Sport on TV: Arlott recalls golden days of wine, wisdom and song

John Arlott In Conversation With Mike Brearley (BBC4, Wednesday) was not so much a blast from the past as a gentle burr, like a bumblebee on a summer's day. These are the highlights of a series of fireside chats in 1984 between cricket's greatest commentator and its most cerebral captain. But as Brearley points out in quoting another of the game's great wordsmiths, C L R James: "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?" Arlott was one of the few "renaissance" men of post-war Britain. Arlott knew a lot, basically.

Most famous for his ability to paint a picture using only his unforgettable Hampshire accent, the big man who died 20 years ago last week was also a poet, journalist, writer of hymns, wine connoisseur and Liberal party candidate. He was "a man of many parts, generous to a fault", according to Brearley. Yet while he may sound like a dilettante, flitting from one hobby to another without ever doing a day's proper work, he was quite the opposite. Born without privileges, he was a force of nature – as his accent would accentuate.

His huge, rubicund face fills the screen and you can almost feel the intensity of his mind as well as almost taste the bouquet of French wine on his breath. Here is a man who worked in an asylum and was a policeman for a decade before cricket claimed him. He was a close friend of John Betjeman, and the man who brought Basil D'Oliveira to England, thereby playing a major role in the ultimate dismantling of apartheid.

It took him six years to find "Dolly" a club to play for in the English leagues, and this drive may also have been inspired by the deprivations of his own background. His family's poverty is never far from the florid surface. The contrast between him and Brearley could hardly be greater, and not just Arlott's ruddy jowls against his interlocutor's thin, grey features. Arlott walked out of his geography exam halfway through to watch Reading in the FA Cup, while the Cambridge-educated Brearley went on to pursue a career as a psychoanalyst. So this meeting of minds was an ideal preparation for Brearley's future consultations.

For two of the game's fascinating personalities, the talk is often stilted despite the obvious mutual respect. But once the Beaujolais started flowing, the words came tumbling out. "For me it was in through the eyes and out through the mouth," said Arlott. "With a process in between," added Brearley. But perhaps the thought processes weren't as important to Arlott as they were to him. That easy felicity could provide a flowing cover drive in the imagination far better than Brearley could produce on the pitch.

* As Blue Peter (BBC1, Tuesday) is reduced to one show per week, perhaps it has finally decided to tell the nation's youth how lucky they are. Helen Skelton's latest adventure for Sport Relief is to hike, kite-ski and cycle to the South Pole. She visits Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who explains how he lost the tops of all his fingers on one hand within three seconds. Double-sided sticky tape wouldn't fix that. Then we hear of the failure and unimaginable suffering of Captain's Scott's mission 100 years ago. But there was no familiar reminder "don't try this at home" or instructions for parents to leave the room – with the words "I may be some time".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Professional Sales Trainee - B2B

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Guru Careers: PR Account Director / SAM

£50 - 60k (DOE) + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: A PR Account Director / SAM ...

Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Insight Analyst

£32 - £37K + extensive benefits: Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Ins...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific