“Time to get more paint, Third Man!”
It was the Squire’s voice yelling from one end of the Long Gallery. Incessant rain had obliged him to take his daily practice there; the portraits of his cricketing heroes looking down on him (examples above and below), as, without pause, he began his run up in a fine impersonation of Michael Holding.
The green aero-ball, half covered in sticky tape to make it swing late, reared up as if it had struck an Elizabethan nail head in the oak boards.
Third Man, without flinching, took the blow on the right side of his rib cage. Hiding the pain, he sauntered down the wicket, head held as high as his time-taut neck would allow, regaining his composure with a spot of gardening.
Jasper, his batting partner, strolled towards him; in his left hand a County bat also prodded down imaginary nails. Both lefties chewed gum resolutely and, like two spies managing a dead letter drop in St James Park, tried to suggest that nothing untoward was going on between them,
The Squire was back at the end of his long run. Jasper returned to the bowler’s end. Third Man stood at the crease as upright as a man of nearly 300 years of age could before another delivery passed his nose, his head jerking backwards as if he’d been electrocuted.
More displacement gardening followed before, in response to the next delivery, his whole body swung round in one reflex action that left him facing fine leg.
Meanwhile the ball continued to rear above the keeper’s grasp before crashing into that epic painting of Decline and Fall at the SCG which adorns the Grand Staircase at the east end of the LG.
“Very satisfactory, both of you,” said the Squire when he had finished with them. “I particularly liked your Edrich, Jasper. The details were most convincing. And Third Man, what can I say, your Close … very close.”
“We shall be seeing young Dennis Brian Close tomorrow TM. As I said, there’s paint to be got from him.”
It was of course J.M.W. who had mixed the original estate paint for the Squire, (now by his generous licence, available from Windsor and Newton in watercolour tubes as No 649, Turner’s Yellow ) but he’d taken a great liking to the misunderstood Yorkshireman and paint producer.
His sympathies had been kindled by the story of how, as an eighteen year old and playing for the Players against the Gentlemen, Close on reaching his half-century had been congratulated by the Gentleman wicket keeper Griffith.
Alert to condescension like a heat-seeking missile was to an English Electric Lightning, young Close turned and replied, “Thank you Billy.”
Griffith was so offended by the unwarranted familiarity that he complained to Yorkshire about him.
“Silly middle-class ass,” said the Squire who, from that moment, never let go a chance to champion ‘young Close’. And from that time ‘til today, the Squire has always bought his paint from Brian Close (Paints) Ltd even if that now entails skidding back to the ‘Sixties once a year in the old Type III. Not a hardship.
The scene being recreated in the Long Gallery can also be enjoyed here.