Friday, 15 July 2016

Test Match Special

In the darkest days of last term, when my body was failing and I really didn't think I'd get beyond the end of May, when there seemed to be a very strong and unwanted "somebody else's problem field" around me, when no help seemed to be coming my way (though it was, I had many prayers and for that I'm grateful), someone had the audacity to ask me what I wanted.  This question stopped me in my tracks, I've spend so long just surviving, just doing what I'm supposed to do, that the concept of actually wanting something was a little alien to me.  Further to this, experience (or fate) has meant that whenever I have actually wanted something, it has always been snatched away from me and I am left lamenting and weary like a somewhat stoical (rather than a suicidal) Dido.  I've found the only way to survive is not to want "things", well certainly not to want things for myself...

However, this question was left hanging in the air and I had to give an answer.  Simply making it as far as July seemed like an impossible dream so I said: I want to be sat in the garden listening to the Test Match on Long Wave.  [ For my readership outside of the former British Empire - this is the all day radio broadcast of the 5 day long international cricket matches, starting on a Thursday and sometimes making it till the following Monday.]  Admittedly, this was only a small want, but I thought that it might at least be achievable.

Yesterday the Test Cricket got off to a very good start; England v Pakistan at Lords.  I will admit now to being a Pakistan supporter; when they are good there are few more elegant, exciting teams, when they are bad they are dreadful.  Test Match Special (radio cricket) is a thing in its own right, it has its own unwritten rules, it can be delightful, it can be poetry, it can be surreal and it drifts over me and takes my brain to another dimension, it relaxes me like I suppose some people find a long hot bath relaxing.  I find bathing intensely boring, it is TMS that does it for me.

Yes, my desire was accomplished.  I always like the first day's play.  The two teams are still checking each other out, there is a lot of psychology at work, it is not exciting, but it is good.  There are flashes of brilliance, there is patience, there is hard graft, there are moments of carelessness which are dealt with mercilessly, there is quiet aggression and gentlemanly reserve and all the time TMS ambles through endless discourse on cricket trivia, cakes, pigeons, finely dressed men and bizarrely yesterday, umlauts.

Listening on Long Wave is also vital. I like the fuzzyness of the broadcast.  It reminds me of my grandfather in Malaysia listening to the Test Matches of old on the BBC World Service. He'd be in the dark, sat in his reclining chair, outside you could hear the endless motorbikes in the distance, the cicadas and the Allahu Akbar  from the surau next door.  The house would be full of the aroma of night scented shrubs, mosquito coils and old dogs.  He'd listen, we'd be silent, he was not to be disturbed.  He'd reach a certain point then the radio would be switched off, the house would be shuttered up and he'd say his last rosary of the day (in Latin) before retiring to bed.  Listening on Long Wave is also vital for the interruptions for the shipping forecast just before noon and 6pm.  I actually find the shipping forecast a prayer, well I can't listen to it and not pray.

So yesterday, life had a certain "completeness" about it, the past and present were one and the future could wait.  A certain aching emptiness and fatigue is also there, but yesterday it all hung together and there was rest.  Real rest is something akin to heaven, and it is good to experience it occasionally. Occasionally I even fancy that God inspired the English to invent the game of cricket so that when it works (and often it falls short of what it should be) we could have a foretaste of heaven. Old Father Time can retire to the pavilion.

Weather vane at Lords: creative commons image Wikipedia

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