Because of a number of interesting coincidences, I was recently given the address of one of my late husband's cricketing colleagues, who I had last seen in 1980 or thereabouts. I used to urge Andrew to renew old friendships as he got older and less mobile. Rightly or wrongly, he took the view that this might be an imposition and that in general people didn't want to be reminded of the past – a view that might apply to some. I've certainly had mixed feelings when it has happened to me. But many people are only too happy to receive news of old friends, even with a significant time lapse.
My contact lives in the south of England and another recent acquaintance there tracked him down for me. He was saddened to hear of Andrew's death but said he would welcome an update from me, so I wrote to him (he's of the generation that prefers letters to emails) pointing out that the last time I saw him was at a cricket match at Sandhurst in 1980, when he had had a delightful dog and had travelled by motorbike. However, I couldn't remember how the dog, a very intelligent pointer, managed to stay on the bike. Was there a sidecar? I had a mental vision of the dog on the back wearing goggles and a mini crash helmet.
Although my old contact was delighted to be in touch, and had indeed possessed the dog and the motorbike, he certainly didn't carry the former on the latter and couldn't imagine how I had imagined such a thing. Yet I remembered – or thought I did – seeing the dog descend from the bike. Had my imagination put the picture together?
I began to wonder how many more of my 'memories' are not memories at all but scenarios I have made up as they were more interesting. As it was, my old friend's replacement hips have for some years meant the pointers he had had as companions would need too much exercise, so he now has a dachshund as his latest canine chum. And surely a dachshund could travel on the back of a motorbike…
Snow stopped play
Talking of cricket, I once asked a class of students to think about prejudice. One of the many that they had about cricket was that it was a game only played by the English, which is certainly not the case – as the Indians, Australians, Sri Lankans and West Indians can all testify.
There are many small local cricket teams all over Scotland, and the national team has from time to time been pretty talented too. The late Mr B captained the Aberdeenshire team in the 1970s in what now seems a golden era. As a proud Scot, he was of the opinion that anyone who could play golf could play cricket – well, both involve hitting a ball with a big stick and arguably cricket has bigger implements so it should be easier. I speak as someone who is totally useless at any game, except for some bizarre reason, table tennis, where I once scored a point off Mr B. In spite of being more empathetic than many macho men, he would never let me win.
The real problem for cricket in Scotland is, of course, the weather, and Mr B could recall (unless it was false memory syndrome) a game in June being stopped because of a snow shower. I definitely remember a game in a rural area being interrupted by a sheep that wandered onto the ground. The sheep might have been dealt with, except for the fact that there was a border collie among the spectators who saw it as his personal duty to remove the offending animal. Much chaos ensued before both sheep and dog were rounded up.
It would be a pity, if in an independent Scotland, supposedly 'English' games ceased to be played as there is a lot to recommend in cricket – it's a mixture of crafty strategy and physical derring-do. I only really understood its complex laws – you have to call them 'laws', not rules for some obscure reason – when required to do the scoring, which is a challenge in itself, especially if you are very short-sighted like me. And for the spectators, assuming it's a rare sunny day in Scotland, it's an excellent excuse to sit in a deckchair and nod off…
The Lamb of God?
Many years ago (it's all about memory this time), I remember learning at school a song called All in the April Evening,
in which the original writer of the lyrics compared the plight of the lambs on their little legs having to follow the older sheep up the steep hill, to that of Jesus carrying his cross (yes, it was quite a strained simile but the lady meant well). The slightly annoying thing is that for ever afterwards, whenever I hear the little lambs bleating, I have thought of this rather soppy song. Even at the time (I was always a heretic, even as a child), my sympathies were with the lambs rather than Jesus, who had some choice in the matter whereas the lambs didn't.
It's often struck me also as sad that little lambs, full of joie de vivre,
end up either as someone's dinner, or, if they are luckier, as a grown-up sheep who has lost all that youthful get up and go and just follows the other sheep.
We stayed at a farm in Pembrokeshire once and were bullied mercilessly by a sheep called Larry who had been adopted as a sweet little lamb by the farmer's family after his mother rejected him. Now fully grown and seeking to throw his considerable weight about, he would break into the holiday cottage where we were staying and refuse to budge. An assertive sheep, I bet even in his younger days he wouldn't have been one of the little lambs 'crying with a weak human cry' having to climb the hill as the song has it. He would have just sat down in the road and refused to move. Good old Larry – you just show those humans that sheep are a force to be reckoned with!
Dr Mary Brown is a freelance education consultant