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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On the Ashes, yellow submarines and Jerusalem,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

Didn't see you at the Trafalgar Square celebrations! Weren't you watching the cricket? (or ??????????????????, as you would say!)

E G, Orpington

Dear E,

WAS I watching the cricket??????? Was I watching the cricket?????? Was I WATCHING the cricket 
???????  Was I watching THE cricket????????? Was I watching the CRICKET ??????????

Well, I spared the odd moment for it, here or there, which is to say, I was so completely glued that (a) I couldn't practice (b) I couldn't write (c) I couldn't edit (see below), and I pretty much burned the house down (frying something for Rachel, forgot I was doing it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) But, other than that, can't say the final test at the Oval impinged much upon my life. Except that, if you're listening, Freddy Flintoff, I'm free ANYTIME!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I could even get used to Pieterson's dire inebriated badger-dyed haircut, the way he was undercutting and overcutting and swiping the ball last Monday (I'm not very good at cricketing terms, despite having followed it since Ian Botham last cracked the Aussies in that other hallowed Ashes year of 1981 ...)

People often say to me, 'How come you, Alice, being an averagely normal American sort of person, loves cricket so much?' Which strikes me as an idiotic question, especially this summer, when even giggly teenage girls (see Flintoff, above) are lining the route of honour into Trafalgar Square. It also has always had, for me, the signal advantage in that the USA doesn't play it, thus enabling me to pull for the UK without a qualm. But it's a fairly idiotic question anyway. I mean, what's NOT to like about cricket?

The guys are not only hunkier than footballers, but can put a subject with a verb and even an adverb when interviewed on telly. The game requires campaign tactics of huge subtlety (which you've got, Vaughney!!!!!!!!) spread over a canvass of, not meagre hours, but whole days.

Also, the players are miles better-behaved than other sportsmen. In cricket, good sportsmanship is so rife that when a batsman told by the umpire that he's 'out' hesitates a fraction of a second before buzzing off, it causes a major diplomatic incident and is spoken about in hushed tones for the rest of the summer.

And, most brilliantly of all, even the toppest bowlers (which, believe me, is a specialised skill) ARE OBLIGED TO BAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This was the masterstroke of whoever invented the game, that and the idea that it takes two to tango, so partnerships are so vital. If you're wondering why it is the masterstroke, then you weren't watching the English tailenders this summer. Hard enough for seasoned batsmen with their 'eye' in to stand up to Shane Warne and co without expecting bowlers to manage it. And even Shane Warne (a bit of a yobbo, frankly, though a diabolical genius with the ball) was gracious and generous and even charming in defeat. None of the 'We was robbed, innit,' that footballers go in for. In fact, for me one of the most memorable images of the summer was Warne's instantaneous congratulations to Pieterson, England's hero of that final, nerve-wracked day, at close of play. It was the congratulations of one (beaten) maestro to another, of one cricketing legend to someone who had just become one, and you don't get anything more moving than that.

And now, just in case my editors get annoyed [Grrrrrr! -- Basil and Keith] that this is a musical column, for God's sake, and where exactly is the music in this question, I will craftily slip in a ref to music. The crowd, as is usual with cricket (but not football) crowds was great, hollering 'Jerusalem' in a thousand different keys and some trumpeter generally shoving his oar in at the top, however, I find it rather difficult to believe how many of them 'live in yellow submarines', or why this should be a matter for such general satisfaction ...

Yours, still basking in the afterglow,

Copyright © 16 September 2005 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK

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