July 20, 2018

Blowers and Backers at the Edinburgh Fringe #cricket #tms @BlowersH

Memories of Test Match Special

Outside the Pleasance Forth at the Edinburgh Fringe a woman was trying to explain to a friend how exciting it was to see Henry Blofeld and Peter Baxter.

‘They are legends,’ she explained.

Her friend looked unconvinced.

‘Look at the queue!’ the woman offered as further proof of the stature of the two Bs. She was right, it was an amazing queue –  you’d think we were waiting to see the Queen debut as Lady Macbeth for all the excitement amongst the throng. But then Blowers and Baxter are two of the biggest names in cricket. OK, to be more precise, in cricket broadcasting. Well, to be preciser, in cricket radio broadcasting. You might think that is quite a small niche, but don’t forget that cricket is the greatest sport ever invented. Pah! Invented!  Handed down to humans from on high is a better description.

For years the cricket-lover bereft of a ticket or a TV has wandered the world with a small transistor radio glued to his ear, pausing now and then to cheer or groan. And who has been the cause of this emotional upheaval? Producer P. Baxter and commentator H. Blofeld, along with their other chums on Test Match Special. And the English cricket team of course.

For centuries Test Match Special has kept the Englishman in contact with the latest score at the cricket. In weddings and funerals earpieces have been surreptiously inserted to get the news. And here was the chance to hear the two protagonists speaking at the Edinburgh Festival. No wonder there was a long queue.

Just like legends they kept us waiting.

Pleasance Forth had two armchairs and a coffee table with a copy of Wisden and a decanter of whisky. The show opened with the do do do do do d d do do music that is familiar to cricket fans everywhere. Then the heroes came out like two languid opening bats with no fear of the bowling attack.

They quickly got down to reminisce and anecdoticize about their years in the cricket commentary box. Baxter produced TMS for 34 years, whilst Blowers has commentated on the show since 1972. As you might imagine they have a lot of tales of cricketing life, whether in England or on tour around the world.

Good natured and self-deprecating, they have memories of another era. Back then you could bump into the right person in your club and find yourself working at then BBC the next day. You could even send in poetry and have similar success. Baxter was keen to impress on us that the BBC recruitment policy has changed greatly since then.

The two Bs are lucky to have had Brian Johnston as a colleague for many years. He provided many memorable moments, though I hadn’t realised that his fits of giggles had made them all fear for their jobs. However Peter Baxter was the man to give the definitive answer as to whether Johnners actually said the oft-quoted commentary line, ‘The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey.’

Neither of the two raconteurs indulged in the whisky decanter during the evening, so they don’t seem to be as keen on a drink as John Arlott and some of the other commentators they have worked with. They both do mean impressions of their colleagues. Drink and cake seem to be the cement that bound TMS together. The cake still remains, though no one has beaten Johnners’ record of 13 slices of one particularly delicious chocolate cake.

If you don’t know who Aggers is (but surely everyone knows who Aggers is. And Mrs Aggers) then you probably won’t understand what is going on at all. If that’s the case go to the show anyway, get the bug and spend your days tuning in to Test Match Special. 198 LW has been the code for years, although there are the usual myriad ways to pick it up nowadays. You might even learn what Aggers said to the Queen when she visited TMS.

Until 18 August


Pleasance Forth

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