Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Another Fine Mess

Many who have watched Fantasy Bob's efforts on the cricket field will have wondered what his early cricketing influences might have been.

As FB puffs his way up the hill against the wind, they will confidently exclude the possibility that he has taken anything from the athletic power of Fred Trueman's bowling action; as FB swings his bat in a mighty heave missing the ball by a country mile, they will discount the chance that he has based his technique on the grace and balance of Ted Dexter's cover drive.

Instead they may note FB's timeless combination of slapstick and frustrated ambition and say to themselves, 'Another fine mess - this man was surely exposed to Laurel and Hardy at a young age.'

Norman Gifford
in action for Worcestershire
And they would be correct. For Laurel and Hardy were a huge part of Fantasy Bob's childhood. FB's Dad was a dedicated fan. At many children's parties a projector would be set up to show some of their shorts. Their output was regularly on regularly on TV. There were even occasional reruns at the cinema.

However it is many years since FB has seen them at work. So it was a delight to discover that newly restored versions of two classic Laurel and Hardy films were on show in Edinburgh this weekend. FB duly spent a most enjoyable afternoon in the company of the greatest comedy duo ever as they went through their timeless routines in Way Out West and Towed in the Hole. Test Match Quality.

Laurel and Hardy made 106 films together. The only failing in this golden catalogue of mirth is that none of them contains any cricketing material.

FB concedes that Hardy may have had an excuse, being a native of Georgia, but there is no similar let off for Laurel. For Stan Laurel was born Ulverston, then in Lancashire, and spent a significant part of his childhood in Bishop Auckland in County Durham. Cricketing country.

Gary Pratt congratulated by teammates
after running out Ponting
Ulverston's most celebrated cricketing son is Norman Gifford, a class left arm spinner who played 15 Tests between 1964 and 1973. He was unlucky to be at the top at the same time as Derek Underwood and missed out a more extended run in the side.

Bishop Auckland is the home of Gary Pratt whose place in cricket's annals is secure by virtue of his appearance as a sub-fielder during the Trent Bridge Test of the 2005 Ashes in which capacity he ran out Ricky Ponting 'Quick, quick oh he's gone I think........'

So the potential for Stan Laurel was there. And this seems to have been recognised by the creators of the Laurel and Hardy comic strip that featured in the UK comic book Film Fun which ran throughout the 1930's and 40's.  Cricket's loss was the world's gain.

Frame from Film Fun

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