Quelqu’un Motif or Can We Have Our Ball Back, Mr. Broad?

Mr. Broad was not having much luck dozing in the fresh air of his garden. He had drunk a little too much Jubilee Ale, on top of which his luncheon of cheese and pickle was disagreeing with him.

To cut out the glare of the sun reflecting from his splendid new greenhouse he placed across his face a copy of the West London Observer with its story of the opening of the new tunnel at Blackwell.  Change, change , change – he didn’t like it one little bit.

Every so often the newsprint gently rose and fell with his breath as the effects of the ale won over those of the cheese.

Not far away, that infernal puffing Jinney of the North and South Western Junction Railway, making its way to its terminus in Chiswick High Road, competed for room in his irritable thoughts with the coo-cooing of a tiresome pigeon that would be eyeing up his peas and the cries and jeers of those blasted cricketers on the pitch they’d made in the last few years a couple of hundred yards away on the meadowland south of the common. 

In a month’s time there’d be even more noise coming from that ground when a fete was due to be held to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.  He’d seen the poster on the footbridge across the railway: “29th June 1897, A Match between Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush Police and Tradesman – Wickets pitched 12 o’clock – to be followed by Comical Sports – 5.30pm Dancing.”  All that fuss and noise, bands playing, children shrieking, bunting and marquees.  

Humbug! thought the old curmudgeon of Stamford Bridge Lodge.

Across to the west, on the Bath Road, where Thomas Hussey was building his new fangled ‘garden suburb’ in the fashionable Queen Anne style, an elderly looking man in his late sixties with a mammoth white beard, spacious top coat and Frenchy straw hat was capturing the scene in front of him of the English playing at their funny game of cricket, a canvas propped on an easel weighed down with an old iron, a box of the latest ready made paints in tubes by his feet.

In his head he composed a letter he would send in a couple of days time to his picture dealer. ‘Cher Alphonse, je vais me mettre au travail, j’ai ici quelques motifs à faire fort jolis …’

He counted in his head.  This must be the third painting he had made that included in the view a cricket match.  He recalled the beautiful day at Hampton Court Green in 1890, the match on Kew Green when he was living in Gloucester Terrace in … ’92, and now here in Bedford Park– the 22nd May 1897 – while his dear son Lucien was recovering from that dreadful stroke. 

He simply could not leave Lucien’s side, but he was a compulsive painter, and so had set up on a flat roof attached to his son’s new home.  

Is it possible to paint outside in England without finding cricketers in the view, he wondered?  Even his hero Turner had encountered similar problems at Petworth and elsewhere.  There was a good sized crowd over there and a holiday atmosphere. The English, so skillful at wasting their time!

On the field of play, Bob Hussey, who had made a sizeable fortune supplying bricks to a voracious market in a city expanding by the day, had the ball in his hand. “Come in a pace more if you will, Ed.  Let him know you’re there.”

Edmund Bates was the crossing keeper and lived in Railway Cottage. His wife would be putting the washing on the line and preparing his tea.  Bates loved his cricket, his single tracked railway and his wife, probably in that order.

Although no-one would actually have dared say it to his face, it would be fair to say that Bob had one of those jerky actions that were spoiling the game.  It’s time the MCC took action.

“I’ll fix that rogue once and for all,” the new batsman had told his team mates before leaving the wooden shack that served them as pavilion. 

“I’ve a brand new bat here from Lilleywhites, Bob, so you’ve been well warned.”

Bob set off on his run like a Great Western express out of Paddington, pulling and snorting.  The new blade, smelling powerfully of linseed oil, noticed the all-too adjacent Bates, came down from a great height with a swing that threatened to part the hair on the railway employee’s head, caught the ball squarely in the centre of the pristine willow and flew like a twelve inch shell into the sky, up and over the distant boundary fence and on, still gaining height. “Find that one if you can, Bob Hussey.”

In his garden, Mr. Broad woke to a sound of far-off laughter, belched discontentedly and pushed the paper from his face in time to feel the air shiver as the missile passed him.  CRASH and TINKLE went his precious greenhouse, shot through by a cricket ball that next week’s West London Observer would describe as ‘an amazing boundary’, the like of which had never been seen before.  The ball it reports had ended up in the garden of Mr. Broad of Stamford Brook Lodge on the east, yes the east side of the common.

“Humbug!”

Note: a copy of a photograph of Camille Pissarro painting on the flat roof at 62 Bath Road in May or June 1897 can be found in the Ashmolean collection and was included in the catalogue of their 2011 exhibition; Lucien Pissarro in England – the Eragny Press.

Was No 62 the house behind the signal box in the 1960s photograph above.  This would place the Footbridge view point in the front garden looking north and the view of Bath Road from a similar position but looking north-west.  The flat roof would be on the extention shown on the 1915 map. Google street views of today show even numbers on the north side of Bath Rd.  The view of the cricket ground is today masked by new social housing.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Quelqu’un Motif or Can We Have Our Ball Back, Mr. Broad?

  1. John Halliwell

    I wonder if W G was Camille’s illigitimate son from an early English liaison? I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is a definite likeness.

    It’s yet another lovely piece, TM. I trust Mr Broad was recompensed for the greenhouse repair.

  2. diogenes

    I am glad that you are reminding us of how much the Impressionists owe to the landscapes of suburban (and central) London, TM. During his exile in London, Emile Zola took a great many photographs/gravures of South London scenes. I saw an exhibition in Toulouse 30 years ago…He gave up writing temporarily and took up photography as a better way of recording the Now. Maybe they have been put online somewhere. Somehow Pissarro’s paintings of South Norwood etc are more beguiling than my childhood memories…I suspect he was more in Dulwich.

  3. diogenes

    apologies for mentioning Dulwich. i have just realised that you might start thinking of Raymond Chandler and PG Wodehouse….and Percy Jeeves

  4. diogenes

    and after closer examination of those pictures, they show a considerable evolution in the painter’s style – the last one suggestive of influence from Seurat and the pointillistes.

    Your posts always give me food for thought and investigation, TM, even if I never get any further! Thank you.

  5. Mr Broad was Clement Broad, another manufacturer of bricks. Possibly he’d had enough of the cricket because he moved to Wandsworth.. I see you give his house as both Stamford Brook Lodge and Stamford Bridge Lodge. I assume the first is right. His neighbour was the illustrator, Archie MacGregor, who was a friend of Lucien Pissarro. Has the cricket ground gone?
    Among other things, I’m researching his son, the artist Kenneth Broad. Do you know anything about another artist-cricketer, Sylvan Boxsius, who played for Highgate?

  6. Mr Clarke, how wonderful to get your comment. April 2012 seems so long ago and it is unlikely anyone else has read this post since diogenes made his final comment above.

    Sylvan Boxsius? now, let’s see if the Squire would like a spin’ in the Time Machine. Seems a worthy expedition.

  7. The four Boxsius brothers also played for Lawford in the late 1890s. SG Boxsius played at Highgate alongside J Huskinson, a colleague from Bolt Court.

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