The Icenorium Amphitheatre was the same shape as my county Surrey’s home ground The Oval. This helped allay some of my anxiety. The Three Heads of Cerberus sat on a portable stage erected at the far end of the arena. The Master of Ceremonies introduced them as Londinium’s Quintus Flaccus Obsticanus, Britain’s most successful trader in dormice. Hector Fallonus Scipio who’d made his wealth in Verulamium from the import of olives from the Mediterranean and finally Gaius Torpus Alainus from Camulodunum who was a big player in the corporate hospitality business.
The Three Heads of Cerberus quickly seen off the first contestant, a former slave looking for an investment of 400 denarii in return for a 25% stake in his sprinting impressionist phone system which involved athletic impersonators conducting a conversation between two subscribers often miles apart while imitating their voices. As The Heads of Cerberus observed, long distance calls could see subscribers being accused of making dirty calls as the sprinting impressionist would be bound to be breathing very heavily. To my mind this business idea seemed perfectly sound, but the investors picked holes aplenty in the poor fellow’s concept and he was summarily dismissed without a denarius to his name.
As any side that does battle for St. George and the Dragon, we locked our opponents in a fixed, unwavering gaze. The Heads of Cerberus matched our bravado and we prepared ourselves for a battle royal. As I stepped up to make my pitch the crowd soon displayed where their allegiances were as they made fun of my Harlequin cap and questioned my ancestry and ultimate destination. I looked back at my players to see if they were concentrating upon the task in hand. A captain has always to be on the lookout for wandering sheep. I can, with pride, report that they were all focused and in the zone. We had the reliance and confidence in each other that is half the battle.
The pitch went extraordinarily well. Taking into consideration that a heavy roller had not been deployed upon the makeshift wicket and there were still fragments of bone and gristle dotted about the pitch that had survived the general sweep since the gladiatorial combats. I was chuffed that Boudicca was able to exploit some of this rough outside the off-stump with some of her cleverly flighted spinners.
The presentation went rapidly downhill once the pitch was at an end and I was placed in the line of fire to answer questions from the potential investors. When they asked to see the makeshift ball all three agreed that the raised seem would be more exciting if it was replaced by sharp blades.
‘The object of the game is to get the batsman out, not kill the bugger!’ I retorted. There will be those reading this, especially ones of Antipodean extraction, who will be shocked that it is I, Douglas Jardine of Bodyline infamy, who said this. When I explained to the three heads that the new ball lasted about 80 overs, most of a day’s play, before it usually needed to be replaced by another new ball, these hard nosed businessmen scoffed at its apparent poor quality and said that it would be no good offering a One Year’s Guarantee on it then!
Later when I mentioned that spinners liked to give the ball some air they murmured again that the ball was of such poor quality that not only did it need replacing within a day but constantly required resuscitation! This played to the general hostility of the crowd who laughed uproariously at every scathing put down and punctuated this with a volley of rotten fruit and even less palatable items propelled in our direction. I had the advantage over my Celtic colleagues as being a projected image I could allow them to pass right through me.
It became rapidly obvious that to get them to invest in the concept of cricket was a forlorn hope. To provide you with some picture of the opponent I was up against here follows their barbed reactions to each cricket term I used. I won’t indicate the particular Head of Cerberus responsible for each individual comment, as they all chipped in with scores and were each as bad as each other:
Overs – ‘I’ll be glad when this pitch us over!’
The Meat of the Bat – ‘Are you trying to dip a toe into the exotic butchery business!’
The Crease – ‘You said that a heavy roller is applied to the wicket before each innings…yet you are left with creases!’
Ball Tampering – ‘Leave creating Eunuchs to the Pontifex Maximus!’
Swinger – ‘Why not just call him an orgy lover!’
Pads – ‘You seriously advocate wearing an apartment to prevent injuries?’
Bowled Around His Legs – ‘Sounds like my brother after the barber at the baths has finished with him each week!’
The Ball Carried To A Fielder – ‘So slaves are involved?’
The Corridor of Uncertainty – ‘We’ve been occupying it since first you opened your mouth today.’
Golden Duck – ‘We could send that on to Nero for the bath in his planned Golden Palace.’
Run Out – ‘Sounds like you have major supply problems there!’
These are but a few examples and to say that I was on a sticky wicket is an understatement. So off guard had I become that when Scipio asked about my projection I thought he was onto the fact I was a light beamed from the 21st Century rather than requesting my future estimates for the growth of cricket. Suffice it to say, that all Three Heads of Cerberus declared in quick succession that they were out. It is the norm for me to celebrate a dismissal, but each announcement of “I’m Out!” failed to invoke a feeling of general bonhomie within me.
I took my defeat like an Englishman, although presently England doesn’t exist, with a stiff upper lip. It was then that Boudicca piped up, slamming the Heads of Cerberus for leading us into a baited trap that was preordained to prove fruitless.
‘I’m having second thoughts about pitching my road gritting business idea here in a week’s time,’ she declared. ‘You’re a bunch of Numpties!’
Quintus Flaccus Obsticanus, who’d generally been the most obnoxious of the Heads of Cerberus throughout our ordeal, although in fairness the other two weren’t far behind on the objectionable scale, suddenly called Boudicca by her name.
‘Ah, that Iceni Queen bitch with the preposterous idea about gritting our magnificent straight roads in Britain in winter? Queen of the Modern Grits? More like Boudicca Queen of the Biggest Nits!’
His two associates soon joined in the slaughter, producing howls of laughter from the spectators and generally making poor Boudicca feel as if she was the recipient of another public humiliation akin to her whipping and the rape of her daughters.
It was ruthlessky pointed out that her idea was nonsense because supplies of salt were better employed as an abrasive agent to rub into the wounds of slaves and bleak, hostile places were needed in the Roman Empire to send errant poets like Ovid into exile. It would also prove yet another example of Romans becoming soft and lapping up luxuria if the dangers of ice and snow were kept off Britain’s roads.
‘Cato the Elder’s descendants and followers will be baying for our blood in Rome if we assisted you with this,’ Obsticanus chuckled dismissively.
However, the most damming rebuttal cast at Boudicca, who was fast becoming purple as her blue woad was invaded by the rouge tint of anger, was that gritting the roads would prevent goods wagons from slipping off of them and thus inhibit the growth of new settlements. A list of towns from Alaunodonum to Vinovia were promptly cited and for each their formation all boiled down to some goods wagons having slipped off the straight roads on ice and then attracted hoards of settlers to the crash site like vultures to a carcass.
Boudicca at this juncture stormed off, a wounded animal rather like Woodfull and Oldfield would after being struck by nasty, sharp rising deliveries in the Third Test at Adelaide in 1933. If that experience was anything to go by, the world hadn’t seen the last of her.
TEST RESULT: A Win For Douglas Jardine on Day 4.
The History Maintenance Commission in New York City have announced that Boudicca appears to be back on course with regards to starting a rebellion in Britain in AD 60 against the occupying forces of Rome. Confirmation will appear on The Hysterical News Agency Website Very Shortly. Professor Delphi CEO of the HMC is said to be ecstatic at the news that vindicates his much criticised choice of holograms for this important Mission.
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