The amateur gentleman’s review


ew swantonWhile Henry Hamilton-Smythe minor (8) was playing croquet with Cynthia Jane De Blaise-Williams (9), sweet-smiling Cynthia raised her mallet high and gracefully removed Henry’s head..

Ooops! caught one reading Vyvyan Junior a bedtime story. Now, where are we? Oh, yes, on with the epistle. New season on the horizon. New skipper, new dawn, etc. Disturbingly, one has to report that His Reverence progressed to a somewhat inauspicious outset, failing dismally, after practice, to locate the correct locker in which his dog collar and civvies had been stored. After much anxious dithering, technical assistance had to be summoned to extricate himself from said dilemma. Considering that this episode occasioned during one of his more lucid periods, this does not auger well for the coming season, where he will first need to negotiate his way around the engorged egos in the dressing-room! Notwithstanding, he did bring along his young ward Master Atkinson-Cruise, the young tyro having purchased himself a new bat the size of a tree, and keen to make up for his long absence from the Eleven.

One must own to being in a slough of despond latterly, due to the England Eleven’s mediocre exhibition in the World Championships, losing to every one of the colonial elevens, scarcely after we had rescued them all from poverty and ignorance by teaching them the sovran king of sports! The bowling reminded one of our Gilbert’s succulent pies; one’s under butler Blenkinsop and stable lad Perkins could have done a better job!

Even more distressingly. one must recite v. disturbing news which has reached one during the winter, viz; that the cricketing authorities, in their infinite lack of wisdom, have deemed to abandon the long-standing distinction betwixt we amateur gentlemen and the so-called professional ‘player’. Now, let there be no misunderstanding; I have no remonstrance with these player chappies per se , many of whom are v.competent cricketers, with whom one would be quite happy to fight alongside in the trenches. However, one believes the vast majority of these fellows hail from the north of England, and are thereby not only unacquainted with indoor plumbing, but renown for consuming copious amounts of alcohol and tobacco (usually during the ongoing match!), existing on a diet of pies, the lining of a cow’s stomach and some obscene concoction known as ‘black pudding’, whilst speaking an indecipherable tongue, comprehended merely by their own kind! They have doubtless never seen a bottle of port, let alone know which way to pass it around the table! Also, it is rumoured that they frequently drag their unwanted spouses to market, to be exchanged for a barrel of ale!

The thought of sharing a dressing station with one of these wretches fills one with utter dread! God willing, this appalling decision will be reversed once one’s esteemed chum Neville Garage is elected president at the forthcoming national ballot. Failing this, one intends to lobby my brother Sir Rupert to raise said matter in the Lords. If all else founders, cousin Bertie is an equerry at the Palace and has the ear of both HM and The Duke. They will surely not fail one, otherwise we shall all proceed to hell in a horseless cart!

Meanwhile, in Association news, one had noted with much pleasure the elevation of no fewer than six Woolwich players available for selection to the England Eleven for the recent friendly international fixture with the heathens from the other side of Hadrian’s Wall. One recalls such a scenario had not occured since the notorious ‘Battle of Woolwich’ against the slippery Italians which, those with elephantine memories may call to mind, took place prior to the last dust-up with the Hun, when players wore knickers down to their knees, had hair parted down the middle and adopted a risky 1-2-7 offensive formation latterly favoured by Woolwich’s present secretary-manager Monsieur Wonga.

No fewer than seven Woolwich men were selected for said game against the team that had lately won the Association World Championship, albeit on their own stamping-ground and heavily sponsored by that bum-faced oaf Mussolini (last seen hanging arse-up from a lamp post). So transpired a contest so brutal that it occasioned several broken bones, including two by the marching band during oranges! Suffice to say that plucky John Bull gave sneaky Johnny Foreigner a good licking, thereby becoming world champions without the necessity of competing in an interminable over-commercialised tournament run by corrupt officials and businessmen, and held in some godforsaken corner of the planet!

One must observe with some distress that the behaviour of the modern player is totally unacceptable, squealing like some totty fetching off whenever tackled, and going over flip-flop at the slightest contact as if a filly with the vapours! Major Rogerson – one’s games master at Eton, and a cricket and rugger man to the core, would be apoplectic as such carrying-on, when he wasn’t too busy indulging in beastliness with the junior boys.

Meanwhile, one could not conceal a prolonged chortle at the elimination of Mister Mosley’s blueshirts from the Association Challenge Cup by lowly Grimup North City, which temporarily left The Bandit speechless. Sadly, he was soon back on his soapbox again, bleating ad nauseam to anyone prepared to listen (and many more who were not) about some non-existent universal conspiracy both against himself and his blueshirts to deny them their inalienable right to win every fixture.

I do not profess to be a psychiatric expert, but am led to believe that paranoia is a serious mental illness and not to be scoffed at. One recalls poor great uncle Peregrine, who had to be locked away for his own good when observed scampering about the grounds of Bartington Manor claiming pursuit by a rampant woolly mammoth and little green men out to steal the family fortune!

What’s that, little chap? Oh yes, back to the story:

…Two weeks later, in Henry’s nursery, Cynthia discovered Henry’s treasured musical box. Eagerly she opened it, and as ‘Old King Cole’ began to play a small spirit figure appeared. Henry had returned – but not for long – for as he stood in the room his body began to age rapidly…


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