Category Archives: Humour

Staff cricket : the Golden Years (1)

Just after I started work in the High School, my interest in cricket began to grow. Luckily, there was a well established Staff Cricket Team. Indeed, it was during the Summer Term of 1947, that the staff had fielded their own cricket team for the first time ever, playing several friendly fixtures against the staffs of other schools. The most likely suspects would be the local Grammar Schools, Bilborough and High Pavement, and possibly Henry Mellish and the Old Nottinghamians.
Sooo….I decided to give it a go and I asked the team if I could play. I am no expert at playing cricket, but I was assured that this was just social cricket, played merely for amusement and companionship. Weeks later, I realised that the staff matches that I played in were played for amusement and companionship as if they were the last decisive test in an Ashes series in Australia:

In my bestselling book and my two screenplays for both Hollywood and Bollywood films, “Nottingham High School: an Anecdotal History”, I mentioned staff cricket on a number of occasions. The first occasion was the year before I began at the High School in the Summer Term of 1974:

“One of the most famous incidents in staff cricket occurred when according to “The Nottinghamian”, David Matthews “courageously stopped the ball with his head”. It cost him a pair of glasses, and two black eyes. Other participants during the season were Paul Dawson and  Brian Hughes, specialist batsmen David Padwick and Dave Phillips, specialist bowlers John Hayes and Marcus Coulam, and Jimmy Sadler, who in one match took four wickets in the last over, to snatch an unlikely victory.  John Hayes and Allan Sparrow were the usual umpires.”

This old staff photo from 1973 has John Hayes (front left) and in the centre of the front row, Dave Phillips.

Alas, David Padwick has now passed away and the rest of those names must be well into their sixties if not older. Certainly, it is a good while since any of them taught a lesson at the High School. I did find one or two of them on some pictures of the staff which I scanned in the early 1980s. They are not very good, but they are recognisable. On this photo are Bob Dickason, Ed Furze, Chris Smith and Me on the back row, and Ian Driver, John Hayes, Edwin Harris and Dave Phillips in front.

Here are David Matthews and David Padwick :

Luckily, colour film was invented in time to capture the greatest moment of John Hayes’ life. The day he took delivery of the High School’s first ever minibus::

It was during this season that David Padwick passed into legend. In a game against Trent Polytechnic, as it was then called, played at the Clifton campus, there was a fairly steep bank on two sides of the ground, about three feet high, just inside the boundary. Padders was fielding on the long on boundary, where he was theoretically unlikely to get up to too much mischief. At this point he was standing quietly at the top of the bank.

Suddenly, the ball was hit high, high, high into the sky in his direction. But he couldn’t judge the ball’s trajectory properly. Surely he was too far back to catch it. Quick, go forward, down the bank!  But no! Surely he was now too far forward to catch it. Quick, back up the bank! No, that’s wrong. Quick, quick, down the bank!  No, no, no!  Quick, back up the bank! For a good fifteen seconds or more, Padders became the cricketing Grand Old Duke of York. And did he catch it? Well, what do you think?

The next mention of staff cricket comes when:

“There was a report of staff cricket in 1977 in the Nottinghamian of December 1999.  It appeared in William Ruff’s “From the Archives” section of the magazine. Mention was made of Tony Slack, “our benevolent dictator”, Dave Phillips who “wields the straightest golf club in the business”, Phil Eastwood, “for whose particular torture the LBW rule was invented, and Clem Lee, “whose pectorals imitate the motion of the sea as he runs up to bowl”. The regular umpires this season were Allan Sparrow and John Knifton, although the latter did play in one game, “and took an impossible catch to win the game”. The more often I read that, the less possible it seems.

Again, I have found one or two old staff photos to enlarge. On the 1970 photo, there are Phil Eastwood (top right) and David Matthews again (No 3 on the front row). The back row also has Allan Sparrow and, I think, Brian Hughes  :

This photo has at least one more cricketer, Marcus Coulam, the young man to the right on the very back row:

The photograph also shows Norman Thompson, Dick Elliott, Stanley Ward, Ian Driver, Martin Jones, Chris Curtis, Jeff Leach, Gerry Seedhouse and, I think, Will Hurford. The two young ladies, I do not know.

More chat about the sporting superstars next time. Incidentally, I had a second hand operation on February 8th, so I won’t be able to reply to any of your comments for, probably, a couple of weeks. As soon as I am able to, though, I will answer what you have been kind enough to contribute.

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Filed under History, Humour, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

The Day from Hell (2)

Last time, I told you about Jack Ketch’s abilities as the King’s Executioner. He was useless. Absolutely useless. All that happened to him, though, was that he was promoted.

If you are in management, always give  the important  jobs to the most useless people. It will make your own performance look so much better. Ketch was the man tasked with executing the Duke of Monmouth:

The Duke of Monmouth knew all about Jack Ketch’s reputation for incompetence. They were all assembled, up on the scaffold and ready to go, when the Duke walked over to Ketch and said:

“Here are six golden guineas for you, Ketch. Do not hack me to bits as you did with Lord Russell. I have heard that you struck him three or four times. My servant will give you even more gold if you do the work well.”

“No problem, your Dukeness” replied Ketch, picking up his axe to begin the ghastly deed.

Monmouth ran his almost royal finger over the edge of Ketch’s axe. He was not a happy man. The axe wasn’t really that sharp. It was certainly not as sharp as the knife he’d had at breakfast. And it didn’t cut his finger at all.

Ketch began his work.

One slash of the axe. It missed. Just a little nick on the neck. Monmouth actually got up from the block and gave Ketch a dirty look.

Second go. Whoops, missed again. Sorreeeeeeeee !

Third attempt.

“Don’t worry, Duke. I’ll get you next time.”

Next time.

“Sorry, I don’t know where I’m going wrong. It was all right yesterday at rehearsal.”


That made four goes. How many more were needed?

Well, at least four more large swings of the axe. Ketch made a grand total of eight attempts at killing the Duke. And there were even some witnesses who talked of double figures.

And was the Duke dead? Well, no, not quite. Not yet. The neck was still not severed and the Duke was still moving about on the planks of the scaffold.

Ketch flung his axe down. The crowd was not happy. But they knew the rules.

Either the job was finished and the crowd went home happy or they themselves would ensure that at least one person went home dead. And that one person would be either the Duke or it would be Ketch. They really were not that bothered.

Lucky then that Ketch was carrying a penknife in his pocket. “Bear with me”, he shouted to the crowd, “I’ll get him this time.”

And he began sawing the Duke’s head off with his penknife. Eventually, he did it.

Here’s the close up. Look at the knife. Eight inches? Ten? :

The Duke of Monmouth was now, as requested by the King, in two completely separate pieces.

Ketch showed the two pieces to the crowd:

And then some slack jawed local of an assistant piped up with something he should have said to Ketch about an hour before:

“Jack!! Jack !!!  Don’t forget the drawing.”

“What drawing?”

“Well, Jack, they haven’t got an oil painting of the Duke anywhere in England so there’s a man here who needs to draw the Duke before you cut his head off.”

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

Was Ketch beaten? Hell, no. They sewed the Duke’s head back on to his body (which was not considered a serious breach of the Two Pieces Rule) and the artist then drew a quick sketch. When he had finished, Ketch took out his trusty penknife and cut the Duke’s head off (for a second time, presumably) and the Two Pieces were sent off for burial and/or display.

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Now THAT was a bad day.

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Incidentally, the oil painting is still in the National Portrait Gallery. They insist on calling it the “Portrait of a Man Sleeping” but they’re wrong, very, very wrong:

Just look at that piece of cloth tucked neatly around his neck. Surely it covers second rate stitching done at speed.

This is not a Man Sleeping.

This is the Duke of Monmouth.

But unfortunately, he has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace!

No no he’s not dead, he’s, he’s restin’!

NO  ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-DUKE OF MONMOUTH!!

Jack Ketch died in November 1686. He went on to be mentioned in three different novels by Charles Dickens. He also gave rise to the Rock/Punk/Metal/ super group entitled “Jack Ketch & The Bilge Rat Bastards”.

I could not have written this blog post without the description of events supplied by Lord Macaulay in his “History of England”.

 

 

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Filed under Criminology, History, Humour, Politics

The Day from Hell (1)

Have you ever had the day from hell? When more or less everything that could go wrong, did go wrong?

Do you ever think that you struggle to hold down your job? Do you ever think that you are absolutely useless and it’s only a matter of time before your ineptitude is discovered?


Well, trust me, you will never approach the levels achieved in the 1680s by Jack Ketch, the King’s Executioner:


On July 21st 1683, Jack attempted to execute Lord Russell. The story comes from  the incomparably named “Great B#stards of History: Famous Illegitimate Children Who Went on to Achieve Greatness”. That title was the winning entry in the “Book Title of the Week” competition last week. Here’s Jack:

“Ketch wielded the axe with such lack of simple dexterity that the victim suffered horrifically under blow after blow, each excruciating but not in itself lethal. The gory display created such outrage that Ketch felt moved to write and publish a pamphlet in which he excused his performance with the claim that Lord Russell had failed to “place himself as was most suitable” and that he was therefore distracted while taking aim on his neck.”

Blame anything. Blame anybody. The victim. The bad weather, A loudly barking dog. My little brother. Never admit you are a total incompetent.

Two years later, on July 15th 1685, Ketch was given the job of lopping off the head of James Scott, the Duke of Monmouth.

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man.” as they say. The execution of Lord Russell was a smooth job, slickly done, compared to what would happen with the Duke of Monmouth. But Jack Ketch could not turn down this opportunity for a comeback.

This was the big one. The climax of his career. Tower Hill in London. Thousands and thousands of people watching. And big money if he did it right.

I’ll tell you very soon exactly what happened.

 

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Look at that fat bloke, Stan (2)

Please don’t look at this series of blog posts and just think “I don’t like football” and then go on your merry way. All of these blog posts are about much more than football. In particular they concern the eternal battle between sporting genius and cream cakes.

In the last post, I said that there was one football match that I wish I had seen. It took place just a few months after I was born. It was England v Hungary, played on a cold, dull, misty afternoon on November 25th 1953 at Wembley. This game would later be called the “Game of the Century”
Kick off was at 2.15 pm because there were no floodlights. Hungary were the greatest team the world had ever known. They were Olympic champions, undefeated since 1950:

A good ten years ago I bought the programme for “Goal of the Century” on ebay. I paid more for it than I cared to communicate to my wife, but the big thing was that it contained three autographs. Of that more later. Here is the front cover:

The back cover showed, perhaps, the suggestion of a possible contributory factor to England’s problems:

The programme did everything possible to welcome the Hungarians. There was a pronunciation guide:

And news of an exhibition about Hungary:

There was a nice bit of “whistling in the dark”. A list of recent results against those pesky foreigners:

A couple too many draws, perhaps, but we had beaten both Belgium and Argentina. But had we played too few home games against foreign opposition ? Just five in eight years.

The programme had adverts for other games at Wembley but they were very inward looking. Firstly, the Varsity match:

And then, the next best thing to the biggest England game of the season:

Next time, we’ll look at the players and the timetable for the day’s events.

 

 

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Filed under Football, History, Humour, Personal

Look at that fat bloke, Stan (1)

Please don’t look at this forthcoming series of blog posts and just think “I don’t like football” and then go on your merry way. All of these blog posts are about much more than football. In particular they concern the eternal battle between sporting genius and cream cakes. Go on, give it a go….

There is one football match that I wish I had seen. It took place just a few months after I was born. It was England v Hungary, played on a cold, dull, misty afternoon on November 25th 1953 at Wembley Stadium in London. This game would later be called the “Game of the Century”:

Kick off was at 2.15 pm because there were no floodlights. Hungary were the greatest team the world had ever known. They were Olympic champions and were undefeated since 1950. In fact, they would go on to register 42 victories, 7 draws and just one defeat, which came  in the World Cup Final against West Germany in 1954. Between that World Cup Final and February 1956, the “Mighty Magyars” played 19 more games, with 16 victories, 3 draws and no defeats.

A final record then of played 72, won 61, drew 10 and one defeat. The Hungarian Uprising against their Soviet guests and protectors brought the team to an end in 1956.

The Hungarians played the revolutionary 4-2-4 system, and their team that grey misty day was Grosics, Buzansky, Lantos, Lorant, Zakarias, Bozsik, Budai, Czibor, Puskás, Hidegkuti, and Kocsis.

In England they became known as the “Mighty Magyars” and elsewhere as “The Golden Team”. In Hungary they were the Aranycsapat.

Ferenc Puskás, nicknamed by the Hungarians “Öcsi” and by the English ‘the Galloping Major’, was their star player and he would go on to finish with 83 goals in 84 internationals and 514 goals in 529 matches.

Puskás became an Olympic champion in 1952 and he would eventually finish his career with an Olympic Gold Medal from 1952, a runners-up medal in the World Cup in 1954, where he was named the tournament’s best player, three European Cups, (1959, 1960, 1966), 5 Hungarian championships and 5 Spanish championships with Real Madrid, as well as 8 top individual scoring honours.

Puskás, however, was a martyr to Hungarian cream cakes, and always looked a little on the chubby side.

Legend has it that before the two teams kicked off in the “Match of the Century”, one of the England players, none of whom had ever heard of Puskás, said to Stanley Mortenson, “Look at that fat bloke, Stan, he won’t give us any trouble.”

He was wrong. Hungary won 6-3 to inflict England’s first ever defeat on home soil. Puskás scored one of the sport’s legendary goals, avoiding the carthorse tackle of Billy Wright by dragging the ball back with the sole of his boot before tucking it into the roof of the net.

And English coaches realised that as far as the continentals were concerned, it was as if Hungary were from another planet. Indeed, if you watch the match on a DVD you will see that in the first half Puskás scores a goal which the Dutch referee disallows for offside. In actual fact, it is onside by about two yards so the result might have well have been 7-3. That would have spoilt things for Hungarian speakers, because 6-3 in Hungarian is “Hat harom” and the phrase has now passed into the Hungarian language. Just google “Hat harom” and see how many things turn up…unfortunately all in Hungarian:

One of the best journalists to write about the match was Geoffrey Green of The Times . He famously described England as “strangers in a strange world.” His description of one of Puskás’ goals has passed into legend. It is, in fact, the goal that I described above:

“Centre half Billy Wright rushed across to tackle him, but Puskás pulled the ball out of his path as the defender barged past like a fire engine going to the wrong fire”.

The following year, 1954, foolish England went to Budapest to see if they could repeat Hungary’s shock victory. In fact, they lost by 7-1, still now their biggest defeat. Puskás only scored two. “They were such a wonderful side” said Sir Tom Finney who played in the match.

Let’s finish by torturing myself. Here’s the ticket to the game I bought 60 years too late. Alas, the old Wembley has now been demolished and you would struggle to find the South Terrace seating, let alone Row 3 Seat 41. But that doesn’t stop this ticket being the best 10/6 you could have spent in the history of sport:

One final point I would like to make is that I had a minor operation on my hand recently and for that reason I will not be able to reply to any of your comments in the immediate future. If you do want to make a comment, by all means please do so, but I will not be able to write any replies until after December 6th as a minimum. After this date, with luck, I should be back in business.

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Filed under Football, History, Humour, Personal

Nina Potapova: a woman I cannot forget (2)

Last time I was talking about the lovely artwork in a book which had intrigued me as a 9 year old. It was:

It has some beautiful pen and ink drawings. This is Moscow University in Moscow. The winning quiz question, of course, is “What is the name of the river in Moscow?”

Here is the Moscow Hotel, built in the old Stalinist style:

Here is a football match in Moscow. Defending the goal is Moscow Spartak and attacking is Moscow Dynamo, team of the great Lev Yashin, the ‘Black Octopus’:

Other sketches are just of everyday events Here is the seaside. Don’t miss the seven nuclear submarines. The crews spent days camouflaging them:

Here are two siblings, one is playing tennis despite her legs being drawn straight with a ruler while her brother is swimming away through a sea of oil after his submarine collided with one of the other six. That’s just one of the risks of high quality camouflage:

Here’s winter. Can you see Bigfoot sitting thoughtfully in front of the trees on the right?:

A nice picture of a table set for a meal. Note the traditional vodka in the tiny glasses although the bottle seems to be missing:

Lastly a bomber flies slowly over its target which appears to be some kind of factory. Surely the starboard propeller is about to cut the wing off ?

But who was Nina Potapova?

A beautiful slip of a girl when she got married:

She had all the usual hobbies:

She fought the Germans in the war:

She was always jealous of her husband, Frank, who always received more medals than she did. He was in the Red Fleet, the Commander of seven nuclear submarines. Note the KGB man behind him:

But that was all years ago. Nowadays, Nina is just famous as the mother of a successful Olympic weightlifter, Frank junior:

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Nina Potapova: a woman I cannot forget (1)

When I was about eight or nine, I was intrigued by a book in our local library in South Derbyshire:

Last year I bought a second hand copy off the Internet. A book from Bangor in north west Wales. Probably the very book used to learn Russian by the defector (or is he a defector?), Richard Burton, in “The Spy who came in from the Cold”. Still, at least I learned the Welsh for ‘stock’:

I was intrigued by the copperplate Russian alphabet. Here’s the first 16 letters. :

There are 33 altogether because our ‘ch’ or ‘sh’ or ‘ts’ are single letters in Russian. Here’s the full 33 from Wikicommie:

With Nina, I loved the artwork:

And here’s the text. It looks childish and moronic, but not if you’re in MI6. If you are in Moscow and ask the right person the question “Is the house there?” and they replied “Yes, the bridge is here.” you got to spend the night with Ursula Andress:

Here is Moscow. The Moscow Kremlin to be precise:

And here’s Leningrad. For me, some things will never change:

That’s all for now. I have people to meet in a park near Helsinki. Please excuse the uneven shapes of some of the pictures. They were taken under difficult circumstances, using a MasterSpy Mark 4 Nasal Camera in a small stoc cupboard in Bangor Library at 3.00 in the morning.

In ze meantime,    До свидания

 

 

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