Sunday, 30 June 2013


Fantasy Bob has had a series of lamentations from members of his world wide readership who were unable to participate in his summer quiz held to great acclaim last week at the Grange Loan HQ of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton.

FB is nothing if not compassionate - a quality that can readily be seen in his approach to bowling.  As comfort to his distressed readers he posts the following item which was one of the quiz rounds.

FB hopes this is sufficient balm - he may even present the solution at some time.

Put the terms in the table into sets of four related terms or names.  There are 25 sets.  One mark for each correct quartet.






Little Gidding

The Jewel in the Crown

The 4th Protocol
St James


Burnt Norton


The Day of the Scorpion

A Division of the Spoils
The Towers of Silence


The Dogs of War




Dry Salvages



The Day of the Jackal
The Odessa File
East Coker

St James


Thursday, 27 June 2013

Strawberry Fair

Fantasy Bob’s loyalty was being tested to the limit. He faced an impossible choice. A decision had to be taken. The alternatives were clearly in front of him and he could opt only for one. The moment of truth had arrived. His heart beating wildly, the sweat beading his forehead, he closed his eyes and pointed weakly. He had failed.

He had innocently agreed to a cup of tea in the café. He had not expected to be confronted with this dilemma. His loyalty to the empire biscuit had been broken. He had chosen an alternative delight of the Scottish patisserie. Another distinctive creation of Scottish master bakers. The strawberry tart. A sweet pastry shell a filling of sweetened cream holding a pyramid of an inverted strawberry all covered with a distinctive red syrupy sauce. A masterpiece. Impossible to resist even when the temptress of the café owner displayed it alongside an empire biscuit. But such stressful choices should not be forced on a person, or at least on FB, and café proprietors should be warned accordingly. To have one of these delights available automatically renders a 5 star review. To have both is too much of a good thing and reduces such as FB to a quivering state of indecision.

The strawberry tart used to be a seasonal product in the bakers of FB’s youth. Now strawberries come from all parts of the globe at all times of the year and the strawberry tart is available all year round. And this means that the strawberry tart is not so special as it once was. It is still irresistible but not so special. Just like Test cricket – not a seasonal product any more.

FB assumes that by comparison with the empire biscuit, the strawberry tart is the healthy option. Forget the cream, butter and sugar and the vast number of additives that give the red sauce its startling colour, at the heart of the confection is a real live piece of fruit. And not just any fruit but a strawberry which is rich in nitrate and can increase the flow of blood & oxygen to the muscles by significant amounts. This prevents muscle fatigue. Scientific tests have shown how subjects who ate nitrate rich foods, like strawberries, before exercising, went on longer and burned 100 more calories than those who did not. Strawberry tarts are therefore essential food before a long spell up the hill against the wind. Strawberries are also particularly high in Vitamin C, a 100g serving will give you your whole daily requirement and so help avert those summer colds that can inhibit performance. Strawberry tarts may therefore be the perfect food for cricketers. No wonder FB’s loyalty to the empire biscuit crumbled.

Yet strawberries are not associated with cricket as they are with Wimbledon and with Oxford Eights week and Henley. What is required to change this? FB can think of no cricketer with the name of a fruit, although he suspects that if he trawled all through Wisden he might find an old timer named Peach or Lemon. But certainly not strawberry. No strawberry has ever played cricket.

Darryl Strawberry
But a strawberry has played baseball. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Darryl Strawberry was one of the most feared batters in the game and a swing that was hailed as the sweetest swing in baseball. Strawberry was also a bit of a bad boy off the park, with numerous disciplinary offences and drug busts. But the fans loved him and he played with distinction for both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, winning World Series with both. In a 16 year career he hit 335 home runs – leaving him 100th in the all time home run list.

After his playing career Strawberry was a TV pundit for a time but also went into the restaurant business. That was not as successful as he hoped and he ended up being sued by his fruit supplier for non-payment of his bill of $3,000. Which would buy FB an awful lot of strawberry tarts.

Now if only Strawberry had been a cricketer..................

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Not available

Fantasy Bob has not been available for this blog because he has been moonlighting for CricketScotland.


The above link will take members of his worldwide handful of readers who do not inspect the detail of the CricketScotland website on a daily basis to his latest wittering on the subject of player availability.  An obsessive issue for lower league skippers.

Friday, 21 June 2013

A Sign of the Times

Visitors to the Grange Loan HQ of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton will now find, as they make their way with hushed reverence through the club's grand new gates, that their progress is met with a sign.

A brand new sign. It enjoins the visitor to beware of flying cricket balls and offers them the specific advice to remain outwith the playing boundary and to face the field of play. Sound advice, although several experienced visitors have inquired whether they really must face the field of play even when Fantasy Bob is playing. Normally at these low points in the afternoon’s entertainment they turn their eyes away.  It is, they say, the decent thing to do.  But a sign is a sign and must be heeded.

As signs go, Carlton’s new one seems to have a purpose in mind. There are many signs in the world where this is far from the case. Lovers of such absurdities spend long nights chortling at the strange sign reported to be in a field in the North of England, or a water course in East Anglia which merely says 'Please do not throw stones at this sign.'

But Carlton's sign does reflect a modern concern. One might have thought that a person entering a cricket ground would do so with the general expectation that there might be flying cricket balls – obviously more likely when FB is bowling that when he is batting, but that is a point of detail. The modern mentality though is that a person has to be warned. Packets of nuts are emblazoned with advice that the product may contain nuts. So a cricket ground may contain cricket balls.

At the same time as Carlton’s sign appears, so comes news of a case in Norfolk where a parish council has prevented Bacton cricket club from practicing on the field of play for fear of the impacts on other users of the green. The club is considering moving to an alternative venue. Fantasy Bob takes the cricketers’ viewpoint – not to be confused with that of the vitriolic readers of the Daily Telegraph (which reported the case at length), though they are identical in all important respects. Stuff and nonsense. Though for himself FB would welcome a ban on fielding practice which at his venerable age would be an act of mercy, generally he agrees that cricketers need to practice fielding and a cricket field seems the best place to do so. Fielding practice is not something that can be hidden and other users of the space can see it is happening and act accordingly. A sign on the lines of Carlton’s new acquisition might help them where they are uncertain.

But FB hopes that the small minded attitude of this Council does not percolate to the high seats of power in Edinburgh Council. One of the attractions of cricket in many of Edinburgh’s public grounds is its shared status with other users. On a sunny day cricketers in the Meadows are surrounded by all humanity engaging in every activity known to man (and quite possibly a few others not known). Some even watch the cricket with various levels of understanding. It is a carnival atmosphere and uplifting to the spirit. The historic Leith Links have paths laid out across the ground and players respectfully pause while push chairs and children make their way across the ground. Such mixed use, achieved without the use of signs, is part of the character of these grounds. Long may it continue.

Cricket on Edinburgh's Meadows

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Honours List

It is a sad reflection on the British state that in the 2 years since Fantasy Bob last blogged about the honours list, he has made no further progress in gaining preferment.  Many will agree that his claims to the CB - Can't Bat - medal - or the equally ancient CBE - Can't Bowl Either - have deepened over the intervening period. If nothing else he might be honoured for services to the empire biscuit industry.  But still for some reason he is overlooked.
Insignia of the CB

Nothing is by accident.  FB has not been overlooked because some daydreaming clerk deep in the bowels of the Palace has dropped his file with the extensive commendations down behind the radiator.  There is a reason.  He has gained a black mark at some point in his career.  Perhaps it is that one incident many years ago when a brainstorm caused him not to walk having snicked behind.  Perhaps it was another occasion when he turned up for a match with trousers still encrusted with grass and mud stains from the week before - the authorities obviously did not accept his excuse that the washing machine was on the blink and pointed out that he could have taken himself to the banks of the nearest watercourse and scrubbed the offending breeks in the pure mountain water.  It may have been that time that he knowingly took the last empire biscuit on the plate from under the nose of an obviously more deserving junior player.  All these would place him firmly on the blacklist, for the highest standards must be applied.  Who is FB up against?

Bradman is commonly thought of as the first cricketer to be knighted. He was so honoured in 1949. Surprisingly he remains the only Australian player to be so honoured. But the first man to be knighted for services to cricket was Sir Francis Eden Lacey.  Known to everyone nowadays as 'Who?' , Lacey was honoured in 1926 at the end of a long period of service as Secretary of the MCC from 1898 to 1926.
While Lacey had played with some distinction for Hampshire he did not play Test cricket.

Bradman's honour came at the end of his brilliant Test career. But the only player knighted while still playing Test cricket was in 1936 when HH The Maharajkumar of Vizianagram (1905–1965) (Vizzy) was honoured during India's tour of England.  After several years of significant financial support for cricket tours and activities in India and intense political intriguing, Vizzy finally was named the captain for Indian cricket team for the 1936 tour of England.  The tour was not a success and India lost heavily.  Vizzy was clearly out of his depth and a post-tour enquiry was heavily critical of his captaincy, stating that "he did not understand field placings or bowling changes and never maintained any regular batting order."  (A model for FB then).  Vizzy never played cricket for India again.  He renounced his knighthood in 1947 after India gained independence.

Lieutenant Colonel 
Sir Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju,
the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram
So if Vizzy's knighthood owed much to the political situation in India, rather than his excellence on the field of play or in the committee rooms, the knighthood conferred on Pelham Francis Warner in 1937 was a better reflection on cricket. He is the first English Test player to be so honoured, even though this was long after his playing career had ended - he played 15 Tests between 1899 and 1912, captaining 10 of them. But it was as an administrator that he is most celebrated, even to the point of notoriety. He was an unyielding manager of the Bodyline tour, Chairman of Selectors and subsequently President of the MCC. His role in the ending of Larwood's Test career has been extensively described and discussed, most brilliantly in David Hamilton's biography. Warner was establishment through and through - just the type to be knighted.

Sir Wes Hall
48 Tests, 192 wkts @ 26.38
Since then there have been several other cricketing knights. The most recently honoured is Reverend Sir Wesley Winfield Hall,  knighted for services to cricket and the community in 2012. He joins a list of great West Indians to be honoured and it is interesting to note that there are more West Indian cricketing knights than from any other country. Sir Ian Botham was knighted in 2007, but his citation is for services to charity rather than his cricketing career.

Two cricketers have been elevated to the House of Lords - Learie Constantine and Colin Cowdrey and David Sheppard, later Bishop of Liverpool, received a life peerage in 1997 for services to the church, becoming Baron Sheppard of Liverpool.

And then there are the CBEs, the MBEs and the OBEs.................................... All these honours and still nothing for Fantasy Bob.  It's enough to make him a republican.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Shirt Drama Crisis

Fans of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton hoping to replicate the legendary 'FB collar' with their team's new strip have been dealt a bitter blow with the news that image rights prevent the printing of FB or Fantasy Bob on their new shirts.

Among other legendary figures that fans will be unable to have on the shirts are Cantona, Beckham and Ronaldo.

A spokesman for the go ahead Edinburgh club said, 'We understand why fans are unhappy. Frankly we didn't think that Fantasy Bob had any image to have rights about, but we seem to be wrong. Apparently other clubs such as Manchester United are having a similar problem. Although why any Man U fan would want a Fantasy Bob shirt is beyond us.'

Carlton's new shirts are attractively decorated with the name of the club's new sponsor, legendary holiday giant Thomson.  And very fine they look too.  But the lawyers have stopped the world famous Fantasy Bob name from being attached.

Man United's new shirt in action
Headless player models
Carlton's new shirt

In the face of mounting fan disgruntlement,  the club are urgently considering whether they can bring out a limited edition of the club's shirt emblazoned with an empire biscuit.

A heritage item

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Pavilion

Fantasy Bob understands that there is a bit of a stramash, not to say stooshie, in London leading up to the opening this weekend of the Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens.
The Serpentine Pavilion

The Pavilion, which sits outside the Serpentine Gallery, has been designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. It is obvious that Fujimoto did not consult any cricketers in the design of his pavilion. Had he done so he might have come up with something more in line with the needs of modern cricketers.

Instead, what he has built is described by those who know about these things as a delicate, three-dimensional structure, each unit of which is composed of fine steel bars. It will form a semi-transparent, irregular ring, simultaneously protecting visitors from the elements while allowing them to remain part of the landscape. The overall footprint will be 350 square-metres and the Pavilion will have two entrances. A series of stepped terraces will provide seating areas that will allow the Pavilion to be used as a flexible, multi-purpose social space. 

In short it is totally useless for cricketing purposes. There are no roofs and no walls.  No pegs to hang a cricketer's trousers on.  No showers or toilets and it is uncertain which of its so-called multi-purpose social spaces will be appropriate for tea. FB fails to understand how the powers that be at the Serpentine let themselves be fooled into thinking that this construction is suitable for use as a Pavilion.

FB reads elsewhere that Sou Fujimoto is the leading light of an exciting generation of architects who are re-inventing our relationship with the built environment. Inspired by organic structures, such as the forest, Fujimoto’s signature buildings inhabit a space between nature and artificiality. Now, as FB's worldwide readership know that space between nature and artificiality is already occupied by FB's attempts to play leg spin bowling. So Mr Fujimoto needs to clear off and think harder.

Fujimoto's failure got FB thinking about Cricket Pavilions he has known and loved.  Of course for many lower league cricketers the concept of a pavilion is a chimera.  They will go through a whole season without seeing far less entering a Pavilion for they will play on public parks which may have a dressing room of sorts within a reasonable taxi ride of the pitch but nothing else. When FB finds himself playing on such places he loads up with essential comforts. He does not relish several hours sitting on the grass. So a selection of chairs, tables, rugs, patio heaters, portable toilets, chaise longue, standard lamps, micro waves, footstools, coat stands, cushions, and other essential items too numerous to list accompanies the cricket bag and a removal van from Pickfords is summoned to assist.

However there are many grounds where the Pavilion is a splendid bit of heritage - through its cool portals can be found a treasure trove of photos of teams and players of days gone by, blazered and cravatted looking confidently out of the frame, not knowing that their next innings would be on the Somme or Ypres. Photos of professionals associated with the club's glorious past, their signature fading as the memories of their graceful cover driving dims. There is the smell of old pavilion a heady mixture of sweat, linseed oil, damp carpets, stale beer - updated these days with an overlay of Lynx.   This fragrance should be bottled and marketed as Nostalgie.  It would sell like hot cakes (some of which are also available in proper Pavilions.) This is the essence of Paviliion which seems to have escaped Mr Fujimoto's attention.

Of all the pavilions in all the world in which FB has hung his clothes, he thinks the finest is to be found at the Doo'cot Park just outside Perth. It is unique and acknowledged as one of Perth's iconic buildings.

The Doo'cot Pavilion
The Doo'cot cricket ground was the gift of AK Bell, whisky magnate, philanthropist and cricketer. Bell represented Scotland on a number of occasions and had a long-lasting personal friendship with Sir Donald Bradman. 

Doo'cot Park was part of the development of the philanthropic Gannochy Estate by the Trust of that name established by Bell.  Other developments included low cost housing for the working people of Perth.

The Pavilion is a stunning building.  It was upgraded in 2008 and re-roofed in 2011 but retains its original character and features. Though stone-constructed it is externally lined with larch. The pan-tiled roof is also complemented by a dummy octagonal doo'cot in green copper. The club rooms lead out onto a sizable balcony which provides an excellent view of the cricket ground and the hills to the north of Perth.
The Bells and the Bradmans

Doo'cot is at present home to the Perth Doo'cot CC.  Lucky them having such a Pavilion to enjoy.

Now, if only Mr Fujimoto had taken a trip to Perth, the Serpentine would have something to shout about.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


Fantasy Bob was not born to shop. In fact he has never fully understood the concept of shopping, an activity usually in his experience confined to a mad rush on Christmas Eve. Leisure shopping is a contradiction in terms. But he acknowledges that many of his fellow citizens are otherwise inclined and daily throng to shop till they drop.

Edinburgh's Princes Street - FB investigates
Fantasy Bob is therefore taken aback by a report of a survey that suggests that a higher proportion of shoppers in Scotland than any other region considered that their local high street is useless. The report goes on to describe Scottish shoppers as the least happy in the UK.

Why are the shoppers of Scotland so down in the dumps? Are they right to think that the shopping streets are useless. FB thought that some careful investigation into the issue was required. With his team of crack researchers  he has therefore investigated Edinburgh’s Princes Street, once hailed as the capital’s leading mecca for shoppers.

He tramped the length of the Street looking for a few simple everyday purchases. These are the results of his search.

FB's willow of choice is the Gray Nicols Nitro.  Such an excellent product would be bound to be readily available.  But his request for a Nitro met with an emergency call to the police and he had a lot of talking to do to convince the officers that he was not after nitroglycerene and that he was not a man with a grievance seeing bomb making materials.  His confidence shaken, he had the lingering sense of being followed for the rest of the day.
The Nitro -
confused with
 bomb making equipment

No bats were in stock the length of the street.  He turned his attention to pads.  He was variously offered i-Pads, mouse pads, corn pads, face pads, scouring pads, brake pads, sleeping pads, drawing pads and incontinence pads. He was not convinced any would offer protection from demon fast bowlers. Similarly there were all manner of boxes available but none to which FB would entrust the protection of his crown jewels.

He changed tack – if players’ needs are not provided for perhaps those of doughty groundsmen might be. Surely he would be able to find a roller – heavy or light, he did not mind. His hopes rose in one store as the assistant nodded enthusiastically and moved to the storeroom purposefully. Hopes that were soundly dashed when he was offered equipment whose purpose seemed to be for curling hair, and for which FB's gleaming pate had no obvious use.
Not to be had on Princes Street

FB’s search for a long list of other essential items also proved fruitless. Bails, balls, ball counters, boundary flags, scorebooks, scoreboards, numbers for scoreboards, scarifiers, grass seed, top dressing, stumps (conventional and spring). Shop after shop. Blank after blank.

By this stage FB’s morale was sagging. The will to live was rapidly leaving his soul. He began to understand the views of his fellow shoppers. The high street did indeed seem useless. It did not provide for basic needs. How had things got this bad?

It was then that salvation came. He made a critical discovery. Empire biscuits can be purchased in Princes Street. They are available at Jenners and Marks and Spencer.

Scottish High Streets Useless? Not when there are empire biscuits to be found.

M&S Empire Biscuits - saviour of the High Street