V&A PLAYERS: Emley (Capt), Bowden, de Caires, Jacot A, Jonkers, Nieboer, Constantine, Pritchard-Gordon N, Marsh, Tetlow, Bird N, (12th Man)
JUNE 5 SHOULD HAVE BEEN D-DAY but in 1944 the weather was atrocious, so it was postponed a day. It was the other way round for us. It rained Friday and shone Saturday. And our day was not marred by Germans. My friend Derek Dowding (late husband of Lady Dowding who presents our awards), a Battle of Britain pilot, said he loved flying before the war but then ‘the Germans ruined the pleasure’. Too often one’s nice day out, or nice plan, is buggered by the enemy or opposition. As the Polish commander said when looking at General Browning’s plan for Arnhem – ‘but the Germans, General, the Germans!’ Or as Mike Tyson said: ‘no plan survives a punch in the mouf.’ Last week, against The Star XI, our plan (which was basically to win the game) didn’t survive a total fuck up.
We first played the T&C XI when they were young and fit. Now they are mortgaged and probably burdened by nagging or drink or litigation, who knows. But they are cheerful and delightful company, and seem to have finally stopped breeding. The Winters brothers, who founded the team (mostly from Wargrave), holiday in Cornwall; their family bought Sarah Jenkins’ house, which is the link. I spent an evening with the Winters emptying Dad’s single malt while all were distracted by a firework party outside. I blamed it on Nick Jenkins. Speaking of being befuddled (a thing of the past for me now I’m off the booze), on Saturday I sat with the lovely Lucinda while she rolled a nice perfumed cigarette; but she made as much sense after enjoying it as before. Lucinda also brought an exotic cake for Martin’s birthday, filled presumably with delicacies from Colombia. Martin is 67 we think, his knees are 82 and his brain is being left to the Bodleian.
We played the usual 35 over game. We batted first. Naturally George Winters won the toss. I say ‘naturally’ because in the 14 years we have played them George has won every toss. Odds of 16,384 to 1. He always keeps the lucky penny.
We opened with Tetlow and Jonkers – not Jonkers’ normal position and some think of his temperament as unsuited to the disciplined anchor role. But he doesn’t hang about and walloped a huge 6 off Pete Bridge (Chairman of Leander Club) before being caught for 12. Nick C scored two mighty boundaries before being brilliantly caught and bowled by Springer. Their bowling was a mixture of steady and less so. But disciplined batting from Joe T and Ollie Marsh saw us through a collapse before Joe went back when he shouldn’t have and was bowled. Sam Winters (George’s boy) then propped up one end with Ollie scoring freely until Sam was caught behind (6); Nieboer entered to thunderous applause; and went out to similar plaudits for gracefully ‘walking’ after the most inaudible of snicks to the keeper.
In walked Dennis de Caires. All the way from Barbados, where he paints (canvasses, not front rooms). He may not be quite the tyro and match winner he was but by golly he can still wallop a ball. A gargantuan six to long-on reminded spectators of past glory days. He was lean and fit but an attempt to repeat the boundary was caught in the same place. Nevertheless, 15 runs when you’re in your 7th decade and haven’t played for 2 years is impressive, testament to the health-giving three rum and gingers he has every night, under the shade of the Baobab tree. I tried to find him a London gallery agent but the common complaint is nowt to do with his work; he is ‘the wrong sex, wrong colour, and alive.’ Being dead is a tremendous career move.
Emley came and went for not much (0) and N P-G – who was run out without facing a ball last week – remained undefeated on 1. But all the while Marsh (75*) had been simply magnificent. In the pub, the T&C XI asked who Marsh played for, ‘what proper team?’ Mildly offensive. Our total was 163. We needed another 20 runs I thought.
At lunch (‘usual fayre’ of roast beef) – a cooperative effort between Nick C and myself (skipper Emley did tea, aided superbly by Lizzie Constantine) – we discussed Jonkers Rare Books’ impressive exhibition of signed editions presented by famous authors to famous authors, e.g. Raymond Chandler to Ian Fleming, Evelyn Waugh to Graham Greene. Which prompted me to discuss with Lachlan the Graham Greene libel case in which Greene referred in a film review to Shirley Temple fans as ‘middle-aged men and clergymen, the sort who give trouble in parks.’ Temple, then 9 years old, had been trussed up to look like a ‘complete totsy’ with her ‘sidelong searching coquetry, her neat and well-developed rump and dimpled depravity.’ Greene scarpered to Mexico. We moved on to transubstantiation. The miracle of the Eucharist. Whether Boris actually believes this ‘nonsense’ or just agreed to the Catholic conversion to keep the missus quiet. Tetlow would not be drawn on his opinion of Boris, knowing it would get back to him.
Lachlan and Dennis opened our bowling; Dennis’ three overs were precise. But wicketless. George Winters is a sound bat and gave no chances; they were 30 or so before Jacot bowled their No. 2 (for 13). Charley Hunt, son of farmer James who played with us when he was a lad, spinned away at one end, economically. Winters and Walsh brought the 50 up. But when Winters was well caught at deep long-on by Charley, off Nick C, and when Nick also trapped Walsh LBW (even if his front foot was actually in Pishill) they were 40 short of our total – and wobbling. And then Tetlow dived spectacularly at point to dismiss their No. 5 (off Charley). But James came in to partner the solid Sparrow and smacked 5 quick boundaries… and suddenly hope, for us, evaporated. With 20 to get in 4 overs defeat seemed assured; although Marsh had James photogenically caught by Tetlow for 25, so it proved, with Sparrow and Watson winning the match with 2 over to spare.
We posed for the traditional group photo, on the stage that Athers once graced. For some reason Nick C decided to trample on Nick Emley, possibly trying to avoid the Emley dog, Porchy. Why the dog is named after Lord Porchester, whom the Queen is supposed to have ‘known’, is a mystery. Anyway, I thought the dog was seriously injured until I realised it was Emley squealing.*
A good day out, with sons playing with fathers, Annette finishing the crossword and Nick Emley captaining with tact and authority. He appears a little deaf these days but that could be selective hearing. I too find phrases like ‘mine’s a pint’ inaudible. In the pub the chips came and all was balmy, the sun glowed, Brakspears flowed. Someone mentioned the ‘F’ word (football) – which you’re not meant to do in Jonkers’ presence – and the City and Chelsea fans in Porto who drank from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and still found the energy to hit each other before passing out. Makes yer proud to be British.
*Nicky Bird adds: Nick Emley states that he did not in fact bat, the scorebook lies. And his dog is not named after the Queen’s fat racing manager, but is called ‘Porty’. That he did not ‘squeal’ like a stuck pig or girly when trodden on by Constantine, but gave a manly bellow.
V&A 162-6 from 35 overs (Marsh 75*, Sparrow 3-19); T&C 163-5 from 32 overs (Sparrow 35*). T&C won by 5 wickets.