Shed no tiers for the new lockdown measures…..

Hi folks. My location, London, along with the neighbouring county, Essex have been placed into Tier 2 Covid-19 measures, meaning that I’ll be on my own for a while, unable to mix with others in their houses or to meet them in a pub or restaurant.

Nothing much comedic in that paragraph you may think, and you would be right. But this “temporary” lockdown will give me a chance to design another set for my next online performance. As you may remember, the last gig didn’t go so well, so I’m going to try something different. Just me, no silly voices, no wigs, trying to be funny without resorting to mimicry.

Hopefully it’ll work, because there needs to be an improvement. A change is as good as a rest so they say, so I’ve drafted a set to perform and I’ll add or subtract material as I see fit. Worth a go, as I don’t want to be known as a one trick pony.

But on the subject of mimicry, a couple of stand up colleagues want to do a sketch with me, with me as Boris Johnson, and of course his strategy for dealing with Covid-19. That’s something to look forward to. Live gigs in front of an audience is looking distant at this stage. Online it has to be for the time being. If this “temporary” lockdown turns things around then all well and good. Sadly, I won’t be able to mix with those nearest and dearest to me. Everything comes to an end, and let’s all hope Covid-19 does one and sods off quick. It’s been a depressing year, and those feelings won’t disappear before year end.

Still, got to keep busy on the comedy front, and looking forward to performing my brand new set soon. Then I may go back to impressions. Trying to control the controllables.

For now, keep smiling

Yours in comedy,

Ian L. Fullbrook

Winter cricket starts here…..

Hello. Well it was my first stint of indoor umpiring in my local league for a few years. I was a little nervous and apprehensive, but once I was behind those stumps, all the focus and concentration that I’ve built up over 32 years came into play.

As it happened, it was a fairly easy morning for all three of us. All the games were fairly one sided and incident free, and I had two of my trusted colleagues with me today, who I’ve known for a long time. That helps build up a rapport and trust, and the players respect and understand that.

The only difficulty I had was using a metallic ball counter that I purchased at great cost earlier in the week. Halfway during the first match, it disintegrated, leaving me clutching various pieces of loose metal. Luckily my colleague had a spare one, so problem solved.

Decisions wise? One leg before wicket decision, which was made easier by the batsman tucking has bat under his arm, knowing he was out. I just completed the formalities. In fact, I felt calm and composed and was enjoying the banter with the players. If only it was like that all the time!!

So a decent return. Onto the next session next weekend and a chance to do well again. And no need to feel nervous and apprehensive!!

A.S.D Brooks

Week catching up with me…

It’s been an interesting and varied week. I’ve done some volunteering with SANE, some Peer Support work and watched my home county, Essex, win at cricket, so I’ve been out every day virtually.

I think today was when it all caught up with me. I was at another mental health event with Thrive LDN this time, in the London Bridge area. I had to be out early because as is typical of weekend travel in London, several rail lines were having engineering work done so I had to find an alternative route. Not so bad though this morning, and the walk to the venue was pleasant enough on another lovely Autumn day.

The first half of the session today was good, and I was reasonably fresh and alert, but for the second half, a combination of a hearty lunch and the week’s activities saw my concentration levels drop in what we euphemistically call the “post lunch dip”. Not at my best there. But I met some good people and I enjoyed the day.

Getting home was a trickier business as it took nearly 100 minutes to do an hour’s journey. So I was a touch irritable when I finally made it home. Tomorrow is a day when I can recharge and sleep a bit longer!

So not a bad Saturday but tired.

A.S.D Brooks

More haste….less speed

A good start to the day today. I’m off to watch cricket at Chelmsford, where Essex are hoping to win to cement their County Championship credentials. The only thing is, I’ve got on the wrong train.

Pulled into Liverpool Street, got my ticket and thought the Inter City service to Norwich was stopping at Chelmsford, which it sometimes does. It was only sitting in my seat when the train guard said that the first stop is Colchester, some 15 minutes further on….oops. So I’ve got to wait at Colchester for a return train to London, so I’m going to be late on parade at the cricket. That’s what happens when you rush, and don’t check the train stopping pattern. Anyway, it’s a nice day, so I’ll have to be late. What a berk.

A.S.D Brooks

Flattery?

Everybody that has met up with me in recent weeks have said one of two things. One – “You’re looking well” or “You’ve got a good suntan”.

Looking well for me can cover a multitude of sins. It’s what’s on the inside that matters. This time, since I achieved that wellness or “suntan”, things are looking ok, as it goes. That holiday to Portugal seems to have done me the world of good, in mind as well as body. Remember I alluded to the fact that laying on the sunbed on the beach, saw all the stresses and strains ebb away from me and out into the vast expanse of the Atlantic? Well, I do seem to be a bit more relaxed and hopeful of better times around the corner.

Of course, there will be the odd bump in the road. Today being a case in point. I had a volunteering stint at SANE to do and I dragged myself out of bed and out of the door. It was a little bit more of an effort than has been the case over the last fortnight. The weather here in the UK has helped, warm Autumn days and clear blue skies. But I needed that push today. And I did the volunteering and feel better for it.

So I’m impressed by the flattering remarks, but it doesn’t always hold true that looking well means a good mindset. But I’m back to doing some stuff around mental health, volunteering, peer support and maybe some presentations….I feel relaxed and able to approach this with more confidence. That’s good for the mind, too, and I like networking with like minded people.

Anyway, this suntan will turn to rust in a few weeks when Autumn turns into Winter. Glad to have some backup Vitamin D to help me on those short and drab days. Also planning another trip away next Spring too. So onwards and upwards….

A.S.D Brooks

In affectionate remembrance….

These are the famous Ashes, competed for by England and Australia since 1885. The Ashes are actually the remains of a bail and the trophy is on display at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

What a summer this has been. England won the Cricket World Cup in extraordinary circumstances in chaotic scenes at Lord’s. Next up it was the old foe, Australia. Nothing stirs the blood of England and Aussie cricket fans quite like the Ashes battles.

This year’s edition was one of the most compelling, exciting and dramatic to be played so far. For the most part, England were outplayed, mainly because of a malfunctioning top order and a very well honed Australian fast bowling attack, and of course, Steve Smith!

But the final result was 2-2. The bowlers were mainly on top, but what most cricket fans will be talking about was the third match of the series, at Headingley. England were seemingly dead and buried after being bowled out for a dismal 67 in their first innings. But the Aussies failed to reckon on one incredible innings from Ben Stokes. Stokes played the innings of his career to fire England towards one of the most amazing wins of all time. The crowd were beside themselves as Stokes singlehandedly guided England home, against all the odds.

Other great moments from the series? The discovery of a powerful England fast bowler, Jofra Archer. His lightning pace and fire put Steve Smith out of action for that third Test and also hit his replacement, Marnus Labuschagne a fearful blow on the head as well. Archer is a fearsome sight, with his easy, graceful run up and explosive pace. The series turned on that rain hit second Test at Lord’s.

Stuart Broad dismissed Aussie opener David Warner seven times in the series. Warner, like Smith and Cameron Bancroft, were constantly reminded of their role in the ball tampering scandal that rocked Australian cricket. Warner was given a torrid time by Broad and the crowd were unsympathetic. Broad was magnificent throughout the series after the injury suffered by England’s finest, Jimmy Anderson.

And then onto Steve Smith. In an Australian line up that looked as fragile as England’s, Smith was outstanding. He fidgets, shuffles around and looks throughly ugly at the crease. But his temperament and quality was unquestioned and he was the leading run scorer on either side, by a mile. The Oval crowd gave him a great ovation in the last Test, that finished today. We will see a lot more of him and have to figure out ways to dismiss him. England couldn’t.

Another Aussie hero was fast bowler Pat Cummins. Cummins had a very bad injury some while ago that threatened to end his career. But by sheer willpower and determination, he has risen to the top. He spearheaded the Aussie attack by being constantly hostile, at the England batsmen all the time and commanded respect.

Tim Paine, Australian captain, had a mixed series and couldn’t get his umpire reviews correct very often (of which more later). Joe Root was glad to draw the series 2-2, but England have plenty of problems in their top order. They’ve tried plenty of options but none of them seem to have worked. A better emphasis on four day cricket and the Test side would see players more equipped to play the longer innings required. That won’t happen overnight, of course. But to compete and hopefully beat the Australians on their own patch next time round must be an achievable goal.

And finally, a look at how the umpires performed. From a trained eye, not brilliantly would be an apt description. There were many mistakes on the field, and the ICC have to start looking and training up officials of Test match standard in the next few years. Joel Wilson from the West Indies is not up to scratch, and quite how he has been promoted to the top table is beyond me. Chris Gaffaney and Aleem Dar, though more experienced, also had matches to forget. And even mistakes were not confined to on field. Sri Lankan Ruchira Palliyguruge made two decisions as third umpire where lbw calls indicated bat on ball, but this was ignored by Palliyguruge.

It is difficult for the Test match officials, it is granted, but outside of England and Australia, the umpiring isn’t all that great. And that needs to change. That is a fact.

Anyway, a captivating series ended 2-2, and put Test match cricket where it belongs, at the top. Better than T20 cricket and these ten over leagues that are sprouting up everywhere. The pinnacle of the game, Test cricket. As it should be, always.

A.S.D Brooks

That’s it, you’ve had your fun….back to reality

Friday 30th August. 6 am. Rise and shine. Time to pack the stuff, say goodbye to Portugal and set off for home.

It doesn’t get light until 7, so we wait in the foyer for the minibus. Dead on time, he arrives and collects one or two others from some other local hotels and then we hit the road. The sun is making it’s first glimpses and the roads are quiet as we scoot along the main road between Albufeira and the airport.

The check in hall is full of mainly British holidaymakers going back on the various flights. It takes us a fair few minutes to get through all the processes, and without any breakfast in the hotel (too early), we decide to grab some grub before the flight. Unfortunately a customer decides to buy every item on the menu and with hunger and impatience taking over, we decant to another and far better eaterie.

Flight dead on time. Stomach turning over. Nervous as always. The takeoff was not as powerful as normal but it was smooth. The flight was pretty good in the main, with scarcely a bump. The first officer had a reassuring Essex accent(!) that kept us all at our ease.

Then I lift the window blind as we start our descent. The coast of northern France is in view as we move up the Channel. My propensity for getting irritated (I must be near home) came to the fore again. There was a young family in the row in front of us, and with the cabin crew forbidding people to use the toilets as we approached Southend, the child decided to play up and wanted the loo. Of course, she didn’t, but irritated the mother to the point of totally losing it. Welcome back to England!

The approach was slightly windy, and quick, but ultimately smooth. It was a nice, warm afternoon as we touched down in Southend. The mother/child Mexican standoff continued as we waited to get off and all the way into the immigration hall. It was a relief when they disappeared into the distance.

Some immigration officials have a sense of humour bypass, but the lady in Southend we encountered was full of fun and good banter. She requested I take my hat and glasses off, to which I replied “I’m much better looking with them on!”. She laughed but of course I had to comply with the polite request. As I went through I said to her “Don’t let my mate through!” His reply was “I think he’s a bit grumpy from not having enough sleep”. All in fun.

The smooth process from leaving the plane, through immigration, baggage pickup and out was 25 minutes. Better than most of the bigger airports I’ve been to. Straight out of the airport onto the adjoining railway platform for the journey back to London. Some wistful memories came and went with the gentle summer breeze as the train approached.

A fabulous five days. Great company, great weather, great hotel, great place, great food. Now hoping that good feeling will continue as I settle back into London life……hmm, get back to you on that one.

I thoroughly recommend Albufeira as a holiday destination. Love Portugal as a country with it’s relaxed and friendly way of life, and it’s relatively cheap too. I shall return, for longer next time. Now on with the Autumn and Winter….joy.

A.S.D Brooks

Typical isn’t it?

Yesterday I had no cricket due to extreme heat. Today I had no cricket due to……rain. Yep, that perennial enemy of all cricketers came to London and washed out my intended game.

Couldn’t sleep last night as it was so oppressive. Managed to squeeze in a few hours shuteye when I was woken by a loud clap of thunder around 9am. Then the rain started, in bucket loads. It did have the object of freshening up the air and making things a little more bearable after the last four days of insane heat.

My colleague picked me up and we made our way to the game. The rain was still chucking it down and I then said “I bet the game is off and no one has been told!” Correct answer. But this is where I get on my hobby horse of slapdash cricket administration. One of the teams had to come from the other end of the county, about 40 miles or an hour’s drive away. A few players turned up with their parents (it was a youth game) only to be told it was cancelled.

They were not informed before they left. Dreadful administration. Food had been brought, and a lot of organisation had been put in but no one had remembered to tell the travelling team and their entourage and the two umpires – us. Not pleased, even though our journey was relatively short. It seems that people lower down the pecking order are not informed when a game is likely to be abandoned, like umpires, scorers and other associated people. Not good enough, I’m afraid.

There was little prospect of play in any case as the playing area was under water and it was still raining hard. But what a wasted journey. Poor stuff all round.

So me and my colleague went for some lunch and that was rather nice, discussing future games, having a laugh and that helped to break up a largely forgettable and frustrating day thus far. Looks as though the heatwave has broken and the weekend’s weather prospects look rubbish. The air is cleaner, it’s less oppressive, though still warm, but at least nobody is sweating buckets and feeling as though they’ve run a marathon. Enjoyed the rain falling earlier.

And possibly….there may be a foreign holiday coming up! Watch this space, plans are in their infancy.

A.S.D Brooks

Cambridge is top of the shop….

An historic day for weather here in the UK. We’ve had four days of intense heat and humidity culminating in records tumbling across the country today.

The all time July temperature record has gone, but the all time record of 38.5 Celsius set on 10th August 2003 has remained intact. Cambridge Airport came in at 38.1 Celsius which is a tad over 100 Fahrenheit. This late in the afternoon won’t see any improvement on that. Hot enough, I’ll think you’ll agree.

I’ve not shifted from the flat today, and I had no intention of doing so. And also this weather has played havoc with London’s rail network today, so any chance of getting around would have been zero. My local rail line has cancelled all trains, further adding credence to my theory that any extreme of weather, be it rain, snow, fog, wind or heat and the infrastructure crumbles like a biscuit. Today is no different, and I’m glad I haven’t gone outside. Tomorrow will bring a respite from this insane weather with rain and cooler temperatures, thank goodness.

So the big heatwave of summer 2019 has ended, not quite with a record, but pretty damn close. We can all return to normality after four pretty incredible days.

A.S.D Brooks

How are we all coping?

Morning. Well that was a great disappointment last night. Laid awake expecting lots of thunderstorms and rain, and we got precious little where I’m located. But that soda water and ice sent me to bed happy.

I’m in the SANE office today. Everybody is drained and complaining of the oppressive nature of this weather. But there is a silver lining around the cloud. Tomorrow I was due to be scoring in a cricket match, but because of the high possibility of the record temperature in the UK going tomorrow, the cricket has been cancelled, and in my opinion, very sensibly. I’ve not heard of cricket being cancelled because of extremely high temperatures before, but this is a common sense decision which I applaud.

As for me tomorrow, I’ll be having all windows open in the flat, electric fans on full blast and a store of soft drink in the fridge with copious amounts of ice. I’m very reluctant to step out of doors tomorrow into temperatures of over 100F. While everyone is pleased to see good summer weather, this is bordering on dangerously extreme. So I’m glad the cricket is off!

The above is my method of coping in the heat. What’s yours?

A.S.D Brooks