The Bedouin Cricket Club

…I awoke in my usual position, face down on the kitchen floor, with a little bit of dribble on my chin. My mobile was ringing and I reached instinctively behind me through the empty bottles of british sherry and gingster pasty wrappers, and raised it to my ear. “Hey alcoholic scum, got some good news for a change”

Through the excruciating pain of a category 5 hangover, I immediately recognised the supportive tones of my agent. Good news? I hadn’t had a sniff of good news since I had been thrown off the set of downtown abbey, 6 months earlier following an incident involving some meow meow, a bottle of absinthe, and putting dame Maggie smith over my knee and spanking her until she called me daddy. things had been better. “Whats the good news then” I asked. “Phelan Ray wants you in his next movie”,my agent replied “and he wants to meet you tomorrow”

Phelan Ray?!! I definitely didn’t expect that. Phelan Ray or to give him his full name Joseph Rainer Phelan Ray was the last auteur, the last maverick director. Raised in west London bohemia, and smitten by indian cinema from an early age, his work followed in the traditions of Hitchcock, Wilder, Kurosawa, Bergman, Kubrick and Malick. He was the director of Mumbai Vice, I know why the Caged Weasel sings and Dirty Reg – all instant classics. Then suddenly he disappears, without warning, like syd barratt or prawn cocktail crisps. There were rumours of him settling down, which seemed to be confirmed a few years ago, when a faded photograph emerged in the press, of him looking slightly lost, dressed in khaki shorts, and a Ramones T-Shirt holding a pot of white matt emulsion paint in a B and Q in Plumstead. But it seemed he was back, and without hesitation, I told my agent to accept the offer.

I was told to meet at harrys on upper street and arrived there just after 8.30am, only to met by the Baron. The Baron- part Cardinal Richelieu, part Professor Morriaty with the wardrobe of Leonard Rossiter. An accomplished actor, whose passion for intrigue is only matched by the subtlety of his plots. Not to be under-estimated, he would have to be watched. He was already seated at an outside table and rose to greet me saying “ Hello old thing, funny we are on the same film, I bought you a cappuccino, hope it’s ok” . The Baron knew I hated cappuccino – the games had started already. “Phelan ray is picking us up at 9am on the corner of laycock st and upper st”, the Baron continued, “ damned strange place to choose don’t you think”. I gave no reply, but he was right, why there?. But that was Phelan - Ray, nothing was conventional, everything was unexpected. We were presently joined by Jake Sharland,the ex lead singer of inner city boy band “ Bruvved Up” and now trying his hand at acting. He had recently starred in Final Destination 7, Step Up 3 and taken the lead in the rom com,Sleepless in Hackney. He looked worse for wear and proceeded to tell us about his partying with the cast of the reality t.v. programme made in Chelsea, in dalston. “Place was rammed,full of wankers, but got proper smashed”- I liked his style.

We walked to the meeting point and phelan ray, pulled up beside us. “ Hi, - hop in, doors open” he still looked very much like the old pictures, except the linen suits and trademark espadrilles had now been replaced by flip flops and polyester shorts. “ this isn’t my car,” he cheerily announced as we clambered in the ford fiesta, “I borrowed it from Nick Shelley Smith, the celebrated photographer”. This rang true. I had spent a lost weekend in Ibiza with shelley- smith in my twenties,and the empty big mac boxes and fag packets rising up to our chins plus the pigeon droppings on the roof confirmed that this was definitely nick’s car. We set out in a southerly direction and exchanged pleasantries until, Jake asked, what the film was about. “Oh didn’t they tell you” replied phelan- ray matter of factly, “we going to play cricket this afternoon, we going to play cricket in Hampshire”.

A surprised silence suddenly filled the ford fiesta, even the baron hadn’t anticipated this development. We were further informed that we were heading for a place called Harbendon in Hampshire to play a team of some friends that had built his tree house retreat in finland. On the way we stopped at the very spot that cricket was first played and its rules were first developed. Phelan ray seemed genuinely moved as he ambled around surveying the south downs and breathing in the afternoon Hampshire air. It is then that I noticed his feet. Hairy ,Brown and dirty; looking like a cross between an extra from slumdog millionaire and a hobbit. I wondered if this was a new look that he was developing or he had indeed fallen on hard times – I hoped the former.

We arrived at the cricket ground about 12.30 and the met the rest of the cast/cricket team :

John Phillips – legendary theatre producer and the man credited to discovering phelan-ray, giving him his first break on the comedy drama – don’t get married in finland, they’re fxxxxxx mental

Eliot Sherrington – one time member of happy Mondays, and soft porn star, now has his own cookery/golf programme on cable t.v. called “ cant cook, that’s why I got married”

Richard Marston – soap actor, venture capitalist and car enthusiast. Owns and edits his own high - end automobile magazine called “ I have a Porsche – you haven’t ”

Ben Sudell - young london actor, voted most likely to break Hollywood by evening standard in 2011 and widely touted to be the next Dr Who.

Chris “ C.P” Petter – all action new Zealand actor, who took the lead in the bi-opic the chuck Norris story and the slasher horror classic “ don’t call me ginger bollocks – I don’t like it”

Junaid Asad – Bollywood legend. Old school actor, veteran of over 150 films, his most famous being kabbadi holocaust. Notorious hellraiser and chat show favourite, he famously dropped his trousers on the david letterman show declaring that “ nobody will really know how good I was”. Occasionally performs songs from the American songbook for Scandinavian Cruise ships and resides in Norway with Ingrid, his 23 year old fiancé.

Dan “Danno” Hayes – one time bassist with Iron Maiden and death metal supergroup “Hot Sphincter”. Danno moved seamlessly into films, playing real life football referee Pierluigi Collina, in the t.v feature “keeping walking sunshine, youre off” and had a cameo part in the hills have eyes 6. Away from the camera, Danno, indulges his passion for 7th century byzantine tapestry and also restores canal barges on the Norfolk broads

An aside to this, is that I later discovered that the celebrated stunt co-ordinator turned director Andrew “AB” Browne was due to play but was busy on the set of his new film “ die benefit scrounger die”, and couldn’t make it.

The game started at 1pm, and we were to field. Danno hadn’t turned up. This would have put most people off their stride, but Phelan-ray seemed to revel in this disorder. His team talk had a similar feel. He brought us together, in a hurried fashion, more like a farm dog trying to coral cattle than a director explaining his vision to the cast. He lowered his sweaty dome amongst us, told us that our team was to be called “ the Bedouins”, then whispered a few words of encouragement and threw the ball to the young gun, Jake, and ran off. It was then that I saw first hand – his method, this is what I had come for. He stood in the middle and placed every member of the team in a specific spot. He was meticulous. Not only where to stand, but the expression you would need on your face. “ yeah Eliot, two paces forward, step to your left, put one hand one your hip, and then a look of melancholy, which transforms into joy, when the bowler releases his ball”. And so it went on.

The gamble paid off,Jake took a wicket with his third ball and he completed his first over, which with all the adjustments in the field from phelan – ray took just over an hour. Then we stopped for drinks. Phelan-ray threw the ball to me to bowl the second over, again completely unexpected, I hadn’t bowled since primary school, when labouring under the dictatorial captaincy of fat benny mchugh. That had been a chastening experience, but Phelan-ray trusted me. I had heard a lot about his “ let the cards fall where they may” method, and I liked it. This was a 40 over match, and each bowler was allowed 8 overs. For the 3
rd over, the great director, changed again and gave the ball to the old master, Junaid who bowled 8 impeccable overs, beating the bat on many occasions- the dude still had it. I bowled my 8 overs without incident and didn’t concede too many runs, and took a wicket to an amazing catch by Ben. Next the ball was given to Eliot, and although the ravages of his rave past were still evident, he bowled with purpose and accuracy. Everyone was raising their game for the great man, everyone was running between the overs and eager to please. I say everyone, well everyone, except the Baron. He stood at cover point, arms folded, watching……always watching, while occasionally jogging over to the director and whispering something in his ear, and jogging back with a switchblade smile on his face – snidey business. But the Bedouins marched on, things were going tickety boo, we bowled and fielded well, however the opposition were strong. Phelan- ray tried everything, and his field placings became more adventurous and more detailed, and made the story about David Lean, the director of Lawrence of arabia waiting 3 days for a cloud to move to get the right camera shot, seem like the first day at film school. The man was obsessed.The highlight of the day was when he had a bowl himself. Obviously a bit rusty, and a bit short, it was still prose in motion. CP performed valiantly behind the stumps, although a few got through and in characteristic antipodean fashion, he berated himself, muttering that “he was playing like a pom” Then the ball was thrown to young Ben who bowled 8 sweet overs which brought a wicket. At the other end Danno who had turned up 45 minutes late, having been delayed at a service station by hells angels demanding autographs, produced 8 overs of control and length that was also rewarded with a wicket. The Bedouins made few mistakes, but with the long boundaries and the patient batting of the opposition, we got little back for our labours and they finished on 205 -5 after 40 overs. A formidable score on this track.

After a super tea, it was our turn to bat. Jake and the eternal gentleman Jon Phillips opened the proceedings. The bowling was not threatening but very accurate and hard to get away. Jon was going well until trapped lbw. Next up, Eliot Sherrington. A formidable batsman and bon viveur, much was expected and he didn’t disappoint, but was unfortunately caught on 19 while getting into his stride. When asked afterwards about how he felt, he was heard to say as he was practicing his bunker shot “ cricket is shite, I like golf now”. Next came the Baron, and performed well until he was caught on 4. On his way back to Pavillion, he whispered something in the bowler’s ear, which made him immediately burst in tears, In times like this, it is always good to have the Baron on your side. Richard Marston came in and quickly launched the shot of the match, a 6, but then was quickly out. Throughout the innings Jake, played fearlessly, showing all his strength and technique. Although dropped 3 times, his was the shining performance of the Bedouins. Phelan – Ray, CP, Ben, Junaid, Danno and myself all came into bat, but to no avail, the match was gone – 135 all out.

Presentations were made, speeches politely listened to, Jake got man of the match for the Bedouins, deservedly for his 74. Then after a quick stop at Jon Phillip’s house where there was a touching half an hour between the master and the apprentice, and where I also caught the Baron slip a 1920’s cigarette case resting on the side board into his pocket, it was back to London. We all decamped back to the Aces and Eights in Tufnell Park, but working with Phelan-Ray had taken its physical and emotional toll, and we all started drifting off. Before he left, Phelan –Ray walked up to me and I hope he would comment on my performance and pass on a few tips. Instead he asked me how tall I was. A strange question, but typical of the man’s inscrutable nature. I replied just over 6 foot. He smiled and said “ same size as me”. He was wrong, I was a little taller, but I nodded in agreement, let the great man have that one, I thought. I turned to talk to someone and then turned back and he was gone. To be expected, it was his way. Would we work with his genius again? I think we all hope so.

Scorecard here
Left: Sean, Jake and Phelan Ray at the Bat and Ball

Below: a scene on Ridge Meadow
These rantings were found in a guest room's bin at the Ramada Jarvis Hotel, Hogs Back Services, on the A31.
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