This in itself is no great feat. It was rather simple actually. I called up the local cricket club, asked when they played, told them my level of skill and I played for the 4th team.
A brief history of my cricketing skill. I've not played since I was 17. I was what you call a utility player. I made up the numbers but I could still play a bit. I couldn't really bat that well, I was nicknamed 'The Windmill' as a bowler but my I worked hard in the field and had (emphasis on had) a 'safe pair of hands'.
I find myself in new waters. I can bat far better now. Maybe it's because I can concentrate more than I used to be able to? I still can't bowl. Being 'The Windmill' is now putting undue stress on my shoulder. However, although I work hard in the field still (a bit more wheezy than I was), I can't catch for toffee. I dropped a sitter on Sunday and was livid. I swore. Not very cricket! Mr Rupp would most likely have given me a stern talking to, or worse still, a STRIPE! (Naughty cards when I was at school.)
Brief history over, it's not so much the playing that has been the large jump, it's the social context of starting something new.
I have never, and will never be, a 'lad'. I like sport, I'll talk about statistics until I'm blue in the face! I'll even sit and watch a match. I'd even go so far as to sit in a pub with people and watch a game of some sort. This allows me to blend in with everyone. Sort of a type of social camouflage.
I've found that sport is laden with a 'lad' culture. It is so much more inclusive that in once was. Everyone is truly welcome to play if they want to regardless of gender. It's more to do with the nature of competition and what it can do to people. The desire to mock people's level of skill in a friendly way, the anger on the field as someone isn't sprinting after a ball at 100mph. I've been in the field with some younger 'lads' who were openly mocking the size of an older man's gut. (Not me. Although it could have been.) We have to take this in our stride because it's all fair game. It's all part and parcel to being 'one of the lads'. It's why I didn't play cricket for years.
So what has changed. The older I get, the less I care. Simply put. More importantly though, I've decided to hold true to my personal feeling. I've joined a cricket team to play and have fun. I aim to improve. I try to win. I don't lose sleep if I don't. If I drop a catch, I'm upset for about 3 seconds. So long as I try, and have fun trying, I'll enjoy myself. Surely this is the purpose of amateur sport. There is no chance that I'll be making the England cricket team. There's no chance that I'll be making the 1st team within the club I'm playing at. I don't have the skill level, (I never did), I don't have the inclination and I have a life outside of the game. More of a life than I have inside the game.
This is not to criticise those who live for the game, or the club, or the win. That is their wont. There are many lovely people within the club who care deeply about the sport, the club and the success of the people within it. It's very well run and managed from top to bottom. So long as they bear me no malice for my outlook or misunderstand it as apathy
, we'll be fine.
There is one more, deeper element to joining a new club. I've been forced into meeting new people. Every training session, game and WhatsApp chat is like the first day at school. Will they like me? Do they mean that slightly derogatory comment as a statement about my character or is this friendly banter? I can dance and I like to sing classical music. Do they know this and will they beat me up by the boys toilets reminiscent of when I was a 10 year old.
The truth of the matter is, that with time, a slight aloofness on my part and the patience of a good few people (who are probably just as apprehensive as me), I come to feel rather comfortable around this group of people. I think they like me. I can't be sure because it isn't social etiquette to ask. But I'm reasonably certain that they do. I think it's because of my desire to enjoy myself. I want to win. I don't mind if we don't, so long as we've tried hard.
So my first foray into a semblance of normality has been successful. In large part due to the attitudes of the people at the club I've joined (kudos to them) but also due to a new tactic on my part. Cessation of analysis. If people are judging me, I've not noticed because I'm not trying to notice. If they're not judging me, I'm not convincing myself that they are because I'm not trying to analyse them. This has led to a really fun time. I scored 32 runs last Sunday. I dropped one catch, but I fielded well. (The guy I dropped was bowled the next ball anyway. I'll do anything for the bowlers morale!) Martha and Ben came to watch with Catherine. Ben didn't understand why he couldn't join me on the pitch, Martha was very proud of me.
'You didn't win the game Daddy, but I still love you' A mantra I shall carry with me.