Thursday, 18 December 2014

Twas the night before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, the square it lay cold
Not a cricketer played, not a ball could be bowled
There’s ice on the wicket, there’s frost in the deep
And all junior members should be fast asleep

Wrapped up and cosy in warm little beds
With dreams of the morning going round in their heads
And Santa Claus just can't come soon enough
For he's going to bring lots of cricketing stuff

Juniors excited wake long before dawn
But please avoid trouble this Christmas morn
On going to bed they should be told that
4 a.m.'s not the time to knock in a bat

A full day of practice with new gear is planned
Though fast balls in the kitchen have sadly been banned
For last year a speedy full pitched in-swinger
Hit Grandma hard as she cooked Christmas dinner

As Grandma collapsed she was given the news
Grandma you are plum - out leg before goose
The advice to play forward wasn't really a help
Only Christmas good-will prevented a skelp

So this year all cricket must stay in the hall
By edict of Grandpa, there'll be no hard ball
Anyway Grandma's prepared for her lads 
Before she starts cooking she'll put on her pads

But let's leave the juniors all dreaming their dreams
For it's down at the ground where ev'rything gleams
A proud doughty groundsman has given his best
The square's been repaired and the surface top dressed

For Santa will come to kids of all ages,
As long as they've not done something outrageous
And the proud doughty groundsman's been good all year
So he waits for that visit as morning draws near

While darkness descends and the stars light the sky
He leaves out for Santa a special mince pie
And just before turning in for the night
He makes sure his stocking is hanging in sight

Then the doughty groundsman lays down his sweet head
Dreams of shiny new mower in its shiny new shed
There'll be a warm welcome for Santa Claus there
Just as long as he keeps his sleigh OFF THE SQUARE

Monday, 15 December 2014

Christmas Cards

As the modern world proceeds in its helter-skelter T-twentified manner, FB finds that previous years are no longer a sound guide to what he can expect during the Christmas season.  Time was when every surface at Chez FB was covered in Christmas cards.  But now e-mails, tweets, and other devices have stemmed the once endless flow through his letter box.  Those sparkly ropes with little pegs which Mrs FB purchased years ago at an eye watering price remain empty.   A sad reminder of Christmas past.

However FB is very happy to report a hopeful sign that this trend is now being reversed.

For less than a week after Fantasy Bob reported in these pages on his and Mrs FB's stressful visit to Hamilton and Inches, the go ahead Edinburgh jewelers honoured Mrs FB and him with not one, not two but 3 identical Christmas cards, separately enveloped and delivered .

FB commends Hamilton and Inches for its full commitment to the Christmas spirit.

Although as Mrs FB observed with a pointed look at FB as he celebrated the opening of the third card , '............not as useful as diamonds or emeralds, but I suppose I've no hope of them................'

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Hamilton and Inches

Fantasy Bob's dwindling readership might think that an invitation to Hamilton and Inches' champagne Christmas reception would be just the kind of sybaritic pleasure their hero would enjoy. A glass or two of fizz, a few canapes in the elegant premises of Edinburgh's premier jewelers - what could be more relaxing?

But if the tremor of excitement in Mrs FB's voice as she opened the envelop containing the invitation had raised his anxiety, her final suggestion sent him into panic.  'I might see my Christmas present there, so you should bring your credit card.'

FB knew better than to remark that his life partner's burgeoning jewelery box already overflowed with baubles, bangles and beads.  He knew that to suggest that perhaps a natural limit had been reached would be unwelcome.  But he also knew from previous forays into this emporium that a serious depletion of the disposable income for investment in empire biscuits was at risk.

Not that he would not grant Mrs FB her heart's desire.  But some emergency measures might be necessary.

As Mrs FB stood by a glass cabinet eager to inspect its contests at close hand, FB attracted the attention of an assistant who made ready with his key,

'I see Hamilton and Inches was established in 1866', he remarked to the first assistant assisting inspection of a glittering cabinet.

'Yes sir.'  The key's journey to the lock slowed perceptibly.

'You know of course that 1866 was the year that WG Grace at the age of 18 scored 224 not out.'

'Really sir...............' The key had stopped; the assistant glanced around.

'Yes, it was for the All England XI against Surrey at the Oval.'

The key returned to the assistant's pocket as he found a reason to hasten to the opposite end of the showroom.

FB dutifully consoled Mrs FB.  'Seems they're a bit busy - I'll try some one else.'

A demure female assistant passed and FB smiled winningly at her.  She narrowly survived this harrowing experience but was unprepared for his opening remark.

'I see Hamilton and Inches gained the Royal Warrant in 1955.'

'Yes sir - we are very proud of it.'

'Of course you are.  And of course, 1955 was the year that Alan Border was born.'

'Sir?' The tremble of querulousness in her voice unwittingly invited FB to elucidate.

'He played 156 Tests for Australia....................'

A frightened look.

'..........with a batting average of 50.56.'

The assistant looked around for help.  But FB had hit his stride.

'Ian Botham and Vic Marks were also born in 1955....'

The assistant was backing away.

'............and Abdul Qadir of course.'

For some reason, there appeared to be an exclusion zone around FB and Mrs FB for the rest of the evening.  Try as she might Mrs FB could not summon an assistant to indulge her.

'They do seem very busy,' said FB sympathetically, but inwardly relieved that his bank balance looked like it would survive intact.

'Oh well,' responded Mrs FB, 'I'm not sure there was anything I really wanted anyway.'

FB nodded philosophically - a calm that lasted only a moment.

'Don't forget I'm going for a girls' trip to Paris this weekend - I'm sure I'll find something there....................'

Saturday, 22 November 2014


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


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.