Magazine article The Spectator

What Ho, Blowers!

Magazine article The Spectator

What Ho, Blowers!

Article excerpt





by Henry BloFeld

Hodder, L18.99, pp. 421

I found this a delightful book, boring in parts because too long (too many diary jottings about airflights to Test matches, scores, people met - `most delightful chap in the world', etc.) but interesting and entertaining for two thirds of its length, which is not a bad score. It also contains courage and charm. It helps, however, if you enjoy P. G. Wodehouse, to whom Blofeld owes much of his prose-style as well as his Woosterish public manner, and you have to be interested in cricket.

Blofeld's claim to fame is that he is one of the commentators on BBC radio Test Match Special and, in an age when princesses and prime ministers allow a popular touch of demotic Estuary into their pronounciation, he retains, unabashed, the full-blown patrician tones of an old Etonian not averse to self-parody. This makes him particularly loved/hated in Australia where, he admits, his voice is suggestive of a man who wears a bowler hat, but he hopes they will allow him `one honorary cork' hanging from the brim. Nevertheless, inverted snobbery must have made his accent, now his trademark, initially a hindrance to his entry into broadcasting.

He began as a very considerable cricketer. Selected to open the batting for Public Schools versus Combined Services at Lord's (because of National Service a side which contained County and future England players) he scored a century, which only Cowdrey and May had done before him. He was the coming man, he was 17, and within a few weeks had ridden his bicycle into the front of an oncoming bus. In his description of this he allows Wodehouse/Wooster to take over, but how else can you decently talk of such a misfortune? `I was not in the best of health. My skull had been broken much of the way round, a cheekbone had been squashed flat, my jaw was somewhat the worse for wear...' and so on. `Then they had to fish all the splinters of bone out of my brain and surrounding territories.'

He was still good enough to win a blue at Cambridge, and score `about 41' - that `about' is relishable - against the bowling of Statham and Higgs, but he knew he was not the same. In the middle of this account of his hectic life he takes time off for introspection.

All through my adult life I have been continually asked what effect my accident at Eton had on me. …

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