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Magical Mystery Tour to France, 14th to 17th June

“The amateurs discuss tactics; the professionals discuss logistics.”

Except for Henry Campbell who, despite never mentioning it, plays in the East Anglian Premier League, The Philanderers are an unapologetically amateurish cricketing outfit. But off the field, their foray onto a land mass from which we will soon be excommunicated was executed, overall, with acute military precision. Australian Special Forces operative Trevor Lawrence carefully scouted out the local provisions while all other members of the touring party boarded the 0940-aerial transport from London Stanstead. Destination: Dinan, Brittany.

The outbound flight, despite directly entering EU airspace, was completed without incident, to the extent that Grahame Hegarty could complete his first ever public transport-urination. Lucky he did, as a red-faced Trevor Lawrence got his co-ordinates confused and took three and half hours to deliver a selection of the troops 30 miles to the camp: Les Ormes.

"Burnett, charging in from the Lake End..."

Here, the sleeping arrangements faithfully reflected the hierarchy of the club. Green recruits (Campbell, Gill, Leary and Perkins) and academy graduates (Dean, Hammond and Wright) occupied low-spec cabins while the seniors (Redmayne, Burnett, Hegarty, Lawrence, Harrison, Pimblett and Dodson) and their batmen enjoyed luxurious apartments far away from the front line. Fully aware that an army, especially one containing Stomper Harris, marches on its stomach, Mess Officer Hammond sorted a fine array of food for the boys. A gourmet Indoturkish-fusion banquet on the Friday was followed by Italian on Saturday and a finally a lavish barbeque on the Sunday.

If, as was claimed by Napoleon, success in conflict is reliant on logistics, the Philanderers should have been almost guaranteed a victory.

“You become strong by defying defeat and by turning loss and failure into success.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

Why stay in a luxurious treehouse when you can share a plastic covered bed with Henry Campbell?

The battleground was a small, picturesque field, bookended by a chateau and a lake and flanked by lavish treehouses, enviously eyed up by those in the junior ranks. In grey and wet conditions on the first day, The Philanderers bowled first in the knowledge that their ranks included heavy artillery in the form of Campbell, Perkins and Burnett. 35 hard-fought overs later and despite four ducks (including their two most highly (self)-regarded batsmen), Les Ormes made a respectable 258-7.

In the end, Perkins suffered from a severely malfunctioning radar, but Hammond (5-37) and Campbell (2-32) got a mention in dispatches.

"Ough, look, it’s actually very comfortable inside"

16 overs into the second innings and the match was all but over. A devastating offensive from Leary (who finished with 67) and Dodson (who made 53) navigated the Philanderers to 122-0, needing 140 from 19 overs with all 10 wickets intact. As the boys calmly watched on from Trev’s ‘ripper’ Pavillivan, the rest of the batting order then waltzed gently up to the jaws of a comfortable victory and politely plucked out a thoroughly confusing defeat. Rumors of clogging abound, but unpicking the precise events that unfurled in the heat of such a skirmish is futile.

Having tended to their wounds, the Philanderers returned on day two (Dimanche but certainly not a Sunday), promptly at 1330 for a 1300 start. The skipper for the day lost the toss and the Philanderers duly picked up where they’d left off. Contributions from Wright (33), Campbell (27) and Pimblett (20) notwithstanding, the Philanderers dribbled to 130 all out. Rob Gill, sidelined with a chronic injury sustained in combat with the Foreign Legion, could only look on. Just how different could it have been if he had been in the team? Completely, according to him.

The performance in the field was probably the worst this author has been involved in while refusing to wear a Philanderers shirt. Dropped catches, misfields and general lapses in concentration were commonplace, although it does feel harsh to blame Heggers entirely for the loss. Campbell and Perkins snared one each as Les Ormes cruised to victory in 20 sorry overs. Questions, perhaps understandably, were asked of the captaincy, with the elite bowling unit of Dodson, Lawrence and Hegarty unleashing just four overs between them.

So, a tour record of chastening defeats in both games and little to write home about in the three four months following.

“Why have a Jaegerbomb when you can have two?” – John Burnett, Les Ormes 2019

How, then, did a planeload of the clubs finest, and Pimblett, buttressed by pinpoint logistics, suffer such ignominious defeat?

Maybe greater forces were at work. Perhaps this was one frontier too far for a squad fattened by the annual plunder of Norfolk villages, sanctioned by a hubristic dictator holed up in a bunker and further and further from the realities of the world at large? Did the fates conspire to allow the French to stick two-fingers back up to their isolationist neighbours on behalf of the rest of the continent?

Trev, wearing a red t-shirt and a redder face, having exhausted all supplies of red wine

More likely, the blame for our pitiful showing should lie at the feet of ‘l’esprit de tour’. Each night, the group would wedge themselves into ‘Le Moulin’ with a stubbornness ne’er seen at the crease. Once Trev had exhausted the supplies of ‘rid’, eyes duly turned towards the top shelf. Cue the revelation of the secret of John Burnett’s eternal youth as he merrily tottered round the bar with a huge grin and two Jaegerbombs in hand, looking like Yoda on hippy crack. Anyone that would listen would be assured that he ‘really did like these things!’. Perhaps he does; but perhaps he was just drowning his sorrows after finding out that his ‘hairdresser [sic]’, the sensation of whose clippers against his scalp have been his sole source of titillation for years, was just another notch on the Chop King’s bedpost.

The Gnomes chose not to return to Le Moulin after the attentions of several Philanderers, choosing instead to pull an all-nighter in Fabric.

Indeed, word that the Chop King was on a Grand Tour had reached the provinces. Men, women and gnomes flocked to the campsite to see him in the flesh. Their disappointment, on hearing that the King has abdicated, was palpable. Sensing weakness, several of younger tourists moved in for the kill, but despite claims of descendance from the King himself, and romantic midnight pedalo outings, attempts to emulate the great man bore no fruit. The Judge proved a notable exception, but was duly punished by the Supreme Court for ‘bringing his own’.

And so, defeated on and off the field, the weary band of brothers returned. Stiffkey, next year, anyone?

Will Hammond

Action shot: The Judge may have had the best pull on tour, but it didn't escape the attention of the Supreme Court that he brought his wife with him

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