Saturday, 29 April 2017

The First Day of the Season

How Fantasy Bob has marked the special day of the start of his season through the years.


Hope Springs Eternal

Alexander Pope - looking at last season's averages
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

So wrote Alexander Pope in his Essay on Man in 1734. Apposite words for the start of another cricket season.
Remarkably, however, cricket was far from Pope's mind when he dashed this ditty off.  He had a more mundane purpose. As Fantasy Bob understands it, Pope's intent was to explain God's ways to men. Basically he was of the opinion that since God has not revealed his full purpose (rather like the skipper who opts to bat on a soft green wicket), there is no good players standing around moaning about things.

Obviously, this tells us only that Pope had never met a lower league cricketer on his return to the pavilion having been triggered by a team mate for a ball that pitched outside leg, took an inside edge and hit him six inches above the knee roll. Had he done so he might not have been so ready with his optimism - and the course of European poetry and philosophy might have been different. 
Cricket would however have remained the same - and cricketers too at this time of year find their breasts swelling uncontrollably as the hope springs up. Last season's averages are no guide to future performance. Even FB, who has been playing since about 1734, and who should by now realise that there is a straight one out there that is going to undo him yet again. He is never blessed. Confined from home, he will sit silently beside his teammates and expatiate on that innings still to come when he will play down the right line. Ay right ,as the saying goes.

But there again Pope seems to have had the measure of FB for he also wrote:

Blessed be the man that expects nothing for he shall not be disappointed.

FB wishes the best of seasons to all cricketers in whose breasts hope springs eternal today - may 2017 bring them no disappointment.

Saturday, 22 April 2017


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.