Friday, 27 March 2015

Senior Moments

Fantasy Bob has been sitting at his keyboard for some time intending to share with his dwindling handful of readers an amusing anecdote revealing the impacts of the accumulating years on his mental faculties.  But he has totally forgotten what the incident was.

So this one will just have to do instead.

FB punched his PIN into the ATM - itself an heroic act of memory - pressed the buttons asking for cash and waited. The machine bleeped.  FB took his card, slipped it into his wallet and turned to continue up the road.

It was 5 minutes later that he had a vague feeling of unease.  He looked in his wallet. Empty. Not a freshly acquired bank note in sight.  The excitement of remembering his PIN had simply been too much for him and he had failed to take his money from machine.

He retraced his steps to the bank and shamefacedly explained his lacuna to the teller.  She was sympathetic.  She suggested he sit down.  The manager was called.  Did they fear a medical emergency? Forms were filled in and duly signed.

Within a day FB had received confirmation that the transaction had been cancelled. 

The transaction may have been cancelled but FB's memory of his senior moment has not.  Indeed it has haunted him ever since.

Happening as it did just as the start of the cricket season is appearing above the horizon, this senior moment has filled FB with all kinds of apprehension.  Is the new season going to be dominated by such incidents?

Will FB one fine Saturday suddenly find himself in the middle of an expanse of grass with a piece of wood in his hand and say to himself, 'I know I came here for some purpose - but what on earth was it?'

At least on that scenario FB will have remembered to take his bat with him - he recalls an incident a season or so ago in which an opposing senior player arrived at the crease with pads, gloves and helmet all in approximately the correct place, only to find that his attempt to take guard was hampered by the absence of a bat.  As the batsman returned to the distant pavilion to retrieve his blade, FB faced the dilemma of whether to invoke the timed out law and claim the wicket.  Good sportsmanship prevailed. But it was time wasted, for the unfortunate batsman might as well have gone on without his bat since it was little use to him as he was spectacularly bowled first ball - his bat in hand no nearer the ball than it was in the pavilion.

Similarly, a lung bursting run to the boundary could leave FB with a slightly troubled look on his face as he asks an adjacent spectator - 'Why did I come down here?'

Even at the best of times FB's journeys to the boundary are filled with uncertainty of purpose and outcome.  In the unlikely event that he reaches the ball before it crosses the rope, he is faced with the challenge of how to return it without doing serious damage to his shoulder or, even worse, making a laughing stock of himself to the junior members all of whom without effort can throw the ball from one end of the ground to another.

And then, FB may look around the dressing room at his fresh faced colleagues and think, 'These people all seem familiar, but I have no idea who they are.'

Setting out his batting order with an insecure grasp of his team's names is no pleasure and scorers recoil from an order composed of 1. Small boy with glasses 2 . Older chap with gormless look 3. I-Pod addicted teenager................. and so on to 11..................

Indoor nets?  Bootcamp physical training?  Maybe, but FB needs an intense few weeks of mental gymnastics to get him through the season

Friday, 20 March 2015

Mrs FB's Dream

Fantasy Bob has long trained himself to accept that detailed examination of Mrs FB’s unique psychology is a risky business. On a par with facing leg spin bowling. The potential for FB to find himself playing down the wrong line is just too high.
Mrs FB's dreamscape - or is it?

He therefore likes to keep things simple.  He sticks to the basics. He can generally intuit whether Mrs FB's jewellery deficit index is reaching a critical level and take appropriate and timeous corrective action. And for the most part that is enough.

Sometimes he fails, of course, and has to face an extended spell of hostile pace bowling. But, by and large, he has survived with his wicket intact.

Mrs FB has therefore rarely indulged FB with reports of her dream world. She obviously regards it as none of his business.  

But if Fantasy Bob had to guess the predominant themes that fill her head during sleep, he would plump for extended visions of our heroine sitting astride a chestnut mare, scanning the wide open ranges of Montana, a new Hermes scarf around her neck by way of a bandanna and specially commissioned gem-encrusted spurs from Stephen Webster glinting on her Ferragamo cowboy boots. 

However his confidence in his understanding of his life partner's psyche was subject to a rapid reassessment the other morning. 

He was quietly spooning porridge into his mouth when Mrs FB strode into view and advised him:

‘I’ve just had the weirdest dream.’

This came as a surprise to FB.

‘…….. and it’s your fault.’

This came as no surprise. She expanded:

‘I dreamt I spent the whole day putting your cricket bat into the washing machine. When it came out it was all soft and bent like a Salvador Dali clock.  I must have put it in at the wrong setting.’

What is the right setting for a cricket bat?
FB took a moment to compose himself.  He had to acknowledge that her suggestion that he was at fault may have some merit. Obviously, Mrs FB has been apprehensive about FB’s lackadaisical preparations for the coming season.  Her unconscious took the view that it might be time gee him up a bit.  It had decided to take control and, in the way of the unconscious throughout the ages, had got things radically wrong.

FB thought this might be a good opportunity to advise his loved one of the proper procedures for the pre-season care of cricket bats. Just in case her unconscious got hold of her in a waking state and she was tempted to put her dream into action.

And so for the next 15 minutes or so he waxed eloquent about linseed oil, about new grips and about using sandpaper and razor blades to remove marks and scars on the blade to leave a pristine surface ready for the first ball of the season.

Mrs FB awoke from the trance like state into which this eulogy had put her.  She got firmly to the pitch of the ball.  

'Weeeeelllll......... I haven’t noticed you doing any of that.'

FB had to explain that these traditional actions were rendered unnecessary in his case by the fact that Gray Nicolls had kindly provided a plastic skin over his bat. 

Mrs FB appeared unconvinced.  She swung through the line of the ball.

'Well that bat's all dirty – it looks like it could do with a good wash.'

FB didn’t feel he had made much progress in this discussion.  Indeed he feared the jewellery deficit index was approaching the danger zone.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

News from the Art World

Ars longa, vita brevis
Fantasy Bob has returned from the Austrian ski slopes with all limbs intact to discover yet more compelling news from the art world. 

A big slab of granite on which is written each defeat suffered by the English football team between 1874 and 1998 has sold at auction for £425,000, a sum which could justy about keep FB in empire biscuits for the coming cricket season.

Many Scottish football supporters have commented that they don't know much about art but they know what they like. They feel the warm glow of schadenfreude at the extended record of the misfortunes of their neighbours.  They note the repeated references to defeats by Scotland  - indeed the sequence starts with the 2-1 defeat in 1874 (which was played at Hamilton Crescent, home to West of Scotland CC). Surely this is on a par with the greatest scultputes of Michelangelo or Donatello.  £425,000 is a price well worth paying for such a masterpiece, which should take its place in Scotland's National Gallery.

FB is not so sure, for greater work may be in prospect of more interest to the cricketer.

The work was created by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan.  FB understands that Cattelan has  inspired by the Cricket World Cup and is working on a companion piece which will record all of the defeats of the English cricket team in ODIs. 

Cattelan has expressed concern at immensity of the the artistic challenge facing him in planning this work,  'There may not be a piece of granite big enough.'

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Come on Scotland

Fantasy Bob's understanding of England's epic struggle with New Zealand in the CWC was undermined by endless advertisement breaks and the total lack of intelligent observation from the commentary team.

However extensive research has enabled him to piece together a definitive scorecard of how the powerful England batting line up put paid to the hapless New Zealand attack:

  1. M Bigbeard .................... 0
  2. I Bellybutton....................0
  3. G AnyonebutKP.............. 0
  4. J Nextkingofyorkshire .....1
  5. E Seamus Bejasus............0
  6. J Smallbutperfectlyout.....0
  7. J Slogger...........................0
  8. C Halftracker....................0
  9. S Poutandsulk...................0
  10. S Hucklebowlerfinn..........0
  11. J Sledgerson......................0
FB is disappointed to discover that the New Zealand innings failed to register on his state of the art electronic monitoring station which is not calibrated in nano-seconds.  He is therefore uncertain of the outcome of the match.

However FB notes the comments of Mr John Inverdale that this outing gives further strength to the belief that England remain on track to win the Rugby World Cup.

Scotland play England on Monday with everything to play for.  Come on Scotland.

Friday, 13 February 2015

CWC 2015

Fantasy Bob feels he has barely caught his breath since the last Cricket World Cup, on which, for some reason best known to himself, he felt compelled to comment on these pages; but he finds that the event is on him again.

The opening ceremonies have passed - mercifully, no Scottie dogs were pressed into service - and the teams are limbering up for the first of the 49 games that are needed to identify the champions.

FB is delighted that this time Scotland are among the 14 teams contesting, and equally delighted that 3 of his Carlton colleagues are in the Scotland squad - although it should be acknowledged that none of the 3 has yet reached the starry heights of playing under FB's stern captaincy in the Carlton All Star Fourth XI.  He hopes this lack of big match experience will not stand against them.

Carlton's Big Three - Gardiner, Mommsen and Evans -
all have benefitted from not playing with FB
He can only wish them and the rest of the squad well.  For once the run into the tournament has been good - with solid wins over Ireland and Afghanistan and a magnificent run chase against the W Indies which fell just short of the 314 required to win.  Many commentators expect that 300 is going to be the going rate for an innings in this competition, so it was timely for Scotland show that they have the power in their batting line-up to get to that total.

Scotland come as one of four associate nations who all share a similar objective to put as much egg on the face of the ICC as possible.  This is the last time that CWC will offer such opportunities to mix it with the full member nations since the ICC have insisted that future tournaments will be on a format will make qualification a remote possibility.  So much for trying to develop and strengthen the game beyond the present powerhouses.  So FB hopes that Scotland can cause some upsets in their group games.

It will not be easy - for first up is host nation New Zealand who have had their best year ever and in Brendon McCullum have one of the better ODI batters around.  So good have NZ been this year that they are FB's dark horses for the trophy.

But first they have to get past Scotland.

This is also a hurdle that Australia face - and FB finds it hard to see past the Aussies for the title.  An explosive batting line up, Mitchell Johnson and a home crowd.

But first they have to get past Scotland.

England also face this challenge.  And England have looked unconvincing in the lead up to the tournament - that their new skipper (who should be playing for Ireland) is scratching for form has not helped them.  Easy meet for Scotland?  Wouldn't that be a fine thing?

Come on Scotland - do us proud.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Nobody's Perfect

The great movie director Billie Wilder once said, 'Happiness is working with Jack Lemmon.'

Jack Lemmon would be celebrating his 90th birthday today, 8 February 2015, but for the fact that he died in 2001.

Fantasy Bob never batted with Jack Lemmon at the other end, so he cannot vouch absolutely for the veracity of Wilder's sentiment, but he thinks it must be right. For happiness is certainly watching any of Lemmon's fine performances in a string of classic movies and no more so than the great comedy Some Like It Hot.

Despite having no cricketing content, Some Like It Hot is well up FB's rankings of the greatest movies of all time and Jack Lemmon's contribution to its magic is among its highlights. Mystifyingly Lemmon was beaten for the Oscar by Charlton Heston performance as the chariot driving Ben Hur.

FB is sure that his worldwide readership can easily bring to mind the incomparable final scene in Some Like It Hot. Having breathlessly escaped from chasing gangsters Lemmon gives his admirer Joe E Brown a list of reasons why they cannot get married, ranging from a smoking habit to infertility. Osgood (Brown) dismisses them all; he loves Daphne (Lemmon) and is determined to go through with the marriage. Exasperated, Jerry (Lemmon) removes his wig and shouts, "I'm a man!" Osgood simply responds, "Well, nobody's perfect."

That final line seems perfect but the story is that it was put in by Wilder and his partner  IAL Diamond just to fill the space until they thought of something better. They are still thinking. 

Do they recognise how the line resonates for lower league cricketers who have sat through the movie wondering what relevance it is to their cricketing interests?  Cricketers struggle - the cross dressing, the shimmering of Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis' Cary Grant impersonation - what does it mean to them?  

But suddenly out of the screen comes the line they hear every time they trudge back to the pavilion having swing hopelessly all round a straight one - 'Nobody's perfect.' 

They understand.  Delving a little deeper, cricketers will understand that the line does have a sporting background - while Wilder and Diamond were not noted sports enthusiast, Joe E Brown the actor who utters the immortal words certainly was.  Among his early work was a baseball trilogy and he broadcast on TV and radio for the New York Yankees - indeed it was this work that gained him the role in Some Like It Hot.  he was not the original choice for  the role that he made his own until Wilder and Diamond heard him at a baseball game.  

Nobody's perfect?  But Joe E Brown is - and Jack Lemmon too.  Happy Birthday.

Friday, 30 January 2015


Fantasy Bob has been considering the extent to which the 50th anniversary of the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill should be a cause for celebration among cricketers.

30 January 1965
For every article praising Churchill there is one reviling him. He may have been the leader Britain needed in 1940 – but he was far from that at any other time in his career. In fact, he was a bit of a KP in his way, chopping and changing party and policy in the manner that KP became English overnight and not suffering opponents or even fools on his own side gladly – although there is no record of Churchill referring to his colleagues as muppets.

It is there that comparisons end however, for just as KP is an indifferent orator, so Churchill was an indifferent cricketer. Indeed Churchill seems to have been no cricketer at all. There is no record of him having taken any interest in the game at any point in his career despite copious opportunities.

His school career at Harrow is generally considered a failure, but not because he made no impression on the cricket field. Biographies tell that he was once humiliated by a group of his schoolmates who threw cricket balls at his hapless self who took refuge behind a tree. His early military career in South Africa seems to have been wholly preoccupied with beating the Boers on the battlefield rather than the cricket field.   

But there is one brush with cricket greatness in Churchill’s career – at Harrow he was fag to Archie MacLaren – one of the greats of the golden age – whose 424 scored in 1895 stood as the highest score in English first class cricket for almost 100 years, until Lara’s 501 in 1994.  MacLaren’s judgement on his youthful servant was severe - 'snotty little bugger, uppity but damn near useless, with no aptitude even for sport.’ 

Well, Churchill had the last laugh – for MacLaren died in November 1944, his glittering cricketing career long behind him and an unsuccessful business career, while Churchill watched the Allied Forces push towards Germany and looked forward to the end of the struggle.

Perhaps Churchill’s experience of the bully MacLaren was a factor in his standing up to the bully Hitler, notwithstanding that he may have shared Hitler’s disdain for cricket.

FB has always found Churchill’s war time speeches an inspiration. He has tried many times to emulate them in his pre-match addresses to the members of the Carlton All Star 4th XI as they face another stern challenge in the lower leagues of the East of Scotland Cricket Association.

The faces of his youthful charges shine and they would seem to have nothing but admiration as FB solemnly intones, ‘I have nothing to offer but blood toil tears and sweat.’

They look up with steely determination in their eyes as he goes on, ‘We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.’

They hang stoically on his every word as he continues, '...if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.’

And then a small voice pipes up – 'Er... right.... FB – you did remember to bring empire biscuits for tea didn't you?'