A tour of Lord’s

The best time to visit Lord’s is invariably on a match day in July with the ground gleefully presenting itself like a proud dog lying on its back on a shimmering lawn.
That unique atmosphere is one of the arena’s unique charms – Lord’s almost becomes an ethereal plus one on everyone’s tickets (especially after the second bottle in The Harris Gardens!)
I joined my father and roughly twenty more pilgrims, on a tour, to discover what was behind the altar and whether cricket’s illustrious church could still create a divine environment.
The close season between October and early April is the most opportune time to visit though there is a downside in the form of a swathe of building works – this makes it like meeting a grand actor at their dressing table applying makeup. Fortunately, though, the October noon sun was appropriately placed and the sky was gin clear. 
There was an interesting mix of people on the tours. Doughty Englishmen stood side by side with patriotically clothed Australians. And the presence of men and women from every creed colour and continent was evidence that the reverence for Lord’s was felt by fans as well as players from all round the world.
Led by our cheery guide Stephen we moved to the pavilion which is a fine grade II listed building. As a regular spectator at Test matches, I was struck by the eerie silence and the absence of people; however, the gentle hubbub of the tours did bring real life to the place.
With hindsight, I probably should have worn a tie, but felt I made up for this in part with my light linen blazer. Some felt tracksuits appropriate – this is merely an observation rather than a complaint as the tour is for cricket lovers not snobs.
The grand, ever so higldy piggldy, exterior entombs a gloriously bright, capacious, and an interior flooded by natural light. 
If all roads lead to Rome, an Englishman’s should endeavour to end at Lord’s. The spectacular Long Room is the finest view of cricket in the world; surrounded by the MCC’s marvellous private paintings and located 20 paces from a bar; the pitch can be seen through windows that stretch virtually from floor to ceiling – an unmatched sporting view. 
Stephen had reams of historical and witty stories about the grand place, ranging from the munificent Thomas Lord to the errant David Steel. One that stuck in bread bin was that Nicholson’s gin was the first sponsor of the MCC (and in any sport), leading them to adopting the colours of the bottle – the, what we know as traditional, eggs and bacon. We were implored to- in awe of such traditions – raise a glass of G n T!
The changing rooms are another point of reference for any fan. We watch English batsmen sit formlessly in terror in their usual collapse, so to sit inside filled me with a bit of consternation! It was equally an absolute honour to sit where many of my heroes have lain their ample bottoms. There was a hushed reverence in the changing room compared with the jocularity of the long room – rather like match! We were also pointed in the direction of the window that Matt Prior smashed with a ‘dropped bat’.
The honours’ boards (five wickets in an innings or ten in a match, or a century) were surprisingly small and a surprising number of great players never made it. That is why those who do make it show such pride in an achievement that will never be forgotten.
The biggest attraction at Lord’s is also the most diminutive in stature – the urn with The Ashes inside. Like the Mona Lisa of cricket it sits on show for thousands of slack jawed fans to gawp at. The glint was ever shinier because it rightfully belongs to England at present; we were told the tale that it was actually a perfume bottle of an Australian player’s wife with the ashes of some bails in, which was presented to the English captain in a bit of light hearted banter at a pre match dinner!
We then sat in the Mound stand of the great ground and perused its lush green field to the intermediate sound of gunfire (a bird deterrent, due to the re-seeding of the pitch). The autumn sun shining like a lazy ember created a very different glow to the ground I usually see in blazing rays (or often in rain!). I drank in the stillness and pointed out the different places I have sat….vainly attempting to remember the matches I was watching from those seats.
Suddenly amongst the stillness and gunfire I heard the soothing sound of the summer game – a crisp smack of leather on willow. Soon we were stood by the nursery ground miraculously watching cricket at Lord’s in early October; the ground staff’s team and the Cross Arrows were playing their penultimate match.
The tour of Lord’s is a must for any cricket fan and will definitely enhance one’s understanding of the great place. The guides are wonderful – packed to the gills with tales and holding a distinct love of the game whilst in deep reference to the wonderful establishment they work in.        
A delicious delight.

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