…but this was a day/night test match, so instead I arranged to have a music lesson with Ian Pittaway in Stourbridge. It bucketed down with rain on the way to Stourbridge, which made me wonder whether Edgbaston would be fit for cricket by 14:00, but I needn’t have worried. Day/Night One of the match turned out to be a very sunny although slightly chilly affair.
Daisy and I walked to the ground in dry, improving weather. Security was tight but well organised this year, so we joined the others at about 13:40. The others were Charley The Gent Malloy, The Boy Malloy, Nigel “Father Barry” White and Harsha Goble.
Mrs Malloy had made a splendid picnic for us all, consisting mostly of an extremely plentiful supply of big bap sandwiches. Chas went into major-domo mode, insisting that we tuck in at regular intervals, saying:
“I cannot report back to Dot that any of these sandwiches remained uneaten.”
The weather forecast for Day Two was not so special – indeed it was obvious that the weather would close in sometime between 19:00 and 20:00 and there would then be no further play that day.
Daisy, Nigel and I went over to Chas and Nick’s hotel on that Day two morning, hatching a plan that we should eat relatively light at the ground that day with a view to eating a good meal together in Colbeh to make up for the session of cricket that we looked likely to lose. If the weather by chance relented, we could always stay at the ground and eat from the selection of increasingly interesting and decent food outlets at Edgbaston these days.
Harsha had, unfortunately, needed to return to London for a funeral on the Friday, but was expecting to arrive back at Edgbaston around 19:00.
The rain arrived as expected around 19:30. We had redirected Harsha towards the “dining at Colbeh rather than watching the rain come down” plan.
In truth, it was great to have the opportunity to have a meal together and “chew the fat” after the cricket – this aspect (which would normally be absent for a day/night match) is the biggest down side to such match timing…the colder evenings being less of an issue, although…
…Day Three did turn out to be a chilly day.
Daisy and I walked to the ground all three days; Day Three being the most pleasant walking conditions of the three – sunny but a tad cooler than Day One.
We saw an interesting sight on the way to the ground:
I started to suspect that all would in fact be well when Chas wrote, 10 days or so before the event:
“I need to see how my first car drive goes on Saturday, I also need to talk to ‘Razor’ and ‘Knuckles’ both Essex members as they offered to take my tickets off me…if I didn’t recover in time – let me see how the drive goes over the weekend and how they respond to the disappointment.”
Razor and Knuckles sound like absolutely delightful company; indeed possibly preferable to the original candidates for the roles…
A week later, it became clear that Razor and Knuckles were set to remain in their Essex lairs; Chas again:
To confirm I’ll be bringing some 1st day food up with me on Wednesday. Dot’s happy to provide some sandwiches – corn beef and mustard on soft white and egg mayonnaise on soft white. I have some other stuff (old favourites) and some (new stuff) that looks ok, too!
In fact, Dot’s first day sandwich feast also included heaps of ham on brown and cheese on brown too. We struggled…in a good way, saving most of the other less perishable delicacies (Harish and I had also brought quite a few of those) for the later days.
We were all at the ground in time for the toss. Nigel was smarting a bit, in part because the walk was perhaps a bit much for his knees, in part through the indignity of having his minimally-concealed Shiraz-in-a-flask seized at the gate.
I had determined in any case to enjoy the Edgbaston cricket dry during the day again this year, making space for a glass or two in the evening.
The three days of cricket were wonderful. At the end of day one we were all unsure whether England had scored enough runs. At the end of day two we were sure they hadn’t and that Pakistan were close to total control. At the end of day three we knew that England had all-but wrested control back from Pakistan.
We played our traditional sweepstake game all three days; this year, unusually, Harish swept the board, especially on one of the days. I wanted him tested for performance enhancing substances but Harish mysteriously failed to turn up for the tests.
Harish and I were keen to walk to and from the hotel each morning and evening. After that first morning, Nigel bowed out of the walk until the Friday evening. On one of our walks, I think it was Friday morning, Harish and I had a very interesting chat about music. We schemed a tabla/ukulele jam for next time but struggled to work out whether some of Harish’s favourite tabla rhythms could possibly work with western tunes, which are usually relentlessly 4/4 or occasionally 3/4 time signatures.
I tried the slow-cooked lamb shank this time, while Nigel and Chas shared the full works of grills. Harish tried one of the vegetarian stews. Again, all the trimmings were wonderful, not least the amazing aubergine and mango sauce (not really a chutney, or at least not a sour chutney), which was new to me because, as we were proudly informed by the (other) son who looked after us this time, that sauce is his mother’s own recipe. To paraphrase Nigel’s eloquent recollection in the comments section from our previous visit, that makes it our sort of place.
On the Friday, all of us but Nigel headed home after the day’s play; in Harish’s and my case via the hotel, which had kindly offered safe custody to our vehicles, baggage and (in my case) Benjy the Baritone Ukulele. Nigel swore on the way home that he wouldn’t eat a thing that evening after three days of feasting and it seems he kept his word – Nigel’s subsequent e-mail report:
My plans for a quiet evening on Friday were ruined by Sharon and Kev’s engagement celebration in the hotel function suite, that really did feel like it was taking place in the next room. After the three day grazing, I took the unsolicited advice barely audible from a Ukulele shaped bag suggesting it wouldn’t harm that big bloke to miss a meal or two. That thing does have attitude.
In short, the whole trip was a great success. It’s a bit difficult to explain how or why spending several days with old friends doing so little can be so satisfying and relaxing, but it is. I guess the whole idea of five day cricket is hard to explain to the uninitiated. Nigel again, writing on the Sunday morning, just before the start of Day Five:
We have once again enjoyed a fascinating Test match, which only really began to be resolved during the last session. Into the fifth day and it is still compelling. It would be impossible to explain that to the Georgian Cabbie, seen to register disbelief at Charles’ response to “who won?” at the end of day one.
I am very grateful to Nigel for this wonderful, redolent submission in response to my piece, Long To Rain Over Us, about our most heavily rain-affected Edgbaston trip of all.
“The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened’ by Don Robertson is an evocative journey back to the early 1950s. Readers are introduced to a teenage Morris Bird III, considered by some to be one of the most endearing characters in contemporary American literature.
Our Edgbaston trip in 2012 was so lacking in memory that it is now, well, not memorable. Very little that was meant to take place actually did so.
It was as if we had been enticed to this sodden part of the UK to be teased with the promise of things that almost happened. Morris Bird may well have speculated?
Perhaps we were being tested on our resolve as real Heavy Rollers. Could we cut it when things were bad?
I recall my solitary mission to the nearby cricket ground in advance of the others. They were perhaps still somewhere on the M6 arguing about the relative merits of Delta and Detroit Blues genres, while a dozing Nick yearned for some early Metallica.
Knowing Charles’ detailed preparations before any pre match knockabout, the ‘cricket kit’ would have been checked (several times before being unpacked and repacked) in readiness for our long-awaited net. This was scheduled to take place at Harborne CC. To grace this attractive little ground, in leafy suburban Birmingham, was to be a privilege indeed. All a direct consequence of some emotional story- telling from Charles to some unaware individual who was to forever regret their selfless move to the ‘phone with, “I’ll get it”. Charles had become a master of spin. This had little to do with his ability to pick a ‘Doosra’. Detailed and distressing tales would be discharged to whomever got the job of dealing with random emotive requests, mostly for tickets. Much was at stake this time. A chance to display limited abilities for a donation. It would be a wonderful prelude to the main course.
The scene, however, was a precursor to the forthcoming event. The said ground was deserted. The outfield resembled a small lake. If anything had been planned for this evening it had long been called off. Phone calls from office to office relaying the unhappy, but inevitable, news. I couldn’t avoid observing that the early season volunteers, allocated to small working groups tendering the ground, had failed miserably to:
Clean around the area you want to repair with a wire brush to remove loose paint or rust.
Use an old screwdriver to dig out any old jointing material.
Put the nozzle of the sealant gun into the joint, and run a bead of roof and gutter sealant around the pipe.
One side of the pavilion’s guttering resembled a waterfall. Safe to say the kit wouldn’t be making an appearance this year.
I returned to Harborne Hall with heavy heart, but gratified by the familiarity of our accommodation, and its proximity to some decent restaurants on Harborne High Street for later. High quality Chinese food surely? At least we would be reunited and sustained by our past recollections of basic, but friendly, home-from-home accommodation. It was soon to be revealed that this just was a futile memory, unless your home was a Category C prison.
The corridors still echoed with the long past anticipation and apprehension of eager volunteers, about to make their way to various VSO outposts around the world. The evocative black and white photographs of some wiry young men with mullets, and women in cheesecloth skirts, dancing self-consciously with grateful African children, or in makeshift classrooms, adorned the stairways to our rooms. Such warm recollections were soon to be illusions, as the march of commercialism that had begun to engulf this little haven took shape. It was becoming transformed into something neither here, nor anywhere really. VSO were still present somehow, but surrounded by an impression of a low budget boarding house with an identity crisis.
The futile negotiations over extra breakfast toast rather summed up the whole affair. Jokes about when parole became due and “are you in Block H?” were tinged with reality. As Ian has described, we didn’t see any cricket either. Given that was the whole purpose it could be argued things were not going too well.
I recall walking back from the equally uninviting and playless Edgbaston in time for a planned tour of the local graveyard. This was advertised on a display outside the adjacent church amidst notices, it transpired, unchanged for many a decade. I should have twigged on reading the one with rusty drawing pins, congratulating the Mother’s Union for raising £7 19s 11d for Church upkeep. My children have often reiterated their displeasure when on holiday, mostly in France, when I would enthusiastically jump from the car and excitedly head off (alone) towards a remote cemetery or graveyard. This would make up a little for earlier non-events.
Wet through from my walk back, I just made the appointed time only to be met with a resounding silence, where I imagined the throng would now be congregating.
Just me then. The church was securely locked and, without a guide, any chance of an educational tour of the graves was out of the question. So, given I was staying one further night, I returned to the honesty bar at Harborne Hall before lock down and lights out. I left rather early the next morning, not stopping for toast.
This was to be the final ‘non-event’ of the 2012 gathering, so dominated by things that almost happened….
When I started typing the headline of this piece, I typed “Wet Indies” rather than “West Indies” by mistake. Or was it a mistake? Spooky.
To add to the disappointment of this visit, Charles “Charley The Gent Malloy” Bartlett had, as usual, organised a blinder of a visit, including our front row seats in the Raglan Stand and nets early in the evening on the day before the test, at Harborne CC, just up the road from our residence at Harborne Hall.
We had a roadworks/lane closure filled journey up to Birmingham. Chas had kindly offered to give me a lift from the outer reaches of the Central Line (Redbridge? Gants Hill?), so the three of us (including Nick) had plenty of time to bicker about music choices in the car.
If I recall correctly, Chas and I were both on a bit of an electric blues odyssey at that time, so (two to one) we mostly settled on Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters for that journey. In any case, I’m listening to my playlist of those artistes to tweak my memory as I write.
However, once we were on the M6 scooting through the West Midlands getting close to Birmingham, we saw some dark sky ahead. rather a lot of it. Rain clouds. Wet rain. Very wet rain. We arrived at Harborne Hall in what could only be described as a tropical-style storm. That storm passed pretty soon after we arrived, but we more or less knew that the soaking was bound to have put our nets at risk. We went down to Harborne CC in hope more than expectation, only to have our fears confirmed. Pools on the outfield and around the nets. No chance of a net.
We’d seen the gloomy weather forecast for the first two days of the test, of course, but still we hoped for a further 36 hours.
I remember a lot of sitting around at Harborne Hall. I remember the other three deciding to go down to the ground, despite the pouring rain and no sign of respite. I remember staying back, making some notes about Heavy Rollers visits from years gone by, which are now proving to be a most useful starting point for this blogging.
I also remember how much Harborne Hall had declined since our last visit. Not down to Beechwood Hotel levels – those depths would take some plumbing – but still decline. Harborne Hall had been the VSO conference centre, run along similar lines to The Children’s Society’s Wadderton. But it seemed that VSO had sold (or at least put under management and attempted to commercialise) Harborne Hall. The resulting approach had subtracted almost all of the friendly, folksy character of the place, leaving only the distressed gentility and a rather grasping approach to commercialism.
The nadir for our visit was on the final morning, when Nigel made the mistake of asking for an additional slice of toast with his breakfast and was informed that he would be charged extra for that extra slice. Did I see steam starting to come from Nigel’s ears? I don’t remember exactly how this matter was resolved. Nigel probably does recall.
The other occupants of Harborne Hall were now mostly peripatetic tradesmen. We played some pool and I think darts with some of them, at least one of the evenings, during that stay. We more or less held our own. Perhaps they were more inebriated or had failed to mis-spend their youths playing those games any more than we had.
I also don’t remember when we bailed out of this hopeless situation. I don’t think we stuck around too deep into the second day. I don’t even remember whether Chas gave me a lift back to the Essex borders or whether I stuck with my original plan to take the train home after the game.
It was the first time that the first two days of a test match had been entirely rained off in England since 1964. Not even the modern drainage could save play from that type of relentless rain. This telegraph piece has a lovely photo.
Despite the fact that we saw precisely nothing of this match live, it still counts as one of our Heavy Rollers matches in my view, so here is the scorecard. No surprises that the match was a draw, but there was a surprising stand between Dinesh Ramdin and Tino “mind the windows” Best who put on nearly 150 for the last wicket, Tino managing a batting-career-defining 95 of them.
Crickey, I have generated some 900 words, merely to elaborate on the main point, which I managed to get across in the first two words.
Also there was the backdrop of the riots that summer, which were unfolding as we arrived and during our stay, although leafy Harborne seemed unaware of or at least untouched by them.
Naturally Nigel and I made the most of it without Chas. It would be cruel to harp on about the extent to which we were nevertheless able to enjoy ourselves despite Chas’s indisposition. In any case, I doubtless harped sufficiently when I saw Charles again a bit later that season.
It must have been especially galling for Chas as I seem to recall he had gone to a great deal of trouble that year to secure our “honorary” front row seats, book nets, book rooms, book an Indian feast…oy!
I believe that I drove up that year having booked the extra night after the second day’s play. That might have been Nobby’s only visit to Harborne Hall.
The usual Heavy Rollers gig is Edgbaston, of course, but this year there was to be no test match in Brum.
Indeed, there has been much musing and debate since June 2007 as to whether this outing comprises a Heavy Rollers event or not.
In short, it does as far as I am concerned.
The evening before the match started, we were supposed to have a net at Old Trafford. Charles had arranged it all. The Old Trafford lot had been reluctant at first, priority for test match teams, can’t have oiks in the same nets as international players, blah blah. But when Chas explained that it was our tradition to net at Edgbaston the night before the match (based on a sample of one previous occasion, the year before, negotiated through similar reluctance), someone at Old Trafford was daft enough to relent and take our booking…but was then too polite to tell anyone to keep the place was open for us.
Result – disappointment the night before – only consolation being an amazing meal at Yang Sing (yes, my idea, yes, I know what I am doing, Chinese food-wise) for the four of us who had ventured that far north. Given the fuss-pot group involved: Nick, Harish, Charles and “me-no-fuss-pot” , the Yang Sing team worked wonders with a feast with plenty of food for all to enjoy.
The first day at the test was a day to watch England batting pretty well. Chas was still fidgeting about the net; I suggested that our best chance of real redress (i.e. a net) was to try and get them to allow us a net the next morning before the start of play. So we went to see the indoor school people and managed to find a suitably apologetic and sympathetic lady. She agreed that we had been seriously inconvenienced, to the extent that merely getting our money back was not adequate; she also managed to arrange for us to have our net at 9:00 am, before play the next day. She even arranged for us to have a parking space at Old Trafford when the inevitable question came up. Yes, Chas could then leave the car at Old Trafford all day. Quite a result.
So in the end, we were able to drive into old Trafford for Day two of the test early in the morning, as if we owned the place. Into the nets and let the fun commence. Around the time I came to have my bat, a small posse of West Indian stars turned up in the adjoining net. I especially remember Ravi Rampaul bowling to Shiv Chanderpaul. I also remember having to encourage the heavy roller guys to bowl at me rather than rubbernecking at the adjoining nets.
Whether Shiv Chanderpaul rubbernecked to observe my technique I couldn’t say, as naturally I was concentrating hard on my batting – watching the ball all the time, all the way. But Shiv did make a 50 that day, so I suspect he picked up a few ideas through observation in those nets.
The day got weirder once we were in our seats. Someone behind us spent more or less the whole day on his feet in a Borat mankini. He and his mates were also doing some strange business, passing around a whole cooked chicken while singing its praises. And of course the inevitable Old Trafford beer snakes etc., as was the case Day One.
I also ran into Mike Redfern and a bunch of his mates from the Red Bat Cricket Collective. I noticed the Red Bat shirts walking past us and stopped the guys, asking them if they were by any chance still in touch with Mike. “We sure are – he’s sitting over there with us”, was the reply. Really nice to see him again.
Of course we went home at the end of Day Two (driving off into the sunset straight from the ground), but the test remained weird after we left Manchester, with a streaker incident the next day. Strangely, that incident was recently (at the time of writing, December 2015) reminisced about on King Cricket – here.
It relates to a conversation I had with my next door neighbour.
The door to the next room was wide open. At first I thought my neighbour was engaged in conversation with someone – perhaps in the room but unseen by me, perhaps on his mobile phone. As I put the key into the lock of my door, he yelled out, unmistakably at me, “hello young fella. We’re neighbours, mate”.
‘Young fella’ is an endearing moniker once you get to my age. (These days only stewards at Lord’s and front of house staff at the Wigmore Hall still seem to use it for me.)
I took a couple of steps back and greeted my neighbour. He was certainly alone in the room and as far as I could tell had not been talking to anyone other than himself before I arrived.
He was bare chested – a strange sight in an old Victorian house/hotel in that Midlands City in spring – indeed I was going to my room to get an extra layer for the evening. He was drinking a can of lager.
“Sorry mate, I’m a bit pissed”, he said. It was 18:30 – probably par for his course.
“No problem”, I replied, “why not? You enjoy yourself.”
“That’s the spirit”, said my neighbour, “you going out for the evening?”
“That’s right”, I said.
“Well you have a good time, mate”, said my neighbour.
“And you have a good evening too”, I replied.
“That’s the spirit, mate”, he hollered after me as I scuttled the few steps along the corridor, quickly opened up the door to my room, grabbed my jersey, locked up again and fled for the evening.
How did our regular Edgbaston (and occasionally other grounds) visiting group, the Heavy Rollers, end up staying at possibly the worst hotel of all time? After all, we comprise a bunch of reasonably discerning, sensible people.
The very worst hotels only happen to stupid people, right? Wrong.
But this event does needs some context and explanation in our defence before the exposition.
For several years, our excursion was based around the Wadderton Conference Centre, which was the Children’s Society place in rural Worcestershire, just outside Birmingham. David Steed, who was one of our number in the Heavy Rollers, ran the place and lived on site. The Children’s Society was pleased for a bit of income from guests in the quiet summer period and it was mighty convenient and pleasant for us, with a suitable garden for pre-match cricket antics.
Reports on those pre-test-match games held in the Wadderton gardens will no doubt appear on Ogblog in the fullness of time.
Now David Steed, bless him, ran Wadderton wonderfully and was subsequently a superb host at his Birmingham house. But he possibly wasn’t the best judge of a hotel. Cheap and near the ground seemed sufficient criteria for him. His e-mail a few weeks before the match:
Accommodation is confirmed as previously written about and subsequent telephone chat at Beechwood Hotel on the Bristol Road approx. 200 yards from the main entrance at Edgbaston…
…No deposits required and as we have spoken – do people want to come early enough on the Wednesday to perform on our local green followed by supper at ours with a meal out locally or in Brum on the Thurs. night. Any thoughts ?
That “subsequent telephone chat” was not with me. Anyone dare to confess?
Of course, in a more modern era we might have looked at TripAdvisor or one of its competitor/predecessor sites to check the Beechwood Hotel, but back then those web sites didn’t exist, or barely existed.
The “gentleman” who held himself out to us as the owner/proprietor, I suppose must have been the infamous Tom mentioned in several of the reviews.
Nigel recalls that the main light in Adam’s room didn’t work because the light bulb had blown. When Adam approached Tom for a replacement light bulb, he was told to fill in a form to apply for a replacement – the replacement was thus not forthcoming during our stay.
Although David had promised us that the rooms came
“each with private bathroom”…
…I seem to recall having to toddle down the corridor to get to said bathroom. “Private”, I suppose, does not necessarily mean “en suite” in this Beechwood world. I also recall some very inappropriate jokes about Zyklon B from my companions during conversations about those ghastly showers.
But the most bizarre conversations were with Tom, who tended to sidle up to us in the bar/common parts areas of the hotel and bend our ears with tales of his roller-coaster and/or imagined past. I made some fragmented notes:
“I was a millionaire at 21…a multi-millionaire at 24…lost it all at 33. I’ve been out with Miss Jamaica, Miss Bromsgrove, the lot. I had an Aston Martin – would cost about £125,000 today. Do fast cars while you’re young, young man, you won’t fancy it once you are your dad’s age. I made a million when a million was real money. When a million was really a million…”
The company that owned the property was only struck off a few months ago at the time of writing, December 2015, so I imagine the property is now in the hands of the Mortgage provider, Nat West, who surely could find some property developer somewhere who might adapt the premises into some jolly useful affordable housing in leafy Edgbaston.
Two Nights and Two Days of Cricket
Why were we there? Oh yes, cricket.
We had a net at Edgbaston itself on the Wednesday evening. I’m not entirely sure how our evening panned out, but – having now also seen an e-mail from Nigel sent to us ahead of the trip – I suspect that the net was late afternoon – Nigel’s e-mail suggests 17:00 start – and that the game on David’s local green was therefore a that same evening at, say, 19:00.
Anyway, the muck-about game on David’s local green, the night before the test match started, did not go well for me, as evidenced by this page of my jotter.
Nigel “Father Barry” White and son did well, as did a local lad, Craig, who wandered along and asked if he could play with us.
Harish (Harsha Ghoble) also had a good go, although I do recall bowling him on one occasion with one of my moon balls which descended vertically onto the stumps. “How are you supposed to play a ball like that?”, complained Harish. Nigel then dispatched my next, similar ball for six. “Like that”, said Nigel.
I also recall lots of bites on my legs afterwards, although whether those were from the green or the hotel is a matter of some conjecture. Perhaps a bit of both.
Postscript March 2017 – the scorecard relic and narrative about the park muckabout game is a false memory from 2006 – that happened in 2008 and the text is transposed to that piece, together with a link to Charles Bartlett’s wonderful 2008 photographs that helped me to disambiguate. It seemed a ridiculous idea, that we had a net AND a muckabout in the park the same evening…it was ridiculous – didn’t happen.
The dinner at David’s on the Wednesday evening was typically delicious and (equally typically) the wine flowed plentifully. We had a great evening, that Wednesday before the game.
I’m not 100% sure where we ate on the Thursday night, but I think it was that year we went to a local Indian place near Steed Towers. Others might recall better. I think I was in “Beechwood Hotel shock” by then. It really was not a place for the faint-hearted.
Or, as Charley the Gent Malloy would put it, “that hotel was no place for a wuss.”