Friday, 30 November 2012

St Andrew

Martyrdom of St Andrew by Murillo
 Wisden reports that St Andrew was martyred on 30 November in 60 AD in Patrae.

Wisden also notes that relics of St Andrew were brought to Scotland in the 8th century and that something of a cult developed in the country. St Andrew became patron saint of Scotland in the 9th century following the battle of Athelstaneford. The match report for that encounter records that the Pictish King Oengus II was heavily outnumbered by his Angle opposition. In his prayer on the eve of battle he vowed that if he was victorious he would appoint St Andrew as patron saint of Scotland (not that Scotland existed then, but that is another point). This was evidently an offer that the listening saint could not refuse, for the evidence suggests that he was a bit of a golfer, and on the morning of battle white clouds forming a Saltire appeared in the sky . Ă“engus' army was emboldened by this apparent divine intervention, and despite being inferior in numbers were victorious. And the rest is history, as Wisden observes.

So in honour of Scotland's special day, here is FB's St Andrew's XI.  While Fantasy Bob has no reason to suppose that relics of any of these saints have been brought to Scotland, they are all worthy of veneration, if not a national day in their honour.  

Andrew Strauss (Eng) - 100 Tests 7037 runs @ 40.91
Andrew Hilditch (Aus) - 18 Tests 1073 runs @ 31.55
Andy Ganteume (WI) -1 Test 1 innings - 112 runs!
Andy Jones (NZ) - 39 Tests 2922 runs @ 44.27
Andy Flower (Zim) - 63 Tests 4794 runs @ 51.54
Andrew Symonds (Aus) - 26 Tests 1462 runs @ 40.61
Andrew Flintoff  (Eng) - 79 Tests 3845 runs @ 31.77; 226 wickets @ 32.78
Andrew Hall (SA) - 21 Tests 45 wickets @ 35.93
Andy Bichel (Aus) - 19 Tests 58 wickets @ 32.57
Andy Caddick (Eng) - 62 Tests 234 wickets @ 29.91
Andy Roberts (WI) - 47 Tests 202 wickets @ 25.61

Not a bad side although FB recognises the lack of a spin bowler.  However since this team will play only on the green green grass of Scotland the seamers may be enough.  And FB acknowledges that the selection of Andy Ganteume is for sentimental reasons.  A century on his debut and never in the side afterwards.  it was his misfortune to have to compete with the stellar talents of Walcott and Weekes.  There is also a story that while in the middle, he got a bit becalmed in the 90s and received a written note from the skipper telling him to get on with it and there was a suggestion that his slow scoring cost his team the chance of victory.  FB would like to give him the chance to make amends.  It is the saintly thing to do.

St Andrew's XI

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Book Week

The valiant and hard working heroes and heroines at the Scottish Book Trust have been working hard to deliver Book Week Scotland - a series of events the length and breadth of the country designed to stimulate interest in books and reading.  There are readings and poetry slams and meet the author events and all other kinds of excitement.

An anthology of everyday recollections of favourite places in Scotland has also been published as part of the week and can be picked up from various locations around Scotland.  A more extended version is on the Book Trust's website.

Fantasy Bob's favourite place is of course Grange Loan - HQ to the go ahead Edinburgh cricket club and undoubtedly Scotland's most delightful cricket ground.  He is kicking himself for not contributing an essay on this special place to the editors. How they would have welcomed a description of his smooth rhythmical approach to the wicket from the bottom end and the curving path of his world famous in-swinger as it flew past the batsman's flailing shot and crashed into the middle stump.  Surely there was a place for fiction in this volume?

But that is typical of FB, all his best ideas (both of them) come too late. Observers are well aware of this - his bowling changes always come after the bowler gets thrashed not before.  So Grange Loan does not feature in this anthology.

And this hides a greater concern.  In an otherwise fantastic programme, FB is disappointed to note that there is no event specially aimed at the cricketer.  Despite the fact that cricket writing is rightly celebrated.  There are even significant contributions from Scottish writers to this great canon - Ian Peebles for example.

So here is FB's Book Week XI - a select drawn from his favourite cricket books and his favourite Scottish books.  (Not in batting order).

Sunset Song - Lewis Crassic Gibbon
Beyond a Boundary - CLR James
Kidnapped - RL Stevenson
Larwood - Duncan Hamilton
Preferred Lies - Andrew Grieg
Fatty Batter - Michael Simkins
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
Jack Hobbs - John Arlott
Thanks Johnners - Jonathan Agnew
Joseph Knight - James Robertson
The Cone Gatherers - Robin Jenkins

Test Match Quality each and every one (as is the Scottish Book Trust - more power to its elbow).

Grange Loan - does not feature in My Favourite Place

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Magic Flute

Fantasy Bob and Mrs FB recently enjoyed Scottish Opera's highly entertaining new production of Mozart's Magic Flute.

Full of delightful music it may be, but there is little insight that the cricketer can glean from this great work. Its heroes may well undergo trials by silence, by fire and by water but, in FB's view, only Mozart could imagine these compare with trial by spin bowling.

Ever alert to the risk of calamity, Mrs FB had prepared for this visit to the opera house well. Several days in advance of the show she said to FB, ‘Now you won’t tell me every ten minutes that you can’t see what relevance this work is to cricket …will you?’

The slight pause before the ‘Will you?’ gave those words added weight. She repeated this inquiry at regular intervals and, just to keep FB alert, subtly varied it.

‘And you won’t suggest to me at the end of each aria that it would have been better if a cricket reference had been worked in….WILL YOU?’ Once again, FB was impressed by the weight of the concluding will you. He could hear the capital letters.

Resisting the temptation to suggest that he did not really see the point of Mrs FB's concern, he agreed that he would maintain silence on cricketing matters at least until the interval.  He regrets to inform his world wide readership that while the spirit may be willing, the flesh is weak and not long into the performance, shortly after Monty Papageno has been introduced to the audience,  he found it necessary to inform Mrs FB that cricketers generally would not take much comfort from the protection offered by a magic flute or a set of magic bells when facing collatura bouncers from the Queen of the Night.

Given all the relevant considerations FB thought this was not an unreasonable observation. However, if he is any judge of Mrs FB’s response on these things, she was of the view that, notwithstanding its evident veracity, FB might have been better if he kept such opinions to himself. Even for some days after she would not be drawn on the matter.

FB has therefore been taking consolation in the music - he shares on this link the wonderful overture.  Test Match Quality.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Surprise Choice for Bank Governor

In a surprise announcement yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the appointment of Monty Panesar to succeed Mervyn Davies as the next Governor of the Bank of England.

Sources accepted that this was a surprise choice since Monty's banking experience is limited.  but sources told Fantasy Bob,

'After his 11 for 210 in the second test at Mumbai, Monty can do no wrong.  He was stupidly overlooked for selection for the first test and look what happened.  The Bank bank does not want to make the same mistake.  When MS Dhoni says he is a touch above the rest, who are we to disagree. We expect him to bowl into the rough at the Threadneedle St end to ask serious questions of the high scoring investment bankers who have had things their own way against a modest seam attack for too long.'

Monty was unavailable for comment last night.  He expects another turning wicket at Kolkata and interest rates to stay steady.

Monday, 26 November 2012


..........what's that you say, Mr Robinson, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you...................*

...Jesus loves you more than you will know
Fantasy Bob doesn't quite understand how Paul Simon just about called it right in 1968 in one of his all time favourite songs - all those years before it happened.  Exactly right - except for the gender.  For some reason he imagined that Scotland's future rugby coach would be a she.  Well he - or - she might as well have been.

But FB's eyes were as lonely as any other Scottish support welcoming Andy Robinson's appointment 3 years ago.  Woo, woo,woo.....

Enoch Powell's famous observation that all political careers end in failure might applies equally to careers as sports coaching.  Particularly coach to Scotland's rugby team.  Robinson seemed so right for the job. We had bright days of early hope, days of expectation, days of non-delivery, days of frustration and ultimately disappointment, and finally, as the team pounded fruitlessly at the Tongan defence on Saturday, desperation. Woo, woo, woo.  Heaven holds a place for those who pray - as pray we must for the future of Scottish rugby.

It is perhaps ironic - or not - that on the day that Scotland failed to overcome the might of Tonga in Aberdeen the national media carried stories of Aberdeen being identified in the latest survey on these matters as the happiest place in Scotland.  Not for Mr Robinson, woo woo woo....................................Laugh about it, shout about it, when you've got to choose.  every way you look at it you lose............................

* FB is fully aware that this isn't quite the version of Paul Simon's great song that appears on the recorded version.  There is reference at this point to Joe DiMaggio, the baseball great. But FB is sure that this is because Paul Simon had some difficulty persuading the production staff that a song about the future travails of Scottish Rugby was a marketable item.  They insisted on a sport closer to home.  

Sunday, 25 November 2012


Fantasy Bob stuck with the BBC spy series Hunted right through to its last episode earlier this week.  The one thing about its convoluted plot about which he is certain is that it had nothing to do with cricket.  There was some reference to Pakistan where a large dam was of some significance to the story.  From the brief scenes in which the area of the dam was seen, there appeared to be no cricketing activity there so, from the cricketing point of view this may well have been a red herring.  One of many in the plot.  Some of the London scenes looked to FB like they were shot in the area near Regent's Park which is of course within a stone's throw of Lords - but Lords did not feature, nor did any of the characters look like they were concerned to establish the state of play at any match that might have been in process at the ground.  FB understands one scene in the series was shot in East Linton in East Lothian which, with all due respect to what is in most respects a perfectly fine settlement, is a pretty senseless choice by the production team since it is lacking in a cricket ground.  So FB feels he is safe in his conclusion that the plot had nothing to do with cricket.  But beyond that he is less certain as he was left to himself to try to establish some coherence from the twists and turns and double bluffs.

The pouting blonde heroine started the series by being shot and ended by being shot.  Both assaults seemed to FB more than enough to end her innings, but she seems to have survived - whether this is because of the impact of  DRS is not stated.  She repairs to a remote Scottish cottage to recuperate.  None among her colleagues noticing that she has done so despite the fact that at all other times of the story they are festooned with all manner of surveillance technology.   Nor was that surveillance technology able to detect that she had had a baby whom she left in the care of some sturdy Highland nanny while she went off espionaging.  An everyday story of Highland folk.    FB is glad that this series has eschewed the improbable and coincidental in its plotting.

The main point though is that she lives to fight another day so that another series is already being made.  Will it resolve all the pieces of the story that are wholly unresolved following  the first series?  FB would like to think that there will be a bit more of cricketing interest in the next series, but he is not holding out too much hope.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

A week of centuries

With lots of time and cricket left in both the tests Mumbai,  and Adelaide, it is possible that there will be more hundreds to consider.  And with Sri Lanka and New Zealand also gearing up at Colombo, there is further opportunity.  Only at Kuhlna in Bangladesh is another century less likely as W Indies are well on top.

Why is FB wittering on about this?  Because he suspects that more test centuries have been scored in the week beginning 18 November 2012 than at any time in history, at least homo sapiens began to walk upright.

Alastair Cook - 168
Abul Hasan - 113
David Warner - 119
Michael Clarke - 230
Mike Hussey - 103
Darren Bravo - 127
Marvin Samuels 260
Siv Chanderapaul 150*
Chetswar Pujara 135
Graeme Smith 122

10 centuries in all.  (12 if you count the doubles as 2)

Both the Adelaide and Kuhlna tests have had 4 centuries so far - so it is unlikely that the record of 8 hundreds in a match scored between West Indies and South Africa at St Johns Antigua in April 2005 will be beaten.  In that match there were four centurions on either side, but Chris Gayle scored 317 so you could say there were 10 hundreds in all.

Australia and Pakistan share the record of hundreds in an innings which stands at 5.  Australia did it against W Indies in 1955 (Neil Harvey got 204 so................), and Pakistan against Bangladesh in 2001.

The number of centuries in a single week may be a record, it is certainly a statistic of some interest.  But the real record that might be being broken is the number of test matches being played wholly or partly at the same time.  too much cricket?  There are a few footsore bowlers who may think so.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


One of these funny calendar type things that spread through cyberspace like KP's tweets tells Fantasy Bob that today is World Hello Day.

The objective is to say hello to at least ten people. Any cricketer playing today should therefore accomplish this with ease - unless there has been a call off.  Or unless the team's best batsman has gone off home to witness his wife giving birth.  

But the day was invented, if that is the word, not for the purpose of giving cricketers a simple way of breaking the ice in the dressing room. Not that that is generally necessary.  FB cannot recall being in a cricket dressing room with nothing being said at all.  He can recall many inappropriate things being said, not all by himself, but silence never.  So encouragement to say hello seems to be unnecessary.  From the cricketing point of view.

So it not a day directed at cricketers at all.  It has a far higher purpose.  It was begun in 1973 following theYom Kippur War between Israel and Egypt as a message to world leaders to use simple hum,an communications rather than using force to settle conflicts.

Given the situation in the Middle East as FB types this, it does not seem that there has been all that much hello saying recently.  Voices tend to be drowned out by the howl and crashing of rockets.  But cricketers and others shouldn't give up trying.  

FB will therefore be saying hello right, left and centre today - and as a result world peace may be advanced a small inch. 

But to which ten players will Alistair Cook be saying 'Hello, you're playing on Friday.'?


Saturday, 17 November 2012

An Appeal

The BBC interrupted its schedules last night in a nationwide charity appeal.

In a moving speech to the nation Terry Wogan said,

'The suffering in this disaster area is too much for anyone to behold.  The plight of England's bowlers is severe.  This should not happen in this day and age. They desperately need your help.  Please give generously.  Send your Panesars to

Andy Flower
c/o Disaster Area
English Dressing Room

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Downtown in Ahmedabad

Fantasy Bob faces a significant dilemma today.

Whether to give some consideration to the Test series between India and England which gets underway at 4.00 GMT; or whether to celebrate the 80th birthday of Petula Clark.

Looking good for nearly 80

Looking good for 4 Test series
Of course the 2 need not be mutually exclusive. The connection is self-evident.

All the pundits think England face a hard task.  There have been solid performances in the warm up games, but the quality of the opposition was not at the highest level.  There are anxieties over selection in the Indian camp, with worries about the batting line up.  Even so England's record in India tells against them and there is doubt as to whether their capitualtion against Pakistan's spin attack last winter was a one off, or has been forgotten.  Nevertheless all England's batsmen got some significant runs in their warm up games and they may feel more confident about striding out to bat on the dust bowls that they are bound to encounter.  Injuries to Finn and Broad have hampered the bowling preparation and the seam attack cannot expect too much assistance from these same dustbowls.

How long will it be therefore until the team begins to think of home and the wickets that they are used to?  how long before comes through their mind the refrain from Petula Clark's 1967 hit The Other Man's Grass is Always Greener?  

FB is surprised to find that this song, Petula Clark's only cricket song, got no higher than number 20 in the pop charts.  It seems worthy of greater respect.  It was part of the great string of hits Petula Clark had in the 60s with song-writer and producer Tony Hatch, the greatest of which was the evergreen Downtown.  Unlike The Other Man's Grass, however, Downtown has no cricketing significance.

Neither is Tony Hatch a cricketer of any note.  However as well as composing these fine songs for Petula Clark he also wrote a string of TV themes, including Neighbours and Emmerdale Farm.  But sports fans, including cricketers, may get more from his theme tune for the long lost BBC Sportsnight, which ran from 1968, when the BBC covered nearly all sports, to 1997, when they didn't.   Find the tune and titles from 1986 on this link.

There is an on line petition demanding a Damehood for Petual Clark.  If England make progress against India in this series, there should be an on line petition for a Knighthood (at least) for Alistair Cook.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


Crowd waiting for play to start in Venice
Play is not possible in Venice.  The entire ground is under water.  According to those who know about these things it is the worst flood since 1872.

1872 was the year that English cricket experimented for the first time with covering a cricket pitch before play.  The relevance of this to Venice was not realised at the time. Covering the City would help - but not as much as lifting the whole place a few metres above the water line.  Building a City on the marshes and islands may have seemed a good idea at one time, but it has created a bit of a headache to its doughty groundsmen responsible for preserving the unique location and its treasures.  The jury is still out on whether it is still sinking into its muddy foundations and will at some point vanish forever into the lagoon.

Is it this risk to the heritage that explains why Mrs FB seems to have styled herself an honorary Venetian?  Or is it the handbag shops?  Not content with a visit a couple of years ago she has been working hard on a return trip next spring.  FB has been advised that he is not wanted on this voyage.   Mrs FB has pointed out that on FB's last trip to La Serenissima he constantly lamented that  among the many splendid Titians, Tiepolos and Tintorettos he failed to find any representation of cricketing activity.  Accordingly, in Mrs FB's opinion, which is definitive as far as these matters go, he will be much better off at net practice than sipping Bellinis in the Piazza San Marco.

Mrs FB has consulted to runes to ensure a time for her and her chums to visit when the Venetian wickets will be hard and unflooded.  Given recent summers it is unlikely that that dry state will be reflected on Scottish cricket pitches and FB may find himself sipping Bellinis in Carlton's pavilion watching the puddles turn the ground into a fair imitation of Venice itself.  A Tintoretto in the home dressing room may be beyond them, but it will be a disappointment if the authorities at Grange Loan do not ensure that Bellinis are available throughout next summer.

FB will encourage Mrs FB to find time in her schedule to offer support to the Venice Cricket Club.  The club was founded in 2006 and currently boasts the Italian under 15 and under 17 champions.  They have a ground in Campalto an adjacent settlement to Venice itself an area uncluttered by canals.

All that the club needs is a latter day Tintoretto to record their successes.

Tintoretto's Paradise (even if it contains no cricket match)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Let us sleep now

There are many ways for cricketers to mark Remembrance Sunday.

They might recall the many cricketers who gave their life.  They might recall how central cricket was to the ideals of what many were fighting for, including some of the greatest writers to go through the war experience.  They might simply be silent and reflect.  For there is no end to the suffering and sacrifice.

This Remembrance Sunday, Fantasy Bob wishes to commend Benjamin Britten's War Requiem which was first heard just over 50 years ago this year.  It was first performed on 30 May 1962, having been commissioned to mark the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, which was built after the original fourteenth-century structure was destroyed in a bombing raid in 1940.

Britten was a pacifist and was granted conscientious objector status during the Second World War.  The Requiem reflects that stance - there is no triumphalism but there is no angry outburst against the madness of the struggle.  Only deeply felt humanity at the suffering and the dignity of human sacrifice.  It sets words from the traditional Latin Requiem Mass interwoven with nine poems by Wilfred Owen. Owen was serving as the commander of a rifle company when he was killed in action on 4 November 1918 one week before the Armistice.

Benjamin Britten is the most important British composer of the 20th Century and his War Requiem is among his greatest works.  Cricket does not feature in his works, although there have been those who imagined that his opera the Turn of the Screw might have something to with spin bowling.  Sadly it does not, it is a compelling ghost story.  But Britten was a cricketer - at least as a schoolboy and seems to have been proficient insofar as he was captain of his school team.

This link will take you to a full recording of the Requiem conducted by the composer itself.  It is played behind a silent film made by Derek Jarman in 1988 which tries (perhaps with mixed success) to show some of the experiences behind Owen's poetry.

The film is remarkable if for no other reason that it contains the final screen appearance of Laurence Olivier, who died in July 1989.  Olivier recites Owen's poem Strange Meeting at the start of the film.  The poem is set as part of the final movement of the requiem.

I am the enemy you killed, my friend.

I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned

Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now . . .

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Warm Ups

JP Duminy - sacrificed to the warm down
Fantasy Bob is of a sporting generation to whom warm-ups and warm-downs were unfamiliar concepts.  Indeed for the cricketer in Scotland the concept warm was unfamiliar.

Nowadays cricketers and all other top sportsmen indulge in extended warm-ups and and warm-downs that frequently last longer than the match themselves.  Lower league cricketers are also encouraged to go through these rituals.  There is no indication that such callisthenics improve the prospects of not missing a straight one.

No longer is the once time honoured tradition of standing in a semi-circle around the skipper while he blasts catches off the bat in all directions good enough.  This was always and unconvincing event to FB.  Some skippers were keen.  They were well meaning.  They may well have had their own bat.  But their hand-eye coordination did not stretch to throwing the ball up with one hand and hitting it with the bat held in the other.  There are those who will say that this was reasonable practice for slip fielding since any hit it presented a meaningful test of reflexes.  Particularly if the ball came at face height.   which it did.  Always. These drills simply gave the opposition a false sense of superiority - but for the fact that they were indulging in a similar display of ineptitude.

Now however spring loaded stumps are planted here and there.  Cones are spread around the field and everyone is expected to be energetic.  It is peculiar preparation for when the toss is lost and the All Stars are inserted.  Everyone is well readied to sit and watch for the next 3 hours.  The only positive side that FB can see to this is that it tires the juniors out a bit so they sit quietly.

But there is a price to all this frenetic action, as South African batsman JP Duminy found out yesterday.  He ruptured his achilles tendon badly during the warm down after the first day's play against Australia.  While FB wishes him well, he is puzzled as to why JP was warming down at all.  For he had made no contribution to the day's play at all, since only 2 wickets fell as S Africa took up where they left off against England in the summer.

And there is the issue - should JP have been warming down at all.  Or should he have warmed up before considering warming down?  Someone needs to sort this out before more players are sacrificed.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Don't panic.............

Fantasy Bob pays a small tribute to actor Clive Dunn who died yesterday.

FB's readership will know Dunn from his most famous role in Dad's Army where he played the doddering old butcher Corporal Jones.   Ironically he was one of the younger members of the cast, but he made the old fool entirely his own and was type cast for evermore. His catch phrases 'Don't panic' and 'They don't like it up them'  still bring a smile to FB's lips.

Ranjit -
 test average 44.59
However Corporal Jones should command the respect of FB's worldwide readership.  For in his day he was a cricketer of some distinction.  He tells of how in his youth and in a far off colony he kept wicket against the great Ranjitsinjhi.  'A fine upstanding gentleman he was too, sir.  Until I whipped his bails off...............that made his eyes water a bit.'

Cpl Jones batting for the Home Guard.
So it is that in the celebrated episode of Dad's Army first transmitted in November 1970, where the Home Guard Platoon is challenged to a cricket match, Jones is pressed into service behind the stumps once more. 

In his enthusiasm he attempts a stumping off every ball regardless of the fact that the batsman is firmly in his crease - just like many junior wicket keepers.  Eventually he is successful and celebrates in his characteristic 'don't panic' dance.

When the Platoon bats, he is bowled for a respectable 18.  But he did not have to face Fred Trueman who played  a ringer brought in by the opposition to secure victory but who had to go off after one ball having wrenched his shoulder.  Of course the Home Guard Platoon win the match and keep Britain safe from foreign invasion at the same time.  Test Match Quality.

Enjoy the episode and Clive Dunn's performance on this link.  

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Cricketers may not form a significant part of the electorate in today's election for the President of the United States of America.

However, with all the polls suggesting a very close contest, they may well be a decisive constituency in the overall result.  So how should cricketers vote?

Fantasy Bob has to take care to preserve his political neutrality, so he is not advocating a preference for one candidate or the other.

He will merely observe that one candidate has received coaching from none other than Brian Lara and may be expected to play down the line.  The other candidate, as far as FB's extensive researches can tell, may not even know what cricket is.

Cricketers must decide for themselves who is the more convincing candidate to be leader of the free world.

Get a bit more onto the front foot Mr President.........

Monday, 5 November 2012

Knitting for Scotland

At one time knitting was important to a cricketer's success. His cricket bag bulged not with helmets and protective padding for all softer parts of the anatomy as is now the case, but with an assortment of cable knit sweaters.

Latterly the sweaters may have been factory produced, but at one stage many cricketers had the genuine hand knitted article, lovingly made over the long winter evenings by wife, mother, sister, or even, in Fantasy Bob's case, mother-in-law.  Some may even have fitted the wearer, more or less, at some point in their life.

FB suspects it was to his mother's skill with the knitting needles that he owed his place in the primary school team for he was one of the few boys who could guarantee to turn up wearing a proper sweater, thereby looking like a cricketer.  This fooled the 10 and 11 years olds in the opposing side long enough for many matches to resolve in FB's favour.  Later in life FB's mother- in-law made a traditional sweater for him.  And very fine it was too.  He wore it with pride but not even it could make him look like a proper cricketer.

But nowadays the cable knit sweater is a heritage item.  No more do cricket dressing rooms pulse with that acrid smell of wet wool when the showers drive the players from the field.  For cricketers are clad now in fleeces of various sorts.

Knitted tea cakes -
but FB was looking for more
So FB had concluded that hand knitting is a dying art, a skill more remembered than practised, like coracle building or pole lathe turning.  But he is delighted to find out otherwise.  Knitting is growing in Scotland, according to the publicity surrounding the publication of one of the more important volumes of the year - Knit Your Own Scotland.

In this essential volume you will find knitting patterns for everything Scottish you can think of - Andy Murray, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Billy Connolly, William Wallace.  And not only important figures, other icons are there too including bagpipes,  a Hielan' coo and a Scottie dug.  As FB leafed through the book his anticipation rose quickly as Scotland's unparallelled cuisine featured - the Scotch pie.  Then his anticipation almost became too intense -  a pattern for Tunnock's Teacake.  But immediately he was let down.  That was it.  FB could not believe it.  But the evidence was incontrovertible.  It was not there.  The jewel of Scottish cuisine was disgracefully ignored.  There was no guide to knitting your own empire biscuit.   FB urges knitters of Edinburgh to put down their needles and not take them up again until a satisfactory pattern is produced.  But until then, here is a reminder of the real thing.

Knitting pattern needed.

Friday, 2 November 2012

The Ceiling

The magnificent ceiling on the Sistene Chapel was first viewed 500 years ago today.  Test Match Quality.

Not once in the 500 years since Michelangelo got down from the scaffolding having splashed his last drop of Dulux on the job has cricket been played in the Sistene Chapel.  Its dimensions would make a decent indoor practice area with 3 lanes and adequate run ups.  But not once have the Vatican authorities thought of hiring it out for such a purpose.  Shame on them.  No wonder the Reformation happened.

Now the opportunity may be lost for upward of 10,000 people traipse through it every day.  And that leaves little room even for bowlers with the shortest of run ups to turn their arm.

Of those many visitors well over 9,000 are not looking at the majesty of Michelangelo's decoration, or indeed the works of the other artists which illuminate the walls.  The majority are taking photographs.  Photographs which will be in every respect poorer than any photos they will be able to buy in the souvenir shop or find in any guide book, or online.  Tourism 21st Century style.

The same thing happens when visitors come to Carlton's world wide HQ at Grange Loan.  FB admits that the decoration of the ceiling in the home dressing room isn't quite up to the standard of Michelangelo.    Even then tourists' first instinct is to photograph the special place rather than savour the unique experience of being in that special place where FB (and many other greats of the game) have rubbed themselves down after a shower.

It will be some time before this great attraction gains the visitor numbers that the Sistene Chapel attracts.  There is talk of the numbers being too great and the Vatican having to limit them in some way.  Tourists should take comfort that there is no such risk of disappointment at Grange Loan where the ceilings can be viewed every weekend.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Fantasy Bob has been identifying a song to welcome each new month.  But this month is tricky. He has searched the shallow recesses of his memory and failed to come up with a November song - which is not to say that there aren't any - only that he can't bring one to mind.

So he finds he has to cheat again.  He realises his world wide readership may turn against him.  They will suspect that a man who can disregard the rules about posts on the first of the month is likely to be a man who on snicking one behind standing firmly in the crease in spite the all too woody a noise audible at all points of the ground and the increasingly strident appeals from all round.  He may have a bemused expression on his face but that is anything but innocent.  Here he is with a song to make November which has no mention of November - indeed no mention of any month at all.  But FB justifies himself - he is sure that he caught his pad with the inside edge.  This song isn't about a month - it is about a season - he may say.  And the crowd maybe restless for a while and wonder whether this is a good example to set to the juniors.  But the moral universe is settled around FB - if he had snicked it he would, for sure, be clean bowled next ball.  Even if he hadn't the likelihood of being bowled next ball is quite high.

Anyway, Autumn Almanack by the truly wonderful Kinks was released in October 1967, a follow up to the even more wonderful Waterloo Sunset. Test Match Quality.

FB has raved about Ray Davies before as one of his favourite song writers (see link here).  Autumn Almanack showed Davies extending his range and it reached number 3 in the charts, held off the top spot by The Bee Gees Massachusetts.  To FB's ears it remains significantly fresher and more interesting today than the Bee Gees' dirge.

Doughty groundsmen the length of the country may still be engaged in sweeping leaves into sacks as the song  describes, but in October 1967 there was a rest from cricket - there was no T20 WC, no Champion's League.  Just nostalgia for the season past. There was therefore an Autumn to have an Almanack about.  The song could not be written now - and there's the pity.

Enjoy hearing it again on this link.