Saturday, 20 July 2013


Now I like classical music and I love cricket! Listening to Test Match Special (TMS) - Aggers, Blowers, Boycs and all - is truly one of the sounds of an English summer - especially with this weather...
And tuning into Katherine Jenkins - Sunday evenings on Classic FM - will invariably see me reaching for the knob. But classical music and cricket together?
England narrowly won the First Test against Australia (14 runs) despite the absence of their greatest cheerleader, Billy The Trumpet Cooper. Billy, an orchestra professional, was banned by the ground authorities in Nottingham, due to a long-standing ban on musical instruments. And Lord's – the headquarters of cricket – announced that it will permit no music at all in the Second Test, which started the day before yesterday, except for the two national anthems at start of play.

How do they expect cricketers and fans to get in the groove without music to cheer them on?

General Ground Regulations - from Lord's website
It’s very sad – one of the great things about cricket in the Caribbean, for example, is the music you get in the crowd. It adds atmosphere and far from distracting the players, probably inspires and encourages them. Shame on Lord's and Trent Bridge. In fact, music has never been allowed at Lord’s! I’d rather listen to Billy playing his trumpet than the mindless junk many cricket (and rugby) venues play through their loudspeaker systems when there is the slightest pause in the games. It’s as though they think nobody can tolerate a moment’s silence!
Billy at the WACA
Billy is truly the embodiment of English eccentricity. He belongs to a boisterous ragtag band of sports fans called the Barmy Army. They're considered "barmy" for very good reason: These people follow England's national cricket team - and spending their hard-earned to boot - everywhere.

They travel all over the world, sitting through rain and sweltering sunshine, watching games that can last up to five days, cheering and chanting lustily, even when defeat is certain - in fact, sometimes inevitable.

As his nickname suggests, Billy Cooper is a fine trumpeter. Ten years or so ago, Billy started showing up for cricket matches with his instrument. 

His heartfelt renderings from within the crowd of the Blackadder theme, "YMCA" and — when England are about to lose — "The Last Post" — soon made him famous. Billy's trumpet became one of the signature sounds of the English summer, along with the whack of croquet mallets, whining lawn mowers and Jonathan Agnew on TMS.
But no Billy at Lord's? - it sucks!

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Wednesday, 17 July 2013


Soaring temperatures are expected to reach over 30ºC this weekend but grumpy Britons have taken to Twitter to complain about the hot weather...


The social media site has been flooded with comments criticising the July heatwave, complaining that it is ‘not British’ or ‘natural’ to have such a hot summer.

Temperatures are set to rise even further this weekend, angering a number of Britons who were unprepared for the heatwave - which is the longest since 2006.
Others moaned that it was stopping them from enjoying their summer activities such as shopping, or was even ruining their holiday plans.
Many took to Twitter to complain that the 'unacceptable' heat was stopping them from sleeping at night.
Men and women alike also complained that the sticky heat and humidity was ruining their hair.

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Saturday, 13 July 2013


The curse of the Jules Rimet trophy...

Difficult to believe now. Nearly 50 years ago. 

The news that gripped the media. An expectant sporting nation, ready to host its first global football tournament in a few months time, held its breath. The World Cup had been stolen!
In March 1966, Westminster Central Hall staged an exhibition of rare postage stamps. What the philately is the deal with stamps, anyway? Both my older brothers were into this kind of thing but I couldn’t see the point then and nothing has changed in the intervening years. But I digress...

As part of the exhibition, the original, iconic World Cup trophy (Jules Rimet Trophy to give it its proper name) was to be displayed for the 3 or four days exhibition duration. Preceding the tournament it was kept under tight security at FA HQ in Lancaster Gate. Stanley Gibbons has a lot to answer for! True, the trophy was a major attraction and it was donated to the exhibition on the understanding it would be under constant guard at all times. It seems that no-one told the two uniformed and two plainclothes officers that!
You can guess what happened - in an unguarded moment the display cabinet had been forced open and the trophy taken. It was discovered missing around noon on the Sunday; earlier that morning a Methodist service had taken place in the Hall. No Methodists were suspects, however. The trophy was insured for £30,000; but melted down was worth no more than £3000.

Officers interviewed the guards and two maintenance workers. One of the churchgoers had also noticed a man and gave a different description. The story went public across the world over the next day. Police had begun to look for two potential suspects but the description the newspapers gave did not correspond to the either one of the men the witnesses had seen.

Cue the Flying Squad – no Regan and Carter in those days! The following day Joe Mears, the Chairman of the Football Association and Chelsea FC, received an anonymous 'phone call. The unknown man said that he would receive a parcel at Chelsea Football Club the next day. The parcel was delivered to Mears' home. It contained the removable lining from the top of the trophy and a ransom note that demanded £15,000 in £1 and £5 notes. The letter stated that FA should place a coded ad in the Personals Column of The Evening News. If they would follow the further instructions, they could get the trophy back by Friday. A ransom demand for £15,000! A mysterious clue sent to Joe Mears, chairman at the FA! The thick plottens!
One individual, Edward Betchley was accused of the theft (he claimed to be an intermediary and stated he had been paid £500 for this) and was charged for attempting to blackmail Joe Mears into paying the £15,000 ransom for the return of the nine-inch solid gold statue. Betchley claimed that someone he knew only as "The Pole" had offered him £500 to act as a middleman. Betchley was known to the police as a petty thief and used car dealer (aren’t they the same thing?). He wasn’t prosecuted for the theft but served two years for blackmail and soon after his release died of emphysema.

A week later, Mr Corbett and his Jack Russell* dog, Pickles, were walking in the Beulah Hill area of south east London. Pickles started to sniff and scratch at a parcel that was lying under the hedge of Mr Corbett's house. It was wrapped in an old newspaper, tied with string. When he opened the parcel, Corbett recognized the trophy – it included the winner's names on the plinth – a dead giveaway! He handed the parcel to the police at the Gypsy Hill police station.

Hurrah! My doggy hero! We were right in the Branston, Pickles...and no mistake!

Pickles reward? A grateful nation certainly! Pickles was invited to the celebration banquet after England’s World Cup success and was allowed to lick the plates clean! You couldn’t make this up, could you? Admittedly his owner copped a £6,000 reward and the thief was never caught. Not much of thank you though, was it?
It gets worse, I’m afraid...
Pickles choked to death by snagging his lead on a fallen tree while chasing a cat in 1967.

Pickles – gone but not forgotten...

*The Jack Russell is a breed of dog associated with the Rev John Russell in the 19th century and not the England cricketer of the same name.
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