Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Adding to the list

My birthday last week. Really miserable time in work led to the Mrs allowing me to spend my birthday money on a new bat. Used  it without being knocked in once in the nets- very pleased! Bit naughty I know but still...

In case you are wondering it's an Adidas (you didn't see that coming did you bat snobs?) badged for the Little Master. Light as a feather but bigger edges than the Mjolnir and with a mess o ' grains. What brought it on was using the old 1990s Gn in the nets the week before for a change and realising (a) how much nicer noise the ball makes when I hit it with that than the Newberry and (b) how much too heavy for me the GN is and was. That got my eye roving, as did the range of new kit my fellow tight middle aged cynics like me have started to turn up to nets with, and here I am shacked up with something new. At least I didn't have to smuggle it in past the wife and children, keep our liaisons secret etc.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Alan Ross

“Walking into the small cramped offices of the magazine was a revelation for me. Books everywhere, of course, but there were two dogs sprawled under his desk, and big vivid modern art on the walls. Alan was an unchangingly youthful, tanned, dark-haired figure even though he must have been in his mid-50s then. He took me to an Italian restaurant and we drank powerful cocktails. It was impossible not to be smitten. There was a sophisticated raffishness and glamour about him as well – nothing seedy or earnest. He owned racehorses. He loved women and travel. He had known Evelyn Waugh and Dylan Thomas and Ian Fleming. He was a poet and a brilliant writer on cricket.” 

This is my fellow Jesubite William Boyd's description of meeting Alan Ross.  I have long had a suspicion that Ross would turn out to be one of those writers who would got better the longer one went without reading him. Not strictly true as I had read "watching Benaud bowl" in some forgotten anthology , but I had not read any of the prose. I have just splashed out on "Australia 55" for the Kindle- partly after chancing on Gideon Haigh's piece on  the book on cricinfo.  I've not actually started it yet but will post my review when I've read it. 

I was going to say that the quote from Boyd doesn't really add anything of meaning to this piece. In fact it was the overwhelming aroma of the world and works of Simon Raven that it evoked that persuaded me to buy the Ross book when I chanced on it- even more than the piece from St Gideon I mentioned above.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Getting quite unfeasibly excited

This is my first real "that time of year" for some time. I knew this time last year I wanted to play again,  so in some respects the experience was magnified you could say. The difference though was that I had got used to the "winter lull" as mine had lasted over 15 years . *

This time I get the proper experience. The gathering together after the winter. The hope for next year. The new kit in the magazines. The idea that a few little things I have been "working on" over the winter, insofar as waving a bat or ruler occasionally I'm living room or the office kitchen constitutes work,will transform everything. Actually those last few are quite similar to what golfers feel this time of year as well- though  me not so much as I always a winter golfer ( quite courses, no leaves on tree, less rough). 

Even the total fatuity of a first winter net can't tarnish things. 10 minutes of leaving balls from out of practice/ shape contemporaries and fishing them out of the netting; the odd straight ones  bouncing about 4 times higher than they do on any wicket I will play on; having to do some bowling myself after 20 years of not being able to get an arm above the shoulder line. Not exactly practice for the grim reality of club cricket at my level, or indeed any other level. Doesn't really matter though does it?  And THAT is what I have missed....

* I squeeze this under the banner of my blog's name by making a George R.R Martin / Game of Thrones  joke here but can't go anywhere with it beyond  making the allusion sorry.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Historians and cricket- a miscellany (4)

I think he does qualify given the quality of most of his books ( esp. Asquith) . In the serialisation of the new biography of Roy Jenkins in the Forger's Gazette, it appears that he plucked up the courage to approach the person who would become the long suffering Mrs Jenkins when buoyed by self confidence at having done particularly well in a cricket match at Oxford.
That sticks in my mind more than the  bit about him having a relationship with Tony Crosland does.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Innings of a lifetime

I am an unapologetic chucker out of books , a habit I do find hard to satisfy in the age of the Kindle. Archiving is like a low tar version of it- easier to do, less dangerous (on the wallet- how many copies of  Kyril Bonfiglio's Mortdecai trilogy did I end up buying?) but somehow much less satisfying.

Of course in the pre-kindle age this was partly a necessity. Books weren't quite as bad as Videos (ask your dad kids) when it came to eating up the house- we pretty much had a room  just for Buffy box sets- but they were big enough.

The result is that my cricket book library isn't actually as big as it should be for someone who read little else between the ages of about 11 and 15. There is however one blue dust jacketed, medium sized hardback (how could I afford a hardback in that pre- work and  pre-Works world?) that is even older than the oldest nostalgia bat I have kept from the on-field side of that era.

As the title of this page rather gives it away, the book in question is 'Innings of a lifetime'. A collection of pieces about what are, in the main, second tier innings from the 60 s and 70 s rather than the all time greats.  It was written by Ralph Barker  and even more importantly the selection was chosen by him too . The criteria being  "..not so much for their quality as for their human interest." . That I think is what separates this from anything else I had read at the time , and is the main reason for its eternal appeal to me.

I have been reading it again recently and will post about that again. The book is basically a collection of self-contained chapters and so one tends to gravitate towards particular ones. The interesting thing for me was the one I defaulted too as my first read after a few years was Asif Iqbal's vainglorious 146  in a losing cause, in an utterly forgettable series.  Wonder why?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Historians and cricket-a miscellany (3)

Scraping the barrel by mentioning CLR James in a minute! Not intended as a disrespectful comment on the great man's historical skills (though I would be lying if I pretended to have read the Black Jacobins) but pretty feebly obvious stuff on my part.

Norman Davies does go on about the game at some length in the Isles. I like the Isles but James Campbell ripped the Dark Ages bits apart in an essay- almost as comprehensively as he used to rip my undergraduate essays apart.