Henry Blofeld: Kevin Pietersen affair ‘a case of leopards and spots’

 

When a newspaper interview features unpunctuality, it is usually on the part of the talent. Not this time. I am supposed to be interviewing Henry Blofeld, the day after the news that Kevin Pietersen has been sacked by England, but I have misjudged the impact of the Tube strike. When I do finally arrive at his gated community in Chelsea, I am half an hour late; by rights, he ought to be fuming.

Luckily, Blofeld doesn’t do “fuming”. In fact, he is so nice about it, an exemplar of Etonian manners in mauve jumper, pink trousers and purple socks, that I wonder if he’s putting it on. He actually calls me “My dear old thing,” though I later realise that it’s a cover for the fact that he hasn’t a clue what my name is.

He ushers me into his home – a place which is as higgledy-piggledy with cricket memorabilia as you would expect. “Don’t worry at all,” he says, “I’m awfully sorry you’ve had such a rotten morning.” I almost feel as if he’s the one who’s kept me waiting.

The commentator is firmly of the view that the ECB has done the right thing by ditching England’s biggest star. “I’m afraid it’s a matter of leopards and spots,” he booms, his tone reliably Wodehousian. “He’s upset dressing rooms wherever he’s been. I know people like Boycott will say it’s mad to get rid of your best player, but I think it was inevitable, I really do.”

Nor does he have much time for the argument that the ECB’s decision has denied Andy Flower’s successor the choice. “The next coach is the one person who can’t take this decision,” he says. “He can’t be strong enough. It would have been an impossible task for him.”

Kevin Pietersen gestures whilst fielding during the third day of the first international Test cricket match between England and South Africa at the Oval last year Kevin Pietersen gestures whilst fielding during the third day of the first international Test cricket match between England and South Africa at the Oval last year If Pietersen’s travails and the uncertainty over the next coach – Blofeld’s a supporter of Tom Moody, for the record, and thinks Flower was right to quit – leaves him pessimistic over England’s prospects, at 72 he still seems cheerful about his own future. This is despite eye problems that leave his long-term prospects as a commentator on BBC Test Match Special uncertain. “If I can do two more years I shall be jolly happy,” he says. “I started 40 years ago, so it’s been quite a long innings, really. And I’ve never made up a bus or a pigeon.”

Still, he did three Tests in Australia, and if the offers of work do dry up a bit, he’s got plenty of alternatives. There’s the show he tours with his former TMS producer Peter Baxter –“Don’t let me get too pleased with myself,” he says, “but we did it in Australia and the audiences over there seemed to love it.”

Then there’s his recent book, Squeezing The Orange, an amiable volume of autobiography. He makes just as good company on the page as he does on the radio, but this is a book for lovers of anecdote rather than those seeking personal insight: Blofeld is not a man given to easy intimacy, and two failed marriages barely get a mention. (He has recently embarked on a third, to Valeria, who is “big news in fashion” and with whom he is very happy.)

“We all have ghastly bits of our lives that we don’t really want to look at,” he says. “So I thought humour was rather the way to go. But yes, I’ve made a balls of relationships in my life. I haven’t been an easy person to live with.” It is hard to square this, I remark, with the public geniality. “You make me think of a phrase my mother used,” he says wryly. “Street angel, house devil.”

Perhaps this determined good cheer is an unsurprising approach for a man whose life story, merry though it is, is built on such a catastrophe: the moment when Blofeld, a schoolboy cricketer whose potential was by all accounts limitless, had his career prematurely ended by a collision with a bus. The book covers that incident in a lightly self-deprecatory two paragraphs.

It is easy to imagine how such an incident might embitter a man. Not Blofeld. “Looking back at everything now,” he says, “I realise how bloody lucky I have been. As a cricketer, well, God knows, I might have been OK. But when I was 17 and in a hospital bed all I wanted to do was get out of it and get on with things.

“Who knows?” he smiles. “If I’d had an empty life, I might have felt sorry for myself. But I’m the luckiest man in the world. I get paid for doing what I love, and occasionally someone picks up the bill for lunch.”

Henry Blofeld is talking about his memoir ‘Squeezing the Orange’ at the Independent Bath Literature Festival on Saturday 1 March at 6pm, tickets £15. www.bathfestivals.org.uk. 01225 463362

News
people
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
News
people
Life and Style
tech Manband spurn Spotify to stream album exclusively with Google
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?