The Pensieve in the Attic

1st May 2018

[By way of a change, a blog on my (modest) playing – rather than spectating – career… ]

We finally got round to clearing out the attic. A ruthless purge of the evidence of family life over 30-plus years: stair-gates, a baby bath, spare rolls of carpeting…

I knew what was in the bundle in the corner – wrapped in a couple of large black bin bags – as soon as it was unearthed from underneath a sack of kids’ toys. I had tied up the straps of my cricket bag for the final time at the end of the 1985 season. I took it down to open up in the garage.

The only item of clothing was a pair of boots: freshly whitened, a stud missing on each sole and with marked signs of wear by my right toe. A memory was triggered: in the latter stages of my off-spinning days, I completely lost my rhythm and dragged my foot along the ground during the delivery stride.

All the rest was for batting. There were two sets of gloves: one an inner pair, the other (outer) pair with thick sausage fingers. Underneath these was a jock strap – who keeps a jock strap for 30 years? – and a plastic box. Next to them, my trusty thigh pad – home-made by my mother – with the longer upper strap to tie around my waist. I used to wear the pad high up, over my hip; a blow on the bone is considerably more painful than one on the fleshy part of the thigh. And resting on top of all this, three (?) pads: two an obvious pair – again newly whitened – the other a random spare.

Another memory. I always used to put the left pad on before the right. And – again always – with the buckles on the inside of the legs, so that they wouldn’t be mistaken by an inattentive umpire for the outside edge of the bat.

That had been the extent of my protection. There was no helmet, of course.

My bat was inside its own soft protective sheath. I had obviously oiled it for a final time before storing it away because it stuck to the inside and was difficult to extract. (Does anybody still oil their bats these days?) A Gray Nicolls GN100 Perimeter Weighted – a “Scoop” – with the vivid orange gouge on its back compensated for by the enhanced thickness of the edges.

Yet more recollections came. I thought about some of grounds on which I had played and the runs that the bat had supplied: a 100 on the Bank of England ground at Roehampton, a half-century for Saltaire CC in Roberts Park, a couple of scores in Cambridge on the flat tracks of the college grounds at Jesus and Trinity…

These were the exceptions, of course. The afternoons of triumph had been heavily outweighed by the failures elsewhere – a sketchy 9 here, a half-hour 3 there, a dodgy lbw on a green wicket in Guiseley… My last match was a second-ball duck at Weybridge: caught at second slip after I had hung my bat out at a wide one from a medium-paced trundler. I knew, as I trudged away to the pavilion, that that would be my final game of cricket.

In the garage, I looked again at the cricket bag and I realised what it really was. It was – in JK Rowling’s magical world – a pensieve: the precious bowl in Professor Dumbledore’s office in which an individual’s distant memories can be located. The bag contained my stock of playing memories, some of which were now escaping…

The cricket bag and its contents survived the purge of the attic. In another 30 years, perhaps.

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