Let me explain:
When Christopher, our eldest son, became a medical student it was proposed that
I form a cricket team to play the students. Foolishly I agreed and Fred's
Peripatetics (casuals) were born, an odd assortment of plumbers, accountants,
lawyers, sculptors, authors, carpenters, lorry drivers, reporters, farm
workers, customs & excise investigators and a TV producer.
It was agreed
that we would all meet at our home, enjoy a cold collation and a few drinks and
then proceed to the village hall to play the game. That was the theory. On the
basis of the idea that if we got them drunk before we started we would have a
better chance of winning - oh folly - I imported a couple of barrels of beer
and a couple of barrels of cider.
Maggie set out
a superb collation of cold joints of meat, huge cheeses, her own home-baked
bread, pate, pickles, etc., etc. A meal that has with the passing years
attained the status of a legend.
The idea about
getting the opposition drunk before the match worked superbly, unfortunately my
team entered into the spirit of the thing a little too liberally, resulting in
all twenty-two players and their camp followers slopping around to the village
hall in a single fluid pile. Tossing up to see which team batted first took
rather longer than normal as the first three coins were lost and the fourth
mysteriously vanished in mid-toss, but was finally found under the umpire's
foot, the lifting of which resulted in him falling over.
batsmen and our wicket keeper padded up, the barrels of beer and cider were
arranged beside the pitch for anyone to partake before, during and after the
game. It has to be said that we had the only wicket keeper in the history of
the game who played throughout with a pint behind each wicket and a runner to
keep the glasses replenished.
With the first
two batsmen positioned upright at the wickets the game commenced. As the
bowlers were as drunk as the batsmen any ball that hit the wicket was a pure
fluke. Unfortunately Dennis, the opening batsman, was so drunk that two minutes
after the ball had gone past him he lifted his bat to play it and promptly fell
over. It was going to be a long day.
All the players
wore their whites except our youngest son, always a rebel, he turned out in
black denim and a black Tee shirt with winkle-picker boots! He played as a
fielder with a pint in one hand and a fag in the other and whenever a ball came
his way he stopped it, most of the time, with his legs.
I very much
doubt if anyone knew who actually won the game, even the scorers (one now a
super-model in New York). In the end we all walked, staggered, were carried or
- I hate to admit it - driven back to the house.
Back at the
ranch things livened up (a euphemism for deteriorated) rapidly, with an Indian
student called Dill offering to cook a curry for everyone. Dill, however, was
so drunk we had to lash him with ropes to the bacon hooks in the ceiling in
order to keep him upright. Swinging freely, but upright, Dill directed Maggie
to dig out whatever ingredients he wanted or she could provide and despite the
very serious handicaps of all concerned succeeded in producing a very
creditable curry for about thirty people. This, of course, was washed down with
more beer/cider and whatever anyone could find; wine, whisky etc.
lay where they fell until the morning, except for the medical students. They
decided to go back to Birmingham, but, we heard later, on arriving safely in
Birmingham, (God alone knows how), they decided to go down to Cornwall for a
swim in the sea. Fortunately for Cornwall they ran into a brick wall,
literally. Being law-abiding, upright citizens they abandoned the car and fled.
Dennis, their opening batsman, now an eminent consultant anaesthetist, arrived
home to find himself locked out. He flung himself at the door and awoke the
next morning lying on the door in the hall.
Dill, the curry
maker, awoke the next morning and went mountain climbing in Wales. Ironically
he fell off the mountain and narrowly escaped breaking his back. He too is now
an eminent consultant.
It's hard to
believe after all that, we would want to do it again, but we did, many, many
times and always just as memorably.
but just writing about those cricket matches left me with a
about those drunken students and the Peripatetics then led almost inevitably to
thinking of them now. The Med students are of course all eminent in their own
fields and mostly married with families of their own. But the Peripatetics were
all entrepreneurs of one kind or another, individualistic then and
individualistic now: running their own businesses, starting ever-newer
ventures, answerable to no one except themselves and their families. Most are
legitimately entitled to retire and just sit in the sun, but none of them
could, would or are. I'm almost certain that if I said "How do you fancy a
" they'd be on the doorstep, cricket boots in hand before I could
of cricket." And, like their boots, ever so slightly worn and
scuffed, but well kept, highly blancoed and ready for play. Even those who have
passed on would be looking down, pint in hand of course, and offering ribald
comments about their fellow players.
One of my
greatest joys is in knowing all of these people.