THIS ISLAND LIFE JOHN Gurney Champion has always been an implacable opponent of Newclose County Cricket Ground.
That is his right, of course, and from his home high on the hill opposite the venue, he has campaigned ceaselessly against the concept, design and operation of what has now become one of the finest facilities of its kind in the country.
Unfortunately, its impressive facade (sweeping drive and wrought-iron gates at the entrance) has led to rumours of elitism circulating on some websites.
It is laughably regarded as the Royal Yacht Squadron of Island cricket but any establishment willing to welcome Malc Lawrence and me (not renowned devotees of Debretts) as regular visitors can hardly be accused of aiming at the high-end market.
When the RYS starts to turn out a Sunday carvery open to all, perhaps we can discuss the matter further.
What is indisputable, however, is that Newclose has elevated the profile of Island cricket to a level it could once only have dreamed about — while also raising the hopes and aspirations of the talented youngsters on the Island’s prolific production line.
You will have gathered by now I am an unalloyed fan of the place, while Mr Gurney Champion is not, and neither of us is likely to convince
the other of the error of his ways.
However, despite his unrelenting opposition, he has been treated with nothing but courtesy by all involved with Newclose and has even visited the ground on occasion.
As an experienced businessman, therefore, he will know Newclose is primarily a cricket facility but, like all projects of this kind, needs to be self-sustainable.
Therefore, the bar-restaurant has to make a major contribution but, thanks to the efforts of Mr Gurney Champion and a couple of other distant neighbours, its ability to provide fun and entertainment has been severely rationed.
It is constrained by stiflingly strict licensing regulations, the like of which have not been inflicted on any similar premises on the Island.
However, despite the best efforts of the nimbys, Newclose is becoming increasingly popular as a marriage venue.
A wedding was held there recently and, as there was no match taking place, the bride and groom asked whether the electronic scoreboard could be used to display the words 'Congratulations Mr and Mrs Smith’.
The intention was to get the all the guests arranged in front of the board for a unique wedding photograph, with which the bride and groom were subsequently delighted.
A delightful touch for a special occasion you might think but a few days later Newclose received a visit from a planning department apparatchik.
Apparently, someone had written to complain the scoreboard had not been used for cricketing purposes and regulations had therefore been infringed.
The council are not allowed to divulge the name of complainants, of course, but wouldn’t you think some people had better things to do with their time?
Chairman takes the floor for a laugh
MEMBERS of the Shanklin Massive (a name given to a gang of our like-minded pals by my daughter, Sam) were having a typically boisterous time in Neil and Nikki Hilson’s garden.
Summer had arrived for the day, food and drink were in plentiful supply and Mr Lawrence had returned from his temporary exile in Majorca with tales of pick-pockets and paella.
I, rather rashly, was perched on a plastic garden chair not really designed to accommodate anyone larger than Jimmy Clitheroe.
Suddenly, one of the back legs buckled and I was deposited on my backside, to immense amusement all round.
"Ere!" said recently-deposed Island councillor David Williams, "that chair’s one of mine!"
Cue Roy Winter with one of those lines you wished you’d thought of first. "Oh well," he said, "that’s another seat you’ve lost."
In fairness to the former member for Shanklin North, his laugh was the loudest.
Boning up on Island faces
The Barton Boneheads, with a couple of well-known Island faces in their early years.
MY request for photographs of well-known Island characters in their formative years has reaped a fine harvest.
This photograph, for example, features a front row of young Barton Boneheads, who all went on to make their mark in Island sporting circles.
They are (from left to right) Nev Wheeler, Monty Burton, Brian Greening, Brian Rayner and Keith Mitchell.
Photographic experts have placed a high premium on the image, as it features Greening actually smiling (he reckons he was suffering from wind) but La Hofton is already rumoured to have ordered a print for her parlour wall.
However, take a close look at the young fellow on the far right of the back row, and you will recognise the youthful features of the Island’s first pop star Terry Perkins (aka Craig Douglas).
The rest of the lads (from left to right) are Ralph Terret, Gerald Snazell, Dave French, Barry Whittington, Bill Deacon and Barry Foster.