|"It is embarrassing to admit it now but I knew nothing about Eddie Hemmings in those days."|
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.
|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".
|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.
|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.
|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.