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picture of Angelo Pappalardo
"It is embarrassing to admit it now but I knew nothing about Eddie Hemmings in those days."

Angelo's Ashes

Angelo Pappalardo, a mad Italian cricket fan, shares his personal memories of life in London during the 1989 Ashes series.

by Angelo Pappalardo

I was born in Ireland but my family moved to Florence when I was aged four. The worst thing about being an Irish-Italian is that I never got to play or acquire an understanding of cricket. I knew I needed to do something about this so in the spring of 1989 I moved to London.

I will always remember the day I came across my first cricket match. I had been wandering about my Golders Green neighbourhood scavenging for food when quite by chance I happened upon a local contest.

picture of Dr. Cavallo (pictured right)
Dr. Cavallo (pictured right) left for England in 1959 after the Firenze Medical Council barred him from hospital visits.

The sartorial uniformity on display was impressive - it afforded players a Mafioso like presence; and collectively, they gleamed like a Tuscan beach. But aesthetic distractions are time limited; they divert, disguise and ultimately bore.

Before long my attention shifted to a Chianti coloured ball; and there it remained for the rest of the afternoon. Silently it commanded observation, like an unknown Blackshirt sitting alone in a tavern - and it was no less dangerous. I was hooked and desperate to further my cricketing education but I needed an income to finance coaching and equipment purchases.

My work experience was limited to olive picking so I knew finding a job would be difficult. It was pretty obvious that I was going to have to start my own business: but what, and how?

With this in mind I visited Dr. Luigi Cavallo. His reputation for generosity was well known and I expected him to feel a sense of obligation towards a fellow Florentine.

He allowed me to help myself to medical waste but ruled out financial support. Then, whilst I was still rummaging through his bins, he made a parting comment that raised my hopes: "the Ashes are going to be huge this year. Trust me Angelo; I am talking bigger than il Duomo".

picture of Angelo's Dead Pet Crematorium
Angelo's Dead Pet Crematorium

In those days, I didn't know what test match cricket was; never mind that when England and Australia played each other in a test series they competed for a trophy known as 'the Ashes'. I assumed Dr. Cavallo was relating inside medical information about the imminent outbreak of a new fatal disease, or the escalation of existing threats such as AIDS. I was already aware there was a scarcity of cemetery plots in London so I took his remarks to mean that I should invest in a crematorium.

I ruled this out on affordability grounds but I did have a pizza oven and I was pretty confident it was just as good as a funeral pyre. I made a sign advertising Angelo's Ashes, stuck it on my front door, and waited for the 'promised' pestilence to bring me customers.

Days, then weeks passed, without so much as a single enquiry. I had obviously misunderstood Dr. Cavallo. Unperturbed I put a new sign on my door: Angelo's Dead Pet Crematorium.

picture of burnt gorilla
Angelo's Ashes? A gorilla after 13 hours on gas mark 7.

The business was an immediate success but I had overestimated the capabilities of my equipment. Far from creating the keepsake ashes customers desired, the pets I was retrieving from the oven resembled slightly burnt examples of what you might expect on a medieval dinner table.

Luckily I had a few caskets of my own that contained the cremated remains of various family members. I poured these into a mixing vessel and added sand and flour to make them go further. They easily passed for animal ashes and satisfied the expectations of my customers.

Before long I was able to replenish stocks thanks to the timely deaths of Mama and my cousin Fat Tony.

Things were going so well that I was able to buy a second-hand colour television. I even managed to watch my very first test match - England holding on at the Oval to draw the sixth test.

picture of children exploring the contents of an urn
A group of children seem puzzled whilst exploring the contents of an urn containing their pet hamster, 'Muffin'.

At about the same time I played what would be my first and final cricket match. Coming in at number nine I spent more than an hour and a half at the crease whilst compiling seven not out.

But things were about to take a turn for the worse. A customer who entrusted me with their dead frog suspected something was amiss when they discovered human teeth inside their funeral urn.

This was the first of a string of complaints and needless to say the authorities soon got involved. I had little choice but to pack in my thriving business and return to Italy before things got even more out of hand.

These days I have a family of my own and life isn't nearly as much fun as it was during the summer of 1989. I would love to have made it to England for this year's Ashes series and who knows, if I suffer a family loss in the next couple of weeks, I may yet get to what should be an Ashes deciding finale at the Oval.