I alluded back here
to a car ride. The scores of you (Dyna
) requesting details of this little episode have finally convinced me to relate it, such as it is.
I was, I think, around 17 and still playing the purest form of cricket there is, Kentish village cricket, with nothing at stake but local rivalry and the honour of getting the beers in after the game. Some of the grounds in Kent are picture postcard perfick, like the one of our local rivals, Woodchurch below:
Others were almost county seconds standard such as at Meopham (where I didn't play until I was in my 30s):
And others were just the stuff of some bizarre twisted imagination, like Alkham
The original caption for this picture states that it is from the "top" of the cricket green. Note you can see the roof of the pavillion on the left of the picture. Even the most reluctant student of geometry will be able to detect the presence of a quite notable gradient. Indeed such is this gradient at one point on the ground that a fiercely driven straight drive will fail to reach the boundary at its highest point. You'll be equally as lucky to reach it at the the other end of the ground for a different reason as it is exceedingly long at the lowest part. Also the narrowness of the ground meant that there were no sixes awarded square of the wicket. The Alkham ground nests deep in the North Downs behind Dover. As you can probably guess, it's in a valley and regularly floods, partly due to the presence of a nailbourne, a seasonal spring that wells up in times of heavy rainfall and quite common in the area. In fact that pavillion looks new to me and in a slightly less hazardous place than the old one so maybe they'd had enough by the time the picture was taken.
All this is by way of scene setting. We had played the game and, as is usual on these occasions, retired to the local hostelry. Several hours later it was time to leave. Now, I can't remember how I got down there but I can certainly remember how I got back. Robin, clutch burning star of the previous post, offered me a lift. Fair dos, he lived in the same road so no bother. Except that there was because his fiancée, Marina had turned up and also wanted a lift back. Readers of the last post will recall that Robin drove an Escort. Not when this event took place he didn't; he'd bought Jim Nick's MG Midget. This was a game little beast and one in which I'd already spent quite a few journeys being ferried home by Jim with my head lolling out the window and my feet frying under the engine block. I also think it had been tweaked as a Midget's top speed was around 85-90mph and Dob's was definitely faster ("Dobbin" being Robin's nickname, if you haven't read the other post yet).
Again, those in the know may well be ahead here. Dob, myself and Marina equals three bodies; the MG Midget is designed for two. It's not even a two plus. There is a ledge behind the seats but this is not designed for the transport of flesh unless the meat is already slaughtered and in a Tesco's bag.
Not to worry, my ruddy-cheeked comrade assured me that if I wanted to squeeze along the shelf, he'd get back me home quickly. We were only about 20 miles from home and it was only about 11pm. It had only just started to rain. Heavily. Nothing really seemed to phase Dobbin.
So I threw my kit in the boot and squeezed myself transversely behind the two seats, at the same time wondering whether I ought to change places with my kit bag. It wasn't comfortable. Off we went. This is deepest backwoods Kent. And Kentish folk are The Invicta
; it means "never conquered". There is then, no such thing as a speed limit on a country road. I watched as the needle pressed unhindered towards the 100mph mark and all the while it was raining, the Midget's wipers straining against the combined forces of water and wind. This was also nearly 30 years ago and the Channel Tunnel hadn't yet been built (it had been started but abandoned) so the local roads were still in the B class until we hit the M20. What is more, the Midget's flimsy canopy was starting to pull loose.
"Rob, the rain's getting in"
"Just hold it down, Tricky. Lean on it" (Being a Richard, this was the de riguer nickname post-Nixon).
We are now pelting along a wet and undulating B road at close to warp speed, barely able to see where we're going because it's raining and the headlights only give out about 20 candle-power and with a pissed teenager trying to hold the roof on. Boy was I having fun. I wouldn't have minded so much but earlier on, the short boundary at square leg had held such an allure that I'd holed out going for it with barely a contribution to the score.
We got home and I gibbered my hellos with relief. My Mum greeted me in her usual fashion:
"Tsk. Been drinking again"