V&A v Rob Taylor’s XI
17th May 2017
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28th May 2017
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V&A v The Invalids


V&A PLAYERS: Jago Poynter, Nicky Bird (12th man), Lachlan Nieboer, Tom Bird, Christiaan Jonkers, Adam Jacot, Andy Jones, Nick Pritchard-Gordon, Tom Pritchard-Gordon, Nick Emley, Rob Taylor, Ross Ashcroft [Captain] 

The INVALIDS were founded by two officers in WWI, recovering from wounds in hospital. They resolved, if they survived the war, to start a cricket team. They did, and it too survives, thanks in part to Richard Durdon-Smith, the eminent actor and all-rounder.  He has just remarried. She is both younger and lovely (which is good) and his agent (which is not). You shouldn’t marry your agent or publisher or venereologist, it is too close to home. He was away ‘working’ as actors say. It is a rotten shame that the V&A’s actor, Lachlan Nieboer, who has starred on stage and screen and Downton Abbey, is wasted at the moment. Last week he was tutoring an aristocratic boy at a schloss in Denmark. They must have been overjoyed when they saw Lachlan step off the sleigh, expecting (obviously) a conventional tutor, a retired paedo prep school master with leather elbow patches, and chalk on his moustache. But Lachlan is what he looks like, a butch fast bowler with an Oxford degree. To prove he is no elitist he brings with him on match days a primus stove and rustles up a Full English (minus the black pud). He is a naturist (or is it ‘naturalist’?) and likes to camp tout seul in the woods around Stonor. Lachlan, known hereabouts as ‘The Wild Man of the Woods’, is either weird or eccentric. But quite harmless. He was asked whether he was qualified to teach. What did he know about algebra, for example? ‘Fuck all.’ Well qualified then. He seemed quite keen on the Invalids’ pretty all-rounder, Laura, a dental hygienist when not bowling medium-pace outswingers that fooled Tom Bird (bowled) and Andy Jones (LBW) – dismissals which recalled Adam Jacot bowled by a nine-year-old girl (Flora) but we weren’t so tactless as to mention it, more than a dozen times.

The day was rainy and the skippers (Ross and Euan) decided after much debate on a 30-over game. The pitch was a pudding. The Invalids batted first. They have several good young batsmen and one outstanding one, Richard Charlton, who scored a ton at Madehurst against us. Get them out and we were in with a chance. Jonkers and Lachlan opened the bowling and it was soon evident that batting was tricky. A catch was lobbed to Tom P-G at point (dropped). Jonkers then teased another chance to Tom Bird at cover (held), and bowled their No. 3. And then came the crucial wicket of Charlton, caught by Rob Taylor off another nice ball from Jonkers. The Invalids were reeling, at 12 for 3. The run rate was derisory. They then committed hari-kari by running out Graham Seed (Nigel Pargiter in The Archers until the clumsy oaf fell off a roof). Although Sam Clarke (a Burgundy aficionado like Tom Bird, Emley and Jonkers) made a few (35) until trapped LBW by Lachlan (1 for 11), the Invalids were all out for a measly 73. Adam Jacot (1 for 12), in revenge for his humiliation of yesteryear, bowled Laura at the end. Jonkers was the pick of the bowling (3 for 9 off 6 overs!). Incidentally, Christiaan banged on in a recent Match Report about my ‘pretentious’ chatter with Emley in the slips – ‘arty bollocks’ he called it. But you should have heard the shite talked about wine by him, Emley, Tom Bird and Sam… ‘luscious fruit’, ‘appley veneer’… or similar crap. Undiluted bollocks.

Sarah Jenkins did her usual immaculate lunch. I was the commis chef, and my patate al forno drew gasps of admiration. Sarah’s randy dog was away (again) and even Sarah seems to have gone off the boil so I distracted myself by telling anyone who would listen (Nick Emley, briefly) about my diverticulitis, the killer disease that buggered me last week. It’s the sort of thing a Hottentot in the bush never gets, with his sensible diet of bark and mealies, whatever they are. Unfortunately, I was brought up in the ‘40s by a succession of Austrian au pairs who were bitter about losing both the war and der Führer and got their revenge by overfeeding me with liverwurst and rotwein, which took its toll eventually. As I lay a-dying I thought of the pavilion at Stonor and fretted that no-one knew how to work the electrics, and made the fatal error in my fever of ringing Adam Jacot, a moron who has barely mastered the flush toilet. It was cruel to hear this man fuss at words he’d never heard before, like ‘switch’ and ‘plug’. The diverticulitis is better, thank you, but if I succumb I will leave my LP collection to Sarah who appreciates good music. Am only sorry that The Magic of Val Doonican is slightly scratched.

We opened our innings with Nick Emley and Nick P-G. Emley fell over at the crease while at the non-strike end. This augured ill. He then fell over at the other end. He was then run out (for 3). Nick P-G (2) spooned a catch to an old bloke in the slips; skipper Euan – the wrong side of 70 – caught Rob Taylor (1), and we were 8 for 3. Fuck! Things looked even dodgier when Lachlan (4) was bowled (after breaking a bail with a straight drive). When Laura dismissed Andy J (14) and Tom Bird (2) it seemed that a combination of soggy pitch, ill-discipline and goodish bowling had beaten us. But Jago (21 not out) and Ross (12 not out) were our Thin Red Line, and with a succession of boundaries, including a fine 6 from Poynter, cantered towards the modest target and reached it in the 20th over.

Nick P-G was back from Venice, where he went for his 50th with his missus, whom I’ve taken a fancy to; she is wasted on her rat-catcher husband. I reckoned she had that quality of availability that I find attractive in a woman but my conversation two weeks ago about piles seems to have been a mistake. I’m losing my touch with chat-up topics, Passchendaele doesn’t cut it either. Nor does VD, my topic of choice with the luscious Laura, a topic Lachlan thought crass.

After the game, we sat and watched the rain and drank beer. Conversation turned to Trump and impeachment. Strange, we thought, how political parties often select the worst candidate; almost anyone was better than Trump or Hillary, and over here it was suggested that even the unworldly Adam Jacot would have been an improvement on Douglas-Home or Foot or Duncan Smith. As H.L. Mencken* wrote in 1920 – ‘On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.’

[*Historical note: He was talking of the election between Harding and Cox – a third contender, Eugene Debs, ran from a prison cell. Like Trump’s syntax Harding’s inaugural address was ‘so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh… It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.’ Harding’s was an audience ‘of morons scarcely able to understand a word of more than two syllables, and wholly unable to pursue a logical idea for more than two centimeters.’ He won by a landslide, but died soon after of ‘aggressive womanizing’. That’s one thing I won’t die of, unfortunately.]