Henry Blofeld Covered a Match in 1973

Henry Blofeld covered a match in 1973. The West Indians were playing a young England eleven at Old Trafford, and I went to Manchester to cover the last two days of the match, Monday and Tuesday. My car was in the hospital at the time, so I traveled by train, arriving on a Sunday evening. I stayed the next two nights at a high-rise instant hotel in the middle of Manchester before setting off on Tuesday evening for Nottingham, where I was going to watch Gloucestershire at Trent Bridge for the following three days.
I caught a train from Manchester to Sheffield, where we arrived sometime after nine o’clock, and I then found that I had missed the last connection to Nottingham. Therefore, there was nothing for it but to stay in Sheffield, and a taxi decanted me to the Hallam Towers, another modern hotel. All went extremely well, and the next morning I caught a train to Nottingham, where I arrived in plenty of time for the half-past eleven start.
On the way to the ground, I stopped at the Bridgeford Hotel, a massive structure bordering the River Trent on one side and the cricket ground on the other. I booked a room for that night, Wednesday, but they were full up for the following night. I asked the receptionist if she could find me a bed elsewhere in Nottingham for Thursday night and departed for the cricket. When I returned that evening, I found that I had been booked in at the Albany Hotel in the middle of Nottingham. The next evening I did my work, had a drink with a few of the players, and then took a taxi to the Albany, a hotel that conformed precisely with the pattern of those I had stayed in for the last four nights. It rose high into the sky, glistened, and by rights should have smelt of fresh paint.
I had a room on the ninth floor which had an interesting view of downtown Nottingham. After having a bath and changing, I took my book downstairs to the bar and, in due course, to the restaurant. I had an excellent dinner, and a splendid bottle of wine, after which I staggered back to the bar to finish my book and to make sure that there was a sufficient level of alcohol in my bloodstream. At about midnight, I finished the book and went up to bed. It was now that the problems began. All my life, at least since I left my preparatory school, where pajamas were compulsory, I have slept naked. I was soon comfortably in bed and asleep.
Just before three o’clock, I woke to the call of nature and slipped out of bed to answer the same. At once, I was confronted by the crux of the matter, although of course I did not realize it as such at the time. For the last four nights, as it happened, my bathroom door had been in the same position. Thick with sleep, I now blithely assumed the same would apply. It was not until I was standing stark naked on the ninth-floor corridor, after there had been the ominous click of the door shutting behind me, that I realized anything was wrong: naturally, I did not have a key with me.
At first, it was all a bit of a shock. I wandered aimlessly up and down the passage, looking for an emergency exit, or something like that. There probably was one but couldn’t find it and the situation was rapidly becoming critical as the need for immediate action intensified. Then, suddenly, I spotted a tea tray outside one of the rooms. As I bent down, I saw a small paper napkin folded in quarters underneath the cup. I unfolded it and hung it in front of me in the appropriate area. As fig leaves go, at three o’clock in the morning in the Albany Hotel, Nottingham, I thought it was eminently reasonable. My plan of action was to summon the lift and go down to see the night porter.
I didn’t imagine that anyone would be around at that time of night and I hoped the porter had a philosophical nature. Well, the lift came, the doors opened, and in I got. There were, I think, fourteen bedroom floors, followed by an R for restaurant, a B for bar, and another R for reception. With great circumspection, I pressed the bottom R, the doors slowly shut, and we went down the first nine floors like a two-year-old in peak form. Then, to my horror and dismay, the thing stopped at the first R. As I cowered in the back with my paper napkin as my only traveling companion, the doors shook slightly and slowly opened to reveal six women in long dresses and six men in dinner jackets waiting to get in. It was an interesting moment. Instinctively, as the doors opened, they surged forward. Then of course they saw me, stopped, and looked from one to the other and back at me in some disgust. For once in my life, I was pretty tongue-tied.
This state of suspended animation seemed to last for a long time and soon other people were coming up and having a peep. Eventually, a chap in a dinner jacket came to the door of the lift. ‘You seem to have a problem,’ he suggested. ‘How quick of you to spot it,’ I replied. ‘I’m looking for the night porter. It transpired that the night porter was also among those present and soon he had joined me in the lift. I explained, in my rather flushed condition, exactly what had happened. (The next day, one of my friends told me I should have held the napkin up in front of my face, for then it would not have been quite so easy to recognize me in the morning.)
He pressed the button marked 9, but because I had originally pushed the bottom R, we went down and stopped first at B and finally at R. By then, I had become a sort of late-night cabaret, and people were running from one floor to the next to catch a glimpse. Eventually, we started for home and the noble night porter unlocked my door with his pass key and I fell gratefully into the bathroom. The next morning, when I fully realized what had happened, I wondered if I should apply for membership in Equity.
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Henry Blofeld covered a match in 1973. The West Indians were playing a young England eleven at Old Trafford, and I went to Manchester to cover the last two days of the match, Monday and Tuesday.
Henry Blofeld covered a match in 1973. The West Indians were playing a young England eleven at Old Trafford, and I went to Manchester to cover the last two days of the match, Monday and Tuesday. Source