When Kemp met Heaton

heaton“Kemp,” people often say to me. “You must be happy with your lot in life. You’ve been a success,” they muse.

My humourless yap of laughter in response lets them know precisely what I think of THAT.

But when you consider how I’ve bestrode the media like a colossus in all its forms (print, pod and TV), why then do I feel as if I’ve slightly failed somewhere?

I’ll tell you why: it’s because, so far, I’ve yet to make it as a pop star.

Yes, I crooned the Spin World Cup song (to be found elsewhere on this site) and yes I seem to have- Zelig-like- encountered quite a few pop stars in my time (from cuddling a fur-coated Jarvis Cocker in the middle of an extraordinarily hot disco to sitting in a court room dressed as Morrissey next to- an understandably unnerved looking- Morrissey himself to insulting the Pet Shop Boys to, bizarrely, attending Kirsty MacColl’s funeral where I found myself sat between people like Bono while I ate my sandwiches) and of course, as is well documented, I grew up living next door to leggy indie rhomboid-faced fox Sophie Ellis-Bextor, but I can’t really, in all honesty, call myself a fully fledged pop star.

Still, there’s time.

But what sort of pop star would I make?

Well I always thought I’d rather be like the ex-Housemartins and Beautiful South singer Paul Heaton:
dress like a tramp, drink like a fish, sing like a nightingale.
AND, of course, he loves his cricket.

A few years ago, when the Australians were in town, I interviewed Heaton about his love of the game just before the Leeds Test.

It was one of the funniest hours I’ve spent in this job. Certainly better than interviewing the Leicestershire groundsman about manuring techniques, which had probably been my previous assignment.

Anyway, here’s what he had to say:

“It’s always a good time when I go to Headingley. A very good friend of mine, who used to be my local landlord in Hull, has moved to be landlord of The Original Oak right next to the ground. He used to be a professional cricketer and really gets into it. With the Aussies being here, he puts Kangeroo steaks on the menu, things like that and we sometimes have a knock about. In my view, Les and Charlie from the Original Oak are the Greatest Living Yorkshiremen. Two proper Headingley boys. Les, if the police are wondering, has got the stumps from the Botham Test.”

“I’m not a drinker anymore but even in my heyday I don’t reckon I could have beaten David Boon’s record of 55 cans of beer on the flight from Sydney to London. That moustache alone could have held the can, there would be no need for fingers. The ex-Australian prime minister held the record before Boon. What a country!”

“I’ve seen England play most of the other nations. The first Test I went to was actually down South. England v New Zealand at The Oval. Dennis Amiss or John Edrich made about 150. I can’t remember which but it was a pretty boring day’s cricket really: when you’re a youngster, you want to see wickets falling. But I was excited by the atmosphere. The Oval crowd always had a wide mixture of people. I remember when the West Indies came in the ’70s there was a really good, friendly rivalry between the England fans and the West Indies fans but I think that’s kind of died down now with all the restrictions on the things you can bring into the ground.”

“I remember starting one of my collections after watching England v Australia in 1977. Me and my brother hung around after the match and the terraces were awash with different beer cans, especially loads from Australia and I said “Why don’t we start collecting them?” But, because they were quite heavy we started swigging the contents to make it lighter. I’d never had a drink before, so we turned up at home with two white bin liners full of cans and completely hammered.”

“I’ve got loads of collections going: Do Not Disturb signs, shoe horns, football programmes, football scarfs, football badges, fly swats. I don’t know what happened to my beer cans, though: I think my mum might have chucked them out.”

“My favourite player when I was younger was Alvin Kallicharran, nice loose action, effortless, lovely. Bishen Bedi was my favourite bowler. I remember my dad sitting me down in front of the telly and saying “Look, he’s going to bowl a googly,” and I was absolutely fascinated by the fact he was going to make the ball go the other way and I taught myself how to bowl the googly. In fact, having not played properly in a long time, it’s the only thing I can still do quite well.”

“My favourite player now is Shane Warne. I remember the Indian and Pakistani spinners back in the ’70s were almost seen as scheming snake charmers with a sort of backward look at people and Shane Warne has got the same mock deceit. I love the fact he looks a good wind-up merchant and that look on his face when he bowls.”

“I enjoy batting, but I enjoy more just not getting out. I’m a terrible stoke maker. I’m like Chris Tavaré really. I won’t hit out at anything. Even if I’m playing beach cricket and there’s maybe one fielder in the sea and the other in a deckchair, I still won’t hit out.”

“I play most of my cricket on the beach, in fact. We always take the cricket stuff when we go on holiday. And when the band plays at festivals in Europe I find the backstage area is always good for a game. Kylie Minogue joined in once, fielding in the slips. Then, just after she had gone I took a blinder in the gully, down to my left. I reckon, if she’d seen it she probably would have asked me out.”

“There’s a few pop stars I’d like to see facing some some really nasty fast bowling: Phil Collins, Nigel Kennedy, and the drummer from The Cutting Crew- I’d like to see a few whistle past his ears.”

“Me and our guitarist Dave Rotheray sponsor our local pub cricket team in Hull. We buy them the gear and all that but it really is more pub than cricket standard-wise. They seem to be in the pub at 12 o’clock sharp every Sunday lunchtime so they either need to skittle the other side out or deliberately collapse so they can be at the bar in time.”

“Are there advantages to being English rather than Australian? Well, there’s so many trees in England and Australia is so spacious and sparse- so over there, you’ve got further to go and collect the ball when it’s been hit for four. I’ll tell you something else: the sand in Home and Away looks too soft to play on. You can’t beat the beaches of Falmouth for turn, lift and the water-assisted one that goes on with the arm.”

And there you have it. Multi-million album selling pop star, scalpel-sharp lyricist and Tavaré-esque blocker.
Good old Heato.

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