The Last Flannelled Fool
Author: Michael Simkins
Publisher: Ebury Press
Rating: 3.5 stars
By David Taylor
11 Sep 2011
I didn't even know this book had been published before I saw it in a Maidstone bookshop, but having greatly enjoyed Michael Simkins's previous cricket book Fatty Batter
.I was quick to snap it up. Simkins is a bit-part actor - I'm sorry if you're reading this Michael, but I still can't place you in anything - whose Fatty Batter was a frequently very funny telling of his childhood discovery of cricket, his subsequent adulation of Sussex and his own hamfisted attempts to play the game. The Harry Baldwin Occasionals is his side, and the book opens with the diagnosis of a foot injury that means playing is out of the question for the approaching season. Simkins breaks the news to his team-mates, who seem strangely unconcerned for the most part, and then makes a decision - he'll spend the summer watching the game instead, in various parts of England.
At this point I was instantly reminded of Duncan Hamilton's acclaimed A Last English Summer
, and wondered if this would tread similar ground, but in fact there are few similarities. While Hamilton's book was often wistful in tone, Simkins is much more whimsical, even frivolous. He watches a few games of Twenty20, and becomes something of a convert. He starts his season at Hove, but resists the temptation to follow Sussex around the country, taking in a number of teams and types of cricket - even Eton v Harrow at Lord's. At each town he visits there are interesting facts and amusing reminiscences, as well as beutifully written pen-portraits of other supporters. Almost everyone he meets at Swansea seems to have been there to see Sobers hit Nash for six sixes. And, temporarily flouting doctor's orders, he plays in one match, bowling an over to Andrew Flintoff, no less.
I enjoyed this book tremendously, finishing it in four or five days, which I would not have done if I hadn't picked it up at every opportunity I had. It would have been a certain four stars had it not been for an irritating numbers of errors - typographical, grammatical and factual. We have "Sean Udal" and, much more gratingly, "Chris Reed". Again Michael, if you happen to read this, and plan to write another book on cricket, can I proof-read it? I'm sure that it will be well received by the CricketWeb team. Ater all he name-checks David Frith, David Foot and Stephen Chalke, among other fine writers. Notwithstanding the mistakes this is certainly recommended, and is guaranteed to entertain and inform as well.