We’ve been calling him Scotch John for the last ten years… It’s only now that he tells me his name is ‘Duncan’… Those of you who know will know, Scottish by name, Nottingham by nature, John, sorry Duncan, has been on the barrels at Trent Bridge since the days of Eddie Hemmings it seems?
Things aren’t good for the newly named Dunc though, we can’t find him in the William Clarke Stand Bar, he’s been moved to the Scoreboard where he’s out of trouble and all alone, something went off with some temp staff member last summer, we won’t go into detail as our lawyers aren’t present, but Dunc doesn’t think he’ll be let out of the scoreboard anytime soon.
I’ve not been to Trent Bridge to see a Notts game for three long years, Covid hit us all and although I spent the day drunkenly watching India rip England apart late last summer, My Notts membership card hasn’t seen a turnstile operative since 2019.
A little off cuff, I recently read an Evening Post article which wasn’t the highest grade of journalism by all means (like this piece? I hear you smear!), but it tickled me towards inspiration for doing something similar, as well as setting the bar on other great reportage I’ve seen recently… It was about a young female reporter, entering a Nottingham city centre Wetherspoon, the Joseph Else on Market Square, she went in before nine in the morning and reported on her full English breakfast being a nine out of ten at just £7 although she left the beans as she’s not a fan, and stated that inside the pub “the atmosphere was a bit impacted by the dark and gloomy lighting”.
She also commented that because “Most Wetherspoons chains start to sell alcohol after 9am” that before time crossed that boundary, it was her cue to leave before it got “a bit more rowdy”.
Now as pub reviews go… It must be up there as my most favourite ever, a bit like dancing to the YMCA… You know it’s awful and you really shouldn’t enjoy it, but you just can’t stop yourself from making those hand movements as you look to the side and sing ‘Young Man’.
Wetherspoon, the one at Trent Bridge, rescued by J.D himself, after a horrible paint job by the previous owners, is first port of call for me on this day, the very first game of the league season at the second oldest existing test venue in the world, Notts in action against Glamorgan, and I’m meeting Graffy (a shortened nickname for the subject’s surname McGrath) at the rowdy old time of 9:30am…
I decide to walk, down the Melton Road towards the ground, it’s a cloudy one but relatively warm at least (12 degrees so English tropics), I’ve my body warmer on above a hoody which all can be easily discarded if the blue skies appear, a flat cap and sunglasses I’m in jeans and trainers, I’m well prepared with cash and card and I’m texting on the go…
Notts seamer Jake Ball pulls into his drive in a private plated Range Rover, he’s out of the car like a gazelle, all 6ft9in of him, I presume like me he’s soon heading to the Bridge, after a quick pit stop on route, he’s probably nipping back to grab a wrist band or something.
I take the Musters Road at the Rectory Road interchange, crossing at the Tennis Club I walk past some lovely houses which I haven’t noticed before. Every drive has two cars on it… A Range Rover, and a mini… I presume it’s all they can fit on. The ironic thing is both vehicles are the same size these days.
There’s a soup kitchen at the Friary United Reformed Church, dishing out food to those who need it, next door to a half a million pound plus house with yet another Range Rover on the drive, I keep going and pass the luscious smell of bacon at Mrs Munns sandwich shop, wonder past La Storia, a decent little Italian I would highly recommend, and cross over towards the world-famous Trent Bridge Inn.
I walk in and Graffy is already there, ‘Ere he is’ he says, handing me a pint of Stella…
I go to the bar to get two breakfasts, the staff asks if we want any tea or coffee, but I presume Graffy isn’t interested, we sit down and chat about last night’s football, a good old fashioned European match between the evil butchers of Atletico Madrid and the innocent lambs of Manchester City… This time the sheep get away, those pesky Spaniards come swinging and spitting their dislike, hair pulling from the ironically named SAVIC on poor Jack Grealish who uses Brummy foul and abusive to upset him.
The breakfasts come in no time and although I wouldn’t go as far to say a nine out of ten, a seven & half, maybe eight at best, but in fairness I did eat it all, including my beans.
As all Wetherspoon Pubs seem to be, yes and noted, it was dark and gloomy, but post 9am far from rowdy, this in particular, of all I’ve been in (throughout the UK) is probably my favourite of the chain, it’s also the one I’ve probably most frequented, a highest grade of Wetherspoon in my eyes.
We swig up and take the walk through the gates behind the pub to the ground and get another beer as a much younger, more Asian looking and more cricket knowledgeable barman than Duncan, greets us with a smile. I ask ‘are you serving alcohol yet’ and he replies to the music more of Graffy’s ears than my own, ‘Yes of course’.
Deciding to sit (for the time being) in the Smith Cooper stand, we are early enough to see the two teams warm up, announcing the starting elevens on the tannoy we notice the great Australian batsman, the number one ranked Test batsman in the world in fact, Marnus Labuschagne, is lining up for Glamorgan… Unfortunately, moments later, we soon realise that Glamorgan also won the toss and have elected to field, So I guess I won’t be seeing him bat today…
A minute’s silence for those cricketing legends lost, none fewer than the great Shane Warne, is impeccably saluted by a sparse crowd less than a quarter full, silence but for the noise of the traffic down London Road, as Notts walk out to bat, Haseeb Hameed, an England flop in the recent Ashes down under, and Ben Slater, the better of the two in my opinion, will open up for the homeside.
I notice Michael Neser is quick, an Aussie International with one Test Cap first up for the Welsh side with the ball, his opener of which, a loosener, rushes past the bat of Slater, if that’s his warmup ball I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.
The cricket soon becomes a side show for some intriguing chat between myself and Graffy, we go from politics and sport to holidays and death, Hameed is in good nick but Slater swings at a quicky from Neser and is caught behind. Maybe I was wrong on who’s the best opener? Time for another drink.
The barman asks us the score, we honestly haven’t a clue, thirty something for one I say… It could be fifteen, it could be fifty?
Back at our seats, or near as damn it, Ben Duckett is in and looking good, I’m certain he’s due an England test call up this summer, Notts best batsman by far, assured and competent in all formats I’ve seen him play in, he’s building well with Hameed until he strikes one back at Weighell who fingertips the ball onto the stumps with Hameed outside his crease. Two down, and off for another pint.
We tell the barman Hameed has gone, he already knows, ‘flukey run out wasn’t it’ a shame as we all hoped he would score some runs and knock back on that England door.
Clarke keeps Duckett company as I find out Graffy’s next door neighbour has cancer. We move on to more light-hearted topics like Boris Johnson garden-parties and the Hillary’s Blinds marketing department.
An announcement prior to lunch tells us that the well-renowned Trent Bridge library is open to the public. I’ve never been inside, but I’m told it has the biggest (after Lords) cricket book collection in the world. “We’ve got to pay it a visit” I tell Graffy and he obliges.
First, we have pints to finish, we can’t go in there swigging Stella, so we sit back during the opening stages of lunch whilst some kids and parents play on the outfield. Stuart Broad walks past, he’s golden brown, alongside a member of the coaching staff, not playing today, he’s probably going into the nets for a bit of a loosener. Graffy shouts ‘afternoon Stuart’ Broad responds by putting his arm in the air like only a trained celebrity would. I think to myself ‘arrogant bastard’ before moving on the conversation with Graffy to Broad’s much fancied and even more famous other half.
We take a stroll to the library but soon realise we don’t actually even know where it is. A lovely stewardess points us in the right direction and we head towards the ticket office where it’s nicely signposted.
Walking down the corridor I notice a number of black and white photos along the wall, Bruce French, Tim Robinson, Eddie Hemmings, going back to the likes of George Gunn, Bill Voce and Harold Larwood. I stop Graffy in his tracks… “Did you ever read up on the Bodyline series” I say? No quicker than those words appear out my mouth, than Alan, the clubs stadium tour guide, appears out of nowhere, and says “I can tell you all about that”
Alan has to rush off, but he keeps us there a good five minutes chatting about a few of the players in the pictures, “Oh this ones an interesting character” as he responds to himself saying “I really need to go”.
We wish Alan our thanks and move in to the library which is larger than I imagined, not that it’s big.
Books to the left, books to the right, books up above and books down below, the smell is awesome, I’ve not been in a library it feels since 1986.
There’s plenty of quiet chat going off, a few quirky stories of cricket from the past, people with back packs on talking balls and bails, a young lad is hovering around the librarians asking for something unique for his dissertation subject.
I pick up KP’s autobiography and start reading it to Graffy… “Why you talking like David Lloyd” he replies… Some of these books are 100 years old, there’s poems on Bodyline about Bradman ducking Larwood, books on statistics and things that seem very little to do with cricket.
Eventually we decide it’s time for another pint, but not before I purchase the 2022 Nottinghamshire CCC handbook for a bargain price of just £5.
Larwood & Voce is the next port of call… We walk up the stand to the Taverners Bar which is closed, so down the steps through the back door and into the pub, which for a Thursday afternoon, is obviously quiet.
These days the place reminds me of an American truckers café with it’s red leather seats, the ale is decent, the TV’s showing Sky Sports, the food is apparently good, but I would rather it be more run down, dirty, dusty, to fit in with the rest of it’s cricketing environment that surrounds it.
We drink up and head back where by now Duckett is partnered by Mullaney. This is where we find Dunc in the scoreboard bar, he’s fuming, he wants to tell us the whole story to rid himself of guilt but a member of staff walks by… “Everything ok lads” he says, ‘yep, fine’ Dunc tells us to come back later.
We sit in the Radcliffe Road End lower where there’s a good proportion of people sitting, and we stand to Ben Duckett’s century before Tea suddenly creeps up on us, we’ve missed half the session sitting in the Larwood and talking to Dunc.
At tea we head out of the gates towards the TBI with all intentions to come back and watch the final session of the day, two more ordered, Graffy is hungry, Thursday night is Curry Club, it’s a ridiculous offer! Curry and a pint for under a tenner, it tastes like a Tesco ready meal but it’s great, and comes with a huge naan, by now I’ve got two pints lined up, half a curry and Notts have been bowled out, we sack the rest of the match off and eventually Graffy leaves me in the pub to finish my pint.
Little past 6pm I hear Glamorgan have been put in and have scored around thirty off about three overs without loss, Notts finishing on just over 300… I decide it’s time to walk back, I’ve had a great day, the first of the season, the first of many, good old cricket is back, roll on more of the British summer and plenty more pints… To Trent Bridge and its adjacent public houses, I’ll be back.
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @dannypea the two teams stand ahead of the match.