It is the time of year when the cricketer's pulse quickens. As the days lengthen, as the temperature soars to near 5 degrees, he or she knows that the day is coming near when that old weakness against the straight one will once again be cruelly exposed. But for the moment, it is the phoney war of the pre-season. A time ripe with hope and anticipation. Pre-season. When dreams of hattricks and
It is also the time when respectable media outlets lose sight of their year long policy of wholly ignoring club cricket and desperately look for human interest stories to stimulate interest in the coming season.
Ever seeking the celebrity angle, a journalist took it on himself to phone Fantasy Bob at home earlier this week. His timing was ill chosen, for Fantasy Bob was fully occupied in practising his improved batting stance in front of the wardrobe mirror. It has taken him all winter and he was on the point of perfecting it. He had given strict instructions not to be disturbed for the next 3 hours.
The call is therefore answered by Mrs FB. Her clear soprano rings through the house:
'You want to speak to Fantasy Bob, the celebrity cricketer?' (There was a cruel trace of mocking laughter in her tone). 'I am sorry he can't come to the phone - he is upstairs having a temporary bout of insanity. It could last until August. Maybe I can help you?
'You want to know how his pre-season preparations are going......'
The short silence should be a warning to the inquirer.
The alarm bells should be ringing louder.
'.......Well, let me tell you.......'
There was now no escape.
'.....Don't give me pre-season. It's longer than the wretched season itself. The day after the final game last year he starts. I've had months of him moaning on about whether he can manage another season. Is his back up to it, he groans. I suggest he could give his back a bit of a test by painting the bathroom but he says that would risk unbalancing his bowling action. Pathetic. Two months ago he has to get his kit out of the various cupboards he squashed it in last August. Of course the only place he can leave it all is exactly where I am bound to trip over it. I've measured my length three times today already. Then he's sitting in front of Line of Duty with his pads on - just to get them flexible for his big innings he says. How flexible do they have to be for your usual duck? I ask. He doesn't talk to me for 3 days. Then the linseed oil - the stink is everywhere - I think he's drinking it. I look out to the garden and make a hint that the grass is beginning to grow. Does he take the hint - does he hell? He'll never do a hands turn in the garden, but the minute that Doughty Groundsman phones, you won't see him for dust and he'll be there cutting the outfield like a man possessed with a glaikit look on his face. It's pathetic.
'Pre-season - don't give me pre-season - just get the season started and I can get him AND HIS KIT OUT OF THE HOUSE.'
Monday, 10 April 2017
Fantasy Bob was sorry to hear of the passing of Brian Matthew last week. Brain Matthew was the long serving host of Sounds of the 60s - the programme which has accompanied FB's Saturday breakfasting for many years.
Indeed in these days of the introduction of listener phone-ins on Radio 3 and the endless Faragification of the wider air waves, Sounds of the 60s has been just about he only radio programme FB has been able to enjoy without feeling the constant need to shout back at the set.
It was Mrs FB who suggested that for the good of his health he should desist from such vigorous responses - for if he didn't stop his caterwauling she would come downstairs and put him in hospital herself.
There was no need for such responses when Matthew took to the air. His smooth voice was familiar and comforting. His knowledge of the music at hand effortlessly compendious. He conveyed the impression that he knew all the musicians personally. Test match quality.
This was a voice FB recognised from his childhood. For FB recalls earlier Matthews programmes - The Saturday Club and Easybeat back in the day. He has a distinct memory of hearing the Saturday Club as he sat in the local barber waiting for his short back and sides leafing through a well thumbed copy of Reveille. The pubescent FB found this a somewhat racy publication although this did not make up fully for its disappointingly limited interest in cricket. For some reason the song that comes to mind, as he sits there leafing, is Frank Iffield's I Remember You.
Just around the corner from the barber shop was a small sports shop - the type of outlet that no longer exists. No moulded soles or screw in studs - FB recalls the box of leather football boot studs which had to be hammered into the traditional boot, their sharp nails obtruding. FB cannot remember buying anything in the shop except dubbin and laces for his football boots, but it was the place you went to get your leather football blown up or the grip on your cricket bat changed. Services which Sports Direct lamentably fail to offer.
But FB digresses.
Brian Matthew was cruelly removed from the show earlier this year, very much against his will. There was a petition to reinstate him. Sadly however the grim reaper pays such popular will no respect.
The show lives on. It is now introduced by Tony Blackburn. While FB can remember listening to Blackburn in the early days of Radio 1, he did so with little pleasure. His habit of talking over the start and end of records and the inane jokes make it a trying listening experience. He was soon a refugee to Radio 3.
But with the advent of Blackburn accompanying his Saturday breakfast, FB has found he has started shouting at the radio again. Vigorously.
Mrs FB is suggesting that this can't be good for his health.