Monday, 27 December 2010

Second star on the right and straight on till morning..........

These are the satnav directions to NeverLand, of course. 

It was on this day in 1904 that Peter Pan was first performed.

But here's something else.  The Allahakbarries Cricket Club.  Never heard of them?  Nor had Fantasy Bob until a couple of weeks ago.  But a book recently published by Kevin Telfer tells the story of this team which was organised by one of Scotland's greatest literary figures JM Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan.

Barrie in action
 Barrie described cricket as 'an idea from God', a perfectly accurate description.  But he himself was not a great cricketer by any stretch of the imagination. He claimed to be the slowest bowler ever, and during the flight of each delivery he said he had time to sit at mid off and wait for its arrival at the batter's end.   (See photograph - perhaps if he removed his scarf he might have generated a bit more pace).  But his team regularly featured a wide range of literary greats including Conan Doyle, GK Chesterton, PG Wodehouse and AA Milne as well as other eminent late Victorians and Edwardians.
The games gave them an opportunity to escape the city and indulge themselves in a rural idyll of play banter and ale for the afternoon.  And who can begrudge them that? The team continued into the 1930s.  Barrie died in 1937.  Apparently, the scorebook of the Allahakbarries is in the MCC archive at Lords.  

Peter Pan and the Lost Boys are commonly thought to have been inspired by Barrie’s love for four young Llewelyn Davies brothers.   But Telfer’s argument is that it is the Allahakbarries who are the Lost Boys, and as much a part of the background to the story as anything else.  Exactly which demon fast bowler that makes Captain Hook is a question fit for serious literary examination, as is which ever youthful top order batsman is represented by Peter Pan.

And Tinkerbell?  Now FB remembers seeing many enchanting productions of Peter Pan at Christmas time during his childhood.  At one point Tinkerbell is dying, and Peter pleads to the audience to help her recover by shouting that they believe in fairies.  In the time honoured theatrical tradition, the first 2 times he asks the audience whether they believe in fairies does not generate a loud enough response, so he has to ask a third time.  Tinkerbell's light is nearly out; it is desperate.  'Do you believe in fairies?'  he asks again.  An ear-splitting scream from all the boys and girls comes back, 'Yes' and Tinkerbell's light twinkles bright again. 

Now, how does that relate to cricket?  Well Fantasy Bob suggests it is a reasonable description of what happens when an umpire is on the receiving end of an over enthusiastic and optimistic appeal. 
Bowler (as ball hits batsman on thigh 2 ft outside leg stump) - Howzat!
Umpire - Do you believe in fairies?
Bowler (aware of rest of team watching with interest) - Certainly not.
Umpire - Well, it's NOT OUT!
Kevin Telfer's book is called PETER PAN’S FIRST XI: The extraordinary story of J. M. Barrie’s cricket team and is published by Sceptre.

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