Trees talk to each other.
They feed each other information about prevailing conditions and approaching dangers, so that they can all be better prepared.
At their best, humans do the same thing. Little mycorrhizal strands of activity below the surface energise communities, and help people get through what are increasingly going to become tough days. Although Margaret Thatcher famously denied the existence of communities, we have generally discovered that we need them to survive, and one element of this survival is sport.
My own sport, or the one that I would like to have been better at than I am, is cricket, and for the last thirty-seven years, my friend Richard and I have run a little roving club called the Winchester White Hunters. Over those years (and only available because cricket releases the inner nerd out of people like me), we have played 427 matches, won 147 of them, lost 213, and drawn or tied the rest; we have ‘entertained’ 385 different players, and plied our trade on 100 different grounds against 112 separate oppositions. In other words, we are bad, for sure, but we have magnificent moments, and there is a lot of history there
Sadly, it seems to be history that is drawing to a close.
Like village teams all over the south, my own included, it is becoming well nigh impossible to entice someone to give over five or six hours of a summer weekend to the pursuit of a slow moving game in which you are all as much a part of the view as you are of an athletic activity. The wonderful highs, lows and individual battles (not least with ourselves) that are an inseparable part of the game are not, it seems, enough to get people away from their gardens, shopping, computers or routines. (The best excuse for non attendance we have ever had, among some truly crap ones, was: ‘Sorry guys. My gold mine in South Sudan is being overrun by Al Shabab. Gotta fly.’)
There are lots of reasons behind this, not least the fact that we have an entire generation of young people for whom top level cricket has been hidden behind an expensive pay wall since 2005, and that most schools have stopped teaching it since all sorts of politicians sold off the grounds they used to do it on. But, if I am to be fair, I also have to accept that things legitimately come and they go, and the era of recreational cricket is on the wane, just as gaming is on the ascent. I might not like it, but it is how my ecosystem works, and I accept it. (An enormous exception to this, by the way, is my local town Petworth, whose cricket club has been re-energised principally by one passionate and highly organised individual, and now boasts four or five different teams.)
But our little club will probably morph into a group of friends who maybe play cricket together a couple of times a year, and that’s probably not a bad thing. Aside from anything, Richard and I won’t have to spend every Thursday and Friday begging people to turn out for us at the weekend, bribing them with the choice of where to bat, not having to pay for tea, or being chauffeur driven from their house to the ground. But not quite yet!
This Saturday, at 11.00 am, we are uniquely playing a team of eleven people called ‘Hobbs’ at the thoroughly beautiful village ground of Chawton (hence the Jane Austen reference in the title of this piece).We are on seven or eight for the game, having tried everyone else a couple of times, but we are absolutely determined to field eleven players out of respect to the opposition and the game itself.
So if you’d like a game, or if you have a son, daughter, grandchild or friend who might like to turn out one more time this season in thoroughly good company, message me on email@example.com.
After that comes the autumn, and the thrill of a new prime minister.