I learnt at Lord's that Mafeking should only be relieved responsibly

Too much champagne while watching a Test match can ruin a day out
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It was cricket overload last week for my son and me. I was able to show him both extremes of the same game while quietly confirming to myself that there is nothing more English and incomprehensible to a foreigner than cricket.

First we were off to the Cheltenham Cricket Festival. This is a glorious event in which my boy's school pitch is turned into a county ground for two weeks. We went to watch a four-day match between Gloucestershire and Derbyshire and ended up sitting in the members' enclosure for a while. These members consisted almost entirely of middle-aged to elderly men in shabby sun hats and food-stained shirts. These are the bowmen of cricket – the sort that raised two fingers to the French at Agincourt and then had a hearty breakfast. Nowadays, their ire is reserved for a sloppy ball or the buzz of a mobile phone in the stands. Their knowledge of the game is almost mystical and I found myself answering any question from my boy in hushed tones in case I made some elementary mistake and embarrassed myself in front of the faithful.

Two days later we were at the home of cricket itself, Lord's, for my boy's first visit. Once through the gates, it felt as if my fatherly duties had been completed. Small boys are disappointed by much these days but the excited hum of the crowd at Lord's on the first day of a Test match did the trick.

We had the best seats I've ever managed to get, high above the pitch and slap bang in the middle of the officer class. The day was peppered with comments like "here comes the relief at Mafeking" as another jug of Pimm's was passed to a man in red trousers, pink shirt and ruddy face a couple of seats down from us. It was a seriously hot day and the Mafeking Relief was plentiful, more so even than on a usual Test day, and the crowd were soon in a very generous mood.

This generosity led to much howling of advice to Captain Cook and to the almost universal booing of Ravindra Jadeja, the Indian player who had the temerity to accuse Jimmy Anderson of pushing him. Sadly we were denied the gladiatorial pantomime of Jimmy bowling at his nemesis as Moeen Ali (the beard that must be feared), perhaps hoping to avoid a bloodbath, quickly dispatched him.

I had now relieved Mafeking several times over and was keen to take up a kind invitation to a corporate box. My boy was thrilled with the copious amounts of free sweet things on offer. Five minutes later he was seated next to me with a plate stacked with patisseries, and a massive grin on his face. "I like Lord's dad." I smiled benevolently and leaned back congratulating myself on what a great father I was. That was when I slipped and poured a large glass of champagne all over his plate and trousers. There was a mortified silence in the box. I had gone from hero to zero. I had made it look as if my boy had wet himself in the officers' mess. We left soon after. It will be some years until I'm forgiven, methinks.