Posts Tagged ‘cricket’


With L unable to travel, the kids have settled into a summer holiday at home.

Gabe got off to an early start, with his exams finishing in mid-June. He has occupied himself with reading, watching cricket (World Cup and Ashes), pub quiz trips with friends and organising book collections. He started with our own and the floor was strewn with paperbacks for a couple of weeks while he laboriously logged our library on a spreadsheet, before returning it to the shelves, categorised and neater than before. J, our friend’s retired mother, has engaged Gabe to do the same for her.

Since the end of school term, Gabe has also been socialising with Robin, reforging a fraternal relationship that had been distant. They have played table tennis, tennis, indoor and outdoor cricket, X-box and watched sports together on TV.

Eliza, of course, is the most active and industrious. She has worked ten of the first twelve days of the holiday, running gymnastics holiday club and parties. On the way there or back, she has met up with Joe, or visited other friends. “Where’s Eliza?” I ask when back from work. “Out,” I’m told with conviction but not precision.

Braces (at last)


“When are you 14?” asked the Greek orthodontist.

“November,” Eliza replied.

“Well, we had better get on with it,” concluded the orthodontist.

Eliza gave a look that said, ‘FINALLY!’. This is either her third or fourth orthodontist appointment in between which she has been batted back and forth, without anything being done to correct her crooked front teeth. But this time there is urgency and action. It takes under 10 seconds for the orthodontist to affirm that the wonkiness of her upper incisors qualifies for NHS care. By the time we have returned to the reception desk, a further appointment has been requested – for the following day.

Eliza is back at the surgery in not much more than 24 hours. This time, she leaves with braces across her four upper front teeth. The braces will stay for six months, re-aligning those teeth. After that, she will wear upper and lower jaw plates for up to two years.


As a cricketer Robin has shown more as a natural bowler than batsman. This season, his bowling has gone a little backwards, without, until this week, his batting compensating. In fact, despite often being requested to play twice a week – for his age group and the age group above – Robin has been a reluctant cricketer. But on Monday, he rediscovered his joy in the game, by making his first ever score of 25, which is the retirement score in under 11 cricket. He hit several fours, including one that he described as going back over the bowler and bouncing on the boundary rope.


Gabe finished his GCSE exams, but chose not to go out to celebrate. Instead he came back home and in the evening was still in his school uniform, which he’ll never need to wear again. He reported feeling no great release from finishing his exams. His thoughts have turned instead to the results, which are almost two whole months away.

In the trenches


Gabe went away in the early hours of Thursday before half-term holiday. The school history trip to the Belgian battlefields of the Great War had been over-subscribed and Gabe too late to express interest. But a couple of weeks before departure he took up a vacated place.

Trenches (real and simulated), cemeteries, chapels and the towns the war plagued were visited. Each student had a local soldier to research before departure and search for some marker of their death when in Belgium. Gabe found the site of the mass grave of 35,000 German casualties the most affecting. It was, he confirmed, the best school trip he has had.


Robin was picked for Sale’s under 12 team in the indoor winter cricket league. The step-up in intensity, particularly in the field, energised him. He coped well, bowling strongly and batting reliably, pushing singles to share the strike with the skipper, only swinging hard at deliveries aimed at his legs that he could shovel square. While his teammates batted, he hung on the edge of his group, likely as not returning to me to sit on my lap: an endearing mix of young affection and physical prowess.


choc towerOn her desk is built a chocolate tower. Weeks after Christmas and barely touched are chocolate reindeer, a selection box, Lindor, a bar of chocolate, a chocolate Santa and a tub of Heroes. That same ration barely saw Robin and Gabe into 2016. Eliza is unlikely to finish hers before Easter. It’s a sugary monument to her self-control and her understanding of the value of a pleasure deferred.

Referee (in training)


As part of his PE GCSE, Gabe has been doing a refereeing course. Three whole weekend days – one forcing him to miss a club football match. The draw, as well fulfilling his course, is the prospect of money: £15 per game refereed. His view on the course, though, is uncomplimentary. Slow, boring, obvious has been his assessment. Having watched about an hour of the instruction, I sympathise. They seemed to be spending that amount of time practising shaking hands with the captains and tossing the coin. Later on, Gabe got to do some practice match refereeing. He reports that he did well, but couldn’t blow his whistle properly – at the right times, he clarified, just not blown properly. He has to complete five observed matches, before his qualification is complete. 


Eliza has had two trips away from home in the space of a week. Firstly, the final days of her first half-term at grammar school was spent on a residential course in North Wales. Two days and nights with new friends didn’t faze her. She enjoyed the outdoor activities, the evening games and the dorm room chat. 

The highlight of her half-term holiday was an overnight trip to Blackpool for her friend E’s birthday. Fish and chips, roller-coaster, the illuminations, hotel swimming pool all featured, but having three beds to choose from in the hotel room was appreciated the most. 


Robin completed a six week Cheshire cricket coaching course. He has picked up and retained technique tips that might have been offered at the club but tend to drift by in the noise there. He is particularly pleased with understanding how to grip the ball and flex his wrist to bowl faster. The coaches nominated him for the advanced course that follows, but Robin didn’t feel the need for another course. 

3 Finals, 2 extra-times and 1 penalty shoot-out


Gabe’s football season ended with three finals – two with school and one with his club. The first was entirely one-sided affair in all respects except the score. Despite oodles of possession and pressure his side couldn’t conjure a goal. Mid way through the second half, the opposition broke away and took the lead. There was an equaliser and then two periods of extra time when both sides struggled with fatigue. Onto penalties, and Gabe was one of the cool-headed players, tucking his penalty away to the keeper’s right, to contribute to a 5-4 victory. 

A week later, Gabe played in school finals on the Monday and Friday – both at Man United’s training ground. The first was a comfortable victory. The second saw Gabe’s school go 3-0 behind in the first 10 minutes; then 4-3 up at half-time; 4-4 at full time, with his school getting the winner three minutes from the end of extra time. 

Gabe has won every game of football he has played this season. 


Robin played three cricket matches in six days, including his hard-ball debut. He managed the distinction of taking wickets for three different age group teams in one week. He has decided that hard-ball cricket is the way to go. 


Eliza and L have an act, based on a Little Britain sketch where a shopkeeper shouts up the stairs to his wife whenever a customer asks a question. “Margaret” he shouts shrilly, and she responds in a similar high pitch. And this is exactly how L and Eliza negotiate any downstairs to upstairs communication. Eliza doesn’t need to put on an act to get the squeaky high pitch response. 

Beach trip

With the hot weather forecast to move on, I proposed to Robin and Eliza a trip to the beach. To Gabe, I presented it as a fait accompli, knowing that he would argue against it, but that once we were there, he would enjoy it as much as the others.

Eliza and Robin ran across the Ainsdale sands to the water, found it warm and stripped off. They barely stayed still long enough for me to cover their exposed bodies with factor 50. We paddled up to our knees. They skipped over waves, searched for shells and fish. They dried off and dug a hole. We played beach cricket. Then a mini-Olympics, with standing and running long jump, sprints and limbo. After a snack, we tried to fly my kite.. and failed.

Barring a short essay at beach cricket, abandoned because of the unpredictability of the ball’s bounce, Gabe remained in the car, on his tablet: a picture of teenage disaffection.



Gabe has a girlfriend. This was vouchsafed to L by text, while they sat across the room from each other. And the ‘going out’ status, it appears, was also secured by text. But details are thin. She has been spotted when picking Gabe up from her house. When I asked him some deliberately unthreatening questions, like “What’s she into?”, he said “Normal stuff”. L has encouraged him to ask her to visit us. Gabe declined as we’re too embarrassing.


Robin is put out by Gabe and I going to Test cricket together. He made me promise to take him to a cricket match and so we went, as a whole family, to a T20 match at Old Trafford. Everyone found it pleasant, helped by a beautiful warm July evening, if lacking in drama and, to Gabe, inferior to Test cricket. We spend the second innings at the top of the upper stand at the Statham End, looking down on the ground. Robin was uncomfortable with the height and the steepness of the stand’s pitch, but settled as much as an excitable 8 year old can.


Eliza has found some reward for her dedication to music. She practices willingly – not just pieces, but scales, too. At the year 6 leavers assembly, she was appointed leader of the recorder group for next year. It is perhaps not the grandest of the musical jobs (orchestra leader?), but one she will fulfill conscientiously.