Monday, August 18, 2008

A day out at Lord's Cricket Ground

Many aspects concerning Lord’s Cricket Ground are both unique and very English. (Although many a Lord will have been a member of M.C.C., the name derives from a Thomas Lord, who originally owned the ground.)

There has just been a one-day final match there between the teams of Essex and Kent.

Lord’s, on such an occasion, is a microcosm of true Englishness. All ages, from all walks of life (on this occasion there would hardly have been a non-Englishman among them), are there to enjoy a day’s outing, cheering on their respective teams, lauding their heroes, and directing their wishes of ill fortune toward their opponents.

I am seldom partisan, going just to watch good cricket, and prone to agree with the catch phrase of the pundits, namely that “cricket is the winner”.

The ground, too, is a winner, with its lofty, almost tented Mound Stand (very cleverly expanded by resting a large tier of seats and boxes, held elegantly aloft above the original stand on six slender columns). There is its sedate, Victorian, red brick pavilion, peopled by gentlemen who have waited many years to become members (so they are inclined to be old – and some older still). Then there is the new grandstand, with its roof suspended beneath a length of steel latticework with wires attaching it high up to either side of a central flag pole. Finally, for me, there is a gentleman’s convenience at the so-called Nursery End of the ground. Why do I even mention such a place?

With the club’s new expansion plans, this gem may well be lost to not only those who want to let the beer flow through, but to people like me who see it as an Edwardian, porcelain, sculpture park. It consists of many rows of Shanks stalls with their chinaware cisterns above that rest on columns to supply flushing water. The stalls in the middle stand back to back (or face to face), so, when urinating, you might be looking eye to eye with someone close to and directly opposite with the same intent. I suppose they represent an age when personal privacy was considered less important than it is now. I not only hope that this “Gents” will be retained, but brought to the notice of those who plan, and would hopefully appreciate a treasure of architectural grandeur. Surely it should be a listed building.

Cricket on the day in question was a close enough contest to be interesting throughout. But in between the overs and intervals there were other fascinating sights on view.

To someone like me, to whom meteorology was a life-saving study when flying in the war, a constantly cloud-changing sky was on view. Patches of sunlight broke through a variety of clouds that moved swiftly overhead. Sometimes a thicker layer than most brought relative semi-darkness to the ground. But seen above, and throughout the day, were fine examples of alto stratus, alto cumulus (beautiful), fracto cumulus, straightforward cumulus, and even a lenticular cumulus (if I remember the names correctly).

And because the clouds were high and the air clean, aircraft flight patterns in and out of London’s Heathrow Airport were clear to see.

In the morning, aeroplanes took off in an easterly direction – roughly over Lord’s. After leaving the circuit and using our part of the sky, they could be seen to set course for northern Europe, Scandinavia, over the pole to California, or to the western side of America. Those on long haul, and heavy with passengers and fuel, struggled to gain altitude under full throttle.

Then, in mid-afternoon, aeroplanes took off and landed in the other direction – toward the west. So now they appeared from all directions to join the flight path, either directly into the airport or heading east to turn around and take their turn to join the final, westerly approach. These were quieter aeroplanes than those leaving heavily laden. Their engines were throttled back. Flaps and wheels had not yet been lowered.

Usually sitting among friends, after a day's play, spectators return home to their families exhausted. Those at home can not understand that sitting down for most of the day watching cricket is a very exhausting process. But it is. Concentration on every ball and the many aspects of this most complicated of games, results in sapping, mental strain - and, in my case, with the added concentration on clouds and aeroplanes.

That is the way of it. And it all goes to make up a lovely day.