Musings From The Padded Cell

The Don’s Last Cake.

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There are places we start to see far too much of the older we get.

There we were again to say goodbye to The Don. Players at the Villas named him so with due reference and reverence to his “ownership” of the passport to our weekly dreams, the bit in the middle known as the wicket.

The Don's pride and joy.

The Don’s pride and joy.

I picked the old folks up, my dad bundling my mum into the back of the car with not a hint of “mind your head m’aam” and we set off. The traffic was unusually light, so much so we arrived thirty minutes early at a place nobody really wishes to linger.

“We can take a walk around the graveyard” suggested my dad cheerfully to shared incredulity from my mum and I. Sensing he was after a grand plot – diminishing my inheritance even more – we stayed put.

The magnificent trees had shed their colours across the sprawling grounds and it was hard, despite the solemnity of the occasion, not to stop and take in this beauty.

Mourners arrived making their reluctant ways down the hill, drawing last drags of temporary comfort, reunions of a sort if never sought, funeral garb once again. Shiny black trousers but no shiny happy people.

It was hard though not to smile and think that, were he here, The Don would be tempted to get his big green blower out of the club garage and tidy up all the mess created by the thousands of falling leaves scattered over the driveway.

It sits in the club garage like an abandoned and forgotten family pet. The Don used it to blast clean the big mower of grass cuttings but none of us were ever allowed to touch it although I did have a sneaky go this summer.

It was great and far better cleaning the mower off with a jet engine than a knackered old hand brush even if it almost blew the mower backwards. I popped it back in its place and hoped The Don would be none the wiser.

Folks were gathered in huddles against the autumnal chill as the conveyor belt of another day at the cemetery rolled on like the The Generation Game. No cuddly toys on offer here today.

Harry the Stiffs’ scorer prodded me in the back as we waited for the cortege to arrive.

“They said come in bright colours and look at all this black!” he said sporting a very bright yellow top. “Look at me dressed like a big fat canary!”

I told him he matched the trees and moved on.

Better days...H and The Don.

Better days…H and The Don.

We shuffled in for our allotted time knowing that, as it has to, life would kick on again at least until the next time we all rolled down the hill…minus one.

Often we find out many things about a person far too late to fully appreciate them. Apparently, The Don had a passion for cakes which is probably why he pursued the game of cricket. He simply loved cake we were told.

He was also of the generation that married and stayed married; the same generation that fixed things rather than threw them away (or called The Don in sheer desperation); the same generation that understood what community and volunteering meant.

The Don

The Don

It was a fitting turnout with the chapel full and beyond with a thoughtful eulogy and an admiration of a man that had tried to do the right thing for the benefit of many, close and not so close.

As we left I dragged the old man away from his new found love of headstones and a choice semi-detached plot with railings, back to the local hotel for one last cricket tea with The Don.

As it ever was, club legend Mick Adams was first to the food arriving back with a plate that would have fed the local Salvation Army hostel and engaging me with this thoughts on death as he picked his way through a delightful quiche.

“Frankly, if He came knocking now” he said licking his lips “He could have me no problems. I’ve nothing to come back for and no bloody money left anyway!”

If there was ever a man that the mantra live for today was written for, Mick is up there. Given the choice he would still plump for one more spell with the new ball if the body would allow, though always downhill.

“I mean, I’m seventy-six and everything still bloody works” he said with that wonderful glint in those eyes that used to stare down batsmen and umpires alike lighting up our dressing room “and I mean EVERYTHING!”

I pushed my jam scone to one side, another time perhaps. Indeed they do say you should live every day as if it was your last which is patently nonsense; what would you actually do if it was your last?

By now my mum and Harry’s beloved wife were busy exchanging tips on Shearings Summer 2017 brochure and how to get buy one, get one free on all manner of things.

It was definitely time to go even for Mick who noticed, with dismay, that the cake trolley was now empty. Perhaps The Don had snuck down for the last one?

“The teas will be the same again next summer Harry” said my mum as she said farewell. “See you next summer!”

There by the grace of God.

Time to reunite with few old friends.

Time to reunite with a few old friends.

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