My dear old things.
It is with great sadness that I hear that the big heavy velvet curtain is closing on Henry Blofeld’s glorious broadcasting career – or at least that part of it that involves radio cricket commentary.
He begins a farewell tour of English cricket grounds that Sinatra would certainly be proud of.
To say that this gentleman is a life-icon of mine would be a heinous understatement. Summers will never be the same again.
For those ignorant few, Blowers, as he is universally known, has spent the last half century delighting cricket fans with vivid, often mellifluous, descriptions of the summer sport on that glorious institution Test Match Special (TMS).
Before he took to the mic, a promising career behind the stumps beckoned for the dear old thing. However, an argument with an omnibus put pay to Henry the gloveman. Wicket keeping’s loss was broadcasting’s gain.
TMS is an English constitution, as a much a part of summer as Pimms. It is a faithful companion to a late breakfast, a sunbathe or – my favourite – an afternoon soak in the bath.
Blowers is the king, the court jester and wise old sage wrapped up in one brightly clothed castle. His repartee with Phil “the cat” Tufnell has a post luncheon ambience to it, a natter with Michael Vaughan is always illuminating with the former England captain in awe of HB, whilst his mutual respect with Aggers is plain for all to see.
You cannot fail to smile when he clears his oft-cravated throat to describe those “long elegant cranes”, “languid pigeons”, “handsome red buses” and he once had the imagination to claim that England spinner Ashley Giles was “trundling in with the elegance of a wheelie bin”.
These exquisite paraphrases can only come from the dear old thing himself, and only carry a proper resonance when delivered in his inimitable Old Etonian voice.
Lest we forget that behind the garden party ramblings, depictions of cricket so beautiful that they could be an oil painting – and the occasionally incorrect score – is one the finest, astute cricketing brains in the country.
From time to time he may forget the name of the current England skipper but he is arguably one of the preeminent cricket historians alive.
Humour and knowledge can only get you so far in commentary. With a mic in his hand he is a master of his craft and always puts the listeners needs first. He punctuates his musings with just enough mentions of the score and the stance of the batsmen, all skilfully weaved into the commentary so we don’t realise he is doing it.
To some Test match cricket is monotonous and dull but to Blowers – and this red trousered chap – it is harmonious and he is the town cryer. In the many tributes to the old stager in both print and television he is portrayed as a Wodehousian character.
While he is undeniably tipping his battered, yet stylish, panama to the finest writer of them all I think he is actually such a voluminous character himself that Blowers stands above being a tribute act.
In a world where an eccentric old bean with a cut glass accent is usually forced to apologise Blowers rages against the machine – or quite rightly raises a glass of something restorative.
While the youth of today quibble over whether or not to wear sunglasses inside, Blowers exuberant style forces the issue. When given the tribute of ringing the five-minute bell at the Lord’s Test Blofeld said that he “didn’t want to look too ridiculous out of respect for the MCC”
His bell-ringing attire was utterly splendid: a yellow pair of strides held up by a startling red belt, a burnt orange shirt, canary coloured shoes, a lime green linen jacket, a moody yellow bow tie with blue polka dots which was all topped off with crumpled panama.
Yes, summers will never be the same. For now we must delight in his whimsy and charm over the radio waves like a voice from another era and cherish every moment of his last three remaining tests.
And, as the sun sets on Blowers’ career we should select a glass of something cold and raise it in honour of a broadcasting giant.