Immersion Edition : Leicestershire v Essex

Leicestershire v Essex ‘Eagles’, CB40, Grace Road, Monday 8th May

Abandoned without a ball being bowled

On Monday, a good-humoured crowd were in Bank Holiday mood (and we all know what that’s like!) for the Foxes’ second game in this year’s CB40 competition.  Many of them had travelled far from the gaudy connurbations and spooky mudflats of Essex, in search of a good afternoon’s entertainment.  Unfortunately, they were to be frustrated, as the match was abandoned without a ball being bowled shortly after 3.30, at which point the crowd dispersed good-humouredly and returned to their gaudy etc., looking forward keenly to another week at work.

But let us look for silver linings in the clouds, and take the opportunity to share some action shots of the star of the season so far, the man who has spent more time on the pitch even than Nick Compton – the man who drives the Blotter.

If you’ve never watched one of these in action before, it really is a most absorbing way to spend the afternoon.  A sort of giant J-cloth on wheels, the Blotter trundles round and round the outfield, its exertions only the more impressive for their sheer futility.  As soon as it has soaked up all the surface water and the driver has reason to think that an hour of sun will dry the pitch enough to allow play to begin, it starts raining again!  But do they give up?  Do they ‘eckers like.


But what happens to all the water that’s been blotted?  Well, as we see from this photograph, it is sort of – I’m afraid there’s no other word for it – urinated in the direction of the front row of benches to the right of the pavilion.  If any of the Members still happened to be sleeping off their lunch on one of these seats, they’d be in for a rude awakening.

Of course, human beings are not the only elements in the fragile eco-system of Grace Road, and we must admit that the prevailing weather can only prove beneficial for our colleagues in the floral kingdom.

By the time First Class Cricket resumes in July, we should have a lovely bed of roses alongside the Milligan Road, and I look forward to reporting on them.

Perhaps the Roses Really Want to Grow : a Poem for Valentine’s Day by W.H. Auden




 If I Could Tell You

W.H. Auden


Time will tell nothing but I told you so,

Time only knows the price we have to pay;

If I could tell you I would let you know.


If we should weep when clowns put on their show.

If we should stumble when musicians play,

Time will say nothing but I told you so.


There are no fortunes to be told, although,

Because I love you more than I can say,

If I could tell you I would let you know.


The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,

There must be reasons why the leaves decay;

Time will say nothing but I told you so.


Perhaps the roses really want to grow,

The vision seriously intends to stay;

If I could tell you I would let you know.


Suppose the lions all get up and go,

And all the brooks and soldiers run away;

Will Time say nothing but I told you so?

If I could tell you I would let you know. 







Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made

Dog rose

The last day of June, and the wild roses are still in full bloom, mostly, though the cultivated variety in my garden have had their first flowering already.  Time for a little judicious pruning – remove the dead heads, trim back the overly extravagant growths and we should be able to look forward for a second, late flowering.  Anything in the nature of savage cuts, of course, and there is the risk of killing the bush off altogether.

But which is better?  Cultivated or wild?  The other day we heard from local poet John Clare, putting the case for the dog-rose, delighting in those “trifles -foolish things, As some would call them”.  Another local poet, from just over the border into Warwickshire, Wm. Shakespeare, took a different view, in Sonnet 54.  He apparently argues that the wild roses, which he rather rudely refers to as canker blooms,  look as beautiful as cultivated roses – sweet roses – but are of only transient value because they cannot be distilled into rose water and other perfumes.  In fact, I think, whereas Clare delights in his roses for their own sake, Shakespeare is only a little more interested in roses as roses than Donne was in fleas.  The secondary meaning is fairly clear – Shakespeare’s verse is distilling the interior truth and beauty of the youth to whom it is addressed, so that it will not fade – but we are never quite sure whether we are missing some further layers of innuendo, ambiguity or insinuation that would have been perceptible to a clued-in contemporary.  Perhaps some can be guessed at, here.

(For some practical advice on how to distill rose petals (wild or otherwise) into rose water, by the way, see here –  W.H.).


O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give.
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live.
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns and play as wantonly
When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo’d and unrespected fade,
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
   And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
   When that shall fade, my verse distills your truth. 
 And, for comparison, some cultivated roses, from Queen’s Park in Chesterfield, where I went to see Derbyshire play Surrey on Monday – of which, more anon. –


Sweet roses

Dog-roses : trifles – foolish things

Blogging-time limited this weekend, I’m afraid.  Amongst other things I’m off to see my first 20/20 match this afternoon.  Will I have some Damascene moment at Grace Road?  Will the scales fall from my eyes?  We shall see.  Perhaps I shall see. 

That being so, I shall have to summon the aid of one of my familiars – John Clare.  Perhaps this is only in my imagination, but we do seem to have a wonderful crop of wild flowers this year, particularly dog-roses.  I walked down the Brampton Valley Way last Sunday and snapped a few, like so – (white in honour of Yorkshire, our opponents this afternoon, though their white rose is, I think, a cultivated one) 

Northamptonshire Dog-Roses


The dog-rose makes many appearances in the poetry of Clare, but here I’ve opted for a selection from The Village Minstrel.  Clare dreaded the arrival of the railway in Northamptonshire ; I mourn its passing.  He might have been pleased to see the old railway track turned into a footpath, with some opportunities for the solitudes he sought, though I think he would have been less pleased if he had seen what had superseded the railway.  Perhaps one day the A14 (or whatever it’s called) will have returned to nature too, and our descendents will stroll along it of a Sunday afternoon, admiring the dog roses. 


O SIMPLE Nature, how I do delight
To pause upon thy trifles -foolish things,
As some would call them. -On the summer night,
Tracing the lane-path where the dog-rose hings
With dew-drops seeth’d, while chick’ring cricket sings;
My eye can’t help but glance upon its leaves,
Where love’s warm beauty steals her sweetest blush,
When, soft the while, the Even silent heaves
Her pausing breath just trembling thro’ the bush,
And then again dies calm, and all is hush.
O how I feel, just as I pluck the flower
And stick it to my breast -words can’t reveal;
But there are souls that in this lovely hour
Know all I mean, and feel whate’er I feel.



Asking for Roses, by Robert Frost

Time, I think,  for another snap of my garden – this time the back yard.  One sense the internet isn’t very good at satisfying yet is that of smell – if Mr. Jobs could devise an Application that could reproduce the scent of these blooms at the prod of a button I’d consider saving up for one of his iPhones, though that would, in truth, take me a very long time.  


June Roses

Seaching for a poem to go with them, I discover that there is fairly general agreement among the poets on the subject of roses.  They are not long (the days of wine and roses), they (the buds in particular) need to be gathered while we may, they are generally very prone to canker and worms (invisble or otherwise) and deliquesce too quickly.  They do, though, have the advantage that they and their perfume linger long in the memory.  All true, and all handy tips for the amateur gardener.  The largest blooms here were buds only a week ago, and the oldest have already had their time on earth.

This one is by Robert Frost, and contains a tip of the hat to my old favourite (and rose-specialist) Robert Herrick.  My house isn’t quite as untidy as the one in the poem.

Asking for Roses, by Robert Frost

A house that lacks, seemingly, mistress and master,
With doors that none but the wind ever closes,
Its floor all littered with glass and with plaster;
It stands in a garden of old-fashioned roses.

I pass by that way in the gloaming with Mary;
‘I wonder,’ I say, ‘who the owner of those is.’
‘Oh, no one you know,’ she answers me airy,
‘But one we must ask if we want any roses.’

So we must join hands in the dew coming coldly
There in the hush of the wood that reposes,
And turn and go up to the open door boldly,
And knock to the echoes as beggars for roses.

‘Pray, are you within there, Mistress Who-were-you?’
‘Tis Mary that speaks and our errand discloses.
‘Pray, are you within there? Bestir you, bestir you!
‘Tis summer again; there’s two come for roses.

‘A word with you, that of the singer recalling–
Old Herrick: a saying that every maid knows is
A flower unplucked is but left to the falling,
And nothing is gained by not gathering roses.’

We do not loosen our hands’ intertwining
(Not caring so very much what she supposes),
There when she comes on us mistily shining
And grants us by silence the boon of her roses.