From London to Scotland for Cricket
Those of us who love cricket in all its myriad forms appreciate there will be days where life is good and the sun shines in your face all afternoon.
But, of course, the game is a cruel mistress. And there is nothing quite like the sting of disappointment. Yet sometimes, it goes beyond that….
This is my own descent into the mire.
It’s unforgettable. For all the wrong reasons. But what are your nadirs?
“The year was 1985 and I had moved from West Lothian to London to work in the stock room at British Home Stores on Oxford Circus.
But although it was a treadmill, I soon acquired the habit of journeying back to Scotland on Friday nights to be involved with my little club Atlas.
I wasn’t bothered by the 400-mile trek, because I cherished meeting up with my mates and getting involved in the thick of the cricket action.
Yet, on one of these excursions, I found out that there were some experiences which didn’t bear repeating. I didn’t drive, so I had to leave London at 11pm on Friday from Victoria Station on a Stagecoach bus.
I then found myself sitting behind a ghetto blaster-carrying West Indian lad, who thought it was okay to play Bob Marley all night. And by that, I really do mean ALL night.
By the stage we finally reached Edinburgh at 7am, I wasn’t just shattered, but I wanted to shout out the lyrics to “No Woman No Cry”. I knew them by heart.
But there was no chance for sleep or a brief rest before meeting my Atlas confreres. As it transpired, it was a wonderful Saturday and my colleagues, realising the sacrifices I had made, asked me to open the batting on a verdant pitch.
It should have been a golden opportunity. But, in my defence, I was totally knackered by the time I walked out with my mate Harry Cockburn. And yet everything was set fair.
I got ready to gorge myself for the afternoon. Let’s go. And wow, I was thrilled at the innocuous full toss which I received first ball.
But even as I picked my spot and sub-consciously penciled a four into the scorebook, I suddenly noticed my opponents, Royal High, hugging each other and cheering.
Ah yes, it helps to strike the ball before it passes the bat, an imperative which I had sadly omitted. One bail eventually toppled off. Pah!!
That was bad enough, but fate had decided to give me a kicking that day.
On the sorry trudge back to the pavilion, I was striving to retain some element of dignity when I smelled a terrible odour and looked down at my feet. Hmm, what do you know, I had trodden on a steaming mass of dog turd and had neglected to bring any alternative footwear!
Naturally, everybody else that afternoon reveled in the sunshine and increased their averages while Atlas reached the giddy heights of 240-plus before we bowled out rivals out for 185. And I even came close to taking a great catch, up until the moment I slid on you-know-what and crashed to the ground, whereupon our resident Geordie Fred Robson screamed: “Catch it, you fat toad!”
By the climax, I felt as if I needed 24 hours sleep. Unfortunately, I wandered into a toilet block to try and clean my shoes. And this big, heavy door immediately slammed shut behind me. Help!
Well, you can probably guess where this is headed. I had no access to any escape route except via my lungs and by the time a janitor opened the door, my loyal Atlas comrades had all driven off for some evening libations.
That meant a lengthy walk to the bus station. Another bloody bus. And a two-hour trip homewards on my own with no runs, no wickets, no catches and no spare cash to my name. Joy!
The next time I returned to Scotland, I carried my bat and made my debut half-century at championship level.
But that’s another story.