Monday, 18 May 2015

Everyday I have the blues

Fantasy Bob imagines that there are many fitting tributes to the lately deceased great blues guitarist BB King.  However he suspects that his will be the only tribute in the form of a match report for a lower league cricket match.

Only once before in the overlong and undistinguished history of this blog has FB made reference to one of his match reports which have blighted the Sunday mornings of many unsuspecting readers who have turned to the website of the go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton for information about how the clubs 4 teams have fared in their weekend fixtures.  Many have read the reports many times and still failed to establish any inkling of the outcome of the match.

So it is with some shame and trepidation that he provides this link to the report of the weekend' match between Carlton 4th XI and Broomhall 2nd XI.

Readers may beware if this doesn't give them the blues, nothing will.  And just in case they struggle, Carlton won despite FB's attempts at captaincy.

Monday, 11 May 2015


Fantasy Bob's resistance proved useless. Mrs FB would brook no ifs and buts. 'You are going to sip prosecco by the side of the Grand Canal and like it,' she said with a touch more emphasis than seemed necessary to counter FB's strangled objection that her planned trip to La Serenissima fell in the early weeks of the new cricket season. 'Anyway I've only booked mid week so you'll be able to play on Saturday.' She paused. A steely look came into her eye. 'That is, if you are selected.'

Again there seemed an unnecessary amount of emphasis - but FB was unable to inquire as to what she was implying for she had immersed herself in the Rough Guide to Venice's pages on jewellers and proved impervious to further discussion.

So it was that FB did find himself sipping prosecco with his life partner, and friends who claim to be among his handful of worldwide readers. He sat in the evening sun by the Grand Canal with guilty enjoyment as he thought of his teammates toiling through a series of exacting fielding drills in the cold Edinburgh evening. He sighed wistfully. 'Ah,if only,' he thought, as a gondolier o-sole-mio'd his watery way past 'Ah, if only I could be there.'

'Don't be daft' came Mrs FB's voice through his reverie, 'you haven't done fielding practice for years - you know it does your back in.'

FB's attempt to engage the company in discussion about the possibility of changes at the top in the ECB met with stony silence, almost as stony as his earlier offer to talk them through his two catches in the weekend's matches. He glumly returned to the consolations of his prosecco with the conclusion that Venice had little to offer the cricketer.

A conclusion that the next few days did little to counter. During FB's tour of the Palazzo Ducale - or Doge's Palace - he found himself in front of a painting entitled Paradiso, painted in 1590 by Jacopo Tintoretto, whose bowling action remains uncertain.
This is believed to be the largest painting done on canvas, it covers one end of what is said to be the largest room in Europe. The painting measures 74ft by 30ft - in other words it is as long as a cricket pitch and as wide as 3.  

Paradiso by Jacopo Tintoretto - 3 cricket pitches of paint
But despite the coincidence of measurement, there is no indication that Tintoretto had cricket in mind when he embarked on this work, the last major work in his long and wonderful career. FB would have supposed that the subject of Paradise would have been bound to have some reference to cricket - a view of the Lords' Pavilion perhaps - or a picturesque village green with a game in progress. Instead there is a dizzying swirl of animated figures foreground and background. Various activities seem evident - but nothing associated with cricket.

Art critics are divided about this picture. It is too easy they say to be overawed by its size and the grandness of the design. But they are less than happy about aspects of the execution. FB must add his reservations to these. To call a painting Paradise with no indication that there is cricket to be played in the after-life is sloppy in the least, and verges on the heretical.

It maybe that Tintoretto was himself aware of this fault in his work. For historians tell that when he
was asked to name his price,he declined leaving this to the commissioning authorities. When they tendered a handsome amount he is said to have given a sizable chunk of it back. Obviously, he was ashamed of his error.
Paradiso - detail showing complete absence of cricketing action

Saturday, 2 May 2015

The Teuchat Storm

The start of Fantasy Bob's cricket season was welcomed last weekend by a stinging blast of Arctic air dropping temperatures towards zero and beyond.  Play was interrupted by freezing showers and hail. In other words, the conventional start to a Scottish season.
The Teuchat in flight

Traditional folk wisdom knows all about this.  In FB's native North East Scotland, the Teuchat Storm is the name given to the days of poor weather that invariably come in early spring.  Winter's last cruel hurrah.

The teuchat also plays under the name of the peewit or lapwing - and the storm is associated with their arrival back from their wintering grounds.
Other parts of the country refer to this weather event as the Gowk Storm - the gowk being the cuckoo.  Yet other parts refer more prosaically the Lambing Storm - the lambing not being an ornithological term of any significance.

FB is no great ornithologist and would struggle to recognise a lapwing or peewit even if it was batting at the other end with him. However he notes with sadness from the website of the RSPB that this bird has suffered significant decline recently and is now classified on the Society's Red List. Conservation measures are required, particularly the restoration of habitat.

As a red list species himself, FB has nothing but concern for this position.  If by some tragic set of circumstances the Teuchat were to disappear, would the storm to which it gives its name also disappear?  Would cricketers take to the field for the first time in the season confident in warm and balmy weather?  No chance.  So that burst of weather would have to be renamed.  

The storm is also associated with the arrival back of cricketers from their wintering grounds.  But cricketer storm is too everyday and obvious a term.  

Given that when the height of the storm bites, when the wind whips the hail hard into the face, FB invariably finds himself stationed at the point in the field furthest from the pavilion, he suggests the Stuck Down at Deep Long Leg Again Storm.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom at Grange Loan - April 2015
Fantasy Bob's practice session was going well. As he paused at the end of his run up, a visitor leisurely perambulating the Grange Loan home of the go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton remarked to his companion.
'It is always one of the most inspiring sights of this time of year.'
FB puffed out his chest. He had heard his run up the wicket described in many ways. Shambling, faltering, comical? Frequently. But inspiring? Not so often. In fact, never.
Had this observant visitor finally seen the lithe athleticism to which others had been blind? Surely FB was at last gaining the reward for his many gym sessions over the winter?
The response from the eloquent visitor's companion brought him down to earth with a crash.

'Yes, those cherry trees are beautiful.'

FB overcame his disappointment with a rasping inswinger that gave the 11 year old at the other end of the net something to think about. Having thought, he blasted the ball back over FB's head.

As FB trudged in pursuit of the ball he had time to reflect on the visitors' conversation - for the splendour of the early season cherry blossom is indeed one of the delights of Grange Loan.( Not, admittedly, if the bowler's arm is coming directly out of it....but in all other circumstances, definitely),

FB reflected on whether there was any reason why his beloved cricket ground should be so beautified by these blossoms.
For while, to the prosaic Westerner the meaning of Cherry Blossom may not get beyond the leading brand of boot polish (or shoe care products as they are now known), to the Easterner, the Japanese in particular, the cherry blossom is deeply symbolic. 
The blossom, which appears and then all too quickly sadly disappears, is an enduring metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life and is closely associated with the mono no aware cultural tradition. This term translates literally as "the pathos of things", and used to refer to the awareness of impermanence and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.
During and prior to World War II, the cherry blossom was used to motivate the Japanese people and there were many military associations - for example Japanese pilots would paint them on the sides of their planes or even take branches of the trees with them before embarking on a suicide mission, on their missions. The first kamikaze unit had a subunit called Yamazakura or wild cherry blossom

Cherry blossom symbolizing the intensity and ephemerality of life?
'Surely', thought FB to himself, 'this is going over the top as far as symbolism goes.'
When he strides out to bat, FB needs no further reminders of impermanence.  
All he has to do is look at the 10 year old spin bowler at the other end.  The glint in his eye, the way his fingers wrap themselves round the ball.  It is all the mono no aware FB needs.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

The Force Awakens

Fantasy Bob woke to find the headline The Force Awakens across all newspapers.  He was flattered - his did not think his preparations for the imminent cricket season had come to the media's attention.

FB read on only discover the report was about a new Star Wars movie in preparation.  It was maybe just as well that the press had chosen to focus on Harrison Ford's efforts in preference to his own.  For the truth is that FB's preparations for the imminent cricket season have not being going well.

There has been a trace of ambivalence in Mrs FB's encouragement.

'You're not really thinking of playing another season are you?' she commented the boldened letters cutting the air as she quietly, but purposefully, searched the internet for advice on Life Insurance Packages.

Meanwhile, FB returned his full attention to the extended search for his kit.  He finally unearthed it near the bottom of the pile of stuff Mrs FB had assembled over the winter for the Scouts' Jumble Sale.

'Oh,' she said in response to FB's arched eyebrow of inquiry, 'I didn't think you'd be needing that old rubbish again.'

She watched as FB's  trembling hands lovingly caressed his rediscovered bat. 'Those pink bits on the edges are nice,' she observed. 'Why aren't there any in the middle?'

Undaunted FB strode off to practice, a spring of sorts in his step.

After all his close season had been productive. He had spent the long hours of winter evenings with protractor and dividers in hand. He had consulted Euclid's Geometry (in translation). He had applied the principles of quantum mechanics to the problem. At last he was confident that he had found the answer to leg spin.

 Detail from Raphael's The School of Athens
Euclid using a compass
 to coach how to play leg spin.
No longer would the juniors giggle at his efforts as his front foot went one way, his back foot another, his bat a third and the ball a mystifying fourth direction apparently not on the compass.

This year it would be different.  He would calmly wait watching the ball, he would see the rotations, he would effortlessly gauge the pitch and silkily move his front foot to the exact spot, his bat would come through an elegant arc covering the spin and the ball would zip to the distant boundary. There would be no doubt. He had established this from first principles and even had a diagram drawn to scale.  Just to be safe he carried the diagram with him.  What could go wrong?

FB's long suffering readers need not guess what happened next.

As FB turned to reassemble the stumps shattered by the latest of the long line of 11 year old leg spinners who had gone straight through him, he took the diagram out of his pocket.  What had he done wrong?  The youngster himself looked on, flipping the ball from one hand to the other, a kindly, but determined look on his face.

'Yoh FB, like, you know what's, like, going wrong?'

FB turned his gaze to his young tormentor.

'You see this diagram, I'm like, seeing it's, like, in, like, feet and inches.'

'Yes, as Euclid himself advises.'

 'Well, like, I'm, like, bowling in metric now.  Doh.'

Some times FB fears that there is too much in modern cricket that is just passing him by.  Like most spin bowling.

He is forced to acknowledge that the Force, such as it is, has yet to awaken.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Morning Everybody...........

Fantasy Bob has little to add to worldwide sadness and affection at the death of the great Richie Benaud.  The voice of summer.

FB has long been aware of Richie's wise observation that captaincy is 90% luck and 10% skill.  Other than in its reference to 10% skill, Richie could have had FB in mind when he first spoke it.

But FB has taken Richie's wisdom even further.  Richie completed his quote with the suggestion that you shouldn't attempt captaincy without that 10% skill.  FB has done not only that, but has also dispensed with the 90% luck.

Exactly what his captaincy consists in is a mystery.  It is certainly a mystery to his long suffering team mates in the Carlton All Star 4th XI.  Maybe Richie could have made sense of it - but only he.

Gone but not forgotten

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