite being at home and having won the toss.

The hospitality at Old Trafford was excellent, but I only partook modestly that day, without alcohol and choosing fish, as I was driving and due on court in Salford at 17:30. About an hour before my tennis match, I took my leave of Old Trafford and drove across to Salford, finding the tennis club building second time around – I wish I’d reviewed this link about the building’s look/history before setting off – but still got there in good time.

The tennis club building is quite extraordinary. Darren welcomed me and gave me a guided tour. A rackets and a squash court as well as real tennis. There is even an old-fashioned skittles alley behind the dedans gallery of the real tennis court.

The tennis court surface differs considerably from that at Lord’s; slower and far more sit-up bounce – perhaps as different as playing modern tennis on clay when you are used to fast hard courts. Still, I won my match and then headed off to find my apartment in Salford Quays, running into a few strolling Middlesex players along the way.

After checking in, a quick stroll to the Booths supermarket myself so I could snack and have a quiet drink while I strummed for a while to end the evening.

Tuesday 13 September

I had arranged to play tennis again at 7:30 and to meet Richard Goatley before the start of play at Old Trafford 10:00/10:15, so it was an early and well planned start to the day. I drove from Salford Quays to Salford proper for my game of tennis this morning, a truly excellent match which was as close as close could be: 5/6, 6/5, both of those deciding games going to 40-40 deciding points. Despite the dead heat scoreline, I was credited with a win for that match as I received fewer handicap points than my handicap entitlement. I felt I had done well winning both days on that beautiful but “alien court surface”.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club
Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of the Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club

After a juice, kindly provided by my opponent, I changed, dropped the car back at TheHeart and walked, across the bridge and along the canal, to Old Trafford.

Richard and I met just before play started and found a quiet place in the stands to have a chat about the proposed new City-based T20 tournament in the context of our strategy work. It was an unusual conversation, as Richard was bound by an NDA, so could say little, but I could still float ideas and make suggestions based on rumours/leaks that had found their way into The Telegraph and Times by then. Both prospect theory and game theory came into it, much as they did, coincidentally, in a different context, on the final day of the season 10 days later.

When Richard and I returned from our chat, Keith Hayhurst offered us a tour of The Point, the new conference/exhibition facility at Old Trafford. There was a food fair going on in there that day, heaving with people entirely unconnected with and oblivious to the cricket. Richard and I agreed that we were witnessing something very different from our imaginings and expectations. The facility is enormous and is flexible space for all manner of commercial activities; it was very interesting to see it for sure.

Lancashire played much better today and the ball seemed to be doing quite a lot more, in the hands of both sides’ bowlers. I had hoped to see young Hameed bat, as everyone is talking about him and I missed him at Lord’s this season, but he got a nine-ball blob. Young Rob Jones, his opening partner (whom I’d seen bat at Radlett a few weeks’ before), did much better and was not out overnight.

I indulged a little bit more in the hospitality today (and why not?), so after stumps, having walked back to my apartment and strummed for a while, a very light snack of fruit and nuts was enough; I went to bed early and happy.

Wednesday 14 September 

Setting off from MediaCityUK to Emirates Old Trafford
Setting off from MediaCityUK to Emirates Old Trafford

Not such an early start required on Wednesday; time for a morning strum. The walk across the bridge and along the canal from TheHeart takes about 30 minutes door to door. I timed it to arrive just before the start of play.

Lancashire batted better today, working hard to make the game safe. Rob Jones hitting a six to score his maiden first class/first team century was the highlight; his joyous celebration really was a sight to see and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – click here for a 30 second YouTube clip of that big moment.

Keith Hayhurst gave me a tour of the pavilion today, including the famous stained glass window that he spent many many years hunting down.

Geoffrey Shindler, with whom I chatted most days, gave me some interesting background to the legal tussle that Lancashire CCC went through to secure the new development plans. We also discovered several shared interests and coincidences, not least a love of theatre and his daughter (Nicola’s) heavy involvement with BBYO, a few years after mine.

I’d arranged to meet Alex Bowden, aka King Cricket, after stumps. We arranged to meet in Sam’s Chop House, the scene of our previous (indeed first) meeting in Manchester some six year’s earlier, Ogblogged here.

It was a glorious evening and we worked out that I would have more than enough time to walk in to central Manchester while Alex commuted in from Macclesfield. I had told him that I had plenty of reading matter with me. Then a text from Alex:

Train’s half an hour late …hope that reading matter’s more than a pamphlet.

It was; indeed I took the time to catch up reading his site too, making a reference to pamphlet-length postings on that day’s posting/thread – here. 

We had a very enjoyable evening in the end; both the food and the drink in Sam’s is reliable and not ridiculously priced. Far more character to that place than the modern but sterile-looking places around MediaCityUK. We strolled to Piccadilly together, where Alex got his train and I grabbed a taxi back to Salford Quays.

Thursday 15th September

Early start again today, as I arranged to check out and then pay a final visit to the Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club (MTRC), where I had a very useful lesson with Darren at 8:30. We focused especially on picking up the low ball off the back wall, with some drills that perhaps work on that bouncier surface in ways that wouldn’t work at Lord’s, but taught me some useful techniques that I most certainly can now deploy at Lord’s.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club

I really was made to feel most welcome at MTRC and am very grateful to Darren, Stella and Steve for looking after me so nicely that week. I hope to get the opportunity to play again there on future visits to Manchester.

Straight on to Old Trafford, where they parked me up very conveniently and I was able to time my arrival almost perfectly for the start of play.

It seemed unlikely that this match could catch light on the last day; Lancashire had managed to blunt Middlesex’s attack and take enough early wickets to keep Middlesex cautious; much as Middlesex would have loved a win from this match, the draw points might just prove to be a useful buffer to assist in the final round. Lancashire had seemed most interested in a draw throughout.

Here’s the scorecard.

By tea it was clear that the match was petering out to a draw, so I (along with others) decided to bail out and miss the Manchester/Cheshire rush hour. The hospitality at Old Trafford really had been first rate, although again I didn’t take full advantage on a driving day, especially after eating and drinking lunch and dinner the day before.

Coincidentally I ran into Harry Latchman and Blossom at the service station on the M6 Toll Road on the way home – what were the odds on that? I got home in good time – around 8:30 pm and took an early night ahead of a busy working Friday.

Middlesex v Lancashire at Lord’s, Day Two, 27 June 2016

I had a game of real tennis at 10:00 and arranged (with Chris’s blessing) to play again at 16:00. I made a short, promised visit to the Committee Room; then to the writing room to do some reading and watch some cricket.

Expecting Chris (Escamillo Escapillo) to arrive around 14:30, I packed up my things and left the reading room to find a “just arrived” message from Chris just as I left the room – good timing.

I watched some good cricket with Chris for just shy of 90 minutes until tea – then went across to the real tennis court again. Towards the end of the hour, Chris came and watched the real tennis, then went back to the pavilion while I changed.

I changed quickly, found Chris in the Long Room and we watched the rest of the day’s play together over a drink. Some interesting chat, one amusing element of which will find its way to King Cricket in the fullness of time. Then one more drink for the road before parting company.

Chris wanted to get home to see the England v Iceland football match. So not a happy ending for Chris, but a happy afternoon for both of us to be sure.

You don’t want/need a scorecard for England v Iceland, no sir-ee, but you might want to see the Middlesex v Lancashire scorecard – click here.

Middlesex v Lancashire, Lord’s, 26 August 2009

Following my marking days at Lord’s earlier in the month, this was judgement day.

But it was also the day of the Pro40 day/night match between Middlesex and Lancashire, so Janie and I arranged to meet Charlie and Chris at Lord’s.

The best laid plans…but the weather had other ideas.

I wrote a report on this one for King Cricket – click here. Lavender, Escamillo Escapillo and Stentor Baritone all make their inaugural appearances in this report, which got some fun comments too.

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

Middlesex v Lancashire Pro 40 match report

We made the most of it and still had an enjoyable evening of sorts.

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.

Middlesex v Lancashire Day 3 at Lord’s 23 June 2006, Arabian Nights Party at Sandall Close 24 June 2006

Arabian Nights or Moroccan Den?

At the time of writing (January 2017) I was sent scurrying for my 2006 diary when King Cricket reported that Lancastrian cricketer Tom Smith had retired.

Like King Cricket, I first saw Tom Smith play in the summer of 2006, but in my case it was June and the weather was lovely.

My diary simply has a line through the Friday daytime and the word “Lord’s”. That means I went to Lord’s with me, myself and a heap of reading.

By the start of Day 3 (the Friday), the result of the match was barely in doubt; it was really only a question of whether Middlesex could salvage some pride and bat for a day on the road we call the Lord’s pitch.

Click here for the match scorecard.

I remember that day at Lord’s primarily for one silly thing, which, as it happens, did involve Tom Smith.

I chose to follow the sun (top up the tan for tomorrow’s party), so by the afternoon I had plonked myself in the front row of the Mound Stand, closer to the Edrich than the Tavern.

Scott Styris in particular was batting well; with some aggression as well as for survival. On one occasion Styris lofted the ball into vacant space, in my direction; a couple of bounces, then the ball bounced up and pretty much landed on my lap. To this day it is the only time I can recall the ball absolutely coming to me, personally, while watching a professional match.

I had on my lap at that juncture not only the book I was reading but also an apple I was about to munch by way of light lunch.

Tom Smith arrived to gather the ball. I considered throwing him the apple rather than the ball but momentarily thought better of it and simply threw him the ball. I then spent the rest of the afternoon regretting that I hadn’t played that practical joke on Tom Smith.

Smith looked very sharp as a pace bowler back then. I remember being very impressed with him, even though his figures for the day don’t look special. He looked “the lad most likely” that afternoon on a very flat track and I remember carrying high hopes for him as an England bowling prospect for a few years.

Saturday 24 June 2006

There is a line through Saturday which reads “party”, as it was the day of the famous “Arabian Nights/Moroccan Den” party at Daisy’s old maisonette in Sandall Close.

Tony (downstairs) let us use his garden as well as ours (in return for an invitation). Kim and DJ’s company, Theme Traders, themed the gardens up for the party (see picture above).

The weather was glorious for that one and the party really was a huge success. I struggled to take photographs on the night (enjoying myself too much and then couldn’t get the flash to flash) but perhaps some better pictures will emerge from friends.

I can just about make out Bobbie and John-Boy in the background. Tony in the foreground and a few members of the family.

There were quite a lot of people at the party; a few dozen anyway. I’m pretty sure I recall Bobbie, her Dave, Andrea and one or two others hanging around with us until very late indeed; it was one of those parties that people didn’t want to end.

I had just acquired my first iPod and I made up a good playlist for this party. I’ll dump the playlist in a file and attach it as an aside later.

Daisy (Janie) might well want to chip in with some memories of this party too.