Obituary – Major Tom Bird DSO, MC
10th August 2017
V&A v Lachlan Nieboer XI
19th August 2017
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V&A v The Silk Boudoir


V&A PLAYERS: Christiaan Jonkers (Captain), Rupert Morris, Lachlan Neiboer, Vin Grantham, Dennis de Caires, Adam Jacot, Chris Mounsey-Thear, Nicky Bird, Tom Ayling, Nick Constantine

THE SILK BOUDOIR XI were actually VII, because several of this youthful side couldn’t get out of bed. The V&A keep themselves nice on Friday nights so they’re perky for the match, would that others had our self-discipline. But Tom P-G did sterling work in getting a team together and he was my Man of the Match for his catching, batting and all round good eggness.

In sunshine we played a strange game that seemed to involve the side that went in first batting for a max of 45 overs, but I never really grasped the rules. Anyway, the BOUDOIR batted first, hoping that some late hungover arrivals might swell their paltry ranks (they didn’t). Christiaan, our skip, had a tricky job. He needed to make sure that our oppo amassed a total that was a reasonable target to make a good day’s cricket. But not so many that we would lose (‘tis always humiliating to lose to a few deadbeats).

Tom P-G opened with a good batsman, Oscar Woodbridge. Tom played a supporting role brilliantly. Chris M-T and Dennis toiled, yet couldn’t break through; but at 36 Dennis caught Oscar (21) off Jacot’s bowling, a really nice catch in the deep. A good stand developed between Tom and Bennett, ended by Ayling bowling the latter (for 8); but in came the Sprinkbok Mark Terblanche and flourished the bat for another good stand, ended by Ayling bowling Tom for 28. At lunch (a communal effort with Ross doing a mercy dash to the pavilion with the pasta) they were a respectable 100 or so for 3. Over the ham and penne, there was a bit of ‘arty bollocks’ talked (I quote the bourgeois Dutchman Jonkers) about the Impressionists painting en plein air, as we aesthetes call it. Dennis had seen Dunkirk and thought it ghastly. Chris M-T begged to differ. Ernie thought it noisy. Which reminded me of Lord Sefton (a Guards officer) commenting about his experience at Dunkirk – ‘The noise my dear and the people one meets!’

After lunch the big boys, Christiaan and Lachlan, came on to bowl – and struck immediately. Lachlan bowled Rob Taylor for 4 (just after Rob had whacked a sublime boundary), Christiaan bowled their No. 6 Cronin for 10, and Lachlan removed young Ed Grantham’s middle stump (also for 10). Ed has a superb cover drive which made his daddy Vin proud. Ed looks like a handsome cavalry officer, while Vin is a bit short and dumpy. Ed’s father is so obviously James Hewitt that I can only suppose tact is the reason nobody mentions it.

Cronin came in again and was bowled by Lachlan, and Rob returned only to be spectacularly caught off Jacot on the boundary by Jonkers, with the sun in his eyes. Lachlan removed another middle stump and at the end Jacot executed a nimble caught and bowled to dismiss Mark for a lively 35. They reached 157, with three wickets apiece to Neibour and Jacot. A total, given the youthful vigour in the field of the BOUDOIR, that I reckoned might prove beyond us. Our fielding was ok(ish) but Morris missed two unchallenging catches that a blancmange would have caught.

MORAL MAZE QUESTION 1 – This is a question about social etiquette I posed at luncheon: I was in a group being guided round Elton Hall in Northants by a moron recently. She met us in the entrance and told us that paintings in the house included works by Rembrandt (actually they’re copies) and a bloke called ‘van Dick’ (sic); she meant of course van Dyck, conventionally pronounced ‘van Dike’. I let it go, not wanting to seem snotty. A man then arrived who’d missed this exchange; when we got to the place where the Van Dyck was meant to be it was missing (removed for cleaning perhaps). I asked where the ‘van Dick’ had gone, tactfully mispronouncing it. The newcomer, a commercial traveller type, said loudly – ‘What an arse, it’s pronounced VAN DIKE!’ I said nowt but he kept on pointing out my solecism, saying ‘What an ignoramus, bet the MCC tie’s fake too’. My question is: was I wrong to push him downstairs?

MORAL MAZE QUESTION 2 – At tea Lachlan posed a moral dilemma. A chap had been invited back to a lovely lady’s flat where congress was expected to take place. But on entering he smelt dog, and what’s worse canine urine. What should he do? Leave? Frankly, if Helena Bonham Carter was covered in the stuff I couldn’t care less. In Shaw’s Pygmalion there is this exchange: ‘PROF. HIGGINS. Have you no morals, man?  DOOLITTLE [unabashed] Can’t afford them, Governor.’ I cannot afford middle class morality. Lachlan is suave and handsome, I am not so blessed, I must grab joy where I can, even from desperate women smelling of wee wee.

The topic of necrophilia came up – luckily while Annette Jacot was sitting elsewhere – prompted I think by Estelle de Caires (or ‘Potty Mouth’ as her husband calls her affectionately). When Annette came over it turned out she’d never heard of the word. Such is the cocoon of the posh girls’ school, Heathfield, where she worked. At Winchester we talked of little else.

We opened with Rupert and Tom Ayling (17), who was batting nicely until smacking a full toss to Tom P-G at deep mid-wicket. Then Morris (14) was bowled by the excellent Oscar; but Nick Constantine and Chris M-T steadied things. Nick is a super batsman, handicapped by injuries sustained when he fell out of a window. Was he pissed? Yes. Chris’s missus is about to give birth, we all hope he’ll be allowed some leave to play cricket, such is his value. Steph Bird is also pregnant. I just look it. Chris (13) was bowled by Tom P-G (how very galling), Vin Grantham hit a beautiful 6 and was bowled the next ball (for 29), Lachlan went first ball – again well caught in the deep by Tom P-G – and things looked decidedly dodgy. Particularly so when Nick was run out – for a superb 47. We needed 20 runs and were running out of wickets. But enter Adam and Dennis – the latter sporting a tight pink shirt and fawn leather trousers. John Cheever, the eminent American short story writer, also turned queer late in life. Adam smacked a couple of boundaries, Dennis was resolute and we passed their total with me and Christiaan padded up, but unneeded.

Christiaan Jonkers is not a wordly man, by the way. The other day, at the end of a match I commented ‘Good game! Good game!’ in the manner of Bruce Forsyth. Now, you wouldn’t expect Jonkers to stay in to watch The Generation Game. But he hadn’t heard of it, although he’d sort of vaguely heard of Brucie, but not a ‘Brucie Bonus’ (imagine that!). He lives in an arcane world where time stands still; where cottaging is about gemütlich little houses, and cruising is something you do in the Med.

Christiaan and his missus invited us back to his house for a BBQ, which was great fun in the evening sun. His Arts & Crafts house, and fabulous garden, is a gem – straight out of an Agatha Christie film set. What is very un-English about the house inside is that it’s festooned with books. Books everywhere. Pevsner once said that the English ‘are not a sculptural race’, we leave that sort of thing to the Eyeties, but he could have added that we’re pretty Philistine generally. My brother once gave a book to his medical father-in-law for Christmas. Dr. Oswald didn’t look at it, he just said, ‘no thanks, I’ve got one.’ As though two books, like two toasters, was unnecessary. Towards the end of the Jonkers BBQ people drifted off to watch an athletics race while I stayed in the garden, drinking. I am not an athletics aficionado so might be wrong, but I think Mo Mowlam was running. She came second, not bad for a fat dead woman.