Archive for November 2010

Not in Wisden #4: Gloves

November 29, 2010

You will probably be aware of the main points of a compass: North, South, East, West. Further than that you might know a few of the doubles: Southwest, Southeast. Or trebles: North-Northeast, West-Southwest. There are thirty-two compass point headings including the more elaborate North by East one quarter point North. Precision means everything and jealous of physicists advances in string theory, navigational surveyors have added another sixty-four points to the compass. Northeast by East one quarter point East, East Northeast being one of them.

Complication is always preferred over simplification, it was not always thus. My Gran was a simple person and I say that in the nicest possible way. She saw things in black or white, blue or green and she grouped people into two types: fast and slow. Efficient staff in shops impressed her and she had no complaints with these people, it was the slow ones that got her dander up. And she had a Glasgow word for these tardy workers: sluddery. Example sentence- “that lassie could do with a shake; she’s uffa sluddery.”

Bowlers used to have three types of pace: fast, medium and slow. Now just like the compass the terminology has branched out into a monolithic state. Fast-medium, medium-fast, medium-slow. Before long we’ll have fast medium-fast, medium-fast medium fast-medium and fast medium fast-medium one quarter point fast medium-fast bowlers knocking about. Though I do like the variation of the fast bowler with a slower ball.

There was a wicket keeper who played for Springburnshire in the GDCCC who could catch any ball no matter the pace. Wee Tam was quicksilver and stood up to the wicket even when the quicks were throwing. Tam also played in goal for the school football team and you could call him a poor man’s Andy Goram although he was the first to combine the duties of a keeper. Tam’s misfortune was he never grew to more than 5ft 4. If the Gods had made him bigger he’d have played for Arsenal or Chelsea.

His enthusiasm for keeping wicket was unparalleled in the history of the game and he tried to stump the batsman with every delivery he caught. The wicket would be demolished with every ball. Fine and well when the batter was dismissed Knott so good for the bowling team overall. As the wickets were re-arranged after another of Tam’s attempted stumpings they were hammered further into the ground to make them secure. Progressively, as the match wore on the stumps were getting smaller as they had to be forced deeper into the earth making the chance of a clean bowl impossible.

So you could say wee Tam was a ground breaker in more ways than one and like all small men he walked fast. His legs would be a blur as to get from one place to another in a reasonable time he would have to go the extra mile. He was small-fast.

My favourite Pier in Blackpool is the Central Pier. This is a stumping at the North-Prior.

Marcus North is well stumped by Matt Prior, England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 4th day, August 23, 2009. Source: ESPN Cricinfo.

Not in Wisden #3: Hunter’s Patch

November 28, 2010

Mary fae Saint Mungo
Had rubbish for the tip
When she neared the bin
The midges made her skip
Ye can swat them aw’ ye like
They’ll come back for mair
Midges and middens
They make a perfect pair

(Pastiche of Burns by B.Keeper)

Most of the goods sold in chemists are nothing more than placebos or quackery. Who on Earth believes that anti-wrinkle products will work? A dollop of cream isn’t going to transform you from Ronnie Wood to Elijah Wood overnight. Cough bottles have been proved to not alleviate splutters although in their favour they do taste nice and sweet. Not two words used often to describe midges and the various repellents on sale to rebuff the bite of the insect are a waste of money. All you have to do is move out of the way of their swarm. Violins, as the French say.

Midges were the least of the lone fielder’s worries at the dangerous midden that just passed as a cricket ground called Hunter’s Patch. This was the home residence of Donny Hunter, a fine batsman though a very idle hunter as I’ll explain later.

Hunter’s Patch might not be a patch on Lord’s or other esteemed venues it did have a unique, I hesitate to say quaint, style that was not found anywhere else. Sprawled over three back gardens with permission to play granted by non-gardening neighbours, Hunter’s Patch was a jungle, wrapped within a forest, inside an uncharted wilderness. The three backs were totally different though Hunter’s own home back was a plain lawn and ideal for playing cricket. The other two were needed for the fours and sixes.

The matches that took place here were in the shortened form of the game and not sanctioned by the GDCCC. It was 2v1 with the highest scoring batsman being the winner. Fielding in the deep was hazardous as when running through the long grass it felt as though your legs were being held back by Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. Then there were the unforgiving branches that were almost alive as they scratched you at will. Worst of all was falling on a dog turd that had been laid earlier.

Most matches had numerous unscripted stops as the ball would be lost in the rough. Now I have always loved looking for golf balls. One of the joys of childhood. Now you might forget your first foray into a bra, you never forget finding your first Titleist.

Happy Days, Glory days- copping a Titleist

The job in hand was entirely the same so I went for it with relish. I have to upset the purists and admit that we played with a tennis ball; none of us had ever seen a cricket ball. While I was broad and catholic in my comprehensive digging for the ball, Hunter was more reticent and prodded at the surface. He would never be Lord of the Midges Flies.

This continuous pausing of the game gave rise to many moments of reflection. The aforementioned B.Keeper wrote a song in honour of his duties as a finder. The song was called “Searching for a Tennis Ball”. I can’t remember most of the lyrics which is just as well as Middens and Midges testifies to his poor prowess as a poet. All I know is it went to the tune of the children’s TV programme Rainbow. Up above the streets and houses, Rainbow climbing high… Searching for a Tennis Ball, mmm h-hmm a hmmm. It’ll come to me. Hmmm mmm m.

Still Life is a bowl of Cherries

November 27, 2010

“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
Jerry Seinfeld trumping Confucius.

We practise routines and rituals every day sometimes without not even noticing it. You tie your shoe laces the same way without ever experimenting with new loop the loops. You’ll read the same newspaper instead of broadening your horizons and taking in other perspectives. And you’ll never consider trying out a different way to walk. You’re happy with the walk you’ve got even though you know your particular method of walking is dreadful.

Before you know it, you’ve got in a rut. The abrupt glottal stop in this short word makes it one of the most brutal words in the English dictionary. Say rut three times. See what I mean. Its close connection to drat is no coincidence. We’re all dratted in a rut. It’s time to get out of this rut.

I started the re-invigorating process slowly. I tied my laces in a basic reef knot. By the end of the week I will be doing sheepshanks and catshanks. Now primed for walking, tentatively I took new steps and went out to face the world. Upwardly mobile I declined my Daily Sport from my usual vendor and continued to foxtrot down the street.

Suddenly hunger came upon me and the urge for cola and pastries was strong. Then I saw it. Big Fruit Bag: only £5. Now me and fruit are like Connors and McEnroe, the Sundance Kid and swimming, Ring Nebula and casement windows. Me and fruit are not bed fellows. Preparing to do a tango away from the shop, the impulse to do the opposite came over me and I purchased the big fruit bag.

Back home with the tension building like a horror film I gradually opened the big fruit bag. Strange red balls looked out at me. After consulting Wikipedia I found out that they are called cherries. I took the plunge and ate a cherry. Wham! My head was dancing and my palate was screaming as this delicious taste sensation kicked like a mule and knocked me to the floor. This should be a category A drug.


(Still Life is a bowl of Cherries by a drunken Picasso)

I went back for more. Soon I’d consumed the whole lot. Now I couldn’t stop and moved on to things called apples and oranges (thanks again, Wiki). In a small amount of time the big fruit bag was devoured. I was Twist and wanted more. With one big fruit bag I had become a fruit addict. A five pound fi had turned my rut to fruit.

Truly, I can’t believe what I’ve been missing all these years. The wonderful world of fruit has embraced me and welcomed me into its church. At the moment I’m a lowly mason in the fruit degrees but tantalising glimpses of exotic fruits have been promised. Fringe benefits of fruit-eating are many. My liver has been cleansed, my toe nails are getting stronger and I’ve mastered a brand new walk.

Not in Wisden #2: The Professor

November 26, 2010

Just as slideshows killed the flip chart, the search engine killed the pub quiz. Widespread googling via i-phone, e-phone, I don’t know, z-phone is perpetrated at competitive bar quizzes throughout the land as false prophet’s prosper. True brain power is having the uncanny ability to recall the most mundane facts without outside help.

Can you name the three wise men, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, the five great lakes, the six senses, the seven dwarves? Of course you can, these lists are not complex and are easily remembered. You will also have specialist knowledge programmed into your mind that you’ll never forget. This could range from knowing every line from every song from your beloved rock band to naming the writer and artist combination in every issue of your favourite Marvel comic. That’s because these subjects are interesting and the data can be absorbed like a spell of short bowling.

Complicated and boring topics are more taxing. Only the special type of genius can call to mind these matters and not dispose of them in the recycle bin. A gifted individual with a talented mind played in the GDCCC for Barmullochshire. He was given the handle: The Professor.

Prof was an unusual brain box kind of guy. The stereotypical swot is a bit of a loner and loath to impart their vast range of information to the struggling lower class mate. Prof had no such airs and WG Graces. He was a substitute teacher in all but name. There were no academic school league tables in the days when Prof was in his pomp, though if there were we’d be tops.

In tests there was no need to do the customary way of cheating and write some notes on your hand, Prof would freely whisper the answers to surrounding pupils and start the chain. Prof thrived on the danger of being caught and disqualified. As they say genius can be tinged with a spot of lunacy.

His descent into lunacy was evident in his stubborn determination to master the dark art of leg-spin bowling. Unfortunately he didn’t have much variation in his armoury. No matter how much he tried to flick his wrist the ball came straight on at the speed of a Chris Tavare century and was easy pickings for the batsman. The poor Prof’s balls would be dispatched to the main road.

Gleeful opponents mocked his skills and pretended to be rabbits when he was given the ball. Prof persevered; he was a smart guy he knew his deliveries weren’t very challenging. However, on the odd occasion when he took a wicket there was uninhibited joy in his celebrations as a new facet of his character was displayed. It’s brilliant when you get one right.

Not in Wisden #1: Currie the Carpenter

November 26, 2010

A peculiar statement that should only be intended for infants and new-borns is hurled at mature adults by re-collecting old-timers: they don’t know they’re born. The seemingly privileged and easy lifestyle of newer generations is a bane of deep resentment especially in the ranks of retired players of the GDCCC (Glasgow and District County Cricket Championship).

Today’s cricketers receive travelling expenses, sponsorship, free catering as well as enhanced pay. Let’s consider some of the conditions in the old days. For a start the participants had to walk to most matches step by step with the, admittedly not very many, supporters. Mile upon mile they’d trudge through the rain. And back then rain didn’t stop play, that would cause a riot, in fact the more rain the more entertaining the contest as balls and players skidded all over the ship.

Lunch break was a burger from the snack bar if you were lucky. Normally they ran out of them and a bar of chocolate or eggs were all that was left. By the time these items were fried, batsmen were back on the wicket. Either starving or stuffed they could expect six bouncers in the over; legal in the lawless game along with chucking, overstepping the mark and beamers. There were no no-balls and few LBW’s.

Nobody wore pristine whites or had fancy logos on their shirts. Basically you could wear anything you wanted, like a uniform free day at school. Turning up in turn-ups was not uncommon and allsorts of bright clothing was worn. The multi-coloured outfits added a certain razzamatazz to the proceedings and were a precursor to today’s pyjama clad one day Internationals (ODI’s). The popularity of ODI’s and their sparkling strips has led to an overwhelming surge in women shopping in their pyjamas imitating their heroes from the limited overs game.

Equipment was always a problem for some of the impoverished teams and Provanmillshire had a lack of bats. Luckily, in the county lived a carpenter called Joseph Currie. Joseph was handy with wood and had built garden sheds and intricate trellises amongst other things. When he heard about his home county’s predicament he offered to help.

The first prototypes were prone to warp and snap in mid-game inflicting deep skelfs into the skin. Many games were abandoned, with Provanmillshire losing by default, because paraphrasing presenter’s on the high ratings consumer rights TV programme, That’s Life “We’ve got no bats!”

Eventually the carpenter planed and honed a decent set of bats. No money was exchanged for this good deed though there was a serious caveat. You see, Joseph the carpenter had a boy. JC (Joseph Currie) would only donate his handiwork if JCJ (Joseph Currie junior) was in the team. This quid pro quo bears striking similarity to the adage “it’s my ball so I’m playing.” With no other alternative JCJ, a few years younger than the others, was in the team. And, of course, JCJ was hopeless.

Provanmillshire had a well regarded lyricist in their line-up. He had dreams of going all the way to the minor counties final at Lords and had written a special song in tribute to his county. This is our FA Cup song said his team mates and catchier than Ossie’s going to Wembley. Joseph the carpenter was immortalised in this tune and was nicknamed the Chinaman. During this period there was a massive importation of Chinese take-aways and restaurants. Beef and chicken curries were the best sellers.

Battle of the Black Socks

November 20, 2010

To the best of my knowledge there are only two Scots who follow, follow the England cricket team; me and some guy from the East. In all honesty we want them to win and next week sees the start of the Ashes when “we” face Australia.

To attune my body clock to down under timescales I have been in Dracula mode by sleeping all day and haunting the house by night. The hypocritical neighbours aren’t too happy about the loud rock music I play in the early hours. Double standards here as I make no fuss about the noise they make all day. Nevertheless I have turned down the volume because the other night they were at my door with pitchforks and torches braying for my ashes.

Before the Ashes another Battle of Britain looms. On November 24th at Ibrox Stadium the most successful football team in the world, Glasgow Rangers, take on the cream of England, Manchester United in the Champions league. Tickets for the three home European games were £105; Bursapor from Turkey and Valencia from Spain are the other two teams in the group. My sons and a few friends robbed a bank found some money and six of us will be in the Broomloan Road Stand cheering on the blues.

Traditionally, Rangers wear red and black socks. Only in certain European and occasional away domestic fixtures do the colours change driving the Conservatives amongst us crazy. These distinctive socks, the legend goes, are attributed to a great Scottish institution: Govan Shipbuilders. They are tailored on the colours of the funnels of the ships produced in bygone days. The South side shipyard will not be forgotten as homage is paid weekly by the greatest Scottish institution: Glasgow Rangers.

(A short history of socks from medieval times to ones not out the wrapper yet)

In a nice tie-in, a short drive from the stadium brings you to Govan High School. The uniform of this modern comprehensive is red and black and always has been. It is also the school where Sir Alex Ferguson, the abrasive United manager and former Rangers player was educated. Man U also wear black socks, though I can offer no explanation for their origins. The coincidence of the colours does raise a few questions. Was it the case that Ferguson was attracted to Manchester because of the socks? Did he pine for his lost schooldays and previous Rangers incarnation? Are socks the meaning to the answer of life? Posers, posers.

Convention dictates that the away team change their strips to avoid clashing. This means that the Gers will run out on Wednesday with their customary kit. Rangers are universally associated with Royal blue, though I have always loved the addition of black on the socks. A familiar tune played on match days is Tina Turner’s Simply the Best, the unique socks makes us also….different from all the rest.

One of my favourite Rangers tunes with a flag tribute of Davie Cooper’s famous quote. “I played for the team I loved.”

Postscript 25/11/10-

Just in case anyone reads this in a hundred years time and to point out I’m not a bad loser, the final score was 1-0 to Man United.

A Subterraean Abroad

November 16, 2010

Porter had found a way out of the underground with the Underdowners. It was uppermost in his thoughts to be wary of large potholes as experience had made him, once bitten, twice shy. His spell in the darkness of the tunnels had made him accustomed to bad light and he regularly went for midnight walks where he could read his paper at leisure.

Sitting on a bench in the outskirts of town, the light from the plough of the Great Bear constellation gave him the brightness to peruse his Times and he studied the cricket section. Atherton’s all time Ashes XI of England players were a fine choice with one notable exception: James, Jimmy to me and you, Anderson. Lancashire’s finest was overlooked. Hope you’re taking this all in, Big Dipper, he said to Ursa Major.

Time was getting on and Porter took a shortcut through the underpass. This area was notorious for being the denizen of vagrants. As he strode through this pit of poverty, he sensed zombie like movement at his side.

“Any change, guv?” asked a bedraggled tramp.

“I don’t have any money on me,” answered Porter as another two inhabitants of this vagabond world appeared. “There’s….err….nothing opened at this time of the morning.”

A scarred individual was in no mood for excuses. “We’re open. Give us something.”

Porter checked the surroundings and all around he saw a village of deep deprivation. Cardboard boxes were used as shelter from the elements and although having no estate agent qualifications he could see a way to avert violence on himself and at the same time aid the underclass.

“New sheets for everyone. Dry and warm.” He tore the property section from his newspaper and handed it to the new home owners. Porter extricated himself from The Walking Dead by ambling away in poor imitation. His aping was that of a reject from the Thriller video.

With so many upmarket homes available trouble brewed amongst the tramps. A crisp fight broke out over who had ownership of a Tudor Farmhouse in the Cotswolds. Two men who had peed their trousers argued over a pied-a-terre. A modernist building with a swimming pool was contested by a team who hadn’t washed in years. Cardboard City had just become one of the most exclusive areas in the country.