Out for a duck: the late, great Quentin Crisp

`I find it very refreshing to be alone in the outfield for hours, with nobody to jostle or jeer at me'
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The Independent Culture
FOLLOWING THE death of the late-lamented Quentin Crisp, I have received many letters of tribute to him and think it only right to print a small selection of them today.

From Mr George "Gubby" Trotter OBE

Sir, In all the fitting tributes to the late Quentin Crisp, I have seen no mention of his abiding love of cricket. I used to know Quentin well in his early days in Soho and Chelsea, and we were often team-mates in the Fitzrovia 2nd XI. Indeed, it was Quentin who came up with the name of the team, which was a curious one as there was no such thing as the Fitzrovia 1st XI.

"I urge you all to call ourselves the Fitzrovia 2nd XI," he told the inaugural meeting. "Not only will this cause the opposition to underrate us, it will also give us an alibi if we should lose a match, as I hope we will do frequently."

"What's wrong with winning, Quentin?" someone shouted.

"Everything, in the case of cricket," he answered coolly. "When one side wins in cricket, very often half the team have not had the chance to bat. In a losing team, at least everyone has had an innings. Cricket is the only team game where it is more democratic to lose than to win."

From Mr Norman McCandle

Sir, I too was privileged to play in several Fitzrovia 2nd XI games alongside Quentin Crisp. I remember asking him once what drew such an aesthete to such a physical game.

"Oh, I avoid all the physical aspects of cricket," he said. "I never bat or bowl. Fielding is my forte, where I can stand for hours without being noticed. If the ball comes my way, I stand very still and hope it will not notice me. Otherwise I find it very refreshing to be alone in the outfield for hours on end, with nobody to jostle or jeer at me, though I was once whistled at by an umpire as I changed ends. This gives a new meaning to the phrase, `appealing to the umpire'."

From Mrs Dorothy Sturgeon

Sir, Knowing that Quentin had an unexpected penchant for cricket, I once asked him whether it was the stylishness of the game that appealed to him.

"It is a mistake to think that cricket has any style," he said. "To make 11 men dress in exactly the same white clothes shows about as much dress sense as making them all join the Black Watch. And whoever made cricket balls red had no conception of what would happen to long white trousers when you started rubbing red balls down the legs."

From Mr Serge Vacheff

Sir, As the only Russian poet ever to play for the Fitzrovia 2nd XI, I have a vivid memory of standing near to Quentin Crisp every other over. (He refused to cross over between overs, saying that once he had found a green part of the field that suited him, it would be fatal to abandon it.) "You should take cricket back to the USSR," he said to me. "Perhaps Mr Stalin would like to play."

"I don't think so. It's too elitist."

"Oh, but all games are elitist," he said. "In any team game the players are, in effect, saying to the crowd: `We 22 are better than all of you!'."

"Then why do the crowd not rise up and take their revenge on the team?"

"For the same reason the Russians do not rise up and slaughter Stalin."

"And what reason is that?"

But then I was called in closer to field at gully, and never heard the answer.

From Sir Walter Calico, OBE

I remember luring Quentin to represent a Chelsea XI against Dorset Pottery and noticing he never batted or bowled, only fielded, for both sides if possible.

"Why do you hide yourself on the boundary, Quentin, old chap?" I asked.

"The whole point of any game is to be seen and loved by the crowd," he said. "Where else can that be done in cricket but in the outfield? The most truly hidden people are the batsman and bowler. However well they play they are miles from the spectators, who are not even close enough to recognise them after the match. I, on the other hand, who barely lift a finger during the entire game, am a familiar figure to the whole crowd. That is what is called having style in cricket."

There speaks the real Quentin Crisp.