A No-Win Situation

Leicestershire v Northamptonshire, County Championship, Grace Road, 12th June 2013

There are those who would have you believe that day 2 of a Championship match between Leicestershire and Northamptonshire is likely to be a tedious occasion (and that this is likely to be a tedious post).  Unfortunately, they would be quite correct.  Apart from giving me another chance to mount some of my favourite hobby horses, the most interesting aspect of the day was my discovery that, if stared at for long enough, the roof of the George Geary Stand bears a slight resemblance to some kind of minimalist work of art (perhaps one of Dan Flavin’s neon sculptures).

George Geary Stand

The team news was that we would not, in fact, be seeing Leicestershire’s dream bowling unit in action.  Hoggard was at the ground, but not on the pitch (having apparently picked up some kind of mysterious niggle since his 8 wicket performance for the 2nds the other week).  The suspicion grows that he won’t be seen in a Leicestershire shirt again (unless his plan is to sneak back into the side for the T20s).  Nor would we be seeing acting Captain Cobb, who appeared to have followed his first decision as Captain to drop himself down the order by dropping himself altogether.  He later turned up playing T20 for the 2nds, which I suppose shows where his and our priorities lie this year.

The Captaincy passed to Matt Boyce, whom many good judges believe would have been offered the position before if he had been certain of his place in the side (the general view being that he is the brains of the outfit).  His first decision, having won the toss, was to follow the modern fashion and bowl first.  It looked to be the case that we had prepared a lifeless pitch to foil the thus far all-conquering Northants attack.  Predictably, our own youthful seamers struggled, and were not helped by five dropped catches. By close of play on the first day Northants had reached 320-4.

On Day 2, when I was there, Northants once again batted on past the 110 over mark, narrowly missing out on the last batting bonus point (395-5) and then on past all reason, before declaring on a quite superfluous 567-7.  As a tactic this would make sense if the game were guaranteed to last the full four days, but a moment’s thought, or a brief look at the weather forecast, would surely have told them that they had effectively batted themselves out of any chance of winning the match, or even achieving maximum bowling points.  The strategy appeared to be one of ‘mental disintegration‘, and it’s true that poor Ollie Freckingham looked a broken man as he left the pitch (having taken 0-122), but the only real signs of mental disintegration were among the crowd, especially the Northants supporters, who seem unanimously convinced that they will, once again, be pipped at the post for promotion.  As it was, Leicestershire crept on through two heavily rain-depleted days to finish on 238-6.  And that was it.

So, have Northants really blown it again?  They stand at the head of the table, with 127 points from 8 games.  Lancashire are in second place with 94 from 7, and the two meet this week at Old Trafford.  My prediction would be that Lancs, who are the only side of any real quality in the Division, will overtake them and head the table.  The question is whether any other side can rouse themselves enough to take second place and I suspect the answer is no.  The sides who are playing well lack quality and the better sides (Hampshire, Kent, Essex) are playing poorly.  Hampshire do, at least, seem to have had a look at the points scoring system and the table and tried to achieve a result by forfeiting an innings against Gloucestershire last week, but cocked it up and lost by 198 runs.

When the Championship resumes in August we can expect to see a flurry of declarations and forfeits as sides who are incapable of bowling the opposition out twice (particularly in three days) scramble for points, and we may see some unexpected results.  Who knows, Leicestershire might even win a match.  It does strike me that it might be better to learn how to declare and achieve results in the first half of the season and then consolidate, if necessary, in the second, rather than dozing through the first half and panicking in the second.  But I’m sure our Captains and Coaches (who, I suspect, now devise the plans for the Captains to ‘execute’) know what they’re doing.

I feel unable to bring you action shots from this match as, frankly, there wasn’t any to speak of, but here are a couple of shots of the most memorable innings I saw last week – a whirlwind and career-best 57 from Stan Galloway of Barrow against Market Harborough.  He is a rare bird these days, as a Caribbean cricketer in the Leicestershire League, he eschews the use of a helmet in favour of a towering tam that lengthens as the seasons go by and his innings seemed to my rheumy old eyes to blow in on the warm air of warmer climes and happier days.

Stan Galloway

Stan Galloway 2

On The Town : Late Entries In The Snow Scene Category

Just before it melts, a couple of late entries in the snow scene category.

This is Wilfred Dudeney’s ‘Three Printers’, transformed into three jolly matelots on shore leave and looking for fun.  I think Gene Kelly is the one on the left.

On the town

And this sad modern variant on the traditional lost dog notice.  Lost in snow – White iPod Touch.

Lost in snow

I bet the owner is regretting not having gone for the pink iPod option now.

“Without Even Having Sacrificed His Whiskers” : Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln

Here is another – less troubling – monument to be found in Lincoln Cathedral.  It is slightly tucked away, but then it would probably be too large to move.  From a distance it appears to be a statue of the Pope, which would be a surprising thing to find in an Anglican Cathedral, but – as you will see – it is, in fact Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln between 1885 and 1910.  It is still unusual to find such a monumental monument to a Clergyman (the photograph does not really convey the size of the thing). It would be surprising if, for instance, Bishop Tim of Leicester were to be commemorated in this way after he vacates his Cathedra.

Closer to, he seems rather less intimidating and, indeed, rather kindly.  There is a hint, perhaps, of Private Godfrey putting his hand up to be excused.  (This photograph, incidentally, might give the impression that the statue is made of solid gold, but that it is not the case).

I must admit the name was unknown to me, but it appears he was certainly one of the better sorts of Bishop.  He was appointed at the age of 59, having spent most of his career in Oxford, as the Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology, Canon of Christ Church and founder of St Stephen’s House.  As Bishop, according to the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, he “won the affection and reverence of all classes by his real saintliness of character” and, according to another source was “the most loved man in Lincolnshire”.  His great strength seems to have been in the area of pastoral care.

The most dramatic incident of his career as Bishop was his trial before Archbishop Benson for “ritualistic practices” between 1888-1890.  Apparently this stemmed from a complaint lodged by a Solicitor from Cleethorpes named Ernest de Lacy Read.  In his opponents’ view

“By the work he maintained at Cuddesdon; by his apparently sincere regard for Romish playthings; by the display of gaudy gew-gaws at his enthronement; and by his self-conscious vanity in sitting to be ‘taken’ for the admiration of ‘the faithful’ without even having sacrificed his whiskers to the Catholic razor, he is unquestionably assisting in ‘digging the grave of the Establishment.'”

The outcome of the prosecution seems to have been a compromise, whereby he was allowed to continue with most of his “ritualistic practices” as long as it was understood that there was no sacerdotal significance to them.  He was allowed to have lighted candles on the altar, for instance, but only for the purposes of illumination.

In an interview with the newsletter of the Friends of Lincoln Cathedral, Rowan Williams gave his view of the trial (King might have struggled to understand the second sentence here)

“Here was one of the holiest, most learned, most pastorally engaged, most involved bishops in the Church of England going through a ridiculous process, which everybody was embarrassed about.  Archbishop Benson was clearly embarrassed about it, and I think that general embarrassment did teach Church and State something about the need to give the Church a little bit of room to work out its own disciplines on its own terms about worship, and to catch up with the flexibility and changes in worship practices that were going on on the ground.”

He also comments, rather feelingly –

“I think he would be amazed at the amount of paperwork and regulation that we’ve created for ourselves and that we’ve created in response to Government pressure, and I think he would be disappointed that we were focussed so much on rather short-term goals.  King was a deep man, and he believed that clergy ought to have depth; that they ought to have the kind of training that allowed them to go deep in their own faith, and the resources of the tradition, and of the Bible, and I think he would have said that we’re very much at risk of crowding that out, of creating people who are problem-solvers rather than thinkers and reflectors.”

Following his death, there were calls for King to be canonised, though he has had to make do with a lesser festival on the 8th March.  I don’t know how the monument was paid for, but it would not be surprising if it was by public subscription.  It is possible that he is shown in the act of making the sign of the cross with the flat of his hand (one of the “ritualistic practices” for which he was prosecuted) – one way, I suppose, of , as it were, showing two fingers to the Cleethorpes Solicitor.

Unlike his predecessor (Christopher Wordsworth) there is no evidence that King was a sporting man.  His nephew, the Rev. Robert Stuart King, however, played football for Grimsby Town and one match for England (a 13-0 win against Ireland).  His great-nephew (also Robert King) played one First-Class cricket match for Essex and later went on to umpire in the South African Currie Cup.

Bernadette! : A Lourdes Grotto In Rothwell

I was in Rothwell yesterday, to watch the Bones getting beaten 6-3 by Potton United (they now have two points and a goal difference of minus 48).

One thing I like about Rothwell is the feeling that, at some point (perhaps the ‘sixties), it has somehow become cut off from the rest of the world – a feeling accentuated by the fact that everywhere I went yesterday they were playing ‘sixties hits – Sugar Sugar, Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes, Band of Gold.  Perhaps the ironstone buildings and the dozy, fuggy atmosphere  remind me of staying with my grandparents in Kettering during the Summer holidays.

It does, of course, also have remnants of earlier and stranger selves much older than that.  I have written before about the Jesus Hospital.  The Parish Church has its bone crypt, or ossuary, and then there is the Market Hall.  Like the nearby Triangular Lodge, this was built by Thomas ‘the Builder’ Tresham, father of the Gunpowder Plot conspirator, and was intended to embody his recusant Roman Catholic beliefs in a way that is so cryptic that it verges on the Kabbalistic.  There is a building called the Nunnery, which is believed to be connected with a Priory shut down at the Reformation.

And then there is this, which for some reason, I’d never come across before.  It is a Lourdes Grotto, outside St Bernadette’s Roman Catholic Church.

It is meant to be a replica of the grotto where the Virgin Mary (this figure)

appeared in a vision to Bernadette of Lourdes (the smaller kneeling figure)

Like most post-Counter Reformation Catholic iconography, it exhibits – if not quite a defiant ugliness – then a deliberate indifference to secular standards of aesthetics.  It is intended to exemplify a doctrine, and all else would be a distraction.

Coming across it unexpectedly, it also seemed almost shocking in its wilful un-Englishness (not to mention – to Protestant eyes – more than vaguely pagan).  It doesn’t seem to belong here at all, but in Italy, or Ireland, or France. Or perhaps the shock is in the realisation that there is nothing un-English about it.  If the ghost of Thomas Tresham, or a revenant Nun or some of the older bones in the Ossuary were to chance across it one moonlit night, it would surely make them feel more, not less, at home.

Stump Watch St Pancras

I see the authorities at St Pancras seem to have adopted my patented Stump Watch programme (without so much as a by your leave!).

The scene on Monday –  

on Tuesday –

and today –

They must be using an awful lot of fertiliser …


(Actually, Lego – perhaps provided by the nearby branch of Hamley’s.  Rather a nice idea.)

The Midland Railway War Memorial, Derby

The next time that you’re on your way to Matlock Bath by train (as I’m sure you will be shortly!) you may find that you have to spend an hour or so at Derby Station, before changing trains.  If you ask politely, the Station staff will be only too happy to allow you out of the station to make what Pevsner would have called a perambulation of the City.

One of the first things you come to will be this – 

– a war memorial, designed by Sir Edward Lutyens.  Judging by the number of names on it (2,833) you might think that it represents the war dead of the City of Derby, or perhaps of the Derbyshire Regiment.  In fact, it is the memorial to the employees of the Midland Railway.

An unusual feature is that the figure on top of the pillar is almost invisible from the ground, but appears to be a dead, shrouded soldier.

 This reminds me a little of Mark Wallinger’s sculpture “Ecce Homo” – a life-size figure of Christ that briefly featured on top of one of the plinths in Trafalgar Square a couple of years ago – the more moving because, at first sight, it appeared quite negligible.

Summertime at Moorgate and Wantage Road

(Warning – this post contains images of nudity)

A couple of pieces of public art to welcome the arrival of Summer.  This is from the City of London (outside Moorgate Station)

This is advertised as being by Salvador Dali.   In fact, it appears to be have been fabricated  by a dealer based on a illustration for Alice in Wonderland that Dali had drawn late in life (the Guardian has the story here) –   The asking price, should you wish to buy it, is £1.5 million.

Simply as an object – and I pass it every morning on my way to work – I rather like this.  If they were selling it for £14.99 in Homebase as a piece of garden furniture I’d be tempted to acquire one.  

That Dali was illustrating Alice at all reminds me of what Orwell had to say in his generally uncomplimentary (“he is as antisocial as a flea”) essay “Benefit of Clergy : some notes on Salvador Dali“, in which he wrote of

“…  the old-fashioned, over-ornate Edwardian style of drawing to which Dali tends to revert when he is not being Surrealist … Picturesqueness keeps breaking in. Take away the skulls, ants, lobsters, telephones and other paraphernalia, and every now and again you are back in the world of Barrie, Rackham, Dunsany and WHERE THE RAINBOW ENDS … It may be therefore, that Dali’s seemingly perverse cult of Edwardian things … is merely the symptom of a much deeper, less conscious affection. The innumerable, beautifully executed copies of textbook illustrations, solemnly labelled LE ROSSIGNOL, UNE MONTRE and so on, which he scatters all over his margins, may be meant partly as a joke… But perhaps these things are also there because Dali can’t help drawing that kind of thing because it is to that period and that style of drawing that he really belongs.”

This, on the other hand, is from the window of the osteopath near to the County Ground in Northampton that has featured before on this blog –

A skeleton on its way to the beach on a bicycle, dressed in a sort of bright green hooded bathrobe (and note the cricket bat in the lower foreground).  A piece of home-grown vernacular surrealism that, I imagine, would set you back a good deal less than £1.5 m.

April, by Helen Hunt Jackson (Warning – this post contains an image some viewers may find offensive)

Over to Helen Hunt Jackson, for her preview of the new month.



No days such honored days as these! When yet
Fair Aphrodite reigned, men seeking wide
For some fair thing which should forever bide
On earth, her beauteous memory to set
In fitting frame that no age could forget,
Her name in lovely April’s name did hide,
And leave it there, eternally allied
To all the fairest flowers Spring did beget.
And when fair Aphrodite passed from earth,
Her shrines forgotten and her feasts of mirth,
A holier symbol still in seal and sign,
Sweet April took, of kingdom most divine,
When Christ ascended, in the time of birth
Of spring anemones, in Palestine.

I think Ascension Day is technically in May (or occasionally June), and the idea that April’s name derives from Aphrodite is questionable.  But let us have a look at fair Aphrodite anyway.  This picture is taken from the Jack Wills Spring Catalogue of c. 150 A.D.  “It’s a disgrace!  We demand this blog be withdrawn! etc.” – 19 Concerned Parents.   


Walmington-on-Sea Beach Robe - £199.00

Merrie Men and Mad Men

Between Christmas and New Year I visited Peterborough – to see the Cathedral – and Nottingham – to see the British Art Show 7 (In the Days of the Comet), which I see has now transferred to London.  While in Nottingham, I also took the opportunity to visit Pugin’s Roman Catholic Cathedral dedicated to St Barnabas (about which more another time, perhaps).

On my way from the Cathedral to the Castle (where part of the Art Show was on display) I came across this along Maid Marian Way (which sounds delightful, but ain’t) –


– the window of what seems to have been a mediaeval-themed “banqueting hall”, now closed down due to the recession.  These Brueghelian figures must, I think, have been used to create an atmosphere of Merrie Olde Englande for the revellers, but now look as though they are making a desperate effort to escape the ruins of the building (it reminds me slightly of pictures of the Heysel Stadium disaster).

I suppose this is how we how we now generally imagine the middle ages – dirty and grotesque – as opposed to the airy delicacy of the genuinely mediaeval Cathedral at Peterborough or the slightly cloying idealised imaginings of Pugin.  It also worked much better as a piece of installation art than most of the contrivances of our contemporary artists at the Castle (as these sorts of unintended artworks often do).




Evening Prayer : Darkness Visible

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned” (Matthew 4.16)

I’m afraid words seem to be failing me slightly today, so here are a couple more images of Lights in the Darkness.  I have noticed, looking back through the photographs I’ve taken this year, that certain themes recur no matter what I’m intending to photograph – doorways, entrances and exits, signs of all sorts, gravestones and memorials.  But this seems to be the predominant one.  I’m sure my subconscious must be trying to tell me something. 

This is a statue of Mother and Child from Peterborough Cathedral (I’m afraid I failed to note the sculptor) –

and that was the River Jordan at about 6.30 one morning last week (the lights here are street lights rather than will o’ the wisps).

“Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night …”  

and – of your mercy -pray for the soul of the 15 year old friend of my daughter from her old primary school, who was murdered last week in North London.  Rest in Peace – though, of course, that is the last thing a 15 year old should be doing.