Pensthorpe 2: Up to Lunch

The second of my three part series about the West Norfolk Autism Group#s visit to Pensthorpe Natural Park.

Welcome to the second of my three posts about the West Norfolk Autism Group’s inaugural activity, a visit to Pensthorpe Natural Park (click here to see the first post).

MONET INSPIRED BRIDGE TO MAIN ENTRANCE

I followed the paths onward from the Monet inspired bridge, taking a few detours along the way, until I arrived back near the entrance. I had brought food and water with me, and I consumed them at this point, and finished my book while waiting for the next stage of the day, the ride on the Pensthorpe Explorer.

PHOTOGRAPHS

The same question/challenge that I introduced yesterday’s photo section with applies today…

Pensthorpe 1: Start to Monet Inspired Bridge

Part one of a three part account of the West Norfolk Autism Group’s inaugural activity, a visit to Penshtorpe Natural Park. The photograph section comes with a question/challenge.

This is the first of three posts that I shall be putting up about the West Norfolk Autism Group’s inaugural activity, a visit to Pensthorpe Natural Park.

ABOUT WNAG

The West Norfolk Autism Group was established in an effort to secure more local funding for activities for autistic people and also because a degree of disillusionment with the conduct of the National Autistic Society’s head office. More details about the new group can be found on its website to which I have already linked, and also in this article published by Your Local Paper.

GETTING TO PENSTHORPE

Pensthorpe is located just off the the road from Fakenham to Norwich (the X29, the bus between Fakenham and Norwich could easily include it in their route if they wanted to, and the route of the 36 between Fakenham and Wells could be adjusted to include without massive upheaval) but I did not have to worry about working out how to get there because a coach had been hired, with a pick up point at Gaywood Tesco, within comfortable walking distance of my home in North Lynn. Those using the bus were supposed to be there for 9:30AM yesterday for a 9:45AM departure. Thus at 9AM yesterday morning I set off, with a bag containing food, water and a book and made my way to the appointed place. The ride took about 45 minutes (a law abiding driver cannot do it any quicker even in light traffic, which we benefitted from). A few minutes after arrival we were good to start our exploration. Before lunch we were going to be walking around those parts of the site that can be seen on foot, and then after that some of us were booked on the Pensthorpe Explorer to experience the rest. The rest of this post covers the first part of the exploration I did on foot.

STARTING TO EXPLORE

Once one gets past the entrance, the shop and the courtyard cafe one is confronted by an expanse of water and a range of splendid water birds which set the stage for the wonders to come. I started by heading in the direction of the cranes and flamingoes, and then headed on beyond them, eventually reaching a sign pointing to the Monet inspired bridge (Claude Monet, the great French impressionist painter, had an ornamental bridge in his garden at Giverny, which his painting made famous). The bridge is quite impressive, and it does indeed resemble the structure that inspired it.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I end this with the photographs from the section of the visit up to and including the bridge, and a question/challenge. Should I go back to creating calendars as I used to do? Please comment with answers to this question, if possible fleshed out with details of photos you would like to see featured in said calendar. To view a photo at full size click on it.

The County Championship 2022 So Far

A look back at the most recent round of county championship fixtures.

Another round of County Championship fixtures reached its conclusion yesterday, and this post looks at some of these matches.

STOKES’ INNINGS

Newly appointed England test skipper Ben Stokes was playing his first match since that announcement, turning out for Durham against Worcestershire. By the time Stokes got to the crease in the Durham 1st innings the score was 360-4 and Worcestershire had already bowled about 100 overs. Stokes proceeded to blast 161 off 88 balls including taking 34 (6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 4) off a single over from Josh Baker. This prompted a player turned pundit known in certain circles as FIGJAM (an acronym for F*** I’m Good – Just Ask Me) to jump on his hobby horse calling for the franchising of county cricket. He was roundly taken to task for this, and subsequent developments confirmed that his slating of the Worcestershire bowlers was misguided to put it kindly – Durham declined to enforce the follow on, declared their second innings at 170-1, and Worcestershire saved the match quite comfortably, 21 year old Jack Haynes batting through the final day for a maiden first class century (120*). Stokes bowled 30 overs across the two Worcestershire innings without taking a wicket.

FOUR CONTRASTING MATCHES

I followed parts of four of the matches via the live commentaries available on the bbc website (open a browser, enter http://www.bbc.co.uk/cricket in the address bar, then click the button for live commentaries and select your match). Initially I opted for Surrey v Northants, which ended just over a day early, following a clinical performance by Surrey. Surrey racked up 401 in their only innings, Burns scoring a century and Sam Curran, Jordan Clark and Gus Atkinson all scoring useful runs as well. It was only a good innings by Luke Procter (83*) that enabled Northamptonshire to score 194 in their first innings, and Surrey rightly enforced the follow on. The second Northamptonshire innings improved slightly on the first, but Surrey won by an innings and six runs.

My next port of call was Hampshire v Gloucestershire, where Hampshire won in spite of some curious captaincy by James Vince. Having scored 342 in their first innings Hampshire bowled Gloucestershire out 179, an advantage of 163, which in a four day match is sufficient to be able to enforce the follow on. However, even though this opportunity was combined with a further opportunity to bowl an awkward mini-session at the Gloucestershire second innings and then return refreshed after a night’s rest, Vince took the coward’s option of batting again. He then selfishly tried to protect himself from batting that evening by sending in two nightwatchers, the first of them with nine overs still to be bowled. He still had to go in before the close of play anyway. Hampshire eventually achieved a lead of 367 and Gloucestershire set off in pursuit. There were times when it looked like Vince’s bizarre captaincy was going to be punished, but in the end Gloucestershire came up almost 100 short and Vince got away with it.

Then I switched over to Lancashire v Warwickshire, where three wickets for Matt Parkinson had opened up an outside possibility of a win for the home side. In the event Briggs (28*) and Benjamin (22*) did enough for hands to be shaken an hour before the scheduled close. In view of the tall scoring that has generally been the norm so far this championship season Parkinson’s cumulative bowling figures for the season of 17-397 at 23.36 a piece (very close to his overall career record of 119 at 23.35) are excellent, and to me constitute an ironclad claim to a test spot.

Cheteshwar Pujara has been scoring huge runs for Sussex this season, and their match against Middlesex was no exception. Sussex set Middlesex a tough target of 370 in 77 overs, and Middlesex to their credit went for it, Sam Robson leading the way with 149. By the time I joined the coverage Max Holden and Martin Andersson were together with Middlesex just under 100 away from the target and ahead of the run rate. They stayed together to see the chase through and Middlesex got home with seven wickets and three overs to spare – a tremendous final day run chase by them. Incidentally as a further illustration of how good Parkinson has been this season, Sussex had a former England leg spinner in their bowling attack, Mason Crane, and on a fourth day pitch all he could produce was 16-0-81-0, whereas Parkinson’s figures at Old Trafford were 3-64 from 34 overs.

These matches all had great moments, and all showed in their different ways a county game that contrary to the rantings of certain former international players is in fine health.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

The Smith XI

Inspired by Jamie Smith’s batting at Bristol in the last round of championship games I have selected a team comprised entirely of Smiths (he is twelfth person). Also includes some of my photographs.

This post was inspired by Jamie Smith’s double century for Surrey against Gloucestershire in the last round of county championship fixtures.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

For reasons that will become obvious I am including a twelfth person on this occasion.

  1. Graeme Smith (left handed opening batter) – the South African’s record confirms him as one of the finest openers of the modern era. He was also a candidate for the captaincy which I have awarded instead to his opening partner.
  2. *Mike Smith (MJK Smith, right handed opening batter, captain) – The Warwickshire stalwart averaged over 40 in FC cricket.
  3. Robin Smith (right handed batter) – An excellent player of fast bowling but had the gloss taken off his test record when he was found badly wanting against Shane Warne. Still even with the deleterious effect of Warne on his overall record he finished with a test average of 43.
  4. Steven Smith (right handed batter, occasional leg spinner) – The best test batter of the modern era, and possibly his country’s second best ever behind Donald Bradman.
  5. Collie Smith (right handed batter, occasional off spinner) – killed in a road accident at the age of 26 but he had already achieved plenty of note, including scoring 168 in a test innings and racking up a triple century in a Lancashire League game.
  6. Sydney Smith (left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner) – West Indian born but primarily associated with Northamptonshire. He averaged 31 with the bat and 18 with the ball, figures that would probably equate to 46 and 27 on today’s more batting friendly surfaces. Three years after his arrival at Northamptonshire the county finished second in the championship, a position that they are yet to improve on 110 years later.
  7. +Ian Smith (right handed batter, wicket keeper) – A fine keeper and a good enough bat to have test centuries, including a top score of 173.
  8. ‘Big Jim’ Smith (CIJ Smith – right arm fast medium bowler, very aggressive right handed lower order batter) – still holds the record for the quickest 50 scored of genuine bowling, reaching the landmark in 11 minutes (overall innings 66 in 18 minutes). A good enough quick bowler to be selected for England at his peak.
  9. Peter Smith (leg spinner, attacking lower order batter) – his most famous performance came with the bat, for Essex against Derbyshire, when he came in at number 11 and proceeded to smash 163 out of a last wicket stand of 218. That innings helped him to achieve the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches for the first time in his career.
  10. Haydon Smith (right arm fast bowler, right handed tailender) – the Leicestershire quick will form a useful new ball pairing with ‘Big Jim’ in this team.
  11. ‘Razor’ Smith (off spinner, right handed tail ender) – over 1,000 FC wickets at 17.55 a piece. The Surrey and London County player completes a highly dangerous spin trio who all do different things with the ball (of the three Peter Smith the leg spinner is probably the least threatening, but even he took his FC wickets at 26.55 a piece.
  12. Jamie Smith (right handed batter, wicket keeper). The inspiration for this post. His double century at Bristol took his FC average north of 40, but he is not his county’s first choice keeper and I could not leave out Collie Smith to get him into the 11, so for the moment he is twelfthy for this team.

A LOOK AT THE XI

The team has a very strong top five, a genuine all rounder at six, an excellent keeper/ batter at seven, two useful hitters at eight and nine and only two out and out tailenders. The bowling his excellent variety, although it is short in the pace department. I would expect this team to give a good account of itself on most surfaces (only on a green seamer might they be in trouble).

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Given the lack of pace bowling I will start with that department. Gloucestershire left armer Mike Smith did not have a good enough record to merit selection, though he was a good county bowler. Warwickshire all rounder Paul Smith, who bowled fast medium, could only have been accommodated had I left out one of Collie or Sydney Smith, and I did not feel that I could drop either to make way for him.

There were two wicket keeping candidates other than Ian Smith, both with Warwickshire connections – ‘Tiger’ Smith and Alan Smith.

Off spinner Neil Smith, for all that he was briefly an England cricketer, was not of the same calibre as the spinners I have selected. Had Sydney Smith not had an ironclad case for inclusion as an all rounder I might have included a female in the shape of left arm spinner Linsey Smith.

Chris Smith might have had the opening slot I awarded to MJK. David Smith (Surrey, Worcs, Sussex, picked for the 1986 tour of the Caribbean) was a good county player but not (in spite of the fact that he attended a previous incarnation of my own secondary school) good enough to qualify for selection.

Finally, I deliberately did not pick the guy known in his Cambridge days as ‘Smith’ – KS Duleepsinhji, because I would have considered it hypocritical to avail myself of this “cheat code” given my own condemnation of the conduct of a certain county at which a senior overseas pro was referred to as ‘Steve’ by folk who weren’t prepared to pronounce his real name.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England Test Prospects For 2022 Season

A look ahead to the upcoming test summer with Ben Stokes as new captain.

The county championship season 2022 is in full swing, and there have been plenty of successes to celebrate from home grown talents. Ben Stokes has been appointed test captain in succession to Joe Root who resigned that office just before the season started (not a decision I would personally have made, but one that for the moment has to be accepted). Given recent batting efforts by England in test cricket only those two can be said to have nailed down front line batting slots while the bowling is somewhat more settled although finding a genuinely fast bowler who can stay fit remains a challenge, and spin options are somewhat limited. In the rest of this post I look at who is doing what and form my team and some likely alternatives for the coming season.

THE OPENERS

Alex Lees deserves an extended run having been selected for the tour of the West Indies and acquitted himself well there. I would like a right hander to partner him at the top of the order and Zak Crawley is not it for me – he averages below 30 for England and not much above that for Kent. Dominic Sibley is a possibility for a recall, but Tom Haines of Sussex had a good season last season and is in the runs again this time round, and he would be my choice. Rob Yates of Warwickshire is another prospect.

NUMBERS THREE AND FOUR

Joe Root will obviously fill one of these slots, and for me that would be number four owing to the fact that there are two regular number threes who are having outstanding seasons for their counties: James Bracey of Gloucestershire and Josh Bohannon of Lancashire. Bohannon has significantly the better overall record and has recently scored his maiden FC double century, and he would be my choice, with Bracey among the reserves.

NOS FIVE AND SIX

The skipper has one of these slots, leaving one other to fill. For me because his FC record is so far ahead of any other contender that slot goes to Ollie Pope though with a warning that if he fails to deliver some big scores in this summer’s test matches it will be the end of the road for him as a test player.

THE KEEPER AND BOWLERS

The keeper is an obvious choice – it is long past time that Ben Foakes was given an extended run at the highest level. The bowling is tougher, but based on form and fitness I would pick Woakes, who is one of the best in the world when playing in England (he is of questionable value abroad, which complicates matters but I regard his selection for home games as a must), and a 9, 10, 11 of Anderson, Mahmood and Parkinson (I believe it is time for England to trust the leg spinner who is improving rapidly and has a very impressive FC record). Oliver Edward Robinson has bowled well for England since his call up, but there have been fitness issues, notably in the later stages of The Ashes in Australia.

THE FIRST CHOICE XI

In batting order:

  1. Haines
  2. Lees
  3. Bohannon
  4. Root
  5. *Stokes
  6. Pope
  7. +Foakes
  8. Woakes
  9. Anderson
  10. Mahmood
  11. Parkinson

THE RESERVES

Among current openers Rob Yates of Warwickshire should be on the radar, while Ben Compton of Kent is making a strong case for being fast tracked (five centuries in his first 13 FC matches, current batting average 61 for just over 1,000 runs) into international cricket. There is also a case for Gloucestershire veteran Chris Dent who has just racked up a double century against Surrey in the course of which he has passed 10,000 FC runs at an average of 38.

Among middle order batters Dan Lawrence is of course in the mix, and I would add to him the names of James Bracey, Tom Abell and Jamie Smith, the last named another recent double century maker (that innings has pushed his career average above 40, and he is definitely on an upward trajectory at the age of 21).

There are various keepers doing well on the county circuit, and my personal pick for reserve keeper is Kent’s Oliver George Robinson.

Among the seam bowlers Stuart Broad is still going strong, Oliver Edward Robinson may merit further consideration if he can sort his fitness out, the Overton twins have both been in excellent form this season and if one of Archer, Stone or Wood can enjoy an injury free period they would be in the mix.

Jack Leach is the next best specialist spinner behind Parkinson, with youngsters Carson, Moriarty and Virdi all also on the radar. However it is unlikely that in England anyone would pick two specialist spinners, which brings Liam Patterson-White of Nottinghamshire into the equation. He bowls left arm spin and is a more than useful lower order batter. His averages are currently just the wrong way round – 25.45 with the ball and 24.65 with the bat, but he has plenty of time in which to improve, being only 23 years old.

FORECAST

For all that I am not entirely convinced that Stokes is the right choice as captain prospects are not altogether bleak, especially if some of the players I have named are given their opportunities. The batting is where there have been serious problems, and lots of players are scoring heavily in the early part of this season.

PHOTOGRAPHS

As usual I end this post by sharing some of my recent photographs…

James and Sons April Auction

An account of James and Sons’ April auction.

This Wednesday saw James and Sons’ April auction, the first of three auctions that are devoted entirely to an old client’s collection of stamps, postal history and first day covers (these auctions are interleaved with regular general sales, of which our next will be on May 18th). This post looks back at the day.

A GOOD AUCTION

With a large number of bidders registered, many of them newcomers, we were hoping for a good sale, and we got it in spades. Lot 66 attracted some lively bidding and ended up fetching £80. Lot 85 went for £100

A complete set of FDCs depicting the 1999 Treble Winning Manchester United.

Lot 120 netted £150 after some brisk bidding.

Lot 132 was the most remarkable story of the auction. It included some rare Wonderland stamps, and with the bidding starting at £30 an amazing stampede by online bidders pushed the final price up to an eye-popping £540!

Lots 161-9 were sheets of railway stamps. Two of those lots had attracted my own attention, but I was outbid on them – professionally satisfying, while personally disappointing.

Lot 198 saw another bidding war, a starting price of £60 mushrooming to £200.

Lot 204 raised £65.

Lot 278 was a consolation prize after the railway stamps got away – my opening bid of £8 closed proceedings.

Lot 295 was another I might have been interested in, but the price went too high for me, not very surprisingly in view of Terence Cuneo’s status:

Lot 302 soared to £170.

Lot 396 went to m5 for £55. If you are wondering about this price, which is more than I normally bid for a single lot, it was for a large box of FDCs which I knew to contain some quality railwayana and I was expecting it to comfortably pay for itself – I would select the stuff I wished to keep and would sell the rest. I have already split this lot into the stuff I intend to keep for myself and the stuff I wish to sell. The stuff I will be looking to sell includes some football FDCs and some military FDCs as well as some other stuff.

Here are some pictures showing the division of this lot as it stands currently…

The lid (at rear) contains the stuff I don’t want to keep, while the body of the box contains the stuff I am keeping.

Lots 444 and 445 attracted plenty of bidders, going for £130 and £140 respectively, while lot 489 fetched £100. I have no images for these lots, but lot 462, which I snagged for £8 is below:

The auction took almost five and a half hours (about half as long again as would be expected for a 500 lot auction), and I followed it from home via www.easyliveauction.com.

FINAL PHOTOGRAPHS

Just a few pictures from walks near my home:

Channel Islands 15: Homeward Bound

The final post in my series about my holiday in the channel islands.

This post will conclude my series about my holiday in the channel islands.

A BADLY TIMED FERRY

Our ferry back to England was scheduled to depart at 13:10 (had originally been 11:10, but was put back two hours before we even went on holiday), which was a very inconvenient time in two ways – it meant that I had to travel from Poole to King’s Lynn as a car passenger rather than as I had intended doing so by public transport, and it also meant with a lot of waiting around.

A SMOOTH FERRY JOURNEY AND A SLOW CAR JOURNEY

Once we were aboard the ferry an ensconced in our seats the journey was smooth and comfortable. Poole Harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world, meaning that there is plenty to be seen as the boat approaches land.

The journey from Poole to King’s Lynn was slow, and it was well past 11PM by the time I got home.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here are my pictures from that final day…

Channel Islands 13: Occupation Museum Part Two

Continuing my account of my holiday in the channel islands by completing the story of the German Occupation Museum.

This post continues my account of my recent holiday in the channel islands. It is the second post that I dedicate to the German Occupation Museum on Guernsey.

OCCUPATION STRASSE

The main part of what is left of the museum after what I covered in the previous post is Occupation Strasse. This is a reconstruction of a Guernsey street as it was during the period of the occupation. I also bought a couple of sets of Guernsey stamps of the period as souvenirs, and we all had some refreshments from the cafe. There is a bus stop close to the museum and Guernsey has an excellent bus system, so getting back to St Peter Port was not difficult.

Here is a map showing Guernsey’s bus network:

Channel Islands 12: Occupation Museum Part One

Continuing my account of my holiday in the channel islands with the first of two posts about the occupation museum.

Welcome to the latest post in my series about my holiday in the channel islands. This is the first post about the museum dedicated to the German occupation of Guernsey between 1940 and 1945.

THE OPENING VIDEO

The museum experience starts with a video about the occupation, which is well worth watching. There are then a set of rooms full of exhibits and then separated from them by the cafe is ‘Occupation Strasse’ – a reconstruction of a street in the time of the occupation. The short video sets the scene very nicely.

A LARGE COLLECTION OF GERMAN MILITARIA

The first exhibits are large quantities of German militaria. This stuff was all genuine (I work for an auctioneer, and German military is notorious for featuring a heavy preponderance of fakes, some convincing and others utterly blatant – I would go so far as to say that if you see German militaria listed in an auction catalogue regard it as fake until and unless proved otherwise).