By Mark Gilkes
“It’s Like Rain On Your Wedding Day…”
1st September 2002 Oak & Beech
Some considerable time ago Alanis Morrisette got very excited about irony, and she wrote a song. Unfortunately it was not irony at all about which she so beautifully sang, but Sod’s Law, or what the Americans more genteelly refer to as Murphy’s Law – the principle that what can go wrong indeed will go wrong.
To explain it a little further: “Rain on your wedding day,” is merely unfortunate, a chance occurrence to take precautions against. It’s only ironic if you’re John Ketley and you’re marrying Suzanne Charlton.
Alanis, having (it would appear) really got the hang of irony, explores it at length — but a man being afraid to fly, taking a Greyhound bus, and having that bus crash, is still only Sod’s Law, no matter how plaintive your voice. It’s only ironic if the bus is hit by a falling plane. Double irony is achieved if the falling plane is the flight the man declined to book.
“A free ride when you’ve already paid,” sings Alanis, relishing the bitter agony — but a free ride when you’ve already paid is just a minor irritation, and even then only to a cheapskate.
Americans often get very excited about irony; the British understand that irony and excitement are not especially complementary. The British are not necessarily better at irony than the Americans, but American’s make far better targets. So how ironic it is that Alanis should turn out to be not American at all but Canadian. This is perhaps doubly ironic, as arguably the greatest insult a Canadian can feel is to be identified, with or without irony, as a US citizen. Meanwhile, for the British, the distinction continues to be only of fleeting importance, resulting in deliberate and accidental mistaking of North American nationality, with parallel and indistinguishable irony in either event.
Consulting our Collins Reference Dictionary, we find the definition: “Event, situation opposite of what expected.” Perhaps, ironically, Alanis is right. Perhaps, with an ironical smile, we can accept her statements. “Rain on your wedding day,” is indeed the opposite of what was expected — unless, or course, you’re the kind of gloomy pessimist who writes songs about bad things unexpectedly happening and so should make it your duty to expect inclement weather… or even if you’re a non-songwriting sensibly prepared realist… We all hope for fine weather, but we must have a contingency. Otherwise whatever irony exists or could exist will be subsumed within the overwhelming stupidity. Is it ironic? No. Didn’t you think there was the merest chance it could rain on your wedding day? Did you not even consider taking precautions?
And so it was, armed with the bitter experience that brings such a powerful sense of irony, in this wet wet summer we’ve been having, that Salmagundi Gardeners Cricket Club schlepped all the way to distant Barn Meadow, Amersham, for the match against Oak & Beech, knowing it was already the 1st of September, and the summer almost gone…
Come on. It was sure to rain. Was there really any point in trying?
O irony of ironies (or, to be ironic about irony, how ironical) it then was to see the sun shine so brightly, all day, unrelentingly. Hot.
There ensued the following events: and to make our case for the beatification of the we-hope-soon-to-be-appointed Patron Saint of Cricket, Alanis Morrisette, please study the text below and place a tick wherever you see irony. (As a guide to students of Ironie de Morrisette, the first passage has the irony already underlined.)
* Last week Mark Gilkes cracked a rib playing football in a pre-season friendly and so informed the Chairman of Selectors he would only play if the team was short and he was needed. Jim Monahan told him the team was very short and he was desperately needed. Salmagundi arrived with 13 players.
* Jake Wood felt unwell and so stepped down, but while Jim was still attempting to persuade Mark playing with 12 would be acceptable if he negotiated such an arrangement with the opposition, Mike Fox announced he had forgotten his cricket boots and did anybody have a pair he could borrow. Mark, suspecting his boots had more to offer than his body, duly lent his boots to Mike and, once it was decided once and for all that Mark would not play, Mike then found his own boots and slung Mark’s in the general direction of the changing room. The laces were still tied.
* Mike, drawing up the batting order, called over to Rob Pimlott that he was to bat at number 6. Rob responded, “Yes, I was going to say that.”
* An excellent tea was prepared by Jim, for at least the third time this season. Mark, who, like so many of the team, puts more effort throughout the season into swerving this chore than into chasing thick edges down to third man, suddenly realised, with Salmagundi fielding in the second innings, that all the washing up had been left for him.
* Salmagundi held onto all the catches that came their way.
* Mark scored a total of 270 runs — which is noteworthy because it was achieved not with a bat but with a pencil. 39 of these were scored by Phil Sessions, 14 by Joe Fox and another 14 by Will Towers. There was a partnership of 43 between Phil and Mike, and another of 34 between Adam Wood and Will. Also 37 extras were scored — credit for which should really go to Oak and Beech. Salmagundi, in reply, conceded only 3 extras — an impressive show of disciplined bowling. (An even more impressive two-thirds of the extras were provided solely by Richard Gossage.)
* Will Towers. It isn’t a statement, it’s a name. Yet, in an effort to make us all think he is indeed especially tall, Will decided to go out to bat in 10-year-old Louis Monahan’s pads. (This may well be post-modern irony — if Will is quick enough to claim he did it deliberately — which is confusing to those still struggling with plain irony, but which can be easily mastered if one puts either a tick or not a tick and then says afterwards that they meant to get it wrong/right, depending on what is later given as the correct answer.)
* M Fox and P Sessions were caught eating tea before the Oak & Beech innings was completed.
How many ticks did you make? If, like Chris Packham, you find you have more ticks on the page than runs scored in this particular match, you can consider yourself especially ironic. If, like James Tait, you find the balance between runs and irony is very fine, then try taking life a bit more seriously. Alternatively, you could try taking your batting more seriously. This could mean you would continue to enjoy life, and have, ironically, even more reason to enjoy it. Or you might choose to make the kind of observation made by Joe Fox, who batted for 18 minutes for his 14, and faced 15 balls: “So how long was my Dad in for for his 11?” (69 minutes.) “And how many balls did he face?” (37) “So how much longer than me did he take to make…?” (Let’s leave it there, Joe. I’m really not sure this constitutes irony of any kind. No doubt there’s a song somewhere in the oeuvre of Alanis Morrisette that’s about her relationship with one or other of her parents but, in all honesty, using it here would take us further from cricket than many of the Salmagundi’s have been since their last stint of umpiring — and would it really help in her canonisation? Besides, one of the questions you didn’t ask would have elicited the reply: “Fox, Snr – 7 overs, 3 maidens, 14 runs, 1 wicket.”)
Salmagundi scored 133 for 9, with Richard Gossage and Louis Monahan the nought not out batsmen, ironically seeing off the last two overs for maidens. Oak & Beech made 137 for 4. The razor-sharp will have deduced that this means Salmagundi lost — but did they? Is there yet more irony? Indeed is there a way in which a team can concede more wickets and score fewer runs and yet still win?
Yes. Of course there is. With irony.
– “You mean Oak & Beech actually tried to win?”
– “Yes, can you believe it? They persistently hit the ball harder and ran faster between the stumps and held onto their catches…”
– “And all this completely bereft of…?”
– “Exactly. Completely bereft of irony.” (A knowing and sad shaking of heads ensues.)
Of course, Alanis Morrisette knew all along these things she sang of were not ironic — that people simply think they are; but few people yet have seen that.
That’s cricket for you.