Friday 10th August 2012
NEIL Hartley, the Yorkshire all-rounder, would act as a go-between on our behalf. I suspect he had a hard time convincing club officials, staff and other players that we were just a couple of harmless eccentrics.
Most grounds had room somewhere…
“Will yer be aw reet ovver theer? ont patch by t’ car park?”
“Nar then, lads. Where’d yer like to go? Be’int pavilion?”
…while at Clevedon, in Somerset, we couldn’t refuse…
“Kip down in the beer tent. Save you putting the tent up and do us a favour by acting as security. And we’ll let you in free tomorrow.”
…which was faintly amusing, admission to county Second XI matches being free.
At Marske-by-the-Sea – with next to no grass beyond the boundary rope – we spent the first night camped between sand dunes, half a mile away. It rained throughout. The wife of one of the committee members then announced:
“Les and I are going to put you up. Your lad looks like he could do with a proper night’s sleep and a full breakfast, And don’t argue. Bloody men!”
I’m sure my son Gaius, fifteen at the time, felt much as I did: this was an adventure holiday: we could have booked into a youth hostel for hot showers and comfy beds. But then again, it would be impolite to say no.
Our arrival in Todmorden remains one of my favourite memories of those jaunts by bicycle, towpath and thumb, in pursuit of cheap summer holidays and remote cricket grounds.
“You made it then?” Neil greeted us. “How was it, pedalling from Liverpool?”
Uphill mostly, our destination being athwart the Pennines. And it had rained, again: that unrelenting drizzle Lancashire likes to provide for visitors from the White Rose county.
That night, in the bar, the presence of John Kettley, the Todmorden-born BBC weatherman, was considered ominous. The game was indeed frequently interrupted and eventually abandoned as a draw.
We never did pitch the tent on the site suggested, next to the changing-rooms. A kind Yorkshire couple again insisted on offering us B&B hospitality in their home.