REVIEW: Henry Blofeld, Off The Shelf Festival, Hallam University

Henry Blofeld
Henry Blofeld

My dear old things... Bloers is in the Steel City. Dressed soberly and not like an explosion in a paint factory.

He’s promoting a book, about endless summers (and occasional winters) in the Test Match Special commentary box, that most singular of English radio friends.

Bloers called time on his career this season and is doing the rounds among audiences who feel they know him like a fun-filled uncle.

His prose is vivid with description; the female teacher who first perked his cricket interest “had teeth like someone eating corn on the cob through a Venetian blind”.

And then there’s John Arlott’s “portly iron railing” on the Trent Bridge pavilion. That one phrase inspired Bloers to years of talking cranes, red buses and pigeons when the cricket turned dull.

Arlott also created the long-lost TMS liquid lunch. “He was always better after two bottles of claret,” recalls Blofeld, wafting his arm in a vague cover drive.

The stories are well-worn, dinner-party delights but Bloers can improvise like a batsman seeing the ball rear sharply off a length. Fielding questions, he darts between serious and hilarious.

“Commentary is conversational,” he adds, noting the verbal jousting he’s enjoyed with Messers Tufnell, Vaughan, Boycott and Swann.

But for the radio listener, summers will never quite be the same.

Andrew Foley