Saturday, 22 April 2017

Pre-Season

It is the time of year when the cricketer's pulse quickens.  As the days lengthen, as the temperature soars to near 5 degrees, he or she knows that the day is coming near when that old weakness against the straight one will once again be cruelly exposed.  But for the moment, it is the phoney war of the pre-season. A time ripe with hope and anticipation. Pre-season.  When dreams of hattricks and
hundreds crowd the cricketer's mind.

It is also the time when respectable media outlets lose sight of their year long policy of wholly ignoring club cricket and desperately look for human interest stories to stimulate interest in the coming season.

Ever seeking the celebrity angle, a journalist took it on himself to phone Fantasy Bob at home earlier this week. His timing was ill chosen, for Fantasy Bob was fully occupied in practising his improved batting stance in front of the wardrobe mirror.  It has taken him all winter and he was on the point of perfecting it.  He had given strict instructions not to be disturbed for the next 3 hours.

The call is therefore answered by Mrs FB.  Her clear soprano rings through the house:

'You want to speak to Fantasy Bob, the celebrity cricketer?' (There was a cruel trace of mocking laughter in her tone). 'I am sorry he can't come to the phone - he is upstairs having a temporary bout of insanity.  It could last until August.  Maybe I can help you?

'You want to know how his pre-season preparations are going......'

The short silence should be a warning to the inquirer.

'....Uh.  Huh.......'

The alarm bells should be ringing louder.

'.......Well, let me tell you.......'

There was now no escape.

'.....Don't give me pre-season.  It's longer than the wretched season itself.  The day after the final game last year he starts.  I've had months of him moaning on about whether he can manage another season. Is his back up to it, he groans.  I suggest he could give his back a bit of a test by painting the bathroom but he says that would risk unbalancing his bowling action.  Pathetic.  Two months ago he has to get his kit out of the various cupboards he squashed it in last August.  Of course the only place he can leave it all is exactly where I am bound to trip over it.  I've measured my length three times today already.  Then he's sitting in front of Line of Duty with his pads on - just to get them flexible for his big innings he says.  How flexible do they have to be for your usual duck? I ask.  He doesn't talk to me for 3 days. Then the linseed oil - the stink is everywhere - I think he's drinking it.  I look out to the garden and make a hint that the grass is beginning to grow.  Does he take the hint - does he hell? He'll never do a hands turn in the garden, but the minute that Doughty Groundsman phones, you won't see him for dust and he'll be there cutting the outfield like a man possessed with a glaikit look on his face.  It's pathetic.

'Pre-season - don't give me pre-season - just get the season started and I can get him AND HIS KIT OUT OF THE HOUSE.'

Monday, 10 April 2017

Sounds of the 60s


Fantasy Bob was sorry to hear of the passing of Brian Matthew last week.  Brain Matthew was the long serving host of Sounds of the 60s - the programme which has accompanied FB's Saturday breakfasting for many years.

Indeed in these days of the introduction of listener phone-ins on Radio 3 and the endless Faragification of the wider air waves, Sounds of the 60s has been just about he only radio programme FB has been able to enjoy without feeling the constant need to shout back at the set.

It was Mrs FB who suggested that for the good of his health he should desist from such vigorous responses - for if he didn't stop his caterwauling she would come downstairs and put him in hospital herself.

There was no need for such responses when Matthew took to the air.  His smooth voice was familiar and comforting.  His knowledge of the music at hand effortlessly compendious.   He conveyed the impression that he knew all the musicians personally.  Test match quality.

This was a voice FB recognised from his childhood.  For FB recalls earlier Matthews programmes - The Saturday Club and Easybeat back in the day.  He has a distinct memory of hearing the Saturday Club as he sat in the local barber waiting for his short back and sides leafing through a well thumbed copy of Reveille.  The pubescent FB found this a somewhat racy publication  although this did not make up fully for its disappointingly limited interest in cricket.  For some reason the song that comes to mind, as he sits there leafing, is Frank Iffield's I Remember You.

Just around the corner from the barber shop was a small sports shop - the type of outlet that no longer exists.  No moulded soles or screw in studs - FB recalls the box of  leather football boot studs which had to be hammered into the traditional boot, their sharp nails obtruding.  FB cannot remember buying anything in the shop except dubbin and laces for his football boots, but it was the place you went to get your leather football blown up or the grip on your cricket bat changed.  Services which Sports Direct lamentably fail to offer.

But FB digresses.

Brian Matthew was cruelly removed from the show earlier this year, very much against his will. There was a petition to reinstate him.  Sadly however the grim reaper pays such popular will no respect.

The show lives on.  It is now introduced by Tony Blackburn.  While FB can remember listening to Blackburn in the early days of Radio 1, he did so with little pleasure.  His habit of talking over the start and end of records and the inane jokes make it a trying listening experience.  He was soon a refugee to Radio 3.

But with the advent of Blackburn accompanying his Saturday breakfast, FB has found he has started shouting at the radio again.   Vigorously.

Mrs FB is suggesting that this can't be good for his health.


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Wellness

Fantasy Bob has recently returned from his annual visit to the Austrian ski slopes.  It was perfect cricketing weather.  Indeed for the Scottish cricketer it seemed unnatural - the sun shone continuously and the temperatures soared to 0 degrees.  Well beyond the usual temperature at the high point of the Scottish cricket season.  FB felt renewed, rejuvenated, ready for anything (maybe even facing leg spin).

But the weather may have had little to do with the new spring in his step.  In his hotel room he found the following exhortation.

Nature is our most beautiful example of holistic wellness. As is wellness in the Ötz Valley. It spurs us on to keep thinking. To create new things – to go one step further. To grow and evolve. Our wellness concept in the Ötz Valley picks up on this idea and achieves it in a world of simple elegance. A world where precious materials and perfected aesthetics meet in a seductive duet with a symphony of perfection, balance and harmony. You are invited to become acquainted with wellness in the Ötz Valley in its purest form.

How could he resist this siren call?

Readers who have had the misfortune to follow FB’s Witterings across the span of time will know how his every move is a  seductive duet embodying a symphony of perfection, balance and harmony.  (Particularly when he faces leg spin bowling). They will therefore understand how he hurried to accept the invitation to become acquainted with wellness in its purest form.

With simple elegance he entered the Hotel’s Wellness Centre to find a pristine world of saunas, steam baths, sprays, herbal tea and relaxation couches.  Bring on the Wellness - FB was ready to grow and evolve.

Pride of place in this complex was a large glass sided sauna with a commanding view of the mountains. This was a temple, nay a cathedral, of Wellness.  This was Wellness taken to a new level.  FB was about to discover there are levels of Wellness that he could not previously have imagined.

Celebrants in the Cathedral of Wellness

As FB sat contemplating the mountain view (and growing and evolving in his own manner), a high priestess of wellness entered the cathedral.  She greeted the faithful as they sat pink and perspiring on the benches.  She was here to perform the ritual aromatic infusion.  She assured them that the aromas of Meadow Herbs, Woodland Flowers, Alpine Spruce, Mountain Pine, or whatever was that day’s infusion, would regenerate them, banishing all manner of ills affecting their liver, heart, lungs and all other bits restoring them to the level of new born babes. 

She lifted her bucket and poured her magic solution on the coals.  With a hiss of steam the already demanding temperature soared to the barely bearable and amongst the faithful thousand pores opened.  The badness of wurstl, knodel, and in FB’s case, empire biscuits was eased away. The high priestess then took a specially designed ceremonial fan and wafted the sweetened hot air over the faithful.  FB inhaled deeply and sweated it out with his fellow disciples.  But he began to worry – Mountain Pine was all very well;  Alpine Spruce had its place.  But there was one aroma that seemed necessary to this level of Wellness.  He approached the High Priestess in mid-waft.

‘Achtung’, he intoned, summoning up his impressive command of the German language derived through painstaking study of Commando war comics in his misspent youth.  ‘Habenzie ein aroma auf linseed oil?’

For what other aroma could compare?  Even the smallest hint of linseed oil in the air would stir FB’s pulse, would cause all the world’s cares to slip off his shoulders, would bring to is mind images of sunshine, green grass, and the sound of leather on willow as that leg spinner was despatched to the far boundary.  It was real Wellness.  Wellness with a capital V.

‘Linseed oil.  I think not so.’ came the reply.  Noting the crumple in FB’s features teh priestess bravely tried to console him  ‘But we do serve Linsen suppe in the restaurant.’ 


FB returned to his perspiring contemplation of the mountain view.  He felt a little superior.   There was still a lot these people had to learn about true Wellness.  

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Make Cricket Great Again

There has been widespread welcome for the appointment of Joe Root as captain of England. 
POTUS calling Yorkshire

Fantasy Bob's worldwide monitoring system eavesdropped a call to Joe from the recently elected President of the United States of America.  (FB would like to make clear this was wholly accidental and accomplished without the assistance of any Russian hackers.)

..Hello tha's through to Joe Root but I can't take t'call reet now - am at t'nets - please leave message after t'tone.

Hi Joe, Donald J Trump here, just wanted to say hi and welcome you to the band of world leaders following your election - we top order bats gotta stick together - lotta BAD stuff in the world - lotta BAD bowling - lotta BAD wickets. We gonna Make Cricket Great Again.

Hey - your election victory - yeh - I hear it was almost as big as mine - you know I got more college votes than anyone ever - anyone says anything else its FAKE NEWS.  You gonna find out about that FAKE NEWS soon Joe - failing mainstream scorers will tell LIES - invent FAKE BALLS - FAKE LBWS - say you got out for 0, when you know you made 250 easy, 300 maybe - like I've never made anything less. I bat bigly - every time. The CNN say I got no idea where my off stump is - FAKE NEWS - I got an executive order - says my off stump is where I say it is. 

Joe, thought we should get together sometime - you got some deals with the Australians soon - I can tell you about them - they're a bunch of losers - and I mean LOSERS - with a capital SAD - and can you believe that part of Obama's failure was some deal that they think they can send all kinda BAD guys over here - guys with real bad bowling actions - I gotta stop them - I got an executive order keeps bent arms in their own countries - did you see my bowling action - straightest arm you ever seen - arm so straight it comes round the other side.

Hey - I guess you might need some new gear - I'm thinking I need to bring out a brand new line in cricket bats - the Donald J Trump Hitters - all made in the USA.   Hit every ball for six home runs. No more FAKE BALLS.  They gonna Make Cricket Great Again. 

And Ivanka's getting together a cool line in sweaters.  It's so UNFAIR that Aldi refuse to stock her merchandise.  She's such a great girl.  Even though she's my daughter I'd give her a 10.  Bat her well up the order - know what I mean.

Hey your Mother Therese doll said I need to come over sometime, fix her Brexit for her - see if it needs a wall or something which I think is a great thing.  I like her bowling action.  


Well Joe that'll do for now - got some TV shows to watch to catch some more fake news.  Hope we can get a few throwdowns soon.  We gotta keep on top of those BAD guys - we're gonna Make Cricket Great Again.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Let Us Now Praise Famous Doughty Groundsmen

To paraphrase the Wisdom of Sirach, 'Let us now praise famous doughty groundsmen,  and the wickets they begat us.............'

Fantasy Bob's dwindling handful of readers, distracted these days as they must be by continual reports of the world going to hell in a handcart and 200 becoming the par score in T20, may not have noticed a momentous announcement this week from the go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton.

It marked the end of an era with the retirement of the club's World Famous Doughty Groundsman. The announcement rightly noted the long years of doughty service with the scarifier that the WFDG had put in which have ensured that the Grange Loan wicket is as fine a playing surface as can be found anywhere.

Fantasy Bob adds his praise - the WFDG's support for the lower teams in the club was exemplary.  He prepared the wickets for FB's own lower league tussles with as much attention to detail as for the club's higher teams.  Never one to suffer fools gladly, or silently, he suffered FB's foolishnesses with saintly equanimity.

He might inwardly have groaned as FB spurned yet another fine batting service to bowl first in his obsessive pursuit of league points; he might have wondered to himself what was the point; but he stayed silent...........almost.

Yes, the WFDG has been an inspirational figure at Grange Loan and beyond -

Inspiring Rabbie Burns to a celebration of his work

Inspiring Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood

Inspiring Doughy Groundsmen the world over to seek his advice 

Inspiring not quite Henry Raeburn but another celebrated Edinburgh portraitist

Inspiring a world famous charity appeal

FB offers his thanks to the WFDG for his inspirational role and all his work and is glad to note that he will not be a stranger at Grange Loan.



Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Gift Tae Gie Us

Robert Burns
- could he play leg spin?
Recent discoveries suggest that Fantasy Bob and Robert Burns had much in common. 
This  effort was discarded by Burns (though he later used bits in other poems) but it confirms he and FB shared a weakness against leg spin bowling.

Oh thou! whatever title suit thee,
Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie!
The Batsmen true can ne'er refute thee,
Thou Hellish sinner.
In the Devil's sway we'll put thee,
Reviled leg spinner.

When auld lang syne Benaud and Warnie,
Were clearly baith the chiels o' Hornie,
Made English batsmen grope forlornly,  
It turned sae vilely.
But there’s no mortal human born, he
Beats Bill O’Reilly.

An' noo despite his monstrous patter,
Could Fant'sy Bob be cried a batter?
Forbye he gies the ba' a clatter,
Wi' michty fleg, he
Finds his vain pretensions shatter,
Against a leggie.

Ye'd hae tae see it tae believe it,
He disnae ken tae play or leave it,
He'll aye end up just trying tae heave it,
Then mak' tae thump it,
Gie it the charge and so maun grieve it,
Oh Bob!  Thou'rt stumpit.

The coach says watch the ba's rotations,
Advice that gies Bob consternations,
An’ hours o' tortuous vexations,
Thru' sleepness night.
Hoo can Bob mak sic observations,
Battin' wi' e'e shut tight?

Leg spin - it's Satan's bowling action,
For darkness marks its malefaction,
Tormenting batters tae distraction,
Oor nerves are shoogly.
Then will the De'il sense petrifaction,
An' bowl the googly.

Oh wad some power the gift tae gie us,
Tae play leg spin as naethin' devious,
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
Stop melancholy.
And dream some day that ithers see us,
Bat just like Kohli.


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Call Centre

It was not through choice that Fantasy Bob recently spent a number of hours that might have been better spent perusing the pages of Wisden in telephone discussion with residents of Mumbai.  Nor was he engaged in research as to the thoughts of those locals into the prospects of England's coming ODI tussles with India.  That might well have been a more purposeful conversation than that in which he found himself immersed. There was no cricketing purpose attached to his actions.  However bit by bit there came to be a familiar cricketing feel as the conversation left him floundering at apparently simple deliveries.

FB's decision to change broadband provider may in the course of time prove to have been inspired - on a par with the one occasion on which he opted to bat having won the toss.  But the first viewing of the replays on Hawkeye suggest the contrary.   Indeed there were a few loose ends which it would appear could only be addressed by phoning the new provider's call centre
Hey - who wants to speak with Fantasy Bob?
He navigates a seemingly endless series of menus and waits an eternity for a human being to become available.  He imagines the scene at the other end of the line in the distant sub-continent, ' Hey guys - looks like it's Fantasy Bob on the line - who wants to speak to him?'  'Not me,' the crew answer with one voice.'  OK,' says the boss, 'I'll play some completely dreadful musak, that should get him to hang up.'

FB's ears are bleeding but he hangs on gamely until, finally, a human voice appears.  It asks in a friendly manner for his account number and then says 'I need to check your security question - where were you born?'
FB knew the answer to this one - he boldly stepped to the crease.
'Aberdeen.'
'That is incorrect.'
'What do you mean incorrect?'
'It is not right.'  This answer didn't advance FB's understanding much.  He tried again.
'I assure you I was born in Aberdeen - you know, where Bradman played his last innings for Australia.'
'Aberdeen Australia - I am sorry it is not right.  We cannot proceed further.'
'No Aberdeen Scotland.'
'It is not right.'  The certainties that had structured FB's identity began to crumble.  It was an uncomfortable feeling.  For if he wasn't born in Aberdeen, where was he born, if indeed he had been born at all and who was he?  He tried to get on the front foot.
'Well, where was I born then?'
'I cannot say.  It is for you to tell me.'
'But I have.'
'Where were you born?'
'Aberdeen.'
'That is incorrect.'
'Do you have another security question?'
'Yes.'
'Well, ask me it then.'
'I cannot until you tell me where you were born.'
'Aberdeen.'
'That is incorrect.'  A feeling familiar from the cricket field stole over FB.  There could be only one explanation.
'Tell me do you play cricket?'
'Yes sir.'
'And what is your bowling action?'
'Leg spin.'
Slowly, FB put the phone down - he knew he would never get bat on ball.  He would have to call again when the bowling had changed.