Saturday, 26 April 2014

The new season opens

There is usually an air of calm order and control in Fantasy Bob's household. Not for him the extremes of hysteria.  Things are methodical, evenly paced, tranquil.  Novel events are borne with a quiet and dignified state of suppressed excitement.

Generally, Mrs FB approves of suppressed excitement. 'Keep that excitement suppressed,'  she will remark, 'don't point it anywhere near me.'

And this week there has been a lot of suppression going on.  For the sleeps are being counted one by one until the cricket season opens on Saturday.

Of course the other side of FB's suppressed excitement is a repressed anxiety.  He will look up from his focused scrutiny of the fixture card and say to his life partner, 'This could be my last season,'

'Don't be such a plonker,' she will retort, 'You've said that every year for the last 25 years.'

'Yes, but one time it has to be true.'

Mrs FB has no truck with such fatalism.

'But the minute you take your first run or score your first wicket it'll all be different - you'll find you have another 25 years in you.'

Silence falls.  But only briefly.

'And while you're at it, can you pick up all that cricket stuff that is appearing again all over the place. I've tripped over three different piles of rubbish already today.'

FB manfully disguises his hurt at hearing the valuable contents of his cricket bag described as rubbish.  He also thinks it wise not to suggest to his dear heart that he knows no other way to conduct the required inventory of this treasure trove than to place each item carefully in a specially designated place on the floor. He forbears from reminding her that it was she who scorned his proposal that their residence should have a special room put aside for the purpose of storing his kit, thinking it preferable to have a dining room instead. To FB therefore there seems an inevitability about her lament.  But, as readers have already been advised, Mrs FB eschews such fatalism.

FB returns to the detailed inventory of his kit. If FB's body could be at risk of failing the trials of the coming season, then he must ensure that there is little risk of his kit doing the same.  As FB dragged his compendious bag out of its winter quarters, he again realised how the volume of each player's kit is now equal to that occupied by the team kit in FB's early career.  Evidence if ever there was of the expanding universe.

For at one time in the lower leagues only the most showy players, or those resting from the stresses of the elite levels of the game, carried more than their boots and trousers.  Players would rely on the team kit bag - a cornucopia of cricketing equipment and accessories invariably containing more left hand gloves than right hand gloves; a collection of used boxes that might present challenges to the greatest expert in pharmacological science; pads of varying sizes and colours in the formerly white spectrum with buckles in various states of disrepair; bats, and bits of bat, bearing the names of fondly remembered Test stars from another time.  There might be a packet of sandwiches - hastily stored there in the third last match of the season by a late arriving player called upon immediately to pad himself up and thereafter forgotten (along with the sole remaining right hand glove donned by that player).

Nowadays no player is without his own bat and pads and associated paraphenalia.  Many of the juniors have a selection of bats to be used depending on their expert reading of the wicket.  The walls of changing rooms groan and swell as kit bag after kit bag is dragged in.  There is increasingly no space for players.

FB's present kit bag is similarly compendious, the size approximately of a small starter home.  It is far from RyanAir compliant in any dimension including weight. Indeed FB wonders whether a forklift truck would be a sensible investment.

Mary Poppins' carpet bag has nothing on the depths of FB's cricket bag.  The manufacturers helpfully designed it in the form of many sections. The cricketing section contains bat, pads, gloves and protective equipment suitable for any form of armed combat.  A medical section offers up a range of requisites that would put Holby City to shame.  In the clothing section there is a range of base layers and protective clothing that had Robert Falcon Scott had access to he might still be alive (even though he would be 145 years old - a measure of the effectiveness of FB's base layers).  The stationery department contains a range of writing equipment which will function in all temperatures and humidities.  The literary section holds several large volumes containing the rules of the various competitions that FB will lead his charges in.  And even larger volumes of instruction in what to do in a rain affected match. There is a space for an emergency empire biscuit.

All this means that FB cannot find room for the one additional piece of equipment that would be most helpful at the start of the Scottish season.  The patio heater.

Essential equipment - every fielder should have one

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