The Baby and the Bathwater

The Chairman's Cup

Mystics versus Erratics at Gras Lawn, 25th July 1998

I find it difficult to remember much about this match. After it was over, we drank beer on the terrace of the Royal Oak in Okehampton Street, and there was the usual late night party with bonfire at Moa Hill. If I were to review the game from the limited perspective of the the Thomson family, I might say that Father Thomson had two stumpings, Jim Thomson had two catches, Sid Thomson had four catches, Rita and Kate Thomson had kittens and Annie Thomson had a baby (subsequently named Fraser, in honour of Angus's ten wickets at Trent Bridge). I might add that up until midnight, Father Thomson was captain of the losing team, and then, from midnight, part of the trim and triumphant outfit that was about to be slaughtered by Contango. But I won't. Not a bit of it.Instead, I shall review the occasion from the disinterested stance of a bystander who tells an everyday story of cricketing folk.

To begin with, the weather, in a July that had Saint Swithin blushing, was improbably fine. (There was a 'phone call at 6.30 a.m. - Duncan Chave trying to duck out of the tour with the improbable claim that Annie was in labour. Oops! That one slipped in) There was still some work to do on the tee-shirts, and the sandwiches had to be made (the lengths Annie and Duncan went to in order to avoid that job!). Jim and I had undertaken to dig up a section of my hard-worked turf to accommodate the bonfire. We were doing that when Rita returned from Annie and Duncan's house. She'd gone there with the worldly-wise conviction that it was a false alarm, but she came back knowing it wasn't. (On a cricketing tour of Canada, the Yorkshire all-rounder George Ulyett was asked his opinion of the Niagara Falls. His response, like Rita's, was "I see nowt to stop it".) Poised over the spade, Jim adjusted his putative batting order, and I made the mistake of asking whether that meant that Duncan wouldn't be coming to Scotland. (Mind you, I waited until Rita was out of earshot; and that was the last I saw of her until after the match.) It should be included in the annals of silent heroism that the burden of tea-making and barbecue-burning was shouldered, from then on, by Donna, Sid, Naomi and the Mystic Squire. There's so much more to cricket than playing the game.

It was the Mystic Squire who got me to Gras Lawn (Annie was contracting in Heavitree by then). W.G.Grace is supposed to have played there (Stephen Fisher nearly got him second ball) before Dennis Lane made such a magnificent spread of the square. There is much weeping and gnashing of teeth in Devon now that University has decided to sell it. If the sale goes ahead, the Mystics may take some melancholy pride in having won Gras Lawn's last game. ("Thou mettest with things dying", says the Clown to his father in The Winter's Tale, "I with things new born": he knew his way round the labour ward at Heavitree.) It was a solemn occasion for the Erratics who had put out a seasoned team (average age 54; average average 9.75). As the Mystics straggled in from the Prospect, John Somers commented that they looked like a fielding side. (Appearances can be misleading: Duncan doesn't look like a father, not with those hips.) Jim and I must have tossed, but I can't remember it. Either way, the Mystics batted - as usual; and Gras Lawn's last game was on.

The statistical retrospect is as follows: twenty-two people batted, thirteen people bowled seventy-eight overs (thirty-nine for each side), the Mystics lost their fifth wicket at 75 and went on to double their score, and the Erratics lost their fifth wicket at 84 (an ambulance hurtled along Barrack Road, carrying - in Father Thomson's lurid imagination - Annie into intensive care), which was exactly three quarters of their eventual total, three Mystics made it to double figures and the remaining eight contributed a total of 29, four Erratics made it to double figures and the remaining seven contributed a total of 23, the highest partnership for the Mystics was 28 (Sid Thomson and Clem Hitchcock) and for the Erratics 34 (Brunt and Clarke).

The emotional retrospect is as follows: Windy managed to confuse A.Wendon and B.Wendon (lucky for him there wasn't a C.Wendon), Neil Hadley collected three wickets, the Chairman wandered out of his crease three times and was stumped on the fourth, Steve Berry bowled like a demon and bought a jug at the Royal Oak, then played will-he/won't-he about the Scottish tour while the wonga-wonga bird flew upwards and upwards in ever-decreasing circles until it disappeared up its own arsehole in a flurry of shit and feathers, the Mystic Squire, having been stumped by his intended father-in-law, resolved not to invite him to the wedding, at the moment when Sid Thomson caught John Pearson off Bryan Wendon, he was (all unbeknownst) becoming an uncle, and Father Thomson had just wumped Neil Hadley for a friendly four when Donna trotted to the boundary making a rocking gesture that confirmed his translation into Grandfather Thomson. He has no memory whatsoever of the next ball but brought the game to an end by being out off the ball after. In a mist of generational euphoria, the Chairman's Cup was presented to the winning uncle, Stephen Fisher was elected President of the Erratics, delivered a speech which began with a joke about a short address and was heckled, and then provided champagne to be drunk on the wicket: in honour of Gras Lawn's history, Ichabod and Fraser Chave.

Peter Thomson

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