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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Type It Up, Pickles: English Sport Goes to the Dogs

Pickles the dog with his owners David Corbett
(second left, with hand on typewriter) and his wife Jeanne (fourth from left), actor Eric Sykes (left) and writers Ray Galton (pointing to Pickles' contract) and Alan Simpson (negotiating with Pickles).
Pickles the black-and-white collie proudly
wears his World Cup Finders' Medal.
I've been waiting for an excuse to use the image at the top of this post for ages. As it seemed to be apropos of nothing, I reluctantly let it sit, just like Pickles in the second image. But I suppose my old footballing instincts still hold good, for I thought I spotted half a gap open up the other day. Digging through mountains of memorabilia, I came across this note which English Typospherian Rob Bowker ("Typewriter Heaven") had sent me from Oxfordshire with some typewriter-themed postcards last year.
The parcel arrived at a time when things looked bad for Australia in the Ashes cricket Test series. Richard Polt was in England at the time, and he also posted a comment, along the lines of, "Sorry about the Ashes."
Now Richard readily admits to not being an avid sports follower (to him, the Super Bowl is the Superb Owl). And cricket would, I imagine, be quite low on his list of sporting interests (which start with the Oakland A's and then sort of fade away rather sharply after that). He may not know what "bowling a maiden over" (six deliveries [an "over"] without a run being scored) is from a "silly mid-on" (a fielding position) or a "googly" (aka a "Bosie" or a "wrong 'un", a type of delivery bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler). And that's no bad thing, believe me. Cricket is one strange sport. But the point is, Richard still sensed the importance of the Ashes (the London newspapers would have been full of England's cricketing successes while he was there) and he felt the need to sympathise on the way the series was going - very much not Australia's way.
When Rob wrote his note in late July 2013, however, I feel certain he had no idea "next time" would come around so quickly - or that "better luck" would so rapidly come Australia's way. None of us - Rob, Richard or I - could have imaged Australia would exact its revenge so brutally and so swiftly.
As things turned out, Australia regained the Ashes, whitewashing the series Down Under (comprised of five five-day Test matches) 5-0, the one-day international (ODI) series 4-1, and the Twenty-20 ("Big Bash") series 3-0. That means the Australians took the international series 12-1. In all three
competitions, England hurriedly took home the wooden spoons Rob has been so busily making.
The last wooden spoon was awarded to Cuthbert Lempriere Holthouse, an oarsman of the Lady Margaret Boat Club of St John's College, Cambridge, in 1909 at the graduation ceremony in the University's Senate House.
Wooden spoon? It's an expression used in Australian and English sport to signify the last-placegetter. It dates from the late 18th century and was originally a Cambridge University booby prize awarded by students to the man who achieved the lowest exam marks but still earned a third-class degree (a junior optime) in the Mathematical Tripos.
Now, what has all this sporting nonsense got to do with the photo at the top of the post?
Well, what happened this Southern Hemisphere sporting summer got me thinking that England doesn't always take all due care of the international trophies it holds. (This assertion may be a bit of an exaggeration, but, hey, I needed some reason to run that photo.)
The image at the top of the post, taken on March 29, 1966, shows a dog called Pickles at a portable typewriter. Pickles is agreeing to terms for a movie he had inspired, called The Spy With a Cold Nose (a spoof on the movie version of John le Carré's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, filmed in part at Smithfield in Dublin).
The reason Pickles was such an inspiration is that just before the World Cup soccer finals were staged in England in 1966, the cup was stolen! The careless English were unable to track it down, but Pickles found it!
 There it is ...
 There it isn't!
 Here it is (was), says Pickles
 Oh what a clever dog, say London's Bobbies
Blow the cup, where's the hero dog? asks Fleet Street
Oh there he is, watching the World Cup on the telly with his owner.
Here's the story. In 1966, to promote the World Cup finals being staged in England later that year, the Football Association allowed the Jules Rimet Trophy to be put on display in various parts of the country. On 20 March, 1966, the trophy was stolen during a Stanley Gibson Stampex rare postage stamps exhibition at Westminster Central Hall - £3 million worth of stamps were left untouched.
The soccer trophy was found seven days later wrapped in newspaper at the bottom of a suburban garden hedge in Beulah Hill, Upper Norwood, South London - by Pickles. It was taken by Pickles' owner David Corbett to the Gypsy Hill police station.
England captain Bobby Moore holds the Jules Rimet Trophy after the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley Stadium in London. England beat West Germany in the final.
England went on to win the trophy, for the first and only time. Pickles was invited to the England players' celebration banquet and was allowed to lick his owner's dinner plate (I'm not making any of this up!). David Corbett, Pickles' owner, collected a £6000 reward. The thief was never caught.
Daliah Lavi in the movie. Pickles is under the bed. 
(Some of it I do make up).
After starring in The Spy With the Cold Nose, Pickles died in 1967 when he choked on his leash while chasing a cat. He was buried in his owner's back garden and his collar is on display in the National Football Museum in Manchester.
Giovanni ("Gianni") Rivera represented Italy at four World Cups (1962, 1966, 1970 and 1974) as well as being part of the first Italian side to win the European Football Championship, in 1968. This is just an excuse to use a photo with a typewriter it in.
The Italians, who had won the World Cup in 1934 and 1938, knew how to protect it. During World War II, Ottorino Barassi, FIFA's Italian vice-president, secretly took the trophy from a bank in Rome and hid it in a shoebox under his bed so the Nazis couldn't find it.
But England's soccer players had been dogged by dogs since the World Cup quarter-finals in Chile in 1962, when in the match against Brazil in Viña del Mar, Ray Wilson was chased by a stray dog named Bob (I'm back to not making it up again).
Below, England goalkeeper Ron Springett tries to shoo Bob the pitch invader.
Firmly believing dogs could find World Cups, Scotland manager Ally MacLeod went and got himself a poodle. Sadly, Scotland's World Cup campaign under MacLeod in Argentina in 1978 soon became such a farce that at a press conference after a 3-1 loss to Peru, MacLeod saw a mongrel dog approach and, stretching out his hand, said, "I think he is the only friend I have got left." (I'm still not making any of this up!)
Pele knew that if you hung on to your dog long enough, you wouldn't have to worry about finding the World Cup. After Pele helped Brazil win the Jules Rimet Trophy (which Pickles had recovered in 1966) for a third time, in Mexico in 1970, Brazil got to keep the trophy and FIFA had to come up with a new World Cup for the 1974 tournament. Brazil had also won in Sweden in 1958 and Chile in 1962.
In Mexico in 1970, Brazil became the outright holder of the Jules Rimet Trophy.
In Rio de Janeiro in 1983 it was stolen again - this time for good!
But getting back to taking care of cups.
Like the Italians, the Americans know how to hold on to a trophy. When Alan Bond's Australia II syndicate became the first challenger to wrest the America's Cup from a US defender at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1982, there was no trophy handing-over ceremony after the decisive race. The cup remained, at least for the time being, firmly bolted to the floor in the New York Yacht Club on West 44th Street, New York City. Later, two of my rugby-playing mates from Western Australia, Peter Chadwick and Peter Rowan, provided muscular protection as the trophy was flown back to Australia.
That's my good friend Peter Rowan in the cap.
Last year, US golfer Jason Dufner slept with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the (US) PGA Championship at Oak Hill, then strapped it in for the flight home:
After the Pickles business, the English got a little more cagey about looking after sporting trophies. Cricket's Ashes, for example, is a "notional prize" for Test series played between England and Australia. Since 1998, a Waterford Crystal representation of the Ashes urn (called the Ashes Trophy) has been presented to the winners. As well, captains of winning teams get to hold up a like-size (tiny) replica. But whichever team holds the Ashes, the actual urn remains in the Marlyebone Cricket Club (MCC) Museum at Lord's Cricket Ground, London.
The term Ashes originated in a satirical obituary published in The Sporting Times in London, immediately after Australia's 1882 victory at The Oval in London, its first Test win on English soil. The obituary stated that English cricket had died, and the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.
Before the 1882–83 series in Australia, England captain Ivo Bligh vowed to "regain those ashes". England won two of the three Tests and a small urn was presented to Bligh by a group of Melbourne women, including Florence Morphy, whom Bligh married. The contents of the urn are reputed to be the ashes of a wooden bail (used on the wickets in cricket). It is not clear whether that "tiny silver urn" is the same as the small terracotta urn given to the MCC by Bligh's widow after his death in 1927.
Protecting such precious old trophies has not always been guaranteed. In 1988 England rugby union player, policeman Dean Richards, and his Scottish opponent, farmer John Jeffrey, got drunk at the after-match dinner following an England-Scotland Calcutta Cup international at Murrayfield in Edinburgh and decided to use the cup as a football up and down Princes Street.
Above, the cup as it should look.
Below, what it looked like after the rugger boys had given it a booting around:
The Calcutta Cup was made from silver rupees in 1878, fashioned with three king cobras heads for handles. On Christmas Day 1872, a rugby match was played in Calcutta, leading to the formation of the Calcutta Football Club in January 1873. Despite the Indian climate not being entirely suitable for playing rugby, the club prospered during that first year. However, when the free bar had to be discontinued, the membership took an appreciable drop. Other sports, such as tennis and polo, which were considered to be more suited to the local climate, were making inroads into the numbers of gentlemen available.  The members decided to disband but keen to perpetuate the name of the club, they withdrew the club's funds from the bank and had the silver rupees melted down and made into a cup.
At least his breath smelt OK.
If you think kicking about such a priceless trophy is pretty stupid behaviour at a rugby union international after-match dinner, how about this: In Paris in 1982, England prop forward Colin Smart (a teacher, can you believe it?) didn't feel so smart after drinking one of the bottles of after-shave lotion the French Rugby Federation had given to England players. Smart was taken to hospital to have his stomach pumped. He almost died.
While all around him are using laptops, a switched-on sports writer types on a topless Olivetti Lettera 32 portable at the 2004 UEFA European Football Championship in Portugal.

8 comments:

Bill M said...

Funny you should mention Rob in a post with a gigantic wooden spoon. Now he'll be cutting a Sequoia and whittling a super size spoon.

I love the last photo of the Lettera 32 amongst the notebook PCs.

writelephant.com said...

So basically we can blame Rob for losing the Ashes! His recent spoon-making activities must be an act of penance. :)

Rob Bowker said...

I was worried that this was going to be a 'shaggy dog' story. Looks like the tourists received a thorough drubbing by the Ozzies. But there's always (always) another time. I never have 'got' cricket, nor the ardour it kindles in sports fans' hearts, but it keeps lads off the street and somehow, however oddly, helps define a sense of nationhood for those who'd otherwise be found wanting. Unlike golf, for example, which is a plain waste of time. I like photo of the chap with the big wooden spoon, some whittling that must have taken!

McTaggart said...

A nice Olivetti Tekne 4 with Gianni in the Background. Two great icons of Italian culture together

McTaggart said...

Two great icons of Italian culture, Gianni Rivera and the Olivetti Tekne 4.

McTaggart said...

Two great icons of Italian culture, Gianni Rivera and the Olivetti Tekne 4.

reinenust said...

A wonderfully meandering post! May I add two more instances of bad cup-husbandry?
In 2011 on 21 april, at the celebration after winning the National league by beating Barcelona, the Real Madrid defender drops the cup, the Copa del Rey, from a bus - it came out from under the bus intact though http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/21/real-madrid-player-drops-cup-under-bus.
It was a bad year for trophies: Less than a month later, 17 May, the Ajax (the soccer team from my town, Amsterdam) goal keeper drops the trophy at their victory parade through town
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13430756

reinenust said...

Isn't that a Lettera 22 by the way?