Cricket or Comedy?

When I come to write my blog there is usually one event from the week that I want to write about. It might be something surprising that has happened, an insight I have gained, or just an occasion I have enjoyed. This week I am struggling because I have had two really great days out. On Sunday I went to “The Hundred” cricket match at the Oval in London. On Tuesday I spent the day at the Edinburgh Fringe. So let me tell you about both, and you can decide which is better.

Starting with the cricket, it was a blisteringly hot day in London, but there was plenty of water and plenty of beer, so I kept myself lubricated. I was with my brother, two nieces and a fiancé, so it was a family day out and there was a good mix of banter and chat. My brother had brought a picnic and we settled down to watch the game. The Hundred is a twenty over game (like the India Premier League Twenty Twenty) but for some reason, each over is five balls instead of six. The women’s game was first and sadly was a bit boring, especially since “our” team, the Oval Invincibles, lost. The men’s game was more dramatic, culminating in an incredible score of 108 for one of the batters. After the game, we retired to the pub to let the crowds disperse, before heading to the train station, and for me an overnight sleeper train to Scotland. What a great day out.

The Fringe was also a wonderful day. Edinburgh Festival has been cancelled for the past two years, due to Covid so there was a real excitement in the air, as I wandered the streets and alleyways. Over the years I have learned not to cram too much in, so I saw just three booked shows. The first was in a free venue, and showcased five up and coming comedians. Perhaps my favourite was Carla Gordon. Watch out for her on your screens in coming years. The second show I went to was also stand up comedy, but was with a very established comedian, Simon Munnery. He is known for being alternative which I think is code for a bit weird. But I did enjoy the show very much and laughed a lot. I then had a couple of hours to wait, so I sat in a little park, watching street performers, till it was time for the Dean Friedman concert. Dean is a 1970s singer from New York that I have followed for years. He did not disappoint, with a good mix of old and new songs, and I walked back to the station feeling extremely happy.

So two really excellent days out, and a nice break from our semi-permanent holiday on our narrowboat. But which was better? What do you think?

Last night I had the strangest dream

It was nothing to do with boats to China (80s pop reference). Rather it was about cricket. I was playing with a group of colleagues in India from my old job. And I made the most amazing catch – diving, rolling, clutching. This is a strange dream for many reasons, not least of which is I am genuinely terrible at catching!

Ben Stokes – sportskeeda.com

What caused the dream? Probably a combination of things. I had made and eaten a rather spicy curry. I have been listening to a lot of cricket matches from the Indian Premier League (IPL). I have been talking to my old employer about a tax issue.

But it was a nice dream. I woke with a smile and felt good. I wish I was better at sport but my hand-eye co-ordination is rubbish. Instead I have always espoused the mantra “It is not about the winning. It is about the taking part”. The dream last night reminded me that just as with so may other parts of life, that winning is good too.

I am lucky to have had many wins in my life and have many more to look forward to. Plans are now firming up for our narrowboat summer in England. Hopefully we will be moving the boat from Scotland in the first week of July. It is all very exciting.

But I still feel happy that I caught the ball last night. Even if it was a dream.

Is five days watching a sports game a waste of your time?

This week I watched a whole cricket test match for the first time. A couple of blogs ago I wrote about learning to love American Football (well done the Buccaneers). At least with cricket I know the rules. And I have been to a day of a test match before – it requires a very different mindset to watching short form cricket such as 20:20. You settle into your seat, and read a newspaper or have a drink while the game goes on slowly slowly. One of my followers, Matt, commented that American Football is like chess with violence. Test cricket is like chess but slower. And this week I committed to all five days of England against India.

Photo credit ICC Twitter

For many people, the idea of spending five days watching a sports game would seem to be a complete waste of time. Especially when one of the likely outcomes is a draw. But the opportunity for me was a luxury that I would never have chosen when I was working. And I found it to bring a kind of mindfulness.

Over the years I have practiced a little amateur meditation in order to wash away the cares in my mind. By actions such as concentrating on relaxing areas of my body, I have found a peacefulness that has helped during times of stress. I found the test match did much the same for me. There were moments of excitement when I sat forward to see whether a wicket would be taken or runs scored. But for much of the time I found that repeated quiet defensive play became really quite relaxing.

Now I should confess that in UK time, each day started at 4am, so I missed the first hour or two. I also often took the dogs out in the snow while listening to the match on my headphones. But I think the principle of enjoying slow play still applies. So much so that I plan to watch the second test starting tomorrow.

Most of us live in a rush where we resent wasted time. Technology such as mobile phones has made this worse. How many of us look at our phones whenever we get a spare 30 seconds? Even when we go on holiday, too many of us are “always on”. So I think I am privileged to be learning that taking time just to be me can be so rewarding.

Have you ever watched a test match? Or maybe took several days to do as little as possible? Let me know.