Blowers set to push the boundaries

He is approaching 70 not out. But “dear old thing” Henry Blofeld is not about to retire hurt. With his one-man show coming to Norwich and Blowers Rhone hitting the shelves, he talks to STEVE DOWNES.

He is approaching 70 not out. But “dear old thing” Henry Blofeld is not about to retire hurt. With his one-man show coming to Norwich and Blowers Rhone hitting the shelves, he talks to STEVE DOWNES.

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Mature, rich, a bit fruity - a great vintage.

We could be describing cricket commentator and raconteur Henry Blofeld. Or it could be a decent bottle of red wine.


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So how apt that this favourite son of the Norfolk soil has put his name to Blowers Rhone, a “fruity, voluptuous” red marketed by Lay and Wheeler in north Essex.

The bottle, which is about to go on the market, features a caricature of Blofeld wearing a polka dot bow tie, striped shirt, blazer and chinos, while leaning on a cricket bat and holding a red leather ball.

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The same caricature graces the fliers for An Evening with Blowers, which comes to The Playhouse in Norwich on April 9 and 10 and promises to be a “quintessentially British evening”.

But it was the man himself, not a cartoon, who was at The Playhouse to promote the show, publicise the wine - and aim some solid square cuts at a host of targets.

The show is a handful of performances into a 47-date run across England. It seems like an exacting schedule for a man on the brink of 70.

But talk of retirement is dismissed more quickly than a tail-end rabbit facing Glenn McGrath.

He said: “I enjoy the shows enormously. It's ridiculous to find a new career at my age. If I retired I would drink myself to death quicker than I will anyway.”

The show itself sounds as though it is seasoned with the laid-back, slightly eccentric style that made Blowers so popular on Test Match Special - but without too much of the cricket.

He said: “It's quite an amusing show. It's my new show. It's different to the one I did when I was at the Theatre Royal in Norwich. There's not much cricket in it. It's very lady friendly. I talk a bit about my view on aspects of life.”

“I've done three already and it has gone jolly well. People seem to like to hear my views on things. I talk about my pet hates, which include traffic wardens and political correctness.”

His legion of loyal TMS fans will be concerned to hear that Blofeld is still awaiting the call from selectors to continue in the commentary box for England's home Test series.

He said: “I think I will be on, but I don't know. They never let me know until about April. Although I've been around for far too long, I think they will give me two or three Test matches. I would love to go on into my 70s. I enjoy it very much.”

The new crop of commentators and summarisers, plus the BBC bosses and their tastes, get pretty short shrift from this self-confessed “dinosaur” of the airwaves.

He said: “I think they want it to sound more and more like football and perhaps I'm too old and stuffy for it.

“Radio Five Live pays the bills. They want us to fit in with their sort of audience. The BBC tells listeners what they ought to like. It doesn't listen to them.

“I think they need voices that are easily recognisable. Now the commentators and summarisers are just one of 84 voices from the sports room. The programme is losing its individuality.

“There is no substitute for experience. When rain stops play, I've got decades of knowledge to fall back on. What have the young ones got to say?”

The full-blooded square cuts give way to a gentle cover drive when talk turns to his native Norfolk, where Blofeld grew up and went on to regularly represent his home county at cricket.

He said: “I love coming back to Norfolk. I'm passionate about Norfolk. My family has lived here for hundreds and hundreds of years at Hoveton and before that at Sustead.

“I love the tradition. I love my friends. I feel I'm part of the place. Other places have changed but Norfolk still has its character. I remember reading Boy John in the EDP. I love coming here as often as I can.”

But with the merest mention of England's cricketing struggles, Blofeld's countenance changes to a shade close to that of the wine he is promoting.

He said: “I think it's just pathetic. There are an awful lot of players who should earn their money. Kevin Pietersen is supposed to be a great player but he hardly gets into double figures.

“Steve Harmison should never play for England again. He shouldn't have played since we lost the Ashes in Australia.”

New coach Peter Moores also attracted his disdain.

He said: “I think everyone was relieved to get rid of Duncan Fletcher. He spoke about loyalty and then wrote that awful auto-biography. I would've gone for Tom Moody as the coach. Peter Moores has lost two series in England. He hasn't done anything. Does he understand test cricket?”

And England's finest hour of the last 20 years, the Ashes win against Australia in 2005, is given the kind of harsh dismissal that surely demands the adjudication of the third umpire.

He said: “I'm never quite certain the Ashes win was a new dawn. If you played that same series 100 times again I don't think we would have won. We got lucky.”

If Blofeld's BBC paymasters get wind of his tirade against them and the younger presenters, he may find himself dropped for the summer.

But a man in such good touch is surely indispensible.

For tickets to An Evening with Blowers, call The Playhouse on 01603 598598.

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