Monday, 13 May 2013

Washed out. Twice.

Well it's fair to say this weekend was a bit of a waste of time. In essence, I drove a very long way to and from two opposite far-flung corners of Staffordshire to spend two afternoons watching wet grass stay wet.

Moddershall first. Our motley bunch slowly assembled at the pavilion under unpromising skies, apart from Pete who was going straight there, and Andy who was late due to some minor domestic crisis. The first two cars set off while I awaited Andy, and we got to the ground at about half one, while Dan and Sam, who had got a bit lost, arrived about 15 minutes later. Never having been to Moddershall CC before I found it a lovely ground, two grass squares, a good clubhouse, a small pavilion for the second square and most important, a very nice cup of tea. The drizzle through which we'd driven on the way wasn't in evidence at the ground itself, but while the outfield seemed fine there were parts of the square and run-ups that had had just a little too much overnight rain to render them playable at the appointed hour. A half-hour delay was decided upon, so we waited.

With 15 minutes to go we tossed up, I lost, and we were inserted. Deciding on a batting line-up was tricky, I settled on Dan and Andy opening, Crump turned down a berth at number three so wanting to avoid the potential disaster of Sam going out swinging too early in the innings I put myself at three, the thinking being that even if I didn't last that long I could at least set the right tempo and example. There were a few inevitable problems with those further down who were angling for positions higher than their records suggested was wise, and having sorted out who went where I rallied my men with an appeal to bat out the overs without feeling every ball had to be hit - "More batting, less twatting". With about three minutes to go before the start that all became academic, as a huge hailstorm swept through.

We hung around while the fallen hail melted, during which delay it transpired that due to failing to put the covers on quite right in the rush to get back inside there was now a boggy strip on a length at one end. After a further hour we took an early tea. It was an extremely good and generous tea, but while we were eating another rainstorm came through. That seemed to be curtains, but their captain was very keen to play if at all possible, so we waited a further half an hour while the home team scurried about with sponges before at last it was decided that, after all, the muddy square and run-ups didn't stand a chance of being playable that afternoon. Match off.

I extracted the necessary £4 for tea and umpire from each of our guys, one of whom had only a Scottish Clydesdale Bank £20 note to offer. I ask you. Anyway at least someone had a profitable afternoon, as our charming umpire - who very creditably took only half the fee due - had another obscure banknote to add to his collection.

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On to Sunday, and I was up bright and early (well, early) to be at the club for the Under 17s match which started at 9:30, and which I was scoring. I was using the laptop for the first time, and it has many things to recommend it. You rarely have to wonder which batsman is on strike as if you've entered each ball correctly it will know, and when used in combination with the scoreboard remote control the fact that all the relevant numbers are added up automatically and right there to see makes this a lot less stressful. Still, I found it all just a bit too easy. Wickets aside, all you ever have to do is press a single button, or a single mouse-click. Compared to proper pencil-and-book scoring, where you get in the rhythm of two to four possible entries a ball (batsman, tally, extras, bowler) I found myself very easily losing concentration.

I had been due to play with the Sunday XI at 2pm, down in Nether Whitacre, so I was hopeful of a quick finish so we could arrive in time. With the outfield wet however the extra time taken to dry the ball, added to a general lack of any urgency on the part of the three U17s I was taking to the match, meant we didn't leave until about 1:45. So I had a car full of teenagers falling over themselves to annoy me, 15 minutes to make a 45 minute journey to a place I've never been before and a map reader who was, as Malcolm Tucker so perfectly put it, "about as much use as a marzipan dildo".

I handed him the map. "Find me Nether Whitacre" seems a simple enough instruction, but unbelievably I then had to point him to the index as perhaps a quicker way than looking through every single page of maps in the entire book. "Where's N?" he said. Where's N indeed. What do they teach kids these days? Anyway, Nether Whitacre wasn't in, as it later turned out the village is actually called Whitacre Heath. "Try Coleshil. C. O. L. E. S. H. I. L. L." After a period of time he found it and I then had to explain what was meant by "Bucks" and "Warks", and that it was "Warks" that we were after. Thankfully I had had the foresight to plan and jot down a route the night before, and but for getting a little lost just outside Lichfield due to a missing sign we got there only about 40 minutes late. Most surprising of all, all three of my passengers arrived un-murdered.

Well, as soon as we got there it was pretty clear we'd wasted our time. Steady overnight rain had saturated the square and the outfield, and with solid cloud overhead there was no chance of it drying out. We hung around and I chatted to some of our Sunday XI who I hadn't seen since August, had the tea and the game was called off. The teenagers didn't miss a trick and managed to spill half my cup of tea over me before we left. Needless to say, I was not relishing the journey back.

Anyway, I did at least know the way home without needing to refer to the map so at about 4pm we finally arrived back at the pavilion. I went home to watch the Spanish Grand Prix I'd missed on iPlayer, and as if I wasn't grumpy enough already, Ferrari won...

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