Magical Realism Part II – Cricket in the Dull Village

Following yesterday’s intriguing revelations,  and as ever in Search of the Truth, Third Man has taken the Mark III back in time and space to Car Park F across the road from the National Cricket Performance Centre just as the Magic Bus arrived there for the first time, waived through the secure reception procedures of Loughborough University as if it were expected.

Two men get out of the Magic Bus; from the driver’s side a man who could be thought both old and young at the same moment dressed as he is in plain black slacks and matching polo neck with nothing up his sleeves.  From the passenger’s side steps a short man with slightly long hair and a smart collar, tie and jacket with a velvety look. 

They make their way across the bridge to the glass doors of the Centre where they are met by Andy Flower, Andrew Strauss and Geoff Miller.

Third Man, dressed for the occasion in the Loughborough University Conference Services uniform follows them, carrying a large tray of fruit.  Unchallenged, he too crosses the bridge and enters the Centre. 

With his head down and walking purposely Third Man nods to reception and walks up the stairs immediately in front of him.  Straight ahead are the long lines of nets quiet, forlorn and abandoned at this time, full of prospect and potential, still as a swimming pool before anyone has arrived.  Turning onto a landing he follows the noise of much banter into an open room with full length windows looking back out on the car park and the visually disturbing Magic Bus which continues to hum quietly to itself.  Third Man makes a show of arranging the fruit, disappears into the background and listens in.

Geoff Miller speaks first in his droll Derbyshire monotone. “Now settle down lads.  Settle down.  Stuart, will you please concentrate for just a moment or two?  Thank you.  Now, then, I’d like to introduce to you the celebrated prestidigitator, Mr Gustave Kuhn, formerly of the stage and now of Brunel University Psychology Department … (“Not another Shrink?” mutters Jimmy Anderson) … and Doctor Ben Tatler of the University of Dundee … (“As if we don’t have enough of our own.”) …  Please show them a warm ECB welcome and Matty Prior, try to stay awake for once, you never know you may learn something.”

The man in black, his sleeves rolled up steps before them.  From his pocket he takes a cricket ball and in silence tosses it above his head, his eyes following it to its zenith and back to the palm of his hand.  Again he tosses the ball, again his eyes follow it to the zenith and back as it falls to his hand.

As the film above reveals, a youthful Gustave Kuhn appears to toss the ball for a third time.  Third Man sees it leave the hand and disappear in mid air.  The magician presents both hands to his quietened audience to prove that the ball has indeed vanished …

Yesterday, Neil MacGregor introduced No. 97 of his History of the World in a Hundred Objects, “In the Dull Village” (pictured at the top of the page), one of the ‘Illustrations for Fourteen Poems by C.P. Cavafy’ by David Hockney, published in 1967 and, referring to such lines as these,

he goes to bed tonight full of sexual longing,
all his youth on fire with the body’s passion,
his lovely youth given over to a fine intensity.
And in his sleep pleasure comes to him;
in his sleep he sees and has the figure, the flesh he longed for…

MacGregor proposed that in Hockney’s illustration the man on the left, stretched on his back, eyes closed and hands behind his head may be imagining the young man to his right looking intensely at him – that it is an illustration of an illusion. 


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