Jackie, as is her wont, read me extracts from BBC News this morning, in particular concerning the heatwaves in Australia. The people of Adelaide, in particular, are enduring a temperature of 45.1 degrees centigrade. This made me think of my cousin Gillian who lives there. Gillian is one of the two children of my paternal Uncle Darcy and Aunt Edna. Some years ago when we were approaching middle age and my parents still lived in Morden, Gillian and her husband came over to England for a visit. I met them at Mum and Dad’s home. I had not seen Gillian since she was a teenager and I was about ten. The very next day I boarded a crowded tube train at Oxford Circus. As is often the case, if one is prepared to elbow through standing passengers, picking one’s way over assorted bags on the floor, there was one available seat in the middle of the carriage. I fought my way to it and sat down. Next to my cousin. Had we not met the previous day we would not have known each other.
Some time later, when we were living in Newark, Gillian’s son Ben did the Antipodean roots visit. Naturally he came to stay with us for a day and a night. When this young man who I had never seen before, disembarked from Newark Castlegate station, I watched Gillian’s brother David, with whom we have all lost touch, step down and walk towards me. As I have occasionally pointed out, genes have a habit of repeating themselves.

Two of Dad’s brothers emigrated to Adelaide. Norman left England very soon after the Second World War, in 1948 I think. Darcy followed much later.

I only have vague childhood memories of the marvellously named Norman Knight, but I met him when he came to stay with Mum and Dad for Christmas 1985. In this picture we see the backs of Jessica, Sam and Louisa with my uncle at my parents’ Morden kitchen table.  Behind him is evidence of the commencement of Dad’s obsession with formica. In searching out this photograph I came across another of the same visit illustrating the meal-table of 37 Rougemont Avenue. I supplemented that post with it.
Elizabeth obviously grouped the sports team pictures together in her ‘through the ages’ series.

The next, number 41, is of the Old Wimbledonians Extra A XV rugby team of 1960. I started off in this third team the year I left school.  I was to progress no further than the next one up. I didn’t have Sam’s rugby brain.

I stand fifth from the viewer’s left. Someone has clearly amused me. Although I remember most of these men of varying ages, the only name still in my memory bank is that of Iain Taylor, my erstwhile cricket captain. He sits on the bench, first on the left.
There were a number of players in those days who could just about survive the ninety minutes on the field, including half time, without a fag. One of those is standing first on the left. They would light up at the first opportunity. There was much coughing into the beer jug, which, filled with shandy, circulated before the showers. By the time we’d all cleaned ourselves up in a communal bath into which we had either been preceded or would be followed by players from one of the other matches taking place on the day, colour of the water had changed somewhat. It would contain a mixture of mud, grass, and other matter it is best not to think about. Given that we were all boys together, chunks of dislodged turf were often tossed at fellow bathers just as had been gobbets of grub from school dinners in the refectory. After this we would pay our subs and wander into the pavilion where we were fed a warm, hearty meal produced by the ladies of the club. My recollection is that it normally consisted of sausages and mash. I was usually so churned up from the efforts of dashing about all over the field, bending down and shoving in the scrum, or leaping in the line-out, to be able to eat for some time. Beer was drunk. So were some of the members. Rude songs would follow.
The photograph also shows the heavier, leather, ball we played with in those days.

From the mid-1970s to 1987 I played for Geoff Austin’s old boys, the Old Whitgiftians, at South Croydon, where Jessica took this photograph in about October 1982.  Geoff and I are in white.  Whilst Geoff fixes his eyes on the man throwing the ball into the line-out, I am poised to leap for it.  Assuming I gathered it up I would turn my back to the opposition, and Geoff and the player behind would bind round me.  Either the rest of the forwards would then gather round and we would attempt to push our opponents back up the field; or I would pass the ball to our scrum half who would send it on its way down the line of backs.

My search for this negative among my uncatalogued collection took a very long time and I found it with some other treasures largely from a trip to Covent Garden that September. One of these pleased me greatly. Two framed pictures that hung in the porch at Lindum House went missing in the move.

Using the old method of printing with an enlarger and chemicals I had taken the central third of a portrait of Becky and printed it at A2 size. I thought it was gone forever because I could no longer trace the negative. The two rugby playing pictures were on the end of the relevant roll of film. I will therefore be able to repeat the lost effort.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious chicken curry with rice that defies a label.  The base is the wild version of the staple food. Onions, garlic, and mushrooms, are fried with it; a sprinkling of garam masala is applied, and it is garnished with fresh coriander. One day in Morden I had brought back some Maggi stock cubes from one of the Halal shops. This made Jackie think that the Asian cooks must use it. She has added it to her savoury rices ever since.  This one was most delicately flavoured. I drank French Connection Bergerac reserve 2012, whilst Jackie continued with the Gewurtztreminer.

In The Brearley Mould

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. Derrick in 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.

‘Did You Mean The Off Break?’

Regent Street lights003

Today’s advent picture is again of the Regent Street Lights from December 1963, showing yet another differently coloured central star.  I think there were none exactly the same.

The early picture of me that I worked on this morning is not a ‘through the ages’ one.  I was actually looking in my old print file for one of those, but Elizabeth still has the originals from which she produced an album for Mum and the later digital set for me.  She’s only had them for twenty years, so I must be patient.

Wimbledon College c1956001

The forgotten treasure I did find is a Wimbledon College school photograph from about 1956.  It has enabled me to illustrate posts featuring Richard Millward, in the centre of the picture’s front row, and Tom McGuinness, fourth from the right in the rear tier from the viewer’s perspective.  I stand on the far left of the middle row, with an expression that I clearly didn’t think too flattering at the time my sister raided my album for Mum’s 70th birthday set.  I have retained the creases across the image, because they add some authenticity to the period.  The print probably came home stuffed into a satchel.

Certain further memories came to mind when perusing this image.  Iain Taylor, standing on the far left of the bench supporting the back row, was the captain of the Under Fourteens cricket team who secured me my first matches.  Being a friend of mine he asked the headmaster, who rejoiced in the wonderfully appropriate name of Father Ignatius St Lawrence, S.J., to give me a trial for the team.  I had never played before, but Iain got me to bowl a few balls in the nets and seems to have been impressed.  With ‘Iggy’, as the head was predictably known to the boys, standing as umpire I was instructed to send my nervously delivered missives down to the team’s best batsman.  I bowled him four times before Iggy had seen enough.  One of these dismissals was with a deliberate slower ball that turned sharply from the off, that is opposite the batsman’s legs, side of the pitch and hit the middle stump.  The deviation was probably caused by the ball striking an extraneous object when it landed.  Turning to me at the end of my spell, Iggy asked: ‘Did you mean the off-break?’.  ‘Yes, father’,  was my coolly delivered reply.  All priests were of course our fathers.  I was in.  Later, out of earshot of anyone else, I asked Iain: ‘What’s an off break?’.

Fifth from the viewer’s left at the back of the picture, stands a lad I cannot feel so smug about.  This is Vaughan, whose first name escapes me.  He was my partner in my first year at the College.  Partner was a definite euphemism for what I now consider to have been a rather cruel incentive scheme.  Boys were sat in pairs throughout the year.  At the end of each term our marks for work were totted up and set against each other.  The winners went on an outing called the ‘Victory Walk’.  The losers stayed behind and wrote essays or something similar.  I never went on a victory walk, and considering how hard I tried, with or without an incentive, that seemed decidedly vicious to me.

Not a very gifted academic, Matthew Hutchinson, the fifth boy from the left of the middle row, was the first person of whom I was truly envious.  I can draw a bit, but Matthew was the most talented natural artist I had ever met.  What I would have given for his free-flowing skill.  I do hope he made something of it.

Now we come to the brains of the class.  No-one could emulate the two who flanked Richard Millward, which is probably why they did.  Gordon and Rogati came top in everything and I swear they didn’t even break into a sweat.  Given their names I think my readers will have no difficulty in determining which is which.

Jackie & Christmas decs

Christmas decorationsChristmas decorations 2Christmas decorations 3With minimal help from me, work continued apace on Christmas decorations.

Once the stepladder had been put away, we dined on Jackie’s chicken jafrezi and pilau rice which greatly enhanced the bottle of Isla Negra cabernet sauvignon reserva 2013 which I opened and from which I drank a couple of glasses.