Wish you were here

The World Cup has finally shown some semblance of life, with England just failing to better India in a run-strewn clash as the tournament shapes up to be mind-numbingly boring dominated by the bat. But maybe if selectors had been more prudent we’d be better off (yes, Luke Wright is in the England squad). Here’s a choice XI of some who didn’t make the cut, for various reasons.

Hershelle Gibbs

His autobiography may have been a gripping read, but its vivid depiction of the cliques in the South African dressing room helped end his international career. Which is a great shame, because, even at 36, Gibbs’s panache and audacity at the crease, best illustrated in his 111-ball 175 against Australia, have the capacity to thrill – as does his fielding.

Marcus Trescothick

For a man often described as ‘stand and deliver’ in his style, Trescothick is remarkably nimble on his feet. Of all the examples of his clean striking in the opening overs of ODI innings, perhaps the best was against Glenn McGrath in the Champions Trophy in 2004: Trescothick, happy to charge virtually any quick, drove McGrath for four consecutive boundaries. If he made himself available, there is no doubt Trescothick would have been opening for England.

VVS Laxman

Too orthodox for ODIs? Perhaps, but tell Australia, against who he’s scored four centuries at an average of 46. If Hashim Amla can become the top-ranked one-day batsman in the world, it seems strange that there is no place for Laxman in India’s side. His classical style looks incongruous in Twenty20, certainly, but a man with his range of shots and ability to accelerate could be invaluable in ODIs.

Brad Hodge

Despite seven centuries in his past 20 Australian domestic one-day games and a limited overs know-how few batsmen can match, there’s no place for Hodge at the World Cup. Labelled the “hard-luck story of the century” by Matthew Hayden, it’s pretty hard to argue – rumours that he never fitted into the Australian dressing room are one potential explanation.

Owais Shah

Overly intense and a shoddy fielder he may be, but Shah has a six-hitting ability England appear to lack in their middle-order. That much was epitomised by an 89-ball 98, with six maximums, against South Africa in the 2009 Champions Trophy. And his ease against spin helped him average 59 in England’s last one-day series in India. In the absence of Eoin Morgan, could Shah have been England’s finisher?

Zulqarnain Haider

Remembered for fleeing mid-series against South Africa last year, promising to blow the whistle on match-fixers, Haider retired from cricket aged just 24. Those who saw his superbly gritty 88 on Test debut last summer will know he should be in south Asia now, rather than England.

Albie Morkel

The ‘next Klusener’ will not be appearing in the World Cup. For a fifth bowler, he was always too liable to be expensive with the ball. Nevertheless, South Africa may long for him when chasing eight-an-over: Morkel can exploit the batting powerplay like few others, most notably when looting Australia for 40* (off 18) and 40 (off 22) in two match-winning innings down under in 2009.

Mohammad Nabi

Afghanistan’s skipper will rue the change in the format from 2007: if 16 teams were permitted as they were then, he would be appearing in the World Cup. An off-spinning all-rounder who also has a first-class hundred to his name, Nabi is a useful cricketer who, with 13 wickets at 10 in the World Twenty20 qualifiers last year, did more than anyone to secure Afghanistan’s place in that tournament.

Mohammed Amir

Yes, yes, we know why he won’t be playing, and that is right. But there’s no denying the sight of Amir’s mastery of the left-arm craft would have added to the tournament. Facing him under lights is not a prospect any opener would relish.

Simon Jones

The notion of a fit Jones may seem ridiculous, but his performances in the Carribbean Twenty20 competition, including claiming 4-10 in four overs, served as a reminder of his reverse swing mastery of ’05, as well as his oft-ignored subtleties. Still capable of touching 90mph, could he yet play for England again, if used in a manner akin to Australia’s Shaun Tait?

Shane Bond

A slight cheat of a selection in that he’s retired, but what a shame it is. His last series – nine wickets at 21 against Australia last year – suggested Bond still possessed a genuine threat at international level. With express pace and canny use of bouncers, yorkers, cutters and slower balls alike Bond, even at 35, would have provided New Zealand’s attack with the cutting edge they are conspicuously lacking.

Rodent alert

The Year of the Rat
Corpus Christi Auditorium
Thurs – Sat 7pm

“I respect you hugely”: this is not what most women expect to hear when proposing casual sex. The free spirited Sonia Brandwell is accordingly unimpressed with George Orwell’s blushing response to her offer of a no-strings-attached tussle in the bedroom.
Writing his second dystopian classic, Nineteen Eighty Four, and slowly dying from TB, George Orwell attempts a last shot at love inviting his friend Sonia Brownell to visit him on the remote Scottish island where he lives. As the two discuss life, literature and love we get a sense that Sonia could be the seductive antidote to Orwell’s lonely, and very English, self-restraint.

Nick Davies plays George Orwell perfect awkwardness. We watch him nervously fumbling around the stage and sitting wedged in a small armchair, dwarfed by protruding limbs. Davies’s performance captures Orwell’s childlike anticipation and simple desire to love and we cannot help but feel a motherly affection for this vulnerable figure – we not only want him to get laid we want him to be loved.

In comparison Sonia’s character, played by Georgia Waters, is a rather confusing combination of seductive temptress and “professional virgin”.  It is in conversation with Cyril, Orwell’s leery literary editor who also has eyes for Sonia, that Waters’ haughty brusqueness is lacking. Fortunately this scene is almost singlehandedly carried off by Andrew McCormack. Comically assaulting the stage as Cyril Connolly, McCormack’s performance as the persevering lecher leads him to flash his willy at Sonia in a macho attempt to woo her, leaving us chortling in our seats at this ‘mine is bigger than his’ display. Beneath this he masks a real concern to protect his friend from this femme fatal.

What may seem like a simple play of boy meets girl is punctuated by Orwell’s bizarre dialogue with a trio of animals (Rat, Pig and Boxer the horse) representing his subconscious. Michael Crowe plays these three animals with a neighing and snorting gusto that must be praised. But the play itself somewhat disappoints in its examination of one of the greatest 20th century minds. This does not deter the student cast, directed by Jacob Diggle, who masterly carry the play combining humor with a deep psychological interest in the beautiful space of the Corpus Christi Auditorium.

Parisa Karbassi

Pie Minister: The Covered Market

I’m Australian so I thought I knew I thing or two about a pie. Squeezing tomato sauce on a meat pie is a part of my cultural heritage after all. But after stumbling upon Pie Minister in the Covered Market my perceptions of what a pie experience could or could not be were radically altered.

Eating at Pie Minister is not the most glamorous of experiences. It is buried deep in the Covered Market between a butcher, a baker and alas, a florist. There are only plain wooden diner style tables but a high turn over meant that we were able to nab one. Whilst my friend guarded the table I went up to the counter to place my order. And choosing a pie was a genuinely difficult experience. There is the Chicken of Aragon pie (I’m not sure I understand the pun) a concoction of chicken, smoky bacon, roasted garlic, vermouth and tarragon. Or for those of the vegetarian persuasion there is the Heidi, with goats cheese, sweet potato, spinach and red onion.

I chose the Thai Chook pie. Whoever invented this should be given a medal. They have discovered a way to take a Thai curry and surround it with more carbs. Chunks of soft sweet potato steeped in a mild green curry sauce contrasted against a crusty pastry. Admittedly at first I was slightly skeptical of the Asian classic meets pie concept but by my last mouthful I had been totally converted.

My Australian friend, unable to stray too far from her roots ordered the Moo pie, a traditional steak number. At first she seemed a little confused that it came with mashed potato and not chips (and that she was not at an Australian Rules Football game whilst easting it) But she quickly overcame this culture shock and judging by a scraped clean plate, enjoyed it.
For students, a quick lunch at Pie Minister is not a bank breaking experience. Their student deal is £4.95 for any pie, mash potato and gravy – though they did ask to see our Bod cards.

Perhaps, what consolidated my love for Pie Minister was not their reasonable prices but reading about their soon to be released royal wedding Pie. The “kate and wills” is made with British beef (of course), wine, bacon, pearl onions, mushrooms and a dash of brandy. So if you have collections on April 19th – don’t despair. Just head to the Covered Market and you can still enjoy the upper crust.

Price: Slightly more than hall
Food: Pie-tastic
Atmosphere: Covered Market chic

Steph Vizard

Terminate here: the culture of cancer

On April 19th 2010, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour the size of a golf ball.  On May 10th, the medical equivalent of a Black & Decker power saw cut through my skull and the parasitic cluster was removed from the right frontal lobe.  On May 27th (you never forget the dates), I was informed that despite the apparent success of the operation my situation was considered terminal due to the remaining cancerous cells that would reform and then navigate to the centre of my brain.  I was told it would take a handful of years rather than months, but at 38, my countdown to extinction had begun.

Like you, I bought into the idea of living into my dotage.  Like you, I envisaged the pleasure of nostalgia; how the bookends of a long life would sandwich remarkable changes in a life transformed by people, places, and technology.  Like you, I looked forward to the obligatory mid-life crisis with the prospect of wearing pink shirts, holding my belly in, dying my hair, and bemoaning the current state of music (though to be fair, I already do some of this).  Yet, impossible though it still feels, I should have indulged in a mid-life crisis several years ago when I was unwittingly half-way through this one stab at existence.  But this is the thing with a terminal prognosis: contrary to the cliché, your life doesn’t flash before you, but your future certainly does.  It’s a future lost to life’s cutting room floor, like photographic negatives that will never be developed and realised in colour.  The bookends of this life, then, will stand much closer to each other than I could have hoped.

Apparently, in travel-related disasters, shock renders 12% of victims motionless.  To some extent I remain in this frozen state of disbelief, largely because I feel perfectly healthy now, as though what happened in 2010 was just a protracted and rather unpleasant dream.  But cancer makes you oscillate.  You feel a visceral punch of reality one moment, followed by an exhausted acceptance of your fate the next.  Yet, despite the misfortune of my position, it is important to spread the news of the present tense, or the ‘living in the now’, as the saying goes.  The “Terminate here” sign might be visible, but it does, believe it or not, bring its pleasures, and those pleasures can emanate from culture, the culture of cancer.

Cancer has not always been represented with due care though.  If cancer has a publicity agent it might be Darren Lamb, the overwhelmingly incompetent entertainment manager in Extras, who assigns his acts the most ludicrous of projects.  How else could you explain Snap’s 1992 hit single with its notorious line, “I’m as serious as cancer when I say rhythm is a dancer”?  Thankfully more esteemed cultural figures have saved cancer from exclusive association to such insensitive dross.  New College alumnus Dennis Potter, who died of pancreatic cancer in 1994, and former Balliol student Christopher Hitchens, who was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer last June, are more inspiring than any self-help book, more honest than some doctors, and certainly more enlightening and humorous than Turbo B’s pathetic rap.

In his final interview with Melvyn Bragg, playwright Dennis Potter spoke of celebrating the present tense, declaring that the ‘nowness of everything is quite wonderress’.  He famously spoke of appreciating the ‘whitest, frothiest, blossomist of blossom’ that had just appeared in his garden.  Potter, who died just three weeks later, did not seek pity but rather to open people’s minds to the glories of living in the now.  Cancer, then, despite its horrors, is paradoxical and can bring one to a state that may otherwise be unattainable.

Polemicist Christopher Hitchens deals with his demise in a remarkably frank and public way, highlighting the stockpile of cancer clichés and how the so-called ‘battle’ with the disease is a misleading term, as in reality, it battles you.  As Hitchens says, you never hear that someone died after a long battle with old age; it’s always cancer that is seen in this combative way.  Like me, Hitchens is an atheist, which brings specific complications when taking this existential fast lane on the road to oblivion.  As he points out though, being diagnosed with cancer is not the end of everything but rather the beginning of living beyond that cliché of taking each day as it comes. It’s an obscene finale, all right, but a magical and liberating one too.

Organic carrots, a daily glass of Bordeaux (they both contain cancer-fighting Flavanoids), and an unpronounceable chemotherapy drug, all keep my cancerous wolf from the door.   This means that in private I look like an alcoholic Bugs Bunny, chomping on raw carrots, swigging from a bottle of Claret, and always asking the Doc, “What’s up?”.  The spring is nearly here though and I look forward to seeing the whitest, frothiest, blossomist of blossom.  I suspect it will be like seeing it for the first and last time simultaneously.

“We’re the only beings, the only living things that know we’ll die, yet this doesn’t stop us from pretending we’ll live forever.”

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