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.

Christmas Greetings from the John Clare Lounge, Northampton


In Northampton today.  I dropped briefly into All Saints’ Church, where I observed that John Clare (see above and below) is getting (or being got) into the Christmas spirit.  When Clare was being treated in the Northampton General Asylum he was “allowed a good deal of freedom, often walked into town and was a familiar figure to the townspeople sitting in the porch of All Saints’ Church”*.  In memory of this, All Saints’ have established the John Clare Lounge.  I suppose, if he were alive today, he could have dropped in to the Lounge for a nice cup of tea, rather than having to sit in the porch.

He doesn’t look desperately jolly though, does he?

*(From Eric Robinson’s introduction to an Oxford edition of Clare’s poems).

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.)

Incidents at Wantage Road

Northamptonshire v Gloucestershire, Wantage Road, County Championship (Day 1), 16th August



Choices, choices!  My choice on Monday was whether to travel North to watch Notts v Warwickshire at Trent Bridge or take the X7 to Northampton for the match against Gloucestershire.  When I woke the sky was leaden, the cloud low and there was moisture in the air.  Trent Bridge is splendid  in the sun, but if muzzy Autumnal pathos is in the offing then Wantage Road’s yer man, so I chose the shorter trip.

A similar choice must have faced Andrew Hall, the Northants captain, when he won the toss.  At 10.45 it was Autumn, and, presumably glancing down the Gloucester team sheet (Lewis! Kirby!), he decided to offer the opposition the first use of the wicket.

By 11.15, with one wicket down only, it was mid-Summer again – a smattering of high fluffy lambswool clouds against a ceiling of azure blue and a few tentative shirts being doffed.  The ice-cream van rolled up at 11.30 with every prospect of doing good business, and, as far as incidents went for the day, that was it.         

Or rather one  long drawn out incident – a second wicket stand between Porterfield, the Irish international opener and 19-year old Chris Dent (a name to bear in mind for future reference, I think).  Porterfield began quickly, revelling in the fortuitous sunshine and almost reaching his century before lunch.  Dent was initially cautious and correct, with the air of a man who’d made a ninety the other week and wanted to see it through this time.

On and on they sailed, untroubled and serene, past the century partnership, then past their double century, on into the long afternoon, as all round the ground Playfairs were consulted to see if a record was on the cards.  Now, as you might expect, seven out of Gloucester’s record wicket partnerships involve Grace, Hammond or Jessop, but an exception is that for the second wicket – 256 between one C.T.M. Pugh and Tom Graveney at Chesterfield in 1960.      

The record was in sight as tea approached, but at the appointed hour (3.40), young Dent was on 92.  I think they must have offered him another over to complete his century before tea and – I suppose – not wishing to be rude, he came skipping down the wicket, aimed a great heave over the pavilion, missed and was bowled.

The minute I’d left, of course (about 4.45) all hell broke loose.  Gloucester collapsed from 242-2 to 302 all out and Northants lost two wickets for good measure.

 Through the long day there were, of course, distractions.  Since the last time I was at the ground floodlights have been installed.  The ones at Lord’s, as I was reporting the other day, appear in keeping with the ground, perhaps because they seem to be  in scale with the height of the other buildings, subtle lighting installed the better to display Old Masters.  The ones at Northampton loom vastly over the ground, like giant fly swats –


or disposable razors (with a blob of shaving cream) –

And then, of course, there’s Christmas to think about.  Uniquely, I think, the County Ground at Northampton has a sort of moving display screen (of the sort they used to have at Picadilly Circus) on the shed where they keep the covers and rollers that is extraordinarily distracting if you happen to be sitting opposite it.  On Monday it was advertising the attractions for Christmas 2010 – Abba Gold on the 23rd December, and – of all things – a School Disco, on the 19th (£37.00, if you’re interested).

Given the average age of the Northamptonshire membership, the thought of them retrieving their old school uniforms from the nearest museum and shaking a leg to the sounds of what? – Freddie and the Dreamers? – Bill Haley? – Al Bowlly? – strikes me as frankly macabre.  But I shall be there myself soon enough.       

And in case anyone felt inspired to buy an early Christmas present, the Supporters’ Club shop was offering an attractive selection of novelty tea pots for sale –

 Sometimes I think all County Cricket aspires to the condition of a village fete. 

Summer’s lease …

Buffeted hither and thither as I am by the vagaries of the fixture list, Monday found me at the County Ground in Northampton.  Back in the heady days of the Spring, I passed the following rather splendid, seasonally-related window display – Happy Spring – on my way to the match and promised that I would keep you up-to-date on any future developments.

Well, here –

is their Summer collection (lovin’ the bathing hut!).

Leicestershire’s last match of the season is, I think, against Northants at Wantage Road in mid-September – I hope to be there.  I wonder what they will have come up with for Autumn?  My money’s on squirrels and a rake.

A happy Spring in Northampton


Happy Spring


A shop window display, near to the County Ground in Northampton.

It is possible that this represents an old custom – peculiar to Northampton – whereby every Spring the body of a man who had died the previous Autumn was exhumed and led round town on a bicycle, garlanded with Spring flowers, Easter eggs and rabbits, thus symbolising the return of life to the earth after the long Winter.  A witch seems to be involved, too (top right hand corner of the picture). 

I think though, that the window belongs to an osteopath of some description and that the skeleton is a permanent feature of the window display, decorated according to a suitable seasonal theme.  I shall keep an eye on it and report back on any further developments.

(I would credit the shop for this splendid effort, but unfortunately I forgot to note its name).

Northamptonshire v Derbyshire, County Championship, the County Ground (Wantage Road), 7 July

You may have noticed a little rain today, after a week or two of blazing sunshine.  Why is this?  I’d booked a day off work to go to the cricket.

I usually try, in the course of a season, to get to a few grounds other than Grace Road.  Trent Bridge is a particular favourite, I usually make it to Lords a few times, the Oval occasionally;  Derby I used to visit when they had a reciprocal agreement with Leicestershire and then – of course – there’s Northamptonshire – this is where I watched my earliest cricket and if there’s anywhere I’m likely to encounter a soundless clapping host it’s here.

A visit to Northampton by bus deserves an entry in itself, which I’ll save for another time, but I’ll just note in passing that the Abington Mission is now (in a clunkingly obvious irony) the Urban Tiger – a lapdancing club.  The nearby statue of Charles Bradlaugh is stranded on a traffic island,  the inscriptions illegible, pointing an accusing finger at something – possibly the town itself, although it could be that he can’t decide between the Urban Tiger (to his left) – when he was prosecuted for obscenity I don’t suppose this was quite what he had in mind – and the Jesus Centre (a disused cinema) to his right.

Anyway, to the cricket.  There wasn’t a great deal of it.  Ben Howgego (who must present a challenge to the dressing room nickname deviser – Howgegoey?  Howgego-oh?)  was out for a duck to Nantie Hayward (an itinerant South African).  A little later he was in the club shop snaffling some linseed oil, so perhaps there was a problem with his bat.  Chris Rodgers (an itinerant Australian)* hit a few boundaries and then a furious devout drench (c. Ted Hughes) and they were off. 

During the play that was possible, an apparently quite drunk spectator sang loudly O Derby Derby, Derby Derby Derby Derby Derbyshire, uttered several ‘orrible oaths and was eventually carted off  by the gentle and comparatively elderly gatemen.  Seems a bit harsh, but must have set a new record for the quickest ejection from a ground on the first day of a County Championship match in July.

My attention was distracted by two bees on the ground by my feet.  One was lying supine, the other behind it, tugging at it frantically.  At first I assumed the first bee was dead (I’ve seen so many this year) and the other was trying to revive or rescue  it.  A more hopeful interpretation would be that they were mating (do bees mate?).  When I returned after the first downpour they’d gone.

During the rest of the day I took a few snaps of my father’s memorial bench – this gave me a start last year when I visited Northampton, looked idly, during a slow passage of play, at the brass plate on the bench I was sitting on and saw my father’s name and dates- and bought the Playfair Annuals for 1966, 1968 and 1969 from the little half- timbered building by the old scorebox which now acts as the Supporters’ Club Shop.  I (and my father between us) have been accumulating these every year since 1970, and I’ve now started trying to collect the annuals prior to this.  A treasure house, for those that know how to interpret them.  

Anyway, the hour at the beginning of the day was all we were going to get, so eventually we went home. 

A small tip – if you’re planning any outdoor events for next Monday I’d cancel them now – I’ve booked a day off work to watch the cricket.

* A quick update – this wasn’t in fact Chris Rogers,  who played for Northants last year – he now plays for Derbyshire and took the catch to dismiss Howgego.  The runscorers were Peters and R. White (his name, I think, rather than his sponsor).  Very fast moving, the modern game – can be a bit disorientating for the older generation.