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A Hoggshire Diary - September

Local league official Sid Byes continues his fascinating look at the day-to-day life of a provincial umpire. This month, a scandal rocks the normally tranquil world of Hoggshire cricket. Will things ever be the same again?

It's been another long hard season - and to be honest we're all glad it's over.

The whole of Hoggshire cricket has been rocked by the allegations of match fixing aimed at my umpiring colleague Redfern Quigg.

I have known Redfern for many years and I have always taken him as a man of honour and dignity.

Blind and deaf, yes, but dishonest ... I never thought so. But now I'm not so sure.

No play today: a late season ground inspection at East Midden.

The information, as we know it, is that local bookmaker Harry 'The Horse' Harman wanted East Midden to win the Hoggshire League knock–out final because over-whelming favourites Egg Thief Rocks would attract all the money. East Midden have never won a game in their 121 year history and only reached the final by virtue of a fortuitous series of 'walk–overs' after all of their previous opponents mysteriously succumbed to a variety of food poisonings.

It's an old adage in Hoggshire cricket circles: never eat the mushroom pie at East Midden. Seems like some of these teams never learn.

Harry the Horse allegedly offered Redfern two brown leather jackets in return for giving decisions in favour of East Midden. Now, as we all know, Redfern is very hard of hearing. He thought that Harry was asking him if he wanted to be a lumber jack – which, co-incidentally was one of Redfern's great ambitions, so he readily accepted.

Little did they both know but the conversation was being recorded by an investigative reporter from the Hoggshire Gazette, 'the Fake Shaky' - so called because he disguises himself as Shakin' Stevens whenever he goes undercover. The reporter had hood-winked Harry the Horse into believing he was from a rich Arab family and was interested in betting scams involving Hoggshire league teams.

Hoggshire schools asked umpires to help with their 'Don't Bully Nobody' campaign. Redfern misheard it as 'dead bull, no body'.

Poor Redfern wasn't wearing his hearing aid and turned up in a checked shirt, beaver–skin hat and carrying an axe. When the Fake Shaky started talking to him about spot fixing Redfern thought he was an acne cream salesman and told him that he hadn't had a boil since he lanced one during the Coronation in 1953.

Yet, at first glance the transcript of the Hoggshire Gazette's secret tapes is pretty damning for poor Redfern.

HARRY THE HORSE: So you still want the jackets?

REDFERN: Pardon?

HARRY THE HORSE (louder): Do you want the jackets, yes or no?

This Ole House: The Fake Shaky goes undercover to pose as Imran Khan.

REDFERN: Jacket potato? Yes, please. Can I have some cheese on it?

Under Rule 43 subsection 17 (c) of the 1897 Hoggshire Umpires Association Code of Conduct it is strictly forbidden for any umpire to accept "pies, spiced loaves, curried fowl, cured meats, heated pastries or any derivatives of the above".

Redfern was caught red-handed. Even if he hadn't understood about the match-fixing his love of a baked potato was too much to resist.

And this section doesn't sound too good for my old friend either.

FAKE SHAKY: There's an old piano and they play it hot, behind the green door.

Compromising position: Tea lady Enid Bagnall was another victim of the Fake Shaky.

REDFERN: Pardon?

FAKE SHAKY: Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer. Ain't a-gonna need this house no more.

REDFERN (looks at watch): About half past three. Is that potato ready? I'm famished.

But Redfern is a fighter if nothing else ... and he's come out all guns blazing.

He pointed out – quite correctly – that baked potatoes are not on the official 'banned list' nor are his choice of fillings. Also, it is not against the code of conduct to express an interest in joining the Canadian tree logging industry.

The whole matter brings into question the Hoggshire Gazette's use of the Fake Shaky to entrap umpires and catch them in compromising situations.

I know what you are all thinking. Surely, by now, we should have learnt not to be caught out like this: the wobbly leg, the blue suede shoes, the greasy quiff ... but the truth is that he seems to get us every time.

About six months ago he pretended to be a wealthy tea baron and taped a conversation with Head Tea Lady Enid Bagnall in which she stated that she could give him access to any umpire he wanted in return for a new urn and a box of Shiphams Paste.

The end of the season means I can spend a relaxing holiday with my wife and daughter at the beautiful Hoggshire seaside resort of Crab Itch Bay.

And who can forget the famous 'sting' when the Fake Shaky set up hidden cameras in Hoggshire's Incontinental Hotel and tried to expose my umpiring colleague Colin Lingus as a common pimp. This time it all fell flat for the undercover reporter when his request for "hot bird action" led Colin to take him directly to the nearest KFC for a bucket of the Colonel's Spicy Wings.

It's a difficult enough job without having to deal with the press always trying to trip you up. But none of us would want to do anything else – in fact; in most cases we can't do anything else, especially after the introduction of CRB checks.

On a lighter note, the end of the season gives me a chance to take a well-earned holiday. Unfortunately my wife won't be able to join me. She's got the lead role in a new Hoggshire Player's production called Deep Throat – I don't know the play myself, but I think it must be about a virulent outbreak of laryngitis. The Director called round to our house last night and they had a long chat about the play in the spare bedroom whilst I was disinfecting a bird bath. I overheard her say that he might have difficulty swallowing and he reassured her that if only he could give her something to suck on it might help. When they had finished I offered to go and buy some Lockets. Sometimes I forget that it's only acting.

Anyway, that's all for now.

See you next month,