Thursday, 6 August 2009

And age shall weary them

Today marks the funeral of Harry Patch, the last British survivor of the trench warfare of the so-called Great War.

I have my own, admittedly selfish, reasons for feeling aged today.

When I was younger, I played cricket. When I was younger still I was reasonably ok at cricket. Like many other people who are young and ok at cricket I represented my local area, in this case Croydon.

Like some of those other people, once things got a little bit hard, I tended to put less effort in, not more and as a result, after the age of about 13 I stopped being picked. The last game I remember playing in was against on the day of the 1985 FA Cup Final. I opened the batting and scored somewhere between 0 and 3 (which is my way of saying I can't remember how many it was but it certainly wasn't more than 3 runs.

I think I flattered myself with the thought that the ball that bowled me kept low but I seem to remember batting for quite some time and missing a lot of the deliveries that came my way.

I first started to feel the age factor when one member of the Croydon schools team, Jamie Moralee, became a professional footballer. On a Wednesday night in March 1992, I saw him play for Crystal Palace at Southampton and, aged 19, stated to feel my age.

Today, the boy who by far the best player in the Croydon schools team retired from professional cricket. Mark Butcher of Surrey and England has retired at the age of 36. I sometimes glibly throw into conversations that I have opened the batting with someone who played 71 test matches for England. I didn't open with him very often. But it did happen and now I wish I'd pay more attention.

There's a line in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy that goes something like:
It's at time like that I wish I'd listened to what my mother said.
Why, what did she say?
I don't know, I didn't listen.

I think I was so scared that I was out of my depth that I didn't pay much attention to what was going on around me.

Anyway, he's retired from cricket now. And I feel incredibly old.

The one saving grace is Alistair Brown. Two years older than me, he played with my brother. He's still playing professional cricket for Nottinghamshire. As long as he holds in there for a bit longer, I'll be all right.