Tuesday, 25 December 2012

That's what it's all about

Christmas was never a time of huge cricketing activity during Fantasy Bob's slow rise to manhood. FB realises now that there were tours abroad by the MCC, and a whole season of action in nearly every country but his own. But these events did not find  coverage in the pages of Aberdeen's Press and Journal whose sporting pages were dominated by stirring tales of the endeavours of heroes of Aberdeen FC such as Ernie Winchester or Joey Harper.

But there was an event that all through FB's childhood was the highpoint of the Christmas season. The British Legion Children's Party was held a week or so before Christmas and it seemed an invitation was extended to every child in the city, such was the throng that packed into the Beach Ballroom every year. Now the Beach Ballroom was no common or garden venue, but a fine art deco building on the sea front.  It was opened in 1929 and boasted what has been described as the best dance floor in Scotland - floating as it does on steel springs. It is as bouncy as a first day wicket at the WACA. And didn't the young FB and his cohort love to test the springiness of the floor?

There was of course tea with fizzy drinks and cake; there was a film show - either Laurel and Hardy or Hopalong Cassidy; and at the end of the afternoon excitement would reach screaming point and beyond as Santa arrived. Santa would then say good bye to each of the boys and girls a  present as they left.

But these are not what sticks with Fantasy Bob. For there were also a series of games played on the sprung floor accompanied by a full scale dance band. It was not apparent at the time to FB but looking back he sees these games as essential parts of his cricketing education.

There was the Grand Old Duke of York.   Apparently he had 10000 men whom he marched up to the top of the hill only to march them down again. It was averred that when they were up they were indeed up. But when they were down they were.....er down. It was only in recent years that FB has discovered that this was not a celebration of the captaincy skills of Geoff Boycott.  Subsequent research has revealed that the Duke of York was Prince Frederick, the second son of King George III and Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. His one Test in charge was during the Flanders Campaign of 1793–4 and led to an innings defeat.  The verse celebrates his lack of military skills.  It was greatly ironic since Flanders is very flat and any hill would have been only a few metres high.  To the best of FB's knowledge  Boycott never played in Flanders and it was essential that all children knew this.

And then there was The Farmer's in the Dell. The Farmer wanted a wife who wanted a child who wanted a nurse who wanted a dog who wanted a bone.  This was a lesson to all children in the importance of getting a good place in the batting order. It has governed the behaviour of many players that FB has played with. The openers - the Farmer and his wife - had the best of everything.  But get down to the lower order and being the dog was not what you wanted.  For we all pat the bone - and boy did everyone pat the bone - usually with an exuberance which led to severe bruising, broken limbs and occasionally brain damage.  Dogs were rarely capable of playing higher order innings after the experience.  Many were fit only for scoring duties.

Finally there was the Hokey Cokey, with its advanced coaching in batting.  FB thinks now that it was an early selection process.  Kids who put their left arm in when their right arm should have been in, or their left leg in when their whole self should have been in, could not expect a place high in the batting order.  It took many years of bitter experience for FB to work this out.  He is still inclined to put his right leg in when his right leg should be out.  That's what leg spin bowling does to him.  Oh Hokey cokey cokey - that's what it's all about.

Merry Christmas from Fantasy Bob to his worldwide handful of readers.  Here is a version of God Rest Ye Merry gentlemen sung by Simon and Garfunkel.  Test Match Quality.  Tidings of comfort and joy.  

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