By Mark Gilkes
Cricket report 16th September 2001 – Uplyme
Salmagundi Gardeners in Lyme Regis.
There is, in this dissenting report to Salmagundi’s weekend in Lyme, no attempt to diminish the significance of a cricket game which produced nearly four hundred runs and a number of fifties on each side, but, impressive as those statistics are, surely the most important endeavour took place elsewhere, and on the Sunday.
It must be established that the author of this minority report offers an alternative view of the weekend with no desire for personal acclaim – any part he could be said to have played in the events is as much in being in the right place at the right time, than in any possession of those attributes necessary for glory such as “grit and determination,” (A Hansen, ad nauseum). (There is perhaps some significance in this most apposite of quotations emanating from a Scotsman.)
In order to establish credibility for these claims it is necessary to dispense quickly with the events of Sunday morning, lest these be misunderstood to be the motive for the dissension contained herewithin.
In blazing bright Sunday morning sunshine the Salmagundi cricketers descended upon, or rose up the hill to, what may in future come to be known at the Lyme Belfry – the crazy golf putting course which overlooks the silvery bay. There must be no eulogising – this report can have no impact unless impeccably forensic – and so here are the facts. First to tee off was the author of this report. The first hole was negotiated with exactly the same score in shots as was scored in runs the previous day: two. The third hole was negotiated in a single shot. The sixth saw another potential hole-in-one become a two when the ball hit the cup and bounced out. Out in 18, there was still the treacherous back nine to complete, with its concrete chutes and low back walls, but a calm 23 saw posted a completed target of 41 – with the author of this report even having to add on a shot when his opponent erroneously awarded him a hold-in-one on the seventeenth. Clearly the poor man was simply dazzled by the expertise – and again we must speak only of facts: nobody came near to matching this brilliance. This winning score was achieved by the strategy of playing for the greens. A two on this course is a winning score on every hole (particularly when playing against such ham-fisted opposition). Some players attempt to reach the green in one, some hope to simply keep it on the fairway – most of the Salmagundi Gardeners have perfected the art of returning the ball to the tee. Some managed to do this four times in a row on each hole. It is only because there is a maximum of five shots per hole that we can understand why some of them are now safely home and not still swinging wildly at their fluorescent orange balls. These players couldn’t find the plug hole if they practised putting in the bath.
These are all facts and indisputable. Tait got round in 53, obviously (with two five stroke cut-offs) aiming to match the 81 he scored on the cricket pitch the previous day. It would be wrong in such a rigorously scientific report to speculate on the significance of such a debacle for a Scot in a game invented in Scotland; or to think it could have anything to do with the events which were later to transpire (“grit and determination”), but who can really assess the psychological effect upon natives beaten at their own game?
Which brings us to the purpose of this report: the need for a searingly accurate account of the true sporting triumph of the weekend.
With the winner’s prize money from the golf tournament, the author hosted a celebratory party on the seafront, at which were consumed, organic ginger beer, bread pudding, ice cream and cappuccino. It was legitimate to assume this would mark the end of the weekend’s heroic exertions. Such an assessment, however, was to not take into account these two key factors: firstly, the patent insanity of James Tait; secondly, they puppy-like willingness of Jim Monahan to follow a fool.
As a result of the Sunday cricket match being cancelled, the travelling companions of Tait, Monahan, and the author, being kindly driven by Mike Stewart, had an opportunity for some small exploration of the South Coast before joining the dismal M3. At the author’s suggestion this merry band headed for Portland, and the interesting natural phenomena of the Chesil Bank. Seventeen miles long, and created by the wind and wave action of thousands of years, the beautiful pebble spit of Chesil forms, with the lagoon behind it, a unique habitat. The water of the lagoon (known as the Fleet) becomes progressively less saline the further West of Portland one travels, which makes is a fascinating site for the study of plants and animals. Travelling West to East on the shingle, one sees demonstrated the remarkable ability of the waves to consistently sort the pebbles by size, with the smooth round stones becoming progressively larger the closer one gets to Portland. These facts, and many others, can be gleaned from the small but functional wildlife centre at Portland – which is exactly where the author and Mike Stewart got them. James, however, had his own method.
We first joined the bank at Abbotsbury, not really knowing whether this placed us a quarter, a third or halfway along. Tait, with a quick look at the map, reasoned there were only four miles to go and immediately resolved to walk it. Four miles an hour being his estimate of a likely pace, he generously added on another twenty minutes and reckoned he would get there in an hour and twenty. Mike Stewart was already heading back to the car at this point. It was blowing hard and was quite chilly, the sunshine of the crazy golf having long since disappeared. Tait looked for volunteers to join him on his adventure. It was at this point the vigorously factual approach of this report’s author was unnecessary. Instinctively he felt this walk was going to be much harder than it might seem. An hour and twenty minutes? Four miles? Smooth as these pebbles are, they are not very easy to walk over. Most significant is this fact: the Fleet completely cuts off the mainland from the shingle bank. There is no way off from Abbotsbury to Portland. Once you commit to the walk, you are fully committed to the walk – not least when the arrangement is to meet at Portland and the car is already heading off.
Which is why, three hours and forty minutes later – and this is a fact – the author could be seen not laughing, no, never, as exhausted, wind-blown and footsore, Tait and Monahan dragged themselves into a final stagger down the slope of the Chesil Bank with only moments to go before the incoming tide had filled the Portland end of the Fleet and almost cut them off forever. Tait, who was once famously left behind at Amersham, had done everything in his power to maroon himself and a friend off the coast of Dorset.
It really behoves, in reportage as scientific as this, to allow not an iota of emotion to obscure the facts. It is a fact that when looking at a map, and using a finger and thumb to measure against the scale and then check this against the distance, one is not then supposed to widen the space between said finger and thumb before applying such a measuring device to the relevant parts of the map. It is a fact that when considering the average walking speed of the adult male (commonly held to be 4 miles per hour), it is necessary to adjust this should one encounter terrain marginally more difficult to traverse than Mercer St, and significantly longer than from your house to Tesco. It is also a fact that if you take a loyal companion (however willing that loyal companion at first seems) for a long walk, and decline at any time to carry them, you can expect to spend some time pausing while you endeavour to persuade that loyal companion that they simply mustn’t just lay down and die.
This report, then, presents as its conclusion the following alternative view: whatever has been said or will be said in the other report about cricketing prowess, expertise with the bat, acrobatics in the field, and discipline with the ball, whatever small mention might have been made of nerveless putting, risible hacking and sleight of hand scoring on the golf links, there has been only one sporting event this weekend worthy of mention, one moment of human endeavour – which would be sullied if we were to allow it to be included in talk of lesser achievement.
This report commends to all sports men and women, and calls for Olympic inclusion to be accredited to: The Sunday Afternoon Ten Mile Stroll (Heavy Shingle Class)