A Hawk in the Rain : Larwood at Kirkby-in-Ashfield

Street cricket is a thing you don’t much see these days, but if you were to approach the centre of Kirkby-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, taking the route you would be likely to take, and had, perhaps, taken a glass or two at lunchtime or your glasses were obscured by rain, you might, in a passageway between a boarded-up* library and a branch of Morrisons, fancy you had come across a rare example.

Larwood v Bradman

If you were to come nearer and wipe the rain from your glasses, you would see that you had stumbled across a tableau and, if you were to read the plaque nearest the figure of the bowler, you would realise that it was meant to represent Harold Larwood, whose home village of Nuncargate forms part of Kirby-in-Ashfield.

I think this is a fine statue, though I’m not sure it’s Larwood, or, rather, which Larwood it might be. It is not the chthonic Larwood of the imagination, bred in darkness, brutish and mercurial, or the Larwood of biography, the shy young Methodist or the kindly Victory Road sweetshop-owner; nor is it the kinetic Larwood of the newsreels, knuckles dusted red from brushing the earth at the beginning of his delivery arc, toecap frayed from ripping through the crease, knees buckling under the downward force of his own upper body-strength.


The sculptor has captured, if anything, not  Larwood but a Platonic  ideal of the fast bowler, a frozen embodiment of pent-up energy, an Agincourt bowman on the verge of release, a hawk at the height of his stoop.

Approaching from the other direction, you would first come across a figure who is unmistakably, without the aid of his plaque, Donald Bradman, prematurely playing forward with a smug expression on his face, rather than, cunningly or otherwise, backing off in the direction of square-leg, as was his wont when confronted with Larwood.


The Don is also confronted here, at sillyish mid-off, by this figure, rain dripping from the end of his nose and looking like a rugby full-back preparing to stop a speeding winger in his tracks.


In his case, I don’t think I would have identified the sturdy, but diminutive figure as the 6’4″ Bill Voce (also a local) without the aid of this forthright quotation:


Now the Larwood statue is, as I have said, very fine and Bradman and Voce seem to fit together well, but moving from one end to the other and considering the piece as a whole there is something odd about it.  For one thing, the Bradman statue is slightly less than life-size and Voce, as I have said, considerably less so, whereas Larwood (a short man in real life) is at least seven feet tall.  For another, Larwood is clearly, whichever no-ball rule you apply, about to delivery one which would nowadays arouse the suspicion of the authorities:

Larwood no-ball

An uninstructed viewer might well come away with the impression that the cause of the unpleasantness on the Bodlyine tour was that the Don was in the habit of blindly playing  forward to massive no-balls delivered from about 18 yards by a giant, which would indeed have led, inevitably, to injuries and ill-feeling.

A little sleuthing suggests a reason for the oddity of the composition : the statue of Larwood (intended to be more than life-sized) originally stood on its own in another location and was mounted on a plinth.  Only recently was it moved to its current site, where the other figures were added to create the current street cricket scenario.

(This is carping, by the way.  I was in Kirkby-in-Ashfield specifically to see the statue of Larwood and thought it well worth the visit.  I also liked the town and the surrounding countryside and have added it to Duffield and Buxton on my mental list of places I’d like to watch some cricket in the near future, if I’m spared.)

*Only temporarily so, I think.

A Happy Easter from the Vegetable Kingdom

A happy Easter to you all.

The animal kingdom is traditionally well represented in depictions of Easter (rabbits, chicks) as are flowers (the daffodil), but I feel our friends the vegetables get a bit of a raw deal.  So here, from a blog that usually celebrates locally sourced, seasonal sport is a selection of what may well be local sourced, seasonal Spring vegetables (in fact an “impressionist pond collage of vegetables”, borrowed from Tessa Traeger’s photography for Arabella Boxer’s ‘A visual feast : the year in food’).

So, Happy Easter again and bon appetit!



England versus Ireland : the Wearing of the Green and White

As England take on Ireland tomorrow (at Rugby football rather than cricket, I suppose it is now necessary to point out), a look at how the equivalent fixture was advertised by London Transport in 1934*. Rather more elegantly, I’d say.  The artist is Charles Burton.  I’m not sure he was fully conversant with the rules of Rugby, given the unlikelihood of the situation depicted occurring in a match, but he has made inventive use of a limited palette (green, white, black and grey).  Was this, I wonder, a purely artistic decision or was it dictated in some way by the limitations of the printing process?  Or perhaps, like the Blackpool trams of my youth, this was the livery of the railway company concerned?


England v Ireland

I’m not sure which theory this supports, but a similar limited palette is in evidence from January’s selection (for yes, I am “borrowing” these images from the calendar on my wall).


This was published by the Underground Electric Railway Company Ltd. in 1913 and the artist was Sidney Thomas Charles Weeks.  Again, I doubt realism was the primary motivation for the colour scheme.  A white polo-necked jersey would hardly have been practical for diving in the mud, and I don’t believe any footballer prior to Alan Ball in his Blackpudlian youth wore white boots.

Most of the clubs advertised (if not the venues) are still familiar, but the Queen’s Club (now better known for tennis) was where the Corinthian F.C. played most of their home fixtures.  London Caledonians were an amateur club (the equivalent of London Scottish at Rugby football, I suppose), who were a power in the Isthmian League, but failed to reconvene after World War II.

* Although this poster was, apparently, published in 1934, it seems to be advertising the 1935 Home Nations fixture, which was won 14-3 by England.  Ireland, however, went on to win the Championship. Let us hope that is not an omen!