19 AUGUST 1995, Page 38

Low life

Only one

way to relax

Jeffrey Bernard

here is something very gloomy to me at this time of year about the seasonal overlap of cricket and football. For one thing it heralds the oncoming winter if not quite the end of summer, and football is of little interest to me and the vast majority of its supporters depress the hell out of me. Even worse than the time overlap is that, more and more, it is horribly apparent that the yobbish elements and the sometimes appalling behaviour of football fans are spreading to cricket.

There was a glimpse of the thin end of that wedge at the end of the last Test Match at Old Trafford when the new Eng- land hero, Dominic Cork, shook a bottle of champagne and sprayed it over a couple of his team mates. The only grain of comfort in his disgusting deed, was that I noticed that he put aside the presentation bottle and opened one that was already on the table. I like to think that he sprayed Moat and Chandon and kept what I hope was Dom Perignon for later and for its intended use — drinking. I can't see my favourite batsman, David Gower, having done that. At least he doesn't do it in the Groucho Club.

And now, at the time of writing, I have been watching the fifth Test Match for four consecutive days and it has become like a battle of attrition. One of the more note- worthy aspects of the game was the sight of the amazing paradox of one of the West Indian batsmen temporarily collapsing because of the heat. Augustine, my evening home help from St Lucia, came up last night moaning yet again about this summer of ours and was then almost screaming about the West Indies being thrashed. I told her they weren't being thrashed and that at the time it looked as though the game was heading for a draw, and added that it was only a game as well and she said it was much more than a game, and she is quite right. It is, as we aficionados know, a way of life.

My father, who hated it, famously described it as 'organised loafing'. He was a boxing and racing man and nicely com- bined the two one day at Epsom Races while working temporarily as a bookmak- er's clerk. He floored Pedlar Palmer, who was bantam-weight champion of the world, over a betting dispute and later described Palmer as having moved like a 'well-oiled machine'. Were he alive today, he would be able to see that West Indian fast bowlers too are like well-oiled machines.

I should be moving like a well-oiled machine myself because last week I had a massage and, of course, a straight one, given me by a nurse from the Middlesex who is qualified to do it. She spent no less than one hour getting rid of what she called toxic nodules of acid made, she said, by anxiety that are under and around my shoulder blades and nearly everywhere else, as far as I can make out. I have not felt so relaxed since I was last under general anaesthetic, although I hear that sometimes people talk filth when they are knocked out. But, as I say, she made me feel very good and for a moment I felt as though I had two legs as I almost drifted off.

I had another massage of sorts as well last week when Charles Fontaine of the Quality Chop House took me out to lunch at the Ivy. It used to be hairdressers who were stars, now it is chefs and their names are dropped as frequently as catches.

Charles fortunately does not waffle on and on about food like some restaurant writers do but gets stuck into it in a way that I find surprising for a man who is always sur- rounded by it. The roast lamb he ate was cooked for two people but then I suppose the workers in the Stolichnaya distillery in Moscow drink vodka in their tea breaks.