Friday, 12 January 2018


The conversation at Fantasy Bob's breakfast table reached a level of unusual raciness the other day.

Mrs FB rustled her newspaper and said, 'I see you're a bit of a pimp these days.'

It was only through extreme self control that FB retained the mouthful of coffee he had just imbibed.  Over the course of their years together Mrs FB had referred to him by many terms, some of them implying endearment, the majority the opposite.  But this was a first.  He was unaware of the circumstances which had lead to her accusation.  But he was confident that she would shortly enlighten him.

She duly drew his attention to the newspaper article which had stimulated her observation.   From it he discovered that touted to emerge as one of this year's food trends is pimped porridge.
Pimped Porridge

'See, this is what counts for journalism these days,'  Mrs FB snorted - for she was once a member of that much reduced and maligned profession.  Recovering from the distraction of her sisterly concern at the plight of a fellow professional having to present such hollow fare to her editor, she returned to her main point.

'You've been a pimp for years.'

FB was uncertain whether this was an accusation, a compliment or a mere statement of fact.  It was of no matter, for the answer in each case was identical.


For FB had been pimping his porridge in no uncertain style for many years.    He understands that ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the law.  He might not have known that he was pimping.  But pimping he was - unaware of how far ahead of the curve of fashion he was.

He had started out in a small way - which he suspects is not an uncommon  claim in pleas of mitigation among members of the pimping classes.  Eschewing the traditional salted porridge he at first sprinkled a little muscovado sugar or a squirt of maple syrup.  But this led on to more significant delights such as apricot puree, cherry compote, stewed rhubarb, and a range of exotically flavoured yoghurts.  That very morning under Mrs FB's watchful gaze he had pimped in high style with blueberries, muscovado sugar and winter spice Greek yoghurt.

Mrs FB was off her long run.

'What else have you been pimping then?'

Depimped bat
It was clear from her demeanour that nothing was unlikely to be an acceptable answer. FB was on the back foot. He needed to defend his honour.

He invited Mrs FB to recall his excitement a couple of years ago when a couriered package from Gray Nicolls arrived containing his new Nitro bat.  He reminded her of the temporary coarseness of his language when he discovered that the weapon was covered in unsightly stickers.  In the parlance of today it had been subject to extreme pimping.  It was a mess.  FB spent many hours , stripping the garish blazes, stripes and chevrons from its back to leave an unsullied surface.

Yes FB was a confirmed depimper.

Away from the porridge field that is.

Saturday, 6 January 2018


Fantasy Bob has been avoiding the distressing reports about England's continuing Ashes humiliation by immersing himself in the biography of Gustav Mahler, a present on his recent birthday. 
Gustav Mahler at the end of his run up
As his worldwide handful of faithful readers knows, it has long been FB's quest to determine the bowling action of the great Austrian symphonist.  At last he seemed to have an opportunity to make progress on this vital question.  This authoritative biography would surely have much to say on the subject.  FB's hopes were built up only to be dashed again.

Shamefully, although the author addresses some important questions such as did Mahler ski (his conclusion is not), there is absolutely nothing at all about his cricketing prowess.  That Mahler must have been a cricketer is transparently obvious to anyone with a passing familiarity with his work - after all what is The Song of the Earth other than a series of hymns to the variable quality of wickets  encountered by Mahler?  But cricketing facts have been ruthlessly suppressed leaving FB no further forward.   Will he ever find confirmation of his intuitive speculation that Mahler was the originator of the Doosra?  It looks unlikely.

This is not to say that this biography is totally useless.  For besides all the stuff about death, melancholia, death, melancholia and death, it reveals important new information to FB namely that Mahler's cousin four times removed is Beyonce Knowles.
Beyonce - possible addition to the pace attack?

(For those of FB's handful of worldwide readers that are not up with these things, Ms Knowles is an American popular singer, apparently of some stature).

This is a momentous revelation.  On the face of it there is little similarity between Mahler's Songs for Dead Children and Beyonce's Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) - for example,  there is little evidence, at least to FB's ear, of off-stage cow bells in the latter piece.

So FB does not know how to assess this new information.  The book does not give any additional information beyond a bare statement of this relationship.  In particular the author has chosen not to give insight into Beyonce's bowling action. A lost opportunity, for it would surely display some inherited characteristics from Mahler's own action and so could be a vital clue in  FB's long, and so far unfruitful, search. 

FB will therefore have to do the hard work himself and review all available footage of Beyonce in search of clues as to whether she might be a worthwhile addition to the pace attack.  Life is hard.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

A Birthday Hattrick

Fantasy Bob has been silent too long.  Not that he has had anything of consequence to say - as if he ever did.  Many times in recent weeks he has thought that it is about time he made another series of startling insights into the challenges he faces when encountering 11 year old leg spinners.  Challenges which grow with every passing year as FB's eyes grow dimmer and his feet more rooted to the spot. 

The seasons come and go.  The years turn. Boys grow into men. They disappear to fresh and distant conquests.  Only FB's ineptitude endures.  There is always another 11 year old at the other end, nonchalantly flipping the ball from one hand to the other.  There is no escape.  It is the tale that has been told throughout the history of poetry and story.  And FB must tell it.

On several occasions he has described to Mrs FB his need to reclaim his place in the great literary tradition - she has not discouraged him.   To be fair, neither has she encouraged him.  Indeed, she did not think it worth it to pass any comment other than to suggest he might not yet again leave his shoes in the exact spot she is likely to trip over them. 

So he turned to the keyboard with a renewed resolve.   But his firmness of purpose wilted as he suddenly brought to mind that it was his birthday. 

Again?  So soon after the last one?  The gloom of the January day deepened.  He could hear that 11 year old at the other end chuckling devilishly to himself.  All seemed lost.

But Mrs FB was on hand to save the day with a splendid hattrick.

He he scoffed the cake, he dipped into Blowers and savoured Mahler: that 11 year old leg spinner would just have to wait.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Notes and Queries

Amongst all the fake news, the jeremiads and hagiographies of worthless footballers, there was an item in the newspapers this week which stimulated Fantasy Bob's interest more than usual. In the Guardian's excellent Notes and Queries section there was posed the question,

'Which requires more skill - returning a 150mph John Isner serve in tennis or defending a 95mph Dale Steyn delivery in cricket?'

As FB perused the answers offered by fellow readers, his brain began to race - if not to 150mph then pretty near 15mph.  Why is not exactly clear - for FB's chances of seeing either delivery would be zero.

It reminded him of a tale he heard a long time ago - he has no idea as to whether it is apocryphal or not.  So in the contemporary spirit of fake news he retells it here.

Middlesex CC were playing against a local club side in some charity match. Their full squad was there including West Indian quickie Wayne Daniel.  An opposing tail ender came into bat.  Carefully took his guard, scanned the filed and prepared to face the demon.  The keeper and slip cordon crouched in readiness.  Daniel turned at the end of his long run and steamed in, arms pumping, nostrils flaring.  A huge leap and his arm came over.  The batsman fended.  There was a huge appeal as the keeper threw the ball skyward. Shaking his head the batsman slowly departed.  It was not until he neared the boundary that he was called back to be told with much mirth and good humour that he'd been conned - the ball had been with the keeper all the time.  It was too easy to believe that the ball was so fast that it could not be seen.

FB is sure that he has been victim to this rouse a number of times, only the perpetrators have not confessed to their deception.

But to return to the question put.  A respondent noted that a tennis ball slows down significantly faster than a cricket ball (something to do with mass) - added to which the distance between the server and returner is significantly greater than between bowler and batter.  That did it for FB - it was conclusive - he still wouldn't see either.

But he noted with interest the fact that the ball slows as it approaches the batter.  This is not FB's experience at the crease.  Invariably the ball speeds up as it approaches him - and in the case of 11 year old leg spinners the increase in speed is exponential. There is only explanation - a special zone of magnetic attraction around FB where the laws of physics are reversed.  So here is a question for the clever clog readers of the Guardian - Is FB a black hole?

Saturday, 15 July 2017


Fantasy Bob feathered the ball.  Perhaps the faintest edge in the history of cricket. But the wicket keeper safely gobbled it up and FB was on his way.   But he was almost flattened by the keeper who having pouched the ball, extended his arm in front of him and ran directly to the bowler yelling with an inchoate scream.  His team mates joined in the cacophony, jumping up and down in a demonstration of pogo-ing not seen since the high days of punk rock (if there were any).  The excitement continued until FB had trudged safely beyond the boundary.  FB had totally dominated the bowling to score a majestic 2, expertly using both the edges of his bat to avoid wearing out the valuable middle.

Even acknowledging the value of FB's wicket, this celebration seemed disproportionate.  More correctly , even acknowledging the complete lack of value in FB's wicket, this celebration seemed particularly disproportionate.
Whirling Dervish XI celebrate the dismissal of opposing skipper
FB has more or less resigned himself to the necessity of sharing high fives with his junior team mates on the rare occasion he takes a wicket.  He may even have ventured a fist bump - and woken in terror in the middle of the night as the horror of the memory sinks in.  But to run around screaming like a deranged whirling dervish, hugging everyone in sight, seems, well, not to put too fine a point on it, just not cricket.

And yet this form of celebration is increasingly pervasive in the lower leagues that FB inhabits. Passing dogs run in terror at the high pitched screaming.  Gibbons in the zoo reach a fervour of excitement at what seem to them endless mating calls drifting on the wind in their direction.  FB is reduced yet again to wondering where the world found this handcart in which it is fast descending.

It is against this backdrop that FB presents the photograph below which was taken in the same match in which FB suffered the indignity of being whooped and hollered all the way to boundary.  He commends it to the appropriate authorities for inclusion in forthcoming coaching manuals.

FB has just taken a catch off his young bowler.  (For the benefit of readers who may be uncertain on this point, FB is on the left and his young bowler on the right). There is no whooping, no dervish dance. Just a nod of the head and a manly handshake.  Proper cricket.

Proper Cricket

Saturday, 24 June 2017

My Dear Old Things

Fantasy Bob shares the national outpouring of grief at the news that Blowers will no longer be one of the voices of summer.  FB always enjoyed his commentary and also greatly enjoyed the shows which with Peter Baxter he took the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in recent years.

It is a wholly unfitting tribute to the great man who will be sorely missed, but FB reminded himself of a posting from a few years back in which Blowers featured prominently.  Having inflicted this punishment on himself, he sees no reasons why his handful of readers should not similarly be tortured.  They will find the link here.

Blowers raconteuring during one of his shows

Obstruction ahead

Roy gets in the way
It is rare for Fantasy Bob to watch any T20 biff-fest with anything approaching interest, but his curiosity was stimulated by the dismissal of Jason Roy in yesterday's match with South Africa.  This was an incident which interrupted the usual tedious sequence of fours slapped through cover and sixes launched over mid-wicket.  Sent back by his partner at the striker's end Roy took an extravagantly circuitous route back to safety and in so doing put himself between the fielder with the ball and the stumps. The throw actually hit him. Whether without that intervention it would have hit the stumps is academic. Whether had it done so he would have been in or out is academic. The Saffies, being Saffies appealed vigorously with all manner of gesticulation at Roy.  After the inevitable reference to the TV umpire, the finger went up and Roy was on his way.  England lost momentum and the match.

On the whole FB thinks this was a correct decision.  Roy clearly knew what he was up to - he willingly chose his route reflecting coaching suggestions that batsmen should think about running in the line of the likely throw.  So it seems a fair cop.

However FB waits with dread the inevitable attempts to replicate this adjudication in the lower league cricket that is his stamping ground.  He can see it in his mind's eye - FB is dozing through his umpiring spell, the concentrated look on his face a dissembling disguise as he tries to remember whether ball 4 or 5 has just been bowled.  The batsman plays a defensive shot and cover picks it up. 'How's that?' the fielders scream.  FB looks querulously about him - has his focus on mental arithmetic caused him to miss something? The opposing skipper bounds up to FB -  'Obstructing the field......' ' Whatya mean, the batsman never moved.' 'Exactly - he wilfully obstructed my guy getting a run out..........HOW'S THAT?'  Not for the first time, FB wonders whether a new law should be introduced preventing QCs from playing cricket.

It is not only for this reason that obstruction is a touchy subject with FB.  For he is perhaps the only fielder to have been appealed against by his own team for obstruction of the field.  Long standing readers of these pages will realise that FB is usually an inanimate presence in the field.  A statuesque navigation point around which the whirl of action can take his place.  Occasionally however he will find he has to move to get out of the way of one of his junior team mates in breathless pursuit of the ball.  With increasing frequency these days - he can find he is unable to move quickly enough to avoid his on-rushing junior team mate.  A collision occurs and while the junior cartwheels through the air the ball safely rolls over the boundary.  Dusting himself down the junior will tearfully maintain that a certain run out was on the way.  He will scream out 'How's that - obstructing the field' The umpire will calmly respond 'Not out - he's on your own side son.'  He is met with a glare that would turn a lesser man to stone,  'That's what you think.'