When Auden and Isherwood left Britain for America in 1939 they attracted much opprobrium and many brickbats. Evelyn Waugh portrayed them as Parsnip and Pimpernel, lily-livered pansy traitors who left their country in its hour of greatest need (though how exactly Great Britain needed two literary types like Wystan and Christopher he didn’t quite explain) and many red-blooded patriots to this day still shake their heads at the mere mention of their names.

So now I have a monstrous confession to make. I am quite as much a cowardly wuss as any who has ever abandoned his homeland in times of trial and tension. As I write this I am 38,000 feet above sea level, hurtling towards New York City at 533 statute miles per calendar hour. Happily Alan, the captain of the plane, has personally popped down to tell me the current cricket score – my chosen career and its attendant baggage of fame have their advantages (carry-on baggage of fame, I suppose one should term it). The flight deck had tuned in to the BBC’s 198 longwave transmissions of TMS to receive the news that England were 100 for 3. No loss of wickets yet. But at this moment we’re too far over the Atlantic for broadcast radio reception and are now relying on Shannon’s ATC tower for updates, which are achingly slow in coming. For all I know we’re ten wickets down at lunch and Australia have launched a devastating counterattack.


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Glory Be

There is a quality in human affairs, so rare, so fleeting and so intense that to invoke its name in any context risks derision. To invoke its name in the context of sport must seem especially perverse, pretentious, preposterous and pathetic. I have always flirted with those four mockable Ps and nothing can stop me now. Even a reasonable night’s sleep hasn’t diminished the euphoria that sees me now unleashing a peal of eulogistic superlatives and hyperbolic encomia that can only bring me taunts, yawns and snorts.

What is this quality, so rarified, so prized? It is Glory. Glory is a golden word to be used, like saffron, in sparing pinches. Religion has always loved it, and tried to deny it to the sublunary sphere. Gloria, gloria; Gloria in excelsis Deo. Glory be to the Father. Solomon in all his glory. Our glorious dead. It has often been observed of war that while it is rightly hated and feared for bringing out the worst in humankind, it cannot be denied that it can sometimes bring out the best too. It is one of the few human arenas that can produce true glory.


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Cricket Speech Presented at Lord’s 14th July 2009

Thank you ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much indeed. It is an honour to stand before so many cricketing heroes from England and from Australia and at this, my favourite time of year. The time when that magical summer sound comes to our ears and gladdens our old hearts, the welcome sound of leather on Graham Swann.

I have been asked to say a few words – well more than a few. “You’ve twenty minutes to fill,” I was firmly told by the organisers. 20 minutes. Not sure how I’ll use all that time up. Perhaps in about ten minutes or so Andrew Strauss would be kind enough to send on a a physio, that should kill a bit of time.


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