Phoned the Oval on Wednesday, to see if they had any tours of the ground running in the next couple of days. The nice lady apologised, and explained they didn’t have tours on match days.
“Oh? There’s a game on?”
Even better. After a morning’s camping and travelling in planes, trains and automobiles (and boats, come to think of it), I took the tube from Bethnal Green to Bank, onto the Northern Line, and down to the Oval. Had lunch at the Oval Lounge, and then wandered round to the ground and took in most of the afternoon session. The sky remained clear and blue, save for some hazy cloud. The same stands that reverberated to the sounds of England’s Ashes triumph a month ago were mostly silent. The metal framework which would have supported the giant Sky Sports screen was still there, but was now framing only a section of the housing directly behind it. Gone were the noisy fans, the singing and the Barmy Army. In their place were a couple of hundred spectators at varying stages of cricket-watching experience, enjoying a meaningless end-of-season fixture between Surrey and Glamorgan. Gone too were the dramatic batting collapses of the series in general, replaced by steady and fluent batting from the Welsh openers, resulting in a score of 271/0 at stumps in reply to Surrey’s 430. I left just after tea, when Cosgrove, who, as the gentleman behind me in the stand had kindly pointed out, was “two stone overweight”, completed his century. Wickets seemed hard to come by for Surrey, now languishing near the bottom of the County Championship despite Mark Ramprakash’s twinkle-toed batting heroics.
Headed back into the City, somewhat bravely I felt, as rush hour was fast approaching, via a short visit to the Imperial War Museum shop to pick up a few bits and pieces. I had been there two days ago, and had been tempted by a poster of Winston Churchill brandishing a tommy gun, in his trademark pinstripe suit and bowler hat, fat cigar protruding from the lips-that-launched-a-thousand-soundbites. After having visited many of the exhibitions that day, I felt somewhat chastened and, well, a bit melancholy, and not inclined to spend money on what seemed like such a light-hearted comment on war. Two days on, I felt fine about it. Took the tube from Elephant & Castle to Bank, where I bottled out of fighting my way onto Central, and surfaced for some much-needed air. Walked along Threadneedle Street past the Bank of England and RBS, along Bishopsgate past the Gherkin, and cut through Spitalfields Market to Rough Trade, and on to Coffee@Brick Lane. After some caffeinated respite, I donned the manbag once again and caught the 242 back to Clapton. That’s Lower, rather than Eric…