Back in the 80’s and 90’s I used to play cricket.
For many people that sentence is almost a confession of perversion. It is the equivalent of admitting that I eat cat-food, or wear women’s clothes, or like Dido. At Irish AA meetings, when people stand and say “I am Tinman, and I am an alcoholic”, the other members all say “Not to worry Tinman, at least you don’t play cricket”.
But there you go. Because my dad had worked in England he understood the game, and when we were kids it was always on the TV, so even though we were busy playing with soldiers/crayons/dirt we seemed to absorb the game through some sort of osmosis. Certainly I’ve never known a time when I didn’t understand the rules. Anyway, at the age of 27, when I stopped playing football due to a persistent ankle injury and a belief that I was getting too old (at 27 I thought I was old. Gobshite.), I took up playing cricket instead.
Taking up cricket in the belief that it’s a gentler game than football was a mistake, by the way. In about 20 years of playing football I damaged the aforementioned ankle and broke a thumb. In 11 years of playing cricket I broke two fingers and the same thumb again, lost the nail off one toe, and was hit in the head so often that I reckon it helped me survive the later blackouts and falls, since by that stage my skull had the consistency of concrete.
Time passed, Tinkids arrived, and eventually I stopped playing cricket too, apart from maybe one friendly game each season, and since the pacemaker I stopped even that, since being hit in that part of the chest (and I just know it would happen) would not be a fun experience. So I’ve lost contact really with the club, and the many people in there with whom I played, which is a shame. But of course many of them have left too, and the club is full of new members (I look up the first team’s results in the paper, and I know about two of them), so if, for example, you were to speak at their Annual Dinner on behalf of the guests, you wouldn’t know who did what, who to make fun of, what to say.
And on Friday next that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
I did speak at it once before, in 1993, giving the club’s speech in reply to the guests, and I’m not bragging when I say that I was very good. This is because I’d been planning in my head for about four years what I would say if I ever was asked to speak, and was able to stuff in every joke I’d ever heard, ever. It went really well, and I never went to the dinner again, since I knew if I kept going I’d be asked one day to do it again, and I knew I could never match it (Mrs Tin’s birthday is in September, and that was always my excuse for not being able to go, and none of the club seemed to notice that her birthday could be any date between the 4th and 17th, and was always on a Friday).
Anyway, on Friday afternoon last, just as I was mentally winding down at work, the current President of the Club rang me (how he got my number I’ve no idea) and asked would I speak this year. I said no, I didn’t know anyone there and wouldn’t know what to say, and he said that didn’t matter and besides, he’d tried everyone else. It’s hard to fight blunt honesty like that, and I was already wavering when he said “I thought of you because of your speech all those years ago. I’ve never forgotten it”.
And that was me hooked. Flattery acts on the insecure like shiny beads did with the Red Indians, who would then sell New York to the White Man for a dollar, so I sold my soul to the club for a free dinner.
Now, of course, I’m regretting it already. I really don’t know what to say, I’ve only five days to think of something, and I have to warn you all that my posts may be dull and wooden over the next few days (insert your own smart remark here) as all my creative energy is directed toward producing something that won’t be greeted with indifferent silence.
Although if I’m really bad, at least I know I’ll never be asked again.