A Day With The Deacons, Music Exchange & Lord’s, 8 August 2017

Paul Deacon got in touch to say that he and his family would be over from Canada about this time and that he quite fancied a visit to Record & Tape Exchange for old time’s sake – click here for insight into those days of yore – as one element of a meet up. Some cricket at Lord’s wouldn’t go amiss either.

We concluded that 8 August would be the best day for this – my timings were completely flexible (apart from a hot date with the Mrs in the evening) and it was Day 3 of the county match between Middlesex & Warwickshire; that seemed a good bet.

With the Deacons scheduled to arrive at the flat at 12:00, I had time to write up the events of 25 years ago – the day Janie and I met – click here – and also get to the gym for a decent work out.

I hadn’t met Christine or Anya before, but it almost felt as though we all knew each other from the outset. We had some tea and a chat at the flat, while Paul studied my singles collection – there are indeed a few dozen singles yet to digitise from those old Slipped Disc visits and my dad’s serendipitous purchases – another autumn/winter task.

The girls fancied a bite of lunch, so we dropped them off at Paul Rhodes while Paul and I strolled down a few doors further and down memory lane at Music Exchange.

Paul, game face on, studies singles, while I browse albums – just like the old days

We had a look upstairs and in the bargain basement, but Paul only bought a handful from the ground level selection:

Unlike the old days, only Paul purchases anything and only a few discs

There are some more Music Exchange photos on Flickr – click here.

After a quick reviving snack in Paul Rhodes with the girls, we then hot-footed it to Lord’s.

I hadn’t kept up with cricket events at all during the day, but knew from my visit to Lord’s and the Meet The Players Party the previous day, that the pitch had flattened out quite a lot. So my fears from Day One, when 20 wickets fell, that there might not be much/any play on Tuesday afternoon were surely unfounded…

…or were they?…

…I tapped in to Cricinfo on the way to the ground and exclaimed, “oh no! Middlesex have collapsed. We’re nine down. We probably won’t see any cricket at all.”

But we were only 10 minutes from the ground and we managed to navigate the formalities to get The Deacons in the Allen Stand gap to see some cricket. Between overs, we even got into the pavilion for the last few overs before the inevitable ending came. So the Deacons were actually in the Long Room to witness the end of the match and the traditional end of match civilities. In many ways, that made it an extra special treat for the Deacons. It would have been more special for me had it been a Middlesex win.

Still, that meant we had plenty of time and less distraction for an informal tour of Lord’s, starting with the grand tour of the pavilion itself.

I didn’t realise when we arranged the day, but Anya plays cricket at school in Canada – I imagined that she’s be largely unfamiliar with the game – so the Lord’s visit was quite special for her.

Paul and Anya on the Pavilion terrace, “borrowed” with thanks from Paul’s Facebook photo stack

Janie arrived just a few minutes after the match had finished – she seems to make a bit of a habit of doing that for county championship matches – we finally tracked her down after some comedy business where Janie must have sort of been following us around the pavilion without us actually meeting up.

Me, Christine and Anya just before Janie tracked us down, pushing the “no photos in the pavilion” rule to its limits, “borrowed” with thanks from Paul’s Facebook photo stack

With Janie, we went and looked at the Lord’s Shop and the Cricket Academy, walked back round the ground making a full circuit, had a quick look at the real tennis court and then retired to the Bowler’s Bar in the pavilion for a well-deserved drink.

Paul’s words and more pictures can be found on Paul’s Facebook posting – here.

The afternoon had gone so quickly. We all had evening events to get to; Anya had arranged to see some old pals south of the river, Paul and Christine were meeting some friends for an evening at Ronnie Scott’s, while Janie and I had our hot anniversary date to get to.

A multi-serlfie by Paul, back at the flat, using shelf and timer, “borrowed” with thanks from Paul’s Facebook photo stack

It was a really enjoyable day; one of those special gatherings that will live long in the memory and which brought back plenty of other memories too.

A Visit To Edgbaston, Mostly For Warwickshire v Middlesex, 3 to 5 July 2017

The away fixture list has not been quite as kind to me this year as it was last year – fixtures not perfectly timed for my other commitments.

Indeed I almost let this match go, as I had booked out time for the Lord’s Test later in the week, but nearer the time I saw sense and booked the whole week off work and a couple of nights at The Eaton Hotel for this fixture – as last year.

So, on Monday morning off I set from Noddyland towards Edgbaston. I did the journey door to door in just under two hours without breaking any speed limits or records – just a low traffic journey which ought to be straightforward most times.

The hospitality and company at Edgbaston was cracking good, as usual. On this occasion, though, there were very few of us from Middlesex, probably because of the match’s proximity to/overlap with the Lord’s test.

On the second day, I was, in fact, the only Middlesex guest in the Chairman’s lounge. I explained that, as an only child, I was quite used to being the centre of attention, which I am sure put the burghers of Birmingham/Warwickshire at their ease.

But it was on the first day that, unusually, some of the Warwickshire folk came for a walking circuit with me and showed me some fascinating sights around the ground.

One of those sights was Barmy Kev and some of the Middlesex travelling band, over at the Birmingham end. This encounter was more revealing for my Warwickshire hosts than it was for me. Barmy Kev asked me to write a Day 5 match report for the MTWD web site, which might have confused my Warwickshire hosts even more than the sight of Barmy Kev.

Another interesting sight was a collection of bears, due to be exhibited the next day, presumably to promote the T20 tournament…

Step never on the cracks, No only on the squares, Or else we’d be abducted by the bears.

…or perhaps their role is to abduct a few county match attendees, e.g. those foolish enough to set foot on the cracks.

In cricket terms, the match felt utterly poised throughout my stay – two-and-a-half days. Whenever one side seemed to be nudging ahead, the other side would rally with a partnership or wickets.

To add to that sense of poise, Middlesex ended Day 2 on 302/6 exactly the same number of runs Warwickshire  had scored on Day 1 (302/7). The scores were tied at the end of the first innings, quite early on Day 3. It nearly ended as a double tie – i.e. tied at the end of both the first and second innings, which I think would have been a first class cricket first, at least with completed innings.

Here is how the match panned out in the end – Thursday – click here.

On the Monday night I went to Stourbridge for a music lesson – long story – now Ogblogged separately – click here.

On the Tuesday night I practised my baritone ukulele and read in the hotel.

On the Wednesday I left Edgbaston at about 14:45, after a chance encounter with Chris Woakes who was having a sneak peak at the match from the tunnel. I needed to be at Lord’s for tennis at 19:00. The heavy traffic made me wonder whether I’d make it on time, but in the end I had a reasonable amount of time to get to Lord’s…

…but boy was I buttock-weary, after two-and-a-half days of cricket and three-and-a-half hours in the saddle.

At Lord’s, Dumbo was thoroughly searched (the night before a big match day) but then allowed to park in the Allen Stand gap, where he had a perfect view of the pitch. When I emerged from two hours of tennis, Dumbo threatened to stay there for the duration of the test match, but he relented when I mumbled to him about car scrappage schemes.

Dumbo behaving well at Boston Manor, in the good old days when the car park was open

A Visit To Edgbaston, primarily for Warwickshire v Middlesex, 31 August to 2 September 2016

I am taking the opportunity this late season to see quite a few days of county championship cricket away from home.

This little trip to Edgbaston was a shorter reprise of the trip I undertook last year for this fixture, immortalised in my King Cricket write up: The Sound And The Fury.

No business visits this time and only Days One and Two for cricket.

Again the excellent Eaton Hotel, but not before driving straight to the ground on the Wednesday morning, after a good early morning workout at the gym.

There’s a regular core of people in the Committee Room at Edgbaston, so it felt a bit like a regathering of the clan. A very pleasant clan too.

Glorious weather for both days. No walking for me on Day One, but Day Two I walked to and from the ground, including the small detour on the way home to see the current state of the “hell-hole” hotel (vintage 2006), which I reported on separately – here.

At the end of Day One we thought that Warwickshire were on top; just. At the end of Day Two, Middlesex seemed to be bossing the game. In the end, as has been so often the case this season, the weather determined the match, on the Saturday.  Scorecard here.

Two overnights, affording time for reading, writing and ukulele playing. I took Luke the Baroq-ulele (of Thomas Gresham Society Soiree fame) this time.

I left Edgbaston just after 10:00 on the Friday, once my early afternoon meeting in London had been confirmed; otherwise I might have been able to enjoy the first two or three hours of play that day also. On the Friday evening, after a relatively frantic (albeit short) day’s work, I got my exercise playing real tennis.

The Sound and The Fury, Four Versions of One Trip To Edgbaston, 26 August 2016

king-cricket-logo copyClick here to read my four-part literary report on a visit to Birmingham/Edgbaston in September 2015; The Sound and the Fury, as published on King Cricket.

For some reason, during 2015, I felt motivated mostly to have my artifacts report cricket matches for King Cricket. It started with the idea of Dumbo the Suzuki Jimny reporting on his first cricket match, in Dublin, May 2015 and grew from there.

By the end of the season, Ivan Meagreheart, my smart phone, was also an occasional reporter.

Ivan The Smart Phone Reporting
Ivan The Smart Phone Reporting

For my visit to Birmingham to see best part of three days of the Warwickshire v Middlesex match at Edgbaston (early September 2015) and to get some business visits in to boot, I decided to go for short versions of the same story told from four different perspectives, starting with Benjy the Baritone Ukulele and ending with Ged himself.

The result is this short literary “masterpiece” which I thought King Cricket might choose to serialise but instead he (probably wisely) chose to publish the whole piece as a a magnum opus just ahead of the bank holiday – here.

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 Few Days in Birmingham & Then Home, Including Warwickshire v Middlesex Days 1 to 3, Edgbaston, 1 to 4 September 2015

I wrote up this trip in literary style for King Cricket. The piece was published here, on 26 August 2016.

I more or less explained it – here – on Ogblog once it was published.

The trip was simply three days in Edgbaston, staying at the Eaton Hotel (first visit there). Straight to the ground day one, walking in to short business meetings in Birmingham proper on each of days two and three before returning to London early on day four for one last business meeting of the week.

Simples. Until Benjy, Ivan, Dumbo and Ged got their teeth into it.