Posts Tagged ‘Brian Johnston’
It was yet another dark wet morning when we cleaned out the hens. But the conditions matched our collective demeanour for we codgers were in no mood for jollity. We were remembering so many happy days on the allotments as we listened to our much-loved Test Match Special. Over so many years the programme has attracted a huge following, and not merely from cricket lovers. The great John Arlott and Brian Johnston were its pioneers and their style of knowledgable cricket commentary interspersed with stories of cakes, buses and the world at large created what became an addiction for millions. Every member had a nickname, one of those was the Major.
That was the title bestowed on Christopher Martin-Jenkins. It was a crib from ‘Fawlty Towers’ in which Major Gowan became a byword for lovable, chaotic behaviour. So it was with CM-J. He was renowned for eccentricity, forgetfulness and being late. Today we mourn his passing, today he is the late.
The Major was respected throughout cricket, not for his own modest playing record but for his deep-rooted love of the game and his detailed knowledge of its every twist and turn. In 2007 he became the only career journalist and broadcaster to deliver the annual MCC Spirit of Cricket Colin Cowdrey Lecture, an honour that ranked him alongside the likes of Desmond Tutu, Imran Khan and Richie Benaud. In 2009 he was awarded an MBE and in 2010 and 2011 he served as president of the MCC.
CM-J stepped down from Test Match Special last year when cancer struck, but he continued to watch the game and to write about it for the Times. In his final piece, reflecting on the death from a heart attack of fellow cancer-sufferer and former England captain Tony Greig, he wrote that: “It was probably for him a merciful release because the late stage of any cancer is often hell on earth”.
Regular readers may recall the response I had to an article criticising the Barmy Army, whose antics so often spoil the enjoyment of spectators. My critic suggested that I join the “Christopher Martin-Jenkins appreciation society”. He intended it as an insult, I received it as a compliment. In my view CM-J represented all that is good in cricket. He was fair, honest and courteous. He was entertaining.
CM-J was only 67 years old. He has gone too soon, yet another victim of mankind’s greatest scourge. I do believe in a God, but I so often find myself asking why man cannot live out his allotted years without an agonising ending. It is just not cricket. It is appalling that man’s efforts to uncover its terrible secret has to rely on charity.
Without doubt the radio will be at full volume this summer as we work on the allotments. The drama of the Ashes will, as always, beguile us. But we will miss the “Now I hand over to the Major”. That very special voice is bowled out, silenced for ever.
No need to remember my radio this morning for the Test Match is over. Throughout the duration of every game Test Match Special is a must, and even those unenlightened souls who are not obsessed by cricket enjoy listening to the mixture of commentary, anecdotes, stories of cakes and occasional gaffes. Of course the greatest of the latter was Brian Johnston’s reaction to Agger’s immortal line about Ian Botham ‘ failing to get his leg over’. On Tuesday it was once again the blushing Aggers who triggered convulsions. Whilst watching pictures of Kevin Pieterson adjusting his bat handle, Aggers remarked that “It’s not easy putting a rubber on, is it Michael”. With Phil Tufnell alongside Michael Vaughan it was no surprise that once again convulsive laughter stopped play.
On the allotment we all enjoyed that. Come to think about it we’ve enjoyed much of what we’ve heard on the news recently. In fact we have decided to run a sweepstake on the number of about-turns performed by Agger’s fellow Etonian, the prime minister. I’ve drawn 8. The calculation ends on Novbember 1st and I reckon that I’m in with a chance. Of course agreeing what is or isn’t an about-turn can be difficult but we have unanimity on 5 so far.
The fifth emerged yesterday when Justice Secretary, snoozer Clarke, was forced by Number 10 to abandon a plan to give rapists, and other serious offenders, a 50% discount in return for early guilty pleas. Just weeks ago Kenneth Clarke announced that the policy was agreed but Andrew Cooper, the new PR guru in place of the departed former editor of the News of the World, advised Cameron that the Tory brand was being damaged.
Just days earlier Cameron, under pressure from Clegg, in effect dismantled Lansley’s NHS plans which now face rewriting and resubmission to parliament. A few weeks ago the Caroline Spelman plan to sell off the forests met a similar fate, as did the plans announced to make anyone unemployed for more than twelve months lose 10% of their housing benefit. And then there was Cameron’s conversion to interventionalism in foreign civll wars.
Working for this prime minister must in some ways be worse that serving under Grumpy Gordon. He used to decide everything, Cameron leaves his team to dream their dreams and to announce them. He then has private polls of public opinion carried out and, probably, reads the Rupert Murdoch line before deciding whether to step in and stop the whole shebang. You could reasonably say that he makes more screaming U-turns than a getaway driver without a satnav!
The amazing thing is that Ed Miliband seems incapable of even scoring a point as one ministerial humiliation follows another. In the House yesterday the two bickered and threw insults but one was left worrying at the thought of either of them being in charge of a town hall, let alone a country.
But there is a mounting opposition to the saga and it rests on the Conservative backbenches. Several broke cover yesterday in defence of their right wing heroes such as Clarke and Lansley. But the protests could become politically dangerous should the Conservatives begin to reap some of the blame for what is happening. Fortunately for the PM that is not likely so long as the human punchbag called Nick is happy to take the punishment.
My own view is that ‘Dave’ should carry on having his ministers dangle off the gangplank. Just three more and I could be fifty quid in pocket. Should be easy for him for practice makes perfect!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Its star’s John Challis (Boycie) 2. Philadelphia 3. Hilary 4. Dolly and Cissy 5. Eddie Brown’s 6. Darrin Stephens (Bewitched) 7. North Tanton 8. Paul Shane 9. Mrs Polouvicka 10. Bernard Hedges