In the Clubhouse
V&A v. The Bushmen
30th April 2022
11th May 2022
Show all

V&A v. A Few Good Men


V&A PLAYERS: L. Nieboer (c), O. Marsh, J. Tetlow, T. Bird, N. Derewlany, A. Jacot de Boinod, R. Taylor, S. Chande, P. Goodliffe, C. Jonkers, N. Bird (12th Man)


‘Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric.’ On Liberty, John Stuart Mill, 1857


Is Neil Parish a loveable eccentric or an arse? When caught watching filth I have used three excuses: it was a) research b) an accident c) I was trying to access information about tractors. I have always found the last one ineffective with my missus. Joe Tetlow worked for five years with Parish. ‘A decent bloke’, apparently. Joe might need to adjust his CV. Watching hetero porn is always iffy, as it involves victimhood (the woman); whereas gay porn doesn’t and the spectator, being gay, is per se a minority (or ‘minoritised’) and thus to be respected. Anyway, that’s what I argue.

A FEW GOOD MEN are very nice chaps led by the Corinthian Alistair Metcalf, a decent cricketer too. [Their name almost defines the team, apart from the ‘Good’ bit and ‘Men’.] We have been playing them for 15 years or so and they now boast wives and babies. They have thus truncated their fixtures to one. They had some posh cars (unlike ours) so must be doing nicely. The team bonded at Durham, that university which has just condemned mathematics for being based on white men with beards like Euclid and Pythagoras, and for having an objective truth – a right and wrong answer – which Meghan Markle has taught us is nonsense. Durham will teach ‘your truth’; so what if it means a bridge falls down, it will be free of fascist shit like 2+2 = 4.

Lachlan was skip and arrived early. By the time I trolled up he had cleared the primus and the remains of his Full English and Lapsang. He managed, amazingly, an 11.30 start (never happened before) with a 10-man V&A facing a 9-man AFGM. A 35-over game. We batted first, which seemed sensible as we were strong on paper.

But things did not begin well, on a hard flat pitch.

Derewlany (a ton last week) and Tom Bird (34 last week) opened against nice bowling from Adam Knight (a V&A player normally) and Cox (or ‘Coxey’), who was wayward but sometimes unexpectedly on the nose which made him dangerous. Tom did his swish to leg and got a couple of boundaries, before being bowled by Cox (10). When Oliie Marsh came in and hit the ball beautifully I thought we were looking at 220 plus. But Nick D was caught athletically (for 16) at mid-off and Marsh, who smacked some classical drives that drew gasps from the tea lady, was bowled (22) by Cox off a full toss. Never mind, we had Tetlow. But no we didn’t. Out, bowled for 8 by Adam. Rob Taylor strolled in. ‘0 or 50’ said a knowing V&A stalwart; ‘he’ll either ride his luck and score or it’s the blind swipe and trudge back to the pav.’ As always, he looked dodgy to start with. Shaun Chandebatted with him. For one ball. Out LBW (Knight again) – the first of 3 crucial LBWs given by Tom Bird. He was honest. He thought they were out. I might have been influenced by the scoreboard and the fact that it was Shaun’s first ball.

Lachlan, our inspirational skip, glided in, looking like a young Brando. Having been 48 for 2 we were now 67 for 6. Oh dear. What the fuck had gone wrong? But thankfully for the game Lachlan and Rob put on 50, with Rob lofting balls majestically (and somehow just missing fielders) and Nieboer smiting elegantly. But Lachlan was LBW for 25 and suddenly we were stuttering at 127 for 7. 8 overs left but few batsmen (or batters). Jonkers looked the part but was bowled for 6; Adam Jacot came in, walloped two lovely fours but then – CALAMITY! He snicked a bad ball which whacked him on the mouth and knocked out a complete front tooth. A dreadful sight. Adam is an admirable eccentric, worthy of J.S Mill, but who is unpredictable. You can’t be sure how he will react to intrusive questions about his love life; orto disaster. However, he confronted the loss of his nice tooth with utter British calmness (despite excitable foreign ancestry). Blood flowed, people fussed… but he got in his car with his tooth and a wave, and drove to the emergency dentist (£300). As he missed his tooth, so we missed his bowling which, surprisingly, gets wickets.

Phil Goodliffe came in and scampered down the wicket for two singles, but Rob was LBW for a critical 53 and the innings was over. 168. Not enough.

Lunch was by Sarah Jenkins and was much the same as for the last 40 years she’s been catering, but thankfully without the disgusting pâté that has upset so many bowels. We discussed weirdos, and pervs. The V&A has had its share of oddities but mostly benign eccentrics (Mill would approve). Defending us against ‘the tyranny of opinion’ are good people like Jacot, Jonkers (a Man of Letters, and used books), and Nieboer, the Wild Man of the Woods who camps in the trees above Stonor. Jonkers sported his handsome beard, modelled on early Tsar Nicholas II. Someone thought Christiaan much like the Tsar, with perhaps a less benevolent attitude to peasantry. Like His Majesty, he concedes he is ‘an acquired taste’. Christiaan can be a bit sharp with customers in his bookshop when they dither. I imagine he tells them what the price is, and, if they don’t like it, where the door is. Tea, by the way, was better than usual because Steph had made flapjacks, and Sarah had made cakes. Several rather common people, the sort who watch 20/20 and Love Island, said ‘what happened to the Penguins and Kit Kats?’

We opened our bowling attack, still under a lovely sky, with Lachlan and Nick D. To little effect. The batsmen, Smith and Taylor, played sensibly, only hitting loose ones. They kept up with the run rate. The bowling change brought on Marsh and Jonkers. But no wickets. Amazingly, AFGM reached 100 without loss, unprecedented for them. They had 12 overs to get 69 runs. ‘Only one winner here,’ Tom said to me as he fielded on the boundary.

Then… a glimmer. Smith (48) was brilliantly caught off Jonkers by Derewlany at mid-off. But a lot of batting to come (they had no tail) and no problem with overs. Or was there? Their No. 3, Mason, was a hoiker. But, as Tetlow emphasised, hoikers are fine if they hoik. But if they don’t hoik, don’t connect, they’re not. Mason was bamboozled by Rob Taylor’s tweakers. And when Lachlan bowled Taylor for 51, AFGM were in trouble. Their rate had slowed. 30 were needed off 4 overs. Turtle (No. 4) did his best but was run out for 8. Our skip pushed everyone back to the boundary to save runs. Come the last over, 12 runs were need and Derewlany was bowling. The first three balls leaked 7 runs. So they needed 5 off the last two balls (barring extras) to win, 4 to draw. The penultimate ball was hit soundly towards Tetlow. It looked to have beaten him. But no, hours in the gym paid off and he stopped the extra run. So… 3 for a tie off the last ball, 4 to win. Derewlany had to bowl on the wicket. He did. It was hit. But not hard enough! The batsmen ran two but that was all – the match had been won by the V&A by one run. Cricket, bloody hell!

Cricket can be unforgiving: lose a game as skipper and you’re a wally, win it and you’re a hero. Lachlan won it. His sort, like Biggles and Lord Cardigan, are what J.S. Mill had in mind when he wrote of the perils of conformity: ‘That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.’ This inoffensive eccentric, who now tends a menagerie in Oxford and reads Ovid, was a hero.