Test Match Special cricket commentator Henry Blofeld talks about his stage show, his life and his love of shooting.
So Henry Blofeld, tell me a little about the tour and your shows?
“Peter Baxter and I have been doing shows together, Blofeld & Baxter if you like. We’ve put on over 200, both here and overseas. I’ve been commentating on cricket for 43 years and Peter, the brains behind Test Match Special, well, he’s been putting on shows for 30-odd years. It’s humour, it’s comedy, it’s tales from the box. It’s all about the great characters, the broadcasting hiccups and all those sorts of things. Although I say it myself, it is extremely funny. We live in an age when people don’t laugh enough, everything is gloomy… all the headlines in the papers. If you have a really good belly laugh, I think you feel better. It’s not a cricket show, it’s a broadcasting show. It really has something for everyone.”
Who introduced you to shooting?
“I was born and bred on the Blofeld Estate in north-east Norfolk, which has been owned by the Blofeld family since 1620. Shooting was part of my upbringing. I first held a gun aged nine. I remember it well, shooting with the headkeeper who was holding the gun for me really. I shot everything, pheasants, partridges, duck. It was morning and evening that I loved. I enjoyed duck flighting more than anything.”
I had no idea that you were such a keen shot…
“I was an enormously keen shot. Unfortunately I’ve had to have my right hip done twice and I lost my balance and sadly, if you are standing in a line of guns and your balance goes, you are a dangerous liability, so six years ago I had to curtail things. Up until then I shot as much as I could.”
Your early memories were shooting bunnies with a .410?
“Yes, when I was on holiday from school. Then I graduated from a single-barrelled .410 to a double-barrelled 20-bore and then up to a 12-bore, which I still have. I shall probably never fire them again. They were guns that came to me from a friend of the family.”
Who were your closest shooting buddies?
“I’m the only shooting person in the commentary box since I started that I know of. My brother John shoots and there were various friends in Norfolk. Sadly, I don’t have children who shoot. I have one daughter and no grandchildren. My brother still shoots occasionally and my nephews do a bit. They are interested in it but it’s not a part of their life.”
Was it encouraged at Eton?
“Definitely… oh, absolutely. Pheasants were sent to me from home. It was always a constant part of life. When I was a small boy at a private school near Nuneaton I spent a lot of time with the keepers in the holidays. I can remember one year when a keeper went away for a holiday; I looked after the woods for him. I loved it, I absolutely loved it.”
Clothing, I’m guessing you’re a traditionalist?
“I’m fairly traditional. I’m 74. As it happens I wear a flat cap most of the time anyway but I did dress in a traditional way. I think with my generation everything has got a bit looser. Everything evolves, doesn’t it?”
Is there a bird or a day that sticks out in your memory?
“I remember shooting with my father’s cousin when I was at Eton and getting a right and left at woodcock. This was in the days when if you did that you wrote to the Dutch company – Bols, was it? – and they sent you a bottle of sloe gin. I was so young at the time, I remember it was a Boxing Day shoot. When the bottle arrived it was guarded closely by my parents. I would have been about 14 or so, and I only got the odd sip.”