(Still messing about with the scanner here. A bit skewiff, but I think I’m getting there …)
How did leading cricketers keep themselves amused in the dressing room and on tour in the days before Playstations and Twitter? Here we have one answer, from Bill Bowes, the Yorkshire and England fast bowler … card tricks! This is from his autobiography “Express Deliveries”, from the days when Leicester racecourse gangs (as read about in Brighton Rock) could operate with impunity on the nation’s rail network. East Midlands Trains would never stand for it.
“Sitting in the dressing-room at Lord’s one wet day when I was nineteen I was fascinated by a display of conjuring given by Arthur Cuthbertson, a minor counties cricketer. The amateur conjuror is always assured of a good audience in a cricket pavilion, and among the magicians I have known were … Ronnie Aird, the assistant secretary at Lord’s.
I was so interested that I determined to find out “how it was done”, and when I began to play for Yorkshire I had several opportunities for further study when local theatres invited us to see the show. If there was a magician on the bill I would beguile him into teaching me a few non-secret tricks. Often on rainy days the boys asked me to go through my repertoire of deception, and at winter cricket dinners I found that my tricks provided a good excuse for not making a speech.
I made the acquaintance of the “Find the Lady” expert in a Leicester racecourse gang. He was a twister, no doubt, but what a performer! He worked the trains on which we often travelled and I and others of the Yorkshire team came to know “Ucky” as a great character …
I also resorted to fair booths, and at Kettering spent every evening of our stay in the conjuror’s tent, paying my twopence with a monotonous regularity …
When I was stationed in Cairo during the war I developed an acquaintance with a gulli-gulli man – a street entertainer – who could produce chickens, snakes and even coconuts from little alumium tumblers.
I have had countless hours of enjoyment engaged in the art of sawing women in two, turning sugar into sand and milk into beer, reading minds or transferring thoughts, and causing the strange disappearance of people, cabinets and even bulky articles such as motor-cars.”
Can Tim Bresnan say as much? I suspect not.