There was almost a football match today. Plan A was to watch cricket, Lands v Raby Castle, Plan B was Richmond Town v Tow Law in a pre-season friendly.
After a night of heavy rain and a little-better morning, the phone rings at 11am. I’m sure it’ll be the cricket lads calling off but it’s Lawyers secretary Steve Moralee. Match off, waterlogged pitch.
Lands CC chairman Carroll Simpson rings, too. “We’re trying very hard,” he says.
Lands is really two villages in west Durham – High Lands and Low Lands – birthplace of the munificent John Elliott, chairman of Northern League sponsor Ebac, an empire built on dehumidifiers. High Lands is small, its neighbour minuscule.
John insists that when, many years ago, he collected his MBE, the Queen asked where he was from. Lands, he said.
“Is that High Lands or Low Lands?” said Her Majesty.
Carroll Simpson tells how John welded his first dehumidifier in one of the hen huts across the fields. “It was for a feller in Scotland who was so pleased he ordered another ten. John thought he might have to get a bigger hen house.”
The match is tremendous, tensely competitive, the second innings bathed in sunshine. For four hours these lads give everything without thought – or chance – of remuneration and without a single audible cuss. Then they pay for their tea and take their washing home.
Little wonder that some of us wish that summer might go on a little longer.
*West Allotment Celtic secretary Ted Ilderton reports from their Friday night friendly against Whitley Bay, played at their new home on the former Wheatsheaf ground – adjacent to Newcastle Airport.
Doubtless the match was compelling, though attention may have been diverted by the Red Arrows, circling the place barely above the hedge tops before landing, one by one, next door. “Entertainment that other clubs can’t provide,” says Ted, inarguably.
Incorrigibly, it also recalls the joke about which birds fly in formation and emit red, white and blue smoke.
The red sparrows, of course.