Let Wise Nature Work Her Will

“The days dwindle down to a precious few … September …”

I’m afraid that this has been an undesirably busy month.  “My September in Cricket” will have to wait until October, or possibly even the further into the depths of Winter, when – after all – I shall have little else to write about.  But – just to dispel any impression that this blog has finally turned up its toes and handed in its dinner pail – here, almost exactly six months after the end of the Rugby and football seasons and the beginning of the cricket season, is my last look back at the the cricket:

Fairfield Rd in Autumn 2

Fairfield Rd in Autumn 1

and my first sight of the football:

On the way to football in Autumn

I think the main change since the Spring is that the gravestone in the right foreground, bearing the inscription from Tennyson

Then let wise Nature work her will,

And on my clay her darnels grow,

Come only when the days are still,

And at my head-stone whisper low,

And tell me if the woodbines blow

 has become a little obscured by ivy.

The Last Of Winter

Another instead-of-a-post post, I’m afraid.

This is the last week I shall (weather permitting) have no live cricket to write about.  Leicestershire are beginning their season with a very “soft launch” involving a 2-day friendly against Northamptonshire on Tuesday and I hope to be there.  This time next week I shall be having the novel (and not entirely welcome) experience of watching the first day of a Championship match on a Sunday.  Whether I will find the time or inclination to write about these I know not.  The prospects for Leicestershire, this blog and Yours Truly are uncertain at present and I don’t think I’ve ever approached a season (or a Spring) with lower expectations.

But perhaps that is for the best.  I am conscious of expecting far too much from cricket and if I do happen to be Surprised by Joy at any point during the season that will be more than the sane man could reasonably expect.

Meanwhile, as the clocks go forward, a last look back at Winter and another view across the Cemetery at a tea-time post-match sunset (this time after a 6-0 home defeat by AFC Rushden and Diamonds).  I don’t want to tempt fate, but I’m not sure even Leicestershire will be able to top that one in the ignominy stakes.  But then they never fail to surprise me, one way or another.

 

Northampton Road Cemetery March 2014

 

“Tell Me If The Woodbines Blow” : Winter into Spring

No time for proper blogging today – alas! – but here is a snapshot of Winter passing into Spring (as I make other plans).  This is the view of Market Harborough cemetery from Northampton Road on my way back from the Rugby, last Saturday and this.  It will be Autumn before the sun is at this angle at that time again and the quality of the light will be quite different.

Northampton Road Cemetery March 2014

Northampton Road Cemetery March 2014

Northampton Road Cemetery March 2014

The inscription on the large headstone to the right of the picture is from Tennyson (Alfred, not Lionel) and reads

Then let wise Nature work her will,

And on my clay her darnels grow,

Come only when the days are still,

And at my head-stone whisper low,

And tell me if the woodbines blow.

I wonder how many passers-by have paused to read this over the years (and how many of them have been able to answer the question?).

January Wildlife Special (featuring the Harborough Otter)

What better to take our minds off the Ashes debacle than some cute pictures of animals (very popular on the Internet, I believe)?  So here are my New Year cuties.

First a pony, snapped on New Year’s Day in front of a huge mound of manure at Burrough-on-the-Hill, and looking pretty much how I felt at the time.  Thought by some to be local hero James Taylor’s battle charger.

Pony

Secondly, a quick brown fox, taken not, as you might think, in Leicestershire but in the City of London on 2nd January (Leicestershire foxes aren’t generally as blatant as this, though they are considerably more cunning).

Urban Fox

And lastly, the Harborough Otter in action.  This Otter (some think there are a pair of them) seems to be living somewhere near Sainsbury’s in Market Harborough and emerges about once a day to put on a show.  On Saturday he swam about for a bit, showed himself off on the near bank, then re-emerged on the far bank with a large fish which he proceeded to eat.  I can’t quite make out the species that he’s eating, but have a slight suspicion that the staff on the fish counter at Sainsbury’s are supplying him with a selection of their finest wet fish to keep the customers entertained.

Harborough Otter

No precise times available for his next appearance, I’m afraid,  but keep your eyes peeled.

A God Descends To Earth

This time of year finds this blog at a bit of a loose end.  From April to September I can usually find something of interest to say (to me, if no-one else) about the game of cricket I’ve seen that week.  When October comes around the obvious thing to do would be to write about the sports I watch during the Winter.  Most Saturdays find me watching either Rugby or (Association) Football (in proportions of about 60/40 these days) but I rarely find anything to say about either.

I think the reasons are partly simple and personal and partly more complex and of wider application.  The simple reasons are that I’m much less interested in either code of football than cricket, know less about them and watch them at a lower level than the Summer game (readers might be interested in reading, for instance, about prospective England players in the County game, and I’m unlikely to encounter any of those playing for Market Harborough at either code).  The more complex ones, which I think relate to the question of why some sports (baseball as well as cricket) have literatures where others do not, require more mental energy than I have the time to give them at the moment and could probably keep me supplied with posts until the beginning of the next cricket season.

But here is a game of Rugby football  that might be worth recording.  Last weekend I was watching a frankly undistinguished game of football between Market Harborough and the Yaxley “Cuckoos”.  The most memorable incident was when a sliced clearance knocked my chips out of my hand, to general hilarity from the pitch (“Good chip, Mate” and so on).  Towards the end of the game (Harborough were losing 2-0) both players and crowd were distracted by the sound of inexplicable bagpipe music from the neighbouring Rugby club (the two grounds adjoin each other, the two clubs having a mildly fractious relationship).

When the football ended I drifted round to find the source of the mysterious piping and found a game of Rugby about to start, in front of a substantial and already quite well-oiled crowd.  One team appeared to be a sort of Harborough Veterans XV (though they were technically an “Invitational XV”), the other, I later discovered, were Huntingdon 2nd XV.  As they lined up, in fading light and worsening drizzle, I thought Harborough’s big No. 8 looked familiar and, on closer inspection, he turned out to be Martin Johnson.

Johnson is a not unfamiliar sight in Market Harborough (in my more fanciful moments, I imagine him as a kind of presiding deity of the place).  Wherever he appears he seems out of proportion with his surroundings.  I once saw him, in the days of the late, unlamented, Turbostar, having great difficulty cramming his legs under the gnome-sized tables that were provided on those trains between St. Pancras and Harborough and half expected him to rip the thing from its moorings with one flex of his thighs.

On another occasion he appeared in the local baths, teaching his daughter to swim in the Under-5s pool, looking rather like a Ray Harryhausen animation of  Poseidon ankle-deep in the ocean.  I don’t suppose you’d be likely to see David Beckham in the municipal baths any more than you’d be likely to see him turning out for Romford F.C. as a favour for a friend, which might tell you something about the difference between the two codes, though I suspect it simply tells you more about Johnson’s character and beliefs.

There seemed to have been some agreement that Johnson would not be giving it 100% (as they say), hanging back at the lineout, for instance …

The big no.8

and the ruck (if that’s what this is)

MJ

until Huntingdon took the lead for the first time with about ten minutes to go, when, as one of them said as they ran back to face the restart, “we know what’s coming now” and he began to, as Bill MacLaren so often said, impose himself on the game, sorting out the bout of fisticuffs that inevitably seems to break out towards the end of every game

Martin Johnson imposing himself

and galvanising an ailing pack into a pushover try to give Harborough victory with seconds to go.

Well, there we are.  The Harborough Invitational XV could retire to the bar to celebrate a famous victory, a couple of blokes from Huntingdon can dine out for years on the story of how they were well and truly scragged by Martin Johnson and, if David Beckham does happen to turn out for Harborough Town, you’ll be the first to know.

 

 

Youth And Age At Fairfield Road (with a Poem by Norman Nicholson)

Equinox.  The last of Summer, the first day of Autumn and the last of the cricket season.

It didn’t feel particularly Autumnal at Fairfield Road yesterday, where Harborough beat Kegworth in their last competitive fixture.  There were a few fallen leaves, but the outfield still seems to think it’s June.

Leicestershire U-15 seamer Patrick Sadd (who seems to have grown about six inches since the start of the season) made his 1st XI debut, taking three wickets and – at the other end of the spectrum – Rob White (who has just left Northants) – made another nonchalant century, ending the season, and winning the match, with a huge six into the new pavilion.

I think I’ve derived as much pleasure from watching Harborough this season as I have from watching County Cricket, and considerably more than trying to follow the seamless circus of International Cricket.  So here, partly to celebrate the fact that – just in time for the end of the season – I’ve finally got around to buying a camera that doesn’t have a severe case of floaters, is a brief record of the day’s events.

The batsman takes evasive action against Sadd …

… mid-afternoon – an unsuccessful appeal against White …

… looking at the Big Sky …

… spot the ball (it’s in the pavilion) …

a last handshake …

… White returns triumphant …

… a last look back, as darkness falls.

And here – to mark the end of the season – is a poem by Norman Nicholson.  Millom (an industrial town in Cumbria) was his home town.

.

Millom

The soft mouths of summer bite at the eyes,

Toothless as a rose and red as the ragged robin;

Mouths on lip

Rouse to sleep

And the green of the field reflected in the skies.

The elder-flower curls inward to a dream,

And memories swarm as a halo of midges;

Children on the grass,

Wicket-high, pass,

In blue sailor jackets and jerseys brown and cream.

Among the champion, legendary men

I see my childhood roll like a cricket-ball.

To watch that boy

Is now my joy –

That he could watch me not was his joy then.

Winter well, one and all.