Friday, November 25, 2011

Mayday, Mayday ......

The rope was not being very helpful ....A local boat comes to the rescueDown and Down we goThe Cavalry appearsWorking out what to doThe Heavy Mob arrives
I think it's a Goner ......The Recovery startsThe Rubber necks appear - including me!Securing the ropeHere we go again .....He's still at it .....
Flotsam and JetsamOne last pullFinal Resting Place

MayDay, MayDay ......, a set on Flickr.

On holiday in Devon, near Salcombe. The house we were renting was literally 10 yards from the sea, and one Saturday afternoon, the gentle rustling of the waves was interrupted by a siren. Looking out of the window, we could see a largish boat wallowing in the sea about 5 yards form the shore.

It gradually sank into the water, and very soon, the local Coastguard vehicle and lifeboat appeared, as well as a sizeable posse of local people, all hell bent on sorting it out. Over the next couple of hours, as much of the boat's contents as possible were recovered, but it all got in a fair old pickle in the water. At the same time, the local youths set about getting a very thick rope around the hull to allow a JCB brought onto the beach by a local fellow to haul the sunken vessel up the steep slope onto the beach.

This took a fair length of time, because the rope did not want to stay in place, but with a good deal of determination, they finally managed it.

Meanwhile the poor souls who owned the boat were looking at all this going on with a bit of a shell shocked attitude, as what started out as a gentle potter around the South Devon Coast turned into a fair old nightmare for them.

It turned out that the boat's prop-shaft seal had gone and that had started to let considerable quantities of water into the rear of the boat. When the owner realised what had happened, he rammed the throttle wide open and tried to run it onto the beach before it sank, failing by about 5 yards.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays

Level 2Going UpBilly No-MatesWhat shall we come to see next?

Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays, a set on Flickr.
The Lowry Theatre last night – inside and out.

I went to Salford Quays for the first time yesterday, and was mightily impressed. It’s a really modern transformation of a big city, and it hums with life on a Saturday night. That’s another one on the list to return to with my proper camera to record my photographic impressions of it all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Man's Best Friends .....

They all love the waterMilly having a "mad" in the late evening light at FelbriggeThe "Eye" has itHolly running away from a wave - Westwood HoA very young MillyMilly discovering the lavender hedge
Milly as a puppy with a pile of grassUndivided attentionTwo heads are better than one -Milly on the scent trailMilly rushing around on Lyth Hill on a late winter eveningMilly with a stick
It takes two - sharing a stick at AttinghamMilly on the scent at AttinghamMilly fooling around at West RuntonChasing a stick at AttinghamPoppy playing in the sea at West RuntonWe're not dogs - we're seals!
Milly on the top of a ridge on Wenlock EdgeMilly tearing around on the sands at West RuntonWinter walk through the avenue at FelbriggeMilly and Holly on the white rocks of West Runton beachMilly at West Runton beachPushing our way through the crowds on Holkham Beach

Man's Best Friends ....., a set on Flickr.

A few pictures of our dogs. These were taken in Norfolk, Shropshire and the odd one in Devon. As you can see, water seems to play rather a large part in them. The beach is their idea of paradise!

Inspired by a friend of my wife's, whose canine pictures are really, really excellent. Thanks Jan!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mind You, a Lot can happen in a Week ....

The last post on this blog talked about the extraordinary goings-on on Day 2 of the South Africa vs Australia Test match in Capetown last week. I can’t recall a day quite like it ever in the 50 years of my cricketing memory.

South Africa went into lunch on 49 for 1, and the story goes that their coach, Gary Kirsten then left the ground to visit his wife and third child who had been born a day or so before. He returned after three or four hours, midway through the evening session, to find his team on 72 for 1. Wondering whether there had been rain at the ground which had restricted his side to a paltry 23 runs since he’d been away, he found out that he’d missed 20 wickets and two complete innings.

I only hope that’s a true story!

The next day the pundits on Sky TV were Rob Key and Dominic Cork, both very good ex-England players. Even after a night to ruminate on the sensational day’s play neither of them could offer a real explanation of why such a spectacular implosion had occurred, and on Day 3 the match went on with centuries for both Amla and Smith, and in the end, South Africa won easily.

Later that day, I looked at my Twitter feed to see what the cricketing world had made of it all, and alighted on a report from an Australian writer I followed. His few paragraphs analysed it perfectly simply and logically. A difficult, but not impossible pitch, some classy bowling from the South Africans and a complete abrogation of the defensive and strategic fundamentals of playing the game from most of the Australian team, allied to an increasingly lemming like sense of panic down their batting order. The piece was at the same time deceptively simple, accurate, logical, incisive, perceptive, well-argued and beautifully written. In impeccable English, it addressed, dissected and answered the questions Key and Cork couldn’t.

The writer was an ex-Somerset player who captained England once. After his career ended, he upped sticks and settled in Australia, becoming one of the most outspoken, intelligent and thoughtful writers on the subject, a man with a real conscience. His name was Peter Roebuck, and I thought he was one of the best cricket writers on the planet. To me, his articles and books were something special.

One of his books
A few hours after witnessing this extraordinary day and writing this piece, he threw himself off the sixth floor of his hotel and killed himself. No doubt the reasons will come out in time, although I can’t say I really want to know. His beautiful writing is over, and for me, that is that.

For almost 100 years, the number of people involved in the game who have taken their own lives is horribly high. Men who have played the game at the highest level like Stoddart, Shrewsbury, Gimblett, Robertson-Glasgow, Bairstow, Trott, Iverson, Barnes all ended their own lives. And now Peter Roebuck joins that ghastly list. Does the game create conditions in men’s minds which ferment and develop a sense of despair or hopelessness resulting in suicide? Or is it the sort of game which tends to attract the melancholic and introspective - individuals who end it all with a gun, a noose or a box of pills? I simply don’t know.

All I know is one minute you’re reading an article thinking “Spot on Peter, Nail on the head again”, and the next thing you hear is that he’s gone. It’s all desperately sad. The closing words in the last article he wrote on the day he died were “Mind You, a lot can happen in a week.”

Right again, Peter.


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Friday, November 11, 2011

All the Elevens

11/11/11, or as our contrary American cousins insist, 11/11/11.

I know it’s only a number, but there’s something rather disturbingly “Druidy” about it. I’m a reasonably sane individual, but it’s been on my mind for a few days now. This morning, after a bit of test work, I ended up taking a picture of my alarm clock at the appointed hour. I’d even taken the trouble to ensure that the section on the clock face which showed the ambient temperature didn’t disturb the awful symmetry, by the simple ruse of putting it in the fridge for a while. I can’t believe I’m the only one who did that. I’m not a nerd, for Goodness sake!

Another 88 years before it all repeats!

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been wondering if something cataclysmic was going to happen to the world on this “Once in a Lifetime” day. We’ve seen the economic situation in Europe disappearing off, in the words of more than one noted pundit, “to Hell in a hand-cart” with Italy clutching on increasingly desperately for economic survival. Was this the day when the whole Euro debacle would suddenly detonate?

On a much more important level than this however, I’ve been watching the South Africa vs Australia Test match in Capetown, and seen the game twist and turn over 24 hours in a way that has never been seen in a Test match for over 100 years. Yesterday, the fanatic statisticians had something approaching multiple orgasms over the number of cricket records which were re-written during the day. I woke up early wondering what was going to happen today on the field in South Africa. Clearly yesterday was only a cricketing “clearing of the throat” for today’s man event. The TV was on early from 8am – I wasn’t going to miss today’s drama.

It turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax, although things got a bit spooky as 11.00am approached. Now cricket is the game where superstitions and fads run riot. You’d think many cricketers were on the way to the funny farm if you knew what went on in their minds when the game is being played. X will only if he puts his left pad on first. Y will only go out to bat if the toilet seats in the dressing rooms are down. Z would only bat with a red handkerchief in his pocket, while A would only venture into the middle if he had his lucky silver clover leaf with him.

Out on the field, if a player or a team is doing well, you sit tight. I mean, you don’t move, even if the Nature is calling you increasingly stridently. Moving or standing up, even if you are sitting way up in Row 324 of the Grandstand, immediately transfers the vibes to the player and destroys his concentration, and that would never do.

The weirdest ones however are the “nasty” numbers. In Australia, the “Devil’s Number” is 87. Over there, they firmly believe that this figure is toxic, and to be avoided like the plague by any batsman. They get quite nervous when this is their score. The odd thing is that when some guy delved into the statistics of the 2000 Test matches that the World has played since they started in 1877, it was actually the numbers around 87, ie 85, 86 and 89 which were far more often the scores when batsmen perished. But no. 87 it was, and is.

In England, the mystical number is 111, hence its importance for today of all days. For reasons which no-one really knows this number is referred to in the cricket world as “Nelson”. Now, as far as I know, Nelson never played cricket, but it’s a totally ingrained cricketing superstition the world over. There are resonances and echos in a match when a side gets to 222, or 333, referred to as Double Nelsons and Triple Nelsons, but the full force of the heathen pressure is felt on 111.
It gets worse – totally bizarre in truth - because the “release” for Nelson is to stand on one leg while the team is on that score. I mean, seriously, you’ve got 24 grown men (including the 2 umpires) playing a game at the top International level, and, on 111, you can see a smattering of them standing around like a white flamingo. David Shepherd, one of the great umpires of all time, who was a tad on the large size would stand at the bowler’s end, hopping from one leg to another while the game went on around him for as long as the score was 111. It must have completely put the batsman off. You couldn’t make it up.

Today, of course, I couldn’t fail to wonder what was going to happen. The Italian financial crisis had abated a little so it wasn’t going to be that. James Murdoch wasn’t on in front of the MP’s committee just yet, and we’d already had an asteroid the size of Belgium whizzing past the Earth a few hours before, so clearly there must be something else on the cards. The time crept up to 11.00am, and South Africa ominously reached the score of 111 for 1. Could they hang on for another 11 minutes without scoring a run? If that happened the scorers would set fire to themselves and combust in a blaze of glory. However, this “David Eyke” moment passed about 9  minutes too early, and the two South African Batsmen went on their way scoring runs.

The scoreboard at 11.11

The South African Team Bench Flamingoes
On the field a few minutes later, the score-boards finally flashed up the time showing 11.11am on 11/11/11. To a huge cheer, the crowd all stood up on and tried to balance on one leg for the whole minute, with a fair amount of “beer induced” wobbling not helping greatly, but they really tried their hearts out. It was really rather touching, and just the thing you’d expect a cricket crowd to indulge in. Great to watch.

And exactly how many runs do you think South Africa needed to score to win this extraordinary match at that precise minute, when this Stand of Flamingoes (for that is the Collective noun for a herd of these pink things) got to their unsteady human feet?

Yep – 111.