Trevor Wedlake's Writings
How's that !
First published on the website Ferbuary, 2006
|How's That ! (a tale told in a slight Barchester accent)
This little tale may have some resonance with readers of, shall we say, mature years; who have long since traversed the pot-holed paths of youth, left far behind the long plateau of middle-age; who, in quiet moments recall the heavenly soprano of Deanna Durbin, and the disturbing pulchritude of Ingrid Bergman; who are always aware of the merciless ticking of 'the clock'.
It begins one morning in April some fifty or more years ago, in the study of the Bishop of W, the Rt Revd Theodore Inhope. Summoned by the bishop, his chaplain, the Revd Oliver Ogee, tapped the door lightly.
Mr Ogee crossed the thickly carpeted study, and, gathering his cassock carefully about him, took the chair as invited on the opposite side of the fire, and exchanged pleasantries with the bishop.
"I've had a letter from the Bishop of E," began his lordship, "expressing a wish to play us a game of cricket on the Dean's field round about Trinity; the usual 50 overs a side, every player to be an ordained priest. Can you arrange that for me, Mr Ogee ? Just one small point, Ogee, I want you to askthe Revd Colin Cowdrey to captain us."
"Cowdrey, my lord ? Mr Cowdrey ordained ?" "My dear Ogee, it is but a small infringement of the rules, Mr Cowdrey is a devout man of God, a true English gentleman who may well enter holy orders when his cricketing days are over. What do you think, my love ?" he said, turning to his lady.
She tightened her lips and turned her head stiffly away. Oliver Ogee peered over his spectacles, eye-to-eye with his master. "Have a drink, Ogee, have a glass of my sloe wine." "Ah, no thank you, my lord, the andante is too dry even for me." "No, no; at dear Spandwell's suggestion we have added a little gin." The bishop filled the glass and passed it across.
Bowing to the bishop's wife, the Revd Mr Ogee made to take his leave. "Oh, I should say, Ogee, that the loser pays all expenses and catering. Put on something decent, won't you."
Though he enjoyed watching cricket, Oliver Ogee was not the enthusiast that the Dean and others in the Close were. But he was a great organiser. Complicated banquets, dinners, and other formal occasions were usually left to his skills.
The match was arranged to be played on the eve of the 2nd Sunday after Trinity in the Dean's field. The Dean was a cricket fanatic, his ground was said to be county standard. He did not win a blue at Oxford, but had played against the visiting Indian tourists and had not been humiliated. His friends chaffed that, given permission, he would bowl his slow left-arm both ends. There was an apochryphal story that he had remarked to a colleague that he could not process down the cathedral aisle without wondering if it would take spin.
Two marquees were ordered, one for clerics and friends near the deanery, handy for cloakrooms, &c, and one at the mid-wicket boundary for the townsfolk. Elspeth Hobworthy and her sister, Ethel Altop, from the baker shop gladly volunteered to do teas. Mr Mohammed Sheriff and his brother-in-law Mr Wasim Khan from the post office volunteered to umpire; they had turned out for Rawalpindi in their youth.
The visitors won the toss, decided to bat, and against respectable home-side bowling especially from the Revd Hook-Holland, scored 200. The home side, with captain C. Cowdrey opening, were confident as they began their reply. At about 5.30pm on the match day, the Rt Revd Theodore Inhope was roused from his afternoon nap by a light tapping at the study door. Oliver Ogee entered, papers in hand. "I have the score-card and details of the match, my lord."
"The match ? Oh, yes, yes. How are we doing, Ogee ? Have we won ?" "Well, the game is over, and I'm afraid we've lost, my lord." "Lost ? Lost ? What d'you mean, man ? We had the Revd Mr Cowdrey." "Yes, Mr Cowdrey was 29 not out, my lord." Oliver Ogee scanned the score sheet. "The Revds Pugh, Lierne, and Crickham retired hurt without scoring; Fulfont, Voussoir and Aldwinkle were all LBW for nought; Preb Hook-Holland did not bat because of a suspected migraine; there were 14 byes - a grand total of 53, I'm afraid, my lord."
Throughout this reading of the score, the bishop interjected with "Good grief, man ... holy Moses ... what the devil ..." and finally, "What the h..." "Bishop," cried the alarmed Mrs Inhope. "What reverend gentleman had Bishop E to create this havoc, Ogee ?" "Well, it looks to me .. yes, it seems that the damage was done by some cove called the Revd Fred Truman, my lord."
Bishop W's Eleven
The Revd Mr Cowdrey (capt)
Umpires Mohammed Sherif, Wasim Khan