Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Fantasy Bob supposes it is his own fault. He just didn't think it through. The unintended consequences. Long suffering readers may recall how he and Mrs FB enjoyed the opera at La Scala and how Mrs FB's enjoyment of the occasion was greatly enhanced by the appearance on stage of a horse and a donkey. 

For Mrs FB's equine obsession matches, and may well exceed,  FB's fondness for cricket.  For her, the appearance of a horse in any situation brightens the day and gives it new meaning.  Many times as FB negotiates a particularly tricky country road she will suddenly say from the passenger seat, 'Look at that lovely bay.' 

Early in their relationship this confused FB, for he seemed to be nowhere near the sea-side.  However little by little he gained an understanding.  'Look at that lovely bay, what a lovely boy.'  FB maintains a dignified silence; he knows what is coming next.

'Hello, lovely boy - what a lovely field of grass you have.'   FB admires Mrs FB's persistence in attempting to have a conversation with a horse from behind the closed window of a passing car.  He accepts no blame - the suggestion having been made that even this interaction is an improvement on his conversational skills has not been verified

So he is aware of his life partner's predilections. But he failed to take into account how they had been heightened by the experience at La Scala.

So when they made their way to Edinburgh's Festival Theatre for a performance by Scottish Opera of Carmen his researches had left him unprepared.  He had established beyond reasonable doubt that there is little of cricketing interest in the opera - it being written by a Frenchman was probably a sound indicator of that. So his expectations were not particularly high. 

But Mrs FB was on another tack, and as she perused the synopsis she said,  'Ah, Act I -  a square in Seville.   Now they should be able to get some horses into that.'

FB looked with a certain trepidation into her eyes.  She went on 'Remember we went to Seville and there were horses everywhere -  those lovely Andalusians.'  FB had to concede this point and she continued, 'Oh yes I am sure they'll use some Andalusians here.'

Her speculation was silenced as the lights went down and the orchestra started up.

As the curtain fell on the Act she said,  'Well that was disappointing - they could easily have a had a horse there.  Perhaps in the next Act.'

Sadly, for Mrs FB the next Act came and went, with no horsey interest.

She perked up over the interval prosecco, noting from the programme that the next Act would see the arrival of Escamillo the toreador.

'Now any bull fighter worth his salt will have a horse - I imagine he will enter on a beautiful white Analusian.'

FB did not wish to quell her enthusiasm as the lights darkened again.

'They must be saving the horse for the Final Act,' she said containing her disappointment at the horse free third act.  'After all, it is set at the bull ring.......'  She looked towards the stage eagerly. 

But there was no horse - not even a stray bull fight poster with a picture of a horsepeeling off the set. There was no bull either, for that matter.

Mrs FB spent the journey home questioning the artistic sensitivities of the Director. 'The whole thing was crying out for a horse,' she remarked several times.

FB might have responded by saying that he understood her pain.  He might have described the many times he had sat through a performance that could have been lifted to a new level by a simple cricketing reference.  He might have shared with her theatrical directors of international reputation had eschewed such artistic insight.  He might have shared how his hopes had been repeatedly dashed - even the trip to La Scala had not helped restore them for cricket had been ignored there too. He might have gone on, but she had that far away look in her eye - already she was imagining her next trip to La Scala orher next conversation through the car window with a passing horse. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Storm Abbi

Fantasy Bob is sure that his remaining handful of worldwide readers will join him in wishing the Scotland women's cricket team every best wish for their forthcoming participation in the ICC Women’s T20 Qualifier in Thailand. The team depart Scotland's storm-battered shores this week and after a couple of warm up games get down to the business of the competition proper with a match against Papua New Guinea on 28 November.

FB's particular good wishes go to the quartet of players from his own go ahead Edinburgh club Carlton. Great girls all.  Three of them have had the misfortune of playing in his company and even worse under what he laughably describes as his captaincy.   He is sure that they have learned much from him - in particular how not to play leg spin bowling.

Carlton's 4 - from top left - Annette Drummon, Katie McGill, Abbi Aitken, Ollie Rae
The skipper of the side - all rounder Abbi Aitken - is also affiliated to Carlton but she has had the good sense to resist FB's invitations to join his adventures in the lower leagues of the East of Scotland Cricket Association.  She feels that she knows enough about facing leg spin bowling without seeing FB's practical demonstrations of how not to do it.

Abbi hails from Montrose - a town that FB is familiar with mostly from passing through it on his childhood journeys from Aberdeen to, well practically everywhere else.

Abbi is not the first sporting icon or great all rounder to come from Montrose.  Henry Waugh Renny-Tailyour played rugby and football for Scotland and also played first class cricket when his army duties allowed.  He played in the first FA Cup Final in 1872, finishing on the losing side. He also was on the losing side in 1874 but finally got a winner's medal in 1875 - when he was also on the scoresheet.  In 1872 he also represented Scotland against England at rugby - the match was played at the Oval.  In 1873 he played in the first Scotland - England international in England, again at the Oval and had the distinction of scoring Scotland's first international goal. Rumour has it that his selection owed much to his convenient location in London for the Scottish authorities could not afford to transport the full complement of players from Scotland. This is a selection policy on a par with that which has ensured FB continued selection on account of his big Volvo being able to transport a full team of junior players and their voluminous kit to away fixtures.
Renny-Tailyour's cricketing achievements are more modest - he played only 28 first class cricket matches with no great distinction but also turned out for Aberdeenshire and Strathmore.

FB is sure that Abbi will seize the mantle of greatness from this illustrious forebear.

Readers may have wondered if there was any point to FB's recital of Mr Renny-Tailyour's long forgotten achievement.  They might think themselves fortunate.  For FB was planning to link Abbi and Storm Abigail which has just done pounding Scotland's cricket grounds.  He was perfecting all manner of jejune remarks about how another storm Abigail was about to be released on Thailand. But his researches suggest that Abbi is not an Abigail, she is simply an Abbi, so readers can mutter merciful thanks as they as spared the full horror of what FB might have produced.

So here's the best of luck to Abbi and all her teammates. 

FB is sure they will do everyone proud!!

FB will be following the Scotland team's progress in the run up and during the competition on Twitter: @Wildcatscricket he is sure that his handful of readers will do likewise.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


Fantasy Bob has recently had minor surgery to his forehead. 'Checking for any remaining brain cells,' as one wag put it.  Ha, ha.

Having completed their gory deed, the medics swathed him in what seemed to him a disproportionately sized bandage.  FB suspects they did this for comic purposes.  However he has got the better of them by disporting himself  in a rather smart beanie, thus hiding the bandage and displaying his unswerving loyalty to the Scottish rugby team.  Wearing his hat throughout the business day has stimulated a mixture of amusement curiosity and fashion criticism from his colleagues.

Thus festooned he sat watching the annual Festival of Remembrance last weekend.  It is always a humbling experience to be reminded of so many sacrifices - sacrifices that still continue. FB finds the hymns and the military band music stirring, significantly more so than the contributions of such as Rod Stewart and Pixie Lott.

He is never sure exactly what it is that the producers of these shows think such artists bring to this event.  However his general scepticism of such contributions was challenged when the smooth baritone of Gregory Porter gave a splendid rendition of Amazing Grace.  FB had never heard of Mr Porter, far less seen him, but he became an instant fan.  For this was a  performance of the highest class.

Gregory Porter with hat giving it laldie at the Albert Hall
Or was FB just drawn to Mr Porter because he habitually sports a distinctive headgear - a bulbous cap kind of thing which looks like it has a hood under it.  Perhaps no quite so stylish as FB's millinery, but distinctive nonetheless. Apparently Porter started wearing this peculiar rig a number of years ago and explains, "I've had some surgery on my skin, so this has been my look for a little while and will continue to be for a while longer. People recognize me by it now. It is what it is."

It is what it is.  As FB says when his headgear is pointed at.

Perhaps if Rod Stewart has worn similarly interesting headgear, FB would have felt affinity and would be showering his praise on him.  On the other hand, pigs might fly.

Thursday, 5 November 2015


Many cricketers have observed on the remarkable similarity between Fantasy Bob and Nigella Lawson who returned to our TV screens this week.
Hard to tell her and FB apart.....

'It's uncanny..........,'  they say to each other.
'.........they might have been separated at birth................'
'...........yes, neither of them has a clue against leg spin bowling..........'
'.......only Nigella Lawson is slightly better.'

At that point the comparison rather breaks down and the conversation proceeds in other directions - either extolling Ms Lawson's dress sense in the kitchen or lamenting over the pointlessness of yet another bowling spell by FB up hill against the wind.

Nevertheless, FB has frequently, and with some success, sought inspiration from Ms Lawson's recipes.  Not he hastens to add, on the cricket field, although some commentators have suggested that Ms Lawson's often stated view that cooking is a metaphor for life finds an uncanny parallel in FB's own belief that a spell up the hill against the wind is a metaphor for something similar.

FB therefore dutifully placed himself in front of the TV screen for the return of his heroine.  He had resigned himself to the probability that there would be little of interest from a cricketing perspective. However he was confident there would be compensations for this oversight.

But he was unprepared for what came next.  After traipsing round some smart London street philosophising to the camera - without offering the cricketer any insight into how to bat positively on the variable wickets so frequently found in lower league cricket - Ms Lawson repaired to the kitchen to prepare her favourite breakfast.

It was at this point that  FB began to part company with his heroine.  She put forward a radical alternative to any conception that FB would accept as breakfast.  For FB, breakfast consists during the months of summer time in fruit muesli occasionally with a topping of yoghurt, and during the winter months porridge, shamefully eaten a la sassenach (ie with milk and brown sugar).

Why either of these is not good enough for La Lawson is a mystery to FB.  Rather than explain herself on this point - which would have been a suitable topic for another monologue as she traipsed around yet another fashionable street - she proceed to prepare an avocado, mixing it with a larder-full of stuff - dill, lime juice, salt, ginger and goodness knows what else - then spreading it on a piece of toasted German bread, topping it with some radish.

Radish?This is breakfast?

No wonder she can't play leg spin bowling.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Another Fine Mess

Many who have watched Fantasy Bob's efforts on the cricket field will have wondered what his early cricketing influences might have been.

As FB puffs his way up the hill against the wind, they will confidently exclude the possibility that he has taken anything from the athletic power of Fred Trueman's bowling action; as FB swings his bat in a mighty heave missing the ball by a country mile, they will discount the chance that he has based his technique on the grace and balance of Ted Dexter's cover drive.

Instead they may note FB's timeless combination of slapstick and frustrated ambition and say to themselves, 'Another fine mess - this man was surely exposed to Laurel and Hardy at a young age.'

Norman Gifford
in action for Worcestershire
And they would be correct. For Laurel and Hardy were a huge part of Fantasy Bob's childhood. FB's Dad was a dedicated fan. At many children's parties a projector would be set up to show some of their shorts. Their output was regularly on regularly on TV. There were even occasional reruns at the cinema.

However it is many years since FB has seen them at work. So it was a delight to discover that newly restored versions of two classic Laurel and Hardy films were on show in Edinburgh this weekend. FB duly spent a most enjoyable afternoon in the company of the greatest comedy duo ever as they went through their timeless routines in Way Out West and Towed in the Hole. Test Match Quality.

Laurel and Hardy made 106 films together. The only failing in this golden catalogue of mirth is that none of them contains any cricketing material.

FB concedes that Hardy may have had an excuse, being a native of Georgia, but there is no similar let off for Laurel. For Stan Laurel was born Ulverston, then in Lancashire, and spent a significant part of his childhood in Bishop Auckland in County Durham. Cricketing country.

Gary Pratt congratulated by teammates
after running out Ponting
Ulverston's most celebrated cricketing son is Norman Gifford, a class left arm spinner who played 15 Tests between 1964 and 1973. He was unlucky to be at the top at the same time as Derek Underwood and missed out a more extended run in the side.

Bishop Auckland is the home of Gary Pratt whose place in cricket's annals is secure by virtue of his appearance as a sub-fielder during the Trent Bridge Test of the 2005 Ashes in which capacity he ran out Ricky Ponting 'Quick, quick oh he's gone I think........'

So the potential for Stan Laurel was there. And this seems to have been recognised by the creators of the Laurel and Hardy comic strip that featured in the UK comic book Film Fun which ran throughout the 1930's and 40's.  Cricket's loss was the world's gain.

Frame from Film Fun

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Annual Dinner

At the end of the Hundred Acre Wood CC's last match of the season,  Rabbit, the team's self-appointed skipper and opening bat, who was an animal of strong opinions and frequently cross, addressed the team.

The Annual Dinner of the Hundred Acre Wood CC

'Now I expect you all to attend the dinner,' he said crossly, waving his arms in his most captainly fashion. 'It is important that you show your support.'

'I don't wear a support',  from a dark and gloomy corner at the back of the room came a voice which sounded suspiciously like Eeyore's.

Rabbit crossly ignored the snigger that went round the room and waved his arms a bit more vigorously.

'There will be prizes for the best batter and best bowler.'

Pooh, who was the team's wicket keeper listened hard.  He quite liked the word dinner - it generally meant that there would be food available.   And food was always of interest to Pooh.  And Pooh was sure it must be very nice to get a prize. For he had nothing against prizes as far as they went.  He just thought that they didn't go far enough.

'Is there a prize for best wicket keeper?'  he asked.

'Of course not.   You're the only wicket keeper, so you would always win it.  What kind of prize would that be?'

Rabbit looked crossly at him and Pooh felt again that he must be a bear of very little brain.

'But......,' piped up a small voice. '................but...............,' it was Piglet, who batted number 3 although as a very small animal he didn't really like fast bowling.'..................but.................,' and as a small animal he was not very bold at speaking in public. '............but..............., you always win the best batter prize.'

'So?' said Rabbit even more crossly.  Piglet swallowed hard.  He was a back foot player and finding himself on the front foot made him feel uncomfortable.  He had no option but to swing through the line of the ball.

'Well,' he said a little squeakily, 'shouldn't it go to the batter that scores the most runs?  I got 43 not out in one match.'

Rabbit sighed and waved his arms again.  He was getting crosser by the minute. 'You only got that because Owl was umpire and he doesn't know the LBW law - you were really out 3 times.'

'But you were out for nought in every innings.'

'Only because Owl doesn't know the No Ball law.  You see the Committee has to take these things into account.'

Eeyore looked up gloomily from packing his kit.  He was the team's slow left arm bowler and had never won a prize either.

'Will the Committee take into account that I would have had a shedload of wickets and a couple of hattricks if the slip fielder hadn't dropped everything that came to him?'

Rabbit felt the eyes of the team turn towards him as one.  'I couldn't help that the sun was always in my eyes.'

He had explained many times to his team how all the best skippers stood at slip so they could read the game better.  Rabbit felt it was certainly true that at slip everyone could see you as you waved your arms in a skipperly fashion but reading the game at the same time took lots of concentration which was difficult when a bear of little brain stood beside him and continually asked whether it was nearly time for tea.

'Who is the Committee?' asked Pooh, who thought it might be able to make sure that there was honey on the dinner menu.

'I am, of course,' said Rabbit.  'I have to do all the work in this club.'  He added crossly in the manner of skippers everywhere.

Pooh and Piglet make their way home from the clubhouse.

Later Pooh and Piglet made their way home from the clubhouse.  After a long and thoughtful silence they began to speak.

'I expect the dinner will be lots of fun.'

'It usually is.'

'As long as you don't expect to win a prize.'

'And you know Rabbit really does do all the work......'

'....even if he can't bat....'

'.....or catch......'

'He does do all the work.'

'The team wouldn't work without him.'

'Yes, he deserves a prize.'

Saturday, 3 October 2015


Fantasy Bob is pretty sure that he was the only one in the audience enjoying Waiting for Godot at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre this week who took a cricketing interest in the show.

FB urges all cricketers to see this show - it is Test Match Quality.  For this is the greatest work of the only cricketer with a mention in Wisden to have gained the Nobel prize for literature.

Samuel Beckett was an opening left hand batsman and left arm medium pace bowler for Dublin University (which played first class fixtures from 1895 to 1926). He played twice against Northamptonshire. His performances were indifferent, with a top score of 18.

Critics have been reluctant to acknowledge the cricketing insights within this great play. There have been interpretations existential, Freudian, Jungian, Marxian, Martian, mystical, religious, JudeoChristian, atheistic, pantheistic, absurdist and many more. But never cricketing.

FB is stunned at this oversight. He admits that as a cricketer Godot himself is not clearly drawn. The audience is left in ignorance of his bowling action. He may not be a bowler at all - he may be a batsman. We must wait for him to find out.
Even the most cursory reading of the text should convince the reader that it is replete with references to cricketing situations. After all, each Act closes with the lines:

- Well, shall we go?
- Yes, let's go.

And the stage direction, they do not move.

Only a cricketer could have written this - it is an acute depiction of the existential difficulty of deciding whether a quick single is on. Well worth the Nobel Prize in itself.

But there is more, much more, of cricketing significance in all the play's most famous lines.

Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It's awful

The frustration of the fielding side unable to break a long and slow opening partnership

- There's man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet.

The bowler called for his umpteenth no-ball who makes a pantomime of tying and retying his laces.

- Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed. Others would meet the case equally well, if not better.

The anxieties of players knowing that the selection committee may be looking carefully at their run of low scores. Will their big car and large boot be enough to gain them selection for the coming away fixture?

- We always find something to give us the impression we exist?
- Yes, yes, we're magicians.

The bowler who miraculously has landed his doosra on the spot for the first, and possibly only, time.

- What do they say?
- They talk about their lives.
- To have lived is not enough for them.

- They have to talk about it.

The chat in the bar after the match may not live up to expectations - particularly when the man who has just scored his first half century after many years of trying tells yet again of how his top edge through the slips was in fact carefully steered by his deft opening of he face of the bat.

- Well? What do we do?
- Let's do nothing it's safer.
- Let's wait and see what he says.
- Who?
- Godot.
- Good idea.
- Let's wait till we know exactly how we stand.

The players wait anxiously for the skipper to return from the toss. (We may not be able to identify Godot as a batter or bowler but we can infer that he is the skipper).

- That passed the time.
- It would have passed in any case.
- Yes, but not so rapidly.

The lower league cricketer's appreciation of his Saturday afternoon's efforts.

- Let's go.
- We can't.
- Why not?
- We're waiting for Godot.

The skipper is late for the meet for the away match again.

FB rests his case.

There's a famous story of Beckett watching a match at Lord's on a gorgeous summer afternoon, with a great batsman completing a classic century. A friend turned to him and said, "It's things like this that make one glad to be alive, eh Sam?" Beckett pondered this for some time, then replied, "I'm not sure I'd go that far..."

Beckett (second from left) with his school cricket team in 1920.