Monday, 27 January 2014

Young People Today

FB has returned refreshed from his skiing holiday to find Mrs FB in a state of agitation.  She is wondering what has happened to turn this bruiser:

...................into this sweet child:

Friday, 24 January 2014

Burns Nicht

Fantasy Bob is a poor Scotsman - in the sense of not very good, although he is impecunious too needless to say.  But on Caledonia's nicht of nichts he is on a skiing holiday.  Such cavalier disregard for Scotia's heritage will not go unpunished.

It was with heavy heart that he discovered that his holiday arrangements would prevent his attendance at go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton's legendary Burns Supper.  He is therefore forced to miss the doughty groundsman's rendition of Burns' great narrative poem Tam O'Shanter.  Although his disappointment is tempered by the fact that this great poem does not contain substantial cricketing interest.

This is not because Burns himself was uninterested in the game.  As FB's researches in previous years have shown, the Burns canon is full of unpublished and unregarded verses clearly inspired by a deep affection for cricket. (Follow this link for the evidence).

This year FB has discovered another example, hitherto unjustly excluded from the Kilmarnock edition, which suggests Burns shared FB's own warm regard for the efforts of doughty groundsmen.  A later version of this verse substituted a haggis as the object of veneration and has gained some popularity.

Fair fa’ your honest doughty face
Great chieftain o’ the groundsman race
In the middle tak your place
Mow, roll, repair
Your cheery greeting rings through space

To mak a wicket taks for ever
But who respects your great endeavour?
These players should be mair clever
You can despair
You tell them oft but they never

Ye tend the strip, ye gie it bounce
The players dinna help an ounce
But aifter play they preen and flounce
Fegs! Everywhere
Till ye maun doughtily pronounce

In winter whan the sna is flyin’
Players in their beds are lyin’
Sair wi' cauld the puir lambs cryin’
We can compare
Ye toil through winter scarifyin'

Some folk may tak ye for a bore
When ye drone on aboot the mower

And moan the hunnels mak ye sore
Why should they care?
But muckle grass? Ye’ll see them glower

Ah! Doughty groundsmen are a special breed
An’ ilka club must meet their need
For tractor oil, loam and seed
Sic modest fare
It’s nae charity tae pay them heed

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Hucklebowler Finn

Samuel Clemens - aka Mark Twain
In 1895 Mark Twain toured Australia.  Although his record of his visit makes reference to the Sydney Cricket Ground, he does not describe play in progress.  In particular he seems to have missed the concluding matches of the 1894-95 Ashes series which England shaded by 3 matches to 2.  This, so conventional scholarship has it, is as near as his work got to being of interest to the cricketer.

However Fantasy Bob's diligent researches have uncovered how a decade previously Twain was working on his great and much loved work The Adventures of Hucklebowler Finn which, to judge from this rejected draft of the opening, bears some remarkable resemblance to recent events.

YOU don't know about me without you have read some lame stuff in the daily news; but that ain't no matter. That news was made by Mr. Jonathan Aggers, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.

Now the way things is, is how they is and that’s no consternation. If a fella bowls regular and decent then he gets took to Stralya. He might expect he’d get some overs out in the middle; what with Tremlett and Rankin not firing nice. But Judge Flower had a notion to sivilise me so I don’t hit no stumps in my delivery stride and he turn to Widow Sacher who took me for a son. The Widow has me pounding up and down in nets day after day from dawn till dusk and back again. Its dismal stuff . He looks me up and looks me down, and puts my arm round where no regular arm should be, partikerly when he puts my knee where it ain't got no place to be at the same time. He says, if you ain't never beat your head against a brick wall you ain't never goin to get a length. 

But it was rough living though it was a 5 star hotel but I stood it all till Old Man Giles says I'm unselectable. So when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and made back for Middlesex and was free and satisfied. But Angus Fraser he hunted me up and said he was going to work on indoor nets and get more sore in love with the game again. So I went back..........................

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A Groundsman Doughty

Fantasy Bob's long standing - not to say long suffering - worldwide readership may take inspiration from his discovery that the website of the delightfully named Cherry Willingham CC, which is located not far from Lincoln, informs him that the club's Head Groundsman is Trev Doughty.

He also notes that the President of this excellent club is Wilf Doughty.

There is however no indication of the club's policy on empire biscuits.

Saturday, 11 January 2014


Fantasy Bob has already spent too much of this yet young year in front of the TV set. Not doing anything useful like watching endless reruns of the Ashes debacle in an effort to pinpoint what went wrong so badly so often.

Instead he has been immersed in watching the boxed set of Breaking Bad which the ever reliable Santa Claus deposited in his stocking on Christmas morning.

Breaking Bad has been heralded as the greatest TV programme ever; in the whole history of the world; the universe; the galaxy; and everywhere else. FB is not sure about how that accolade was arrived at, for there is nothing about cricket in the show.  A shame, for the show is set in Albuquerque New Mexico, and presented an admirable opportunity to consider the fortunes of the cricket team based there, the UNM Lobos.    Instead the show follows the misadventures of a middle aged chemistry teacher, who, like FB, has a great future behind him.  Finding he has advanced lung cancer, he takes to a life of crime through the manufacture of crystal meth to finance his treatment and provide for his surviving family. 

There is therefore a startling ethical issue underlying the show - does this motivation justify the misery that the crystal meth will cause amongst thousands of addicts? This is a judgement as morally difficult as whether the bodyline tactic was justifiable or whether Stuart Broad had any valid reason for not walking last summer. Or maybe it is to be read as an indictment of aspects of the economic system - that such behaviour is necessary to have access to appropriate health care, or more widely that economic activity in the US itself has at its heart exploitation and dubious moral propositions.  Like the IPL.

Anyway, much as he finds the show enjoyable, FB is sceptical of its claims to be the best TV show ever. For him that status belongs to a classic of British TV - Dennis Potter's Pennies from Heaven, made for the BBC in 1978.  This was a powerfully and startlingly original drama in which the action and motivations of the characters are underpinned through the innovative device of them breaking into routines lip-synching 1930s popular songs.  That the lead character - played memorably by Bob Hoskins - was a salesman of sheet music for such songs and believed in the highly optimistic and romantic world reflected in the lyrics was its own point.

Here is a sequence which demonstrates the power of this technique - shortly after beginning her doomed affair with the Hoskin's character demure school teacher Eileen, played by Cheryl Campbell, engages her class after an illicit night of passion.  Brilliant (and it was shot in the classroom in the forest of Dean where Potter himself was a pupil).

Pennies from Heaven was a tour-de-force which sadly seems well beyond the capacity of British TV to get anywhere near these days.  Although Potter's subsequent drama The Singing Detective is considered by some critics to be superior, FB remains loyal to Pennies from Heaven.  It is the best.  Test Match Quality.

Sadly there is no cricketing interest in it either show.  However Dennis Potter was father to Sarah Potter who gained some celebrity as a member of England's womens cricket team.  Sheo played 7 Tests in the late 1980s and subsequently wrote for The Times.  So he made up for this oversight in other ways.

Dennis Potter 1935-94