We meet our lovely Australian lady guide Carleen in Reception and she takes us to the Long Room which is part of the 19th Century Pavilion which we learn was built in 1880.
Then we go to the museum which has a 19th Century cricket bat, which we’re told is more akin to a hockey stick, and Sir Alec Bedser’s boots amongst the exhibits. Unfortunately all of what’s on display is too old and valuable for us to handle. It occurs to me that facsimiles of some of the items would be a good idea for VI groups. We also pass into and out of the Reading Room but again the books are behind glass, including a full set of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanacks.
We walk through the Don Bradman Doors through which the great Australian player walked to his last match on 18th August 1948 in which he was out for a duck. Had he made any runs that day, he would have had a batting average of 100 instead of 99.94! Nevertheless his achievement has never been surpassed since he stood at the crease.
I didn’t expect this but we actually get to tread on the hallowed turf on which so many great cricketers have played, the names and statistics of whom are displayed on the honours boards which are dotted around the ground. We stand in the gorgeous sunshine for a group photo taken by Jean with the lovely old Pavilion as the backdrop.
I feel very excited to go upstairs and visit the media centre, including the commentary box used by Test Match Special where the famous “Leg Over Incident” occurred which happened during an England v West Indies match in 1991. Brian Johnston (Johners) was commentating and Jonathan Agnew (Aggers) was sitting next to him fulfilling the summariser role and was describing how Ian Botham lost his wicket by knocking over his stumps with his leg. He then uttered the immortal phrase, “…and he couldn’t get his leg over!” Realising what he’d said, he collapsed into helpless laughter and so did Johners to the extent that he could not read out the scorecard for helpless laughter. I defy anyone not to laugh at this unintended but wonderful piece of broadcasting. It is so funny that several people have chosen it as one of their 8 records on BBC Radio4’s Desert Island Discs. If my life should take a very different turn and I achieved something worthy of being invited on the programme, it would be one of mine too.
Our next stop is the new OCS Stand, the corporate area with seats on which it will cost £1000 to sit and which largely remain unoccupied while those who should be watching the cricket are glad-handing and taking advantage of the all-day bar and buffet. However, as Carleen tells us, the OCS stand with its conference centre earns Surrey County Cricket Club £4,000,000 per year so I think I’ll let those glad-handers off, if begrudgingly.
The last port of call is the Oval Shop where I hope to buy a Surrey County Cricket Club t-shirt but, as I don’t want to advertise a car company which sponsors the ground, no money changes hands.
Many thanks to SELVIS Project Coordinator Hassan Khan who set up this excellent tour but who unfortunately wasn’t able to attend himself. Also many thanks to SELVIS CEO Odette and her other half, Jean, for escorting us and making sure we kept together. Finally huge thanks to Carleen, our guide, who gave us an excellent tour of the Oval which lasted much longer than the 45 minutes it was meant to.
Written by SELVIS member Rikki
Photo shows the group inside the cricket stadium
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I’ve been on many SELVIS visits but this was by far the best yet!
There were around 10 members, Fatima, Dawn and Hassan in attendance and our visit started with fire fighters Greg and Trez, a lady fire fighter, speaking about smoke alarms, passing examples around for us to handle and set off. Members asked questions about fire fighters’ training on how to get visually impaired people out of burning buildings. We were told that their training is performed by a private company and that disability awareness is not always included.
Fire fighter James showed me his French-made helmet with its 2 visors which I tried on of course, and the 2-way radio they use when entering burning buildings. I was surprised that their radios are not built into their helmets but, as my wife Harriet pointed out later, they need to be able to listen out for the cries of people trapped in burning buildings and the constant burble of a radio in their ears would impede this.
We were offered drinks and now the best bit! We went out to the “Machine Bay”, the yard outside where the fire engines, the pumps, are parked. Greg spoke to us about the fire engine we were standing around and, not one to wait to be invited; I advanced forward to get hands-on with the pump. I worked my way around the vehicle with James describing all of its features, including the hydraulic cutters used to cut people out of cars and the hose reels of various sizes. Having worked my way around to the cab, again I didn’t wait to be invited so climbed into the driver’s seat and James showed me how to turn on the engine and operate the siren. What fun, every small boy’s dream!
Some of us, including me, had a go on using a hose. It was the smallest they use and as it’s the quickest to get going so it’s what they use first when attending a fire. The water comes out under such pressure and I was surprised to find it warm! I should imagine that the pressure from their larger hoses could knock a person over.
After Trez demonstrating on me the lift they use to get people out of burning buildings, it was time to say goodbye to her, Greg, James and Tony. We were the first visually-impaired group to visit them and they were brilliant, not at all overawed by our disability. Huge thanks to the fire fighters of East Greenwich Fire Station for an excellent visit and to SELVIS for setting it up!
Written by member Rikki
Photo shows member at the wheel of fire engine
Photo shows member using a hose
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