15 May 2007

Have cricket bag, will travel

Having got back from India this morning, it was time to get myself organised for my first game of the season on Saturday. Wanting to go off for a night out on the beers after our last game at the end of the 2006 season, I left my cricket bag in the boot of a team mates car, and then went travelling for 8 months, leaving him to store my kit in his garage for the winter. The rest of the week was out, so no sooner had I landed at Heathrow as I was on the phone to my team mate to organise the rendez-vous to get my kit back and ready myself for Saturday. All went well, in case you are worried, and the cricket bag is now in my possession so when I take 0 for 150 and am out for a duck, I can't blame it on a lack of equipment. And what's more I was able to enjoy a couple of pints with my friend in the process....

But I then remembered just how this situation had come about. As I struggled onto one rush hour train, and then another, to get to my destination I was reminded why I left the bag in my friend's car in the first place. For anyone without a car, the transporting of cricket bags is a nightmare, especially on the London Tube.

As someone who has often not had any reason to own a car, except to travel to Saturday's sports match, I have done more than my fair share of lugging a cricket bag around on the tube. And up and down the various steps and escalators, and walking to grounds from the station. But having gone more than 8 months without doing this, I forgot just how painful it can be - and this comes from someone who has been lugging around a rucksack for 8 months!

First, as I stood on the platform there were the looks from businessmen and women wondering why I had the audacity to travel with my bag at the same time as they were trying to go home. Then there was the slight sighs as they squeezed past my upright bag to get into the central bit of the carriage (as I had the bag I had to stay in the more open area right by the door). Then the inevitable slight shove to get past when they become over-agitated and think they won't make it out of the door before it closes again. Then there's the people who won't move even slightly to give me space to pull the bag out, so I end up having to barge through using the bag as a weapon of sorts. Then as I glance back to check was all ok, a couple of shakes of the head showing their disapprovement to send me on my way.

So business as usual then. Last season I promised my fiancee that I would be back to meet some of her friends at the pub down the road from our flat, but the metropolitan line was shut for maintenance and the return journey from my cricket match took over 2 hours, rather than the 30 minutes it would have been with a car. So I was left to phone with my apologies and get the inevitable earbashing (well in as much as my now wife goes in for that sort of thing anyway). Of course, even if I had turned up at the pub earlier, I would have got a black mark for wheeling my cricket bag in, and in some busy places, may have been turned away altogether by the staff.

As I passed through Kings Cross station after 11 on that Saturday night I remember seeing a couple of other poor souls on the same mission to get home after enjoying their hobby on a Saturday afternoon. I wonder just how many have to go through the same ritual every Saturday, leaving well before 11 to make an early afternoon start, and arriving back home after 11. My fear is that it's more people than you think, so I ask you this: the next time you see someone like me trying to get around on public transport with their cricket bag, give them a reassuring smile. They probably won't be making last orders at the pub that night, so don't make things any worse for them!

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