Monday, November 17, 2008

I Tend to Stay Away from Bandwagons...

I tend to stay away from bandwagons, especially when said bandwagon takes up a lot of news airtime, but this whole Baby P business has raised a question to which I have no answer: Why are the identities of the mother and step-father being protected, when we're allowed to know the name of the lodger and when pictures of the poor child are allowed to be published?

Okay, so I'm a relatively net-savvy guy and it only took me 7 minutes to find out their identities, but it still goes no distance towards answering why the free press are not allowed to use their names. Of course, another side of me says what difference does it make knowing who they are, the damage is done.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Day at The Oval


On my first Saturday in London I decided to do the only think that made any sense; I went to watch the cricket. Living where I do now, in Thornton Heath, I headed down to my local ground, the magnificent BritOval in Kennington. 

This weekend Surrey were playing Sussex in the County Championship and the match was set at one point to perhaps be Surrey's first win of the season. Alas, it wasn't to be as Sussex stayed in bat and got a draw.

The main reason for going, other than seeing Mark Ramprakash batting, was simply just to say that I'd been. The weather was beautiful, but Ramps was out before I even got to the ground. Damn it! The heat and the Scrumpy made the afternoon something special and the atmosphere was exceptionally lively for that of a four-day game.

If I'm lucky I'll catch another match before the end of the season.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An Old Wheel

Mum has taken to selling her homemade produce to farm shops. So far it has turned out to be a modestly profitable enterprise. On one of her latest sales runs to the ramshackle Mickleton Nurseries Farm Shop, near the village of Mickleton, Glos, I took my camera along and found an old wheel I liked the look of. 

Clicking on the picture will enlarge it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Forgotten Gem

Whilst on the way down to Dorset for a camping holiday (Taffstock 2008: On Tour) a song came on the radio that neither myself or my driver, Chris Jones, had heard for a long time. The song in question had a fantastically positive effect on the pair of us as the dawn sunshine began to get hotter and hotter.

This song was Sunchyme by Dario G. It is well worth another listen if you haven't heard it for a while. Needless to say I got straight onto iTunes upon my return to civilisation to download it.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Camping in a Wood



Early on Friday morning, whilst camping with friends at our annual Taffstock event, I grabbed my camera and made the most of the sunshine breaking through the trees. Although the weather was good for all of the holiday, on this particular day the weather was very hot. A few hours after this photo was taken we would all be sunning ourselves on the beach at Studland and, believe it or not, swimming in the sea.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Monsoon Season Hits Warwick


There is this weird thing that bugs me—I can be a very particular, even peculiar person at times. This thing comes about when you speak to a fellow Warwickian who no longer lives in Warwick—a Warwickian expat if you will. Upon meeting a said expat, one often finds themself being greeted with the line "... and how is sunny Warwick?"

Sunny Warwick?

I've never heard people refer to anywhere else I have come into contact with as sunny wherever, it seems it is a purely Warwick phenomenon. I have never heard the names Sunny Cambridge, Sunny Oxford, Sunny Farnham, nor Sunny Croydon uttered by a single soul. Of course, I may be wrong.

Anyway, it finally dawned on me today why Warwickians say this. It would appear that it is just a very clichéd use of irony as when it rains in Warwick—which it does regularly—it really rains. So after all of those years of thinking no-one from Warwick understood irony it would appear that I was wrong.

Needless to say, the summer monsoon in Warwick is in full flow. Warwick is definitely the Amazon to Farnham's Sahara and I now remember why I prefer the weather in Surrey. I bet that in Farnham it's probably been blazing sunshine all day!

The picture shows the view from my old bedroom window. You can't see the rain but you can just about make out how drenched everything is. Note the dilapidated state of my neighbour's shed.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Cricketing Debut

This Saturday I made my [substantially less than] first class cricketing debut. The setting was the beautiful village of Send, near Woking and the temperature was something around the 28°C mark. I was playing for the Cuddington Casuals 'A' team and kind of scored three (2 wides and a leg-bye) and lasted longer than I thought I would—about three overs. 

Newdigate's 3rd XI, our opponents for the day, reported the match on their website as follows:

Newdigate 221-4 beat Cuddington Casuals 177 all out

Played at the picturesque Concorde CC ground near the village of Send, Newdigate 3rd XI travelled in hope of a third straight win. On winning the toss Cuddington sent the visitors in on a slow but true wicket and whilst picking up the early wicket of opener Chris Fox for 13, U16 Colt Matt Clarke joined Dev Patel (52) and built a superb innings of 72 before being bowled late on in the visitors allotted 40 overs. Newdigate had also welcomed back Simon Goddard (14) to their line-up who nonchalantly showed his class alongside Pete Trower (15 n.o) and both batsmen helped push Newdigate's total to a decent 221 at the tea interval.

Newdigate's strength is versatility in their bowling attack and the 8 Colts included in this team simply underlined that fact. There was no better an example than young U13 Alex Miller whose senior debut returned the well earned figures of 3-30. Alongside him were the ever reliable U16 opener Jose De Castro (8-1-31-1), Jud Morris and the Bowley brothers Will (1-25) and Jack (1-26) , whose leg spin at times bamboozled the home side. However the overall hero for Newdigate this time was the irrepressible Dev Patel whose 4-14 off 6 powerful overs simply ripped the heart out of Cuddington's middle order and ensured victory was again heading Newdigate's way. With 2 catches to boot, it was a superb all round performance.
Highlights in Cuddington's innings included Kiwi Craig's half-century off about 30 balls and the captain getting a duck! In the captain's defence, his bowling was amongst the most effective at getting wickets. 

We still had 7 overs left when we were bowled out for 177... by which time I was already on my second can of Strongbow having been at number 3 in the batting order!

Win or lose, and we lost, great fun was had and the lads on their team, of which many were very young, were good sports and up for a laugh.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Zimbabwe: I Have A Dream


Without meaning to sound like a 1960s civil rights activist, I have a dream. This dream is to one day follow the English cricket team in a test match against Zimbabwe at the historic Harare Sports Club.


I have a somewhat romantic notion of wishing to sit in the intense African sunshine, a cool drink in my hand, watching 22 cricketers in action as the sun rises overhead and disappears again behind the city.

This idea is not an unrealistic one, in theory, but what likelihood has it got of coming to pass when the political climate is what it is in Zimbabwe? Well, it remains rather unlikely.

What helps to perpetuate the situation in Zimbabwe, in addition to its racist tyrannical leader Robert Mugabe, is the support that the ruling Zanu-PF party of Zimbabwe gets from the equally racist ANC party of South Africa. South Africa's president, the leader of the ANC, believes that there is no "crisis" in Zimbabwe and believes that "It's a normal electoral process" taking place there. 

It is no surprise that the South African leader believes this when his policies in his own parties mirror so closely the racist policies of his neighbour to the north—something I have previously written about.

One blogger, with whom I wholly agree, writes:
But just as this election will tell us much about Zimbabwe it will actually tell us more about the African National Congress in South Africa. While the West refuses to criticize the party of their "saint" Nelson Mandela the reality is that the ANC is an authoritarian party very similar to Zanu-PF.

What is the solution? Well I have no idea. I fear that, especially with Morgan Tsvangirai withdrawing from the Presidential run-off, my dream may not happen until Mugabe is deposed, which at this rate will be when he dies of old-age. My hope would have been for a unity government, one like that the country had when called The Republic of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia could be one solution—ensuring that all citizens, black or white and supporters of whichever political persuasion had their say in getting their country out of the mire she finds herself in.

Furthermore, will there even be any cricket played in Zimbabwe in the future as Mugabe goes about punishing anybody who dares not conform to his plans to wipe out evidence of his countries colonial past? Recently, the cricketing academy was burned to the ground in suspicious circumstances—interestingly a white former test-cricketer was charged with arson over the incident.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ramprakash: Stuttering To a Century Of First-Class Centuries

So we're making our way towards the middle of the domestic cricket season in England and we're in the midst of the break from the County Championship whilst the Twenty20 Cup takes place.

During this break in season, where my favourite form of the game is temporarily forgotten in favour of the more commercially lucrative form of the game, I have been able to sit back in astonishment in how much difference a year has made for Surrey's Mark Ramprakash.

As far as first-class cricketers go he has had quite a solid batting record to date. In 671 innings, between 1987 and 2008, he has scored 31,057 runs, picking up 134 half-centuries and 99 centuries along the way—all at at average of 52.99.

His consistency at county level, both for Middlesex until 2000 and for Surrey from 2001 onwards, although never matched during his 92 test innings, was rewarded in 2007 by Wisden, who named him as one of their 'Cricketers of the Year' for his play during the 2006 season.

His good form continued into 2007 where in 15 innings he scored a total of 2,026 runs, which included 4 half-centuries and 10 centuries in the County Championship, equating to an average of 101.30. This was also the second season running that he made over 2,000 runs in a season.

In 2008, most Surrey fans would like to have seen more of the same, but unfortunately something akin to a jinx has befallen 'The Bloodaxe'. Having reached his 99th First-Class century against Sussex in early May, Ramprakash's run totals have plummeted.

It would appear that, having reached the brink of an extraordinary milestone, nerves are beginning to repeatedly get the better of him. From his 10 County Championship innings thus far he's scored a total of 398 runs including two centuries, but his average is, on the basis of recent seasons, a lowly 44.20.

Surrey's last match in the County Championship was an eight wicket defeat at the hands of Somerset in late May/early June—a defeat that really shook their championship hopes and came as a bit of a wake up call to a team in cruise control, who thus far had been picking up decent championship point scores for draws with top batting bonuses.

The fear is that if a batsman as important to the Surrey team as Ramprakash doesn't find his form soon, Surrey run the risk of spending the remainder of the season grinding to frustrating draws and lingering in the Championship wilderness. Surrey need that century of centuries from Mark Ramprakash.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Farnham 2nd XI vs. Old Whitgiftians 2nd XI: Have the Oldies Lost Their Gift?

There is something to be said about Village Cricket. I accept the fact that both Farnham and Croydon, the home of the Old Whitgiftians, are towns.

But both the style of play and the scene of the action in Farnham, with a castle shrouded in vibrant green trees as a backdrop, have a distinctly village-like feel about them.

On the day in question, the May 31, 2008, the sun was shining and thus a small, but noticeable, gathering of spectators had assembled to watch the match between the Farnham second XI and the Old Whitgiftians second XI.

So this wasn’t Lords, and it wasn't first-class, but the match was still engaging.

Old Whitgiftians, winning the toss, opted to field first, despite at this level of cricket, a win batting first being worth more in league points than a win batting second.

The thing that perhaps struck the casual spectator was the apparent age gap between the two teams—the Farnham team comprising mainly under-20s, with the Old Whitgiftians, perhaps, more likely to be in their late 30s, or early 40s.

This age-difference was perhaps what motivated the ‘older’ team to go first, knowing that their legs may not be able to last an innings batting, followed by a tiring, hot afternoon session fielding.

Ben Ungaretti, opening the Farnham innings, seemed unmovable at the crease as he exploited the older fielding legs of the Old Whitgiftians and made 65 before being caught out by Simon Hill, off a bowl from Raj Chatwal, who was on his way to a 5-66.

The other highlight of the Farnham innings was a solid 34 by James Crutcher—who would eventually be out LBW, again bowled by Chatwal. The hosts’ innings ended on a useful 180 from 42.4 overs.

The Old Whitgiftians’ top order failed to bite the same way that Farnham’s did. Sham Malik, first in the batting order, got out for a duck and his partner Ian Walters managed a measly nine—both were caught by Crutcher.

The slow start, with the run rate at first averaging around two an over, was mainly due to some blisteringly fast bowling from James Cameron, who eventually made 5-38 and Matt Peacock, on his way to 2-30.

Highlights in the Old Whitgiftians’ innings came from Alistair Shackman (22), Gareth Clarke (44), and Trevor Clarke (22), who all made the most of the short boundary towards the leg-side of the Farnham Park End.

Ultimately though, with five batsmen out for a duck, this was never to be the Old Whitgiftians’ day. Their innings ended on 138 from 50.2 overs.

The result leaves Farnham’s second XI on level points with second place team, Malden Wanderers in the Surrey second XI Division 1. For the Old Whitgiftians, things are not so great.

They remain rooted to the bottom of the table with no points from their four games and demotion to division two looks more and more likely.

So, in the coming months for the Old Whitgiftians, “is it cowardly to pray for rain?”

Picture taken by: http://flickr.com/people/84006445@N00/
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