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.
Janie was not well pleased with the deep-stained bed linen either, so got to task with the sweet staff, who swapped our mattress over and adorned the better mattress with clean linen ahead of our second night.
Monk’s House doesn’t open until lunchtime, which unfortunately coincided with the weather forecast’s prediction of heavy showers in Sussex. Still, showers can be dodged on a visit to a house and garden, so we resolved to follow the test match in the morning and go off towards Lewes as soon as lunch was called at The Oval.
Monk’s House is very different from Charleston. It must have been a far more orderly place back in the day and is now a National Trust run place. However, unlike Charleston, we were allowed to take pictures inside…
…but understandably there are rules, such as “no food and drink inside” and “don’t touch things or place stuff on things”.
One couple who entered just after us seemed hell bent on breaking every one of the rules within 30 seconds of arrival, sending the charming but bossy volunteer/guide lady into fits of polite reprimand.
On chatting with that same lady later, Janie and I were also reprimanded, but in our case for going to Charleston without visiting the Berwick Church, which the lady swore was the very best example of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s work. “You simply MUST go”, she said.
“Is that an instruction?”, I asked. “Yes, absolutely”, she said, “even if you say on TripAdvisor that I am the most terrible bossy-boots…I’m telling you, you really MUST see that Church”.
Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf’s house-minder? Me. I thought we’d better conform and go to church. Initially I thought maybe tomorrow on the way home, but actually Monk’s House is quite small, so I started quietly plotting a reasonably rapid exit from Monk’s, after seeing the garden; we should still have plenty of time to go back out Charleston way to the church and then back to Brighton/Hove for the cricket match.
We got back to the hotel in good time to get ready to go out to the cricket. The weather improved and we were both chuffed to bits to discover that Toby Roland-Jones had taken three wickets in his first spell on test match debut at the Oval, while we were driving…and then a fourth which we saw on the TV when we got back to the hotel.
The weather improved enough for us to brave the walk from the hotel to the Hove cricket ground; a very pleasant walk it was too.
The Sussex CCC hospitality was warm, friendly and informal; ideal for a T20 match. To make matters better, the match even started on time:
But the weather forecast was iffy to say the least and after a while the brollies went up…Middlesex were not doing so well at that point.
The match resumed for a while and Middlesex’s fortunes improved after the resumption, with fours and sixes punctuated with flames,which Janie took great pains to capture on camera:
But then the rain returned and remained until the match was abandoned. Then it stopped raining again so Janie and I could walk back to the hotel.
We hadn’t seen much cricket, but we had enjoyed a very convivial evening in good company.
We were both in very good spirits; we’d had two very enjoyable days sojourning in Sussex.
In early May I received an e-mail from John White, out of the blue:
I have been invited to the Oval on 19th July and have been asked if I would like to bring a friend! It could only be you Ian. Are you free? We will be the guest of WE Communications and we get to go in the members area.
My first thought was that this must be the test match, but when I looked up the date I discovered that it was an evening domestic T20 match between Surrey and Essex.
John’s e-mail was not terribly informative and (after accepting the invitation with relish) I didn’t give the event a great deal of thought again until it was imminent.
As it happens, on the day, I was working from home, interrupted only by a marathon session of tennis mid morning at Lord’s.
On reflection, I should have pipped John an e-mail about the extent to which this might be formal entertaining, mode of dress, etc., but instead I picked up Marcus’s e-mail, Googled WE Communications and decided for myself that this must be corporate entertaining of some scale and that I’d better turn up suited and booted. I even put my little case of business cards in my jacket pocket.
As it turned out, the evening was in fact a very informal set up with Marcus (who is a Surrey member), his colleague Josh (who is in fact a fellow MCC yellow-carder), me and John. All the others were in “dress-down, evening out” attire.
It was a very enjoyable evening. Really good company; people who know and enjoy their cricket while at the same time keeping the conversation suitably varied and interesting on many topics.
I really liked that feeling of neutrality at the match. I was watching cricket, simply hoping to see a good match, without any emotional equity in the result. It was strangely refreshing. In particular I think the neutrality worked for me because I was in good company.
After the game, although John was demob happy, he was keen to start his long journey home and I was keen to get home quite early as I had a long working day ahead the next day.
The evening was great fun; I’m sure we’ll do something like that again next season – perhaps at Lord’s, so that Marcus can experience that slightly oblivious feeling of cricket watching neutrality.
Having played at least 40 hours of real tennis, I decided that I need a couple more lessons now just to try and come to terms with some basics such as playing off the back wall and volleying from the back of the court.
I arranged one of those lessons for 12:00 on this day. The weekend before, Chris Swallow phoned me and asked if I minded staying on to make up the numbers for the “senior doubles” hour, after my lesson. This seemed to me to be a good way of consolidating my learning.
I planned, therefore, to get all my work out of the way early and head straight from Lord’s to Wantage Road for the T20 quarter final between Northamptonshire and Middlesex.
The real tennis lesson with Chris went fine. We concentrated on playing off the back wall, which I think I can now do with more confidence.
After the lesson, Chris went off to find one of the senior gentlemen for the doubles while two of us knocked up and then started playing some singles while we waited. The senior gentleman was nearly half an hour late due to some traffic problems. We played the senior doubles until 14:00, then Chris said that he needed to stop but that the court was free for a further 30 minutes if we wanted to play on.
So, as the clock ticked into the start of a third continuous hour on court (I realise in retrospect that this is not a good idea), the three of us who remained started playing a form of rotating (Australian) Canadian Doubles, which works quite well for real tennis. On one occasion, I served a sitter to the more senior gentleman who sent the ball back towards the far (forehand) corner.
Keen to show off my new “off the back wall” skills, I hurtled towards the ball and then realised (a little too late) that the ball would land far too close to the corner for me to do anything other than break myself and/or my racket. On pulling out of the shot in a muddle, I caught my own face with the racket between my eyebrow and my eye.
The senior gentleman in question seemed far more concerned to ascertain whether he had won the point or laid a chase before finding out whether I was OK. Quite a lot of blood, but in truth a small wound. We soldiered on until the next match arrived at half-past.
Mercifully for you, dear reader, I didn’t take a selfie of my injury, neither at the time nor the next day when the bruise/shiner went through a particularly vivid multi-coloured set of hues.
After my 150 minutes on court, I decompressed for a few minutes and ascertained that the swelling was so slight and far enough away from the eye as to leave my vision entirely unimpeded. I therefore soldiered on as planned to Northampton for the cricket match.
T20 Cricket – Northamptonshire v Middlesex Quarter-Final
I found myself in the appropriate hospitality suite well before the match, after navigating the Northamptonshire CCC stewards. Most of them seemed temporary and unable to help much/at all, whereas the regular ones (if you could find them) were incredibly helpful. Sadly the regulars were indiscernible from the temporary ones, unless you knew who to look for.
Quite a few of the Middlesex regulars were there, of course. I learnt that this was to be the first ever T20 match between our two counties. I met a few really pleasant and interesting people. Northamptonshire put on a very tasty spread for us all. Much of the time I sat next to Keith Mein (Middlesex Committee) and Roy Virgin (former Northamptonshire player).
I was hoping for an easy drive home, but that wasn’t to be. Unscheduled roadworks between a couple of the junctions near Luton/Dunstable (aren’t there nearly always unscheduled roadworks there?) timed perfectly to maximise my discomfort, led to a tailback and diversions that the sat nav could only warn me about in retrospect. More than two-and-a-half hours after setting off from Northampton I got home.
It was a day for 150 minute marathons. Not my best day of the summer.
For several years now, it has been a Z/Yen tradition for a dozen or so of us to visit the Middlesex v Surrey T20 match at Lord’s. For several years, the tradition was also to witness Surrey thrashing Middlesex and for the assembled throng to try consoling me and Jez with “maybe next year” platitudes.
But last year, for the first time in yonks, Middlesex won the match. Better yet, this year Middlesex were sitting a bit higher in the table than Surrey ahead of the fixture, with both sides desperate for the points to help achieve knockout-stage qualification. A big game.
However, I had some difficulty persuading Xueyi to attempt watching cricket again. Her previous visit (two years ago) had left her cold in several respects; not least the chilly weather but also finding the cricket hard to fathom and finding the “M&S picnic nibbles” not quite to her taste. I suggested that I might take a trip to Chinatown and stock up with Cantonese bakery delicacies as the centrepiece of the picnic if that might persuade Xueyi to join us. She said it would.
I was working from home that day, so I chose to make my Chinatown hike reasonably early to be sure of a good stock of the day’s bakery delights. I googled to see if my old stomping ground was still top notch for this purpose and discovered that, indeed, Kowloon in Gerard Street is still highly regarded, especially for its massive cha siu baos and gai mei baos. I was introduced to that place in the late 1970’s/early 1980s when doing holiday jobs for Newman Harris in Cavendish Square; the Chinese Malaysian trainees and I used to make a lunch of those big tasty buns. It must be a good 25 years since I last went there, though.
On the way, I recalled that the place used to be cash only and made sure I had drawn enough money just in case. Indeed, the place was utterly unchanged including the hand-scribbled order ticket and the cash only payment desk. I went a bit mad buying lots of baos, plus some cha siu pastry ones and some sweet melon pastries too.
I called Xueyi to let her know that I had bought loads of food and also to ask her to let Linda know that we wouldn’t need much else for the hoards, but Xueyi clearly had other ideas, not least a fiendish plan to get some smaller delicacies from her favourite dim sum joint; Orient London. Like me, Xueyi went a bit mad getting loads of cha siu pastries (smaller than the Kowloon ones, but, frankly, much finer) and also some very juicy and delicious prawn spring rolls, which were surprisingly good cold. Also some Cantonese brisket beef slices.
In her fervour, Xueyi neglected to pass on my message to Linda, who went down to M&S and bought a fair selection of nibbles just in case my Chinese food idea didn’t go down well with everyone.
Anyway, to cut a long story short the Chinese delicacies went down very well with our team and there were plenty left to feed other spectators sitting near us and Linda had lots of M&S food to take home with her for the weekend.
Why were we there? Oh yes, a cricket match.
Barmy Kev came and sat near us but for some reason chose not to join us when invited. Perhaps he thought we might have designs on his bottle of wine (as if we didn’t have plenty of that too). But soon Kev realised that he had no corkscrew, so (not for the first time in my life and surely not for the last) begged the loan of a corkscrew from me and then demonstrated for about 5 minutes how very bad his screwing technique is for one so experienced as he – Kev’s MTWD write up, here, does not do his demonstrable incompetence justice. There was a big crowd cheer when he eventually withdrew the cork.
Meanwhile, Xueyi (from Nanjing, China) and Ashley (born in Jamaica but raised in the USA and therefore strangely aware of but not well versed in cricket) asked quite a lot of sensible questions about the game and then settled down to finding pokémons in the crowd, which they seemed to be able to do with little difficulty and much delight (see photo).
Marc (sitting next to me) tried to argue a social justice case for Surrey to win the match because Middlesex won last year; this was about as convincing to me as his “Brexit leave” arguments.
Regardless of whether they focus on the eating, drinking, pokémons and/or cricket, the Z/Yen team always seems to enjoy this outing. There was a record crowd for a domestic T20 cricket match in England that night 27,000+, so it seems that we’re far from the only bunch that finds these T20 evenings a fun and enticing proposition.
It was EU referendum day. In the future (possibly even before I’m gone) I expect economic and social historians will talk about “pre EU referendum” and “post EU referendum” as watershed points, certainly for the UK, possibly for Europe or even the whole western world. But today was referendum day itself.
It bucketed down with rain first thing, so I got quite a lot of work done while waiting for the rain to subside. I went to the gym mid morning, after the deluge, voted along the way and felt glad that the turnout was apparently very high despite the rain.
A light lunch, a bit more work and then over to Lord’s for a meeting with Richard to review the Middlesex strategy work, ahead of tonight’s televised T20 game. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best slot to choose for reviewing a document, as there was lots of to-ing and fro-ing for the match.
But the afternoon and evening did prove a good opportunity to meet some of Richard’s other advisory people; at that early stage Ed Griffiths and later on Ed Villiers. Meeting these two certainly helped prove to me Richard’s technique (not that it needed proving) of surrounding himself with useful informal advisors. In this case it also proved the old maxim that “two Eds are better than one”, although each of those two was most impressive even as a solo act.
Meanwhile I had planned to meet Jez Horne, as indeed we did the previous week, when we had sat in the pavilion under our brollies for some time until the match was abandoned without a ball being bowled. The weather forecast for the evening was again shocking. Jez texted me, initially to say that he would delay leaving the office and then again later to say that the weather situation looked so hopeless that he would go straight home. I didn’t blame him.
It did look pretty hopeless to be honest, but Lord’s dries quickly and efforts are no doubt doubled and redoubled when Sky are there with their expensive crew and equipment. He who pays the piper calls the tune, the cricket decisions, the referendum results…
…anyway, Richard, Ed Griffiths and I decamped to the pavilion, settling on the Committee Room (that’s where we met Ed Villers and also Guy Lavender and his son Jack from Somerset). We waited more in hope than in expectation, especially after another band of rain put paid to some mopping up work and the clock ticked relentlessly on.
But that further band proved to be the last and soon an announcement came that the umpires had agreed to a 75 minute or so match of 9 overs per side.
Our now traditional Z/Yen outing to see the Middlesex v Surrey T20 fixture at Lord’s.
We had a few late dropouts this year which allowed us the opportunity to treat some other people; Mark Duff, Sebastian Yeandle, Clive Hyman and Niclas Ljungberg to name a few.
We did the usual “everyone chip in to a picnic” thing; I was in the office that afternoon, so went round the supermarket with Linda to ensure we had good food coverage.
I recall that Sebastian was keen to see round the pavilion, so came suited and booted for that purpose – I took him round during the break between innings and showed him some cricket from the Long Room at the start of Surrey’s reply. We saw several wickets fall but, because of our Long Room location, we didn’t see Nick Gubbins ignominious tumble, failing to celebrate a catch – click here.
Niclas Ljungberg is but one of a long line of people from non-cricket playing countries whom we have tried and mostly failed to get into cricket.
Niclas, with typical Swedish politeness yet directness, wrote the following in his thank you note:
Many thanks for hosting the picnic at Lord’s yesterday, and for the enjoyable combination of plenty good food and introductory sports education.
Mark for some reason still seems to think this is a superior form of athletic activity to cross country skiing, I guess he just hasn’t quite seen the Northern light yet.
For those, like me, of the Middlesex persuasion, the important bit was that the ground was heaving with people and they saw Middlesex play really well on this occasion – click here for the scorecard.
I was toying with the idea of going to Lord’s that evening, as there was a T20 match, but I hadn’t arranged to meet anyone and those matches don’t tend to make the cut for me these days unless I have made arrangements.
Stentor said he’d been meaning to try the recently refurbished Crocker’s Folly, which I was also keen to try. It is suitably close to Lord’s, so we booked a table from the comfort of the Upper Allen and toddled across at the innings break.
We had a very tasty one course meal at Crocker’s, served with due speed, once we informed Crocker’s that we were at crickers. I kept an eye on the score, within reason, once the game resumed. Stentor very generously insisted on treating me to the meal.
We missed the first 9 or 10 overs of Middlesex’s reply to Hampshire’s quite hefty score, but felt that Middlesex were making a very good fist of it when we returned to our seats at HQ.
But then some wickets fell and the result seemed in little doubt. In any case, Stentor is very much an MCC man, caring for England and good cricket, but not particularly caring fro Middlesex. So Stentor gave up and headed for home after watching for less than 30 minutes after the resumption. I bowed to the inevitable a couple of overs later, to avoid the heave of the exiting crowd. Here’s a link to the scorecard.
Still, an unexpected and very enjoyable evening in NW8, in good company.
In those days my set up at Sandall Close was a bit rudimentary – Daisy’s dapper Sony VAIO with a plug in thingie to her NTL doodah – or was it already called Virgin by then? Anyway, it was trailing wires and a bit Heath Robinson-like.
The semi-final went Middlesex’s way in a fairly convincing fashion. Daisy and I found that hard to believe, but excitedly realised that we had a final on our hands.
I vaguely remember texting Ed Smith between the matches, which was not a very good idea. I have no recollection of what Daisy and I ate, nor when we ate it, but I’m pretty sure we ate.
After the Richmond debacle on the Sunday – click here- Middlesex had played seven, won five, lost two. That sounded great, except that the losses were the most recent matches and we knew from bitter experience that Middlesex’s T20 squad could snatch failure from the jaws of success.
This Uxbridge game against Kent was to be the last home game and seemed vitally important at the time. A win would mean qualification for the quarter-finals. Defeat would mean the need to win at least one of the two remaining away matches.
In the end I worked from home that day. I was due to be at a meeting in Westminster early afternoon to discuss a publication on business ethics I was being asked to edit. I did end up editing it, but the meeting that day got postponed.
I ended up taking the tube to West Ruislip and walking from there – a long but pleasant walk – an easier journey on a good weather day than tubing into town and then out again to Uxbridge.
Barmy Jez, who was working for Ged Ladd & Co in those days, tubed it to Uxbridge with some difficulty if I recall correctly, arriving “fashionably late”. But Barmy Kev and I had found a suitable second row seat on the side boundary and saved Jez a seat. Middlesex were in a spot of bother when Jez arrived, but then revived, which also revived our spirits. A couple of beers probably helped revive our spirits too.
In front of us sat a father and son combination; the father quite old, the son middle-aged or perhaps a young fogey. The father turned around and asked us to quieten down, as we were disturbing his peaceful evening at the cricket. I’m not sure that the marketing gurus who invented Domestic T20 quite had “quiet, peaceful evening matches in Uxbridge” in mind when they invented the format. (Ged makes a note to ask Stuart Robertson that question if ever he gets the chance).
I had brought plenty of picnic food with me, so, during the innings break, I tried to placate the irate gentleman by offering him a packet of M&S Sea Salt and Black Pepper Cashews – a not insubstantial offering in the circumstances. The man looked at me incredulously.
“Are you taking the Mick?”, he asked.
“No, I’m sorry we disturbed you and am offering you a small gift by way of apology”, I said.
“You’re suggesting that I’m nuts, aren’t you?” said the man.
I kept the cashews.
The father and son moved their chairs a bit to place some distance between themselves and us; we weren’t regretful.
Barmy Kev suggested later that I should have offered him some crackers instead. Sweet.
The cricket match ebbed and flowed. We tried not to get too noisily excited, which was quite difficult because it was a very exciting match.
It went down to the last over. Kent was one of the better T20 sides and we all knew that team’s capacity to pull off unlikely wins. But on that occasion they fell a few runs short.
Little did we know at the time how much the match was to foreshadow the final, which took place a month or so later. But for sure that was the evening that I really started to think, “gosh, we are capable of beating the best sides even in tight finishes this season. Maybe, just maybe we could win this tournament this year”.