An occasional series in which writers talk to 99.94 about Ashes matches past. Here’s controversial novelist, Martin Amis.
I’d flown in on Concorde, that cord that connected Paris and London in the conspiracy that conned both sets of dull taxpayers. It spewed out its business class, classless businessmen with their surfeit of siliconed sexless sirens into Heathrow’s aircraft hangar of an arrivals lounge, heaving with sweat stained armpits above fake Hermes suitcases and students with backpacks readying themselves to infest Piccadilly Circus with their clowning taunting of us now receding thirty-something men too old to tempt them with the temptations of the adult world.
I hailed a taxi and chugged through London’s strangled suburbs – like LA without the new money (or, these days, the old money) – to the sock in Notting Hill, which, to my surprise, had not been burgled by the youths who stood, insulting and insolent, outside the Furter Hutch on the corner, day after fucking day. In 1981, the only braver thing you could do in London than leave home, was to stay home.
Barnesy was soon on the voiceringer asking if I would join him at Lord’s, so, showered and jetlagged, I was soon jostling with the shiny shell-suited public who filled up the Tube with their tinny earphones and pre-vomit fast food on the way to St John’s Wood. I met him at the Grace Gates, though Disgrace Gates might better suit their purpose – to bar women from the ground. In the early-80s, that sort of gender fascism was becoming unacceptable everywhere – except in the private rooms where the Hitch and I would meet for lunch every other Thursday.
Lord’s? The name alone told you all you needed to know about its ancien regime worshipping, oh so eccentric English clientele. The members sat in silence as Ian Botham, unlike every last one of them a product of a comprehensive education system that mocked all three words of its name in its narrow, philistine chaos, returned to the pavilion having been dismissed for 0. They treated him like a gamekeeper who had temporarily forgotten his station. While riots convulsed the creaking cities, these were the men who would cheer Mrs Thatcher’s crude war on the nouveau pauvre and her pandering to the nouveau riche (and not so riche). Lisson Grove, just a Molotov Cocktail’s throw away, seethed in the sun, waiting for dusk and devilry.
My teeth were on edge. I needed to get something done about them, and it was going to cost – I looked at Barnsey and I knew he’d understand. The cricket plodded on. I received a telegram from the New Yorker – “Would I do a piece on Wimbledon?” I drained my glass and left.
Next in this series – Bertie Wooster.