Harry Thompson

What could be crazier than a pitch invasion by a flock of penguins? A world tour by a village cricket team maybe?

I have never understood cricket. I admit I played it as a young lad. Myself and a few friends created our own pitch in a farmer's field. We mowed the grass, rolled the pitch. Even then I doubt I understand the rules, and I certainly do not now. I can understand wanting to play a sport. It can be good fun if you do not take it and yourself too seriously, it can be good exercise, and the latter most people need. I have never though understood the desire to watch sport, let alone watch cricket, which seems to be something akin to watching paint dry.

Harry Thompson wanted to play cricket at Oxford, he thought it would be a bit of fun, but having never played it before, he was not allowed near the pitch, let alone to touch a ball.

Thoroughly pissed off by his off-hand treatment, Harry Thompson and his mates decided to form their own cricket team. Out of his idea and following a classified advertisement, the Captain Scott Invitation XI was born. Invitation because anyone, literally anyone, could invite themselves to play. Known henceforth as the Captain Scott Invitation XI.

There motto was: Modo Egredior - 'I'm Just Going Outside', after Captain Oates' final, heroic words. This signifies that this is a team about putting one's teammates first, and one's ego a firm second.

The also have an unofficial motto which dates from their world tour: Jou Ma Buk Vir Renoster. Er ... which means, in Afrikaans, that Your Mother Bends to Take it From a Rhino. It is a rallying cry, dating from the infamous Captain Scott World tour of 2002/3, and is a tribute to the much loved band of South African players.

The very first match was against Bladon, a local team north of Oxford. They soon earnt themselves a well-deserved reputation as the worst team in Oxfordshire.

This is the team that decided to tour the world and play cricket on all seven continents.

It is difficult to imagine a book about a cricket tour can be anything but mind-boggling dreary and boring, a guarantee to send one to sleep, unless you are one of those strange souls, a cricket fan, but Penguins Stopped Play is actually funny.

Penguins Stopped Play was serialised as BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, April 2006.

Harry Thompson (19602005) attended Highgate School, going on to read history at Brasenose College, Oxford. He then had a successful career in comedy at the BBC, where he was credited with The News Quiz, Have I Got News For You and created the comic character Ali G for Da Ali G Show. His one attempt at writing a novel, This Thing Of Darkness, was a Booker longlisted historical novel. Harry Thompson also turned his hand to biographies, Tintin (biography of Hergé, creator of Tintin), Richard Ingrams (former editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye) and Peter Cook.

Harry Thompson will though be best known and remembered for Penguins Stopped Play, his semi-autobiographical account of a world tour by the Captain Scott XI.

Harry Thompson died November 2005, shortly after completing Penguins Stopped Play. He died of lung cancer even though he had never in his life smoked. He married his girlfriend Lisa on the morning of the day he died. He was a borne to his grave at Brompton Cemetery by a squad of Scotties, as the team was known, in his hand Lisa had placed a cricket bat and rattling around was a cricket ball that someone had tossed into his coffin. [see Have I Got News For You man dies]

I have registered Penguins Stopped Play as a BookCrossing book. [see BCID 5384265]

BookCrossing books are released into the wild and their progress tracked through the Internet by means of a unique BookCrossing ID (BCID).

(c) Keith Parkins 2007 -- August 2007 rev 0