The fun police

A couple of weeks ago I was midway through a big drinking session with my fellow ale-junky Keats. On the Tube, full of the joys of beer, we were standing there with our feet at 90 degrees, in a sort of Laurel’n’Hardy act of stupidity – only the kind of thing you can do when you’ve had a few, and we found the whole thing hilarious. Opposite us was a massive, rotund underground worker – bored, intent on engaging us in conversation – who said “Tsk. Yeah. Not allowed to laugh darn ‘ere no more”. And he’s right. The Tube is an odd second world, where making eye contact is tantamount to asking someone to strip naked and sing like a budgie. Talking to one another, let alone laughing, is not on. It’s not what we do. Mr Rotund was right; here we were, laughing our heads off and receiving scornful glares from scared commuters. “Why are they laughing and talking? Haven’t they read the Tube Etiquette?”

Anyway, this has very little to do with anything. But it’s one aspect of Britain I hate; there is an underlying feeling of fear in London that anyone you talk to will carry a knife and plunge it into your chest. Another instance last week. I’d been to O’Neils by Kings Cross station and was walking back to the tube when a normalish-looking person stopped the lady in front of me to ask for directions. She didn’t stop her frenetic pace, quickening her stride if anything, and the bloke gave up. He stood there aghast, arms outstretched! “You lost?” I asked, and he was. He was just wondering where the British Library was, so I pointed him in the right direction and off he went. I appreciate women might feel more vulnerable in the city than men – and that’s not sexist, even if you think it is – but she was nothing more than plain rude. And this isn’t me being massively naive; I just cannot accept that everyone is a terrorist and is out there to kill me.

Right, now then. Back to cricket. Another crap aspect of Britain is the nanny state and Martin Johnson has found plenty of evidence that Australia are following America’s lead and wrapping the entire country in cotton wool, in a great piece at the Telegraph.

Everywhere you go in Australia, you’re reminded of the American way of treating its inhabitants as though they’re mentally retarded, such as warning consumers of salted peanuts that the packet may contain nut products, or advising purchasers of household bleach that once the bottle is empty it should “not be used as a beverage container”.


So what can we say about the prospect of an England victory? Well, for one thing their chances are not to be sneezed at. But even more in their favour is the fact that Australia’s cricketers are dangerously close to breaching their government’s own zero-tolerance policy (announced over the public address system before each day’s play) forbidding anyone from holding up anyone else to ridicule, contempt or humiliation.

So if Australia go 2-0 ahead here, their players will all be removed from the premises, ordered to do community service for the rest of the series, and the Ashes – as compensation for the severe hurt to their feelings – will be formally awarded to England.

A positive for England, then…

Where to watch the Ashes…in London

A plea for help from Srivaths who writes:

I saw your “Where to watch the Ashes in Hong Kong” post. I have a better
question for you. Where do I watch the Ashes in London? I’m a student from
India and moved in just recently and the sky box(or whatever it is called) is
broken in our student dig. I don’t think the pubs will be open in the mdiddle
of the night. Any ideas?

Damn good question, and I have no idea. Londonshire closes at 11 and woe betide anyone who walks within three feet of the bar. There must be somewhere, though, that can cater for the fans. Naturally you should all buy a crate of beer or decent malt, go home, get to bed, open the laptop and read the marvel that is Cricinfo dot com. But I appreciate you’re not all as sad and tragic as us.

Cricket, is it?

A young Pakistani, whose parents hail from Lahore, noticed me reading Andrew Strauss’s book on the bus this afternoon. “Cricket, is it” (it wasn’t a question, more a statement; “is it” is relaxed, Londonish ghetto-talk for “eh”. Like an Australian would say “Ahhh cricket eh?” I am your professor, heed my knowledge).

“Yes, cricket,” I answered. “You like cricket?” was my pathetic, tired attempt at continuing the conversation.

“Ah is it! Cricket innit, you know” he offered, which was either an abrupt end to our brief chat or the makings of an entire diatribe – I wasn’t sure. Instead, I chose to big myself up and told him I was a journalist.

“Cricket journalist? What paper is it?” (correct usage of “is it” there) and he knew Cricinfo, his favourite site and so on. Immediately I regretted telling him – every other word he uttered was either Inzy, ICC or Hair. I couldn’t tell him much – the hearing was mid-way through and is due to run on tomorrow too. He was still at school, yet knew all about the hearing, its location, Inzamam and so on. Hilariously he assumed I’d be best friends with Mr Inzy, not to mention drinking pals with Daz and Billy D. “Can’t you call ‘em innit? Call Inzy, is it!”

The passion a sport can ignite in people astounds me sometimes.

Escape in the city

Now then, why have I not been here? My boss will say “because you’re a disorganised f******” and he’d have a point. But in my defence, it’s not well known and nor would you stumble across it, yet it’s slap bang in the middle of London. Here, in fact.

Go there and read a book; watch the cricket; drink tea, or beer (the only two things permissable while watching cricket); enjoy a cigarette and ponder life’s mysteries.

Escape in the city...


John Wisden’s gaff

Good old John. Without him, the annual excitement of reading the Small Yellow Book (and now Big Yellow Book as of this year, and I’m not talking the Yellow Pages) would not be. He’s our founder, too, and although we don’t have a big montage of him at Cricinfo and Wisden Towers it’s great to see photos like this:

Where John Wisden worked

This is 21 Cranbourn Street in London, just off Leicester Square where John Wisden and Co. were established. I think this is their “sporting goods” shop, and not an administrative office, although I could be wrong.

I think it’s now home to Sabir’s Fish Bar, or Saber’s – a poor attempt to mask the fact it’s essentially a chippy. But despite the batter being boiled downstairs, they’ve nevertheless kept the original artwork on the building which is really cool.

In fact I stuck up a great article from the 1992 edition of The Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack last week on the survival of Wisden. A historical piece, it looks back to the beginnings of the company and how it has managed to last as long as it has. Go read. In putting the piece up I also found this image, “a few specimens of Crawford’s patent exceller bats” which I thought was brilliant.

John Wisden and Co

The new White City

Health warning (and apology): nothing to do with cricket, whatsoever, other than I work near Shepherds Bush and live nearby.

Michael Gutman, of Westfield London said: “You can come in the morning and get your groceries…go to the gym and have a workout, come back at lunchtime and do your shopping…then come back in the evening and see a movie, sit in a restaurant and have a drink until late.

And? Do people really want this? If I want to lead such a rigid lifestyle, and admittedly routine and society dictates we must, I really wouldn’t want to tick off my daily todo list all in the confines of one airconditioned centre. I see the benefits and the advantages for those “less abled”, but the sales pitch is utter dribble. Yet, despite my cynicism, I’m excited about the development; White City might as well be renamed White Shitty for all its lack of amenities.

It will bring revitalised transport to the area (much needed); thousands of jobs (always welcomed) and, apparently, revolutionise the “shopping experience” (more dribble). But they’re spending £1.6bn on an isolated shopping centre in what is, relative to the rest of the country, a prosperous area. What about the dozens of small, independent shops and businesses which close every week, trampled over by the giants? Why aren’t they better supported by the government? Why are we constantly driven like sheep into a pen of mediocrity and sameness? Am I the only one who enjoys shopping in smaller shops?

Sameness is so useful, though. Go to any town in Britain and you’ll find the same chain of shops. You can get your toothpaste from Boots; get money from any cash machine you choose; buy “organic” pears grown in Spain, even if you’re on holiday in Bolton. And if you’ve run out of tennis balls or CDs – or even a thong – Woolworths will provide them all, usually at bargain prices (if seemingly second-hand quality). This is all damn fine news for the give it to me now consumer, but it depresses and annoys me that we’re so helpless to stop the juggernaut retail giants from swallowing the market wherever the green land lies empty.

Here endeth the rant.

Pavilion Street


I had to buy a special present for somebody a couple of days ago. In fact, it was yesterday. So I went to good’ol Peter Jones where I rightly suspected it might be quiet and tolerable. Nothing worse than a packed shop, even for tallish folk like me. As my Godmother once said to me, “never underestimate other people’s stupidity” and so it has come true. Of particular annoyance lately are those cretinous fools at the top of escalators who, with great force, slam on their brakes leaving you to back-peddle and cause people behind you to do the same.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to take any deep breaths or even restrain myself – it was cool, quiet and pleasant. However, like most blokes who venture into the dark, mysterious world of “shopping”, I failed spectacularly. If there was an award for Most Hopeless Shopper, I’d be well up there with a chance of presenting the award the following year, or gaining presidency of People Who Hate Shopping Anonymous.

Wandering around with a constant frown creasing my forehead, all the ideas and thoughts which I’d painstakingly scrutinised over had, suddenly, vanished. Twice I was asked if I needed any help, to which the first time I replied “Oh no! Ohh no, I’m just browsing. Thanks” and the second “Why is everything so expensive?” And it’s true. Why is everything so expensive? I saw a fork for £8. I could make an entire set for that money.

This is all by-the-by, as usual. After sending the lifts up to the top-floor like the four-year-old which I pretend I’m not, I escaped into London’s concrete radiator for a stroll round Sloane Square. It’s not my type of area if I’m brutally honest, but actually I warmed to it with the near-constant presence of half-naked Sloanies. Everywhere, they were; jumping in, and out, of their Chelsea Tractors and generally having a rah rah lovely time of it.

I then found this street, a cobbled mews with old, restored garage-doors and great (and not so great) cottages. Like something out of Dickens. You don’t see that much in London. Sure enough two of the garages had been ripped out by a particularly chic-looking designer store, who surely can’t gain many visitors tucked away so far from the high street. It was a flipping great street to live in, I imagined – and it’s name?

Pavilion Street. Clearly I’m destined to live there.

If any of you do live there, and/or have a 2-bed place nearby to rent to me for about £500/month (each), let me know. I’m a brilliant tenant, fabulous cook and sometimes drink beer.

Any cricketing streets near you?

London heatwave

35 degrees is just wrong. 36 is hell.

We Brits weren’t designed to live like this. That’s why when thousands invade Spain and France in July and August they return looking like tomatoes. It’s all very well having a heatwave but only if you live by the sea.

Roll on winter, jackets, wind and pubs with open fires. Heatwaves should, frankly, be outlawed.

Chris Read hits hundred against Pakistan

Chris Read pulling for four
Copyright AP

Chris Read has hit a hundred against the touring Pakistanis. I wonder whether Geraint Jones rather wishes he was playing for England A to get some practice. When bad light stopped play, Read was unbeaten on 120 (scorecard). Well done that man. I still think Jones will play in the Ashes, rightly or wrongly; the decision (I believe) has been made.

Read, at the very least, should play in the one-day side. On that thoughtful note, I’m off to drink London dry.

Two minutes silence

But with the weather looking unsettled, Read and Loudon regrouped impressively, to carry England to a healthy 365 for 6 at the break. Play was halted at 12pm local time (1100GMT) for Britain’s national two minutes silence marking the first anniversary of the London terror bombings. Players from both sides lined up on the outfield while spectators stood.

Good to hear. I was outside a Starbucks at the time, but was sadly just one of two standing in silence. The rest, including a particularly thoughtless and irritating teenage scrote, were on their mobile phones; talking loudly; laughing; shouting or were completely oblivious to the commemorative silence. Fair enough, I thought; people can do as they wish, but it struck me as extraordinary that so few could even be arsed.

SW13 for you, I guess.