Two Forms Of Soaking And Two Friendly Gatherings In One Day, Uxbridge and Southwark, 13 September 2017

I’m not sure I’d seen Fran Erdunast (formerly Weingott) since the build up to my somewhat eventful house party in 1979, but we have been reconnected through Facebook for some time and discovered that we share an enthusiasm for cricket, not least Middlesex.

Fran likes to go to Middlesex out-ground matches, so we hatched a quasi-plan to meet up at the four-day game between Middlesex & Hampshire at Uxbridge CC late season.

Both the weather and my work commitments seemed to be conspiring against this idea, but the forecast for the afternoon of 13 September was, in the end, rather encouraging (sunny with a small chance of showers) and I realised that we should get to see a few hours of cricket at Uxbridge between my morning meeting and the early evening wine tasting in Southwark.

That was the plan…

…and the early part of the plan worked. I got to Uxbridge just before the start of play after lunch and saw a figure who was unmistakably Fran sitting conveniently near to the Gatting Way entrance. She introduced me to Simon, who turns out to be equally keen on county cricket, albeit a Yorkshire supporter (he hails from Leeds). They had arrived about 5 minutes ahead of me and were sorting out some well-appointed seats for the three of us.

After two or three overs, we felt a few spots of rain, which seemed to send the umpires into a tizzy and the players all came off, much to the disgust of the tiny crowd.

A light sprinkling and covering before the deluge

“I think the umpires and ground staff must know something we don’t”, I said, suggesting that we head for the pavilion before the deluge.

Deluge it was. Lashings of proper, wet rain, for about 20 minutes or so.

In an intriguing echo of the “Ian turning up over-dressed” story from 1980, which emerges from my other recent BBYO reunion with Mark Lewis, I realised that I was ludicrously overdressed for the Uxbridge pavilion in my business suit.

I was even more ludicrously dressed for slogging through the sludge of Uxbridge CC after the rain. I rolled up my trousers to avoid mud on suit misery. Jeff Coleman threatened to take my picture for the Middlesex or MTWD website, which I actively encouraged, as I thought it must look very funny, but Jeff kindly relented in the interests of my dignity.

On the way back to the slightly less soggy patch where our seats were now drying in the sun, I decided to have my one “Thatcher” 99 Whippy ice cream of the year, offering to treat Fran and Simon, who both declined politely.

Fran described the intricacies of the dental work she does while I ate the ice cream, presumably to ensure that I was not tempted to try any further sweet treats that day. Simon tried to avoid fainting during this conversation. I tried to put Simon at his ease by admitting to being squeamish when Janie talks about some of the intricacies of her podiatry work, at which point Fran demonstrated her considerable medical knowledge by explaining the difference between mouths and feet. When Simon and I both showed signs of imminent fainting, Fran stopped talking about medical procedures.

Ice cream at Uxbridge on a cold day brought to mind my previous visit to that ground, which Dumbo (my Suzuki Jimny) reported on King Cricket – here.

We watched the ground staff try to remove ludicrous quantities of surface water from the pitch, ably assisted by Angus Fraser and even some of the players. The efforts looked futile and indeed after about 30 minutes of sunshine and hard labour, the umpires came out and concluded that it would be impossible to get anything going again today.

Fran kindly invited me back to her place in Pinner along with Simon for some tea. It would be a chance to continue our chat about the good old days, cricket and cricket in the good old days, which is exactly what we did.

Fran hardly seemed to have changed in the decades since we last met. I am consistently surprised when I reconnect with friends from my teenage years how little they have changed in essence. Fran articulated it well in a note later that day:

…bemused by the surreal vision of grown up Ian Harris sitting on my sofa…[t]he 16-17 year old version I last saw kept reappearing ghost-like during the afternoon.

Fran displayed Essex beating up Warwickshire as background entertainment on the TV; it was clear that both Simon and Fran follow county cricket avidly and know a lot about it. Simon mentioned that Jack Simmons was one of his favourite cricketers; coincidentally Janie had spent a long time chatting with Simon’s hero when we were at Southport earlier in the season. I forgot to ask Simon why, as a Yorkshire supporter, his hero was a Lancastrian. Perhaps Simon will chime in with the answer to that conundrum.

16:30 came around ever so quickly and Fran very kindly insisted on taking me to Pinner station, worrying that I might otherwise be late for my 18:00 wine tasting. Indeed, by the time she had picked a couple of pears from her garden for Charley The Gent Malloy to sample next week (I’ll report back on how the Pinner Conferences go down with pear specialist Charley), even I thought I might have cut it a bit fine for Southwark.

I had forgotten how quick the Metropolitan Line is and hadn’t thought about Southwark, on the Jubilee Line, being a simple hop of a change from the Met line. Once I entered Pinner Station, of course, my brain went back onto automatic from all those visits out that way in my youth, to see Simon, Caroline and others at the Pinner club.

Still, I was surprised when I emerged into the Southwark sunshine at 17:20, a full forty minutes early. Time for a coffee and (sorry Fran) another somewhat sweet treat for fortification (pain au raisin).

Then to the Mousse wine tasting, which this time was on Lebanese wines. Janie arrived only a tiny bit late…

…but much earlier than this photo which Janie took quite a bit later in the evening:

Say “halloumi cheese”: Ian, Helen and Donna

We got to try a few different wines; Chateau Musar (naturally), a top notch wine from Chateau Kefraya plus several excellent wines from Massaya, with which Janie and I were unfamiliar. Helen also served a couple of French examples by way of comparison.

Massaya is less than 20 years old, so didn’t even exist when Janie and I visited Lebanon, tried Musar and Kefraya wines aplenty and also went to the Ksara caves to taste wine:

Tasting Wine at Ksara, Lebanon in 1997
He’s at Ksara…not the Massaya, he’s a very naughty boy

If you want to see the full stack of photos from our 1997 sojourn to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Eilat, click here.

My favourite wines from the Mousse wine tasting evening were a couple of the Massaya ones; Le Colombier (entry level but very gluggable) and the Silver Selection wine which I thought was cracking good. I also really liked the Marsanne-based Hermitage white which Helen served by way of comparison. I have never been much taken with the Lebanese whites, whereas Leb red can hit the spot more often than not.

Janie asked us all to look natural, so of course…

Janie’s attempts to photograph several of us by asking us to look natural were naturally more likely to fail than succeed. The picture above was the best of the bunch. If you want a laugh at the rest, feel free to click through here.

Helen always gathers an interesting, eclectic crowd for her wine tastings, so you don’t just learn a lot about wine, you do so in very agreeable company.

Janie and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening, which we rounded off with Maroush shawarmas and a bottle of Asti Spumante.  (OK, I made up that last bit).

Middlesex v Worcestershire, Day 2, Uxbridge, 22 June 2015

Pretty much everything worth saying about my afternoon in Uxbridge has been said in the King Cricket Report – click here.

For those readers unaware of the King Cricket rules: “If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself.”  

Readers should perhaps also be aware that my nom de plume for King Cricket purposes is Ged and that occasionally my possessions start writing match reports for me.  This one is authored by Dumbo, my Suzuki Jimny.

Indeed by the end of the 2015 season, inanimate objects had pretty much taken over my contributions to King Cricket, as you will no doubt find out come spring 2016 or whenever King Cricket gets around to publishing some of the later ones from the season.  This one was published 13 December 2015.

In case you don’t delve that far into the King Cricket report, the links to the Visa commercials showing old cine footage of my dad slapping on the tanning oil and/or, perhaps even worse, the vine of me and mum on a pedalo, are worth the price of admission to this blog alone.

Mind you, this blog is free.  As is King Cricket, which I also commend to you.


Middlesex v Derbyshire Day One, Uxbridge, 15 September 2009

This was another of those days when I hoped to see some cricket at Uxbridge but the weather was set foul. My track record over the years on days when I want to go to Middlesex out grounds can only be described as terrible…almost as terrible as Middlesex’s 2009 season.

Middlesex were having a shocking season that year, so it was hard to get reporters. Hence Hippity volunteered to go to Uxbridge and then write this one up…at least that’s what the editor was told.

Hippity’s regular (dry) vantage point

Hippity’s writing career mercifully tailed off after the 2009 season, with just the occasional piece for MTWD or King Cricket subsequently.

Here is the 15 September 2009 report: Soggy Tail From Uxbridge.

Just in case anything ever happens to MTWD, I have scraped the piece to Ogblog – only click the link below if the link above doesn’t work:

Middlesex till we die – Soggy Tail From Uxbridge

Here is the scorecard from the inevitable draw.

For the record, rabbit-friendly “Uncail Victor at Uxbridge” is Vic Demain, who has gone on to grander things – at the time of writing he is groundsman at Chester-Le-Street. Not so rabbit-friendly “Uncail Micheál at Lord’s” is Mick Hunt.

I vaguely remember Tim Groenewald being taken poorly towards the end of this match and there being a resulting health scare (unfounded as it turned out) about both squads. The details are lost in the mists of my memory, although linger somewhere on the message boards. I do remember him being a bit of a thorn in Middlesex’s side on subsequent meetings over the years though.

As for the scurrilous suggestion that Middlesex might end that rotten season coming bottom of the second division, that was an outrage. Middlesex in fact came second from bottom, a full two points clear of the county championship wooden spoon – click here to see the table. Middlesex are yet to “win” that particular wooden spoon ever, I believe.

Middlesex v South Africans Day One, Uxbridge, MTWD Report, 4 July 2008

Tour matches between county sides and visiting international teams used to be a major part of the first class cricket summer. Now they are simply warm up matches, occasionally good for the county coffers but (in Middlesex’s case) usually a break-even proposition at best at outgrounds.

But from the cricket-lover’s point of view, a delightful day of first class cricket can ensue, as it did when the South Africans visited Uxbridge in 2008.

I wrote up the day for MTWD – Lovely Day For A Whipping – SA at Uxbridge Day One – here.

Just in case anything ever happens to MTWD, I have scraped the piece to Ogblog – only click the link below if the link above doesn’t work:

Middlesex till we die – Lovely Day For A Whipping – SA at Uxbridge Day One

I do remember that Friday being a lovely day. I especially remember seeing Amla live for the first time. At first i couldn’t work out what the fuss was about, but once he got set, he looked top notch.

Not that such matches matter, but for completist enthusiasts who don’t want to have to do too much clicking…here’s a link to the scorecard. Sadly the weather turned sour on the match over the weekend.

Nuts…Crackers…Sweet, Middlesex v Kent T20, Uxbridge, 24 June 2008

Your nuts, sir…you’re nuts, sir?

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”.

Click here for the Uxbridge scorecard.

The MTWD match reporter that evening was Daria – an excellent writer – I wonder what became of her? It is a superb MTWD match report – click here.

Strangely and unusually, one of the King Cricket regulars, Soviet Onion had a match report for the same game published on King Cricket – click here, describing going to the cricket at Uxbridge with his dad. Surely Soviet Onion couldn’t be…couldn’t possibly be…Son of Nut Man?  No, I really don’t think so.