Uncluttering: Soliciting and Cricketing

I clicked on an online button the other day and ended my legal career. Well, okay, that’s a bit overdramatic: I came off the list of practising solicitors after a scarily long period of being on it (I was ‘admitted,’ however grudgingly, in 1986). For a hundred quid a year, I can remain on the Law Society’s Roll, but not practice (well, I should be perfect by now hahaha).

The feeling was… surprisingly liberating actually. It feels like I’m moving on, uncluttering my life: there’s no need for me to hang onto my professional status, and that’s a good thing. It chimes too with a lot of what I’ve been doing recently, and not just work related.

Much spring cleaning is being done at Casa Ardross at the moment. The study, from where I write, is kind of the epicentre of it – practical measures like buying a second hand desk chair that will keep my spine from performing origami on itself with the increased hours spent in it; putting the typing keyboard flat on the desk instead of on top of its musical counterpart (see pic); and clearing out the above-stairs glory hole and desk drawers of all sorts of accumulated crap that had, at some point, convinced me it had to be kept.

Which is the best explanation I can offer for still having the scrap of paper pictured right. Now yellowing despite long being hidden in a drawer, this extracted gem from that august organ The East Fife Mail contains one of my finest sporting moments in the only game I consider worth a tinker’s cuss, cricket. I’ll save a treatise on the game, Scotland’s complicated relationship with it (it’s seen as a soft, Sassenach pursuit by many, but those of us otherwise minded will support the England cricket team whilst simultaneously urging on anyone else against them in any other sport) and, indeed, my own complicated relationship with the cricket ball and its peculiar properties to harm.

Suffice it to say that I was always most comfortable on a cricket field with said ball in my hand, rather than attempting to put myself in its way whether as batsman or fielder. Composed of some kind of the densest rock from the centre of the earth, thinly covered with stiched leather, it is truly the work of Satan itself.

How else to explain, for example, the paranormal levels of fear I used to encounter, as a crisply struck shot propelled the ball, tracer-like, in my direction over the uneven outfield: try as I might, it would inevitably evade my trembling hands and proceed to ricochet between, if not, as it appeared, actually through three soft parts of my anatomy like some cruel re-enactment of the Kennedy assasination ‘magic bullet’ theory before exiting, picking up speed as it did so, on the way to the boundary.

Anyhoo. The match report in the newspaper cutting tells the story of a Sunday XI game between Largo and Dunlop, an Ayrshire team who clearly fielded something of a ringer in Monaghan, who proceeded to score 118 of the team’s 149 total. At some point our captain, the inspirational Lancastrian Dick Dakin, appears to have decided it was worth a try putting me on. For once, his touching faith was rewarded somewhat.

My nickname at Largo was ‘Scud’ – not some oblique reference to an incident involving nudity on tour, you’ll be glad to hear (and, anyway, what goes on tour stays on tour, even cricket tour) – but more of a reference to the missiles used during the first Gulf War that described a high parabolic flight, could be deadly, but could just as easily be miles off target. In cricketing terms I was by then bowling left-arm offspin with the occasional googly tossed into the mix.

I don’t remember much about the game itself, except that it was at the far end of the square, and I was bowling from the landward end, so that every time I strayed down the leg side the batsmen were able to threaten the herd of cows on the other side of the fence with a missile attack of their own. Given that three of my four victims appear to have been clean bowled, I must have been a little more accurate than usual. Given that all of this must have happened near on thirty years ago, however, the real question is, why on earth am I still hanging on to it?

Good question. One answer is that, if pushed, I would trade quite a lot of what I’ve achieved in other areas for more days like that on a cricket field. Despite my abject cowardice in the face of a speeding ball, those occasional successes as a bowler – and even more occasional times when, as a batsman, I achieved more than my standard score of Nought Not Out at Number Eleven – went deep in terms of satisfying that need that many of us feel to stand out, to play your part, to be a part. Largo Social XI were a sociable bunch, and I spent quite a few happy years playing for them. Much as I’m not a blokey kind of bloke, it went deep, as I say.

All that said, it’s time to move on. There aren’t many things sadder than a middle aged man hanging on to his sporting trophies: and for me, this is about it, other than a tie I got once at the Largo annual dinner as Clubman of the Year – named, with typical Largo humour, the Dick Award. I might keep it, but the newspaper cutting’s going in the paper recycling, just like my Law Society of Scotland Practising Certificate will on 25th March, the date at which I’m no longer licensed to thrill as a solicitor.

It feels good. It feels like shedding skins.




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