Wahey! This is why I wanted a laptop. I am doing something that many of you have taken for granted for years – I’m sitting in the sunshine, writing this in the garden! To be honest, I’m not sure the current position I’m typing in will be conducive to all the plans I have of writing another magnum opus. So let’s try this in another position, shall we?
This is actually a better position for me – I’m just sitting on a chair, with my feet on an old beer crate with the netbook on my lap at about 45 degrees. I could write for England in this position, but I get my gurning face staring back at me and despite the sun being behind the screen, I can’t see what I’m writing for shit. Therefore, I need to find a new position.
I’m now sitting in the shade under the umbrella and I can see the screen and I can write quite well. It isn’t getting much of my body golden brown, but my legs are in the sun. It might have to be a compromise during whatever hot days we get during the summer, An hour goading skin cancer and then into the shade to write.
I have very few real memories of my time living in Canada, but I remember getting hit in the face with a Frisbee and subsequently having my two big brothers prevent me from getting involved in any other activity that would lead me to injure myself; plus I was only very young and therefore too young to participate in things like ice hockey (couldn’t skate then, can’t now) and Baseball, which I found quite fascinating. For a nipper, I could hit a baseball quite well; I just didn’t understand the rest of the game and instead of being the last person picked by the kids my brothers hung around with, I was the kid who sat at the edge, feeling like holding a grudge against the bigger boys.
When we returned to England, cricket was a game that I followed in the paper, but had no real understanding of and therefore rarely played it until I got to secondary school. I honed my cricket skills in matches on playing fields in the summer holidays and my mates soon realised that I could belt a ball like billy-o, so remarkably, I often got picked first for long summer day matches.
The spring term that decided the 18 kids who would basically play in the top sports group – ie: that cricket season’s players – was decided and I wasn’t among them and the cricket coach, one Ray Swann, father of Graeme, lately of England, didn’t think I was good enough, despite the protestations of my peers. He told me, via a third party, that my ability was overshadowed by my inability to truly understand the game. What galled me more than anything was the fact that I’d spent the previous summer getting my medium pace bowling up to scratch and I had been relegated to playing cricket with the kids who thought a wicket was speech impediment.
I continued to thump the ball all over the rubbish cricket pitch reserved for the no-hopers, while some of the cricket team floundered. I began to suspect that Swann had something against me – something that would be confirmed a few years later, but that’s a story for my autobiography.
My cricketing wilderness ended in the summer I was a fifth former. Swann was off after having a knee operation (or something) and my form teacher was placed in charge of the cricket team. He’d transformed the rugby team into a team of county beaters and the first thing he did was listen to his captain and he picked me for the first game, against Duston school. A 20 over a side match, played in Duston, after school on May day. I was put in at #11 and didn’t get a bowl.
Duston, with a couple of county apprentices, ripped us to pieces, but I managed 16 not out before my partner was run out – amazingly by himself. I got elevated to #7 in the batting for the second match, but never got into bat as the team easily beat a school from Kettering by 9 wickets. The next game I was also at #7 and got in to bat, but had scored 0 when the other batsman hit the winning runs. News that Swann was returning to work was greeted, by me, with a groan. I might not have done anything much, but I was in the team and probably deserved to be. My final chance to impress to shine was against a school in Bugbrooke and I went in at #5 and hit 32 runs off of four overs and was feeling good; when I looked up and saw Ray Swann at the match, standing with the interim coach. I attempted to hit a 6 and was clean bowled. I trudged off and went to the changing rooms to get my pads off.
The next game I wasn’t even in the 12 and Swann was back. Ironically this had happened already in another sport. I had always really been a goalkeeper, but as there were always better goalies, my footballing career moved around from left wing, to midfield to striker with little or no real success. I was always someone who would get in school teams, but normally if someone was off sick. I got a run in the school team, which was run by an amalgam of Swann, Bob Taylor (ex Saints and England rugby player) and the coach who had given me a chance in the cricket team. I rarely got games when Swann was in charge, despite having a great record as a striker. The football season often blurred into the cricket one, even in those days, and as the football season was coming to a close, Swann was off with this dodgy knee. About six weeks before being left out of a cricket side, I felt I’d earned the right to be in; my school beat Weston Favell (for the first time ever), on their pitches, 3-1 and I scored two of the goals, one with my head! Swann had turned up at the last knockings, on his crutches, just as I was about to score a hat-trick and make the score 4-1. I saw him and instead of scoring into an open goal, I panicked and fired the ball over the bar. No one cared, we’d won the game and were through to the final of the school under 16s final, to be played at the Cobblers ground (which is now the cricket ground). Swann didn’t even pick me as a substitute, despite having scored 9 goals in 6 matches since he had been off. I think people started to think he really didn’t like me.
I never played for the cricket team again either.
My chances of playing the summer game again were few and far between, but when I was living down in Shenley with my folks in 1981, there was a social club cricket team that was really rather good. So good, in fact, they had a Sri Lankan cricketer playing for them (this was before the country became a recognised cricketing nation). I doubted I was ever going to be good enough to play for them, but I tried out during the spring, figuring I might get a few games with the 2nd XI. Amazingly, the coach picked me in the 18 man squad and more for my accurate, good length medium pace bowling. I was the kind of bowler who didn’t get that many wickets, but kept runs down to a minimum because I always bowled a good length.
I played seven times, always at #11, and scored a total of 4 runs from just two batting chances. I scored 2 off the final ball of a game we’d lost and another two in a game a few weeks later, a game that my tactical knowledge shone through like a beacon. I’d scored two from an edge passed the slips and the second ball I swiped to my left for another two runs. But thinking the ball was now dead, I wandered up the pitch to batter down a scuff mark and got run out! This was greeted by howls of laughter from the opposing team and my cricket career stuttered to an almost halt.
I say almost because I have played about half a dozen games in the last 30 years, but have never showed the spark to get me included in any teams. I just never played long enough to establish myself.
- This week's playlist has been a lot of Sugar; the new Sigur Ros album (lots of wailing and echoey pianos; Yage (an Amorphous Androgynous spin-off); and I listened to a lot of Radios 5 and 6.
- Catch-up TV this week has been The Bridge, which I think is better than The Killing and is quite funny, despite the grimness of it all.
- Eureka had one of those moments this week; the moments that make you realise that it is a really good show, despite the cheese.
- I burnt my feet sitting in the garden.
- My bathroom was like a sauna at 4:00pm today; a mixture of direct sunlight on the window and four pondy dogs having baths. The sweat was pouring off of me like something from a Monty Python sketch.
- Has been rather incredulous of the number of people who have been saying it's too hot. Jesus Harry fucking Christ people - we've shivered for 8 months!
- Donkeys that live in swamps.