The English are a funny nation. If you listen very carefully you will hear sounds which undeniably define us - the hammering of rain, the slurp of a pint of warm beer, the word "sorry", the rustle of a fish and chip wrapper, the shuffling of feet in an eternal queue - and the dulcet tones of Geoffrey Boycott moaning about just about everything.
For those of you who are reading this outside the UK, Mr Boycott is, like Pimms and the common cold, a national institution. A former Yorkshire and England cricketer, he made his name playing a sport invented by the English. Actually, the English have invented quite a few things - football, darts, badminton, rugby, trains - only to then become the subject of much scorn when we find everyone else seems to do it better. There are some things however, that no-one can do as well as us - apologising, stiff upper lips, queuing and cricket. To name but four. Cricket is probably one of THE most English things you can do and, if you're watching and not playing, is naturally built around the consumption of much alcohol which is another English trait. It's such a slow and potentially dull game that it offers up endless opportunities for reading the paper, discussing the plans for the weekend and drinking several bottles of wine between 11am and 7pm which, in most people's minds, is the perfect way to spend time. The enjoyment of it isn't even weather dependent. If a cricket match is rained off in England, everyone still sits in the stands for 8 hours and carries on drinking under the pretense that play might actually recommence at some point within the next four days.
But back to Mr Boycott, who is one of the members of the Test Match Special commentary team. TMS was started in 1957 and was the first ball-by-ball cricket commentary - previously it had been considered too dull to commentate on - but now it is as ingrained in the national psyche as being awarded Nul Points in the Eurovision Song Contest. And it isn't dull, because when nothing happens from ball-to-ball, they divert wildly and talk about pigeons, planes or cakes instead or reduce themselves and the nation to tears with some double entendre howlers - I'm sure I remember listening in 1993 (ish) and hearing them all collapse because they'd been sent a cake by a Mrs Tit. Which brings me to the point of this. I know you were wondering if there was a point. For years and years, the TMS team have been sent cakes to keep them going through the long, arduous day. So when I realised that the friend I was taking to the world's greatest cricket ground last Friday had secured us an invitation to the TMS commentary box, I spent 4 sleepless months worrying about what I might take the team. In the end The Boy had the great idea of presenting them with "an over" of 6 cricket ball cupcakes. Great idea. Except he didn't actually have to make them and in fact buggered off to the cricket instead. And so, having selflessly spent my childrens' inheritance on ingredients and icing equipment, I set about creating the gift. The cake bit was easy - then I stared at them for two hours wondering how I was going to make them look like cricket balls. Then I poured a glass of wine and stared at them for another two hours until my neighbour called round and offered her pearls of wisdom in exchange for a glass of wine. Wine consumption had to stop when I realised that I couldn't recreate the intricate stitching of a cricket ball but started again, after another three hours, once the bloody things were finally finished and in their spotty red and white box.
|They think it's all over.......|
Normally during a day at Lords (which incidentally is the only cricket ground civilised enough to still allow you to bring your own alcohol), you would start drinking the minute you find your seat. Which we did. Naturally, however, I was super abstemious and didn't consume the usual 2 bottles before lunch - let's face it, if I'm going to meet some national treasures, I want to be able to remember it. The moment came, we were escorted up to the "pod" by our host, the lovely Kiwi commentator Jeremy Coney, and shown into the box where we handed over our gifts and met the team. All except Geoffrey Boycott that is, who is so dour he didn't even look up from his seat. Still, never mind. We met the rest of the crew - Aggers, Blowers who was looking particularly resplendent in his traditionally upper-class pink English trousers, and my hero Michael Vaughan who seems much thinner without his whites on.
|Jonathon-- is that a microphone or one|
of my cakes attached to your chin?
(courtesy of the BBC)
Needless to say - that was a first (and more than likely a last) that I will never forget. The cakes got a few mentions on national radio, I died and went to heaven, fell in love with Jonathon Agnew and returned to my seat with some stories to tell and a couple more bottles to polish off. Creating a masterpiece and meeting some of your heroes is thirsty work.
The following day when I spent 8 hours listening to that day's commentary on the radio, I was slightly relieved to hear that the commentary team were all still alive. But then I have always wondered whether they actually eat the stuff they're given......