Saturday, 24 May 2014


Sleep is the chief nourisher in life's feast, according to Macbeth; and it has been in the news.

Some egg headed boffin or other has been lecturing anyone who will stay awake long enough about what he calls the new epidemic of sleeplessness.

Getting less than seven hours sleep a night is becoming more common.  This is below the recommended guideline and is associated with a range of medical problems, including an increased risk of weight gain, heart attacks, diabetes and cancer.  Quite apart from feeling tired.

A particular cause of this is suggested to be blue light which comes from computers, smartphones, tablets and all that paraphernalia and which suppresses the sleep inducing hormones, fooling the body into thinking that it should be awake.  Macbeth doth sleep no more.

Blue light or no light?
Fantasy Bob thinks there may be something in this technological insomnia.  Many nights in front of the TV he falls into a deep dreamless sleep during Newsnight only to wake with a start when the final music rolls. He does not know what hormones have been stirred by the blue light of Kirsty Wark, but having woken up to go to bed he will find sleep elusive.  Newsnight is therefore both a cause and a cure for insomnia.  It has to be one or the other.  But the stress of deciding which it is keeps FB awake all night.

Yet at other times sleep comes easily.  There seems to be no blue light in FB's office.  Any document over 2 pages long presented to FB will render him unconscious.  There may a positive benefit in this - his snores will at least keep others awake and productively on task.  But FB has long been accused of coming to work only to rest.  His colleagues have long worked out that in meetings the more alert he looks the more likely he is to be fully asleep.

How should the cricketer react to sleep deprivation?  After a sleepless night, performance may be impaired. There is a risk of falling asleep at the crease.  Many observers have thought that there is no other explanation for FB's ineptitude in facing leg spin bowling.  He must be asleep.  Why else would he have his eyes closed?

But observers would be wrong.  FB does not advise catching up on lost sleep while facing bowling of any sort.  The non-striker's end is a far preferable spot.  Many times FB has gone to the wicket confident that there will no blue light emanating from his partner.  That there is no chance of him hitting any ball for anything like a run, so that a quiet snooze for FB is well in order.

Sleeping at the non-striker's end can also be an act of self preservation - it will ensure that FB is in no way able to respond to his partner's hysterical call for a suicidal single in the event that he miraculously gets some part of the bat on the ball.  He will remain secure in his ground and come quietly back to consciousness, having to infer the sequence of events from the slumped shoulders of his colleague in the middle distance as he stomps off to the pavilion.

Some fielding positions are more conducive to the power napper than others.  On one occasion in his early bowling career, after a couple of loose ones had been pummelled towards the leg side batsman, the fielder crossly exhorted FB to sort out his line and length saying, 'There's people trying to sleep out here!'

Essential umpiring equipment
FB has also seen many umpires hang the Do Not Disturb sign on themselves as they take up position to officiate on his efforts up the hill against the wind.  It is only by being fast asleep that they could decline his polite appeals as his world famous inswingers catch the batsman dead in front.  Some umpires are adept at talking in their sleep and between snores will murmur 'Not out' under their breath.  The sound of their alarm clock ringing to tell them to end the over is only a further insult to FB's injury.

It is time these sleep disorders were investigated seriously.

For the injustice of these decisions will dwell on FB's mind - it will give him a sleepless night. FB doth sleep no more.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

An epidemic (Part 2)

FB returns to the gripping story of Aberdeen's 1964 typhoid epidemic.  Readers who missed the first posting on this subject may consider themselves fortunate, but they can catch up with it through this link.

As the crisis continued, schools were closed for several weeks.  A source of glee to most of the City's children, although many grieved for the daily handwashing sessions which had been mandated in all schools by the authorities.  FB would have missed some school cricket, for in those far off days state primary schools were still active in providing sporting opportunities for their charges.  Hard to imagine, but true.

FB's sporting prowess was nurtured under the watchful eye of Mr Pirie - otherwise known as Sir - and several away trips across the City were made in the teacher's Baby Austin.  FB is sure that Mr Pirie still holds the record for the number of primary school cricketers crammed into a Baby Austin.
Luxury travel for sportsmen 1964 style

Mr Pirie was also FB's class teacher and he inspired FB to high intellectual endeavour.  In fact, FB would not be where he is today were it not for Mr Pirie's efforts.  But that is not a reason to condemn him.  He was Test Match quality.

Once FB had emerged from the Baby Austin,  he was a lynch-pin of the Broomhill PS XI for whom he performed the vital but highly specialised role of returning the ball from the wicketkeeper to the bowler. Prior to the epidemic, the team had reached the final of the Aberdeen's school cup competition. Assorted parents and loved ones fringed the boundary on the big day. Regrettably FB's heroic performance in returning the ball to the bowler was not enough to carry his team to victory, and they succumbed to a heavy but character forming defeat.

That year must have been Broomhill's golden sporting year, for FB kept goal in the football team which also reached the final of the local competition which was played at the holy ground of Pittodrie Park.  Sadly, they came off second best in that contest too. More character forming experience.

Little did FB know then how humiliation on the cricket field would become such a repeated and dominant part of his life - after all at that stage he had yet to encounter leg spin bowling.  Had he known that such terrors lay ahead, would he have paid more heed to Mr Pirie's exhortations to pay more attention to the wonders of long division rather than dream of sporting glory?  There must be something here for FB's biographers to work on - need FB have sacrificed so much of his life toiling up the hill against the wind? Could the eventual horrors of FB's blogging have been averted by prompt action at this stage in his development?

Maybe it was the epidemic-enforced leisure or maybe it was the fact that the sun seemed to shine ceaselessly or maybe it was a quirk of FB's genetic inheritance, but that period saw FB's first serious interest in the mysteries of doughty groundsmanship.

FB's residence at the time was a new build.  His Dad, under FB's close supervision, had worked hard to create something garden-like out of the building site that had at first surrounded the property. When FB became weary of the tarmac of the drive way as a surface for the endless games of cricket he played with his chums, he began to eye the newly laid grass.  A plank, a brush and a paintpot later he had marked a crease, carefully measured to exacting MCC specifications as laid out in his Book of Doughty Groundsmanship for Boys.  He even got the roller out - well that little roller thing that was on the back of the lawn mower at least.

As he proudly looked at his work, a prime batting surface if ever his young eyes had seen such, he gradually became aware of a small limitation.  One crease was fine, but he needed a second. Unfortunately the garden wall was a mere 12 yards away.

There was nothing else for it, the other crease would have to be at right angles. Thus did FB create the first L shaped wicket in the history of cricket - a feat which so far has gone unrecorded in cricket's annals.  But perhaps it explains the look of scepticism, if not fear, in the eyes of Carlton's world famous Doughty Groundsman whenever FB offers assistance.

A more significant limitation on FB's cricket pitch was the large living room window at square leg which was duly pierced soon after by one of FB's better shots.  Cricket was banned to the drive and FB's burgeoning career as Doughty Groundsman put on hold.

As the epidemic wore on, it was eventually determined that the germs originated in a can of corned beef sold at a prominent local grocer. It was believed that pollution from the waters of the Uruguay River had entered a defective tin. The infected meat then contaminated a slicing machine within the shop, leading to the spread of the disease. It was the end for that business in the City, but also an explanation why FB will give a big body swerve to a corned beef sandwich should it be presented on the cricket tea table.  He is sure no empire biscuit has ever been the source of such disease.

When The Queen visited Aberdeen at the end of June it was taken as a sign that the City was safe again and the epidemic was over.  FB understands that she was not offered a corned beef sandwich during the Civic Reception.

Trent Bridge June 1964 -
Boycott walks to the wicket
as an England player for the first time
The epidemic over, the summer holidays started and the world went on its merry way.  Handwashing rituals were abandoned.

1964 was an Ashes summer and the Test cricket was beamed into FB's home in flickering black and white. A disappointing series was heavily affected by rain and saw England lose the trophy, but it was memorable for 2 things.

1964 saw the start of the Test career of the then bespectacled Geoffrey Boycott.  In his first Test innings he top scored with 48, apparently unaffected by the impact of the epidemic on FB's hometown.

At the Oval Test later in the summer Boycott made his first Test century and the rest is history.

The Oval Test was also where Fred Trueman took his 300th Test wicket, also oblivious to the epidemic and its impact in Aberdeen.  Listen to it here described by the immaculate  John Arlott - 'Trueman with a bit of a scowl at the batsman, doesn't even look friendly towards his fieldsmen at the moment.'
Hawke c Cowdrey b Trueman

At the time it seemed an unrepeatable achievement: as Trueman remarked in response to the question as to whether his record could be broken, 'Whoever does it will be bloody tired.'

There are now 26 bloody tired bowlers as the amount of Test cricket has increased hugely since Fred's day.  It's an epidemic.

At the end of that summer FB returned to his final term under Mr Pirie's tutelage, and sat the 11+  before leaving at Christmas.  This was part of the structure of Scottish education at the time when pupils would have 6 months filling in before starting their proper secondary education the following August.

With thoughts of the epidemic long behind him, he left a glittering sporting career in his wake and took with him an extensive knowledge of handwashing that has served him well right up until the present.

Readers wishing to learn more about Fantasy Bob's completely uninteresting childhood  and his emerging interest in cricket can do so at this link and this link.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Ticket Fiasco

Go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton have instructed its contractor Ticketdisaster to suspend its website after fans experienced long delays in attempts to secure tickets.

An additional allocation of tickets for Fantasy Bob's latest appearances at Grange Loan had been put on sale at the start of the week.  But fans' response for the eagerly sought briefs was so vigorous that it caused the system to collapse under the pressure.

Demand had been overwhelming - 200% over capacity.  Ticketdisaster had planned for 0 fans to apply.  But when lines opened 2 applications were received.  Meltdown followed and a club spokesman said,  '|In the interests of public safety we have had to close the site indefinitely.'

Both fans who had applied took to social media to vent their anger.

One said he had been left waiting 10 minutes at least - considerably longer than it takes FB to complete his long run up the hill against the wind.  'I could have eaten an emprie biscuit in that time,' he tweeted.

The other fan said, 'This is a shambles, we'll have to apply for Commonwealth Games tickets instead.'

Saturday, 10 May 2014


Fantasy Bob's dwindling band of worldwide readers may think he has a heart of stone. That his finer sensitivities have long been ground out of him by enforced bowling spells up the hill against the wind.   They might think that he would be unmoved by the sentimental or the tragic. That a lump would rarely, if ever, form in his throat. Far less a tear drop slowly from his eye.

However there are certain things that reduce this lump of roughly hewn granite to a misty eyed sniveller.

'Oh no', long suffering readers will think at this point, 'How predictable can FB get?  He's going to go off on one about the iniquities of having to face leg spin bowling  - an exhibition which certainly reduces watchers to tears. Tears of laughter.'

FB steels himself against such unkindness.  His mind is on higher things.

He has commented previously on the inability of Giacomo Puccini to deal seriously with cricketing issues in his operas.  A failing to which he will return shortly.

But Puccini has a knack of getting the lump to rise in FB's throat like few others.  Tragic heroine after tragic heroine is betrayed, traduced, deserted, destroyed.

Tosca may be a 3 handkerchief job, La Boheme a modest 4, but these are limited over events compared to the full Kleenex box required to get through the Test Match that is Madama Butterfly, a performance of which FB and Mrs FB attended this week as Scottish Opera revived for the umpteenth time its fine 2001
Scottish Opera flyer

In Butterfly the tragic starts early - ten minutes or so into the piece in fact as Butterfly makes her first entrance.  Although her words say that this is the happiest day of her life, as she approaches the hill top house where she will be married to Lt B F Pinkerton of the US Navy, the music under her soaring voice tells a different story.    (Music that might well accompany FB as he makes his way to the crease).  It marks her out as doomed.

'Don't do it, dear,'  FB wants to shout out.  'Go back.  Pinkerton is not a cricketer.'

For no member of the Pinkerton family is recorded as having played cricket at the highest level.  A clear indication that he cannot be trusted.

Only Mrs FB's snivel as she dries her eyes restrains him.  FB remembers the first time they saw this work, FB whispered this intelligence to Mrs FB at this point.  He thought it would help her understand the depth of the events unfolding. A steely glare was all he got in return.

Poor Cio-Cio San had no access to Wisden and so could not check the cricketing pedigree of her intended. Her fate is sealed.  All this is in the music.  And that is only the start - Puccini just piles it on from then on.

One fine day indeed.

Links above are to excerpts from this outstanding production at the Metropolitan Opera NY which FB and Mrs FB attended in 2008.  Wisden was not made available to the audience.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Mind how you go

Fantasy Bob reads in the popular - and not so popular - press that crime is falling. Reported crime in Scotland has fallen by 22% in the past four years.
Graph showing variable length
of police force's opening bowlers

Apparently, the risk of being a victim of crime also dropped significantly from 20.4% in 2008-2009 to 16.9% in 2012-2013 to be precise. However, the public's fear of being the victim of crime has increased, with the perceived risk being almost 20% higher than the actual one.
FB is not surprised at the last statistic above.   It may the age he is at.  It may be that he has spent too much of recent months on a diet of lurid crime fiction and drama.  But he goes in daily fear of being the victim of some terrible crime.

It is clear to him that official statistics do not properly record the incidence of real crime in the community. He has scanned official reports.  Nowhere does he find acknowledgement of the shocking increase in the following major crimes revealed by his own researches
  • Number of cricketers playing in inappropriate trousers - up 25.5% since the invention of cargo shorts
  • Amount of leg spin bowling in lower leagues - up 19.7% since the opening of Shane Warne's Twitter account
  • Number of left arm over the wicket seam bowlers - up 43.8% following failure of action in the Supreme Counrt to have such action declared a controversion of human rights law
  • Incidence of completely fatuous LBW appeals - up 12.4% mirroring rise in phishing and similar scams
  • Frequency of cricket teas not including empire biscuits - up 31.5% for reasons still under investigation by scientists.
FB is sure his world wide readership will join him in urging the authorities to bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice and make the cricket fields safe again for law abiding individuals.  Now they have finally got Max Clifford in chokey there can be no higher priority. 

Police attend gruesome LBW appeal incident.