The Last Post


Spent all day crying, watching BBC coverage of the D-Day Vets. So proud of those old guys and they are all so humble. Wonderful stuff. I would never fight over oil or for spurious reasons to kill people, but if the Nazis ever again threatened our shores I’d like to think I’d do my bit.
70 years on, we’ve started voting-in racists, bigots & homophobes. Might as well have let Hitler in. What a waste.

 

Image: The 70th Anniversary Of The D-Day Landings Are Commemorated In Normandy

 

So they’ve won. I shouldn’t give up so easily, but for the past four-or-so years I’ve written at length (and incoherently) warning about the rise of the Right. I may not be right about many things, but I was spot on about UKIP and their mob.

Any humour I ever possessed came from a smidgen of hope. I no longer have that for this country. I don’t have the energy to fight against what’s happening. I’m an out-of-date old leftie who’s views are no longer relevant, so I shall leave it with you all. By the time most of you read this, you’ll be under a government more right-wing than Thatcher’s — and when I started this blog I’d have never believed such was possible.

So goodbye and thanks for reading and commenting. If you don’t care about living in a liberal (small ‘l’ )society, only one other thing is important: Please adhere to Greaves’ Rules (they are posted in this blog for your enjoyment) and use whichever heavy implements you can on the local nazis —you know who they are (so that’s two things).

THAT IS ALL

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Right Wing Over from the Reichstag End


There a million quips to be had from this story: N.F.Farage opening for the Gentlemen etc but I shall desist. So instead of reporting this to you in my own words, and not being able to do it justice, here’s the full story from todays Beeb website.  As a regular (every morning about 6:30) cricket tourist, I am not sure I’d have made myself available for this one. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating read. Great stuff.

The English cricket team that toured Nazi Germany

Vintage cricket bat and ball

The visits of sports teams to Nazi Germany in the 1930s still generate controversy today, from the Berlin Olympics’ anti-Semitism to the England football team’s Nazi salute in 1938. But a new book tells the story of a cricket team from Worcestershire that found itself at the centre of a now-forgotten furore.

In August 1937 the Gentlemen of Worcestershire cricket club arrived in Berlin to compete in three games organised by members of the Nazi hierarchy who had developed an interest in the sport.

The Nazi Reichsportsfuhrer Hans von Tschammer und Osten had visited England to watch the Davis Cup tennis semi-final between Germany and USA at Wimbledon. He was also invited to Lord’s as part of a tour of the summer’s sporting events, where he watched Middlesex beat Worcestershire.

The MCC recorded the visit, and it’s likely that von Tschammer met Maj Maurice Jewell, a former Worcestershire player and stalwart of the Gentlemen of Worcestershire, and asked him to bring a cricket team to Berlin. The Gents, as they are still known, are one of the oldest surviving cricket teams in the world, having played their first match in 1848. Known as a wandering or nomadic club, with no home ground, the team has always been made up of a group of cricket enthusiasts and predated Worcestershire County Cricket Club.

German newspaper of the time advertising the tour by the "gentlemen von Worcestershire"A German newspaper reports the tour of “die Gentlemen von Worcestershire”

After the Nazi minister’s request, Jewell was able to rustle up a team of wealthy gentlemen, five of whom had played first class cricket for Worcestershire, as well public schoolboys who could travel within a few weeks to Berlin.

Peter Robinson, a 16-year-old schoolboy, “was taken on the tour to make up the numbers”, says Dan Waddell, author of Field of Shadows, which tells the story of the 1937 tour. But Robinson ended up playing every match after a regular was taken ill with pneumonia. In a letter sent home on 4 August 1937, Robinson describes drinking on the morning they arrived: “It is about 9.15 am. The beer here is much nicer than in England.”

The Gentlemen were too good for the Germans and won all three games comfortably.

But what went on off the pitch was more remarkable. The team arrived in Berlin as the city was celebrating its 700th anniversary in an event manufactured by Nazi propagandists as another excuse to show off military might in a series of parades.

Berlin August 1937Berlin, August 1937: The cricket tour arrived during Nazi celebrations of the city’s 700th birthday

The Gents were asked to give the Nazi salute before their first match. As dutiful guests, they obliged.

“I think they were just being polite” says Waddell, who tracked down diaries and scrapbooks handed down by the players to their relatives. “They would have hated to have been seen to be impolite, or snubbing their hosts.”

German newspaper photo of English touring cricketers

Richard Williams bats for the Gents during the tour

The salute occurred just after the team had arrived, but by the time they left Berlin, their attitudes had changed. “If they’d been asked to do that for the final match they wouldn’t have,” says Waddell. “They refused to have their picture taken with the Reichsportsfuhrer because their unease had grown to such an extent.”

Richard Williams, one of the players, later recalled their departure. “We were lucky and glad to get to the station.” As well as detecting the sinister atmosphere, some players were annoyed by gamesmanship from the Germans. Robinson complained: “I was run out in the match to-day by the bowler. He never bowled the ball and ran me out as I backed up. He never warned me.”

The team had been closely watched during their visit. Although able to enjoy the delights of Berlin’s famous nightlife at first, the close scrutiny under which they were kept had left them increasingly unhappy.

The relations between the two teams were generally good, Waddell says, though they disliked the Berlin captain Gerhard Thamer, “who had a penchant for punching fielders who dropped catches off his bowling”.

The atmosphere of intrigue around the tour led to speculation that one of the English players might have been a spy. Robin Whetherley was a good cricketer, but had no connection at all to Worcestershire or the Gents cricket club. He even travelled separately.

Waddell’s theory is that the English cricket authorities informed the Foreign Office of the tour, and that Whetherley, who spoke German fluently, was asked to join the team and gather information. “There was a very good chance he was sent along by London to keep a very close eye on what everyone was up to, and perhaps when he came back, travel to Whitehall and have a chat to somebody,” says Waddell.

Whetherley was killed in the Balkans during the war, while serving with British special forces.

All of the players served King and country in the ensuing war, and perhaps because of embarrassment rarely spoke about the cricket tour. One of the players later described Germany as a “strange place” and said they could hear the sounds of gunfire in the background when they played some matches.

The players witnessed a torchlit procession along the Unter Den Linden which was described as “alarming and eerie”.

Worcestershire County cricket groundWorcestershire County cricket ground

A small number of Germans – including enthusiast Felix Menzel – kept the game alive. In 1945, along with a few equally bedraggled friends, he emerged from the rubble to challenge a group of extremely surprised British troops to a game of cricket. They played and the British team won, narrowly.

But Menzel is now an obscure figure and even the world of English cricket has long forgotten the 1937 tour.

©BBC

Saturday Titfers


As true today as it’s always been….

Unknown Football ground photographed somewhere or other, circa dunno. Probably not the Valley.

Unknown Football ground photographed somewhere or other, circa dunno. Probably not the Valley.The bloke near the bottom right-hand corner seems to know the cameraman.

In a quiet side street of the charming hamlet of Charlton, (as in ‘Charlton Athletic Nil’), London, SE7, once stood a little pub called The Valley, named after the local football team’s home ground. A pretty unremarkable little boozer, which my brother and I used to go in for “just the one” at lunchtime on match days (we were supporters, you understand, not players. The players were in the boozer across the road).  It was suitably scruffy, unknown to traveling opposition supporters, and mercifully free of the formica and stainless steel decor favoured by the Slug and Pianos, the All Bar Funs and the Trout n Tillbox pub chains so popular with the yoof of today.

But the feature of this pub which will stay with me forever was an old photograph on the wall. Or to be precise, a photo so large it stretched across two walls, floor-to-ceiling, in the main bar. It showed life as it was 60 years ago, a life sadly no longer with us. The photo at the top of this post, similar to the one in the pub, will give you an idea of what I mean.

Pictured was of the old, massive, main terrace at Charlton’s ground, presumably photographed just post-war. Several things struck you when you looked at the picture: That they used to sell-out home games; Some of the supporters were smiling; No-one was kicking seven shades of shite out of anyone else; and everyone in the photo was male.

But there was something else: of the nigh-on 20,000 people in the photo everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was wearing a hat. Be it a trilby, a flat cap, or whatever, EVERYONE wore a hat. Question: when the time came to throw your hat in the air in celebration of Charlton scoring a goal (quiet at the back!) how did you get your own hat back? It must have been carnage.

I have a particularly big swede and I suspect I would have often walked home with someone else’s cap, 3 sizes too small perched, at a jaunty angle, on the top of my head, while some other poor little sod wore my one, having to walk four yards before the hat moved.
Charlton Athletic beating Liverpool FC 3-0 (yes, honestly), The Valley, December 1959. Charlton Goalie, Willie Duff, scrambles to clear some smudges from the photo.  Not a dry hat in the house.

Charlton Athletic beating Liverpool FC 3-0 (yes, honestly), The Valley, December 1959. Charlton Goalie, Willie Duff, scrambles to clear some smudges from the photo. Not a dry hat in the house.

In 1953 Charlton beat Middlesbrough 8-1 which presumably meant that some of those present changed hats 8 times during the match. I wonder if after twenty minutes you ended up with a real corker of a titfer you just buggered off home and sod the result? Were you refused entry to the ground if you were hatless? What if your chapeau was a birthday present but the bloke standing 7 yards away caught it during the melee after a late equalizer? My mum would have gone Garrity if I returned home without it.

Perhaps it’s only me, but it’s something that’s always bothered me.
The pub’s not there now. Demolished to make way for yuppie flats, a Costa Bundle Coffee bar or somesuch. Gone the same way as epidemic hat-wearing, a thousand proper boozers around the country, and home goals at The Valley.

(originally published by the Sharp Single as “Saturday Titfers” in March 2009. And we’re still waiting for a home goal— The Ed).

Ou Est le Papier ?


I was never the type to be cursed with too much street cred. Never been known as hard. By anyone at all. But that’s fine, as the late, white MIchael Jackson would say, “I’m a lover, not a fighter” (and there my similarity with Bubbles’ owner ends).  However, I did like to try to carry with me a kinda Jim Rockford—loveable rogue—bon viveur—lad-about-town—rough diamond sort of image, which was invented to say “Hey look, I don’t have to swing punches to handle myself. DON”T mess with me mate.”  Fortunately, thanks to my ability to foresee punch-ups and my penchant for the exit stage left school of acting, I never had to put up my dukes too often.

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Small Boy Gatecrashes Adults Only Rugby Photo. NB: Another winning season under my leadership. Just.

But the little aura of invincibility I possessed buggered off completely one Saturday afternoon in Bromley, South London (not Kent) about a year before the above snap was taken. I was playing inside centre for my school team against a touring French Club side. Dunno why we were playing a drunk touring club side, we just were. Pissed-up and Punchy they were, just like I wanted to be later on in life. But for now I was a schoolboy playing against men. Albeit youngish men, and not very good ones at that. They were called something like Chateaneuf Rugby Club, which was quickly translated into Soixante Neuf (by our coach, Buster), which kept us amused all the while up to kick-off.

But here’s a surprise for you: The oppo’s open side flanker was a cheating thug. Imagine that ! A Flanker: cheating; A Frenchman: niggly. A FRENCH OPEN SIDE FLANKER: Niggly and Cheating . I know, it’s hard to believe. So, as was bound to happen (and this may be the point of this piece —you knew there’d be one somewhere, didn’t you ?) I ended up having a scuffle with this fella. It wasn’t really a fight — he punched me on the nose and I swung (swang?? swinged ??) a huge Dick Barton punch in his direction and caught him hard, smack on the shoulder blade.

skinner

An artist’s impression of what happened in Bromley that day. The artist has since been dismissed.

And then it happened: Estimates vary between 5 yards and 25 yards as to how far my father had run on to the pitch in an attempt to break up this set-to before he came to a sudden halt, blushed, shouted “Oh, sorry”, spun round on his heels and took himself off again. I didn’t see any of this, of course as I was far too busy being punched in the face. But everyone else did. The frenchman and I curtailed out pugalistic activities as the sound of me yelping was being drowned out by the laughter of those around us. It was clear to all present: I needed my dad to save me from a fight on a rugby field. Told you I was hard.

But this is how the french play their rugby: HARD. I’ve been present at many a dust-up on the field in France (present, you understand, not active). I’ve watched from the safety of behind the posts as the team from the French Town we were visiting punched and kicked the living daylights out of us (well, I say us, I mean my mates). I’ve seen legions of my colleagues in maroon and gold shirts become victims of assaults on the pitch by opposition players, cheered on by the ref shouting “Allez, Allez” and waving his arms around in that gallic “what the fuck are you complaining/bleeding about?” sort or way. I once even asked the opposing hooker, (a huge, beared bear of a man) in my very best Franglais,  if he could ask his team-mates to go easy on us; that we’d been on the piss for three days and “really weren’t up for a fight today, just a laugh”.
“Don’t esk me mate”, came the reply in fluent New Zealandish “I jist got ‘ere from Aucklund”.  He was a recent purchase of the club from down under. Apparently New Zealand Senior League front row play wasn’t violent enough for him. We were losing by 40 points after 33 minutes when I called for “Three Cheers” for the opposition and we left the field. It was what Field Marshall Haig would have called a tactical retreat. We capitulated faster than any French Army could ever had done. Almost.

So anyway, the mouth-watering prospect of France vrs England today should herald the start of a particularly enjoyable 6 Nations season. The French were appalling last year, so will be excellent this year (probably); the English will be overpowered up front, and the few who did tour with the Lions will be too fatigued to mount a challenge for the title this year (probably); the Ref and assorted officials will merely be part of an Anglo-Saxon conspiracy, hell-bent on cheating the French out of the match (probably) and there will be niggle, aggro, punches, boots, set-tos and stand-offs a-plenty (WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT).

England v France - RBS Six Nations No-one hates the English more than the French — apart from the Welsh and the Scots. The Irish, Australia, New Zealand, The Belgian Congo, Dutch East Indies and parts of the Miliband family (©Mail Newspapers). And anyone else who knows me — so you can bet the smaller of your testicles that a little bit of, ow u say ? Fisticuffs will be in evidence this afternoon. It’s part of the game. This game may well have been shorn of competitive line-outs, wheeling in the scrum and proper sideburns, but unlike the Super 73 (or whatever it’s called this year),the northern hemisphere version of Rugby Football still retains some semblance of a contact sport. With contact sports you get physical contact, which occasionally escalates into physical confrontations. Especially if you hate that bastard over there. So who will win today ? I haven’t the foggiest. England have faith in Stuart Lancaster and his big plan for Team England (not to be confused with Andy Flower and his big plan for Team England), so let’s see how they go. For me, it’ll be Wales for the Championship, they seem to have just enough strength on the bench that you need nowadays. Or the French. Or England as an outside bet. I’m sure of it.

But I won’t fight you over it.

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Pad Men


Cricket has been used by advertisers to sell their stuff for over 100 years. From Bats to Brylcream, Custard Powder, Gaspers and Trades Unions, all of them have lined up to use images of the stars of the day, the role models and heroes of the time, to product promote. Of course, Saatchi’s aren’t exactly bursting a lung to get at the England players at the moment, (although I understand Ex-lax and Nytol are in negotiations with the MCC).

So in lieu of anything else, here’s a Roland Butcher’s at some of the ads and artwork of great (and not-so-great) Cricket Ads.

1974 Stuart Surridge A283 1977 Tony Greig St Peter 1977 Tooheys 1 AP997-birds-custard-boy-playing-cricket

BP182-brylcreem-hairdresser-cricket-1950s

63809 38974-wn Press ad cricket 1932 _VIM_9_3_3_72_ StateLibQld_1_91556_Advertisment_for_Bulimba_Gold_Top_beer,_Queensland 2cf197159daf84838bb8bbd2f8559d3d

Greaves’ Rules: It’s Your Round Again, Mate


This’ll be the third or fourth time I have posted this, but you can’t get too much of a good thing. This follows many requests from friends and drinking buddies alike to republish these rules (and they are RULES, not suggestions), and after observing from afar some truly shocking antics of the recent crop of Beliebers, Directioners and Whovians (I’m a Whothefvckcaresvian), who have reached their 18th birthday, somehow are allowed into my pubs, and who now seem intent on making my quiet drinking time a nightmare.

I suspect my first heart attack will arrive as I’m queuing (yes, I’m British) behind 7 Coiffured Dwarfs, fiddling through their man-purses while they individually ask for a WKD and pay for one with 20 pence pieces; or if the pub does Vodka Shots or bottles of Pomegranate and Strawberry Cider ?  “You do ? Excellent! one please. How much is that ? CAN OF YOU GUYS LEND ME 38 PENCE PLEASE ?”

Back in the day when the great Bill Greaves — Friend, Ale Expert, Pub Aficionado, Journalist and Right-Hand opening Bat — composed the following, life was a lot simpler (we’re talking about the 1980s, not the 1880s, you understand). People (men, mostly) stood together, talked together, drank (beer) together and bought a round for each other. If you were 18 years old (or even 15) “this is your pint of Bitter, get that down you and it’s your round next!”. Fluorescence purple or lime green alcoholic drinks had, thankfully, not been invented yet.

Too poor to get your round in ? We’ll stand you a few this time, but make sure you bring some cash next week or you can sod off out of our company (it was only 40p a pint after all).

So for those of us who hark back to such happy times, and for those of you who are in desperate need of a lesson in pub etiquette, I give you (once again):

GREAVES’ RULES

1.When two or more enter the pub together, one – usually the first through the door – will begin proceedings with the words “Now then, what are we having?” He or she will then order and pay. This purchase is known as “the first round”.

2.This player, or “opener”, will remain “in the chair” while other friends or colleagues come through the door to join the round. He will remain in this benefactory role until either (a) his own glass sinks to beneath the half way mark or (b) another drinker finds himself almost bereft of his original refreshment and volunteers to “start a new round”.

3.In the absence of new arrivals, any player other than the opener may at any time inquire whether it is “the same again?” On receiving his instructions, he will then order and pay for “the second round”. (N.B. The second round is the last one to be specifically numbered. Beyond that point, nobody wishes to be reminded how many they have had and, anyway, no-one should be counting.)

“His Eminence” Greaves (right, in jacket) with the late, great Preston

“His Eminence” Greaves (right, in jacket) with the late, great Preston

4.The round acknowledges no discrimination. All players, regardless of sex, age or social status, are expected to “stand their corner”. (Pedants might like to note that we are talking here of the only “round” in the English language that also contains a “corner”.

5.Any new entrant, joining the session after its inception, is not expected to “buy himself in” but should be invited to join the round by whoever is in the chair (see Rule 2). If, however, he is greeted by silence he may either (a) buy a drink just for himself or (b) attempt to buy a round for all present. If (a) or, worse still, (b) is not acceptable to the congregation then the new entrant has been snubbed and should in future seek out more appreciative company. There is one important exception…

6.For reasons of haste or poverty, a new arrival may insist on buying his own with the words “Thanks, but I’m only popping in for one”. If he is then seen to buy more than three drinks, he will be deemed a skinflint, neither broke nor in a hurry to get home, and will be penalised for his duplicity by being ordered to buy the next round.

7.Although everyone in the group is normally required to buy at least one round before leaving, the advent of either drunkenness or closing time sometimes renders this ideal unattainable. In such circumstances, any non-paying participant will (a) have “got away with it” and (b) appoint himself “opener” at the next forgathering. However, any player who notices on arrival that the round has “got out of hand” and has no chance of reaching his turn before “the last bell”, may start a “breakaway round” by buying a drink for himself and all subsequent arrivals. This stratagem breaks the round in two, keeps the cost within manageable proportions and is the only acceptable alternative to Rule 5.

8.When a pressing engagement elsewhere precludes further involvement, it is wholly unacceptable for any player who has not yet been in the chair to buy a round in which he cannot himself be included. In such circumstances Rule 7 (a) and (b) therefore apply.

9.In the event of any one glass becoming empty, a new round must be called immediately. This should not necessarily be called by the owner of the empty glass, however, because this place the slower drinker at an unfair fund-saving advantage. (N.B. Whereas it is permissible for any member of the round to decrease the capacity of his individual order – “just a half for me, please” – the opposite does not hold good. A large whisky, for instance, may be offered by the chair but never demanded of it.)

10.Regional variations. In various parts of the country, a particular establishment will impose its own individual codicil. In one Yorkshire pub, for example, the landlord’s Jack Russell terrier expects to be included in every round. Where such amendments exist, and are properly advertised, they must be piously observed. We are, after all, talking about a religion.

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England Find Secret Weapon


Those England cricketers who’d had the decency to see out the whole tour received a boost yesterday. Spied amongst the MCG crowd were some of the traveling supporters sporting new {and extremely reasonably priced) garb to cheer on their boys.

“Those shirts definitely made a difference to the way we played to” Said Alastair Cook, a part time estate agent from Rhyl (no relation).

Swanny fvcks off. New T-shirts arrive. England have best day of tour. Coincidence ? You be the judge. Shirts (available in the foyer and from all good stockists.)

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