Showing posts with label Henry Blofeld. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Henry Blofeld. Show all posts

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Ashes; or, the wonder that is Blowers.

This morning, I started writing a rather long, involved blog. I thought you might like a good, meaty Saturday read. But then I switched on Test Match Special and Henry Blofeld was on such cracking form that I had to stop everything to listen.

Test Match Special is one of the shining lights of British broadcasting. I don’t imagine there is anything else in the world at all like it. It is peopled by eccentrics, jokers, joshers and statistics geeks. ‘What’s the record, Malcolm?’ At which point Malcolm makes a little humorous murmuring noise and digs out some obscure stat from 1911.

TMS is such a glorious programme that I think I would listen to it even if I knew absolutely nothing of cricket, and had no interest in the game. It is a raging joy and delight for anyone who appreciates the English language and the British character. In the Ashes, we get the added enchantment of a couple of wonderful Aussie voices, livening the cultural mix. It’s such a clever thing, because it makes the perfect counter-point to the old, old sporting rivalry.

In the box, with the genteel cake and the polite messages from the devoted test fans, the Australians and the English are sweetly courteous and sporting. They admire the other side’s skill, cheer a great shot by an opposing batsman, are scrupulously fair. There is an astonishing lack of chauvinism, even though you sense of course they desperately want their own team to win. When the youthful revelation that is Ashton Agar amazed the entire cricket world by putting on an eleventh man stand of 98, saving the day for Australia after a catastrophic collapse, every English commentator was devastated that he was out before he reached his hundred.

I adore test cricket. I have no interest in the quick version of the game and don’t follow twenty-twenty. I love the extraordinary tension and drama that builds up over the five days. I love the fact that nations who do not have test sides are baffled by the fact that a single match can last for so long a time. I love the stories and dramas and characters that are given room to breathe over those long, rolling, sunlit days.

I love the idioms. The very fact that there is a position called ‘silly mid-on’ makes me smile. ‘He just tickled that,’ the commentators say, with a straight face.

I love the storied rivalries. The Ashes is the most special of all, because of the snaking history of Australia and England with leather and willow. It started in 1882, when Australia thrashed England on home turf, and a newspaper wrote an obituary: this is the day that English cricket died and the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. A group of women in Melbourne then presented a small urn to the English team, containing the burnt remnants of a bail, and so The Ashes was born.

And still, 130 years later, that tiny urn is fought over with fierce, diamond-sharp competition. Little boys from Brisbane to Bolton grow up dreaming of representing their country in The Ashes.

If I had the time, I would cancel everything and sit all day and listen to every minute of the eight hours of coverage. It’s hard to believe that you can be on the edge of your seat in a game that takes such a long time, and breaks for old-fashioned tea. But you are. As it is, I tune in and out whenever I can, and if I miss a particularly thrilling spell, I go back to the iPlayer in the evening and catch up with the day’s play, listening in a trance of hazy pleasure.

Dear old cricket. Dear old Blowers, who encapsulates for me everything that is splendid about this form of the game. He exclaims in delight every time he sees a flappy pigeon, gets improbably excited when he spots a shiny bus driving past (he has a thing about buses), calls every single person, no matter what their age or position, ‘my dear old thing’, gives the players straight-faced nicknames. ‘And here comes Starkers,’ he says, as the Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc runs up to the crease. (For the Dear Readers from abroad: starkers means naked, in British slang.) He is the most treasury of national treasures, someone who will never be replaced.

As I come back from working my mare, and settle into a lazy Saturday, and think vaguely what will win the July Cup at Newmarket, I turn on Blowers’ wonderful voice and I genuinely feel all is well with the world.

I woke this morning in rather a bad mood. I felt tired and twitchy and filled with self-criticism and angst. Not working fast enough, too many things to do, too many tricky decisions to take. I don’t like myself much when I am in this mood, because I have so much luck and so much to be grateful for, and I have no right to feel so scratchy. But Blowers banishes all that. He has the miraculous talent of spreading sunshine wherever he goes. I smile and my shoulders come down and the clouds roll away. All possible things will be well. How lovely it is that one good man can perform such a miracle, through the radiophonic device.


Today’s pictures:

A few shots from the week:

13 July 1 07-07-2013 18-26-18

13 July 2 06-07-2013 11-12-04

13 July 3 06-07-2013 11-13-20

13 July 3 06-07-2013 11-15-39

13 July 3 25-06-2013 16-22-47

13 July 4 03-07-2013 11-42-21

13 July 4 03-07-2013 11-42-47

The beloved beauty:

13 July 4 10-07-2013 13-58-11

13 July 4 10-07-2013 13-58-18

The little HorseBack foal:

13 July 5 10-07-2013 13-11-45

Stanley the Dog dauntlessly catching flies:

13 July 7 07-07-2013 18-20-28

13 July 8 07-07-2013 18-20-57

The hill:

13 July 20 11-07-2013 12-25-24

Friday, 10 July 2009

The American Edition

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

There are twenty different things I have wanted to blog about this week, and I have done none of them, because all I can think of is the American edit of the book. So I do apologise for lack of the good meaty stuff.

Sarah and I were ecstatically happy to get an American deal, something that seemed beyond our most crazed dreams. We were lucky enough to be taken up by a great independent publisher, and to have a kind and understanding editor. This week, the marked up manuscript arrived, and I volunteered to do the edit, since Sarah has an entire newspaper to write and a family to look after, and I am the one who is famously anal about the semi-colons. It should have been a straightforward and satisfying week of work. The manuscript was relatively clean, with only one chapter that needed serious reworking to make it understandable to an American audience. And yet it has sent me into a frenzy.

At first I thought I was just taking the thing seriously, as I should. It is my job, after all. But when I found myself getting obscurely grumpy about the fact that sceptical suddenly had to be spelt with a K, I knew that there was more here than met the eye. There is a whole section in Backwards about how one gets furious about Object A when in fact the real cause of one's anger is Object B. I could not really mind that much about cutting a reference to Dame Mary Warnock because she would not play in Peoria, surely? (And that one was not even an editorial decision; I cut poor Dame Mary all on my own. Also Julian Clary and Graham Norton.) I found myself over-reacting in the most intemperate manner when I found sliced carrots in the recipe for Irish Stew had been replaced by grated carrots. 'No, no, no, NO,' I wrote in the margin. 'Grated carrots would be an abomination.' My poor editor, what must she think?

I can't quite work out what Object B is. Even though the work is done, rather more quickly than I expected (I thought I would be bashing away until ten tonight, but it suddenly came together and I have now a blissful free afternoon to listen to Test Match Special and indulge my new and entirely unexpected obsession with The Ashes), my shoulders are still up around my ears with suppressed tension.

I think it is a messy complication of different things. There is probably a dose of raw terror: will our poor little book just sink without trace in the wide open spaces of the vast continent? There is the emotional switch that always comes with any kind of editing, however clever and subtle and gracious the editor is. When you have worked at a manuscript until your brain is about to fall out of your ears, done the eighth and ninth and tenth drafts, lived with it for a year or more, any mark on it can feel like a violation. Even though you are a pro, and you understand this is part of the process, and you know that it will make for a better piece of work, there is a part of you that screams: get off my baby. (I have a horrible feeling that when I use the general You in that sentence, in fact I mean the very specific Me; I am not at all certain that Martin Amis flies into tiny little hissy fit because omelette must be spelt omelet.)

I think too that there is the slight sense of dislocation in being conscious of talking to such a different audience. I like to think I know about America because I watch all the politics programmes on MSNBC, and can recite large chunks of The West Wing off by heart, and have spent my life loving American literature. I believe that, beyond cultural differences, the universal emotions and needs and wants are pretty much the same for all women. I like to think myself a citizen of the world. And yet, doing this edit, I suddenly realise how very British I am. The idioms and history and emotions of this island people are so stitched into me that I cannot tell where they end and I begin. I am steeped in Shakespeare and the BBC and the Romantic poets. I got extremely testy with my poor hapless editor when she wanted to change very heaven to pure heaven; it's from WORDSWORTH, I wrote, pretentiously, in the margin. I suddenly realise that even though the British sometimes startle and surprise me, I know them in a way I can never know the Americans. We all grew up together; we have in-jokes and code words and things that require no explanation. I felt obscurely upset when I had to take out a line about sticky back plastic, because in the US there was no Blue Peter, and no BBC impartiality which meant that references to Sellotape were forbidden. I am afraid that however much I change Inland Revenue to IRS, or BBC to NPR, the American women will not get it, in the way that Sarah and I knew our British readers would.

More tangentially, I realise with stunning force how little Britons figure in the American imagination. It is not that they like us or hate us; it is that, in their eyes, the Brits are Oscar Wilde's Woman of No Importance. The Special Relationship is really only special on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Jingoistic bombast is one of the things that makes me crosser than almost anything except a dangling modifier, so why should this matter to me? It is a plain truth; it does not carry any deep meaning. I think it disturbs me because it stirs the muddy waters of national pride, something which can so easily tip into horrid superiority or chauvinism. But as I have to cut little asides that only my compatriots will understand, I find myself acutely conscious of all the things I love about British life.

I love the sense of humour and the irony and, even in these days of reality television, the understatement. I love Radio Four and fish and chips and our own dear Queen. I love Blue Peter, and memories of collecting milk bottle tops to send to children in Africa (quite what they were going to do with them, no one ever understood). I love Hamlet and rain at Wimbledon and The Two Ronnies. When I listen to the cricket and hear Henry Blofeld call a middle-aged man 'my dear old thing' I want to die with happiness, for absolutely no reason that I can identify. Perhaps it is disconcerting to find that all these things for which I carry such profound fondness almost certainly mean absolutely nothing to a woman living in Duluth.

I can't draw any conclusions from any of this, which drives me a bit mad, because I love a good and complete conclusion. Maybe the conclusion is an echo of the central message of Backwards itself, which is: our psyches are always a little messier and more complicated and unexpected than we think, and there is nothing wrong with that.

And now, my dear old things, it is time for the cricket.


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