Thursday 19th April 2012
“DINT lads bowl well, eh? Comin’ fer a pint wi’ us? Where’s your lad?”
This was at Lord’s, when he was Yorkshire captain. They’d just pulled off an unlikely victory. I hung around the car park, in the vague hope of cadging a lift: playing in Worcester the following day.
Bluey, people called him, on account of his red hair: David Leslie Bairstow. He was one of the few who talked to us. Boycott would grunt, Sharpy grin, Carrick shake his head. Most didn’t know to react when Gaius and I arrived – by bicycle or on foot, with rucksacks and tent – for mid-week matches at remote grounds: the daft father and his quietly-spoken son.
“Nar then. ’Ow yer doin’? Chuffin’ weather. Like watchin’ paint dry. When umps call it off, we’re off fer a round o’ golf. Got yer clubs?”
Bairstow senior was probably our favourite cricketer. On patches of grass behind pavilions, the teenage Gaius would bowl leg-breaks at the wicket-keeper’s older son, Andy, a stylish left-hander half his age.
“Accent’s even stronger than his dad’s,” Gaius reported. “Can’t understand a word, but we get on fine.”
Rob Andrew, who later gave up cricket for rugby, bought us drinks at Aigburth; Dickie Bird entertained on a hard-rain afternoon in Barnsley; David Byas drove us to Scarborough after a game at Marske-by-the-Sea: asked nothing about why we spent the summer traipsing miles, pitching the tent anywhere and living from hand to mouth.
Quaffing that ale in the Lord’s Tavern, Bluey asked:
“’Ow’ll ya get to New Road?”
“Nar. One ut lads’ll tek ya.”
The obituaries talked of David’s passion, grit, enthusiasm and never-say-die commitment. He faced a possible driving ban after a car accident in which he broke his arm. The coroner thought his suicide – at home, aged 46 – may have been a cry for help.
Jonny, his younger son, made his England debut last year. He’s a wonderful cricketer, but taciturn, gentle, unassuming: more like Gaius than his father. Watching him play brings forth both happy memories and tears.