Thursday, November 01, 2012

Book Notes: Fibber in the Heat by Miles Jupp

Whether he likes it or not (he doesn't, by the way), to those of us who had children in the late 1990s/early 2000's, "Miles Jupp" will only ever be the new comic character devised by Archie the Inventor of Ballamory fame. "Fibber in the Heat", however has nothing to do with a cast of colourful characters in a Glasgow TV studio pretending to be on the Isle of Mull. Rather it is the highly amusing tale of Jupp's attempt to enter the world of cricket journalism by pretending to be a cricket journalist, and joining England's tour of India under somewhat dubious pretence and highly suspect paperwork.

This is a hugely entertaining book, in which Jupp declares open-season on his own dignity and allows himself the freedom to indulge his whimsical self-deprecation to its full extent. As the story unfolds, you can't help but want the hapless Jupp to succeed, as he bluffs his way past security guards, files his speculative copy to BBCScotland, and manages to sit in the press box, travel with the commentators and meet the sporting stars.

What is also amusing is reading his impressions of, and anecdotes about the well-known cricket commentators and former players with whom he travelled. I was interested to see if they came across in real life as they do on the TV and radio - and to a great extent they did, Atherton was polite but diffident, Gower amiable and pleasant, Boycott loud and abrasive.

The bulk of the book is about the daily struggle to integrate himself into the world of cricket journalism - coupled with funny anecdotes about his attempts to navigate his way around the complexities of India. Rickshaws, conmen, impossible road-crossings, impenetrable bureaucracy, and of course stomach-bugs which erupt within him like Mount Vesuvius. All of this is wrapped around the story of England's Test series against India, during Andrew Flintoff's brief reign as England captain. Despite Jupp's best efforts to derail the cricket journalism element of the book, the reader gets a good feel for the events on the field during that series, every bit as much as the personal dramas going on in the press-box.

This book will appeal to anyone who has appreciated Miles Jupp's various forays onto Radio4, (or anyone who just wonders what Archie the Inventor is up to these days) - although both might be a little surprised at the florid use of expletives, which is a bit much at times. Cricket lovers will enjoy this too, as it is a cricket book like no other, giving an oblique and amusing angle on a much-described subject. Cricket in Britain has developed an idiosyncratic culture around it, in which the goings-on in the various press boxes (such as BBC Radio's Test Match Special) have become intrinsic to many people's enjoyment of the game. Fibber in the Heat gives a hilarious insight into the world of these sports journalists and what happens on tour. Fibber in the Heat is Miles Jupp's invitation for you to join him as he laughs at himself in his madcap cricket adventure.  An invitation well worth accepting!

No comments: