Death matters and so does Surrey doing well

Earlier today I had a really serious phone conversation with my Designated Best Friend about palliative care, being kept alive with scary electric shock machines (which my DBF said actually work very rarely and are far more likely to inflict painful and permanent damage like a busted rib). In short, it was a conversation about my death. And I entirely saw the point of this conversation and was very grateful to my DBF for having it with me. I need to say what sort of death I would like, before it actually starts seriously happening and I become incapable of saying anything coherent about what I want. So, important stuff.

Problem was, I had been keeping half an eye on the county cricket, and in particular on this game between Hampshire and Surrey. Surrey have had a wretched season so far, and Hampshire have been doing really well, so that was going to start badly for Surrey and get worse and worse as the next few days went by. But I was paying attention anyway, because, you know, you never know.

So, Surrey had won the toss and had put Hampshire in to bat. But then, after nearly an hour of further Surrey underachievement, and for the first time this season after three dud games, Surrey suddenly started doing really, really well. Right in the middle of the serious phone conversation, this is what I observed, on Cricinfo, being done by two Surrey bowlers called Clark and Clarke to the hitherto formidable Hampshire middle order:

For non-cricket people, that is very successful bowling by Surrey and very unsuccessful batting by Hampshire, who, in the space of thirteen deliveries, went from 44 for 2 to 44 for 6. Until this exact moment, Surrey had not been taking nearly enough wickets or taking them nearly soon enough. Then, in a blink, all that completely changed.

I want to insist that I never lost the thread of the serious conversation I was having with DBF: No please don’t resuscitate me if I have a heart attack in a hospital, but yes indeed, I’d rather die at home but how much might that end up costing, given that professional care will surely be needed?, and no you’re right it’s important to discuss all this beforehand so thanks for doing this. But also, strictly inside my head you understand, I was screaming to myself: Hey look, Surrey are doing really well!!! Look at that!!! Four wickets for no runs!!! On the first morning!!! Wow!!! Yeah yeah, I’m going to be dying soon and I know I have to get that sorted, but … wow!!! I even managed to do the above screen capture, without at any time failing to be conversationally coherent and serious with DBF about my death.

This is what I love about following sport, especially the way I have done for the last decade and a half, at a distance, via The Internet. Great moments in sport, like this moment when Surrey Actually Started Doing Well in 2021, intersect with how your life was at the time. I still remember that 1981 miracle Ashes test match fondly, and listening to it on the radio in a van with which I was (very happily) delivering number plates, a radio which only worked when the van’s engine was not running, which complicated things in a delightful way that I’ll never forget for as long as I live. Well, now, here’s another of these classic sport-meets-real-life moments. Life doesn’t get much more real than when you’ve been told that “for as long as I live” isn’t actually going to be that long, and sport doesn’t get much better than when your team has been firing blanks for a month and then suddenly does something like what’s in the picture above.

By the end of the day Surrey were totally on top. Surrey’s bowlers, particularly Clark and Clarke (there were even three Hampshire batters who got out caught Clarke bowled Clark), were unstoppable, and Hampshire’s first innings total came to a mere 92. Hampshire’s much feared foreign pace men, Abbot and Abbas, then had to bowl in quite different conditions after lunch and achieved only the one Surrey wicket in the whole of the rest of the day. Surrey are already ahead on first innings and should – should -now win comfortably. Even Hashim Amla, who got 0 and 0 in the previous game, got some runs, along with Burns, and both could make more tomorrow.

All my life people have been telling me stories of old men dying with smiles on their faces, merely because their sports team was doing well when they died. Would I still feel that way about sport when death stared me in the face? So far: yes.

Surrey pasted


Surrey overnight looked like they could maybe make a fight of it, but by lunch they’d been totally blown away.

Following sport has not been so good lately, for me. Various England cricket teams, after a good start, getting beaten in India in all formats. England in the Six Nations. Spurs being Spurs.

And now this. Surrey, having Spurs money and Spurs talent but now getting (with apologies to 6k) Sheffield United results.

LATER: On the other hand, Patrick Crozier will be very happy about Watford getting promoted straight back to the Premier League. And in addition to supporting the England rugby men I also support the England rugby ladies, and also the Harlequins rugby men. So, the news got better as the day went on.

SUNDAY: Here is how Ravindra Jadeja ended the innings of the Chennai Super Kings against the Royal Challengers Bangalore:

Thirty seven off the over. RCB never got close. Surrey’s Sam Curran plays (rather effectively) for the Super Kings, so that cheered me up.

On the other hand

Vincent House with tree shadows – Vincent Square with cricketers

Today I forced myself out, to post a letter which had to be posted, something I don’t think I’ve done in years.

My guess as to where there was a posting box, or whatever they are called, took me to the nearest post office that I am aware of, via Vincent Square, which I hoped would be looking good in the sunshine. It was:

That building is Vincent House, which sounds and looks like it might be important, but it’s just a block of flats.

And this is the middle of Vincent Square:

In earlier times, on a day like this, I would have gone a-wandering and a-photoing, but now, I’m afraid I feel the cold, and although delightfully sunny it was still cold. Also, all walks now take twice as long. So I posted that letter, and also did some shopping and then went straight back home. Shopping being another thing that has had to change recently. Big and occasionally has had to be replaced by less but more frequently, because there are limits to how much stuff I can now carry in anything resembling comfort, especially up my stairs.

Just before I went on this expedition, I got a phone call from one of the Marsden exercise experts. Apparently exercise is good for you. But he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Life goes on.

A gallery of Michael Jennings photos

For the last few weeks, a strange glitch has been afflicting this blog, involving spacing. If I stick up just the one photo, stretching all the way across the width of the blog’s column of text, all is well. But if I stick up a gallery of photos, which is something I very much like doing, there has been a problem. Too much space was suddenly, ever since a recent software update or some such thing, created below the gallery. Any attempt I made to remove this space only resulted in further spatial havoc below, in the form of too much space between subsequent paragraphs of text.

But now, either because the guardians of this software have sorted this out, or because the technical curator of this blog, Michael Jennings, has sorted this out, things are back to how they were. Good. Very good. I attach great importance to how this blog looks. If it looks wrong, I hate that. It demoralises me and makes me want to ignore the damn thing rather than keep on updating it the way I actually do. This was especially so given that galleries look so very good when they are working properly.

Well, as I say, things have now reverted to their previous state of visual just-so-ness. And I will now celebrate, with yet another gallery:

The above gallery, however, is not a gallery of my photos, but rather a gallery of photos photoed by Michael Jennings, all, I believe, with his mobile phone. Not having got out much lately, I have found the photos Michael has photoed while taking exercise, and then stuck up on Facebook, reminding me of how my beloved London has been looking, to be a great source of comfort during the last few months. And I actually like photoing in his part of London more than I do in my own part. This may just be familiarity breeding something like contempt, but is still a definite thing with me.

I started out having in mind to pick just four photos, which makes a convenient gallery. Then I thought, make it nine. I ended up with twenty four. It would have been twenty five (also a convenient number), except that one of the ones I chose was a different shape, which might have complicated things, so I scrubbed that one from the gallery.

But you can still look at that one. Because none of this means that you need be confined only to my particular favourites. Go here and keep on right clicking to see all of them.

I have displayed my picks here in chronological order, the first of the above photos having been photoed in October of last year. The final photo (which is what you get to if you follow the second link in the previous paragraph), of the church, which I learned of today, and which is the only one done outside London, is something of a celebration, of the fact that Michael is now able to travel outside London without breaking any rules, or such is my understanding. (Plus, I like those unnatural trees (see also photo number 9)).

Patrick Crozier, the man I do recorded conversations with (see the previous post), is a particular fan of Viscount Alanbrooke, Churchill’s long suffering chief military adviser during WW2. So he’ll like that this church is where Alanbrooke is buried.

How the beagle helped 6k to pick Hideki Matsuyama to win the US Masters

If you like blogging comedy gold, I warmly recommend this posting, about how favourite-blogger-of-mine 6k got his beagle to help him place his (successful) bet on who would win the US Masters.

6k was apparently inspired by an octopus.

Day One of the county cricket season

… and the excitement at Bristol, where Gloucester are playing Surrey in Group 2 of the County Championship, has reached fever pitch:

Lockdown suits four day County Cricket rather well, because it supplies a readymade excuse for why nobody is at the ground watching it.

Otters in Singapore City

The whole world is becoming a giant zoo, curated by humans. Now, for instance, there are otters living in Singapore City:

Singapore’s otter families all have names. Here, the Bishan family crosses a street in the city center.

Start reading this National Geographic article, and you soon encounter a link to another NG piece about how Hundreds of wild parrots are thriving in this Brazilian city.

But back to those otters. As Singaporeans become more affluent and more inclined to welcome the otters into their midst, and less inclined to do things like kill them and eat them, instead treating them as sort of mobile urban sculptures, …:

In 2016, an otter family suddenly ran across the Singapore Marathon route, and Otter Working Group volunteers rushed to warn the runners of the otters’ presence, as well as also position themselves along the route to prevent the animals and runners from colliding.

… the otters themselves are, understandably, becoming less frightened of humans than they used to be. Evolution in action. The adventurous otter families, willing to explore human cities in search of new ecological niches, get selected for, and the more timid ones have a harder time of it.

LATER: It’s happening here also. Otters are making themselves at home in UK cities.

Advertising can only do so much

Today I photoed a taxi-with-an-advert:

I’d not seen that advert-on-a-taxi before.

And now I am investigating the product. Let’s just say that the current problems of this product illustrate the limits of the power of advertising:

The troubled online betting firm Football Index continued to “mint” and issue new “shares” in high-profile players just days before an announcement of big reductions in dividends which crashed its market on Saturday. The news is likely to add to the anger and frustration of thousands of Football Index’s customers, who are currently unable to sell their own shares to retrieve money from the exchange without suffering huge losses.

I’m guessing there was small print that didn’t get read.

Thoughts on giving away the ending … or not giving it away

I am a lazy person. And I just sent an email to my niece Roz Watkins, who writes of crime fiction. Some of this email was personal and private, but a couple of bits seem to me to be worth recycling here, to save me the bother of having to think of something else to put here today:

I do so very much admire the writing you have been doing. The reason I don’t write about it more admiringly, and more often, is that in my part of the internet, we don’t fret about giving away endings! For instance, I am now reading a book about human evolution, to what extent human mental habits are genetically evolved, what sex differences are and are not, and so on. When writing about this book, I do not hesitate to quote any of the author’s conclusions that strike me as interesting. But if I reviewed a book of yours by discussing the convincingness of who finally turns out to have done the deed, naming the murderer, well, … that’s not allowed! So I need to learn a whole different way of writing about books like yours. Basically, I guess, you concentrate on the state of affairs at the beginning, and from then on keep it vague.

And, I realise that writing about famous books from the past is also not like writing about your books when they have only just come out. I’m not going to be denounced if I discuss the details of how Mr Darcy finally marries Elizabeth Bennet, because almost everyone who cares already knows what happened. If you don’t know how Pride and Prejudice ends and don’t want to until you’ve read it for the first time, then it’s up to you to avoid being told.

I think that the Pride and Prejudice point there is an especially good one. Great works of literature, almost by definition, are things we are allowed to discuss all aspects of, including the endings, without being accused of giving anything away. If I tell you the ending of Roz’s latest Meg Dalton book (that’s her lead detective), I’m breaking the rules. But if I reveal that Hamlet dies at the end of Hamlet, that’s okay. If you did not know this and wanted to be surprised by how Hamlet ends, that is entirely your problem. Which means that works of Great Literature become like some of the great facts of our culture, not that different from real events or real arguments about real events. We can freely discuss all aspect of the great works of literature with one another, definitely including the endings. And thorough discussions of great facts, especially how these facts turned out or ended, are, for me, one of life’s great pleasures.

This is one of the reasons I do like (some) great literature. It enables me to have thorough conversations with strangers. I think the social benefits of shared cultural objects are often missed. See also, sport and celebrities. It’s the universality of these experiences that bind us together as a society, however we may disagree about many other things, and for that matter about sport or celebrities.

Great literature is books that are celebrity books.

Another quota advert

Yes. Spent the day chasing details, and keeping half an eye on the Six Nations. In an empty Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, the crowd was not missed much and Wales beat England. Oh well, it’s only a game.

So, another quota advert, photoed very recently, this time for an enterprise which, I am guessing, needs all the help it can get just now:

Something looked wrong about to me about this bike. The handle bars seemed like they had been turned round and are pointing backwards. Then I got it. They had been turned round. They are pointing backwards. Together with the front wheel that is attached to the handle bars.

The Cave website. I see there’s a cafe. Memo to self: Check it out when you know what stops.