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.

January 1982 Keele/UGC Protest Did Make The Papers, Jon Gorvett Uncovers The Evidence

More than a year after publishing an Ogblog piece about our Keele students’ protest against UGC cuts – click here – I received a very pleasing e-mail out of the blue from Jon Gorvett, who had found the Ogblog piece by chance while having a quiet Google.

He had recently uncovered some old Keele scraps, including the following press clippings:

Page 11 of the Evening Sentinel – can we possibly do any better than this?
Yes we can! Page 3 of the Morning Star

So there we have it. Page 11 of the Evening Sentinel but, more importantly, Page 3 of the Morning Star.

Jon is the young man with the “numerate graduates” placard in the first photo above (naturally Jon has gone on to become a foreign correspondent journalist). Jon is also seen wielding a mallet on the far left of the Morning Star picture.

I can be seen in the first photo struggling to retain hold of both the campus model and my sartorial dignity (wearing THAT donkey jacket). I’m gutted that a photo with me in it didn’t make it to Page 3 of the Morning Star, despite the donkey jacket.

I did once make the front page of New India and the back page of the Bastar Sun for my exploits, but that is an entirely different story – click here.

Of course I am still part of the story in the Morning Star. But still, it’s not my image on Page 3. Close but no cigar.

The compensation for my Page 3 disappointment, though, is to be reconnected with Jon Gorvett. He and his treasure trove of clippings might prove very helpful for future Ogblog pieces about the Keele years. I also strongly suspect, based on our e-mail exchanges over the past couple of days, that I shall very much enjoy his company once our paths cross sufficiently for us to meet again in real life.

Protest Outside the UGC Offices Against Grant Cuts, University of Keele, 6 January 1982

I was reminded of this protest when chatting with some interesting MCC members about Rhodes Boyson in the writing room at Lord’s in April 2016 – click here for a link to the posting about that conversation.

I resolved to dig out my diaries and see if I could find out some more about it. Soon enough, I found this page:

Diary 6 January 1982

Actually the diary entry is not too revealing about this protest. Nor are the pages around it, which refer a lot to “meeting up with the usual friends…various people…some people…the crowd…” as if I would naturally remember all the details when I want them, 34 years later.

Indeed, the entries around the time of the protest have triggered many other memories about how I felt at that time and why I started to plot my escape from halls of residence into an on-campus flat in the early months of that year. Another story for another posting or two.

So I must rely almost entirely on memory for this story.

“The Cuts” (to university grants) was the biggest political issue on the higher education agenda at that time. There were marches and things, which I attended occasionally, but I’ve never been a great one for marches.

A few of us decided that we needed to do something a bit more eye-catching, yet unquestionably in the non-violent protest arena. We hatched a plan for a media/profile grabbing event; a dramatic protest outside the University Grants Committee (UGC) offices on one of their big committee days, when Rhodes Boyson would be attending; 6 January 1982.

In simple terms, we would make a crude replica of our Keele Campus and destroy it in front of the UGC building while the committee met, announcing “this is what you are doing to our University”. Naturally we would alert the media in advance to the fact that there would be “a happening” outside the building during the UGC meeting.

In order to implement our plot, several of us returned to Keele immediately after Christmas. I’m trying to remember who was involved. I’m pretty sure Jon Gorvett and Truda Smith were involved and they do get a name drop in my diary 2 January. I’m also pretty sure that Simon Jacobs was heavily involved, although something tells me that he did not return to Keele early, but joined us in London on the day. For some reason my mind is linking Diana Ball with this event, but I might be mistaken. Similarly I think Toby Bourgein had a leading hand in plotting the protest and possibly even drove the minibus down from Keele, but again I might be mistaken. Surely Pete Roberts was involved?

I love the fact that my diary entry says that I signed on before we set off for London to protest. In those days, the ridiculous student grant system meant that the grant only applied to the term-time weeks and that you had to sign on to the dole to get some money for the non-term weeks. What a palaver for the Social Security people to have to administer.

Of course, the social security system for students has been vastly simplified now; the poor students simply get “the square root of nada”.

I recall that we gathered in a pub on the Hampstead Road, near to Laurence Corner.  I’m pretty sure it was the Sols Arms, now defunct. I suppose it was possible to park without restriction on that north side of the Euston Road in those days. We enjoyed a drink in that pub and then all went to the cloakrooms to don dark jumpers and balaclava helmets. We then rescued the crude facsimile of the campus (mostly papier mâché and balsa wood, I think) and our mallets from the union minibus, toddled across the Euston Road to the Bloomsbury offices of the UGC and conducted our protest.

I don’t recall how much media attention we got – press I’m sure but I don’t think the TV people bothered with us. I report being very tired on return, so I guess there was enough buzz to keep us talking for a while. Perhaps we retreated to the Sols Arms for a few more jars before returning to Keele a little tired and emotional. What do I mean, “perhaps”?

These days, of course, I don’t think we’d get very far in those dark tops, balaclava helmets and mallets before the armed fuzz would intervene. You’d be lucky to survive such a stunt. They were simpler times in many ways.

Apologies to anyone named (or not named) for the failings of my memory. If anyone else remembers more about this extraordinary day, I really would love to hear some more memories of it in the comments. I’m sure that, with some help, my own memory of the event could improve.

June 2017 Update

More than a year after posting this and getting the wonderful speedy response shown in the comment below, I received an e-mail from Jon Gorvett with newspaper clippings – so we did make the papers. I have written an aside, with images of those clippings, click here.