The night of Goochie's appearance was Friday just gone; Mrs The Millbrooker acted as taxi for us two cricket fans and we arrived at St John a few minutes ahead of schedule. Time for a pint, then. The first of quite a few, as it turned out. The do was held in the village hall at St John, taken over for the night by the Inn and there was a barrel of jolly nice Doom Bar available for the use of (at £2.70 a pop, mind); Frankenkeith and I might have taken full advantage of this barrel.
The entertainment began with Martin Smith doing a stand up routine with jokes that were probably considered old at around the time of the Flood, but with a repartee and a good natured nudge and wink which got the ninety strong crowd onside. He was good fun and worked the audience well, getting us to join in choruses of "You Are My Sunshine", amongst others. Well done him - he grafted the moderately sozzled throng into merriment - and that's a considerable skill, honed over years on the circuit.
Dinner followed. Frankenkeith tucked into chicken in tarragon sauce, I chomped on Moroccan lamb. (Can it genuinely have been from Morocco? I think not, but I won't quibble). And then it was time for Goochie to entertain us. Not with bat, nor with his famed Bob Willis bowling impersonation, just with cricketing stories.Pub manager Dan Bettinson introduced the great man by reading from a cut-and-paste list of stuff from Wikipedia. Goochie responded during his opening remarks with:
"I've discovered that Dan and I have something in common. [pause for effect] I've never heard of him........"
Harsh, but fair - and taken in good part by the young cellarman as Goochie got a round of applause.
We got the story of the ball of the century (youtube video on the link). Goochie played in that match and was the first to comment that it would never have got past Mike Gatting had it been a pork pie rather than a cricket ball. We got a bit of self-deprecatory stuff: "It's always handy to have your first ever test score in your name" (work it out for yourselves).
Goochie made us smile with a fund of (mostly familiar) stories, and that's what we paid our money for. Great stuff, and I'd certainly go to something similar again; yes it was boys-y, yes it was a bit drunkenly laddish. Yes Frankenkeith and I had too many Doom Bars and mistakenly thought it would be a good idea to down a few ports at Millbrooker Towers afterwards. Actually, that was a good idea - it just didn't seem so at seven o'clock the next morning as an eight hour shift loomed. But I enjoyed every corny, boozy bit of it.
There was a charity auction for Ellie's Haven during which Frankenkeith and I kept our hands firmly lowered, but lots of money was raised. Including someone on our table paying £550 for a pair of test tickets and hospitality for one day at next summer's Ashes tests: venue, date and exact package unknown. I'm only guessing here, but I reckon he's got more money than me (or than sense, possibly). Goochie acted as auctioneer and good naturedly put up with plenty of bids for "Goochie's Wig" from some over-excited navy-boys. For the uninitiated, Goochie spent some time advertising and endorsing hair weaving (or something) after he'd finished his playing career; here's a brace of before and after shots from the time:
A terrific evening, good honest no-nonsense leave-your-brain-at-home fun. Well done the St John Inn for having the initiative to organise the event and the best of luck to them in their next sporting evening (Paul Parker, England and Man Utd footballer) which I'll not going to as I can't stand football. Get another cricketer in, guys, and I'll be back like a shot.
If anyone reading does want to go to see Paul Parker on Friday 6th February next year, call the St John Inn on 01752 822280. Tickets are £25 including dinner and a signed photo of Mr Parker with you.