Saturday, 30 November 2013


Fantasy Bob has just completed a questionnaire type thing, organised by the estimable Scottish Book Trust as part of  Book Week Scotland, which identifies which fictional character he most resembles.

There are of course many in his dwindling handful of worldwide readers who will contend that FB is already a fictional character, so the whole exercise is pointless. (As indeed is the case with most of FB's endeavours, they may add under their breath.)

The questionnaire was obviously defective since none of the questions related to cricket.  Nevertheless FB dutifully soldiered on and presented his answers.  He sat back in quiet expectation that he would be identified as that dashing romantic hero at whose feet women swooned.

The computer whirred and gurgled and eventually spat out its determination. The result took FB by surprise.

For FB's fictional alter ego may not be wholly human, having elven blood in his veins. He is also described as being 88 years old (but still capable of stirring deeds such as bowling a full spell up the hill against the wind).

FB's literary alter ego is Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. FB has to confess to some disappointment for he is not a Tolkein fan - although he read The Lord of The Rings from cover to cover at the time in life when that was the required thing to do, he found the experience not unlike facing leg spin bowling - unreadable and a trial of hope over experience.   Nor has he seen the overlong movie trilogy, in which Aragorn was played by Mrs FB's heart-throb Viggo Mortensen.   So he doesn't really know too much about Aragorn.

Viggo Mortensen in the role of Fantasy Bob
Again the computer came to his aid telling him why it made its decision:

With your decisive and fast-paced approach, you are an asset to any team or rabble of hobbits. Your personality is quite unique with your rare blend of self-drive, assertiveness, confidence and competitiveness.

Like Aragorn, your ability to see the big picture and strategise while directing and motivating others make you a natural leader even if you don’t feel ready for it. At your worst you may judge others harshly and not consider the emotional impact of your decisions, but your slighted followers will soon feel inspired again by your actions.

Just the qualities needed to skipper the Carlton All Stars 4th XI.........except for the fast paced bit, obviously.

In one or other of the parts of the trilogy Aragorn says as his forces storm the Black Gates of something or other:

My brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come, when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship. An hour of wolves, and shattered shields, when the Age of men comes crashing down. But it is not this day, this day, we fight!

It is well known that these words were stolen from a bootleg recording of FB's pre-match exhortations to his All Stars team.

Find the questionnaire on Scottish Book Trust's Website.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Michael Carberry en route to Ashes selection
If Fantasy Bob is reading the runes correctly – and this is a big if, since Rune Reading is not among his higher level skill set – the start of the Ashes series this week will see Michael Carberry open the England innings alongside Alistair Cook. Carberry, in some eyes a surprise selection for the tour, has justified his place by showing exceptional form in the warm up matches. FB wishes him well and hopes that his golden run of form continues.

In the whole history of the world, Michael Carberry is the only Carberry to strut the stage of first class cricket, since it is not a common name. But Scottish cricketers should take interest - in particular those from East Lothian.

For reference books suggest the name is derived from the place name in East Lothian, itself derived from the Gaelic craobh, tree and barran, hedge. Locational surnames were developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, usually to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace. There is no suggestion that Michael is an East Lothian lad made good – otherwise Scotland’s fortunes in the World T20 qualifiers might be in a more favourable position.

Carberry Tower
FB could have been a Carberry. Many years ago, when Mrs FB was trenchant in her wish to embrace rural living, she prevailed upon FB to inspect a property close by the grounds of Carberry Tower in East Lothian.  True to its etymology, there were quite a lot of trees and hedges about.  But for some reason or other, which is lost in the mists of FB’s waning memory, the property did not meet her meticulous standards and her interest was taken no further.

However had FB taken up residence there, and had he subsequently moved he might have adopted the late mediaeval habit and named himself after the place. In that event, Michael Carberry might still be the only Carberry to grace the first class game but he would surely have taken strength (if not inspiration) from such a namesake in the lower levels of the game.  

Carberry Tower is now an hotel. When FB and Mrs FB were prospective neighbours it was still in the hands of the Church of Scotland who ran the place as a spiritual retreat, a sort of deep fine leg for those exhausted by fielding close to the wicket in everyday life.

While there is no evidence that the excitements of cricket ever came to the Carberry location, it was not always so tranquil as in its Church of Scotland days. For in June 1567, Mary, Queen of Scots, faced an army assembled by a confederation of her Lords. The Lords were displeased with their Queen over her marriage to the Earl of Bothwell, whom they suspected of complicity in the murder of his immediate predecessor in the Queen’s favour. She surrendered herself on promise of Bothwell’s safe conduct into exile and after a night in Carberry Tower was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle and then Loch Leven. A monument commemorating the incident, the Queen's Mount, still stands nearby.

East Lothian’s cricketers may also find of interest that while the Carberry lands were first mentioned in the 11th Century when they were granted to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey by King David 1, the first owner of the tower itself was the Johnstone family. Changes in spelling aside, Mitchell Johnson may be a descendant of this family and Michael Carberry may care to bring this ancestral memory to mind this when he takes his guard against the left arm paceman.

It may be however that it is cricketer Carberry’s name which has suffered from a spelling change. In which case the intensity of interest of cricketers of East Lothian in his progress may diminish.

For the name Carbery - spelt with one r rather than 2 - is held to be an Anglicized form of the Irish O'Cairbre or MacCairbre, meaning son of Cairbre. Some big brained authority on these matters suggests that Cairbre means a charioteer.  Son of a charioteer is a fine name for anyone.  Carbery was also an Irish Earldom, although the title is now extinct.  The 3rd Earl of Carbery was Governor of Jamaica between 1675-78 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.  He may well have come from a long line of charioteers but he appears not to have been a cricketer of any note, cricket not being played in Jamaica at that time.

The only Carbery (and he did use that spelling not being of East Lothian extraction) who FB has known was not a cricketer either.  He is however a raconteur of some distinction and has recently collected many of his stories in a couple of published volumes.  Regrettably cricket does not feature among these many fine tales.

Should his misspelt namesake prosper he may have to revisit this oversight.
Not a cricket book

Friday, 15 November 2013

Come on Scotland

Cricketers may be forgiven for thinking that there is only one issue of cricketing interest happening in the world this week - the final Test match of Sachin Tendulkar.  Or they might think that the issue of whether England's bowling attack is really as toothless as it has seemed in the warm up matches before the Ashes get underway next week. Surely these are is enough for the average cricket fan to ponder over as the nights draw in.
Scotland's skipper Kyle Coetzer
with skippers from the other teams
in Scotland's qualifying group

But for cricketers in 16 countries across the world Tendulkar's swansong and Stuart Broad's search for form are of no consequence.  For there is important business getting underway today in the UAE as these 16 nations go in search of a place in next year's World T20.  Six places are available and will be decided over 72 matches in the next 16 days.

Among the 16 hopefuls is Scotland who on rankings should be among the 6 left standing at the end of the competition.  They kick off their campaign today against Bermuda - a battle royal between kilts and highly coloured shorts. On paper Scotland should come out on top - but being favourites on paper is, as every Scottish supporter of knows, usually Scotland's weakest position.   Form has been patchy and the team will have to put a disappointing summer behind them and deliver their best.  They will have the benefit of Paul Collingwood's experience as part of the coaching staff.  A very welcome addition in Fantasy Bob's view - he has long been an admirer of the Durham player who was formerly England's T20 skipper.

Seeing Collingwood in the Scotland set up confirms FB's long held view that the Scottish border should properly be drawn just south of Newcastle. FB is sure that the erroneous position of the present border is attributable to Hadrian who was just a bit careless in marking the map where he fancied his wall..........
A wall in the wrong place?

But this is all a bit of a distraction from the task at hand.  FB wishes Scotland's cricketers the best of luck over the next 16 days and looks forward to them securing a top 6 spot.

Come on Scotland!

Monday, 11 November 2013


Cricket rarely calls for sacrifice.  There is the occasional run out offered in the interests of a higher cause - such as getting the in form batsman on strike.  From time to time Fantasy Bob has also been seen to resist the last empire biscuit on the tea table to allow a hungry eyed junior member to avert malnutrition.  But that's about it.

So Fantasy Bob is always deeply affected when he encounters real acts of sacrifice.

His mind turned to this theme during a recent event he attended at Douneside House in Aberdeenshire.   He has been to Douneside House for similar events several times - and on each visit the company learns the story of the family that at one time owned and occupied this charming residence.  Each time he hears it, FB's humility increases.  At this time of remembrance he thinks it is appropriate to share the story with his world wide readership.

Douneside House was bought by Alexander MacRobert in 1888.  Sir Alexander was the founder of the British India corporation and was knighted in 1910, later becoming the first Baronet of Cawnpore and Cromar.  He died in 1922 leaving his widow, Lady Rachael MacRobert and three sons.

The eldest son was killed in an air crash in 1938.  In 1941 the second son was killed leading a Hurricane attack on an enemy base in the Middle East.  Just over a month later the third son was killed in action when his aircraft was reported lost after a search of the North Sea for a downed bomber crew.  Such is the cruelty and pity of war.

Lady MacRobert immediately wrote to the Air Ministry:

"It is my wish, as a mother, to reply in a way my sons would applaud - attack with great fire power, head on and hard. The amount of £25,000 is to buy a bomber aircraft to continue my son's work in the most effective way. This expresses my feelings on receiving notice about my sons …
They would be happy that their mother would avenge them and help to attack the enemy. I, therefore, feel that an appropriate name for the bomber would be the MacRobert's Reply. The aircraft should also bear the MacRobert's coat of arms the family crest, a crossed fern leaf and an Indian rose. Let the bomber serve where there is the most need of her and may luck be with those who fly her. If I had 10 sons, I know they all would have done service for their country".

The plane commissioned was named MacRobert's Reply and was followed by a similar donation later in the year allowing the commissioning of further aircraft.

FB can find no record of the MacRoberts playing cricket.  Had they done so they seem like the kind of batsmen who would walk without waiting to be given out.

FB finds the final sentence of Lady MacRobert's letter very moving:

.......................If I had 10 sons, I know they would all have done service for their country.

No Saving Private Ryan sentimentalism here.  Just duty and scarifice.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Dietary Requirements

In the world of elite sport nothing must be left to chance.  Meticulous preparation and painstaking attention to detail is essential.  Success depends on it.

Fantasy Bob's support team has therefore issued guidance to all prospective opponents in the East of Scotland cricket leagues which define in detail his culinary requirements.

Regretably, the contents have been leaked to the media.  The Australian press in particular is having a field day.  FB does not fully understand why and in order to clarify the position reprints the guidance here:

Fantasy Bob would like empire biscuits before, during and after each match.

Sunday, 3 November 2013


As happens from time to time, Fantasy Bob was called upon last week to participate in an earnest discussion about the future of public policy in Scotland.  FB should record at this point that there was little of interest to the cricketer in the discussion, so if FB's dwindling worldwide band of  readers felt their pulses beating at the prospect of his reporting that cricket would be at the epicentre of all future government initiatives, they should prepare for disappointment.
After the meeting - Post-Its showing their autumn colours

FB listened intently to the presentations and made his contribution to teh recording of discussion points in his break out group on Post-Its.  For it is de rigeur in meetings these days for points to be recorded on Post-Its which are the stuck on every available service. So dominant is the Post-It culture that it is hard to realise that they only were developed in the early 1980s by the joyously named Art Fry.   How did the human race achieve anything without post its is a subject of continual mystery to FB.

Readers who may be familiar with FB and meetings may wish to pause at this point.  They will say to themselves, 'This implies that FB stayed awake for most, if not all, of the proceedings.  This is not consistent with our experience of FB.  For even if he looks awake he is invariably asleep.  The mere sight of a packet of Post-Its on a table can send him into a coma.'

FB demurs from this defamation.  His critics rebound, 'You say you have stayed awake through many meetings, but only if cricket finds it way into the discussion, otherwise its the Big ZZZs for FB.  You've told us that there was no mention of cricket in this meeting - so we infer you were asleep.'

But this meeting was different to the 3 million other meetings FB has attended in his career. He is accustomed at finding at these meetings supply of mints on the table.  He has never been too sure why.  Presumably the organisers are worried about their invitees being riddled with halitosis.

However on this occasion mints were like cricket - absent; not on the agenda.  Instead, in the centre of the table, where the mints would customarily be, carefully positioned by the Post-Its was a jar containing an enticing mixture of Refresher Chews and Fizzers, nostalgic products of the esteemed confectioners Swizzle Matlow. The crack cocaine of the 1960s primary school playground.

By staying awake FB was able to ensure he could guzzle these treats at will.  As the sherbet tickled his tongue he was back in the playgound again and the 2 hours of Post-It fever passed for him in a happy haze of recollection of centuries scored before the bell went for classes.

And so the meeting and the earnest discussion proceeded.  Conclusions were drawn and legions of post-its were sacrificed to the cause.  It reached its happy conclusion - and the conclusion of such meetings is always happy for it is invariably that more such meetings are required just as soon as further supplies of Post-It notes can be secured.

As FB left for the cold night air, a colleague remarked that such discussions gave him a sore head.  FB nodded sagely.  He shared his colleague's concern.  But on this occasion he was spared the sore head.  But he did have sore teeth.