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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
…and soon we were both seeing the funny side of it:
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 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.
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”.
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.
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:
Once the game was in progress, Sidney took more pictures from the relative safety of the dedans:
“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?
This will probably be my last day of cricket at Lord’s with Alastair “Big Al DeLarge” Little, as he is due to emigrate to Australia in a few week’s time, as explained in my recent piece, Tragedy of Epicurean Proportions, click here.
Given that Al is temporarily a chef without a proper kitchen, I realised that this request might discombobulate him. I emphasised that it needn’t be anything special, just easy-eating grub for the two of us at the cricket. Al doesn’t exactly need to prove to me that he can cook, does he? But a week before the outing I got a text from Al:
…does lamb cutlets sound like something to eat at the cricket?…”
…it does now!
So Al turns up with a wonderful centrepiece picnic meal of delicious lamb cutlets with a top notch potato salad and cold Keralan-style beans. Also some fine Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese and crackers. Plus a lightly-chilled Valpolicella.
My contribution was a very jolly Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, a selection of fresh fruit and lots of water. The latter came in especially handy as this particular day was hot, hot, hot and our front row seats in the Lower Compton were in the sun all day.
We chatted at times with a couple of charming chaps who were sitting next to us…”irredeemably posh” as Al described them, although they spent most of the day elsewhere – drinking Pimms and eating posh nosh by their description.
Al and I discussed foody subjects rather a lot throughout the day. Why were we there? Oh yes, cricket. We also talked about cricket.
England had a poor morning, from which they extricated themselves as the day went on.
I had some difficulty concentrating on the match until after tea, as I was also following the denouement of the Warwickshire v Middlesex match. I tried to be disciplined and only look once every half hour. But at one point I was providing a county cricket score service for MCC stewards, who aren’t allowed to look, so my “look rate” increased a little towards the end.
But the long last session had my undivided attention and in fact it was an excellent day of test cricket throughout, with England turning a poor position into a very good one by the end of the day.
Al and I walked together to Warwick Avenue, from whence Al tubed home and I walked.
A super day out.
Day Two – Friday 7th July
Today my guest was Charles “Charley The Gent Malloy” Bartlett. This time it was my job to do the picnic and Charley did the sweet stuff, wine and water. We agreed in advance that one bottle of wine would be enough for the two of us, not least after Charley’s wobbly denouement last time we met at Lord’s.
I went for a “Charley The Gent traditional” picnic, all of which I procured or ordered before I went to Brum; smoked Alaskan salmon bagels, prosciutto and manchego English muffins, selection of fruit (naturally including pears) and nuts.
Chas had arrived at Lord’s even earlier than me to avoid the gate crush and get through security in good time.
We were hoping to see the boy Root get a double-hundred and break records and stuff, but it wasn’t to be. Still, England built on its good position throughout the day.
Again the Lower Compton front row, again very pleasant, chatty neighbours. Posh, but not as irredeemably posh as the previous day’s neighbours.
Chas and I chatted about all manner of things, not least plans for the women’s world cup final and Edgbaston.
The day flew by. It was another very hot day in the sun, but not quite as hot as Thursday had been. The smaller quantity of drink helped.
Chas and I walked together to Warwick Avenue, but today I also took the tube, as I was going straight to Noddyland. Chas and I parted company at Oxford Circus, but not before Chas had made a joke about Janie probably waiting to hose me down before I’d be allowed into the house.
When I got to Noddyland, next door neighbour Marcie was in her front garden watering; I wondered (briefly) whether she has been stationed there to hose me down on arrival.
Day Four – Sunday 9th July
Daisy and I had a quiet day on the Saturday (playing tennis, massage, following the Lord’s cricket and the Wimbledon tennis). Daisy did much of the picnic preparation the night before. We had some very tasty roast pork that evening and Daisy cooked, along with the Saturday joint, a stash of very yummy mini sausages for our picnic.
The remainder of the picnic comprised of simple but tasty stuff; dips (mostly fishy ones – too many – we brought a few home), sourdough crispbread bites, carrots, tomatoes, grapes and some yummy thin biscuits. We took a fruity little Chardonnay-Viognier with us, plus a tiny bottle of Rioja for “just in case”/sun-downer purposes.
An easy, mostly pre-prepared picnic. So we were able to set off nice and early Sunday to secure decent seats in the new Warner Stand. The top level was full by the time we got there at 9:30 – it was full by 9:15, but in fact the seats we got on the lower level in row 9 were probably even better for us – sun until about 11:30, shady thereafter.
Very pleasant people all around us, including a family behind us I am sure were behind us the previous time we sat around that section of the Warner.
At teatime Daisy and I took a stroll to meet Alan and Alex briefly. They were sitting in the same stand as us, but on the pavilion side rather than the Grandstand side.
England collapsed early in the day but I always felt that they had enough runs and that the Saffers would follow suit on that pitch, although not quite as dramatically as it turned out.
On leaving the ground, Daisy and I ran into Mr Johnny Friendly. I had already run into him on the Friday by the Tavern Stand loos – I always seem to run into him there – but this time gave us a chance to walk a while, chat and wait with Mr Johnny Friendly until his carriage (aka the No 414) arrived. Daisy and I then strolled a while before hailing a Hackney carriage.
When we got home, I found a message from Fran to say that she’d seen me and Daisy on the TV – she’d even confirmed same by winding back her Sky thingie – but she hadn’t thought to record or screen-grab us, so we’ll just have to take her word for it.
I’m not easily star struck these days; I see quite a lot of reasonably well-known people on my regular rounds.
But I did get a little star-struck on Thursday morning.
I drove to Lord’s to play real tennis, but needed to park in the North Gate side of the ground as it was an MCC match day – the Universities Match.
Once through the gate, I drove along the narrow driveway from the North Gate to the Lord’s Academy car park. There, I was held up for a few moments by a strolling couple; they stopped and the man was taking photographs of the woman for a short while. This is a common scene at Lord’s, especially on that sort of match day, with many visitors who rarely visit Lord’s treating it as a touristic day out.
The man must have realised that he was holding me up, because, once he’d taken his photographs, he turned around, gave me a thumbs up and said thank you to me for waiting…
…that man was Paul McCartney.
I waved, said “good morning” and drove on to the car park.
Indeed, I wondered afterwards whether I should have said to McCartney, “would you like to take some photographs? Would you like it if someone came round your place blocking your driveway taking photographs?” But then, he might not have got the reference. Indeed it might have seemed rude and threatening, especially as his driveway is only a few hundred yards away from the Lord’s North Gate. Besides, you often see tourists blocking Paul McCartney’s driveway, taking photographs of his house.
That Lord’s visit was for the third of four singles matches I ended up playing in just over 24 hours, that Wednesday and Thursday. I wasn’t supposed to play at all on Wednesday, but events, not least the Grenfell Tower tragedy, left the club short of people (staff and members) who could get in to play, while others were travelling further and getting in for their slots just fine. I was glad to be able to help.
So I played at very short notice Wednesday morning, then again that evening, then my planned Thursday morning slot (including the unexpected former Beatle sighting).
At my Thursday morning slot, I was asked if I could stick around and play again early afternoon. I did have work and reading to do, but of course in the modern era you can get a lot of those things done wherever you are…
…and sitting in the sunshine half-watching a bit of cricket at Lord’s, even if it is a universities match, is a fine place to catch up on your e-mails and read The Economist.
The young man fielding in front of me, at one point, was named Ladd-Gibbon, which seemed ironic in the circumstances. Ged Ladd is my cricket nom de plume and I reckon that after three or four hours of real tennis in just over 24 hours, I was probably walking with a bit of a “funky gibbon” posture.
Still, as I stomped back round from the Grandstand to the real tennis court for my fourth hour, some kids, who were playing with mini bat and ball on the Warner/Grandstand concourse, stopped playing and asked me if I had just finished batting in the match. I often describe Lord’s as one of the few places on earth where I am still addressed as “young man”. I think it might be the only place on earth where I might be mistaken for a university student cricketer.
The day started well, with Michael (my business partner) letting me know some good business news; it’ll mean some work for me over the coming days but this is the sort of work/news I want to do/hear. I had also managed to get a lot done in the morning.
So I went off to Lord’s at lunchtime, for my first ever real tennis tournament singles match, with a spring in my step and hope (more than expectation) springing eternal.
As it turned out, my opponent had not had a good morning at all and so was not at his best for the match. 6-0, 6-1 does not reflect our respective abilities, but I did think I played well for my part and stayed focused on the task. So I’m through to the round of 16.
I suggested to the professionals that I should write the score on the tournament scoreboard in blood, “pour encourager les autres”. But for some silly reason they laughed, seeming to think I was joking. I explained that I wanted my subsequent opponent…or if things go well opponents…to fear me. The professionals laughed louder.
I was able to half-follow Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund win their modern tennis matches that afternoon (although, frankly, with far more fuss and less convincing scorelines than mine). I was also able to half-follow England beating Bangladesh at cricket, so very much a winning day.
I had also been very much looking forward to the evening; a traditional (if traditions can be established after three or four years) regathering of our old Streatham BBYO youth club clan at Bill’s, Covent Garden.
We were a little depleted in numbers this year. Natalie had originally said yes to the date, but when we got closer to the date realised that the date was the second day of Shavuot.
Natalie is latterly religious, whereas the rest of us have either lost most of it or never had it much in the first place.
In truth, I had to look up Shavuot, to remind myself what it was. Having done so, I discovered that eating dairy was part of the festive deal, as was The Book of Ruth. Realising that I knew as little about The Book of Ruth as I did about Shavuot, I looked that up too. I discovered that Ruth was a Moabite who converted to Judaism and went on to become King David’s great-grandma…
We were further depleted, as Martin had a late call to a shoot (photographic, not weapon-based). The date also clashed with Wendy’s son’s birthday; I got an e-mail from Wendy the day before explaining this and asking me if we could avoid 1 June next year. I observed that 1 June next year is a Friday night and that even I am sufficiently familiar with the ethnic mores to avoid Friday night.
Anyway, when I got to Bill’s, Linda, Sandra and Mark were already there. Lisa soon joined us and Andrea arrived fashionably late, as expected.
Reunited with each other and reacquainted (well, frankly for most of us, belatedly acquainted) with the traditions of Shavuot, we all made sure that we chose something dairy with our meals; in several cases regardless of other aspects of dietary laws and traditions.
The wine flowed, sufficiently to lubricate the chat but not so much as to render me useless the next day.
I really enjoy these gatherings. I like this group of people a lot. We did a fair chunk of our growing up together and I feel very comfortable with the gang. We have a remarkable amount in common still, despite our lives going in various directions and despite the fact that our youth was such a long time ago.
It’s simply a great bunch of people who are good company; I’m looking forward to the next gathering already.