Keys and keyed

It’s certainly been an interesting week. Interesting in the Confucian understanding of the word – you know, “May you live in interesting times” that is.

As many of you know I have recently indulged my penchant for big cats with the purchase of what I imagine to be my last Jaguar. And for the most part, pertinent since it is their inheritance that is being consumed, the kids have been supportive. Their reasoning, along the lines of a happy dad is a better dad, is sound.

In the light of my many recent vicissitudes with the DVLA, I am aware that my driving licence is no longer a given and, having stared into that licenceless abyss twice previously, I treasure it all the more. I will retain the Micra for more mundane driving and use the Jag for excursions. The Micra will go to Tesco, the Jag to the coast.

Like all my previous Jags (all two of them), the new one is not without its quirks. It drives beautifully but needs the airbag sensor, air conditioning, CD multi-changer and clock repairing. Nothing that affects the running of the car you understand, merely cosmetic matters. But that’s always been the way with Jags – if you want something that works all the time with ruthless German efficiency buy a Beemer, a marque of Teutonic engineering that never fails but, for me at least, feels rather like a combination of laptop and videogame. But Beemers fail in other areas. They do not become that throbbing, breathing embodiment of a living thing that is a Jaguar. William Lyons said the motorcar was as near as we can get to a living, breathing entity. He said “motorcar” but, as their principal designer, he meant Jaguars.

Driving a Jaguar is the building of a relationship, a love affair if you will. Whilst a BMW is a domestic robot, always obedient and well-behaved, a Jaguar is a wilful creature, untamed and passionate. And that passion never leaves you untouched. They constantly surprise, sometimes disappoint but never leave you untouched. The BMW is your wife/husband, the Jaguar is your lover.

And I have learned, as if I needed any further education, just how expensive Jaguar motoring can be. When I bought the car, it came with two keys. One did not work so I telephoned the local Jaguar dealership to ask about a replacement. Obviously these keys are slightly more complex than your average house key for instance, with separate blade and brain parts. So I was braced for what I thought might be perhaps £50. Maybe even £100? £200? Surely not? No, believe it or not, the final price for a key was, including the VAT (why do places quote the price and VAT separately when we all have to pay the VAT?) an eye watering £425. I just laughed and put the phone down. I thought it was a prank.

Stop and think about that for a moment. We are talking about a key for goodness sake. You could buy a car for that kind of money. Nor is the key made of gold and platinum, encrusted with precious stones and presented in a carrying case of Siberian ermine and Tuscan leather. It doesn’t play selections from Italian opera, offer lifestyle advice or fragrance the environment with sandalwood. No, it’s just a key.

So for the time being I will hope that my one key suffices. At the very least it will encourage me to remember where put the key rather than experience that almost routine feeling every morning trying to retrace my steps and where I might have put the keys the night before. That will have to wait until I have saved up the money and emptied my piggy bank. Yes, I know the key has to be programmed, personalised and paired to the specific car but that applies to many other cars. Frankly I think they are taking the piss. I shall look at alternatives.

If I was an unhappy Jaguar owner on Wednesday, I was doubly unhappy on Thursday when some vandal chose to exercise his creative talents and vandalise my car. That his chosen weapon was a car key seems particularly apt bearing in mind my rejection of the £425 key. I emerged from the local supermarket, having just briefly nipped out to get a four pack of yoghurt (peach as I remember but that’s not important), to see someone close to my car for no apparent reason. I had a bad feeling immediately and discreetly took down his registration number. As he drove off, I noticed the scrapes. A sinewave running more or less the length of the car with some parts deeper than others. Either way utterly gratuitous.

I am not going to waste time asking the usual “why do people do this?” Let’s not beat about the bush. The answer is simple enough. Because they are just nasty little petty minded a****holes, choking on their own envy and unable to channel that emotion into any action other than destruction.

Perhaps they had abusive parents. Maybe they had unsuccessful potty training. Or perhaps they had just been charged £425 for a blasted key and felt it necessary to express that disappointment.

I feel bad even mentioning it. There are so many other injustices in this currently timorous world. Children starve, crops fail, icecaps melt, forests burn. In the grand scheme of things, some scratches on the side of my car will not limit the amount of damage being vested on the planet by man and other high hominids. Mind you, these hominids would struggle to understand “no claims bonus”, “policy excess” and “limited liability”, all of which I shall find myself addressing in the next few weeks.

Okay, rant over. And breathe.


As anyone who’s ever reflected upon my sporting achievements will testify, they are few and far between. No glittering half centuries, few catches, no bowling at all. In consequence my respect for those who have made substantial achievements is unbounded. The club – and I’m talking about Bells Yew Green Cricket Club of course – has been built, since 1947 upon the achievements of individuals. There have been glittering innings, spells of bowling and stunning catches seen over the years at this quirky little dome of a cricket pitch, forged through the physical efforts and financial commitments of many men.

I could pay tribute to many here. That’s the thing with achievement. It never stops. But I want to pay tribute to one individual. This is the story of a bowler. A bowler who was not six foot three tall, with terrifying pace and steepling bounce. A bowler who had none of those physical advantages. Short, and not blessed with a skidding action particularly. For many these would be insuperable disadvantages.

And let’s be honest, he has often been the subject of gentle teasing, making fun of his diminutive height. He has always been the first to laugh, often the first to joke.

But for him, these were less disadvantages than challenges. For many seasons now, he has demonstrated the value of sheer persistence coupled with a nagging line on off stump. A simple distillation of the “you miss, I hit” approach. He has played in every XI the club has put out, representing BYG at the highest levels.

And last week he became only the second player in the club’s history to take 1000 wickets. A massive achievement. Not achieved overnight, not without setbacks. But achieved by sheer dogged persistence, a nagging bowling line and an absolute and overwhelming commitment to the sport he loves. As for his ‘slower ball’, perhaps we can gloss over that.

Jockey, I raise a glass to you! Respect, my friend.

Clash of the Titans

With all this Jubilee malarkey going on, you could be forgiven for missing the most anticipated sporting event of the century. I’m talking of course about the mighty clash in the pool room of the Brecknock Arms between the reigning champ Richard “A Bridge Too” Farr (about 80) and the young pretender Jon “No Chance” Stamford (more than 60).

To say that these were two athletes at the very peak of their form is of course to undermine the concept of athlete and indeed form. Nevertheless, with a joint experience at the pool table of more than a century, expectations were high. This was a match awaited for more than 50 years.

As the time for the fixture drew close, the opponents stared into each other’s eyes, like gunfighters looking for signs of weakness – that fatal twitch or blink of an eye. Like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef, the two gunfighters sized each other up. As Stamford nervously sipped his half of Coronation Ale, Farr, the champ gave nothing away. Slight shake perhaps as he lifted the dregs of his tomato juice to his lips. You could cut the tension with a butter knife.

In normal circumstances, a gigantic partisan crowd would assemble, with klaxons, rattles, smoke grenades and so on, all those symbols of partisanshipship. With the failure of BT sport and Sky to reach agreement on broadcast fees, the match was in the end fought out under closed conditions with occasional visits and advice from Monsieur Will, a local Michelin starred chef.

There was controversy from the first. Neither contestant had any coins. Despite the huge depth of talent and experience on offer, neither combatant had actually entertained the idea that they might have to actually pay for this. For one fleeting moment the fixture hung in the balance. Fortunately a sponsorship deal was quickly assembled when Will, after briefly rummaging around for loose change stumbled across some pound coins in a plastic bag. Relief all round, the fixture would go ahead.

Friendship would be cast aside in the war that was to follow. This was no longer a brief interlude between lunch and tea time. This was, in sporting terms, The Somme, Gettysburg, Agincourt and Waterloo all rolled into one. Two hours and an unbelievable three frames later, the warriors emerged, blinking into the light.

these were games that, in a very real sense, had redefined the way the game is played. So many foul strokes, open pockets, miscues and complete misses were registered that neither player came to the table with only a single shot on offer. Time after time, the competitors would set up a part with their first shot only to then throwaway the advantage with a baize ripping miscue.

The afternoon wore on. And on. And on. Whilst most of the spectators were praying for rain, the pool itself had collapsed into trench warfare, with long wearying gaps between legal shots. It was like the siege of Vicksburg all over again. Night began to fall. Or at least it felt like that. Eventually, a result was declared. The champion returned to the pub for a celebratory tomato juice. The challenger licked his wounds with a small Diet Coke.

“You took how long to play the frame?” said Lady Eleanor, the Aphrodite of the alehouse, making no effort to hide her incredulity. I prefer to think of it as a tactical war of attrition. I suspect I am in a minority here.

Of course such pinnacles of sporting achievement are never allowed to rest. As Mohammed Ali found out, there is always one more Thriller in Manila or Rumble in the Jungle.

But, in our case, it’s probably indigestion.