A V&A losing streak, it is said, is about as rare as the sighting of the Great Whyte Stagge of Stonor – at least according to Nick Pritchard-Gordon. “Never seen it before. Probably fable,” he says. I have to say, dear reader, that I am inclined to agree. No win in three weeks, despite teams of considerable talent. Hubris, I think they call that. Regardless, the first game of the annual double-header weekend was a must win and skipper Jonkers drummed up a solid XI. We fancied our chances.
Before the toss, as a brief aside, Jonkers admitted to self that he doesn’t much mind the not winning, unless of course he is captain. On those occasions he cares a great deal. His cries of ‘dicky knee, can’t bowl’ morph into Lionesque roars of appeal for yet another ‘plum’ LBW that hasn’t gone his way. This might explain why, knowing the opposition wanted to bowl first, he decided to stick them in to bat and take the first over (coming down the slope, of course.)
The Butlers XI are a charming lot and very competitive opposition. They are the Radio 4 team, and as such discussion off the field was engaging, without the customary lewdness from Radio Bird (which gets smuttier by the week, it seems.) Most of the youth element at The V&A (certainly Joe Tetlow and Nick Derewlany) probably listen to Radio 1 before ‘nights out.’ Perish the thought. The Butlers add texture and finesse to the narrative of the day.
Their innings began well with Jones (0-15 off 4) and Jonkers (0-14 off 5) keeping things tight. The pitch looked rather suspect. Very few deliveries came through above ankle height. Tetlow (who has just finished his BAR exams, and deserves a round of applause) had a nasty little shocker when the ball was spooned to him at point. With a bastard behind the eyes, sporting his Toulouse Lautrec sunglasses, he grassed the ball. Didn’t move an inch. Derewlany and self absolutely roared with laughter. We all laughed again when Derewlany (who has just finished his CFA exams, and deserves a round of applause), also of the morning head brigade, dropped a sitter at mid-wicket a few overs later. “At least they talk a good game,” said Rupert Morris. Personally, I think they talk a load of bollocks, but thought is free.
At 93 for nought, the Butlers looked in a commanding position, but when Derewlany (3-32 off 7) removed Wilson (52) and Low (31) in the over before lunch the game was very much alive. Marsh (0-25 off 7) and Turpie (0-28 off 6) also bowled with good rhythm. We took our repast with the score at 99-2.
We are still not offering luncheon to our guests, sadly. Covid has buggered all the best efforts on the Hospitality front. We now sit, distanced, in little hubs. Andy Jones talks about his love life. Rupert Morris – who returned from France with his lovely wife Kitty just the day before the fixture – talked of naming ceremonies and Guacamole. He also makes a delicious crab sandwich. The presumptuous Burgundy didn’t feature.
After lunch, with The Butlers looking to push on to a large total, things were in the balance. A somewhat reticent Jonkers offered Constantine (5-20 off 6), the part-timer, a bowl. The pitch, rather than the bowling, did for The Butlers and some (burgled) quick wickets saw the wheels come off. The V&A were to chase 148 to win.
Our openers Poynter (15) and Knight (33) batted with poise on a wicket still fraught with angst. The outfield had dried up a little bit though and some value was offered for decent shots. Both batsmen play down the ground very well and are a delight to watch in full flow. Poynter missed a straight one, which brought Tetlow (22) to the crease. He is also a batsman of quality, who has had a run of poor luck. Scoring was managed adroitly, with the bad balls being punished. Tetlow was LBW. Stone dead after his gutsy performance. Marsh (42*) came to the crease, sold Adam Knight up the river, ran him out and then proceeded to steer the V&A to victory with Derewlany (24*) for company, who played a more circumspect innings than we are used to seeing from him.
So, back to winning ways then. The finish was earlier than customary and we all scooted off to the Golden Ball to get stuck into a crisp, cold pint of lager beer. Alas, no draft lager. “Can’t buy the stuff!” “It’s like gold dust,” they say. All being bought up by the London pubs, apparently (for which I hold many of the V&A responsible because I’ve seen how much they drink…) I am exempt from such scrutiny because wine is good for you. That’s what Nick Emley tells me, anyway.
Now, those dedicated followers of these reports will know our triumphant skipper, Christiaan Jonkers, by another name. I’m sure he’s been called many things in his time (mostly by Nicky) but recently he has become known as ‘The Turkey Whisperer’ on account of his affinity with the wildfowl at The Golden Ball. Triumph has turned to Tyranny, however. I beg your indulgence:
‘A quaint English country pub garden, with rustic wood and cast iron furniture haphazardly thrown together into a circle. The people and outfits are as rustic and haphazard as the furniture and all congregate around two enormous bowls of chips. Mayonnaise and ketchup stain the wood. Pints of ale stand to attention (half full).’
Enter Goliath (a chicken) strutting purposefully toward the crowd. He squawks! He jumps! He is now on the table, giving the beady eye to anyone who would dare to meet his withering glare. He pecks at some ketchup. He pecks at some mayonnaise. Deeming them un-poisoned, he makes for the chips.
Enter Jonkers (a Turkey Whisperer) from his position at the head of the table. He stands and jerks forward with intent.
Jonkers: Now look here, you little fucker! Get away from my chips!!
He grasps the chicken firmly in two hands and, like a man possessed, hurls the fowl over his shoulder in an imitation of the caber toss. Satisfied that he has won the day and without a backward glance, he straightens his glasses and has another chip. Raucous laughter fills the garden.