All the geographical and some of the historical references in this monologue are to real places, institutions and events. I imagined this fastidiousness might lend the
text a frisson communicable to locals in the audience.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with a sense of tremendous pride that I am able to welcome you this evening to the opening of the splendidly refurbished De La Warr Pavilion. We are gathered here, in this elegant and inspiring entrance area, to pay tribute to the vision and indefatigability of a number of highly motivated individuals, civic groups, local supporters and national benefactors. Before acknowledging the contributions of these dedicated people, I would like to invite you to consider some of the rich associations conjured by the idea of the’pavilion’.
Those of you here, and there will, of course, be many of you, with a passion for cricket, particularly that generated within the hallowed precincts of the Sussex County Cricket Club, which has thrust forth such legendary national team captains as C. B. Fry, who, it will be remembered, did much to foster international relations when he suggested, in 1934, to Herr Hitler that Germany might take up test cricket, a suggestion that the German leader did not put into practice although he did see to it that a group of boys from the Hitler Youth would visit our country where they were made welcome on the HMS Mercury training ship at Southampton which dear old CB ran with his wife of 48 years, Beatrice. Southampton is, of course, readily accessed from Bexhill by the A259 which leads, after a few miles, to the junction with the A27 at Polegate, after which it’s a pretty straight run along the South Downs through to Hampshire. This, of course, forcibly brings to mind Rother Council’s splendid Polegrove Recreation Ground in Brockley Road, Bexhill, site of the Bexhill-on-sea cricket club, which returns me to my theme and our common purpose here tonight.
I was a Number Six man myself but I had among my retinue boys who were partial to Senior Service, Kensitas and even the rather racey Peter Stuyvesant. There we would gather, of an early morning perhaps, or during break time, sheltered from authority’s gaze by the bike sheds on one side and, on the other, the Stanley Evershed Pavilion, donated to the school by that renowned industrialist from Lincoln who did so much to establish the tubeless tyre in this country to the extent that the term ‘tubeless tyre’ is now in broad household use. Lincoln, founded by the Romans and formerly known as ‘Lindum colonia’ from the Celtic for pool, itself a popular pastime even to this day and easily reached via, largely, the A21, M25 and A1.
Cupping our hands around the forbidden ‘fags’ as we called them – this was before the gay community had commandeered the term, nothing wrong with that, I hasten to add, if cricket has taught us one thing it is that every team needs its Deep Fine Leg and must be prepared to deploy a number of unconventional positions in the field – we would inhale deeply, thinking nothing of the very real possibility that we were stunting our growth. Indeed, as we are gathered here in celebratory mood, I can say that I have enjoyed a number of cigarettes a day since the age of fourteen and can report no significant developmental arrestation, as my smiling and recently refurbished wife will aver. Only joking, of course, she is a lovely woman and sports the same firm, regular bodily features that drew me to her so hotly when she was a youngster, if I may refer again to sports, that great binding theme that glues us to this large opening.
So there we have it – a place where groups of men may slip out of their workaday garments, ease into a protective box then don the distinctive whites before striding out to seek the sweet spot on the wooden bat before the slender stumps. And afterwards, regardless of what has been notched up, these tired but limber teamfolk, now stained at the knee with chlorophyll and at the groin with red leather, will troop into the welcoming hall clitter clatter the sounds of spikes upon doughty concrete where the players’ wives have laid out a terrific spread “Oh well done Margery!” the cry of the captain as he spots the neat sandwiches and bright fancies. And Arthur ‘Girly’ Brickham, useful medium pace bowler, turns to me and jovially calls, as he always does, “Come on, ‘Smutty’, Inky pinky parlez vous!” referring to the slightly saucy song beloved of sportsmen around the English-speaking world, I’m sure you can all remember a verse or two:
(SINGS) Two German soldiers crossed the Rhine – Parlez vous
Two German soldiers crossed the Rhine – Parlez vous
They kissed the girls and drank the wine.
(BREAKS OFF) Actually, they didn’t ‘kiss’ the girls but there are children present, surprisingly, considering the late hour, but I think you’ll get my meaning if you’re
from Effingham in Surrey. Which is, of course, the headquarters of the Effingham and Leatherhead Cricket Club.
not to be continued…