In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
The situation was bad, very bad, and I could see no way out of it. I was angry, depressed and frustrated, but I was determined that, if we were to be beaten, we would go down fighting. Tom Atkins was walking towards me. He was eighteen but looked about thirteen. I went to meet him.
He nodded. “What do you want me to do?”
“Keep your head down, pick up any runs you can, but don’t get out. We can get a draw out of this.”
Vic nodded at these words of not so infinite wisdom as if savouring the sayings of Solomon, but I saw that he was not totally convinced.
Limehouse Police had scored 120 and we, Hackney Police, were 57 for nine. The third ball that Tom received was square cut for four, and he grinned. It always makes you feel better to get off the mark.
We battled away, taking runs where they presented themselves, and the score mounted. The tension left me a little, I was enjoying this. The scoreboard seemed to have been on 89 for a very long time, as I faced up to a new over.
“Last over,” called out the umpire. I nodded to him. We might just make it.
The first ball was a half volley on the off stump. “Thank you, Jesus.” I drove it through the covers for four. The next was angled across my body and I closed the face of the bat a little and guided it to fine leg. Tom and I strolled through for an agreed single. The third ball to Tom was short on the leg side. He pivoted on the back foot and sent it, one bounce, to the mid wicket boundary. The fourth he played back to the bowler. ‘Good boy’ I muttered to myself, ‘only two balls to go.’ The fifth ball he picked up outside the off stump and sent it over long off for six. There was a small riot of cheering from our side, gathered around the scorer. I didn’t understand it at first, surely there was one ball left. No, we had won!
They told me later that they had stopped posting the score in case we got nervous. We got 64 runs in 60 minutes, with Tom on 27 and me on 39. We walked off, and if a Cheshire cat had been around, he would have recognised our smiles. It was before the days of punching the air, or exchanging high fives, or even of smacking our gloves together. I tucked my bat under my arm, peeled off the batting gloves and Tom and I shook hands.
“Well batted, Tom.”
“Well played, skipper.”
The best kind of buried treasure is that of memories. I do not suppose that Tom recalls this occasion now, but I do. These nuggets are sometimes buried deep in the minefield of our memories, like that game, or like the occasion when a corporal in the 10th Gurkhas told me I was a good soldier. He may have been lying, but it remains the most valued piece of praise in my military career.
The same buried treasure can lie on the surface, and be easily and beneficially recalled. The days my children were born. The last and final time I knew I was in love, and realised that all which had gone before was but a prelude to this. The waiting over five hours in the cold for the lying in state of the Queen Mother, and the tangible feeling of nation which accompanied it. The very first time I drove a Jaguar, and knew I would never own anything else. The breathtaking, heart stopping occasion when I first saw a tiger in the wild, staring at me.
All of these glint like specks of gold on the surface, available almost on demand. But whether buried deep like the cricket match, and the little corporal, or shining on the surface, I would suspect that when I come to die, these are the treasures I will remember, and not what Captain Morgan left buried in the beach in Hispaniola.
Written by my Father B.M