The above link will self-destruct at 9:02 PM Sat, 14 Jan 2012. It is available on BBC I-Player and was broadcast on the 7th January.
The Squire considers that there are only two types of person in this world: plumbers and poets. In these days of punditry, those who are paid to comment on (TM almost wrote ‘to describe’ but quickly saw his error) the game of cricket are all plumbers, and proud of that.
Arlott was a poet, a campaigner, a liberal and a stranger to pride.
At a reception given by the BBC to mark the beginning of JA’s last season, he told a story against himself and his relationship to cricket and cricketers, by referring to Oscar Wilde’s short story Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime, in which Lady Windermere’s pet cheiromantist, Mr Podgers, reading Lady Fermor’s palm, told her “right out before every one, that she did not care a bit for music, but was extremely fond of musicians.”
This joke was his modest and oblique way of expresssing his fondness for and admiration of professional cricketers which was the basis of his special relationship with those who, when they eventually began to think of forming a body to represent them, reciprocated by asking him to be the first president of the Professional Cricketers’ Association.
In his poem: To John Berry Hobbs on His Seventieth Birthday he wrote:
There was a wisdom so informed your bat
To understanding of the bowler’s trade
That each resource of strength or skill he used
Seemed but the context of the stroke you played.
“Can it be true?” TM asks.
John Arlott once confided to the Squire, in the hearing of Third Man, that he had taken the field in an early season match at New Road, Worcesterand as a former policeman was not unnaturally sent down to patrol the third man boundary. The ball was hit wide to him and he set off in an effort to apprehend the ball before it reached the rope.
Everyone knows that New Road is prone to flooding. They may not know that because of this in those far off days the part of the ground that Arlott was sent to guard featured a luxurious growth of duck weed of the most slimy and slippery kind.
Arlott described himself frantically trying to keep his feet before, like a cartoon figure upended on ice, coming to rest in a heap as the ball sped past him for four.
Much rain has fallen on New Road since the telling of this story and the memory is dim and indistinct. Could he have been called on as 12th man? Has anyone else heard of this story?
UPDATE: On some reflection, it seems to Third Man that this is but a retelling of the Lady Fermor story; mocking his own aptitude and thus, implicitly but fondly, contrasting it with the skills of the professional cricketer.
For those who came too late for the link here is a turgid consolation prize: John Arlott in a 1955 Liberal Party PPB unscripted and unrehearsed (and wrongly labelled “Liberal Democrat”). Special thanks to Simon Titley for both links.
Good listening and viewing