The Git & The Galla

Sir Ivor Cullen and his wife Betty had ham hock for supper last night. I know this because yesterday afternoon I was sitting in front of a guy that was off to dine with them later and I overheard him telling his friends.

In Buenos Aires (that’s in Argentina) a salad starter, followed by a 400g lomo steak (that’s spelt l-o-m-o), with sauteed potatoes, a glass of red wine, then finally rice pudding washed down with a desert wine costs £12.45. Were you aware of that ? No ? Oh well you should have been with me yesterday because you would have learnt all this and more, all from the same dull bloke.

Carluccio’s in St John’s Wood don’t take reservations for lunch – they don’t get very busy. A bottle of Wolf Blass Unoaked Chardonnay costs £22 in Tescos, yet one’s able to buy a bottle of, albeit a plastic bottle here today for just £19. I think that’s very reasonable, don’t you ? He did. It was, he said “one of my favourites”.

So where was I yesterday ? At a meeting of my wine club ? No. Cookery class ? Afraid not. Dining with friends at the Savoy Grill ? Not even close. I was, in fact, watching a cricket match at Lords cricket ground. Or rather I was trying to watch a cricket match, but my concentration and enjoyment was constantly ruined by this bloated English dullard sitting behind me, ‘entertaining’ friends or clients, though who could have been entertained by this fat git, Thomas Lord alone knows.

Ever been at the cinema when a bloke sitting behind you comments or commentates on every scene, recites every punchline or preempts every key scene ? Well you get the gist of my morning at the Home of Cricket. This bloke was boring. I mean he was DULL. Every shot, every ball, every catch, every run: not only did he have a comment or opinion on it, it was clear he knew absolutely sod all about cricket (though I guess I would have to bow to his gastronomic expertise. Judging by the size of him, he worked hard at it). He was wrong or boring or both on a number of subjects. When he produced his holiday snaps from his trip to Buenos Aires, my jaw hit my knees.

I lost count of how many facts and laws of the game he got wrong, and how ignorant he was, well, about everything really. I just know that when he explained what made Shane Warne “one of my favourite swing bowlers” I went for a pint. On my return to my seat he was waxing lyrical about the time in South Africa when he shared a whole bottle of sherry with “some coloured chaps” who were “frightfully charming”, then segwayed into an explanation of the apartheid system and why the coloureds and blacks had come out of it all right in the end. I got up and went for another pint.

The day didn’t going well from the get-go. The Aussies were in town and that only ever means one thing: legions of yellow-coloured cobbers, lugging eskis of laaager around with them bellowing encouragements and insults to their team in equal measure. One such groups of individuals had parked themselves near me. Within a couple of tinnies their leader (another fatty) was droaning such gems as “C’mon Ricky, yer big Galla !” or “Nurdle, nurdle ! Nurdle, nurdle! ” It was as if he’s swallowed a vuvuzela. He was painful to listen to.

He also fancied himself as an authority, not just on cricket, but on the Lords ground itself. He’d obviously been here once before and didn’t hold back taking his companions on a virtual tour of the ground, all conducted from where his fat arse was perched in row 2 of the stand and punctuated by gulps of the amber nectar. Again, his knowledge of the history of the ground was less than spot-on, but that didn’t stop him relaying the ‘facts’ that the Ashes were brought back to England by WG Grace (nope) and the ground was named after the House of Lords who used to play cricket matches here in the 1800s. Wrong again, mate.

Thankfully for all in the vicinity, he and his mob decided to move to a more sparsely populated part of the stand, presumably so they could spread out their cheeks in comfort, and my sanity and eardrums were saved. Until Sir Bufton Tufton sat himself behind me, that is.

Then came the last straw- he started telling jokes.
“One of my favourite examples of chitchat on the field – the Australians call it sledging- is the one when there was a rather rotund bowler bowling at some batsmen-or-other when the batter asked the bowler how many jaffa cakes he ate? ‘I have one every time I sleep with your wife’ retorted the bowler. Very funny, very funny”
I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone cock-up a story quite so spectacularly. As sledging stories go, that one’s probably the funniest and most famous, and only a complete berk like the bloke behind me could have fcked it up so completely. It really took the biscuit. Or the jaffa cake.

I made my excuses, picked up my rucksack, and watched the rest of the match on the tv in the bar. As I stood there watching the match, in peace and content to be 200 yards away from the Git & the Galla, I wondered how Sir Ivor Cullen and his wife Betty were getting on? I reckoned they’d probably made good progress with the meal preparations as they had been without the distraction of their evening’s dinner guest’s fascinating stories, a pleasure enjoyed by us poor sods in that section of the stand at Lords today. I just hoped that when he finally arrived at their house, if he was as charming and as entertaining as he’d been to us, Sir Ivor would insert a ham hock into him. I suspect that wouldn’t be one of his favourites.

Age will not weary them

I had followed the same training schedule as the previous 20 years—I’d done nothing, and I’d been out for a curry and a few pints the night before. I’d packed as many surgical supports as I could fit in my kit-bag, I’d shunned a sandwich for lunch and opted for just-the-one pint (pre-hydration) before the game. But still, as I arrived at the ground for our first cricket match of the season it was clear it was going to be a long, hard day.


My first worry was that our influential skipper was not, as is usual, inspecting the wicket or warming-up on the boundary, but was in fact on assignment in the Hindu Kush. Bugger. But good news came when someone mentioned a young-ish, fast-ish, swing bowler had been selected and was on his way. Excellent! someone to do most of the donkey-work. Then more bad news: another one of our member was stuck in traffic somewhere somewhere between the South Circular and the Guilford bypass and was gonna be late. If at all. Christ.
When we gathered in the visitors’ changing room the full horror struck me: I was 44 years old, overweight and overhung, short on muscle and hair, but long on girth and ralgex, and I calculated that at least six of my team-mates were older than me!. Admittedly a couple of them looked a good deal fitter than I did, but it was clear that I was part of the youth policy. Someone had blundered. My mood didn’t improve when the young fast bowler showed up with his leg in plaster, having gotten injured playing soccer last weekend. Oh poo.



We took the field having dragged a mate out of the pub to make up the XI. Ten of us were resplendent in albeit rather snug-fitting cricket whites, the eleventh (he who was enjoying a quiet half-gallon in the boozer til press-ganged into playing) in my spare cricket shirt, a pair of cargo pants and brown hiking boots. Less WG Grace, more WC Fields.

We bowled. I bowled. It hurt. The batsmen tucked into our bowling like Ranulph Fiennes in a Katmandu Curry House. The opening attack (myself and an Aussie called Jeff) had a combined age of 94. My eyes bled, my calves seized up, my lungs screamed and my head thumped. Between overs I stood in the outfield gasping for breath, my big fat red head sweating audibly. I looked like a fat Swan Vesta.

Catches were taken, many more were dropped. Play was occasionally punctuated by a clatter of stumps, but more often the ‘ping’ of a lump of leather coming of a plank of wood and hurtling over the boundary. One of their young guns scored a hundred as the runs flowed, lbw appeals were turned down and the fielders’ good-humoured chat, banter and yelps of HOWZAT ?? turned into coughs, moans, and yelps of pain.

At the end of their innings it was clear they’d scored approximately 100 more runs than we were happy with. But no matter. TEA! Sandwiches, pork pies (like we needed more) doughnuts (ditto) and lashings of hot tea had been provided in the pavilion. We devoured. A condemned XI’s last meal.

Our Turn To Bat

Cricket - SS Box

Cargo-pant guy (50-odd), now having borrowed the bottom half to his kit, took to the crease with his batting partner (who just might be under 30) and our innings began. Whack, ping, wheeze, clunk. The pair got off to a flier. If the elder of the two hadn’t pulled a muscle in his arse who knows how many more runs they could have run? But it was a great start. All the way up until it wasn’t. The young lad was bowled out when we’d scored 89.

But that was ok. Happy with that. A much better start than usual. In walked our no.3 batsman (more than 50-odd) who really did look the part. He looked comfortable at the crease (both his arse muscles were still working) and started to knock a few balls around to all parts of the field. Very much the man in form. But no sooner had we in the Pavilion got comfortable and ordered more tea when he was hit smack-bang in the face by the ball. Lots of blood. Lots. Quite put me off my fifth sarnie. Our number 11 batsman took him to hospital and we were down to 9 men again.

Our batsmen nudged and nurdled and smacked and smote the ball into gaps in the field as we crept towards the total required. Our ill-clad, aged opener scored 93— ON HIS OWN!. Gradually, two things dawned on me: a) we could win this; b) I might have to bat. Oh fuck. Oh fuck fuck fuck! Then it happened: the bloke in front of me was, disaterously, given out LBW (by the then-umpiring Cargo Man) and I was in. I protected my stumps, head and goolies and we sneaked a sharp single. My partner at the other end was caught out. Then I ran-out my next partner. Bugger. The last man in (he’d returned from delivering our man to hospital) joined me in the middle and we needed 14 to win with 2 overs left. Then 13 needed. Then 11. It was tortuous. It was pathetic. Two men who hated batting (combined age 99), swishing and swatting and limping up and down the wicket. One ball left. One run to win. SWISH, PING. The ball shot between two fielders and we ran like buggery (if buggery is very, very, slow and painful, which I suspect it is.) and we’d won. Stone me!

2 Pints

I left the field very gingerly, very sweatily and very happily. Every bone and organ ached like hell. We went to the pub. I had to sit down. Our hospitalized mate was having an x-ray and I was having a pint. Every cloud. This report was typed with the two digits I possess that can actually still move. Silly old sod.