Sunday, 20 April 2014

I wish I knew.............

I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holdin' me
I wish I could say
All the things that I should say
Say 'em loud say 'em clear
For the whole 'round world to hear

From time to time Fantasy Bob comes across something that is just so excellent that it takes his breath away.

Nina Simone performing I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free at the Montreaux Festival in 1976. She had previously recorded it in the mid 1960s when it became an anthem of the civil rights movement.  that version was loud and assertive - several years later she is more contemplative.  Perhaps reflecting her own engagement with the civil rights movement and her alienation from the US which she had left in the interim. Or her own demons - which were many.

The song was composed by Billy Taylor whose own instrumental version of it may be better known to many of FB's world wide readership in its role as the theme music for Barry Norman's Film Night which ran on the BBC for several thousand years.

Film Night without Barry Norman is a pale inferior product.  Claudia Winkelman does nothing for FB.  But at least she isn't Jonathan Ross into whose tender loving care the BBC mistakenly entrusted the programme following Barry Norman's retirement.  And people think the ECB make errors in appointing England's coaching staff - they are nothing compared to the BBC.

Neither Winkelman nor Ross convinced FB that they knew anything about film or its heritage.  Norman was steeped in it. But perhaps the difference was about something else.  Barry Norman was a passionate fan of cricket - he played several times for the Lords Taverners and authored a couple of books about the sport.  Something that would be well beyond either Winkelman or Ross.

FB has no idea why I wish I Knew was chosen as the theme of Barry Norman's programme.

He thinks the answer must lie in the fact that when FB sings it to himself, just like any lower XI cricketer would, he always alters the words slightly 

I wish a knew how it would feel to be good
I wish I could bat just like Viv Richards would

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Pandas back in the nets

It was early in the life of these Witterings that Fantasy Bob found himself considering the much heralded arrival of the Pandas at go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton.

The Pandas were part of the go ahead club's development strategy and were expected to contribute regular additions to the junior section.  For reasons that have perplexed the club's emminent batting zoological and obstetric coaching team, the Pandas have failed to deliver.  A flurry of expectation that the pair would produce a little opening batsman for the 2013 season ended sadly as Tian Tian failed to follow through on a promising ramp shot.
Trunk curls
 were an essential part of the
 Pandas' pre season fitness training

This season the Pandas looked good in early outdoor nets but failed to get bat on ball.  Now Fantasy Bob learns that the club is losing patience with nature and will attempt to force the issue.

A spokesman for the club told the hordes of media panda specialists camped outside their Grange Loan HQ,

'There's something suspect with Yuang Guang's action, he just can't seem to get a length.  So to give Tian Tian a chance at scoring we're looking to a technological solution.  We recognise that the bowling machine may not have been used for the purposes of artificial insemmination before, but Fantasy Bob has had his screwdriver out and says that he is confident that it will do the business.'

While the waiting media observed Tian Tian being padded up ready to take her first delivery, they were not allowed to watch the process itself which remains a closely guarded secret.  However some reported that the noise coming from the screened off area made strong men weep.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

An epidemic (Part 1)

Fantasy Bob is reminded by the BBC website that this year sees the 50th anniversary of one of the more significant events that FB has lived through.

The 1964 typhoid epidemic in Aberdeen. At its peak on 16 June there were 450 patients in hospital in the Aberdeen area; 398 confirmed and 52 suspected cases. The outbreak was contained without a single reported death, and the city was declared typhoid free at the end of July.

FB recalls an inappropriate sense of pride at his home town being mentioned at the top of every news bulletin for several weeks. This was partly the result of a high profile media campaign by the City's Medical Officer of Health Dr Ian MacQueen who made regular media appearances reporting not only the up to date victim count but urging all manner of hygienic practices on the public.

The report of the death was an exaggeration.....
Apparently there was some criticism at the time that this contributed to scaremongering in the media and the public which led to suggestions that Aberdeen should be entirely quarantined from the rest of the nation with special passports issues to its citizens. This seemed an exciting prospect to the young FB.  But there were some strange reactions for example many many NE caravan sites refused to take bookings from folk from Aberdeen (thinking they were fleeing the City suitcases stuffed with germs) and Grantown Town Council banned Aberdonians from the locality (a prohibition which FB assumes has now been lifted since he has more recently walked the dangerous streets of Grantown without being challenged and run out of town).

The rituals of handwashing came to the fore as never previously.

FB was at primary school. The toilets were a roofless outdoor block - as was traditional in Scottish schools at the time and, shamefully, in some places until very recently.  Facilities of this kind were not all bad - they ensured continual competition among the older boys as to whether they could pee high enough to clear the wall. In those days people had to make their own entertainment.

Those facilities had no wash basins. So the powers that be ordained that there should be a twice, or thrice, daily ritual of classes being trooped to the lavatory and then trooped indoors to wash their hands in the prescribed manner. This focus on handwashing was recalled in the lyrics of a wistful song presented by the great Scotland the What comedy team. The singer is remembering a long list of how things used to be in Aberdeen and says ‘I can mind the typhoid epidemic at its worst, we never washed wir hands unless we did the lavvie first’.

To many young minds, including FB's, that is how things appeared - the authorities insisted that everyone had to go to the toilet so that they could wash their hands.

Nowadays there is a renewed focus on handwashing in public health circles.  The Scottish Government had a major campaign on it as few years ago.  Recent official guidance described a 10 stage approach to washing hands. 10 stages and none of them involves going to the lavvie first.  Such is progress.

The authorities have not so far targeted cricketers, but well they might.  Regularly FB urges his young charges in Carlton's world famous All Star 4th XI as they comie in from the field to wash their hands of the dirt of combat before proceeding to the tea table.

He might as well speak Greek to them.  They look at him askance.

'But we haven't been to the lavvie.....'


Monday, 7 April 2014

Shame about the boat race

Connoisseurs of late 1970s pop music - who are numerous in Fantasy Bob's worldwide readership of 3 - will recognise this line from the 1979 hit by The Monks Nice Legs Shame About The Face.

It came into FB's otherwise empty mind at the weekend as he watched this year's University Boat Race.  Not far into the race a Cambridge oarsman, caught a crab nearly ejected the frail craft, his head going under. Race Over.  By the time he recovered Oxford were steaming into the middle distance leaving the commentators to chunter on about nothing very interesting for the next fifteen minutes or so.

As the song said, shame about the boat race...........

FB greatly admires these oarsmen, they are supremely fit and if there is a sport more comprehensively knackering, he has yet to find it.  For a short while in his early life FB dabbled on the Thames with oar in hand.  But these days FB's oarsmanship is confined to the rowing machine, on which craft he battles the tide and the choppy waters of the gym.   Which leaves him in roughly the same state as at the end of a bowling spell up the hill against the wind.  Not a pretty sight, and in desperate need of an empire biscuit.
FB's trusty vessel

The Monks were formed by 2 members formerly with the Strawbs - Richard Hudson and John Ford for whom they had written the group's biggest hit - Part of the Union, before the usual disagreements and acrimony caused them to leave.  They ran up Nice Legs as a bit of a joke (so legend had it) to mock the dominant punk conventions of the day and were slightly embarrassed by its success.

In their lengthy career in several manifestations, they declined to develop any song concerning cricket.....or rowing.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Old building gets key part in Carlton's opening ceremony

The supreme executive authorities at go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton today issued details of their plans for the opening ceremony for the coming season.

And fans crowding into the Grange Loan grandstands are in for a treat.

For at the climactic moment of the ceremony they will watch on a giant screen the spectacular demolition of a the near by Edinburgh Castle.

A spokesman for the club said,

'By sharing the final moments of the Castle with the world as part of the opening ceremony, Carlton is proving it is a club that is proud of its history but doesn't stand still, a club that is constantly regenerating, renewing and re-inventing itself .............................or some such tosh................'

Edinburgh Castle was a state of the art facility when it first appeared in the 12th Century but has sadly lapsed into its present condition unfit for housing asylum seekers.

An unnamed source within the go ahead club said that the committee had been hoping to include a truly iconic building but the City Council proved reluctant to allow them to torch the Meadows Pavilion.

Old building gets key part in Carlton's opening ceremony

Saturday, 29 March 2014

A Hot Tub

This posting is dripping with nostalgia -
 jokes about which are of course not quite what they used to be.

Fantasy Bob mis-remembered it at first.
Rohan Kanhai -
no known views on the Aberdeen
hot tub controversy

His eye had been caught by the headline on the BBC news website telling him that plans for a bucking bronco in an Aberdeen bar were causing controversy.  

Not only was a bucking bronco being proposed by the enterprising bar owner but also a hot tub.   Could this be the type of initiative that was required to stimulate bar revenues at go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton?

FB noted that Aberdeen's police force had objected to the proposal in no uncertain terms, “It is the opinion of the chief constable the use of a hot tub and a bucking bronco in a licensed premises is entirely unsuitable for the safety and well being of the public.”

But Carlton's cricketers are not the public, and surely they would treat with respect such facilities designed to give them therapeutic benefits after extended spells up the hill against the wind.

While FB dwelt on these important matters of public policy, he spotted the photograph of the bar in question in Aberdeen's Bridge Street.  A wave of nostalgia hit him.

Surely this was the site of Simpson's Sports Emporium where FB had purchased - or more accurately had purchased for him - his first full size cricket bat?  A more significant rite of passage than long trousers and shaving - a full size cricket bat was a clear indication of manhood.

It still shines in FB's memory - a beautiful creation of the Slazenger company bearing the endorsement of the great Rohan Kanhai, who had only  few years previously been the pro at Aberdeenshire CC.  FB can still feel its grip in his young hands and smell the freshly oiled surface.  It gave him many years of faithful service, although sadly and inexplicably he was never able to replicate Khanai's deftness of touch with it.  Perhaps he should have sought his money back.

There was nothing like the thrill of entering Simpson's Sports Emporium (under parental escort).  A wide range of essentials for his young life - rugby boots, football boots, scrum cap, shirts shorts and trunks - even a table top snooker table - were sourced from this Aladdin's cave.

Aberdeen's other main sports store of this era was the wonderfully entitled Rubber Shop.  Even in those innocent days this name must have excited sniggers.  FB recalls transactions there concerning his defective model railway but, whatever else might have been available, has no memory of cricketing equipment being prominent in display.

Surely not raining in Aberdeen?

There were also smaller sports shops in the city. One close to where FB lived was where he took his old leather football to be inflated and his bat to get a new grip - that seemed to be how the shop made its living - by comparision can today's economy really be described as a service economy?

But Simpsons was the sport emporium of choice.  Even now FB  thinks he can see the layout of the store but the main memory is olfactory - it is the mixed smell of leather, rubber, wood, fabric, polishes and oils that is the Proustian stimulus that brings it back.

Only it didn't.  Simpson's Sports Emporium was 20 yards further down the road.

FB's memory should have been not of linseed oil and dubbin but of fried onions and burgers.  For the site of the Bronco Bar was an equally important location in FB's young life. It was the first Wimpy Bar in Aberdeen - and for all FB knew the first Wimpy Bar in all the world.  Kanhai probably never dined there for he had left Aberdeenshire for Warwickshire shortly before.

The Wimpy Bar with its menu card with a little red roof on top of it and its tomato shaped ketchup squeezers and frankfurters served in a coil (A Bender in a Bun).  It was the vision of the future; the first inkling to FB that there was life beyond the mealie pudding.

A vision of the future - just like the Bronco and the hot tub in Carlton's clubhouse.

Wimpy's period menu - A Bender in Bun 1/10.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Stirling Castle

The interests of decency require Fantasy Bob to refrain from crawling over the entrails of Scotland's disappointments in the recently completed Six Nations Rugby tournament.  Sadly the high spots were few and far between.  One of them however sticks in FB's mind.  Having taken his seat at Murrayfield in anticipation of an heroic victory over France, FB's ears tuned into the efforts of the massed pipe bands.

Now, as FB's worldwide readership may recall from previous postings here, the bagpipe is far from FB's favourite musical instrument.  Indeed he finds the dentist's drill a more soothing sound.  But these bagpipes were far enough away from FB's perch in the stands to cause minimal offence.

Suddenly FB felt the warmth of recognition of a tune not recently heard as the band broke into Tunes of Glory - if FB has a favourite pipe tune this might be one of the few contenders, even though it is barely Scottish.  The stirring tune was written as the theme tune for the 1960 film Tunes of Glory by Malcolm Arnold.*  Arnold, who also composed the music for Bridge on the River Kwai, had not a drop of Scottish blood in him but Tunes of Glory is as Scottish as Scottish can be.  (The movie is worth watching for a great performance by Sir Alex Guinness.)

The film is set  in Stirling Castle.  Not a location of any importance to the cricketing cognoscenti, although there is a fine view of it in the distance from Stirling County CC's ground.  Stirling Castle may not be important in cricketing history but it was the site of many important events in Scotland's turbulent history.

One such event that has always stuck in FB's memory is the gruesome murder of William, 8th earl of Douglas by James II in 1452.  Having polished off a fine medieval dinner, the King then polished off Douglas.  He was stabbed 26 times, and his corpse was thrown from a window onto the land behind the King's House.

But there was a more recent, and possible more momentous, historic event within the portals of Stirling Castle.  It is the site of the only known meeting between Fantasy Bob and Sir Alex Ferguson.

This took place at an event organised to press Scotland's claims to hold the Ryder Cup in the home of golf.

In order to woo the Ryder Cup committee in whose hand the decision lay, a gala dinner prepared by Nick Nairn was organised in Stirling Castle at which the best of Scotland would be displayed.  FB attended not, as his readers might imagine, in his capacity as Scotland's greatest cricket blogger (a status he had not attained in those far off days - if indeed he has ever attained it) but as a key member of the team managing Scotland's bid.  (On the evening of the dinner he had the key role to ensure that no defenestrations of guests took place similar to the events of 1452). Fergie was one of the celebrity guests.  (Sean Connery attended by video.)

At an appropriate point in the evening FB introduced himself to Fergie as an Aberdonian with fond memories of the success he had brought to Aberdeen FC.  A meeting of minds clearly took place.  FB avoided the hairdryer treatment as Fergie duly signed FB's menu and the event took its place in the annals of this historic site.

FB recently perused his copy of Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography confident that he would find record of Fergie's fond memory of the night he met FB.  His disappointment was excruciating.  Nada; Nothing; Zilch. FB has been airbrushed out of history in favour of repeated references to some guy called Beckham - who wasn't even at the dinner. FB might as well have been thrown out of the window after all.

FB is therefore considering very carefully how he will deal with this event in his own memoirs.  Fergie can expect no special treatment.

* FB has subsequently been informed to his shame that the main tune is in fact The Black Bear and not the creation of Malcolm Arnold.  The Black Bear is a traditional pipe tune - traditionally the back to barracks tune of a number of the former Scottish regiments.  It is also played as the pipe bands march off at the conclusion of the Edinburgh Tattoo.  But then if FB had known this, as he should, he would not have been able to make the connection to Stirling Castle and the historic encounter reported here.