Cricket season used to mean a parade of old men in orange and gold stripy ties carrying umbrellas that could turn into butterfly chairs, and picnic hampers containing a lunch designed by Enid Blyton. Sometimes the men were accompanied by the odd wife who enjoys the ritual of this particular kind of day out.
For two years we lived in a little house on a road behind Lord’s Cricket Ground. Through a community relations scheme, we were eligible for free tickets to county matches. We took the girls once and it lasted for the time it took to buy and eat a popsicle/ice lolly/Magnum bar in the sun. Another time we saw the Royal Shakespeare Company do Romeo and Juliet on the green using a VW camper van as the main set; that was one of the best theater experiences of my life.
The visiting team’s fans, people from Ipswich or Sri Lanka, come down the Finchley Road in their jerseys in a huge calm flow. There would be tons of police out, but it was all very slow and peaceful. They did not bellow scary chants in the tube or beat each other up. Instead they tapped out the ATMs and those without thermoses or a bit of cold joint and a packet of bourbon creams, bought up all the sandwiches and prepared food in the neighborhood.
One night the street filled with Australians, queuing all the way up the block for the box office to open the next morning. They stayed up all night drinking beer. It turned out one of our friends was out there but he was with his people so he didn’t ring the bell. The fans left litter behind, neighbors Wrote Letters and we all got free tickets and a letter of apology that I wish I had saved along with a few copies of The Lion, the parish magazine of St. Mark’s, for its restaurant reviews alone.
For us a day out was also about riding trains and sitting on grass. We would pack up a picnic lunch of our own and head to Marylebone Station. From there we might go to Beaconsfield, Enid Blyton’s town of many years, to visit the Beckonscot Model Village, a suburban 30s England built in miniature, with little ride-on trains, a tiny coal mine, a model zoo, a thatched house on fire, a cricket match on the green.
Trains formed the basis of many excursions, the Watford miniature steam engine; the Acton depot where London Transport retired old stock and train fanciers displayed their wares; the Metropolitan Line to Amersham or Chalfont St. Giles; the Picadilly line to Cockfosters; the express from Victoria to Brighton; the Thameslink to Kew; the vintage steam engine in Sheringham. We and our nannies logged many miles on the tube, traveling from one end of the line to another, experiencing a new interchange, in the form of half-term holiday urban adventure with a travel card, a packed lunch and the promise of chips in a caf somewhere along the way.
On the off chance that you don’t know about Enid Blyton, I found this site, which may give you some insight into how wide an appeal she has, even, keep scrolling, in Alabama. And I couldn’t resist including this, from The Daily Mail. But if you are a fan of the British newsreel of yore, watch this instead.
The popular children’s TV show, “Make Way for Noddy,” is based on the work of Enid Blyton. The theme tune still gives me a shiver of dread. One time when we had moved house, the flat before the house behind Lord’s, my watch battery died on the day of the move and British Telecommunications wrote us a letter, at our old address, the one where they had disconnected our phone because we told them we were moving, to change the appointment time for our phone installation engineer call-out. We were without a telephone for the first two weeks of being in the new flat.
My daughter had just started school and was collected by a school bus. The girls would watch Noddy while I packed a lunch and when the triple-honk at the end of the theme tune sounded it meant Go Downstairs Now, I had no other way to know what time it was and there was no way for anyone to reach me inside the flat. After the bus came, I put the smaller child on the back of the bike and we pedaled to nursery, and then I went to work; in the afternoon, we did the same thing in reverse. It was not a good time to be without a watch or a cell phone.
We experience any place we live on several levels: through the daily routine of our regular lives which we struggle so hard to establish once we arrive somewhere new, through our extreme efforts to peel ourselves out of that on the weekends or when we have out-of-town guests or maybe if we are dating and need to make ourselves more interesting, and through whatever other lens of memory, tradition or chauvinism we might apply when we have moved or travel and need to present that place to others to make it more vivid, in reverence or otherwise.
What is your favorite thing about where you live? It’s amazing how specific New Yorkers can get about some particular thing they buy for lunch, some nuance of the local salad bar, then counter the banality (date night!) with something more profound, like the Brooklyn Bridge or the Mermaid Parade.
Or maybe that was just me. But I bet not. I went to a marketing breakfast at a Marriott this morning and we had to think of the names of a couple of shampoos — stop reading, what would you put?
As I wrote down Prell, Prell??, I thought: Trick! brainwashing! Do they even make Prell anymore? Our brains are funny and more similar than we might like to admit. Nearly everyone in the room put Prell and/or Head and Shoulders, which was the point of the exercise.
Cricket season here has bats, too, but it is noisier. WordPress does not allow Mp3 file uploads so you will have to imagine the physicality of sound: high, low and scraping, frantic, buggy desperation set against a slower, more measured beat: things that sound like lawn sprinklers going faster and faster. This week, with weather in the 90s, it’s getting pretty loud out there. It is becoming part of the daily fabric but it’s also a pleasure. It could be as banal as an Enid Blyton novel or as magical, as profound as a love of the transport system or as grinding as your commute, it’s your call.