As planned, yesterday lunchtime Jackie drove Flo, me and Scooby to Shelly and Ron’s for a most convivial lunch and afternoon which stretched into the early evening. A storm raged throughout the journey, the Modus wheels sending up high waves on either side as it disturbed the numerous pools across the country roads. Despite still recovering from a cold Shelly produced an excellent turkey and sweet leek pie inspired by Jamie Oliver. I was particularly impressed my the lightness of the pastry, which I gather is quite difficult to attain. Ron and I drank Malbec. I’m not sure what those with a preference for white wine enjoyed. An excellent apricot flan with ice cream and/or cream was to follow. Port, Madiera, coffee, and mints brought up the rear. Later came Christmas cake.
I had been misinformed about the likelihood of being prevailed upon to play Trivial Pursuit. Instead we played an hilarious game of Who?, What?, Where?. For those who, like me, haven’t come across this before, the idea is that each participant wears a cardboard hat into which is slipped a ticket with a person, object, or place inscribed thereon. The wearers, in order to establish their unseen identity, ask questions of the other players who may answer simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If the answer is in the affirmative the victim may ask another question; if in the negative, the next person in a clockwise direction has their turn. I was no better at this than I am at charades. It would have helped if I hadn’t assumed that the hats bore some relevance to what was written on the tickets. This, given that my hat was a deerstalker, caused me to waste two questions on Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. I managed to establish that I was a person no longer alive, then forgot that I was defunct.
All in all, mine was not a great performance. That of Helen and Bill’s son John on the CD ‘John Eales Sings Christmas’, with which we were afterwards entertained, was somewhat better.
Fortunately Flo opted to spend another night with her grandparents, so we arrived home earlier than expected. It wasn’t until rather later that we managed a little cheese and biscuits, after which I read Giles Foden’s introduction to Benjamin Cowburn’s ‘No Cloak, No Dagger’.
Rob, the ‘general handyman’ engaged by Penyards, who is extremely reliable, effective, and efficient, visited this dry morning, and confirmed our diagnosis that the leak from above was a matter for estate management, who are contracted by all the residents and landlords to look after the property as a whole. Nevertheless, having been unable to gain access to the flat upstairs because no-one was in, Rob and his colleague obtained a ladder, mounted the balcony from the outside, and cleared a blocked gully. Once the fuses were replaced the underfloor heating could be turned on to no ill effect.
In ‘Did You Mean The Off Break?’, I wrote of my initiation into Wimbledon College Under 14s cricket team. The team photograph taken in 1956 at a time when, at the end of the season, we had all reached fourteen, is number 40 in the ‘through the ages’ series. Give the Persil-washed condition of our whites, I imagine it must have been before the start of a game. Just in case anyone has trouble picking me out, I am third from the left of the viewer’s perspective in the back row. I believe fourteen was the age at which I became a permanent fixture of that particular row in group photographs. Next but one along stands Roger Layet, who I was, a year or so later, very pleased to persuade to play for Trinity Cricket Club. A correct, if somewhat painstaking batsman, Roger was an asset to any side.
Iain Taylor, as captain, sits in the centre of the front row. As a captain and a cricketer, he was in the Mike Brearley mould. Both intuitive and insightful characters who could make friends easily, they managed their players extremely well, yet neither was particularly outstanding as a player. You may think I have a bit of a nerve to describe a man who could captain England (Brearley, not Taylor) in such a way. Brearley was, however, probably the most outstanding captain this country ever had. He could manage Ian Botham, for goodness sake. It was in the Brearley years that our greatest all-rounder – famously aided and abetted by Bob Willis, particularly at Headingley in 1981 – performed his most miraculous feats. Mike Brearley, indeed, a psychotherapist, was described by Australian opponent Rodney Hogg as having ‘a degree in people’. And Iain could manage us. He did, of course, recruit me, so his judgement must be sound.
On Ian’s right (from his perspective) sits Mike Miliffe. Mike was the batsman who succumbed to my bowling as described in the above-mentioned post. I was to learn, playing alongside him, how fortunate I had been to succeed against him in the nets.
Our skipper is flanked on his left by Bob Hessey. Bob was an outstanding fast bowler. His speed and accuracy was aided by an easy, athletic, run to the wicket and flowing action. I could have done with that.
Flo is still with us, as is my friend Tony who arrived this evening. He, Jackie and I dined at The Foresters Arms in Frogham. In the dark and rain, stepping out of the car and walking to the pub gate, we found ourselves treading on what seemed like hard round balls. On closer inspection they turned out to be Brussels sprouts, no doubt scattered for hungry ponies. Unusually for a Thursday evening, we were the only diners. This was no doubt because most people were partied out after the last few days. We received our usual warm and friendly welcome. Jackie and I enjoyed battered haddock and chips, whilst Tony chose sausages and mash. He abstained from dessert whilst Jackie and I partook of sticky toffee pudding and ice cream. I had a couple of glasses of Malbec; Tony drank Wadsworth’s 6X; and Jackie drank lager.