Midsummer, Cricket and Ceaușescu

Midsummer or Midsommar parties as they like to call them in Sweden, have been done to death by me over there. So this year I thought that I’d try something different: driving from Sweden to Romania with a bunch of Swedes to celebrate Midsummer. Well 37 degrees Celsius is something that you don’t normally get in Sweden and neither is homemade tuica served from an old vinegar bottle 52%abv. Another thing that you won’t often see is cricket! You hear them, by the thousand, and it is not too much of a linguistic leap to find yourself one minute discussing insects and the next the nuances of the noble game.

The cricket, like the drinking was to be an all-male affair, so no chance to bowl a maiden over here. Tending to our every need they were. Rather than whites it was skins versus the Romanian football strip. Every chance to bat on a sticky wicket, considering the weather but the grass was absent (more on that another time). But first it fell to yours truly to describe the rules of the game. Hidden somewhere in the depths of my unconscious lay the capacity to recall words greater than mine:

Rules of Cricket
You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.

Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out.

When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side thats been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out.

Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.

There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.

When both sides have been in and all the men have out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!

Confused? Well I was and they certainly were. We managed four overs, though my feeble effort which ended up being delivered underarm after five consecutive wides surely doesn’t qualify to be called an over. The mother of thunderstorms interrupted play and hearing the tales of our host who as a military conscript at the age twenty found himself part of Ceaușescu’s guard facing a baying mob with his rifle in hand was a far more interesting snare. He made the brave decision to lay down his weapon. Armchair anarchists such as I can sing the merits of that brave choice and say that it was an obvious choice but God willing will never have the right call to make.

Easy Jet Hard Time

I remember Virgin trains regularly breaking down outside Preston back in those heady days when Wednesday’s saw me making a regular Leicester to Carlisle commute. It dawned on me that they were so named because they didn’t go all the way! Neither it appears do Easy Jet. A play on words isn’t readily available, no joke there really, apart from the obvious one: customer service, an oxymoron to rival happily married and military intelligence.

Perhaps that’s when this septic isle really started to ooze puss, when it became trendy to call us all customers. I’m old enough to remember when the sex offenders register was called the Radio Times, so I’m certainly old enough to remember when I wasn’t a customer but a pupil; a patient; a patron and God forbid a bloody passenger. The problem with each of those terms is that they imply certain expectations, certain levels of service. Passenger for instance suggests that you are somehow involved in an endeavour to transport you from A to B. Customer on the other hand, well you are exiled to the never, never land of the static buffet bar, ticking boxes, being asked for feedback and constantly being told how important you are. I know how important I am, I don’t need you to tell me!

Since my departure from Manchester to Copenhagen was delayed by four and half hours Easy Jet should be up for a smorgasbord of complaints. I however am not complaining but fondly recalling the thirty minute chat over coffee with a porn-star, Copenhagen bound to promote her new movie (fears of penile dysfunction unfounded); the cigarette break spent taking to Anna, a former Czech Olympian who now runs a tattoo parlour in Liverpool; and the Bootles, a Beatles tribute band flying out for a sell-out gig in Denmark. Two ‘coffee vouchers’ later we were finally onward bound. At the time of writing we are midair and the refreshments trolley may yet be subject to a hostage situation so this adventure may just be beginning. My issue isn’t with the cabin crew, who do their best come what may, or the captain, locked in his padded cell at the front (memories of my last Easy Jet flight when the ‘L’ plate fell off on landing still bring me out in night sweats), or with the ground staff. No my complaint is with a perverse system which dis-inherits my fellow-travellers, the elderly Swedish couple sat beside me, of their complimentary coffee. A system so screwed-up that the ‘machine’ can’t permit them to be issued with a coffee on board to replace the ‘free’ one they missed airside because they didn’t understand the announcement. Cabin crew would have a discrepancy on their hands if they raged against the machine. Well so be it! They’d have a riot on their hands if I got my way, but less of that chain of thought, the captain has already been alerted to my presence on board. That’s what happens when you cease to be passengers and become customers, something gets lost. I just hope that the little man behind the curtain gets to pull the right levers in time before Easy Jet joins the other once proud British companies who have gone to hell in a handcart.

Landing over three hours late and a missed rail connection, making me over six hours late with a missed audition thrown in to boot didn’t make me a happy bunny. Be thankful for small inconveniences though. While guiding an American Jewish couple through the the workings of the automated ticketing system I thought that they were traveling light until I discovered that British Airways had managed to lose their luggage. Our commentary on the state of modern travel was overheard, and more particularly my readiness to lay the blame for most things at the feet of our politicians, enter Peter Lindsay, former leader of the Liberal Party in Australia. On discovering that I could be of no assistance to Americans with Chipless credit cards my altruistic tendencies reached out to an Australian and a politician at that, albeit an ex one.

I’ve suddenly remembered what anchovies and Easy Jet have in common. You seem to forget your last experience when it’s time to re-order. Well not me and no next time I’m afraid. No more anchovies for me!

‘The Blog’

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‘The Blog’ is a collection of takes on management, politics and life in general, with regular posts to feed the soul.  Some posts will have a point – the point of some posts is to make you think.

After spending many years as a management consultant, stealing people’s watches to tell them the time, my intention is to have fun, cause mischief, entertain and above all inform. Consultant and writer by day, raconteur and stand-up by night, there is something for everyone. Click on the tabs to find out about me and the services offered. If you are offended easily, don’t complain, don’t come back – unless you have shedloads of money, in which case I’ll do my best to accomodate you – even I have to eat!

Andrew

CARD

By the Riverside

Leicester’s Riverside Festival has been taking place. This waterfront extravaganza centred on Bede Park, Mile Straight, Western Boulevard and Castle Gardens is Sponsored by Riverside, the housing association (yes the same outfit as the one which I developed a landscaping and grounds maintenance tender for). I will say that the grass was cut to perfection and going off some of the smiles I was being given, possibly being smoked too! (I may be prepping for a video-interview on RT but believe me I have a face for radio, it does not invite smiles but sniggers.)   The Riverside Festival is the sort of event which brings together a rich and diverse mix.  My clan are the mavericks, the vagabonds, the mad scientists, the gypsies, the theatre people, the artists, the musicians, the deviants, the radicals, the outsiders and you … and you … and you.

R MUSIC R M2The festival was launched by City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby whom I caught up with in the fruit ‘n veg section of Tesco the evening before (we knew each other from my days as ‘bagman’ to former council leader Roger Blackmore – whose son Julian’s hit musical Spandex has just opened Off Broadway in New York and is featured on Fox News).  With a full programme of musical performances including Kenworthy, the Pamella Moo Band, winner of the Kinks’ Cover Competition, and Leaving Party, the winners of the Original Band Showcase everyone was fully entertained.

Also in attendance were the Mile2 team from De Montfort University.  Square Mile is the brainchild of Professor Dominic Shellard, the Vice Chancellor of DMU.  The idea came about as a result of his belief that ‘universities are a public good’.  The ethos of the project is to provide life-changing opportunities to a community within one square mile of the university’s campus.  One of the many initiatives is to train up amateur comedians, as home-grown talent,for a show as part of the Leicester Comedy Festival with coaching provided by comedian and promoter Alan Seaman.  Those who know me via my alter-ego Bobby Nitro will know that this is a project close to my own heart too.  The whole range of M2 initiatives are a wonderful endeavour, worthy of your support and time, so step up, especially if you’re local.

The Arts Street Market was for me a particular winner, as part of my quest is to promote entrepreneurial initiatives, all the better if they support a green agenda of sustainability and provide a utilitarian offering too.  Wood sculptor Ian Freemantle demonstrated his skills inspired by nature to onlookers young and old alike, wielding his chainsaw – impressive! (The oak stool featured is now part of my collection.)

R STOOLR CARVE

Basket maker Maggie Cooper’s full size model of a horse was a talking point for revellers and provided some shade for those who had made an early start that morning - not knowing whether they were going to suffer from sunstroke of frostbite, such are the peculiarities of the English Summer.

R HORSER MAGGIE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course sustenance is never far from the mind of this real ale drinking, Chesterfield smoking consultant-cum-comedian.  To quench the thirst, some excellent cask ales were provided in the beer tent by the Orange Tree group (yes, I worked with the founders prior to its launch in 1997 at ‘Faulty Towers’, also known as the New Walk Centre, they in media advertising, me as a consultant in the Chief Exec’s office at the top of the ivory tower that is Leicester City Council’s hub).

From an early age my love of all things spicy taught me to put a roll of toilet paper in the fridge last thing at night before retiring to bed.  Well the spicy offering from the transition deli stand certainly didn’t disappoint.  Transition Leicester, who were offering their wares is a growing network of local people working together to develop positive solutions to some of our communities’ major challenges, including: climate change; dwindling fossil fuels; and the economic crisis.  Everyone is a volunteer, following their own interests or getting support for seed funding.

Staying with the food, the offering from master pie makers Brocklebys didn’t disappoint either.  The Beaver Pie with tender pieces of local beef steak in a rich Beaver Ale gravy wrapped in a short-crust butter pastry parcel went down a treat. Best served with a rich gravy I was advised by Tim as I found a rival to my comedy routine.  I await the launch of the Brazilian Pie, a trimmed pork sausage offering, where using a little milk on a brush they glue the pastry flaps holding the sausage roll together when it’s in the oven.  Perhaps that’s one pie best taken with a pinch of salt!

R samosaR BEAVER

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