On Tour With Compton No. 3 : How To Celebrate A Victory

So, further cause for our brave lads out in the heat of the subcontinent to celebrate today!  But will they know to how to do the thing properly?

There have been hints that today’s touring party do not lead quite as monastic a life as we have been led to believe.  Nick Compton has reappeared in The Cricket Paper, posing with some of his colleagues in the wake of victory in the last test, all clutching small bottles of beer.  I can’t help noticing, though, that they seem to be holding the bottles in an awkwardly dainty way, the better to show off  the labels (Kingfisher Lager, who one imagines have some kind of deal going with the ECB).

After the victory in Mumbai, Kevin Pietersen – perhaps inspired by the visit of Boris Johnson, in his well-cast role as Lord of Misrule – was allowed to leak a couple of tweets –

You having a good time????? DON’T stop the paaaaaaarty! #BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMx

and

Premature tweet for tomorrow am- I GOT A HANGOVER, whooooooooooaaaa! ☺

But after that there was radio silence – presumably because Andy Flower had been alerted and had confiscated KP’s ‘phone.

So let us return to Compton’s Grandfather’s account 0f the extended booze cruise that was the 1950-51 tour of Australia, conducted under the wise stewardship of Freddie Brown.  At first, Brown had turned down the chance to captain the tour, as he relates in his own autobiography …

“When I was wallowing happily in the bath the same evening, a member of the MCC committee said to me, ‘It rather looks as if you’ll be asked at the committee meeting tomorrow night to take the side to Australia’.

My reply was ‘I’m not interested’.  I gave as my reasons, firstly that my employers, British Timken Ltd., of Northampton, were sending out a side to South Africa under my captaincy to coincide with the opening of a new factory, and secondly, that I did not feel I had been given a really fair deal so far as the Trial match earlier in the season had been concerned.”

But, eventually, he relented (with the blessing of British Timken) and made sure to establish the right tone for the forthcoming tour on the voyage out.  Over to Compton Senior again –

“Wherever I played, or wherever I was there was always humour.  For me the game had excitement and colour, and always humour.  I remember an incident when we were on our way to Australia by boat in 1950.  John Warr, a great humorist of Middlesex and now the county’s captain, was a member of the MCC party, being taken out for his fast bowling.  One night was fancy-dress night and we were all strangely apparelled – I was W.G. Grace, I remember – by the time the before-dinner cocktail parties started in various parts of the ship.  We attended many of them, and they made us feel very happy.

John Warr was not by any means the unhappiest.  As well, he was Gorgeous Gussie*; though not with his height and sinewy limbs particularly gorgeous, he was certainly oddly fascinating.  His girl friends aboard had provided him with a little pleated skirt, exotic panties and a blouse with the right outline.  He was scented and made up, with plenty of mascara.  He carried a tennis racket, and swung it as he reckoned Gorgeous had swung.

As we entered the saloon for dinner, Gorgeous Gussie threw a ball up, swung lustily, and revealingly, and produced what looked like an ace.  It flashed across the tables and, on its way, took with it a full soup spoon which the kindest of old ladies was at that moment raising to her lips.  There was a liberal spray and mist of ship’s soup about her as she threw her hands up in surprise.

“Sorry, fault!” Gorgeous cried ecstatically; then, recollecting himself, John gave the amplest apologies, which were most graciously received.

The evening was far from over.  Freddie Brown was a Maori chief, having in his hand the chiefly staff called a Taiaha, made of leather and wool, with which he quietly belaboured those about him.  He looked very Polynesian indeed.  Jim Swanton was a stage grander, and was dressed up very convincingly as King Farouk; indeed the similarity was so close that most listeners to or viewers of cricket would have been startled to see him.  He was strutting about regally, as a king should, with his chin up and a sophisticated air.  This was too much for the less civilised Maori chieftain, who walked up to the Egyptian king, and felled him with a blow of his Taiaha on the place where the crown should rest.  For a moment the king was not amused, and the assembly of fancy-dressed figures, with Gorgeous Gussie swinging her racket in encouragement, saw the portly chief and the even more portly king scrapping amiably on the dining-room floor in mid-ocean.”

For younger readers, this would be the rough equivalent of Stuart Broad, dressed as Maria Sharapova, serving a tennis ball into an old lady’s soup, and  Alastair Cook  and Derek Pringle (both in blackface) wresting on the floor of the aeroplane  over to India.  I think it would take quite a lot of news management to keep that one quiet.

*Gorgeous Gussie (or Gussy) Moran, famous at the time for appearing at Wimbledon in a dress designed to reveal a pair of frilly knickers.

J.J. Warr (Middlesex and England)

“This Gay Conception Died Far Too Young” : Robertson-Glasgow Looks Backwards And Forwards

There are people – let us, for the sake of argument, call them me – who dislike music at cricket matches.  Some of them dislike not only the sudden blasts that accompany boundaries and wickets at televised one dayers, but even the playing of  ‘Jerusalem’ before the start of international matches.  How much more dignified it would be if the players took the field to a polite ripple of applause and the faint susurrus of flicked-through Playfairs, they think.  Would anyone who remembered those days have hankered after musical accompaniment?

Well, apparently, yes.  This is from a collection of ‘lighter pieces’ from the Observer  by R.C. Robertson-Glasgow (writing in 1946).     

“Alas, for our decline from romance to utility.  When eight-five years ago, H.H. Stephenson took the first England cricket team to Australia, the band at Melbourne played their guests into the field to the strains of ‘God Save the Queen.’  Imagine a band at a modern Test Match.  I suppose it is conceivable, if they played ‘Rock of Ages’ and the ‘Dead March in Saul.‘  

Those same people are rather inclined to regret the advent of coloured clothing, and the numbering and naming of shirts.  I – I mean they – are also inclined (not entirely consistently) to complain that the wearing of helmets makes it difficult to tell which player is which.  But surely no-one with an ounce of poetry in their souls would, in the days when players were uniformly turned-out in crisp white flannels and severely classical caps, have wished it any different?  Well again, apparently, yes.     

‘With what finery, too, that first team cheered and enlightened the spectators.  Each English player wore a very light helmet-shaped hat, with a sash and hat-ribbon of a distinctive hue, corresponding to colours set down in the score-card against each man’s name.  This gay conception died far too young.  I like to fancy Hendren in heliotrope and Sutcliffe in sea-green.  Douglas Jardine did his best with his Harlequin cap, but by then most of the Australian spectators were beyond the emollient influence of bright colours.

England and most of the Counties have settled to the uniformity of the darker blues, though Surrey struggle on with chocolate brown, Worcestershire with green. It is left to the Schools and clubs to illuminate the darkness.  Rugby still take the field against Marlborough in light-blue shirts, and the I Zingari cap shines like a beacon in the mist.  But it must be admitted that, in modern cricket, versicolority is apt to be rated as a sign of incompetence, until the contrary is proved.’ 

It’s possible that Robertson-Glasgow – had he lived long enough – would have been an enthusiast for the astonishing versicolority and the dancing girls of the IPL.  Or, perhaps, there are those who will always be inclined to hanker after something better than what they have, and who will – if hankering after the future seems too hopeful –  hanker after the past.

H.H. Stephenson was the first man to be awarded a hat for taking three wickets in three balls, and ended his days as a coach at Uppingham School.  He died in Rutland.

This is the side he took on England’s first overseas tour, en route to the United States in 1859 (a couple of years before they first toured Australia).  Stephenson is fifth from the left.  They do look appealingly raffish – particularly, I suppose, when seen from the point of view of austerity-frozen 1946.

Animalequins

There has been widespread condemnation this week, following revelations that unscrupulous employers have been putting hard-working models out of work by replacing them with mannequins.

But who has taken the place of the mannequins?  This blog has uncovered disturbing evidence that innocent woodland creatures are being forced to work long hours – sometimes as much as 24 hours a day – modelling clothes in shop windows.

This fox was sighted in a branch of Jigsaw opposite St-Martin-in-the-Fields in London 

and this reindeer in the Fred Perry shop in Nottingham –

A spokesperson for PETA commented – “No animal in the wild would wear clothes or sit still for hours on end and forcing them to do can only be a source of enormous stress.  We urge our members to boycott any shops using animals as models and lobby their MPs to end this cruel practice.” 

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.

 

 April

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

Jack Wills v. the Advertising Standards Authority

In today’s news, I see that Jack Wills have been made to withdraw their Spring catalogue following complaints from parents.

One angry mother apparently wrote to the ASA in the following terms –

“I like to think I’m not easily shocked, but I picked this up when I was cleaning my daughter’s bedroom and, frankly, I was disgusted.  £19.00 for a pair of pants?  £39.00 for a scarf?  £129.00 for a “Bobbington Aran Cardigan”?  Have they no shame?”

Another wrote –

“I had to hide the catalogue before my husband came home – I was afraid he’d have a heart attack if he saw it!  £98.00 for a cotton cricket sweater!  £269.00 for a “Welburn Blazer”!  I couldn’t believe my eyes!”

Incensed Mum (of Market Harborough) commented –

“My son tried to hide this grubby publication under his bed – but – don’t worry – I found it!  I’m incensed!!!!”

 (Two other complaints – that the catalogue might mislead ordinary middle-class children into thinking that they might be able to afford to go to University, and that Jack Wills had used the names of innocent English towns and villages (e.g. “The Hinckley shirt“) without asking permission were dismissed.  The ASA said that the first was “obviously politically motivated” and that the second “Isn’t really our problem“.

All Perfectly Innocent

Aut Tace Aut Loquere Meliora Silentio

I was intending to write something quite different tonight, but somehow it didn’t happen – mainly because I was looking for a quotation in a book that I couldn’t find (the quotation, not the book) and I got distracted.  Perhaps another time.  But here is a useful piece of advice (to myself more than anyone else), from the seventeenth century Italian painter Salvator Rosa.  Rosa was featured in an exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery last year that I meant to see, but never quite got round to (so another thing that hasn’t happened), but this self-portrait can be seen as  part of the permanent collection at the National Gallery.  The motto he is holding up reads “Aut tace aut loquere meliora silentio” (Either be silent or say something better than silence).  If this principle were to be generally adopted, what a profound and blissful silence would descend on the blogosphere (and beyond). 

This look (the broad-brimmed hat, the hair, the white shirt, the long black coat or cloak) is a remarkably persistent one (the iconography, at the time, was that of the lover).  You wouldn’t be too surprised to see him walking around Covent Garden today.  Think, a little earlier, of the Dean of St. Paul’s, in his youth –

… Lord Byron, Keith Richards, Johnny Depp … erm … Russell Brand? (But I’m sure you can find pictures of those for yourself, if you want to).

Well, there.  I have said something, after a fashion.

What Do Zulus Wear? Mr. Answers Helps Out

 

 

Let us try to maintain this new tone of levity, by going over to Mr. Answers to see what he has in his bulging postbag.  Any interesting enquiries yet, Answers?

“Thank you, BW, Old Fruit.  I have had this, from a Mrs. Muriel Dotterill of Market Drayton:

“Dear Mr. Answers,

My family and I have been invited to an A-Z fancy dress party.  The idea is that you have to draw a letter of the alphabet from a hat and then go dressed as something beginning with that letter. Just our luck! – we drew the letter Z. 

We thought about going as Zebras, but I’m not sure that my sewing skills are up to that.  Zombies, we thought, had been done too many times before.  Zoroastrians might be a bit obscure, Zionists or Zoophiles too controversial (Market Drayton is quite a conservative place!).  My husband suggested that he could go as Zeus and I could go as a Zeppelin – but I soon put him right on that one!  Then we thought – what about Zulus?  Trouble is, we’re not quite sure how Zulus dress.  Do you have any suggestions (making sure, of course, not to offend the dreaded “PC Brigade”)!!!”

Luckily for Mrs. Dotterill, I found that I had already researched this question for one of my contributions to Wkipedia, and had the answer ready for her in a trice, as follows:

“Clothing

Zulus wear a variety of attire. For example, the males may wear a suit and tie with leather shoes for formal occasions, whereas casual attire is more likely to consist of jeans and a T-shirt, possibly with trainers on the feet. In hot weather they may wear shorts. In cold weather they may wear a coat. When it is raining, they may wear a waterproof jacket, or carry an umbrella. Underwear consists of socks for both sexes, together with underpants for males, or knickers and a bra for females. Infants will usually wear nappies.”

So there we are.  It doesn’t look as though the Dotterils will have to stray too far outside their “comfort zone” to enjoy their party!!!”

More from Mr. Answers soon.

Ted Dexter and the Incomparable Beauty of Modern Dress

Can’t be too long now before the start of the season, as this month’s Wisden Cricketer comes accompanied by the Equipment Supplement.  In fact, it isn’t called that anymore, but – in homage to that puzzlingly popular motoring programme on the telly – the Good Gear Guide.  It also features some character known as “The Don” – apparently a professional cricketer employed to test the bats, who wears a helmet to hide his identity and is introduced thus – “Some say he’s one ball short of an over … some say he bowls round the wicket all we know is he’s called the Don“.  For Heaven’s sakes …

I’m past the age now when I’m likely to be buying any new equipment, but I do like to keep up with the latest trends.  The supplement also, I think, provides an explanation for the alarming slump in form of Craig Kieswetter – clearly down to having to play on through the enormous discomfort caused by having poured a pot of boiling hot tea down his chest.  If only someone had explained to the poor colonial boy how to use a teacup, all of this could have been avoided.

   

The kit on offer seems reasonably restrained this year, with nothing that makes the players look – as most one day kit tends to – like the employees of a branch of Minnesota Fried Chicken.  I can’t help but pine, though, for the days when England cricketers presented themselves to their public like this –

A.E. Stoddart

 rather than this (strewth, there’s a bloke down there with no strides on etc.) –

Paul Collingwood

But surely it must be possible to achieve a compromise of some sort – a synthesis, if you will – between elegance and practicality, style and function?  Well, of course, one man did try – who else but Ted Dexter, a man never afraid to think outside the abdominal protector.  Knock off an elegant cameo 65, back to the pavilion, off with the flannels and on with a pair of houndstooth Daks slacks and a floppy velvet bow tie and it’s look out ladies!  Ding dong!

This year's collection from the House of Dexter

Cardinals’ Virtues : Newman and Manning

In this week’s news, we have seen the beatification of Cardinal Newman by a passing Bishop of Rome.  Sadly, I can find no evidence that Newman took any interest in the game of cricket.  It is true that he spent the latter part of his life in Edgbaston, quite close to the ground, so it is not impossible that he used to drop in for an afternoon’s cricket from time to time, but – as I say – this is pure speculation.

His rival as top convert-Cardinal of the nineteenth century, Cardinal Manning was a different matter though.  He was a good enough player to have represented the Harrow XI against Eton in 1825, and was the author of the following brief poem, in which he shows a proper Christian humility regarding his abilities:

TO CHARLES WORDSWORTH

in reply to the present of a bat

That bat that you were kind enough to send,

Seems (for as yet I have not tried it) good:

And if there’s anything on earth can mend

My wretched play, it is that piece of wood.

 

Wordsworth, the donor of the bat – the son of a nephew of the poet William – was the founder of the Varsity Match and the Boat Race, tutor to both Manning and W.E. Gladstone, author of a standard Greek grammar and latterly the Anglican Bishop of St. Andrews.  A full and varied life.

In this portrait of Manning (by G.F. Watts) he seems to me to resemble a sort of flightless vulture.  I say flightless, but then who knows what was concealed beneath that scarlet mozzetta.  Perhaps a pair of vast leathery wings, that he could spread to swoop from the campanile of his (admittedly uncompleted) Cathedral  or perhaps – a happier thought – the bat Wordsworth had given him so many years before, before the schism?

"I wonder what the score is in the Test Match" by George Frederic Watts

  

Window Displays of Northampton : Scrooge

To Northampton on Monday for what – for me – was to be the last day of the cricket season.  I picked the wrong day (particularly in light of what happened today (Taylor 158)) – though, in my role as chronicler of the dying way of life that is county cricket, I hope to report on it at some stage.

On the way I was disappointed to see that the osteopath’s whose imaginative window displays I have highlighted before (here  and here) have not yet produced a new display for Autumn.  But, as some compensation, I did pass a shop with the following in its windows: this for the ladies –

and this for the gentlemen –

This is so far up my street that it’s practically in my front room – my eyes were popping out of my head and I was rattling the bars – but, unfortunately, it was shut.  Worth a look, though, if you happen to be strolling along Kettering Road (which – I accept – you aren’t all that likely to be).

(The shop is called Scrooge, and it has a website here.)