My son, between the ages of 12 and 17, went through an enthusiastic phase for cricket, and he was quite good. He hasn’t picked a bat up since and he’s 25 this year.
His coach, and the main reason for sustaining the interest for so long, was Flynn. Fifty-ish, tall, bald, bespectacled, stooping, seemingly always in a white V-necked sweater and jogging bottoms. A sort of cricket monk and nuts about spin bowling.
Flynn loved the kids and they loved him. Soft spoken, he had the knack of being firm without raising his voice. He could be sorely tried, however, by his own two boys and he and his wife kept them occupied, on the move and off the streets. Match days, he made sure the team was fed and watered with just enough net practice to keep the boys out of the bar, and then, as umpire, he was there to suggest and support. We travelled to away games in the back of a big white transit van that Flynn’s wife used for her work.
I never saw his dark side, though there were glimpses. I called at their house once. His wife said he wasn’t in, could she help? As I stood in the sunlit kitchen, two bright circles of light peered at me out of the lounge gloom. Then at the Barnsley six-a-sides, we’d not made it to the final, but we’d a great day nevertheless. Time for home. Where’s Flynn? Slumped in the front passenger seat, staring through the windscreen.
Flynn didn’t have a job for more than a few days at a time. His wife said he’d tried hard and the boss always kept a slot open for him. ‘Not so good with his health this last 10 years,’ she said. Yet, he almost never missed evening nets. Down at the cricket club every summer weekend, or so it appeared. Little spells that made a big impact.
My son went the way of many young cricketers. Even Flynn’s two lost interest. I was disappointed, lost touch with Flynn and the cricket club and moved on. Though I did see his wife and the boys one Friday evening, delivering telephone directories door-to-door out of the back of a big white transit van.
Until this month that is. We live near an emporium specialising in the snack beloved of the famous Holmfirth troglodyte, C. Simmonite. Compo’s Fish and Chip shop to you and me. Saturday lunch, there they are, Flynn and his tribe, tucking in. The boys have their own place now, and play a bit for a team near Barnsley. They are both out of work, the youngest only recently laid off. Flynn’s wife was made redundant earlier this year. Downhearted, yes, but not down and out. That afternoon, they were going to view properties, to buy and renovate. How’s that for the big society? We just need a shedload of battling Flynns.
This was written for the Occupational Health Journal in Autumn 2010. It was rejected.