Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Nails!

Doctor Who once again features on the cover of this week's Radio Times. The issue looks forward to the new series - which starts on Saturday in case you didn't know - and talks to yer actual Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman her very self, who discuss their on-screen relationship, the challenges of working on the series and the success of the show. For example, Jenna said concerning the announcement that Peter would be taking on the title role: 'I'd no idea who would take over from Matt Smith, and when I was told it was Peter, it was one of those "aha, that makes sense – genius" kind of moments. But the first thing he said to me was, "There will be no romance in the TARDIS."' Peter, meanwhile, discussed the challenges of working on Doctor Who: 'It's a difficult show to act. It goes from B-movie sci-fi [sic] to Freudian drama and tragedy. There's romance, pantomime, humour and sadness, so you're kept on your toes. I try not to be too romantic or sentimental. Sometimes Jenna will run down a corridor shouting, "Doctor, there's a monster," and stuff. Part of the tradition is that sets wobble and you have to fight a giant spider made of rubber. I enjoy that. It's not so well budgeted as viewers might think but it looks great because of the talent of the people working on it.'
Also in the new issue of Radio Times, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE)'s series nine episode guide includes teasers for each of the episodes in the series.
This also means that we now know all of the titles for the forthcoming twelve episodes. As you may notice, dear blog reader, they include titles which either quote or paraphrase William Shakespeare, Bob Dylan and Matt Johnson of The The. Three people that you never see in the same room as The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE), the blogger dares to venture. Now, try and tell yer actual Keith Telly Topping that's a coincidence.
Yer actual Jenna Coleman her very self is reportedly set to leave Doctor Who - again - after three years in the TARDIS to front a prestigious new ITV drama. Jenna will be written out of her role as The Doctor's intrepid companion Clara Oswald prior to this year's Christmas special, according to the Mirra. The same newspaper which dear blog readers may recall last year claimed Jenna was leaving in last year's Christmas special. And then, claimed that she wasn't. Having hedged their bets beautifully, they were eventually proved to be correct. Presumably, this is to become an annual thing until Jenna does eventually get herself another gig. Then they can claim 'we told you so'. Jenna's alleged departure from Doctor Who apparently coincides with the actress landing a major role, starring as a young Queen Victoria in a new ITV drama with a reported budget of ten million knicker. Earlier this year, ITV announced it was partnering with novelist Daisy Goodwin and the producers of Poldark for an eight-part series about Queen Victoria's reign. However, ITV has said it was not making any announcements about casting at this time and the BBC has also declined to confirm Coleman's possible departure from Doctor Who.
Incidentally, dear blog reader, just a heads up that yer actual Keith Telly Topping will not be spending his Saturday evenings writing Doctor Who episode review that are longer than the Bible this year. I know, I know, it's a massive disappointment to y'all but, sadly, they take forever to plan, they tend to ruin Keith Telly Topping's Saturday evenings as he's so busy listening to the episode for juicy quotes that he can't concentrate fully on enjoying the episode in and of itself and, mainly, because all of last series' episodes tended to end in a ten thousand word review where, to be honest, just five would do. 'I thought it was great'. Not, 'I thought it was great and you should too' or 'I thought it was great and anyone that doesn't is a brain damaged moron or the victim of a cruel medical experiment', please note. This blogger might well have thought those things, but he didn't actually write them.
      Then again, this blogger tends to think that most Doctor Who episodes are great; he's 'a Doctor Who fan' so that sort of goes with the territory, one could suggest. The last episode that yer actual Keith Telly Topping didn't think was great was Nightmare In Silver. The one before that, Victory Of The Daleks - both of which, to be fair, did have some nice ideas in them but were, Keith Telly Topping felt, somewhat let down in the execution. The one before that would've been Fear Her - which was, sadly, an unredeemed pile of diarrhoea. The one before that ...? I dunno, you're back to Paradise Towers Episode Four or something. Thing is, as noted this blogger finds most Doctor Who episodes to be great. It could be, of course, that he is someone who is, in general, far too easily pleased by the most trivial nonsense which masquerades as entertainment and, as a consequence, has critical faculties which are no indicator of the true worth of anything; that has certainly been suggested before by people - mostly now comfortbly on Keith Telly Topping's lengthy shit-list, let it be noted - who appear to have been personally offended by Keith Telly Topping saying 'I thought it was great' about an episode that they didn't particularly like. We'll leave the debate on why it should matter to anyone else, and why anyone, seemingly, would need to justify their own loathing of something simply because this bloger has stated he rather liked it for another day, I think. Alternatively, and this is the theory that this blogger personally prefers, it could be that Keith Telly Topping still gets the same little fanboy thrill now about a new episode of Doctor Who, at the age of fifty one as he did as a five year old watching Fury From The Deep in 1968. Some may consider that to be rather sad and they could well be right. But, arguably, it's no more sad than sitting watching a piece of family SF drama and gurning at the telly over how rotten it is and how this is violating ones Dalek-lovin' childhood when one could be out drinking alcopops, getting into fights in bars and then having some really disappointing sex instead. Don't come to this blogger asking for quick answer on that, dear blog reader.
     Anyway, Doctor Who is back on Saturday. Great, eh? If your answer to that is anything other than 'Hell, yeah!' then you might want to consider alternative forms of Saturday night entertainment (for, such things do exist, apparently. I know, I was surprised as well). Or not. It is, after all, a free country. This blogger expects that on Saturday he'll be saying 'I thought The Magician's Apprentice was great,' too. Hence, a review could seem somewhat superfluous.
Then again, of course ...
Brian Close might, conceivably, have been the hardest man that ever lived. He was certainly one of the hardest ever to play first class cricket. The former England, Yorkshire and Somerset captain died this week at the age eighty four after a short illness. Brian, the epitome of the tough, taciturn Yorkshireman, was the youngest player ever to have won a test cap for England, making his debut as an eighteen-year-old against New Zealand in 1949 during his first season. His test career ended a remarkable twenty seven years later at Old Trafford in searing heat against the fearsome West Indies team of 1976. He played far fewer tests - twenty two - than many felt he deserved, often being cynically axed by selectors as a seeming scapegoat for a particular England defeat - as in 1961 when he was dropped after playing an attacking innings in a losing cause against Richie Benaud's Australia at Old Trafford. He was selected for England's 1950-51 tour of Australia, having played little cricket the previous summer because of National Service but, after scoring one hundred and eight in his opening game against Western Australia, his tour turned into a disaster. It was 'like releasing a young colt after he had been in the stable all winter,' Brian said in his first autobiography Close To Cricket (he later wrote another one, in 1978, wittily entitled I Don't Bruise Easily). He took the blame for England's defeat in the one test that he played, was homesick and the senior players either ignored or insulted him: 'I remember lying in my bed in Sydney ready to curl up and die,' he wrote. But, of course, he didn't, he got knocked down but he got up again. And, he came back stronger. That was the story of Brian Close.
Dennis Brian Close was born on 24 February 1931 in Rawdon the second of six children. Resident too in the village, near equidistant between Bradford and Leeds, was the family of another of Yorkshire's most celebrated cricketers – the slow left-armer Hedley Verity, who lost his life in the second world war. Brian's father was well-known as a wicketkeeper in the Bradford League. At Aireborough Grammar School, Brian proved to be an able student, achieving excellent results in the Higher School Certificate. The headmaster wanted him to read Mathematics at Cambridge and Brian himself had dreams of becoming a doctor but Close's all-round sporting talent had, by this time, caught the eye of the professionals. Not just at Yorkshire but also, as a footballer, at Leeds United, for whom he signed as an apprentice and went on to make six first team appearances as a centre forward – scoring twice. He also played, later, for Arsenal and Bradford City and won an England Under-Eighteen cap against Scotland at Pittodrie. But it was cricket that would be his future and his life.
An injury sustained playing for Leeds meant that Brian's conscripted Army service was deferred. In consequence, he was available in May 1949 to play for Yorkshire against Cambridge University – a match in which Freddie Trueman also made his first-class debut. Brian opened the bowling with Fiery Fred, took four wickets in the match and hit a useful twenty eight runs. It was enough to keep him in the Yorkshire side and Maurice Wells, the MP for Bradford Central, managed to get his Army call-up further deferred. In that glorious first summer Brian not only achieved the double of one thousand first class runs and one hundred wickets - the youngest player ever to do so - he was also chosen for to play for England in the third test against New Zealand at Old Trafford. Though he failed to score and took only one wicket in the match, he earned praise from Wisden for obeying his captain, Freddie Brown's instructions to go for quick runs against his own interests. When Brian finally began his National Service in October 1949, he was given forty eight-hour weekend passes so that he could play for Leeds Reserves. In November, however, he sustained a bad thigh injury in a game at Newcastle which kept him out of football for some months. Leeds gave him a free transfer and in the spring of 1950 he signed for Arsenal. Early in 1952 he had been selected to play in Arsenal's first team, only to be foiled by injury. When he was unable to turn out in the Reserves Cup Final, because the game clashed with the Yorkshire versus MCC match at Lord's, Brian was given another free transfer. He signed for Bradford City, for whom he scored two goals in six first team games before a torn cartilage finally ended his footballing career. The injury also removed him from county cricket in 1953.
Once more he made a successful comeback and, in 1955, he returned to the England side for the last test against South Africa: the thirty two he made as an opener was the top score in England's first innings. Brian also played in two test matches against the West Indies in 1957 and at Headingley in 1959 when he took four for thirty five in India's second innings. Recalled once more to play against Australia at Old Trafford in 1961, he incurred fierce criticism after being caught from a cross-batted swipe at one of Richie Benaud's leg-breaks as England failed to chase a winning total of two hundred and fifty six on the final day. For the next two years the test selectors ignored him. In 1963, however, captain Ted Dexter insisted that Brian should be brought back into the side to counter the menace of the West Indians and their terrifying pace bowlers Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith. For the first time Brian played in a full series, scoring three hundred and fifteen runs and doing particularly well at Lord's, where he made a gallant seventy in the second innings (his highest test score). His tactic of advancing down the pitch against Hall and letting the ball hit him looked suicidal, but it succeeded in putting the great fast bowler off his stride. Not madness or masochism, at least not in Brian's view, but a good way to avoid being leg-before-wicket. He was, famously, photographed the next day in the Daily Mirra covered in bruises. Nevertheless, Brian again found himself ignored by the England selectors again until he was summoned to the captaincy in 1966.
The former England captain Michael Vaughan, who was coached by Close at Yorkshire's Academy, was among the many major cricket figures to pay tribute, saying on Twitter that Brian possessed 'courage, bravery and madness' as a batsman. He posted: 'Such a sad day. He was a true inspiration to all of us. I once had a LBW problem. Closey, aged sixty, came into the nets and batted without pads. He said: "It's the only way, young man, you will sort your problem."' Retired test umpire Dickie Bird, a former Yorkshire team-mate of Close and now the club's president, added: 'Brian Close was an all-time great, both of Yorkshire and England. He will go down as one of the bravest cricketers of all time.' The BBC's cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said: 'Brian Close was the youngest man to play for England and quite possibly the bravest. Old school and uncompromising, Close led a team of talented but outspoken Yorkshiremen to four County Championship titles. It was a triumph in man-management and a measure of their respect for their captain, who would happily field unprotected at short leg, just feet from the bat.' A left-handed batsman, Close, who bowled medium pace and then as an off-spinner later in his career, made just short of thirty five thousand runs during a first-class career which spanned thirty seven years, ending at the age of fifty five in 1986. This included fifty two centuries with a highest innings score of one hundred and ninety eight. He also took over eleven hundred dismissals as a bowler and over eight hundred catches as a fielder (and one stumping, as a stand-in wicket-keeper).
One of the most iconic images of his career came in 1976, when he was recalled to the England test side after nine years absence at the age of forty five to face another fearsome West Indies bowling attack. Brian had to stand up to a battering as Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Wayne Daniel charged in with bouncing deliveries that travelled at ninety five miles per hour without a helmet or much in the way of body-padding and just a towel shoved down his trouser leg to protect his thigh. It was a reminder of the similar situation thirteen years earlier when he helped to save the Lord's test. But, the 1976 session on the evening of the third day of the Old Trafford test in what proved to be his final test innings is probably what he will be remembered for. The second test, at Lord's, had gone well - Brian scoring sixty and forty six at number four to force the second draw of the series. The Old Trafford pitch however was 'cracked, often unpredictable' according to Wisden and baked hard during one of England's hottest summers. For want of anyone else, Tony Grieg promoted Brian to open along with the thirty nine year old John Edrich. More than once Brian buckled at the knees when hit by one of Mikey Holding's thunderbolts, yet he steadfastly refused to rub the spot where he had been hit. Pain, he insisted, was only in the mind. Brian recalled years later that after eighty utterly torrid minutes surviving everything that Holding and Roberts could bowl at him on that Saturday evening he and Edrich returned to the pavilion and an attendant asked him if he'd like a drink. 'Yes,' he said. 'A whisky. Make it a double!'
Asked by the BBC in 2011 if that 1976 West Indies team were the best side he faced, Close replied: 'They were [certainly] the nastiest bowling side.' Paying tribute to Close's bravery, International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson said: 'His playing career has become synonymous with bravery. His tenacity against the feared West Indies pace attack of the 1970s, especially, still resonates with many cricket followers across the world.' As a fielder Brian was no less renowned for his bravery. In order to exert pressure on batsmen, Close would position himself suicidally close at silly mid-off or short-leg. 'Catch it,' he would shout whenever the ball cannoned off his balding scalp from full-blooded hits. On one occasion the rebound was snapped up at second slip, after striking Close at short-leg. 'What if you'd been hit in the throat?', the astounded fieldsman asked. 'He'd've been caught in the gully,' Close replied. The comedian Eric Morecombe - a good friend of several of the Yorkshire team of that era - once joked that the start of the cricket season was 'the sound of leather on Brian Close.'
In addition to being his country's youngest test player, Brian also has the best test win percentage of any England captain to spend more than five matches in the job. Close won six and drew one of his seven tests in charge during 1966 and 1967 against the West Indies, India and Pakistan. He won his first test as captain at The Oval against West Indies, catching Gary Sobers first ball from a John Snow delivery at short leg off the glove when most sensible fielders would have been ducking for cover. as Sir Garfield attempted a full-blooded pull shot. The England side Brian led at that time included such legends as Geoff Boycott, Colin Cowdrey, Tom Graveney and Ray Illingworth and he was hugely popular with the public. But he lost the England captaincy in 1967 in controversial circumstances after his Yorkshire side were accused of unsporting time-wasting tactics to avoid losing a County Championship match against Warwickshire. In addition the People newspaper made - never proven - allegations that he'd had an ugly confrontation with a spectator in the members' enclosure at Edgbaston. Brian denied this and remained resolutely unrepentant about the charges of time-wasting. The authorities at Lord's, however, were unimpressed and he was severely censured and dropped as England's captain for their forthcoming tour to the West Indies, something which Close described as 'bloody horribly unfair.' The suspicion remains - and Close's great protégé Ian Botham has voiced the opinion on more than one occasion - that some people in positions of authority at Lord's were merely looking for any excuse to get rid of Brian whose bluntness and hard professionalism 'didn't sit well' with some of the game's elite at that time.
Brian played five hundred and thirty six first-class matches for Yorkshire between 1949 and 1970, scoring over twenty two thousand runs - including thirty three centuries - and taking nine hundred and sixty seven wickets. During the 1950s the atmosphere in the Yorkshire dressing room had often been poisonous, beset by cliques, squabbling and intense rivalry between a team of big individuals with egos to match. Ray Illingworth remembered continual rows, not least one in a game against Kent at Dover when Close allegedly threatened to smash his team-mate Johnny Wardle's face in behind the pavilion. Yet, Brian spent his last seven years at Yorkshire as captain from 1963, leading them to the County Championship in his first season and, also in 1966, 1967 and 1968. While inspiring both fear and respect, he also gave wholehearted loyalty to players who had gained his confidence. As Richard Hutton put it, the trust he generated 'made his verbal ear-bashings more tolerable.' Brian was also proved a shrewd judge of talent. Vic Wilson had advised the Yorkshire committee not to engage the young Geoffrey Boycott. Close insisted - perhaps to his subsequent regret - that Boycs should be retained. Brian was never a particular fan of one-day cricket, believing that it lessened players' abilities. Mike Procter noted in his autobiography that when Gloucestershire played Yorkshire in the John Player League in 1970, with Yorkshire three wickets down and needing six runs an over to win, word came from Close in the dressing room: 'No chance of winning this one, lads, just get some batting practice.' Brian would overcome his prejudices however and, in 1972, even captained England in three one day internationals against Australia in the absence of the injured Ray Illingworth.
At the end of 1970, Brian was sacked by Yorkshire - reportedly after he swore at Lancashire's president following a match. He then spent seven seasons with Somerset (six as captain). In his first season with the county, he had one of his most successful years scoring almost fourteen hundred runs, including a century on his debut and another very satisfying one in the game against Yorkshire. During the following years, as captain, he helped to nurture the talents of a brilliant young side which included the likes of Ian Botham, Viv Richards and Vic Marks. The latter, now Somerset's chairman and a BBC commentator, told 5Live that Brian 'was a man of immense self-belief. And Sir Ian Botham and Sir Viv Richards thought the world of Closey. He could give you an immense dressing down, but it would be forgotten in a second.' Botham, in an interview with Sky Sports, described how Brian was once hit on the shin by a shot from the Glamorgan opener Alan Jones after Tom Cartwright 'had bowled his one half-volley of the season. When we went for lunch, there was blood coming out of the lace holes of Brian's boots. I said "are you all right, skipper?" He said: "Don't be so daft, lad, of course I am!" Back in the dressing room when he pulled up the leg of his flannels, he had a livid bruise and a four-inch gash on his shin. He still didn't say anything, he just had it stitched up, put on a clean pair of flannels and led us back out after lunch as if nothing had happened.'
Brian retired from regular first-class cricket in 1977, though he continued to play in the Scarborough Festival until 1986 when he was in his mid-fifties. Playing his last-ever first-class innings, for his own Select XI against the touring New Zealanders, Brian needed ten runs to achieve a career-total of thirty five thousand. With his score on four he glanced a ball down leg-side to the wicket-keeper and walked. Afterwards, the New Zealand captain Jeremy Coney said that if they had known how near Brian was to the landmark, they would have withdrawn the appeal but Brian would have none of it -he was out, he said, and that was that. When asked why he gave himself out he said: 'It's an honourable game and that's the way I was brought up.' Brian's seven hundred and eighty six first-class matches leave him tenth on the all-time list. His highly competitive spirit never forbade a drink with the opposition. Bomber Wells recalled how, when Gloucester played Yorkshire in the 1950s, 'you'd split into two parties. Fred [Trueman] would be one end of the bar, Closey up the other. You could have half-an-hour of Closey lambasting Fred, then when you got fed up with that you could go and hear Fred lambasting Closey!' Unlike many professional cricketers Brian did not lose his enthusiasm for donning his flannels even in retirement. Indeed, he was still to be seen at the crease as late as 2000, when he was almost seventy, when coaching Yorkshire's colts. He was also a fine golfer, who learned to play right-handed so as not to affect his batting and at one point had a handicap of three. At the end of the 1970s, Brian briefly served as an England selector. Back at Yorkshire, he became chairman of the cricket committee in 1984, attracting much controversy during the pro- and anti-Boycott years. Later, he led the Yorkshire Academy side nurturing further young talents like Michael Vaughan. 'Doesn't Mister Close swear a lot?' the young Ryan Sidebottom once reportedly observed. Brian, who lived in Baildon and was made a CBE in 1975. His death, on Sunday, came just four days after his beloved Yorkshire sealed their second successive county championship title and thirty second outright. He is survived by his wife Vivienne, whom he married in 1968, and by their son and daughter.
Which brings us to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, dear blog reader, and a song the sentiments of which Brian would, probably have approved. Tell 'em all about it, Ari.

2 comments:

Mark said...

RIP Brian Close

Love this week's RT cover and photos. Don't blame you not writing a War and Peace review and yes, Nightmare In Silver was absolutely, utterly, unforgiveably appalling.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping said...

Oh, I didn't think it was *that* bad but it had problems.