July 15, 2023

Source: Bigstock

A poor little Greek boy writing about cricket etiquette is like Harry and Meghan lecturing on discretion, but never mind. As everyone but Joe Biden knows by now, Jonny Bairstow was given out recently during the second test match at Lord’s. For any of you out in Baja, California, who might have missed it, the Brit ducked a bouncer and left his crease, thinking the ball was dead. The Aussie keeper threw the ball at the stumps and all hell broke loose as Jonny was called out. For you American fans, the equivalent is like a runner being caught off base by a hidden ball trick, get it?

The brouhaha that followed was all about sportsmanship and the spirit of the game and all that. Which brought back memories. It was about twenty or twenty-five years ago, and the game was between Badminton House and the village. I was—natch—playing for the former. Imran Khan, the great cricketer and ex-Pakistan president, was on our side, with his wife, Jemima, cheering us on, although the marriage was already on the rocks. Like the good sport he is, Imran was not trying hard but was advising me to be careful, as I was getting down like a third baseman and throwing myself after every ball. I had also introduced a Hellenic touch to the game by shouting, “Thermopylae, nothing gets through!” Not everyone found it amusing.

“Values such as decency and fairness are now as redundant as discretion by royal princes.”

Finally, I was the last man up to bat with three or four runs needed to win. After the first wide one, and unaware of the rule, I wandered away for no reason and the keeper did an Aussie and threw the ball at the stumps. The result? Badminton village won and the Greek boy wore the fool’s hat. What is the moral of the story? If a Brit can do it at Badminton, why can’t an Aussie do likewise at Lord’s, and for much bigger stakes? What I also remember very well was that no one said anything about the spirit of cricket and me being thrown out for not knowing the rules and all that.

Never mind. Values such as decency and fairness are now as redundant as discretion by royal princes, financial imperatives having made them superfluous. It might not be cricket, but it sure makes financial sense to “cheat.” But the bum who threw me out a quarter of a century ago had no such enticement; it was automatic. And speaking of doing the right or wrong thing, here’s my take on my friend Nigel Farage and the bank. Many, many years ago Barbary pirates kidnapped an American with a Greek name, Perdikaris. Teddy Roosevelt was president of the U.S. of A. and sent the bad guys a simple message: “Perdikaris alive or you dead.” The American was returned safely. Now, when was the last time a president or prime minister threatened to do real harm in defense of an individual citizen? What does this have to do with Nigel? Well, I was under the impression that British citizenship gave certain inalienable rights to a person, such as protection from sinister forces hell-bent on punishing an individual for his beliefs. Now, I don’t expect Rishi Sunak to play Teddy the Rough Rider, or even Winnie in Omdurman, but Nigel’s and many others cases are outrageous. In Nigel’s case, a stooge makes a false claim under parliamentary protection and it’s then used to make a patriotic Englishman a nonperson. What is this? Equatorial Guinea? What Sunak should do is threaten to have his wife withdraw her funds from banks that discriminate against Nigel and the rest.

Everything’s hunky-dory otherwise, and I returned to London for the annual Spectator and Lady Annabel Goldsmith parties. I went to the former early, before the crush, and managed in no time to down three vodkas on an empty stomach. Not advisable. Driven to Annabel’s garden as darkness was falling, I received pity from Tessa Fane and Sabrina Stoppard, who sat me between them. Then I also got a kiss from the beautiful Sophie Windsor, fortunately unseen by her mother-in-law Marie Christine, who was busy bulking up for her upcoming super heavyweight wrestling match—it is billed as the battle of the bulge—against the magnum heavyweight Vivien Duffield.

The next day the greatest lunch in the history of the world took place at Bellamy’s, whose owner Gavin Rankin has put up a plaque commemorating the historic meeting. We were four: the poor little Greek boy, Timmy—4 million acres—Hanbury, the Duke of Beaufort (Bunter to us Takimag regulars), and Dave Ker, whose direct ancestor sold the Mona Lisa to the Louvre. Dave is a sexual athlete without precedent, and thus was also the subject of a study by Professor Wolfshlegger of Zurich, who was the first to discover the fact that Dave has made love three times a day, every day, for the past forty years. “For a sexologist,” said the good professor to me, “Dave Ker is like America being discovered by Amerigo Vespucci.” The professor is up for a Nobel Prize for his discovery of the sexual miracle that is Dave Ker.

Everything after that was obviously an anticlimax, no pun intended, but drinks with Robin and Ben at 5 Hertford, lunch chez the Bismarcks, and the fitting memorial for Jeremy Clarke closed out a hell of a London week. Oh yes, I almost forgot: I met Isabella, a very pretty young woman who mistook me for a 60-year-old.


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!