Ok, I'm taking a few liberties here, so indulge me, Frank Tyson was a Lancastrian, not a Northamptonian but he played for Northants CCC and was very loyal to them, so that's good enough for me,
Oh, and he played for England, very successfully it has to be said, his figures of 7 for 27 against Australia in the 1954/55 Test Series at the MCG confirmed him as a quality fast bowler, and a man who took his profession very seriously.
Of his time as a player for the county he once said, "Not one player has derived more enjoyment than me out of Northants cricket,"
Frank only ended up playing for the county team because of his late arrival at a second eleven game for Lancashire, so their loss was so to speak, our gain, Northants have never been blessed with a surfeit of talent. They have had some good and loyal players but have always been a bit of a cinderella team, in F.H Tyson they had a bit of a gem.
Why am I writing about the late Mr Tyson ?, partly because I'm a cricket nut, partly because England have just played a Test Match and been soundly thrashed, by it has to be said a West Indian side who outplayed them in every respect, and because he was one of Northants best ever players and deserves to be remembered.
The sight of a genuinely fast bowler is something you can only appreciate when seen live, on the television it still looks impressive, but live you get a sense of what it must be like waiting at the other end of the strip, wondering what the ball will do.
If protective kit is needed in any game cricket is surely it, I know some say "watching cricket is like watching paint dry" I would have said the same some years back, but the first time I saw a live game, funnily enough the West Indies touring side playing at Northants in the early 1980's, I was hooked.
What was special about Frank Tyson ?, well sheer pace, which batsmen generally don't like, and interestingly apart from that Frank was an educated man who liked to quote Shakespeare and Wordsworth to opposing batsmen.
Sledging or its more contemporary manifestation "mental disintegration", we should differentiate between the two, has been around in cricket for a very long time, some very funny exchanges have taken place over the years between some great players.
One of my favourite conversations took place between that attacking England player Ian (Beefy) Botham, a man not known to back down or shy away from confrontation, and Rod "Iron gloves" Marsh of Australia, another combative player.
Marsh to Botham, "So how's your wife and my kids?".
Botham to Marsh, " The wife is fine, but the kids are retarded".
Now you just don't get quality like that anymore,
There are loads of other great exchanges too numerous to mention, the players of today still like to try to distract their opponents with chatter but don't seem to have the sharp wit required,
Jimmy Anderson batting as a tail ender was once told by Michael Clarke "Get ready for a broken &@cking arm".
Which in my humble opinion doesn't really cut the mustard, there's no wit, humour, or anything that suggests any real thought, it's just a crude threat, not worthy of any cricketer, more so when they are the Captain of their team.
Michael Clarke did say this afterwards,
"I regret that language I used, and I regret the fact I said it over the stump mic – the last thing I want is boys and girls watching to be going and playing club cricket and saying things like that to opposition players," he said.
"I think that's unacceptable that the Australian cricket captain is setting that example."
So what he was actually saying was "I'm sorry I got caught out", which is a sorry excuse for an apology.
Some things in life are harder to do than others, one of the hardest must be to sandpaper a ball down with a broken arm, but then who would want to sandpaper a cricket ball ??.
Personally I love the game and never want to see or hear the players drop to the level of footballers where abuse of the opposition or the referee is seen as normal, to me that would be taking something great and diminishing it, don't get me wrong I know times change, but cricket should always be played in the true spirit of sport, rant over.
The bloke you can see below with the big bushy mustache is bid bad Merv Hughes who I once met at Northant's County Cricket Ground, he had a reputation for swilling large amounts of lager on aeroplanes apparently.
I like to think that if it had been suggested by an opposing batsman to FHT that he thought a lot of himself as a bowler he would have responded more eloquently, perhaps using this quote from Shakespeare,
"Self-Love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting".
Quoting the Bard, not something done too much on the cricket pitches of today I suppose, but maybe something we should encourage, with microphones on the stumps these days cricket could become both an entertainment and an education in one.
I recently got hold of a copy of Franks book " A Typhoon called Tyson", the book was first published in 1961 so reading it's not only interesting to hear his own thoughts on cricket and life in general but it's a little bit of social history.
The book is full of facts about that time when the attitudes of the ordinary person and those at the top were so much different than what we consider the norm today, it was literally another world.
The story of how Lancashire lost the talents of the man is typical of the closed, inflexible thinking of the cricket hierarchy that existed at the time, probably prevalent generally. a sort of arrogance that says we know best. Wait a minute, surely we have moved on, or have we ?.
I watched the film about Eddie the Eagle a while back and seeing how Eddie had to struggle to convince the high ups to give him a chance apart from all the other obstacles he faced confirmed the idiocy of that sort of thought process.
During the introduction where Frank describes his own feelings about the art of fast bowling he says" I know there have been better bowlers, with better actions, more control and greater accuracy". Keats said in one of his letters "O for a life of sensation rather than thoughts". That would be a good comment on my bowling.
Lord Kitchener once wrote a song called "Tyson taught them a lesson that can't be forgotten", Like the lyrics, magnificent Tyson, had their batsmen beaten.
The bowling was so good it remind them of Larwood.
Oh how those Aussies must have loved Frank, the pommie annihilator.
Frank describes in the book how after the Sydney Test which England had won the team were still in the city on the following Sunday, and he and George Duckworth took a train to visit Harold Larwood who had been the destroyer of the Aussies in the notorious Body Line series.
Harold and his family had emigrated to Australia and although at the time of Body Line there had been a lot a anger generated by England's bowling tactics the Aussies had largely forgiven Harold Larwood..
In Australia the blame for these tactics was laid squarely at the feet of the then England Captain, Douglas Jardine, Franks thoughts were that Harold resented the fact that English official opinion placed the odium of an unpopular policy on the shoulders of the mere pawns in the game.
When Frank suggested to Larwood that he should come and meet the rest of the England team he turned the offer down, and apparently fours years later when Frank visited again and asked the same question the offer was turned down again, Harold it seemed wanted nothing to do with the MCC.
FH Tyson played only 17 Test matches for England, the enormous strains on the body which fast bowling inflicts took their toll and he inevitably suffered from injuries.
Every fast bowler has his own unique action, Tysons described as a mix of the rhythmic and the ungainly. A long run up culminating in a high arm action, his left shoulder facing the batsman, right arm cocked up. He did shorten his run up at some point but the strains on his leg and shoulder joints must have been huge.
This was followed by a ferocious heave of the shoulders. On delivery, his left leg kicked out and his arm was brought down with a slinging movement the entire weight landing on the right foot.
The Australian newspapers decribed him like this, "he looked more like a pre-occupied scientist. Without a cricket ball in his hand he wouldn’t cause a ripple in a bird bath.”
Looks however can be deceiving and Tyson bowled with tremendous pace. Making his first class debut against the touring Indians of 1952, the slips moved back an extra five yards after his first ball. He did not take long to get his first wicket, Pankaj Roy caught behind for a duck.
Pace bowling puts fear into even the best batsmen, and given that at the time Tyson was bowling the only protective equipment worn was a box, you can understand that fear, a cricket ball to the arm, hand, or leg at pace is immensely painful, to the head or neck it could prove fatal.
Tyson retired from First-Class cricket in 1960, at which time he emigrated to Australia and took up post as a School Master, he also coached cricket, nobody loving a sport so much could ever really give it up completely.
Given the outcome of the 2005 Ashes series Franks thoughts on how it would turn out is worth a read
He also commentated on cricket for no less than 36 years for Australian radio, a great man for Northants and for England, wherever you may be Frank, thank you.
Let's be honest modern life is full of noise, from traffic, mobile phones, aircraft, we are surrounded by it more or less twenty four hours a day, sometimes its nice to just get away from the hubbub if only for a short time to collect our thoughts, and stretch the legs.
Parks can be a great place to spend some time but even here noise can sometimes interrupt our reverie, where to go then to find some peace ?.
Walking along the side of a canal, or even travelling slowly and serenely on a narrowboat is a great wind to wind down, and travel through relatively unspoilt countryside.
Watching and listening to wildlife, and breathing in some fresh air, in any season our canal system is a fantastic resource, a legacy from a time when life was generally slower.
A product of some very clever engineers and the sweat and sheer hard graft of many thousands of men.
From a personal perspective I love being around or on water, to me its an experience a bit like sitting and watching an open fire in the Winter, there is something completely satisfying, uncomplicated, and relaxing about the experience.
The story of the Northamptonshire stretch of the Grand Union is one which typifies the men who saw a way to make something work and set about creating something that would endure, even when seemingly insurmountable obstacles came up they found very clever and inventive ways to overcome them.
Blisworth Tunnel was and is an engineering marvel, take a look in the Summer when you can drop in to one of the two pubs close by and have a quick pint, or glass of wine, just sit and watch the canal boats, very relaxing.
The entrance to the tunnel
Construction of the tunnel began in 1793 and would take many more years to reach completion, fourteen men died due to a collapse that took place when they hit quicksand and part of the roof came down. many more men would die before in opened in 1805, sadly a total of fifty fatalities in all.
These days fourteen men dying in a accident like that would be a national scandal, in those days men were seen as pretty much expendable, Those men worked long hard days with no safety equipment, the pay I should imagine wasn't much to write home about, and I would imagine they weren't well liked by the locals, something I would like to research.
Today I took a walk along another stretch of the canal on a dull January day and took a few pictures which I hope to contrast to others I will take in the Spring when things start to green up.
Canal side pictures
Obviously I'm not going to pretend you can't find ugliness even in the midst of natural beauty, and concrete with a dose of graffiti is probably one of the ugliest things about modern life.
However contrast the ugliness in the the picture above with some of the great artwork which has been painted onto some of the once dull concrete walls holding up bridges that pass over the canal, they depict Northampton's history, you can see some of them below.
I thought it looked great and its good to know that people want to improve our environment, and two local schools have been involved which is good for the children getting to know about the towns history and the world outside of a screen.
If you take a walk along the Northampton Arm you'll see the mosaic trail as well, again that involved children from local schools,
The other great thing about being by the canal is just chatting with the boaters, they will often tell you where they have come from and where they are going to, I sometimes assist other IWA (Inland Waterways Association) volunteers who clear litter along the canal and cut back vegetation,
Over the years many bags of litter have been collected and shopping trolleys pulled out of the water, a few bikes have come out from their watery grave as well. The boaters or walkers will often say they appreciate what's done which is nice to hear.
I think we would struggle to move this though. :)
Going back to Blisworth Tunnel, when large rebuilding works were carried out in the 1980's precast concrete rings were used on some sections, and apparently this was to test the materials ready for the Channel Tunnel,
The other thing I should mention is that around 1992 a couple travelling through the tunnel
had a spooky experience when they saw a fork in the tunnel and candlelight, there is no fork in the tunnel but it's said to be haunted by the men who were buried alive when the fatal collapse incident took place.
I think there used to be a boat trip into the tunnel telling you all about ghosts and scary stuff, not sure if it still runs but worth checking out.
Believe it or not at one stage steam tugs used to pass through the tunnel, imagine being stuck in it breathing in all that smoke and steam, must have been pretty horrendous, hence the ventilation shafts you can see above the tunnel.
Above, IWA volunteers clearing litter and paths.
I'm going off at a bit of a tangent here but while browsing the interweb I came across a newspaper article -
A walk with the FT: The Weedon Bec route near Northampton
It was the Weedon Bec bit that caught my eye, but then I read on and saw the name Patrick Leigh Fermor, have you ever seen a film called "Ill met by moonlight" about the capture of a German General on the island of Crete ?.
Being a fan of old black and white films, and having read the book I thought the article was very interesting.
He was a bit of an adventurer, one of those English eccentrics that have largely died out sadly, apparently he spent his early years in Weedon Bec, something I was completely unaware of.
If you have time have a read -
If you walk along the Northampton Arm you'll see the mosaic trail as well, again local children did the designs.
So if you are ever in Northampton take time to wander along the canal, if you are a dog walker its perfect, nice and flat, Spring is a great time when everything is turning green.
A plea if you do walk your dog along the canal, please don't do what some do, bag up your dogs poo and throw it in the bushes, it looks horrible.
January can be a miserable month, you are still getting over the Christmas holiday, you are skint, it's cold, and the Brexit turmoil grinds inexorably on, making the early 1970's seem like a walk in the park.
Yes, listening to the interminable chatter about backstops, no deals, Norway type deals, Jean Claude Juncker, votes of no confidence, imminent catastrophe, trade deals, borders, brexiteers, remainers, its all akin to being kicked in the head by a skinhead, just because you have long blonde hair.
The kicking however lasts only seconds.
This week I read about something called a Brexit Box, containing all the stuff you need to get you through a crisis, cost, a few hundred quid, probably worth about £100 tops, no doubt someone will make some money out of the those whose synapses are less well connected than even mine.
Putting all this aside there is still joy to be had, turn off the telly, put on a coat, and drive out into the heart of the countryside, and you may find some solace from the troubles of modern urban life.
Last Sunday I ended up in Geddington after failing to navigate to another destination, the combined efforts of a sat nav, and my Wife, and to be fair the effect of loads of road works, equalled failure to get to our original destination and as I was getting irritable I said "lets go to Geddington instead and take a look at the Eleanors Cross and pop into the pub"
First thing we see as we walked up towards the Cross, a lady on a handsome GG, GG even posed for a pic.
Queen Eleanors Cross
When Eleanor of Castile, the first wife of Edward I, died at Harby, near Lincoln, in 1290, the grief-stricken king was driven to create the most elaborate series of funerary monuments to any queen of England. He ordered the building of 12 elegant crosses to mark each of the resting places of his wife’s funeral procession as it travelled from Lincoln to her burial place at Westminster Abbey, London.
Imagine having something like that as a memorial to the fact that you have existed on this planet, personally I like my ashes to be be stored in the centre of a cricket ball,
When you pop into a country pub its great to sit by a fire, yep I know they have now been declared more toxic than a hundred VW diesels in your living room but the fascination of looking into a fire will never dim for me.
The church has some great history, so much so its hard to take it all in,
Sir Robert Dallington died in 1636 and left a sum of money for the benefit of 24 aged inhabitants of Geddington. Although considered to be Members of the “poor” it was, and still is, considered to be a symbol of respectability to number among the 24 that receive a loaf of bread each week.
The conditions for receiving the bread would be considered very harsh today’, the idea was to encourage respectability and more importantly for the peasants to obey the law, as at this time “enclosure” was causing trouble and there was always potential for things to flare up. Anything that could help to quell the bad feeling and general resentment was I suppose, thought to be a good idea.
So here the subject of enclosure rears its ugly head again, see (Radical Northamptonshire) and for added irony read below
So now we come to one Maurice Tresham, member of one of the largest land owning families who were responsible for land enclosure in the area, guess what, he was one of the original Overseers of the charity.
Sir Robert Dallington's Gift in Bread had a few conditions attached.
Reading through some of the conditions gives the impression that most of them, if not all, were all about control, for example -
"If any of these twenty four receive married folk into their houses, Strangers, or Children, without the consent of the OverSeers, they shall receive no bread while they are there".
The word Overseer is a bit sinister in itself.
How about this one -
"If any of these twenty four be not at devine service every Sunday they shall lose their bread that day unless they are hindered or some other lawful let".
And this one was obviously related to enclosure and preventing practical opposition to it -
"If any of these twenty four, or any of their families, do break or carry away any hedges, stiles, corn, or the like, they shall receive no bread the next four Sundays afterwards. Whoever is the discoverer thereof, shall have their bread to dispose of where they will".
A plea to grass on your neighbour and nothing less, and a warning that says, "if you do anything to hinder enclosure you are going hungry",