Thursday, 22 April 2021



The carefully arranged daffodils (see earlier post) shook in their vase as the locked caps
of Mrs FB's expostulation disturbed the air around them.  Fantasy Bob could never describe his life partner as indelicate, but finding an alternative word to describe the spraying of toast crumbs stretched his limited vocabulary.  But he thought it advisable not to observe as much.

Breakfast had been proceeding uneventfully.  There were no signs of danger as FB calmly spread blueberries over his muesli.  In retrospect, as with the birdsong preceding the artillery barrages at the Somme, the tranquillity was misleading.  But it lured FB into a fatal pronouncement.  Just as Mrs FB brought the coffee cup to her lips, he quietly admitted that he had bought a new bat. 

As FB, unobtrusively as possible in the circumstances, removed the shrapnel of toast and raspberry jam from the surface of his muesli, she proceeded,

'Whatever for?'

FB was sure this question was rhetorical - her long years of cohabitation with him should have left little doubt in her mind about the purposes to which a cricket bat is put.   She continued,

'This house is full of cricket bats.'

FB felt that some form of apologia was required.  He explained that his trusty Gray Nicolls, which had served him well for several years, had revealed a significant crack on his previous evening's visit to pre-season practice.  Inspection of its ancestors also confirmed that none of them was fit for active service.

 It was an emotional account.  The demise of a favourite cricket bat requires to be treated with solemnity and respect. A period of mourning is necessary.  But grief was not for Mrs FB.

'You're not really going to play are you?  You can barely run these days.'

FB had to acknowledge that his fight back from injury was a slow process; a quick single might present a challenge.  However he pointed out that, according to the literature accompanying his new purchase, the need for running would be avoided since with this new bat he would be 'striking the ball with confidence to the boundary.'

Mrs FB was unkind enough to suggest that a more likely reason for not needing to run would be his inability to lay a bat on anything, particularly the straight ones.

'Anyway,' she said, betraying her underlying concern that FB's purchase might have diminished his jewellery purchase fund by an uncomfortable amount, 'how much did this geegaw set you back?'

Sotto voce FB confessed.

Mrs FB's eyebrows rose. 

'Based on your recent performances that could be about £50 per run.'

Exactly, thought FB to himself, a bargain.

Monday, 12 April 2021

Line and Length of Duty

The AC-12 Cricket Club meet in the pavilion after their latest match. Skipper Ted Hastings is unhappy and wants to know what went wrong.

Ted:       Mother of God – can you explain to me what happened out there?
Steve:    Guv, there was clear evidence of OCG.
Ted:       Organised Crime Group?
Kate:      No, boss, an Offie Chucking Googlies.
Steve:     Yes, guv, it was a ARU
Ted:        Surely not an Armed Response Unit?
Steve:     No, Arm Really Unstraight.
Ted:        Give Me Strength. There’s only one thing I’m interested in and that is catching bent arms. What did the umpire do?
Steve:     UCO
Ted:        He was undercover?
Steve:     No, Umpire Copped Out – he didn’t call it.
Ted:        So what was your tactical response? Did you call for back up?
Kate:      Yes guv. Put our star bat up the order. Told him SOCG. 
Ted:        Serious and Organised Crime Group?
Kate:      No guv – See Off the Chuckie Guy.
Ted:        Now that is good thinking DI Arnott. Didn’t you say he was the CHIS?
Steve:     Yes, guv.
Ted:        The Covert Human Intelligence Source?
Steve:     No, Guv. He Couldn’t Hit It off the Square.
Kate:      Boss, he DPS’d
Ted:        Directorate of Professional Standards?
Kate:      Afraid not, boss, Didn’t Play Straight.
Steve:     It was clearly NCS.
Ted:        National Crime Squad?
Steve:     Not a Cricket Shot.
Ted:        Now we’re getting to the truth – now we’re sucking on diesel.
Kate:      Yes, Guv that’s what we thought when we tasted the tea.
        At this point the opposition skipper enters.
Ted:        I think you should sit down fella, or I will handcuff you to that desk.
Skip:      Calm down Ted – we had a good match out there.
    Your team took things all the way.
Ted:       My officers conduct themselves to the letter of the law, sir. The letter!
Skip:      Maybe, but we weren’t sure that calling for a Tactical Firearms Unit
               was the appropriate response when our opening bat got his fifty.
Ted:       What are you talking about? It wasn’t a Tactical Firearms Unit.
    I said Tighten the Fielding Up. 
Skip:      Ah yes, pity you grassed that nick off him.
Ted:       Catching criminals is tough enough but catching slip chances......
    God give me strength.
Steve:    That batter was MIT.
Ted:       Major Incident Team?
Steve:    Middling It.
Skip:      Still - pity that after tea it was CID.
Ted:       Don’t tell me...
Kate:     ...yes, guv, Chucking It Down.
Steve:    Yes, we had to come off.  After that it was NCPA.
Ted:       No Cause for Police Action?
Kate:     No Cricket Played Again.

Friday, 9 April 2021

A Vaccine Passport?

'Give us back our freedom,' screams the tabloid press.  Government Ministers promise that hairdressers will open.  Non-essential shopping will soon be possible. The pubs will be not far behind.  Holidays are becoming a possibility. 

There is animated discussion about the utility and ethics of vaccine passports.  Fantasy Bob has mixed feelings about the passport concept.  But he thinks there is one situation in which it might be essential. 

Cricketers are quietly taking comfort from the fact that it looks increasingly likely that there will be something more of a season than last year.   The First Class season is already underway which explains the sudden drop in temperature.  The County Championship is now confined to the only parts of the year not dominated by pink and white ball action and is shortly to be re-designated as an official winter sport (and might seek entry to the Winter Olympics as a result). 

Outdoor practice for clubs has already resumed, and junior leg spinners at Fantasy Bob's club have been relishing an easy victim with the return of his iconic figure to action as he casts injury, age and general ineptitude behind him. 

So who is considering the role that vaccine passports play in cricket this season?  Should a batsman show it before taking guard.  Surely not.  

In last year's truncated season, tea was proscribed.  It was deemed too dangerous.  Lots of breathing, mingling and touching things.  Players had to bring their own sustenance and chew it in socially distanced space around the boundary.  Unsatisfactory.

But this year?  Surely tea will be back?  

FB cares little for the pubs, inessential shopping or holidays abroad.  But he urges the Advisory Committees to get their act together on tea.  They must come to the right decision.  Empire biscuits depend on it.

And this is where a vaccine passport could prove its worth.  The advantages are obvious - the time honoured rituals of cricket tea could go ahead, and the unvaccinated scavengers of the junior section would be kept well away from the goodies.

Available only to holders of approved vaccine passports.

Friday, 26 March 2021


Sir Charles Walker MP (Fantasy Bob uses the term advisedly) may be attracting all kinds of brickbats from social media commentators for his declaration last night that he would henceforth carry with him a pint of milk as a protest.  FB was unsure what Sir C wanted to protest, but that is beside the issue.

Because lower league skippers, including FB, will not be amongst the detractors.  They recognise how following Sir Charles' example would save the agonies they go through many times during the cricket season.  

The first innings has been completed.  The tea table groans with the assembled provender - the home baking from the juniors' mothers putting to shame the student member's contribution of out of date Wotsits and dog biscuits. 

The tea pot has been filled.  All is set. Then comes a tentative inquiry, 'Where's the milk, skip?'

Skip's blood runs cold. 

Packing for a match is a lengthy task best commenced at the crack of dawn when the mind is clear.  The memory test is exacting.  His own kit must be assembled - many skippers will simplify this challenge by not opening the kit bag from one week till the next - indeed many skippers mitigate all risk by simply leaving it in the car boot all season.  Occasionally even the most risk averse skipper's social conscience tells him that washing machines were invented for a reason.  It is on these occasions that an extra hour becomes necessary to reassemble his gear.  Both socks may have survived their encouter with the washing machine but in their unaccustomed cleanliness have mysteriously been assigned to random drawers throughout the house. The petulant early morning cry of, 'Where did you put my other sock?' is not the wake up call most likely to foster marital bliss.  An enquiry about the last known location of his jock-strap even less so.  

Then he must remember the scorebook, a pen, another pen should the first one disappear, and a third just in case;  the team sheet;  the league rules; the rain calculator.  Then keys, the ground keys, the pavilion keys, the scorebox keys, the tractor shed keys. It is always at this point that his car keys suddenly appear to have moved from the exact position he clearly remembers putting them last night.  Only further hazard with the marital relationship establishes that they have been put on the hook that they always hang on.

Then the sundry items of junior kit that were left behind last week.  For no self-respecting junior will leave a dressing room with all that he brought into it.  It is some kind of long forgotten genetic impulse to territory mark.  It is only scant relief that they use batting gloves or helmets, rather than methods adopted in the animal kingdom.

There may be sundry other items - books borrowed overdue for return; tickets for social evenings.  The list can be endless.  

By the time he has in-gathered (as the Scottish legal profession has it) everything, he is already late.  He rushes out the door, lucky to reach the ground in time.  So is it any wonder that he forgets the milk?

'Where's the milk, skip?'  The repeated inquiry breaks his reverie.

'Isn't there some in the fridge?' He suggests weakly.

He opens the door in hope.  He is saved!  At the back there is a half-full bottle.  He reaches for it - and notices the sell-by date suggests it has been there since the middle of last season. 

'Sorry, boys.'  The atmosphere turns sour.  Not as sour as last season's milk, admittedly, but sour nevertheless.

'Not again.  And I bet you haven't got that book I lent you two seasons ago'

Now, with Sir Charles' example, no lower league skipper will face this embarrassment again.  He will always have a pint of milk with him.  As a protest.  Against not having a pint of milk.

What a service to cricket.  Well done Sir Charles.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Put Out More Flags

 Sydney Cricket Ground 1914 - early adopter

Fantasy Bob understands the following guidance is being prepared for immediate issue to all cricket clubs in the United Kingdom. 

  • The Union Flag is the symbol of the nation which brought cricket to the world.  It is clear that without the Union Flag cricket would never have been invented. Cricket clubs therefore need to get real and follow this guidance in the coming season
  • Where cricket clubs only have one flagpole, the Union Flag should be flown every day.
  • Where cricket clubs have more than one flagpole, and two flags are being flown, the Union Flag must always be flown in the superior position which is either:
    • the highest flagpole, or
    • the flagpole nearest where tea is likely to served
  • It may be possible to fly more than one flag on the same flagpole if there is enough space. If so, the Union Flag should always fly on top (‘in the superior position’).
  • Cricket club flagpoles should not remain empty.  
  • Where other flags are flown they should be such as to promote cricketers’ pride (see below).
  • On no occasion, even when winning a league or cup title should non-flag items be flown. Particularly not articles of clothing. Far less articles that are recognisably underwear such as the skipper’s jock-strap. 

Thursday, 11 March 2021


Fantasy Bob is of an age that it was considered part of his education in primary school to learn by heart  William Wordsworth's The Daffodils.  He got no traction on his suggestion that learning the art of the forward defence would serve him better on his journey through life.  But from time to time the poem comes into his mind, word perfect after all these years.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills, 
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Mrs FB likes nothing better than a few bunches of daffodils fluttering and dancing around the house.  She is cheered by a bright flash of yellow in every room.  She and Wordsworth would have got on like a house on fire.  

Fantasy Bob has therefore been conscientiously feeding her habit in recent weeks bringing hosts of golden daffodils home with every trip out.  He was therefore disturbed to see reports of difficulties in harvesting the daffodil crops because of the Brexit induced shortage of labour.  Millions of blooms may be tossing their heads only to be left to rot in the fields.  Not quite the sprightly dance the poet had in mind. 

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

FB is suddenly anxious.  It would be bad news for him if a shortage of supply caused him difficulty meeting Mrs FB's needs.  For there is a delicate balance of emotions in the household at this time of year.  As the winter recedes and the evenings lengthen, FB's thoughts begin to turn to the coming cricket season.   

It is not always clear that Mrs FB shares FB's keen anticipation.  She looks up briefly from her careful arrangement of FB's most recent offering.

'You're not thinking of playing again are you?   Didn't you say your ankle was crocked....or was it your shoulder....or your elbow....or your back.'

FB was on the point of suggesting that her apparent inability to remember precisely the location of his injuries suggested a lack of due attention to his problems on her part.  But discretion overtook him.  He bit his tongue.  Another injury, but not one that would affect significantly his bowling action.

Mrs FB returned her concentration to sorting the blooms.  She stood back to admire the display.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

He took a risk and attempted a response.

'Yes, but maybe I can play round them.'

Mrs FB's gaze turned slowly from daffodil to husband, evidently her less preferred view.

'The only way you could do that is by standing stock still.'

FB didn't acknowledge that she had neatly summarised his approach to fielding.  He had yet to confess to his better half that for a number of years his contribution to the team was largely decorative.  It was a source of disappointment that his claims to have innovated the specialist role of non-bowling non-batting barely-fielding tosser (in the sense of one who tosses prior to a match, in case any readers were pursuing other interpretations) have yet to be acknowledged by Wisden.

The lockdown has meant that FB has been spared the annual cruelty of indoor nets.  But as the pandemic recedes the powers-that-be are daily more confident that serious cricketing activity can begin soon.  It is time for FB to look his kit out.  Even in the specialist role on which FB now prides himself a prodigious spread of kit is essential.

It has been a source of amazement to FB for many years that no matter where in the house he neatly stacks his bag, she successfully seeks it out for the sole purpose of tripping over it.  It is a skill not given to everyone.

'Well, if you must,' she said. 'But Don't Leave Your Kit All Over The Place As You Always Do.'  She spoke audible capitals, leaving a pause between each word to ensure that FB could understand the full meaning of each word.

He had no choice but to go for the jugular.

'The daffs look nice.'

Having thus sweetened her, he promises to do better this year.  She sighs.  She has heard similar promises before.  She sighs again and resumes her flower arranging, perhaps trimming the stems with a more vigour than before.

It is at times like this that a conciliatory bunch of daffodils can ease the emotional tension.   The threat to security of supply is therefore serious.  It risks disturbing the smooth preparation that FB makes for the start of the season.

Had this been acknowledged by those in vacant or pensive mood at an earlier stage in the Brexit debate the result might well have been different.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Saturday, 6 March 2021


There has been much chat in the public press about roadmaps.  It would seem that escape from the constraints of the pandemic cannot be accomplished without a roadmap.  Or several.  The recovery of economic health also needs a roadmap.  There are road maps to the digital future, the carbon free future, to every longed for future.

For the lower league cricketer with a long memory, such as Fantasy Bob, all this roadmap talk is chilling.  It awakes long repressed memories, leaving them sleepless and exhausted.  Younger cricketers may depend on SATNAV to do their dirty work for them.  They therefore have little conception of the horrors of the roadmap.  But in the pre-digital age, cricketers travelling to unfamiliar away grounds had to take their chances with roadmaps. Many fixtures did not happen or had to be truncated because players spent the better part of the afternoon aimlessly roaming the country side in search of the promised land.  By comparison the Israelites had it easy.  What yesterday's lower league cricketer would not have given for a pillar of fire to guide them through the wilderness.  (Seam bowlers in the side would also have been happy with a pillar of cloud).

Occasionally the unfortunate travellers might press the AA Book into service.  Not that it was a great help.  FB understands that the first printed map of Scotland was prepared in Italy (where else) by Paolo Forlani in the mid-16th Century.  As can be seen from the reproduction above, it signally fails to identify any cricket ground. Perhaps this is not remarkable, the Italian interest in the game in those days being minimal, but it seems to have a set a trend for subsequent map-makers.  And the AA Book, whatever other improvements it might have made since the 1500s, did not see fit to correct Forlani's basic oversight.  Cricket grounds simply are not marked.

Even the most keen-eyed junior player, designated navigator for the day by virtue of having gained the map-reading badge in the Cubs, would be flummoxed.  Many a skipper has found to his cost that the award of that badge was no assurance that its owner had even the vaguest idea in which direction lay North, far less a basic appreciation of right versus left.

Cricketers therefore had to resort to other guides.  Too often this took the form of a scribbled set of instructions from the club secretary transcribed from his telephone call with the opposition skipper.  That the call took place in the pub late the previous evening brought a sense of mystery, if not adventure, to the interpretation of these instructions.  

For unfamiliar venues that were relatively local, there would be a list of abbreviated street names.  If you understood Cam R to be Campbell Road, rather than Cameron Road or even Cambridge Row, then you were flying.  If not, a long tour of the city's less familiar nooks was in prospect.

These instructions were often embellished with obiter dicta.  Some of these - for example 'beside pub', 'after church' - could actually be helpful, providing you had guessed correctly on Cam R. 

But 'turn at Jimmy's house' might be excellent, if you knew who Jimmy was, where he lived and which way to turn when his house hove into view, but less so in other circumstances.  Similarly, 'Get to the big ASDA and then take the short cut' teased with its spurious accuracy. Other instructions could suffer from an uncertainty which suggested that the background noise in the pub had swollen to unhelpful levels during dictation.  It is hard otherwise to understand instructions such as '3rd or 4th right or maybe left'.  Always these instructions were handed over to the travelling skipper with the suggestion that, 'It's easy - you'll know it when you're there.'  

For new locations further afield, there was less local knowledge to help narrow the target area.  Understanding road numbers seemed beyond the Cub Scout navigation syllabus and brought additional risk.  Trunk roads could generally be relied on - assuming the young navigator had the travellers heading toward the correct compass point.  But minor roads could be challenging.  'B83something' on the scribbled instructions was no great help.  

Backseat drivers who felt their claim that the road sign that had just been sped past was unjustly ignored could sour the trip.

'Why didn't you tell me before we passed it?' hissed the frustrated driver.  To which, 'I thought you knew where we were going,' was not deemed a particularly helpful response.

A forthright exchange of views would inevitably follow.  As a result of which squabble neither back nor front seat driver would notice the handmade sign 'To the Cricket Ground' on the next turn off.  Being good club men neither would bear a grudge, although adjustments to the batting order could affect the passengers of this car more than others.

Instructions were always complemented with the suggestion, 'If you get lost, just ask.'  It is hard to underestimate the hazard attached to following that instruction.  

FB remembers once pulling up at a petrol station after failing to locate the desired ground.  Getting out of the car, he asked the attendant,

'Can you tell me the quickest way to the cricket ground?' 

 'Are you walking or going by car?'

 'By car.' 

'Quite right, that is the quickest way.'

It is a wonder any away fixtures ever happened.  Cricketers must hope that the map shown below is more helpful.