Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 4, 2013

Ashes Remembered – Bertie Wooster

BWAn occasional series in which writers talk to 99.94 about Ashes matches past. Here’s the one and only Bertie Wooster.

It was never really my thing, cricket. Sure I’d played a bit at The Drones Club with a baguette as a bat and a radish as a ball – who hadn’t? But after Catsmeat had that incident with the chandelier, food-based fun in the corridors had been somewhat curtailed. At Oxford, I was never awake quite early enough to bat in the upper order and bowling seemed more than one should be expected to manage, so soon after the morning e&b. There were the dreaded examinations too – though not, fortunately, for young Bertie, who somehow passed out without such inconveniences.

But never let it be said the Woosters are not fully engaged in London’s social life, so, with egg and tomato tie secured under starched collar and the snail very much on the thorn, I was soon bidding “Good Day” to the ducks and squirrels, as I strode through Regent’s Park to see our boys take on the Aussies for The Ashes. Jeeves had packed a fine selection of cold cuts and a very impressive pork pie, supplementing this splendid cache with a couple of very decent bottles secured from the cellar – I was well set for the day.

Catsmeat was detained by early appearance before The Bench after overdoing it the previous evening and challenging a constable to an impromptu game of pitch and toss in Fitzroy Square, but Bingo, Oofy and Pongo were already under the panamas by the time I What Ho-ed them just before noon.

Oofy was keeping a low profile (it seems he may have had a hand in removing the buttons from the constable’s jacket for Catsmeat’s game of pitch and toss but, wisely given his location, he was keeping his own counsel on events) so Bingo brought me up to speed with the SPs to date. The t&b of it was that the Aussies were spoiling things again by trying far too hard for a summer’s day like this one, and had sent three of our boys back with just 47 up on the tins. We were in the kind of fix that demanded action from Bertie – so out came the pork pie and soon we all felt much better about life – except Oofy, whose constitution did not yet allow for the partaking of comestibles.

Things settled not long after that and I confess that Bertie may have drifted off for a while in mid-afternoon, but the evening brought some much needed excitement on our side of the pickets. Bingo had just ordered another round of G&Ts (Oofy was now pulling his stroke with the rest of us) when a great bruiser of an Australian used forearms obviously developed shearing sheep on a station in Bigga Bogga or somewhere, to lift a sixer straight into the pavilion. I’d just looked up with a view to palming another of Bingo’s jam tarts, so was able to scarper out of the firing line, but poor old Oofy, still slowed a little by the previous night’s revelries, wasn’t so fortunate, the ball landing four-square in the middle of a treacle pie he had been saving for when the stomach had eventually leveled off. Once he’d wiped the remains of the pastry off his spectacles and shirt front, there was precious little left. And the ball didn’t look too clever either.

I can’t be sure, but I think the treacle pie mishap set Oofy’s face against the colonies, something that was to cause so much trouble when he assumed his seat in the House of Lords a few years later. I don’t recall the close of play score, as the stewards took a dim view of Bertie’s (admittedly perhaps a little too enthusiastic) baritone renditions of a selection of Gilbert and Sullivan’s finest just after tea. Never mind – later that evening, I made a fine half-century with a two day old baguette at The Drones, which is more than an England player managed in that Test.


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