I remember the summer days playing cricket. Men dressed from head to toe in white, the pouring of cider or light beer, the seamlessly cut grass, glistening in the mid-day sun.
I remember most the matches at my home village. Some weekends we would travel far and wide for a game of cricket. The distance could be as short as the village next door but, most often than not, the team would have to travel to the next town along.
The journey would never be too lengthy, perhaps an hour at most. Home matches were always more special than away ones. I recognised this at the time.
Friends and family would gather every Saturday to watch the match unfold. There is something heartening about a community coming together to support their sons and grandsons during a game of cricket.
When the weather was particularly nice, the entire village would come to watch, bringing with them fold-up chairs, sun cream and a cold drink. They would spread out around the circumference of the ground, almost in a perfect circle.
We the players would feel a sense of pride seeing this. The village had come to watch us play.
Cricket is the perfect community sport. It is not too competitive, there is a sense of respect and chivalry between both sides. There isn’t any rivalry and most of the time both of the teams are as bad as each other.
Cricket was a social event, a bit of fun. Sure, there were those who did take it seriously but they were usually laughed at.
My friends and I would fill our pockets with sweets; one of the parents would sell for ten pence a piece on the side line. We would then walk onto the field ready for action, nipping into our pockets between every over.
If we were not careful, the sweets would spill out of our pockets whilst running for the ball. Whenever this happened there was always the dilemma of stopping the ball roll past the boundary or running back for the sweets. A split-second decision.
Needless to say, the ball would usually go for a four.
The bond between my teammates was unbreakable. Jokes would be shared at every moment, often aimed towards each other, always in jest of course.
We were not the best team, nor were any of us brilliant players. But, we had good spirits. We did not really care if we won or lost. What mattered was that we enjoyed ourselves. You might say this is a naïve way to be.
However, we would win more often than not. There is something to be said for not putting pressure on yourself.
Our coaches changed every year. They were always foreigners. I can only remember two. A New Zealander and an Indian. Both were payed to play for the adult team and had volunteered to train the youth.
Me and my friends would marvel at the stories they would tell about their homeland. We’d often try to imitate their accent, without them hearing of course. We were very impressionable.
My father always volunteered to be the umpire. He would complain that if he did not do it then no one would. But I think he secretly enjoyed it. It is peculiar how people complain about things they like doing. Perhaps it is an English trait.
The loudest of my friends was our wicket keeper. He would often sing or say rude things behind the batsmen, trying his very best to wind them up. One day he went a touch too far and the opponent turned around threatening to hit him with his bat. Things eventually settled down and I was given the all clear to deliver the next ball.
I sprinted down the pitch towards the umpire and before I reached the opposite wickets, I swung my arm round as hard as I could, releasing the ball when my arm fell past my ears.
The ball bounced once three quarters down the strip with a perfect line and drove through the centre of the wickets, sending the bails across the pitch. I celebrated wildly, apparently feeling proud of myself.
My friend, the wicket keeper, once again began mocking the batsmen, in the friendliest way I might add. Frustrated, the batsmen swung his bat towards him and, with good reflexes, he ducked his head just in time. Swiftly, those closest stepped in and diffused the heated situation.
I have many more stories like these. I am sure those who have experienced the same English summers playing cricket have similar tales to tell. They may seem obscure to other people. But these are the memories which stay around forever. If I were to bring up this particular event to my friends in my home town they would rejoice with laughter, adding their own interpretation of their memory to the conversation.
I look back on this time with nothing but fondness. However, I remember often not enjoying my cricket. I would complain a lot or feel that the whole thing was unsatisfactory. At this moment there is nothing I wouldn’t do to go back and spend a Saturday playing cricket with my village friends again.
It seems that we are incapable to enjoy the present moment. Or, perhaps it is that our memory forgets the negative. Either way, we never allow ourselves to be truly in the present moment. We are always looking backwards or forwards.
This is a shame. However, I do not actually think there is much one can do about it other than recognise that each moment is sacred and that life will never be the same as before… so let it go.
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Those Days Gone By was originally published in Scene & Heard on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.