Middlesex v Warwickshire Days 2 & 3, Lord’s, 18 & 19 April 2016

Monday

‘Twas the second day of Middlesex’s cricket season and my first glimpse of live cricket for far too long. Charley “the Gent” Malloy was my guest for the day.

I went to the gym first thing, then on to the bakers for fresh bread and then the flat to prepare the picnic. Cray fish breakfast muffins and wild Alaskan salmon in poppy-seed bagels formed the highlight of the feast. A fruity little Kiwi Riesling was the highlight beverage.

On my way to Lord’s, I noticed that King Cricket had that very day published my piece about visiting the Ashes test with Daisy, less than nine moths after the event. This coincidence seemed most timely to me, not least because I wanted to discuss with Charley the future of my “match reports” in this brave new Ogblog era.

Charley was waiting for me at the Grace Gate and looked at his watch as I arrived, as if to say “where have you been?” In fact, we had both arrived some minutes ahead of the appointed hour, which was probably just as well, as Charley wasn’t moving too quickly. “Done me knee,” said Charley.

“I’m not in the best of knee health myself,” I said, as my ignominious tumble on the real tennis court on Seaxe AGM day was still causing me gyp in the knee department, not least because I had managed a couple of unfortunate knocks on just the wrong spot since. “We’ll swap knee stories when we sit down”, said Charley, which we did. Charley’s was worse. Much worse.

In accordance with our tradition, Charley and I sat on death row; the front row of the lower tier of the pavilion. Normally, our backs can only tolerate death row for a while, but as it turned out, our knee problems probably served to mask any back pain. Further, with Charley’s limited mobility and no chance of sun that day anywhere in the ground, we ended up staying put on death row for the whole day.

I described to Charley my correspondence with King Cricket on the matter of match reports henceforward. Charley liked my ideas about writing book reviews and recipes for King Cricket, while posting reports of this kind on Ogblog. I wondered whether I should revert to real names here on Ogblog, but Charley felt that the characters’ names were a tradition and allowed me a bit more poetic licence. (Little does Charley realise that I write with reckless abandon, at least in the matter of creative licence, regardless of naming conventions).

While all this was going on, my understanding is that there was a bit of a cricket match taking place on the lawn in front of us and that Sam Robson blessed us with the sight of him reaching a double-hundred. I hadn’t seen one of those since I caught the very end of Chris Rogers’ match winning double a couple of seasons ago in the match linked here. Not that you’d realise what had happened from the King Cricket match report linked here, as you are not allowed to say anything about the actual cricket in a KC report about a professional match.

It was seriously chilly but Charley and I had both wrapped up warm and were chatting eagerly; the start of the season holds so many exciting possibilities. So the day passed very quickly. With just over an hour left to play, the umpires decided that the slight gloom which had pervaded for much of the day had become a little too gloomy, so off came the players and that was that for the day. Charley and I stuck around for a while, partly in hope more than expectation and partly to warm up with some coffee inside the pavilion before heading home. We’d had a very good day.

Tuesday

I returned to Lord’s the next day, primarily for meetings, but with the hope and expectation that I’d get to see some cricket too. Indeed, as a couple of the meetings got postponed, I got to see much of the day’s cricket and get some good reading done.

It was a much sunnier day, so I decided to take up position on the north side of the middle tier balcony. As soon as I plonked myself down, I sensed that I might be blocking Dougie Brown’s view. So the moment I heard “excuse me”, in that unmistakable Scottish accent, I started to shift along the row and checked that all now had a clear view. Dougie was chatting with Peter Such and soon Graham Thorpe joined them, but my mind was firmly on my book, A Confederacy of Dunces (read nothing into the juxtaposition, folks) and of course I was taking in the cricket.

Despite the sun, it still wasn’t warm and I hadn’t donned my thermals on the Tuesday. Also, I was quite peckish by about 12:30, as Charley and I had picnicked sensibly the day before and/but I had only snacked in the evening. So I went to the upstairs bar and bought a nice chunky sandwich and a hot cup of coffee for my lunch, both of which I downed with great pleasure. The bar was mostly populated with Warwickshire 1882 Club members talking exclusively about soccer football.

After my lunch, I retired to the writing room, where I thought I’d get some quiet and a decent view of the cricket protected from the cold. To some extent, my plan worked, especially the matter of getting some reading done and shield myself from the cold.

But my attempts to make headway with this Ogblog piece were continually thwarted. Initially, for a few brief minutes, I was distracted by the arms of Morpheus. Then when play resumed, there were interruptions and enough going on in the cricket to tear me away repeatedly from my little Kindle Fire gadget. No matter.

The interruptions came primarily in two forms:

After the helicopter crescendo and witnessing Trott complete his double-hundred (they seem to be like double-decker buses, these double-hundreds), I then had an interesting chat with a couple of the remaining writing room gentlemen. The younger of the two had been a teacher at Highbury Grove School when Rhodes Boyson was the head, which made for an interesting chat. I said that I remembered protesting against Boyson’s cuts when he was an Education Minister and I was a student. The older of the two gentlemen suggested that they might be in the company of a dangerous leftist, to which I countered that the chap who had been teaching in an Islington Comprehensive in the 1970s had, by definition, more “dangerous leftist credentials” than me.

I did not share with those gentlemen the clear memory, which popped into my head, of an anti-cuts protest we staged in the early 1980s outside the UGC Building in Bloomsbury.  I’ll need to go through my diaries to write that one up properly and no doubt Simon Jacobs will again deny all memory of the business. Suffice it to say here that a similarly garbed non-violent protest stunt, staged these days, might be inadvisable to say the very least.

I was spotted by one or two other friends and associates at that writing room table, who stopped by for an early season hello and quick chat. Richard Goatley arrived to whisk me away soon after those interludes, so I had a quick drink with Richard and a few other people in the Bowlers’ Bar, then headed for home a few overs before stumps.

A Miscellaneous, Mostly Middlesex, Day At Lord’s, 7 April 2016

I’m using some of my own time to help Middlesex CCC with its strategic planning. Richard Goatley, the new Chief Executive thought that AGM day would be a good opportunity to see lots of people, so I blocked out the whole day for Lord’s, starting there at 9:30, after clearing my e-mails and going to the gym.

I could describe the detailed conversations that morning with the MCC and ECB, but they are probably covered by the “I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you” protocol. (Unless you, dear reader, are Richard Goatley himself, in which case you wouldn’t need to read it here because you already have notes.)

After a pleasant lunch in The Lord’s Tavern, which Richard spent mostly signing forms for Dawid Malan, we met with Martin Hadland. Martin is doing a closely related piece of work around membership satisfaction and finding ways to boost membership. We went through the results of a members survey and discussed his impending focus groups with members. It all looks very well done so far and promises interesting ideas for improving the membership propositions.

I then had a pesky 90 minutes or so interval before the AGM. I had been expecting that interval, so had brought some reading matter with me. I went to the real tennis dedans viewing gallery. I shall eventually write up my new experience of learning to play real tennis. Suffice it to say here that I thought that I’d both get some reading done and also get my head into the game a little more.

I watched some very good players locked into a tight match. Then, just before 17:00, in walks a familiar face; Chris Stanton. He was in John Random’s Spring 1992 NewsRevue cast and was the lead performer on the first songs of mine that were ever performed there, two of which I have today blogged in honour of the chance encounter:

Chris and I had a very pleasant but brief chat, as his opponent turned up shortly after. I watched Chris play for a while, then left the viewing gallery to whizz through my e-mails before going to the meeting. Strangely, John Random had e-mailed one of his “Where Are They Now” messages to his NewsRevue alumni circle earlier in the day (Sarah Moyle spotted on the TV), so I e-mailed back to let everyone know that I had just seen Chris Stanton face-to-face!

Doubly ironic happenings, as real tennis is such a weird game, the rules could easily have emanated from a John Random sketch describing a fictitious game of John’s imagining. Richard Goatley doesn’t even believe that the game exists, despite the proximity of the Lord’s real tennis court to Richard’s office – like, next door!

I subsequently received the following missive from Random:

What a great idea. Real tennis is presumably the one where you don’t use the same prescriptions as Maria Sharapova.

 

My reply:

Absolutely not the same meds as Maria – she took Meldonium.  The performance enhancing drug of choice for real tennis is Sanatogen.

As a novice, I am sometimes asked to play with some of the more senior members – one pair I was up against when learning doubles had a combined age of around 178 and they are determined to still be playing next year as the world’s first ever nonagenarian tennis pair. Their secret simply has to be Sanatogen.

Next stop, the AGM. The formal part is covered by the aforementioned “I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you” protocol. Believe me, the substance of a Middlesex AGM is not worth dying for, nor even worth the effort to attend were it not for the subsequent elements to the evening.

Suffice it to say that new Chair, Mike O’Farrell, while not as funny as outgoing Chair, Ian Lovett, ran a tight ship for the AGM, getting through the meeting with all business thoroughly covered and in record time. One type of gem replacing another type of gem in the chair; that’s my view.

The AGM is always followed by a very interesting pre-season forum; this year Angus Fraser, Dawid Malan and Richard Scott joined Richard Goatley on the panel for a very interesting discussion about cricket. Apparently Middlesex is a cricket club. I wish I’d realised that when I started work on the Middlesex strategy. Oh well.

Then a very enjoyable party for those members willing to stump up an ayrton for wine, cheese and a convivial opportunity to catch up with friends, grandees and friendly grandees. After the party, the conviviality was set to continue in the Tavern. Tired, I attempted to make my apologies, keen not to become both tired AND emotional. I explained that the metaphorical umpire’s finger had been raised, so I had no option but to go. It is very hard for cricket lovers to object to you going, when you put it like that.

A fruitful day, a lovely chance encounter and a most enjoyable evening.

 

Lunch At Harry Morgan With Richard Goatley, Dinner At Medlar With John White, 12 March 2015

Everything I said in my 5 February 2015 piece about lunch with Richard Goatley at Harry Morgan – click here – is true…

…except for one thing…

…it didn’t happen on 5 February. It happened on 12 March 2015 instead. Richard had to cancel 5 February at the last minute; so last minute that I didn’t even get around to scribbling out the appointment in my physical diary. We rescheduled for 12 March.

Which explains why I had a partial memory of eating and chatting with Richard outside at Harry’s and then thought, “no, not possible in February”. But it was possible with terrace heaters in March. I also remember Vedad, a friend from Bodyworkswest, discovering me and Richard there on St John’s Wood High Street during that lunch.

My e-mail trail has helped me to establish the above and the arrangements for dinner.

I think I should also report that the e-mail trail provides some evidence that I actually did some work on 5 February and 12 March, I didn’t just have lunch and dinner and stuff. But Ogblog’s not for work stuff, unless it is “work life” stuff.

So, John White e-mailed on the Tuesday to say:

I have booked Medlar on the King’s Road for dinner at 7.00 p.m. on Thursday.  I hope you approve.  Lets meet up beforehand for an aperitif.

I replied:

Tremendous choice, well done.  Not tried Medlar but am very much looking forward to trying it with you.

Given that we are going the very end of the world for dinner, I suggest a pre-dinner drink at The Henry Root from c18:15:

http://www.thehenryroot.com/

Here’s a pound.

So that’s what we did.

I like the Henry Root; a good casual place for any time of day. Friendly staff and friendly people in it.

A short wander across Chelsea to Medlar, which I thought was a truly excellent restaurant. Helpful staff, high falutin’-looking clientele, but not to the level where you feel intimidated. I liked it so much that I went again a few weeks later, for lunch with Stephen Barry.

John and I spent quite a lot of the evening talking about my plans to reshape my working life, a change which, I suppose, has played a major part in my development of Ogblog. I’m pretty sure we talked about plenty of John’s stuff and many other things too, but I do especially remember the Henry Root part of the evening being mostly, if not all about me.

I did think about making that line one of the strap lines for this site, btw.

Ogblog: It IS all about me.

Except that I’m not really aiming for such extreme self-centredness – hence my desire to widen the blog out to friends and family; not least encouraging comments.

Anyway, that evening at Medlar with John was all about great food and good conversation. A good one for sure from my point of view. John might remember it differently and in any case might choose to add a comment or two.

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

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

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

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

Update:

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

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

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

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

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

It was.

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

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

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

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

The Day Garfield Sobers Watched Me & Z/Yen Play Cricket, Lord’s, 30 June 2009

It hardly seems possible, but there is Garry Sobers and there are we Z/Yen folk too, this photograph and all those that follow in this piece with thanks to Monique Gore

Sadly, I never got to see Sir Garfield (“Garry”) Sobers play live, in person. I saw one or two performances at the very end of his career on the TV – I remember avidly following the first test of the 1973 series between England and the West Indies – but never live, in person. In his pomp, he was surely one of the very greatest all-round cricketers ever.

Even more sadly/ironically/inappropriately, I am here to report that Sir Garfield Sobers has suffered the indignity of watching me and the Z/Yen team playing live, in person, at Lord’s.

It happened like this.

Middlesex County Cricket Club had very kindly offered me a Lord’s box for a day of County Championship cricket, as a thank you for some pro bono work I was doing with the club at that time. I decided to organise a Z/Yen awayday to take advantage of the box, including booking out half of the Lord’s Cricket Academy for a couple of hours. Of course Z/Yen had to pay for everything other than the box, so it was quite an expensive freebie in the end, but well worth it.

Linda’s e-mail to the team sets out the itinerary for the day:

As the day is approaching, I thought you should have an itinerary of the Z/Yen Away Day to Lord Cricket Ground (Home of Cricket) on Tuesday, 30 June 2009.

9.30-9.45 Arrive at Marylebone Cricket Club, Lord’s Cricket Ground, London NW8 8QN.  Map:  http://www.lords.org/findus.html

10.00       Lesson and game with James Fielding

13.00       Lunch at the Sir Pelham Warner Restaurant retiring to Tavern’s Stand, Box E to watch Middlesex V Surrey

16.30       Afternoon Tea

In the end our lesson and game was mostly organised by Jamie Thorpe, not James Fielding.

Jamie Thorpe helping Becky to sort out her protective gear, which seemed to take longer than her actual cricket session…
…then Jamie tried to work on Becky’s batting technique. At no point did any of us hear Jamie say, “stick to the flute, Becky.”

I had told Richard Goatley (then Deputy Chief Executive of Middlesex) about our plans. He told me he had a meeting that morning but it should be finished in time for him to pop round and have a look at us in the Academy.

What Richard didn’t say in advance was that his morning meeting was with Garfield Sobers and that Richard had resolved to try and bring Sobers along with him.

What Richard didn’t know in advance was that he and Sobers would bump into the legendary former Middlesex player and coach, Don Bennett, while on the way to the Academy to see us.

Richard picks up his side of the story from there:

I can remember…
…you were bowling in a bandana.
When Don Bennett saw your first ball Don said, “oh Jesus, I’m done” and started to walk away.
Sobers said, “cmon Don, watch a little”, but Don left pretty quickly afterwards.

The photographic evidence suggests that I was indeed bowling in a bandana…
…quite possibly at Jez…looks straight enough…

I’d have had Don Bennett know that I once took a hat trick with my slow right arm “filthy but straight” bowling at school.

Anyway, Sobers was a far more discerning observer of Z/Yen cricket than “The Don”…or at least far more polite, as he did stick around for a good twenty minutes or so; longer in fact than Richard Goatley.

Then Sobers watched the youngsters who were playing in the other half of the Academy for a while, then at the end of it all stuck around for the youngsters and then us to have photos taken with him. What a delightful gentleman he is.

All the Z/Yen folk who played that day…
…then a few of us also photographed with Garry Sobers. Magic.

All of the photographs from the day can be found by clicking here.

Richard Goatley still likes to milk this story and frankly so do I. Having Garry Sobers watch us play is one of those very special cricketing memories that I shall never forget.

The rest of the day was very special too, as reported in this – click here – separate Ogblog piece.

Middlesex v Worcestershire Days 1 and 3 at Lord’s, Co-starring Ed Smith, 22 and 24 July 2008

Tuesday

I’m not sure when I was first approached by Ed Smith at Lord’s, but I am pretty sure it was on the first day of this match, 22 July, “The Longest Groundhog Day”, which I reported (mainly through MTWD) – click here for the Ogblog links.

Ed had been injured early in the T20 campaign – see my Ogblog about the day it happened here. As it turned out, the injury was a career ending injury, but at the time Ed was simply at a loose end around Lord’s hoping to recover quickly.

As I understand it, Richard Goatley suggested that Ed have a chat with me about stuff, possibly in part to clear the office at a crazy time (SGM day), possibly in part because he thought that Ed and I might not only find stuff to talk about, but even be able to tolerate each other while doing so.

First I knew of it was an SMS, which seemed to come from Ed Smith, suggesting we meet for a chat. At first I thought it was a joke/hoax (I was editing MTWD back then) but anyway it wasn’t a hoax. I did wonder whether Ed knew that I was MTWD’s Ged, but we never discussed the matter and (strangely) I have never asked Richard Goatley whether Ed was told/knew. I might ask Richard one day.

In any case, that Tuesday I was reporting for MTWD, but there was so much else going on I was able to fill my report with stuff and not feel that I was giving the readers short change by omitting the Ed Smith bits.

I recall a conversation about Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Ed had been asked to write a review of and/or comment upon The Black Swan. Ed said he was finding it impenetrable and asked if I had read it. I told him I had read it and recommended, as a way in to Taleb, Fooled By Randomness and the essay The Fourth Quadrant; the latter (in my opinion) being much shorter and much more to the point than The Black Swan.

A few months later, Ed wrote a piece (I think for The Times) about Lord’s being the only place on earth where you can strike up a random conversation about Nassim Nicholas Taleb and end up chatting with someone who knows as much, if not more, about Taleb than you do!

Thursday

Originally there would have been no hope of getting to any more of the Worcestershire match, but in the event both of my Thursday business meetings were moved; in the case of the Z/Yen Board meeting brought forward to the Wednesday.

That enabled me to pick up a copy of Fooled By Randomness (we had a few) and take it to Lord’s with me for Ed on the Thursday. So as it turned out, I got to see two days of that match and spend a bit more time chatting with Ed Smith.

The only problem with that was the cricket, which was mostly seeing Middlesex getting beaten up by relatively lowly Worcestershire.

Here’s a link to the scorecard.

The MTWD reporter that third day, Southgate Emerald, is prone to call a spade a bleeding shovel; this day was no exception – click here.

I remember that I did watch the denouement of the Worcestershire match with Ed and I remember that we discussed whether the player’s minds were on topic or whether thoughts of Finals Day at the Rose Bowl were more to the fore. We also wondered whether the extra day’s rest would help Middlesex ahead of Saturday’s massive event. As I recall it, our combined wisdom concluded that we didn’t have a clue.

Sound judgement, that.