Monday, 11 May 2015


Fantasy Bob's resistance proved useless. Mrs FB would brook no ifs and buts. 'You are going to sip prosecco by the side of the Grand Canal and like it,' she said with a touch more emphasis than seemed necessary to counter FB's strangled objection that her planned trip to La Serenissima fell in the early weeks of the new cricket season. 'Anyway I've only booked mid week so you'll be able to play on Saturday.' She paused. A steely look came into her eye. 'That is, if you are selected.'

Again there seemed an unnecessary amount of emphasis - but FB was unable to inquire as to what she was implying for she had immersed herself in the Rough Guide to Venice's pages on jewellers and proved impervious to further discussion.

So it was that FB did find himself sipping prosecco with his life partner, and friends who claim to be among his handful of worldwide readers. He sat in the evening sun by the Grand Canal with guilty enjoyment as he thought of his teammates toiling through a series of exacting fielding drills in the cold Edinburgh evening. He sighed wistfully. 'Ah,if only,' he thought, as a gondolier o-sole-mio'd his watery way past 'Ah, if only I could be there.'

'Don't be daft' came Mrs FB's voice through his reverie, 'you haven't done fielding practice for years - you know it does your back in.'

FB's attempt to engage the company in discussion about the possibility of changes at the top in the ECB met with stony silence, almost as stony as his earlier offer to talk them through his two catches in the weekend's matches. He glumly returned to the consolations of his prosecco with the conclusion that Venice had little to offer the cricketer.

A conclusion that the next few days did little to counter. During FB's tour of the Palazzo Ducale - or Doge's Palace - he found himself in front of a painting entitled Paradiso, painted in 1590 by Jacopo Tintoretto, whose bowling action remains uncertain.
This is believed to be the largest painting done on canvas, it covers one end of what is said to be the largest room in Europe. The painting measures 74ft by 30ft - in other words it is as long as a cricket pitch and as wide as 3.  

Paradiso by Jacopo Tintoretto - 3 cricket pitches of paint
But despite the coincidence of measurement, there is no indication that Tintoretto had cricket in mind when he embarked on this work, the last major work in his long and wonderful career. FB would have supposed that the subject of Paradise would have been bound to have some reference to cricket - a view of the Lords' Pavilion perhaps - or a picturesque village green with a game in progress. Instead there is a dizzying swirl of animated figures foreground and background. Various activities seem evident - but nothing associated with cricket.

Art critics are divided about this picture. It is too easy they say to be overawed by its size and the grandness of the design. But they are less than happy about aspects of the execution. FB must add his reservations to these. To call a painting Paradise with no indication that there is cricket to be played in the after-life is sloppy in the least, and verges on the heretical.

It maybe that Tintoretto was himself aware of this fault in his work. For historians tell that when he
was asked to name his price,he declined leaving this to the commissioning authorities. When they tendered a handsome amount he is said to have given a sizable chunk of it back. Obviously, he was ashamed of his error.
Paradiso - detail showing complete absence of cricketing action


  1. On the face of it Venice does not offer much scope for cricketing activities, though its watery surroundings may remind FB of the Grange on a bad summer day. Napoleon described St Mark's Square as the grandest drawing room in Europe but a cricketer might see it as an excellent site for net practice, give or take a few broken windows. This potential was clearly lost on the inhabitants of La Serenissima - the Scuola di San Rocco contains over 60 works by Tintoretto and none of them have any cricketing content either.

    1. Yes cowardly self preservation caused FB to refrain from making the same observation to Mrs FB during their visit to the Scuola.