Brian Viner: If the best tales are often urban myths, it's best to tell them as if they're true

Related Topics

The grand old man of English cricket, Sir Alec Bedser, died on Sunday. The obituaries have been extensive and properly reverential, so it falls to me to tell one of my all-time favourite stories of misunderstanding, featuring Bedser and his international teammate, the sublimely named Jack Crapp.

In 1948, the pair had played against one another in a county match, so travelled together up to a hotel in Leeds where they were due to join the rest of the England party, prior to a Test match at Headingley. When they got there, the receptionist didn't realise that they were England cricketers, and wondered whether they were checking in for an overnight stay.

"Bed, sir?" she enquired of one of them. "No, Crapp," he replied. The receptionist didn't bat an eyelid. "Through them doors and first on t' left," she said.

It is a true story, so I am assured, but I suppose there's also a whisker of a chance that it might be an urban myth. The best tales so often are, although it's much better to tell them as though they really happened and hope that nobody decides to deconstruct them. After all, would a hotel receptionist, even in 1948, really say "Bed, sir?" rather than "Would you like a room, sir?" or "Are you checking in, sir?"

Probably not, although I like to think it holds just enough plausibility – which is perhaps more than can be said of another of my favourite stories, said to have happened here in the Welsh Marches, and consequently, if untrue, a rural rather than an urban myth.

It was on the England-Wales border, apparently, that a Welsh traffic policeman, whose efforts to suppress his antagonism towards the English were not always successful or even particularly diligent, stopped a car with London registration plates.

"You know why I've stopped you, don't you?" he said in an Abergavenny lilt.

"I've really no idea," replied the driver. "I know I wasn't speeding, and out here in the sticks there aren't any red lights to crash."

The policeman sighed. "No, sir," he said, "it's because you're driving an Audi Quattro."

The driver snorted. "That's ridiculous," he said. "Even in Wales it's not a crime to drive an Audi Quattro."

"It wouldn't be normally, sir," countered the policeman, "but I couldn't help noticing that there are five of you in the car, and if it were a vehicle intended for five, it wouldn't be called an Audi Quattro, would it?"

"You're having me on," replied the driver. "Tell me this is a wind-up." The policeman assured him that it wasn't. "Then in that case," the driver said, his anger mounting, "I demand to speak to your superior officer, to register a harassment complaint."

"No problem at all, sir," said the policeman, insouciantly. "But you'll have to wait a few moments. He's just up the road there having a right old barney with two English bastards in a Fiat Uno."

Now, I think we can safely file that story away under gags or rural myths, but what is perfectly true is that I told it a few years ago when I was giving an after-dinner speech to a roomful of senior policemen at a hotel near Chester, and at the end of the evening a tall, rather lugubrious-looking fellow came over to me and said, "I enjoyed your story about the Audi Quattro." I thanked him. "I should introduce myself," he added. "I'm the chief constable of Gwent. And can I just ask you: did you by any chance get that officer's number?" To this day I don't know whether he was joking.

This evening, the handsome Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury stages the world premiere of Tales of the Country, the play by the Pentabus Theatre Company adapted from my book of the same name about moving from the city, which in turn was loosely inspired by my columns in The Independent. When Orla and John, who run Pentabus, came round to propose the adaptation to me a year or so ago, I hardly imagined that our discussion would end with tonight's premiere, and I'm thrilled, if mildly astonished, to report that it's a sell-out – although any pride I might feel was pricked yesterday by a text from a friend of mine, who is inclined to mix his words up. "Can't wait," he said, "for tomorrow's world matinée."

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Queen Elizabeth II with members of the Order of Merit  

Either the Queen thinks that only one in 24 Britons are women, or her Order of Merit is appallingly backward

Janet Street-Porter
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...