Saturday, 22 November 2014

Portrait

Fantasy Bob found himself recently in the Scottish Portrait Gallery.

Scottish Portrait Gallery - Entrance Hall
Found himself......a peculiar phrase, implying some kind of out of body experience; as if part of FB had been mislaid and had been happily reunited with the rest.

Those among the handful of his worldwide readers who have been unfortunate enough to view FB's efforts on the cricket field will find nothing surprising there, for they will have concluded that parts of him have been mislaid for a long time.  Others may take the view that those parts were never there to start with.    But FB digresses.........

What, his handful of readers must be thinking, could have taken FB into such a high temple of Scotland's culture?

The fine red sandstone building is one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic architecture to be found in Scotland.  Could it be the building itself that FB wishes to examine?  No.  Observers will see him pass through the highly decorated hallway without a look upwards,at the spectacular depiction of scenes of Scotland's turbulent history.

Museum exhibit - the Dundee match
was recreated by enthusiasts earlier this year -
FB not selected
Could it be the beguiling display in an upper gallery of material associated with the development of sport in Scotland?

For cricket has a display case all to itself with some highly engaging Victoriana, including a flyer for the celebrated Clowns Cricket match which took place in Dundee in 1879 and drew a rowdy crowd of 30,000.  So rowdy were the 30,000 that only one hour's play was possible.

Would FB pause before this item and ponder its relevance? Clown cricket matches were a regular feature of Victorian life (when without wall to wall T20 people had to make their own entertainment). There are unkind observers of FB's antics at Grange Loan who have suggested that his clownish attempts to play leg spin bowling have perpetuated this honorable tradition.  Was FB therefore seeking inspiration?

No, he passes by this case without so much as a glance.

Ian Botham by John Bellany
Perhaps he is on a search for a portrait of a significant cricketer whose rich contribution to Scotland's life is properly marked.  But the Gallery is deficient in that area.  Is it FB's objective to address this failing?

He will be aware that the sister Portrait Gallery in London contains a number of paintings of cricket greats - as well as a number of photographs.  Most notably there is a controversial 1985 portrait of Ian Botham by Scottish artist John Bellany.

The painting has that remarkable painterly quality - it bears no resemblance at all to the sitter.   In this it resembles FB's own attempts at portraiture. Perhaps, therefore, FB is contemplating offering his own representations of Carlton's greats to the Gallery to fill the obvious gap in their collection?

No, he pays scant attention to the places his work could grace the walls.

Instead his readership will follow FB to the Gallery's very pleasant cafe and finally understand the great service he is undertaking.  For FB is nothing if not diligent in seeking out empire biscuits of distinction.  And those in the Portrait Gallery are of Test Match Quality.  Carefully shaped and eschewing the jelly tot or glace cherry, they are topped with dried raspberry. Sublime.  FB brings the biscuit to his lips and everything is transcended..........

So, it was an out of body experience after all.

A portrait of perfection.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Rosetta

Lower league cricketers can be forgiven for feeling a bit underwhelmed.
Guided by the junior members

A ten year journey covering billions of miles of empty space with a coquettish spin around a couple of asteroids, not to mention Mars, to catch a flying bit of rock 2.5 miles across, would seem a challenge.

However compared to the trick of finding an unfamiliar away ground with the assistance of 6 junior members in the back of the car, it looks like simplicity itself.  Notwithstanding that each junior member is plugged into his own i-Phone, giving the mission more computing power than was necessary to land on the Moon, this is the mission that is fraught with danger.

The junior members' confidence in knowing which is right and which is left is repeatedly examined under the most testing conditions.  In obscure parts of the universe exits from roundabouts have to be carefully counted, if the mission is not going to spin off into deep space, travelling inexorably, out of the range of radio telescopes, beyond the powers of steering correction or recall.  Even Twitter can't reach.  To infinity.  And beyond.

Fantasy Bob has conducted such frightening missions many times.  His success is a triumph of the human spirit. The stuff of heroism.  Unregarded and unlauded.

But land on a comet with a unique post code and you're all over the media.  FB is beyond jealousy and congratulates the successful team.  He is not sure why 10 years ago they thought it was a good idea to pick this particular 67P for an away fixture, but he supposes the fixture committee had their reasons. But having gone all that way the team must be disappointed.

Scientists seem to think that comets may have brought water and other matter to earth.  But there is still a hotly contested dispute in the scientific community as to whether comets could have brought cricket to Mother Earth.   This mission gives no comfort to those taking this view - 67P does not look a promising venue for cricket.  Must the mission therefore be deemed a failure?  Anxiety is running high in the committee room as the Tweets pour back to Earth.

No evidence that a wicket has been prepared
FB has often had such a sinking feeling on landing for the first time at an away venue.  The pavilion has seen better days, and its rickety door seems firmly closed.  The outfield looks a bit unkempt and there is little evidence of a wicket having been prepared.  There is a sinking feeling, batteries are running low on the collective i-Pod and it is difficult to check directions.  But just as their patience is at an end, a shambling grey-beard in an ill-fitting tracksuit wanders in the gate, opens the pavilion and slowly begins the miraculous task of transforming this hostile environment into something approaching a cricket ground.

And for a few hours FB and his junior colleagues can put the cares of the world behind them - until they have to prepare for the return journey...........

Will evidence of a doughty groundsman be found on 67P, and give some succour to the theory?  FB awaits the confirmatory tweet.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

For your tomorrow

Remembrance Day, cricketers everywhere humbly fall silent for two minutes, thinking of all those bowlers and batters who, for this tomorrow, gave their today.
As the silence ends, there is little more fitting than this rendition of Flowers o' the Forest by Isla St Clair


I've heard the lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Lassies a-lilting before dawn o' day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning;
The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Wall

Fantasy Bob is reminded that it is 25 years since the Wall came down.

Celebrations at the founding of the German Cricket Federation

On 9 November 1989, after several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. While this lead to great celebrations and euphoria with souvenir hunters chipping away at the Wall's structure, the wall's actual demolition did not begin until Summer 1990 and was not completed until 1992.  German reunification, was formally concluded on 3 October 1990.

A fact of equal, indeed possibly greater, significance but which is frequently overlooked by historians of those stirring times, is that the German Cricket Federation was officially founded in 1989.

It was not that cricket was unknown in Germany - East or West - prior to that date. Berlin CC existed in the mid 19th Century and the first governing body was formed in 1912 (separating from the pre-existing German Football and Cricket Federation).  Touring teams visited regularly, including a team from Edinburgh in 1900 (FB has had to assure sceptical junior members playing alongside him at Carlton's All Star Fourth XI that he was not a member of that tour).

 Dan Waddell
will speak at the 
Cricket Society of Scotland 
 Glasgow and Edinburgh
 12 and 13 January 2015
However the middle of the 20th Century did not see the game prosper - Adolf Hitler is not regarded as a supporter of the game (he is said to have considered a game in which players used leg pads effeminate).
Nevertheless there were efforts by some devotees to develop the game.

 

Earlier this year FB enjoyed Field of Shadows by Dan Waddell  a charming account of a 1937 tour to Berlin by a nomadic English team - the Gentlemen of Worcestershire.   Amongst other detail the book records how the team found itself having to give the Nazi salute prior to its first match, and the propensity of the home skipper for punching his players when they dropped catches. There was also some speculation that a British spy was added to the touring party by the Foreign Office.

Local media coverage
Whatever the tour's objectives, it did not succeed in averting the slide to conflict.  But hope springs eternal and the book finishes with a wistful account of the Berlin players in 1945 shyly approaching the British occupying authorities, bat and ball in hand, looking for players to join them.

More recent  and happier times have seen cricket in Germany prosper although like many countries it is dominated by ex pat arrivals to the country rather than home grown players. It is working hard to improve and is currently ranked 37th participating in ICC Europe Division 2 and World Cricket League 7. Scotland's own Steve Knox was coach to the national side in 2014 - FB has not heard whether he has found his skipper punching his players is still an issue.

The Wall - 13288 Test runs @ 52.31; 36 Centuries
Cricketers may have joined the celebrations at the demise of the Berlin Wall and its sure path to Steve Knox's appointment. But they would only have been saddened by the more recent demise of an equally famous Wall.

Rahul Dravid made his first class debut in 1990 and played his final match in January 2012. He was given the name the Wall as part of an advertising campaign by Reebok in 1997, which was near the start of his glittering Test career.  The same campaign also coined The Assasin for Azhar and The Viper for Kumble, but only Dravid's nickname stuck as his technical excellence and powers of concentration saw him become the essential base to the Indian batting line.  His record is incomparable.  He really was the Wall.

Dravid also played for Scotland in 2003 - and one of his fellow batsmen, studying the Wall from the other end, was Steve Knox.  

Berlin - Walls - Cricket - it's all connected.


Saturday, 1 November 2014

An Investment Piece

Fantasy Bob recently entered the world of haute couture.  This was not a faltering attempt to curry favour with Mrs FB by adding to her collection of Chanel tops.  No, this was an innocent and unknowing brush with high fashion.

An investment piece
The coming of winter excited Mrs FB's long-running campaign that FB's wardrobe was in need of reinvestment.  His valiant claims that his present coat should be considered fashionably threadbare, finally withered before Mrs FB's scepticism.  'Big Issue sellers are not fashion icons,' she decreed, and FB had no alternative to a shopping expedition.

Shopping inspires in FB much the same feeling as when he faces leg spin bowling.  His stomach churns, his upper lip perspires, his eyes glaze over, his hands tremble.  He knows he shouldn't swing at the first thing he sees, but he can't resist.  Disaster generally follows.

Maybe FB got lucky this time.  Containing his apprehension, he bravely strode to the wicket and headed for a High Street store renowned for its military medium approach to these matters.  He duly made his purchase and returned home with only minor damage to his nervous disposition.

As he unpacked his new garment, he read for the first time one of the small library of labels which hung from it.  It told him that he had purchased an article from.......... 'a perfectly edited wardrobe of the season's latest looks, stylish investment pieces and brilliant basics..............'  An investment piece. His breast swelled with pride.

An investment piece.  The scales fell from FB's eyes.  He had not previously looked on his wardrobe as a treasure trove of liquidisable assets.

Babe Ruth's shirt
He soon discovered that dizzying sums are available for the right investment piece.  A dress worn by Marylin Monroe in The Seven Year Itch had realised $4.6 million in 2011.

Perhaps FB did not have satin gowns to match that invesment piece but even sporting items have commanded sums which could keep FB in empire biscuits for his life time.

Although cricket clothing has not commanded high prices,  a 1920 New York Yankees shirt worn by Babe Ruth was auctioned for $4.4 million.  So the market may emerge.

Surely FB could come up with something to command a premium price at the better auction houses of the world.  But his phone calls to Christies and Sothebys leave him to conclude that the market is not quite ready.  Which means that there is an unparalleled opportunity for FB's worldwide readership to get in before the market matures.  They could make a killing.

FB is offering by private sale unique investment items from his wardrobe.  These will only increase rapidly in price.  He invites bids for 2 priceless lots:

Lot #1 - FB collection of single socks, curated over many years with love and skill.  These are the socks that stayed loyal to FB through thick and thin while others wandered off who knows where. Make no mistake this collection is world class.

Lot#2 - The second lot is a set of Carlton cricket shirts bearing the logos of successive sponsors. These are shirts that have produced the world famous inswinger and have born the crumbs from a thousand cricket teas.  Unparalleled in the annals of sporting memorabilia.

Market experts are watching developments with interest.  One of them told FB that he'd never seen anything like it............................


A sample of the world class collection



Sunday, 26 October 2014

God Only Knows


For reasons best known to themselves, the BBC has prepared a remake of the Beach boys great song God Only Knows. As if the original could be improved upon.

In the way of these ventures, it includes a dizzying array of singers, each given one line of the song. There seems no reason for this, other than to reveal FB's inadequate grip on the fashions of the day in popular music. For, as each shiny new face looms out of the screen Mrs FB asks, 'Who's that?', and FB has no other response than 'God Only knows.'

FB is fairly confident that none of the singers involved is a cricketer, although he recalls the cover of his long ago purchased copy of Elton John's Greatest Hits has him, for no accountable reason, batting by moonlight. He looks the part - and FB was interested to see he takes middle and leg.
But that's about it. FB does not fully understand this - for God Only Knows and cricket are inseparably mixed in his mind.

Even before play starts FB is met with a chorus of inquiry from older and younger team members, 'FB, are you ever going to win the toss again?' 'God Only Knows.'

'Many times a season a fresh-faced junior will look up briefly from his I-phone and ask him on his crestfallen return to the pavilion, 'Bob, that was a straight on - how did you miss it?' 'God Only Knows'.

Later, after his bowling has been tonked to all parts of the ground another junior will say, 'Bob, what happened to your line and length? ' Again FB has only one response, 'God Only Knows'.

And at the end of the day, crestfallen after another runless, wicketless performance, footsore, weary, his aching back complaining at every move, he soothes his pain with a refreshing drink with Mrs FB. His team mates ask her, 'Why does he do it? Why does he turn out every week?' She looks wonderingly at her life partner and answers them quietly, 'Not even God knows that.................'

PS - the Beach Boys original cannot be improved upon as FB has said - but to hear how fine the Beach Boys were here is the vocal track of that original separated from the instrumental backing - harmony singing at its best - Test Match Quality.


Monday, 20 October 2014

Top Hat

Fantasy Bob has observed before that there is no human misery that could not be made passably better by a spot of tap-dancing.

Generally he sticks by that philosophy: while current political debate might not acknowledge the argument's merits, FB is confident that the coming UK election will see the major parties make serious commitments to tap dancing as they draw up their manifestos.

Be that as it may, FB and Mrs FB recently enjoyed a performance of Top Hat - a stage presentation of the 1930s musical which has enough tap dancing to soothe most anxieties these troubled times give rise to.

FB has never had the chance to tap dance.  Mrs FB suggests that his possession of two left feet would be a significant hindrance to any attempt.  Of course Mrs FB has never seen his nimble dancing down the wicket to dispatch the ball to the boundary, far less his floating rhythmic run up the hill against the wind.  Had she done so, she would know that her anatomical aspersion is inaccurate.  FB has two right feet.

FB has therefore always admired tap dancing in others and no one tops Fred Astaire who shone like the brightest of diamonds in the film version of Top Hat which contains several magical dance numbers with Ginger Rogers.  Not even FB's world famous in-swinger can match the perfection of their presentation of Cheek to Cheek. Test Match Quality.

Regrettably, cricketers find little to interest them in the careers of Astaire nor Rogers - any interest stimulated by the knowledge that Astaire's very first film appearance was in a 1915 silent film with the encouraging title of Fanchon the Cricket is soon dispelled when they find the action revolves around a young wild girl Fanchon (played by Mary Pickford) who lives in a forest with her eccentric grandmother who is suspected of being a witch.  Being a witch of course could be a cipher for bowling leg spin, but there is no cricketing action to verify this reading.

The score of Top Hat was written by Irving Berlin, generally believed to be another non-cricketer.   Berlin can be considered the greatest of all song writers - he wrote over 1500 many of which are as popular and fresh today as when he wrote them - despite the shocking absence of cricket references in his lyrics.  But then it has to be recalled that Berlin was writing for an American audience whose interest in cricket was limited. For commercial reasons, he had to suppress his better instincts and write cricket out of his songs.

This seems a reasonable hypothesis for FB has unearthed this early version of the lyric of one of Berlin's more enduring numbers, which could almost have been written about FB:

There may be googlies ahead
But while it's milit'ry medium
You won't look a prat
Let's face the bowling and bat

Before the seamers have fled
Before they ask us to play leg spin
And while the wicket’s still flat
Let's face the bowling and bat

(This great tune  - with its better known words - was included in the stage version of Top Hat where it sat very nicely - but it was written for another Astaire-Rogers film Follow the Fleet.)
Cheek to Cheek - perfection