01 September 2011

England at its best

"This is for you." Jon handed me an A4 sheet with on one side a large “4” and on the other side an equally large “6”, without any further explanation. And looked like that was a perfectly normal thing to do. I felt like I had landed in a Monty Python job interview sketch. Just hand people absurd objects without batting an eyelid, and just watch what they’ll do! Sounds like fun.

I wasn’t in a Monty Python sketch; I was in a cricket stadium. I had decided that, as I lived in England, I should immerse myself in one of the most quintessentially English activities, and attend a cricket match. And so it happened! Jon is quite hooked on doing just that, and is always happy to chaperone confused foreigners that try to blend in with society. This time he even had a well-focussed foreigner along, for Hugh, our newish Australian, was up for some drinking beer in the sun with cricket as an excuse too.

All kitted up for some solid cricket appreciation: Jon, me and Hugh

Soon everything except the two wickets was removed from the field where so far the players had done their warming up, and the real game could begin. Which it did! It was a bit bewildering in the beginning. And wild, as well; after about five minutes the first batman limped off the pitch. More dangerous than football, this! And soon the moment came when Jon said, at what seemed to be an arbitrary moment, that I was expected to wave my A4 in the air. And after seeing my utterly blank face he explained that if the batting team hits the ball to the endge of the pitch they score 4 points, and if that pleases you you can voice that by waving such a paper with "4" on it in the air. If they manage to hit it out of the pitch that's 6 points; fill in the rest. And that made things a lot clearer! I started participating with gusto and felt very integrated.

Cricket isn't all about cricket; it's also about having a chat and a beer and basking in the sun and generally relaxing. In spite of my growing skill with the A4 I sometimes forgot all about the game, all lost in solving all the world's problems with my two commonwealth companions. Sooner or later a spectacularly batted ball, or a shattered wicket, would extract such clamour from the more observant parts of the crowd you would get reminded of why you were here in the first place. Mind you; it's worth paying attention, as the ball does once in a while end up amongst the spectators, and if it hits you on the head you might have a severe problem.

Before I knew it it was 6PM; time to leave. Not that the game was over; there was still about 25% of it to go, but we had to go back as Jon would be entertaining Veit that evening, and it was still quite a drive home. And even cricket fanatics like Jon don't see the point in staying all the way. He was confident his team of preference, Somerset, would win, and that was later indeed confirmed. So with the shape of my sunglasses firmly burnt onto my skin, and the sight of cricket burnt into my soul, I left Taunton. I presume it's more fun to watch if you care which side wins, and recognise more of the intricacies of the game, but I must say I was already quite impressed! This was a very relaxing day, which should get me ready for the hectics of the working week that would follow...

And I have an A4 with a "6" and a "4" as a souvenir! Might come in handy one day...