How Stammtisch Began
By Michael Blumberg (2004)
So what is this Germanic custom called Stammtisch and why has this become so traditional and keenly supported by members of the Kensington Cricket Club?
Tony Brennan, who last played for Kensington way back in 1993, attended his first KCC Stammtisch in December 2003 with his delightful friend from the Czech Republic. He knew where and when to find us, of course – at the Britannia public house on Allen Street, Kensington on the first Wednesday of a month. Sunil Amar introduced this concept to KCC after being inspired by the Munich Cricket Club Stammtisch in August 1991. Tony would have made that particular rendezvous but for an unfortunate mishap. Thereby hangs a tale…
I had organised a tour to Germany and Austria under the auspices of the magazine I then published, ‘Cricket World’. CW XI visited a great many euro cricket locations but for Sunil with some eight other KCC members in the party the tour has also become part of KCC official history.
Tony Brennan at that time had not embarked on his career with the Foreign Office and drove a company car. It seemed obvious therefore to Vinoo Nath and myself that Tony should be our ‘chauffeur’.
All went well. I picked up Vinoo at dawn and drove to Tony’s place in Clapham. We shared the driving from London and in late afternoon were making good time for Munich and thirstily looking forward to meeting up with the rest of the party.
Meanwhile, Sunil, Jack Hyams, Vivek Rattan and the others duly arrived in Munich and then located the designated bar where it was planned we would meet Munich CC. They enquired where the Munich CC members were and the barman replied “Munich Cricket Club? Ah, this is the third Friday of the month, yes? So it is Stammtisch and the table over there is reserved for them,” waving to a far corner with a welcoming flourish. “It is a bit early for the cricketers”, he added. Soon, various people appeared and sat down at the table – the first, a couple from Hong Kong and back in Munich for the first time in ten years. “Are you Munich CC?” they all kept asking Sunil, who bewildered by the question, managed blankly, “No, Kensington CC”. But eventually the lads from Munich CC did turn up and greeted the Cricket World XI and the other arrivals with great affection. It transpired that the Hong Kong émigrés had once played for Munich CC all those years ago but had lost touch. Now back in town they knew where to find them on the third Friday. The beer was poured, experiences exchanged and, needless to say, a riotously great night ensued.
Sunil had enjoyed his first Stammtisch but for three of us still on the road it was a very different sort of evening.
For somewhere near Stuttgart in heavy traffic with Vinoo and myself half asleep Tony suddenly braked sharply and then skidded into a Volkswagen in front which was free wheeling and thus without the brake lights on. Vinoo was in the back and I in the passenger seat. We were thrown about, bashed, bloodied and bewildered.
Chaos ensued for a while as we assessed damage to ourselves and the cars and the traffic piled up behind and around us. Then some rather beautiful ‘courtesy police’ arrived. They inspected the damage and removed the cars to the side lane and invited us all to wait. Well, hmm, if the rest of the Stuttgart police are as attractive as this it can’t be that bad, surmised Vinoo and myself. Well, they weren’t and rather gruffly removed us to a police station for questioning…eventually, by which time we had made friends with the couple in the Volkswagen! So much for our night out in Munich.
Having dealt with Vinoo and myself, making us sign statements in quadruplet sets, the Police gave Tony a much more serious drilling as the driver and German speaker.
After a while a very tall blond German policeman came out to the waiting room and addressed Vinoo and myself. Vinoo was clutching his forehead with a cloth as his head had been bleeding profusely, while I had my right trouser leg pulled up with a blood stained handkerchief as my knee was deeply cut. The blond policeman spoke. “Well gentlemen, the situation is like this. If you are injured then we will fine Herr Brennan 1000 marks. But if no one is injured then the fine is 100 marks.” “Injured? Who’s injured?” answered Vinoo and I, in unison.
Fine paid and the car a ‘write off’, we were driven with our not inconsiderable luggage to Stuttgart railway station where there was a train every two hours through the night to Munich. Having rung the hotel to leave a message with Fred Kensey we just missed a train and were sitting rather glumly on a bench contemplating a two hour wait with all the station bars closed when a young man walked past pushing a trolley loaded with a vast quantity of beer. Vinoo jumped up and asked if we could buy some. “Buy some? Take some. There is more than enough for my party.”
We arrived in Munich at dawn. Vinoo and Tony were not amused to be led walking to the hotel but we enjoyed a huge breakfast and met Sunil who kept talking excitedly about something called Stammtisch. I guess we had our own in Stuttgart station!
We drew one game and won four including a victory over Austria where we stayed in a brothel, but that’s another story!
And so on our return to London the KCC Stammtisch was born; meeting at the Britannia on the first Wednesday of every month. The idea is simple – No matter how long ago you were last involved with Kensington Cricket Club, if you happen to be in the vicinity drop in on that evening, for you will always find some members there enjoying a drink and a cheerful chat. The wonderful thing about it is, you never know who is going to turn up out of the blue!
Come again Tony Brennan, less the car, of course!