Spofforth, Scorecards and Sticky Wickets,


John Arlott and Ralph Richardson from 1950. A little gem covering everything you wanted to know about The Ashes and cricket. No, much more than that, madam.

17 mins, 20 secs of pure heaven. Enjoy.

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Alas Mel Smith


So farewell then, Mel Smith. Comedian, actor and director. One half of Alas Smith & Jomes & one quarter of the Not the Nine O’Clock News team.

He once had a friend who thought he might be stout.

He was often wild. Now I bet he’s absolutely livid.

But here’s my favourite character of his, from the brilliant The Princess Bride

I’ve Seen Better Batters in a Fish & Chip Shop **


There are very few continents on which I haven’t made a complete arse of myself playing cricket (or otherwise). For instance, back in 2000 I collapsed with heat exhaustion (or alcohol dehydration and poisoning—depending on which ‘expert’ you listen to) on the Third Man boundary at a ground in St Lucia, West Indies. Three men had to carry me off the field of play to a nearby shady spot where I was doused in cool water and cooler Red Stripe. I took no further part in the match;

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A Team Photo in Oman, 2009. Squad moral wasn’t always what it could have been following one of my more imaginative bowling spells. Pic taken the day after the local hosepipe ban was lifted.

In Nairobi, Kenya, suffering from lack of oxygen because of the high altitude (or from alcohol dehydration and poisoning—depending on which ‘expert’ you listen to) I momentarily lost my sight and lost all sense of direction. Instead of charging towards the batsman to deliver the fifth ball of my first over, I charged towards the square leg umpire who turned on his heels and fled, fearing that he’d be run over by this fat pink bloke approaching. I took no further part in the match;

In Adelaide my fearsome bowling was hit hit so hard and so often by a bloke who usually batted at no.11 for his club side, that a box of new balls had to be ordered, as no-one wanted to go into the spider/snake-infested bush beyond the boundary to find the three new red cherries which he’d deposited there. The bloke I’d put on the boundary to catch him ricked his neck watching the balls soaring fifteen foot over his head;

In Sri Lanka while playing at a local Prison, I tore a muscle/got cramp (depending on…) in my calf in the third stride into the run-up OF MY VERY FIRST BALL. Probably the heat or something. I took no further part in the match.

But on this morning of all mornings, when the world holds its knickers in anticipation of the start of another Engand vrs Australia Ashes series, and because I’m so excited about it I can barely walk, I thought I’d flick through the old photo album and share with you a few lolights of my once-unpromising career. Less Ashes Urns, more Ashtrays and Beer Bottles.

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1992, The Daily Telegraph, vrs Devises Police Training School, Wilts. L-R (back row) R Shrimsley, R Savill, D Sapsted, T Butcher, M Smith, K Maguire, P Sherwell. Front row: P Stokes, N Bunyan, B Fenton, The Author, C Randall. Several of the above young journos went on to great careers in newspapers, magazines, TV, PR and literature. Some didn’t. No scorecards survive for this match. So I think we must have won it.

 

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This is not a still photo of me bowling, it’s video footage, replayed at actual speed (and no, it’s not your poor broadband connection). The hallmark grimace is already developing.  Somewhere in England in the early 1990’s. The umpire’s moustache may indicate the Liverpool area. The bails were later stolen.

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A rabbit in the headlights.  Stowe School, England 1988. Daily Telegraph Gentlemen vrs Players Cricket match (can’t remember which side I was on.) Christopher Martin Jenkins (pick that name up for me please, Deirde) and I had a nice chat as we walked around the boundary. He told me that he doubted if I would never make a club cricketer. Which was nice. And he’d hadn’t even seen me bat yet.

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The Author, on tour in Dubai, and on the eve of a possible Test call-up, receives a good length ball on his off stump, attempts to hook it over square leg for six, and can only watch as the ball clatters into his castle.  The keen-eyed will realise how slow the delivery must have been. Few batsmen are lucky enough to get the time to look behind them before the ball hits the wicket. (There is a version of this photo where I have photoshopped-out the ball. I look magnificent.)

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A terrifying sight for any batsman. Or, indeed, for anyone. The four-pronged pace attack of The Fleet Street Exiles XI, take a well-earned paddle in the sea between humiliating defeats, Galle, Sri Lanka 2002. Please note : for once I am neither the fattest, nor the oldest in this photo. Just the shortest. (Also very pleased to see that I kept my purse with me at all times.)

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The Author stops for a prayer and a swift large rum before going into bat in Antigua. West Indies, 2000. Here we see him trying to come up with a name for an idea he’s had for an irregular column on the internet.

**The phrase directed at me by the home wicket keeper as I took guard in my first ever match on foreign soil. Melbourne, Australia, 1998 (ish). The sad thing about it is that he was probably telling the truth.

A Good Week to Bury a Bad King


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Man is attacked by plasticine while playing Richard III, Peckham Town Hall

Apparently, when the great and the good the boffins and the geeks, the beardies and the weirdies assembled the press to great fanfare and pomp to announce the results of a recent dig, they decided to do so in a long and drawn-out manner— the idea being to keep the world and its media on the edge of their seats and build the suspense to a Hitchcockian level. Unfortunately for them, by the time their little show had come to a climax and they were to actually, finally reveal their findings into whether or not the body underneath a car park in Leicester was indeed that of the much-maligned King Richard III of England (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) news events elsewhere had taken precedent and, by the wonders of modern electronic communication, the reporters and photographers, the news hounds and correspondents, the hacks and the monkeys had been ordered by their newsrooms to clear out and go cover the news that a prominent British politician had persuaded his wife to take the blame for a traffic misdemeanour, and to accept the penalty points for speeding. The news agenda had overtaken the professors in Leicester and they were rudely reminded that they, rather like this paragraph, had taken far too long to get to their point. When they were finally ready to reveal all, they had lost the attention of everyone save the man from Leicester Car Park Weekly and the reporter from Cockney Rhyming Slang Gazette. You might say they had Leicester talk to. Then again you might not.

You gotta feel sorry for them though. I’ve since heard many say that they should have front-loaded the announcement, should have got the important and relevant info up front to satisfy newspapers and The Daily Express alike. But what were the chances of their declaration of national importance being usurped by another in a long line of dodgy Liberal Democrat gaffes ? They felt they were safe with the only story in town to risk a long, drawn-out build-up.

Wrong.

There are some days when I watch the tv news at 5.00 am (I’ve told you about my sleep patterns, right ?) only to switch on the bulletin again at 10 o’clock that night and sit through exactly the same bulletin as I’d seen some 17 hours previously. The lead story on both would be a new Michael Gove initiative for schools, Scotland experiencing a cold snap, or something equally as riveting.

But this week is somehow different.

There are, very occasionally, times when I miss working in the news industry. Not often, just every now and then. This week would have to be one of those times. How much fun must it be to be in a newsroom at the moment ? Take this lunchtime’s T’BBC news broadcast, for example:

ITEM 1. Children in Lancashire (it’s in the north somewhere. Near the BBC, oddly) have been served up with horse meat in their cottage pies (a menu item which, for the foreign readers’ benefit, is a rite of passage for UK children of the lower classes.). This is one of those stories (like hospital killer bugs, foxes/dingos stole/ate my baby, or GangNam Style dancing by celebrities or sportsmen) that keep on giving and keep papers going to the real silly season starts (usually just after Easter Monday).

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Imagine if there was horse meat served (gedditt?) at Wimbledon or Ascot Ladies’ Day how much hilarity would ensure ?  [“News” editors are normally seconded from the Features Dept or the Fashion desk during  Ladies’ Day when “Woman Wears Frock” suddenly becomes a news item. Real news men would be incapable of recognising great stories like that. Thank Buddah I was one of those men.]

ITEM 2. Oscar Pistorius weeps in court having been charged with murdering his model girlfriend (run VT of bikini shots), and confronted with the phrase “premeditated murder”. When this one broke in the early hours of the previous morning, the scuttlebutt was that dear, dear old Oscar mistook the missus for an intruder and, as is de rigueur in the “Rainbow” Nation, shot the shit of of him/her, preferring to ask questions later.  However we are now told that Oscar and Reeva had a bit of previous on the domestic dust-up department, and therefore he’s been hauled up in front of the beak for planning the whole thing.

This is a huge story. Huge. Obviously not as huge as meat being found in a school meal, but large, nevertheless. I put it to you, more people in the world know of The Blade Runner than knew of OJ Simpson before he definitely didn’t kill his missus. Pistorius wins track races without legs. The world knows this and he is the face of Paralympic sport. OJ was a footballer. Or a Basketball player. We outside the States knew he was famous for something over there and went along with the furore and spectacle of CNN’s first live news story that didn’t involve watching huge cannon fire things into a desert, beautifully commentated on by Christianne Amanpour though it may have been.

The enduring image of the OJ Trial was of the guilty party innocent man claiming proving for the cameras that some gardening gloves didn’t fit him. It’s gonna be a bit tougher for Oscar if he tries that defence with his lower limbs. (As a side note, I was told a good few years back by a sports journo that Pistorious was the most obnoxious, self-centred, arrogant man he’d ever met. That certainly doesn’t make him a murderer but may explain why he’s loved and admired all over South Africa.)

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Back to the news.

ITEM 3. Coronation Street Star accused of 19 (count ’em) NINETEEN sex offences including raping a child, indecently assaulting a child and sexual activity with a child. A man who has starred on our screens, apparently, for 30 years is arrested for multiple sex offences comes in a poor third in the running order behind a Palamino Pasty and an accused without, frankly, a leg to stand on. We have become very blasé about sex offenders in this country. The Jimmy Savile and Gary Glitter cases seem to have dulled our senses to any more kiddy-fiddling stories (more of which later), and as famous as this latest bloke surely is in his native third world of Mancunia, he ain’t no Stuart Hall, allegedly. Or maybe he is. So third place he stays, behind the Paralympian and just ahead of:

ITEM 4: 950 injured as meteors crash to earth.  I’m sorry, I’ll re-type that : 950 injured as meteors crash to earth. Yes, you read that right:  Nine Hundred and Fifty. Injured by Meteors. METEORS. This isn’t a FOURTH story of the day. This is the stuff of Hollywood. This is some cock-awful dreadful movie starring Bruce Willis and Nick Cage (with, perchance, a cameo by Jude Law as a lump of moon rock) and Tom Wilkinson playing the retired Astronaut. I can see it now. Or rather I can’t. I couldn’t possibly. But you know what I mean. It’s made for filming. And whatever happens, it couldn’t possibly be a worse movie than Armadeddon (1988) Dir Michael Bay . Could it ? Really.  But instead, like journalists in a Leicester car park we have to wade through all frippery of mass poisonings, celebrity murders and serial rapists before we get to the , ahem, meat of the matter which is THE WORLD IS BEING DESTROYED BY ASTEROIDS. Or something. A clue as to why this story was so far down the running order is to be found when you see that it all happened in the Urals. Fucking Russians. Fuck ’em. If it had happened in Bangladesh they would have hidden it between “Local Man Bitten By Local Dog, Locally” and “Mayor of London wins Rear of the Year”

So there you have it. Time your news conferences and special events carefully. In a busy week, you never know which story will hog all the coverage. What you think is earth-shattering news will be overtaken by events and quickly be forgotten. Just ask the scientists, still there talking in a Leicester car park. Or that ex-Hitler Youth, Peadophile Apologist who retired this week— he’s hardly had a look-in since.
See: You’ve forgotten him already !

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STOP PRESS:

Yes, it was Richard III. Please tell the world (unless you’ve already buggered off).

Get It Down, You Zulu Warrior


Here’s something from someone called @WelshDalaiLama on Twitter. All good fun and optimistic on his part I reckon, but well-intentioned for all that. Once the Welsh Oozalem themselves into Wooden Spoon position, I suspect they won’t need the rules of a game to dive into the bottom of a bottle or glass. My doctor has advised me not to be driving or be near heavy machinery during an “epic” monologe by Eddie Butler of the Observer (he changed his name by Deed Poll), but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye (or ear) out for Pit Bullisms.

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It seems the BBC have come up trumps with the amount of coverage they have during this year’s northern hemisphere Rugby competition, with “Live and Exclusive” coverage of the Championship promised. They certainly do seem to be very excited at wrestling the coverage from Bitter Barnsey and Woeful Will over on Sky. Though I feel that the BEEB may soon be accused of overkill in the not-too-distant future. Breakfast News’ hilariously awful Mike Bushell this morning chose the Millenium Stadium to misread his own pisspoor script in what seemed like a mini-series rather than a sports report. We are promised much more from him throughout the tournament. Oh Deep Joy!

I’m also hearing that every evening at 11pm there will be a live discussion programme on the big Rugby issues of the day, hosted by Claire Balding and Keith Vaz MP, as it is written in the Charter of the BBC that they should appear for at least 12 minutes every hour of every day the company broadcasts. At least that’s how it feels at the moment.

As usual, some of the information above may not be true at time of publication (apart from the bits about Wales and Mike Bushell).

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One Day More. Until the Next One.


It has been brought to my attention that there are those who would rather watch Les Miserables than Django Unchained. Also that there are those who are more excited about which team Darren Bent will play for this week, than whether the Welsh Rugby Team can continue their wonderfully entertaining run of form this Saturday. It is, as you well know, a funny old world. Yes, Association Football’s transfer deadline is upon us again — with the added delight of the T’BBC Salford now joining the Sky Sports team in beaming us images of miserable and wet reporters standing outside Main Road or The Baseball Ground informing us that they spotted the Evian van arrive early this morning, but the driver was tight-lipped about the prospect of who was in or who was out.

So for those people who enjoy such things, here’s a timely piece— what the youth are calling a mashup— a MASH-UP— I believe. Pay particular attention to Marouane Fellaini‘s hopping between Italian, Welsh and Generic Johnny Foreigner accents. Mind you, ’tis a fine piece of work, even if I am none the wiser what a Belgian sounds like, and which has put me off even more (if such was possible)  from going to see the movie at the Kinema (is Ron Moody still in it ?).