MCC v The Dedanists’ Society, Lord’s, 10 February 2018

About a month earlier, Mr Thirlwell and I entered the Lord’s dedans a few minutes before our scheduled gladiatorial hour, quite by chance to encounter Messrs Snitcher and Leigh planning the teams for the MCC v The Dedanists’ Society.

“Would either of you gentlemen possibly be available to represent the club on 10 February?” we were asked.

Both of us replied that we would check our heaving social calendars, but, each of us coincidentally suspected that the afternoon of 10 February might just be a tiny window of opportunity for the club to co-opt our services.

Mr Thirlwell relaxing in the dedans gallery after doing battle – with thanks to Janie for all of the photos and the videos

An hour later, as Mr Thirlwell and I were dragged off the court kicking, biting, punching and yelling at each other…

…as usual…

…yet another draw for the real tennis on-line score book…

…Messrs Snitcher and Leigh looked at each other and exclaimed in unison, “yes indeed, these two will be ideal canon fodder for our friendly match with The Dedanists’ Society.”

The Dedanists’ Society is a group of real tennis enthusiasts who raise money for good works in the sport – click here for further details.

Janie and I had enjoyed a Dedanists’ Society evening event only a few months earlier – click here or below for the story of that evening:

Drinks and Nibbles With The Dedanists’ Society, The Estorick Collection, Islington, 5 September 2017

So Janie needed only a little persuasion to join us on 10 February for lunch and to watch her boy (me) in action. By then we knew that I was scheduled to partner Mr Snitcher himself, for the first time in a match since my very first attempt at a doubles match some 18 months previously – click here or below for that tale of derring-do:

MCC v The Wanderers, Real Tennis Match, Lord’s, 10 September 2016

Janie and I planned, on the morning of 10 February, to play an hour of modern tennis before heading to Lord’s for lunch. But as there was still frost on the cars when we planned to set off to play, we postponed that fixture. All dressed up with no place to go for physical preparation, I resorted instead to psychological methods:

Preparing spiritually for the big match against the Dedanists

Janie and I arrived in good time for lunch; getting to see the end of the second rubber and chat with a few people before the all important business of chowing down.

The grub was good. The centrepiece was a very tasty chilli-con-carne with rice and vegetables, supplemented with some tasty nibbles, a brightly-coloured soup (carrot and tomato I should imagine) and an elegant cheese platter. Washed down with plentiful wine for those who had already done battle and a thimble-full of wine for a combatant-to-be, like me.

In truth, this particular fixture must be one of the friendliest matches in the whole of the global real tennis calendar. Most MCC members who play in the fixture are also members of The Dedanists’ Society. Most of the players on the day were members of both clubs; so much so that, at times, during play, we were struggling to work out which team was which.

Mark (the nominative deterministic gentleman who marks the matches), Mr Snitcher and yours-truly – let the battle commence

Soon enough it was our chance to play. The last rubber of the match – surely the highlight of the fixture. So much so that some of the people who had done battle earlier in the day simply couldn’t take the tension and left Lord’s before the game. Still, there were a  good dozen or so people left, hardly any of whom were having an afternoon snooze.

Mr Snitcher and I had spent many seconds preparing our tactics for the match. We agreed that I would do most of the running, so I should not expect to hear the call “yours”, I should only expect to hear the shout “mine”, at which point I should leave the ball.

Here’s an example:

Somehow it seemed to work out…

…as did my serve on the day; most but not all of the time:

…even my volley worked a bit better than usual…

…as one kind gentleman pointed out to Janie, I was in the zone…

…which is a polite way of saying that I was not really keeping track of the score, much as some people struggle to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Tony and Mr Devlin watched with rapt attention – it was that sort of match

Even Tony seemed full of glee at the end of the match. He told me and Mr Snitcher that we had excelled ourselves on court. He also said that we should be delighted with the progress we are making…

…at least I think that’s what Tony said. To be honest I wasn’t listening; apparently none of us ever do.

Joking apart, all the participants had spent a thoroughly enjoyable day at Lord’s and raised a few bob for The Dedanists’ Society in the process.

The Lords, Then Lord’s, Plus A Coincidental Segue Between The Two, 1 February 2018

Just before Christmas , I received an invitation from the House of Lords to give some follow-up evidence to the evidence I gave on Brexit back in October 2016 – click here or below to read about that first occasion:

Two Visits To Two Different Lord Places In One Day, 27 October 2016

You can also read the report that came out in March 2017, which (I was pleased to discover) cited me several times – click here.

Anyway, I decided to make it a Lords/Lord’s day again, so booked to play real tennis late afternoon.

On this second occasion, the chair of the committee, Lord Witty, was away, so Lord Aberdare took the chair. I have embedded the vid below.

You can judge for yourselves how it went. If you are a Facebookista, you can see how my Facebook friends reacted by clicking here.

I think my key moment was at c10:36 (about 30 minutes in) when I made the topical West London analogy of the slightly leaky pipe c/w the major burst water main. Much of West London had been without water pretty much all day on the day before the hearing – which I found rather nerve-wracking while I prepared, but it did lend me a useful analogy.

I did say some other stuff too, so it is certainly worth getting a bucket of popcorn and hunkering down for an hour of viewing.

16 months deeper into my real tennis career (and into Brexit of course), I kept thinking during the hearing that the name “Lord Aberdare” was familiar to me in a tennis context…then wondered whether I was getting confused.

When I got to Lord’s later, I saw that, as I had half remembered, the name “Lord Aberdare” was all over the real tennis Gold and Silver Racket honours board.

It transpires that our man, the current (fifth) Baron Aberdare‘s, grandfather, who was the third Baron Aberdare – click here or picture below for bio – had a twenty-or-so year cricket playing career for Middlesex County Cricket Club before and after the First World War and also went on to dominate amateur real tennis between the wars; probably one of the greatest amateur real tennis players ever.

by Walter Stoneman, bromide print, 1930.  From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_3rd_Baron_Aberdare_in_1930.jpg#file – see there for full details of non-free use rationale, which also applies to my use.

You’d have thought that this wonderful coincidence would have inspired me to a great victory on the tennis court that evening…but you’d be wrong. The 3rd Baron would not have been impressed by my performance on the court…

…I wonder what he would have made of Brexit and or my performance before the Peers? Would he have yelled “better than half a yard” or “hazard the door” to mark the end of my pivotal speech?

Brexit, Middlesex cricket and real tennis…the story of a fair chunk of my life at the moment, I suppose.

An Active Day Off – Pole Dancing And Real Tennis, 27 November 2017

Janie, tiring of hearing all about my new yet ancient hobbies of baroq-ulele and real tennis playing, has decided to take up a new hobby of her own; pole dancing.

Today was her fourth lesson. As we had arranged a day off, I thought I would have a relatively light day of exercise, taking advantage of the studio where Janie was having her lesson to do half an hour of stretches and abs before hunkering down for an hour with my Economist.

This photo was taken at the end of Janie’s second lesson

I kept up with Janie and her teacher, Lana, for the first couple of minutes of stretching, before they went off into the stratosphere of stretching and I reverted to the gentle, safe stuff I do regularly in the gym.

I was still doing my clams when Janie and Lana started working through some pole routines.

This picture was taken at the end of Janie’s third lesson

I was about five minutes into my Economist reading when my phone rang. Chris from Lord’s. Could I possibly help out and cover for a last minute drop out at 17:00 today.

I realised that I could, instead of reading the Economist and watching Janie up a pole, trundle over to the flat and pick up some kit, enabling me to help Chris out.

So I did, missing out on Janie’s further improvement in lesson four:

Janie towards the end of lesson four

Lana assured me that Janie is a natural at this sport and I must say that her progress in such a short time looks quite remarkable to my untrained eyes…

…which is more than can be said for my slow but relentless progress at real tennis.

I did have time to drop Janie at home after her lesson but she said she’d like to watch me play, as she hasn’t seen it for a good few months.

Action shot

I asked Janie to put some energy into putting my opponent off while she watched, but she signally failed to do that.

Janie did take a few pictures, though, plus a couple of short vids, one of which, remarkably, shows me landing a chase of half-a-yard on the return…

…which is a pretty good shot. I’d like to assert that I land half yard chases with some regularity, but that wouldn’t be true. Still, please invest 8 seconds in the vid below and you’ll see how it’s done:

We’d both had fun and we’d both enjoyed following each other’s hobbies. That’s a good day off.

MCC v Middlesex University Real Tennis Club, Lord’s, 16 November 2017

I was delighted to be selected to represent the MCC again against Middlesex University Real Tennis Club. This was to be my third go in that fixture – click here to read about the previous go.

Even more delighted, because I saw that our captain, Josh Farrall, had picked me to partner Chris Stanton. I have known Chris for over 25 years – he was the first professional actor to perform one of my silly songs. In NewsRevue, spring 1992.

So I thought it was to be comedy doubles. Ideally with me writing the script and Chris doing all the work.

John Random, who directed that 1992 show, on learning that Chris and I had been reunited through this strange game, had expressed a desire to see real tennis. So I had the idea to invite John to watch Chris and me play in this match.

Initially John said yes to that idea, but the weekend before the match, he was selected for a Compare The Meerkat advert and had to pull out of the Lord’s tennis spectating role. It transpires that John has previous in the matter of phoney slavic accents and extremely dodgy fur:

Win a one-way ticket to the Gulag if you even think about markets-dot-com

In the end John’s inability to show up at Lord’s was probably just as well. For a start, that Trotsky beard would not have gone down well at The Grace Gate. Further, in any case, Chris Stanton was also a no show on the day – surely not another one summoned to perform with an anthropomorphic gang from the mongoose family?

So, captain my captain Josh Farrall partnered me in the first match. Sadly there are no photos from this match, but there is a stock photo of me playing in a previous match – that isn’t Josh watching me hit the ball all wrong.

A perfect shot of an ever so slightly imperfect shot – photo by Sidney Yankson

Exhausted by our endeavours, I nevertheless volunteered to relieve our captain from multiple duties by taking his slot in the later match he was scheduled to play.

This gave me the chance to partner Nick Evans, who is even more of a novice than me and against whom I was scheduled to play singles the next day, against a delightful Middlesex couple (including the MURTC team captain) who are also more novice than me, although not by much.

The whole fixture was great fun; a lot of people who hadn’t (or had only very occasionally) played matches before, plus a few regulars of old and the odd turncoat, as was the experience in the match against the HAC a few months ago.

It was a superb success as a social evening, with the traditional Lord’s curry going down a treat, washed down with some very jolly wines.

“What was the score?”, I hear the more competitive readers cry. Come on now, I’ve told you before, what happens on the MCC tennis court stays on the MCC tennis court.

I’ll just provide one picture-based clue:

Pears-Pairs-Bagels

Real tennis was the winner, along with conviviality.

Middlesex End Of Season Lunch And Player Awards, Lord’s, 6 October 2017

Another year, another player awards lunch at Lord’s.

Different mood this year. Last year we’d won the county championship and even Angus smiled most of the time…

…this year, relegation.

Still, the sun smiled on us at the top of the Mound Stand for the pre-lunch reception. That is one stunning location for a drinks party when the sun is shining on Lord’s.

I played tennis before the reception, a very good game by my very patchy standards, arriving about 20-past twelve. Janie arrived about five minutes later.

We chatted with several interesting people over drinks, then soon enough were being shepherded to the Nursery Pavilion for lunch, where we joined a rather jolly table for a very jolly lunch:

Our rather jolly table

It looks all male in that photo, but of course Janie (Daisy) was on our table and took the photo. Libby was also at our table, but somehow avoided the group photo:

Ian and Libby chat after lunch

After the player awards had been handed out, there was a light-hearted Q&A hosted by MC David Fulton with Phil Tufnell, Angus Fraser, John Embury.

Tuffers, Gus, Embers and…

…we can’t call David Fulton “Fullers”, otherwise he might be confused with Middlesex’s own James Fuller, whose dad, Julian, had come half way round the world for lunch and can be seen on the far left of our table photo.

Daisy tells me that Julian Fuller should be nicknamed “The Anaesthetist” because after talking to him for five minutes…

…you discover that he IS an anaesthetist. I can think of other people who deserve that nickname for a different reason, but mercifully no-one like that was at our table.

After lunch, Daisy spotted that all of the players were wearing matching suits and shoes.

Finny looking dapper in his synchronised whistle and Scoobys

She didn’t get to quiz Finny on the subject, but did extract some vital information from a small group of other players, who told her that the clobber is sponsored by a fashion house.

Daisy explained her theory to the sartorially synchronised trio of players, which is that one of their mums takes it upon herself to determine the appropriate fashion items for young men and thus co-ordinates their attire for them. That’s what her big sister, Hilary, did when a nephew of ours got married earlier this year.

When Daisy’s family co-ordinate their outfits, it’s bound to be Hilary’s doing…

Naturally, the three young players in question broke down under such intensive interrogation and confessed that Carolyn Gubbins is indeed such a mum, although they did also persist with the (frankly, nonsensical) rumour about sponsored suits.

It is very hard to pull the wool over Daisy’s eyes, even when it is the finest suit wool and Daisy has had a few glasses of vino.

It was a very enjoyable lunch in most convivial company to end the Middlesex season. Now we need to sustain ourselves through the winter.

Three Days At The Lord’s Test, England v West Indies, 7 to 9 September 2017

Day One – Thursday 7 September 2017

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.

Jimmy Anderson bowling with only 499 wickets to his name.

Postscript: we encountered a superb arachnid upstaging us in our front row seats – that aspect of our day now published on King Cricket – click here.

If by chance anything ever happens to King Cricket, I have also scraped the spider piece to here.

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.

Daisy and I spent the latter part of the evening at the Proms – click here.

Day Two – 8 September 2017

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.

Real tennis and baritone ukulele – photo from another day – click here for that day!

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.

First a single rainbow…
…then a double rainbow.
The pavilion end looking equally special.

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.

I walked to Lord’s and secured some good seats. I ran into one of my real tennis pals so we chatted for a while. Then Daisy arrived. Then Alan and his pal Jonathan came over in search of some throdkin cookies, which I had promised Alan the last time I saw him at Lord’s.

England made reasonably light work of finishing off the West Indies; three more wickets before lunch, then the last four soon after. Jimmy Anderson was the pick of the bowlers.

Daisy didn’t think to photograph England bowling…
…but did photograph England batting

We continued to tuck in to Daisy’s enormous picnic while England tucked in to West Indies demoralised bowling and won the match.

Henry Bloefeld did a lap of honour to celebrate his final match as a commentator:

Henry, followed around by Aggers and Vic…
…Henry seule
Daisy and I

…contrary to rumours and cinematic evidence broadcast to all corners of the earth – click here,  Daisy and I were very happy; we just looked tired and emotional on the screen.

For sure we were ideally located, not only to be caught on camera but also to see the presentation ceremony, which took place right in front of us in the Warner Stand.

One of many presentation ceremony pictures

More photos can be found on my Flickr stack – here.

Full scorecard and Cricinfo resource on the match – here.

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.

A Day With The Deacons, Music Exchange & Lord’s, 8 August 2017

Paul Deacon got in touch to say that he and his family would be over from Canada about this time and that he quite fancied a visit to Record & Tape Exchange for old time’s sake – click here for insight into those days of yore – as one element of a meet up. Some cricket at Lord’s wouldn’t go amiss either.

We concluded that 8 August would be the best day for this – my timings were completely flexible (apart from a hot date with the Mrs in the evening) and it was Day 3 of the county match between Middlesex & Warwickshire; that seemed a good bet.

With the Deacons scheduled to arrive at the flat at 12:00, I had time to write up the events of 25 years ago – the day Janie and I met – click here – and also get to the gym for a decent work out.

I hadn’t met Christine or Anya before, but it almost felt as though we all knew each other from the outset. We had some tea and a chat at the flat, while Paul studied my singles collection – there are indeed a few dozen singles yet to digitise from those old Slipped Disc visits and my dad’s serendipitous purchases – another autumn/winter task.

The girls fancied a bite of lunch, so we dropped them off at Paul Rhodes while Paul and I strolled down a few doors further and down memory lane at Music Exchange.

Paul, game face on, studies singles, while I browse albums – just like the old days

We had a look upstairs and in the bargain basement, but Paul only bought a handful from the ground level selection:

Unlike the old days, only Paul purchases anything and only a few discs

There are some more Music Exchange photos on Flickr – click here.

After a quick reviving snack in Paul Rhodes with the girls, we then hot-footed it to Lord’s.

I hadn’t kept up with cricket events at all during the day, but knew from my visit to Lord’s and the Meet The Players Party the previous day, that the pitch had flattened out quite a lot. So my fears from Day One, when 20 wickets fell, that there might not be much/any play on Tuesday afternoon were surely unfounded…

…or were they?…

…I tapped in to Cricinfo on the way to the ground and exclaimed, “oh no! Middlesex have collapsed. We’re nine down. We probably won’t see any cricket at all.”

But we were only 10 minutes from the ground and we managed to navigate the formalities to get The Deacons in the Allen Stand gap to see some cricket. Between overs, we even got into the pavilion for the last few overs before the inevitable ending came. So the Deacons were actually in the Long Room to witness the end of the match and the traditional end of match civilities. In many ways, that made it an extra special treat for the Deacons. It would have been more special for me had it been a Middlesex win.

Still, that meant we had plenty of time and less distraction for an informal tour of Lord’s, starting with the grand tour of the pavilion itself.

I didn’t realise when we arranged the day, but Anya plays cricket at school in Canada – I imagined that she’s be largely unfamiliar with the game – so the Lord’s visit was quite special for her.

Paul and Anya on the Pavilion terrace, “borrowed” with thanks from Paul’s Facebook photo stack

Janie arrived just a few minutes after the match had finished – she seems to make a bit of a habit of doing that for county championship matches – we finally tracked her down after some comedy business where Janie must have sort of been following us around the pavilion without us actually meeting up.

Me, Christine and Anya just before Janie tracked us down, pushing the “no photos in the pavilion” rule to its limits, “borrowed” with thanks from Paul’s Facebook photo stack

With Janie, we went and looked at the Lord’s Shop and the Cricket Academy, walked back round the ground making a full circuit, had a quick look at the real tennis court and then retired to the Bowler’s Bar in the pavilion for a well-deserved drink.

Paul’s words and more pictures can be found on Paul’s Facebook posting – here.

The afternoon had gone so quickly. We all had evening events to get to; Anya had arranged to see some old pals south of the river, Paul and Christine were meeting some friends for an evening at Ronnie Scott’s, while Janie and I had our hot anniversary date to get to.

A multi-serlfie by Paul, back at the flat, using shelf and timer, “borrowed” with thanks from Paul’s Facebook photo stack

It was a really enjoyable day; one of those special gatherings that will live long in the memory and which brought back plenty of other memories too.

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.

When Everything Went The Right Way, Women’s World Cup Final, Lord’s, 23 July 2017

Back in October 2016, when the Women’s World Cup dates and venues were announced, I mentioned to Janie that we should book out 23 July for that match and also suggested that we ask Chas and Dot (aka Charley the Gent and Mrs Malloy).

“Don’t put me and Dot through the embarrassment of her constructing excuses for not coming to the cricket”, said Janie, “she really doesn’t like cricket”.

“But I know they enjoy watching women’s cricket together; they often go to Chelmsford to watch it…let’s leave it for now”, I replied.

Less than 48 hours later, I received an e-mail from Chas:

…I know this may sound a strange ask, but Dot likes the English ladies cricket, she has seem them play at Essex for a number of years and really enjoys watching them.

I mentioned the women’s world cup final at Lord’s next year and she expressed an interest to go!…

…My favour to ask, do you have any influence in getting reasonable seats?

I called Janie to have a gloat, knowing that she would make me suffer for it at some stage, but still Janie expressed delight at the idea and instructed me to get tickets for all four of us.

My reply to Chas:

Really funny that you wrote to me about this today, because I mentioned it as an idea to Janie over the weekend. Janie said that she’d be up for it but as Dot had said no to the pavilion the other week and to Edgbaston in August, Janie was sure that Dot would be uninterested and that we should stop putting pressure on her to do things she doesn’t want to do blah blah.

Anyway, members’ area seats will go on sale in a private December mailing after the ICC public sale. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble snapping up enough tickets to enable all four of us to go, as long as I leap in quick for the initial members’ sale, which I shall of course do.

And so I did.

On a high before the start of play

There was much doubt about the weather in the run up to finals day; every time I looked at the weather forecast it changed, but the nearer we got to the day the more ominous the “risk of showers” sounded. On the morning itself, it looked as though the afternoon rain might be so bad that the match would be rain reduced or even held over to Monday, which would have been such a shame.

As it turned out, apart from a couple of sudden but blustery/blow-over type showers, which did not even interrupt play, the weather smiled on Lord’s for the whole match.

We had managed to persuade Chas and Dot to accept our hospitality picnic-wise, not least because I had enjoyed their picnic hospitality at Chelmsford recently and would enjoy it again for the start of the Edgbaston test in August.

Ceremony before the match

Hence the large fillet of dry-aged beef which graced our table on Friday after my MCC v HAC match and then bulged out of the large brioche rolls for Sunday; with wasabi mayonnaise to bring out the flavours. Janie’s other culinary masterpiece was equally enormous brioche rolls stuffed with Duchy of Cornwall turkey, enhanced with a lemon mayonnaise. But we all agreed that the beef was the standout.

Daisy and I brought a jolly Provencal rose wine to grace the turkey and a bold southern hemisphere Cabernet Sauvignon to support the beef. Plus various small nibbles, vegetables and fruit – not least pears for Chas – although all the pears came home with us. Chas and Dot also brought a bottle of fruity Riesling, lots of nibbles and plenty of sweet stuff, most of which went home with them again. Plus soft drinks and waters, most of which didn’t make it home.

We had probably just finished munching the turkey rolls when Daisy took this picture

As the England innings went on, we reduced our estimates of what a par score might be. In the end Chas reckoned 225 and I reckoned 240, so when the England innings closed at 228, we agreed that we should have a good match on our hands.

The interval entertainment was a gospel choir singing some soul and gospel standards at high volume and with great intensity. Far more to our taste than the usual test match fare of marching bands, bagpipe bands or Yorkshire Tea folk with tea mugs on their heads and brass instruments in their mouths.

While Chas and Dot were taking a stroll in the interval, Daisy wanted to take a double selfie in similar style to the one she took at the test match two week’s previously.

Easier said than done, this selfie business, especially the double-selfie. After about five attempts I was getting a little exasperated, although I’m sure it didn’t show on my face…

Enough, already, of the double-selfies

…and soon we were both seeing the funny side of it:

Look out for the gentleman in the blue shirt behind us, showing his daughter something on his smart phone

Strangely, I chose the above photo (from a batch of many) without noticing the blue-shirted gentleman and his daughter behind us in just that one picture.

About five minutes after Janie took that photo, when she popped out briefly and just before Chas and Dot returned, I heard someone bellow, “IAN” at high volume. I turned around and saw the blue-shirted gentleman waving at me.

“Hello Ian,” he said as I wandered up to speak with him, “I’m Jeff Tye’s son”.

“Chris!”, I said, “it’s been years and years. How did you recognise me?”

“I wasn’t 100% sure, but I knew that, if it was you, you’d turn around if I shouted out your name loud enough.”

Chris’s dad, Big “Papa Zambezi” Jeff is one of our Heavy Roller’s clan, last seen with us at Edgbaston in 2015. 

More on Big “Papa Zambezi” Jeff and our tales of derring-do can be found in the MTWD archive – click here.

Chris was very pleased to learn that Chas was also with us, so we all spent a few minutes chatting at the end of the interval. Chris’s daughter (Jeff’s grand-daughter) must have wondered what all the fuss was about.

The second half of the match was so exciting yet it seemed to pass so quickly. An early wicket, then a good stand, then a smart run-out, then another good stand…

…India looked as though they had the match in the bag at 190-odd for three. Just before that point, Chas had said game over. I said it looked grim but one wicket could change the whole thing and I still gave England a one-in-three chance around that point.

Daisy kept telling us that we weren’t getting behind the team enough and was yelling, “come on England” at high volume as only she can.

Then a wicket…no, two wickets…no, a flurry of wickets…then some incredibly tense cricket…then an England win.

When Anya Shrubsole took her fifth wicket, the little boy who was sitting with his mum next to us, scoring the whole match carefully in a big red scorebook, told Chas proudly that Anya Shrubsole’s dad was his PE teacher. That was a bit of an “oh, wow!” moment for all of us. Soon after that, Anya took her sixth wicket and quite rightly won the player of the match. The little boy looked incredibly happy.

The scorecard and everything you ever wanted to know (apart from Ogblog of course) can be found here.

England Women Receive The Trophy Right In Front Of The Warner Stand
Double-selfie once slightly more-oiled and celebratory than the earlier double-selfies
Heather Knight while the lap of honour stops down our way
One last toast with Chas and Dot before we part company

It had been a great day for us; everything had gone our way.

But more importantly, I think it had been a great tournament and a great day for women’s cricket. The standard of women’s cricket is improving so quickly now; this was genuinely entertaining sport at a very high level of skill. This year’s women’s world cup has shown off that improvement in the best possible way, with several high quality and nail-biting matches at the conclusion of the tournament, not least the high-profile final which we had just witnessed.

Lord’s had been a sell-out, with a really good vibe all day – a far cry from the corporate Champagne-swilling of the tests or the muscular beer-swilling of the T20 sell-outs – a different style crowd enjoying the cricket and many people enjoying seeing cricket at Lord’s for the first time.

As the interval gospel choir had put it, “Oh Happy Day”.

Big Match Weekend At Lord’s Part One: MCC v HAC Real Tennis Match, 21 July 2017

Them and Us, Thanks To Sidney Yankson For The Pictures

Not content with the idea of attending one heck of a big match at Lord’s on Sunday, I found myself selected to represent the MCC at real tennis there on the preceding Friday evening,

I arrived early for my rubber, keen to see a bit of the earlier action. In fact I arrived at the same time as our non-playing captain, Brian. As soon as we arrived, Sidney exclaimed, “oh great, we’re all here; let’s have a team photo right now”. Hence my appearance on court sporting weekend casuals rather than whites.

In fact we weren’t all here; Tony Friend (my team mate from battles gone by) was between his singles and double rubber, while neither his partner, Oliver, nor my partner to be, “Dangerous Deane”, nor indeed our opponents to be had arrived yet.

Early and late arrivals at the MCC real tennis ball

Sidney was captaining the Honourable Artillery Company team and had organised the whole fixture. He (mercifully) had some flexibility in deciding who should play whom, as several of the players are eligible to play for either or both organisations, as is often the case with real tennis matches and there had been a few late changes to the dramatis personae, as is equally often the case.

“We’ve been around since 15:37″, said Sidney, which didn’t seem unreasonable to me for a match that was scheduled to start at 4:00 pm…”the HAC is probably the oldest active real tennis team in the world.”

Ah, he meant, 1537. Back in Henry VIII’s time. Some of us suggested that one or two of our more senior but still active MCC players might precede the date of HAC’s foundation.

When it was my turn to play, Sidney risked life and limb to take photos of our warm up, shouting, “please don’t hit me” as he scurried around the court in search of the perfect shot of a perfect shot:

A perfect shot of a slightly imperfect shot, bravely snapped by Sidney Yankson

Once the game was in progress, Sidney took more pictures from the relative safety of the dedans:

I was strategically stationed to guard the side galleries, while “Dangerous Deane” soaked up most of the pressure; Deane had one opponent so well covered you cannot even see him in this picture, which was safely snapped by Sidney Yankson

“So what was the result of the match?”, I hear readers cry.

MCC won the fixture 4-1.

“May we have more specific details about what happened in the match, such as the individual scores of the rubbers therein and tales of derring-do that led to those scores?”, the readers’ cries continue.

Now, now; what happens on the MCC tennis court stays on the MCC tennis court.

Suffice it to say that, as usual, the match was highly convivial, enabling me to meet several more realists and get to know some others a bit better than before.

A few dedicated souls retired to a local hostelry (The Lord’s Tavern) for dinner and libations after the match, but I retreated to Noddyland, where preparations for Sunday’s other big match at Lord’s were in full sway. That big fillet of dry-aged beef was not going to carve and partially eat itself, now was it?