Saturday 24 June 2023

Guest Review: Flannelled Fool and Muddied Oaf The Autobiography of Peter West

Autobiography of the BBC's cricket anchor man for many years, also famous pipe smoker and car lover. 

Review: Peter West (1920-2003) was a radio and television sports commentator and presenter, and a newspaper sports columnist. This is his autobiography, published in 1986. The title is a quote from the poem “The Islanders” by Rudyard Kipling, and is a reference to Peter West’s two favourite sports of cricket and rugby.

A keen sportsman at school, he was unable to continue playing seriously due to back problems. On leaving school, he entered the Army shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. However, the same back problems led to his being invalided out of the Army in 1944. Faced with having to find a new occupation, he turned to journalism and, as a result of meeting the legendary cricketer C. B. Fry who recommended him to the BBC, he started working on a freelance basis as a commentator on outside broadcasts. He worked in broadcasting for many years, commentating on over thirty different sports, but mainly on cricket, rugby and tennis. He also appeared as a presenter on a number of light entertainment programmes. He compèred a number of the televised “Miss World” competitions, but is probably best remembered for his stint as presenter of “Come Dancing”. This was a long-running programme in which teams of amateur ballroom dancers from various regions of the UK competed against each other in categories such as Modern, Old Time, Latin American and Formation.

The book’s chapters cover the sports of cricket, rugby and tennis, and the various light entertainment radio and television programmes with which the author was associated. There are a number of photographs of the various characters he encountered over the years. At the end, there is a concluding chapter outlining his plans for retirement. Overall, I found this to be an interesting and nostalgic account of someone who was a familiar voice on radio and a familiar face on television over a considerable number of years.

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