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.

Sunday, 16 March 2014


Fantasy Bob is confident that all 3 members of his world wide readership are familiar with the thinking of the eminent psychoanalyst Carl Jung.

Less probably they maybe familiar with the fifth and final album released by popular music ensemble Police in 1983.

Either way he is sure that they will understand the concept of synchronicity.  Jung invented the term to describe what he called 'temporally coincident occurrences of a-causal events'.  FB's readers may pause there to reflect that to the extent they understand this phrase it seems to describe perfectly FB's attempts to play leg spin bowling.

However they might move on from this trifling observation to reflect that the term embodies the idea that the conceptual relationship of minds and ideas is intricately structured and gives rise to relationships that are not causal but appear meaningfully related.  It gives pattern and meaning to our experience individually and collectively.

FB had a heavy dose of synchronicity this week.

He and Mrs FB found themselves in the Welsh seaside resort of Colwyn Bay.  The dense fog and biting wind were not conducive to sightseeing, not that Colwyn Bay offers much to the sightseer; far less a day on the beach, for Colwyn Bay beach is closed while it is being rebuilt.

They therefore repaired to a small tearoom.  Having got over the disappointment of not finding empire biscuits in the cake selection, they engaged the proprietor in conversation.  He acknowledged his failure in the empire biscuits department but attributed this to the fact that he was deeply engaged in  the local controversy surrounding the town's pier which the Council is planning to demolish.  There is a furious local campaign against this proposal; among other things FB learned that this act of civic vandalism would remove not only the focal point of the town's sea front but a listed building containing murals by artist Eric Ravilious.

FB and Mrs FB nodded sympathetically.  As residents of Edinburgh they are unfamiliar with the concept of civic authorities acting unwisely.

As they reengaged with the biting wind outside FB and Mrs FB held their heads down not only for protection against the cold, but to hide their shame that the name of this artist was unfamiliar to them.

Eric Ravilious
Moments later they were back in their lodgings, FB opened the book* he was reading and synchronicity struck right between the eyes as he read the following sentence, 'Most fascinating to me among these people was Eric Ravilious (1903-42) the English landscape artist.............'  He read was a potted version of his life and work - albeit without reference to his mural in Colwyn Bay. But this was most definitely a temporally coincident occurrence of acausal events, as FB remarked to Mrs FB.

Ravilious was celebrated not only for his landscapes, inspired by the Sussex Downs,  but also for book illustrations, engraving and woodcuts.  He was commissioned as a war artist in 1939 and tragically died in 1942 when the plane he was flying in went missing- while it was searching for another lost plane in Iceland.  More synchronicity?

As if all this is not enough to satisfy the seeker after synchronicity, FB further discovers that Ravilious is the creator of one of the most familiar images known to cricketers.  Although only an occasional cricketer himself (he reported once that in a village match he hit three sixes, writing breathlessly as FB might have, “It is, you might say, one of the pleasures of life, hitting a six.” But FB has never hit 3 sixes.) Ravilious was commissioned in 1938 to produce the engraving that still graces the cover of Wisden.

And Ravilious' other work is well worth looking at too.

All this synchronicity has given FB a headache and he needs to lie down.

The Wilmington Giant by Eric Ravilious.

*The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane

Friday, 7 March 2014

Golden Grahams

Fantasy Bob is sure that his world wide readership is sensible on all matters nutritional, and will therefore have resisted the temptations of Golden Grahams.

This brand of breakfast cereal, now promulgated by Nestle, is chiefly distinguished by being sugar based, sugar flavoured with added sugar.  It may well have negative nutritional value.  Golden Grahams came onto the market in the mid 1970s but were withdrawn from UK distribution in the early 2000s because they exceeded sugar levels.  They have come back more recently - apparently having reduced sugar content and using whole grain.  But they are still on the sugary side of sugary and, for nutritional value compare poorly to FB's breakfast staple of porridge.

Tempting though it is to discourse on such an important subject, FB will avoid a lengthy essay on his wide ranging experiences of breakfast cereals.  His readership may not be quite ready for such excitement.

He pauses merely to observe that while Golden Grahams may still be on the supermarket shelf, the cricket field is increasingly bereft of Golden Grahams, or Golden Graemes; and the retirement this week of one of the more golden, Graeme Smith, when added to the departure before Christmas of Graeme Swann, leaves the prospect of a Graemeless world for cricket fans.  They must hope that Graham Onions continues to press his considerable claims for inclusion in England's Test squad in the coming season.  Otherwise they will look out at a Grahamless world. It looks like it is the end of the golden age of Grahams, or Graemes even.

FB nurtured the vague thought (itself not a remarkable fact for all FB's thoughts are vague and even that level of definition often exaggerates) that Graham was a Scottish name.  It does after all feature from time to time in some of the more bloody and fractious episodes in Caledonia's history.  It is the family name of the Duke (and Marquess) of Montrose and also of Bonnie Dundee, both prominent figures in the covenanting wars of the 17th Century.  As Burns put it

I fought at land, I fought at sea
At hame I fought my auntie-o
But I met the Devil and Dundee
On the braes o' Killiecrankie-o

But FB's researches reveal that Graham is not a Scottish name at all.  Its derivation may be an Anglo-French form of the name of the town of Grantham, in Lincolnshire.  It was not until the 12th century that the surname was taken from England to Scotland by Sir William de Graham. Which brings the sobering thought that Grantham's most famous daughter, Mrs Thatcher, could be considered a Graham.  The braes of Killiecrankie-o indeed.

When FB was a boy, he seemed to be surrounded by Grahams and Graemes.  Every second of his school chums seemed to be blessed with the name.  But little by little the name has declined in popularity and Grahams seem few and far between nowadays.

So it is on the cricket field.  With the retiring of Smith and Swan the Golden Age of Grahams or the Age of Golden Grahams draws to a close.  Here is FB's Golden Graham/Graeme XI (not in batting order)

Graeme Smith  117 Tests, 9265 runs @ 48.25
Graham Gooch 118 Tests, 8900 runs @42.98
Graeme Pollock 23 Tests, 2256 runs @ 60.97
Graeme Fowler 21 Tests 1307 runs @ 35.32
Graeme Thorpe 100 Tests 6744 runs @ 44.66
Graeme Swann 60 Tests 255 wkts @ 29.96
Graham McKenzie 60 Tests 246 wkts @ 29.78
Graeme Hick 65 Tests 3383 runs @ 31.32
Graeme Roope 21 tests 860 runs @ 30.71
Graham Dilley 41 Tests 138 wkts @ 29.76
Graham Yallop 39 Tests 2756 runs @41.13

One Graham that FB has been forced to leave out of his selection is Lord James Graham, the 4th Duke of Montrose. He made a single first-class appearance for the All-England team against Hampshire in 1828 - in 2 innings he scored 2 runs.  He might have been better on the the braes of Killiecrankie-o.  Graham subsequently had a political career serving for a time in the 1860s as Postmaster General during which time he saw the transfer of emergent British electric telegraph companies to the Post Office.  He could thus be said to have founded BT.  Does that make him a Golden Graham after all?

Golden Grahams XI

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Fantasy Bobseye

The Cap'n
demonstrating his one-eyed
batting technique
Supreme executive authorities at go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton have been swift to react to the news that frozen food giant Birds Eye is set to axe advertising figurehead Captain Birdseye after nearly five decades.

In an emergency statement issued late last night a spokesperson said,

'This tragic news has no implications for the position of other veteran captains.  

'We are resigned to the fact that Fantasy Bobseye will continue as captain of Carlton's All Star Fourth XI, a position he has held since the end of the Boer War.'