Photographs of my dad as a teenager show a dapper slim smiler. A bit like our Chris. Except Chris has red hair, like me. Something must have happened to dad during the war, because, by the time I arrived in 1947, he’d stopped smiling. He rarely watched me play school sports, though he did contribute loads to my youthful cricket skills. He put his angry dark side away and would bowl forever in the back garden or on the beach. And he introduced me to the boundary. We walked to Almondbury or Dalton cricket clubs on a Saturday afternoon and he took me on the train to see Yorkshire at Old Trafford, Bradford and Sheffield during the school holidays.
I was never sure why Dad didn’t come to my matches. Did he not want to put me off? He worked every other Saturday morning, so maybe time was an issue. He took more than a passing interest in my school work, so perhaps the kindest thing is to say competitive sport was not his idea of escaping the grind of work. His perceptions of injustice suffered by the post-war English working class didn’t help.
Dad was hard to please. But there were other men to try and impress. One of the teachers at school taught me how to learn, and it stuck. Another tried to get me to behave but the skill faded quickly. No one at college was influential. One or two bosses and colleagues have inspired, but, moving around the country, you soon lose touch. So whilst there were good pieces of advice here and there, I mostly made my own mistakes. Others would say I neither asked for nor welcomed advice. A tad inept really. In other words, a young fool, as opposed to the old fool I’ve become. Maybe I learned it from dad. Along with not expecting something for nothing.
Our Chris was born on armistice day 1985. Dad was a mellow middle class retired person by then. Gardening and wood carving were his things and watching Chris play soccer. Sadly he died when Chris was nine, so he missed Chris’s talented short cricket career.
Chris played for the local village cricket team. Up to the age of 17 that is. He and his pals rose up the age groups year on year, and, had he been bothered, he’d have been a cert for the second team. In 1998 he was in the Under 13’s. They played their league fixtures Sunday mornings on the all-weather pitch. Practice was Tuesday evenings.
Flyn was the coach. In his fifties, he loved the boys and they loved him. We didn’t have any girls who were interested just then. Every night of the week during the season, however inclement things were, he was down at the club to teach, encourage, organise and umpire. In the winter he took us all to the Yorkshire indoor nets. A cathedral-like space of hush and respect. Until Yorkshire Ladies arrived, and a Bradford League club and their sardonic coach.
Flyn was tall, slim, balding and wore rimless spectacles. His spare frame, simple white sweater and track suit bottoms gave him a monk-like appearance, a brother devoted to moulding the skills and outlooks of young people. And he had his dark side, which we never saw. Though I tell a lie. I did once call unannounced at his home. Lesley, his wife, answered. She worked from home whilst Flyn was in and out of jobs. No, Flyn wasn’t around, could she deal with it? Course she could, but in the shadows I glimpsed two small round spots of light. They must have been around five foot ten off the floor. Unnerving, peering back at me out of the gloom.
Flyn was always patient, never mad, except with his own two, Dean and Rick. Lesley said she and Flyn kept them permanently on the move, off the streets, ‘Dean’s the youngest with the attitude. Poor Rick’s feet never touch the ground. Cricket three and four nights a week, and he’s grown five inches this year. Plays havoc with his knees.’
Every year, during the school holidays, Barnsley CC hosted an U13 six-a-side knockout competition and Flyn had entered the current team. 1998 had been a desperate season weather wise. We’d turned out in several torrential downpours. Slipping and sliding like football players. The forecast was no better as we set out for the deep south. A three vehicle convoy and a squad of nine, a tenth to join us at the ground. Flyn in front, driving a mini coach. Me second and Lesley third, with a big van, tailgate and skip, borrowed from work.
Flyn was relaxed as he filled up at the petrol station, ‘We’re all right for time lads, no rush. They’ve put us back a bit.’ Shane, Simon and our Chris were with me. A bootful of kit. Spits of rain on the windscreen. ‘Did you see so-and-so? Have you heard this?’ Laughing, shouting and carrying on. About anything: television programmes, the latest films, people they thought looked funny on the street.
Barnsley Cricket Club, Shaw Road, home to Bird and Boycott, Pope and Parkinson. A big green square, a scoreboard and green angular iron frames carrying white wooden sails on rollers behind each bowling arm. There was a working men’s club at midwicket, barred and closed. A sign on the door said members only. Sweet bags, crisp packets, crumpled coloured metallic paper litter blew across the outfield. Thick ropes marked the boundary, and beyond, wasteland that betrayed where ‘the nets’ had once been. The covers were rusty corrugated iron sheets, derelict shed roofs on wheels. The ground’s sell-by-date had been and gone, grim under grey dismal skies.
‘Is this the real Barnsley Cricket Club? Home of Boycott and others?’ I asked. Flyn listed them all. He’d actually played on tour with Parkinson’s son. Yes, I remembered the son had played to a decent standard, but for me, he lived on the pages of Punch and The Sunday Times. A member of Parkinson’s back garden cricket team.
Flyn then went on about his second-team innings against Slaithwaite the previous Saturday. Not enough people available. Four years since he’d played seriously and 26 not out. Nervous at number nine, Rick and Dean going in ten and eleven. ‘Rick stayed with me ten overs. Even Dean stayed for seven overs or so. It goes to show, just getting behind the ball. The fast bowler’s on, five wickets and he wants me as the sixth. I block and he gets frustrated. Not beating the bat any more and has to try something different. Suddenly I’m pushing a few runs. Dean’s got the spin-bowler at the other end. Which do you want to face? I’ll stick he says. Then he sees me getting behind it, and he’s not getting much bat on the off-breaks. Maybe I’ll come down your end. I panic and call for a run, straight to a fielder. “No,” he shouts, “that was a silly run.” Aye, young Dean, just fancy.’
There was a tea-bar next to the working men’s club with a warning sign on the door. Do not enter Saturdays mornings between 9.30am and midday – Archery Club practice. We went in gingerly. A long narrow room with multicoloured targets at the far end. Grey walls, grey formica-topped tables, grey chairs, cricket and archery notice boards, and a wet floor. Three ladies served bags of sweets and crisps, cans of pop, grey mugs of hot brown water and bacon sandwiches. No bows and arrows.
Flyn had checked the order of play, ‘We’re even later now, twenty past one. There’s an extra team. Penistone have come on the wrong day. Where are the lads?’
‘Using the back of the van as a changing room.’ said Lesley.
‘We’ll have to keep them occupied. I’ll do a few routines with them. Lets have something to eat first.’
Tom was the late arrival from Sheffield. We sat on the boundary, watching with cans and sandwiches. Small crowd, most noise from the pitch. Little Joe was slightly to one side, sandwich bag nearly as big as him. Mike hadn’t any food. Lesley had loads but he wasn’t bothered. Rick, Reg and Shane were the senior players. Tall, seasoned 13 year olds. They will shoulder the responsibility of the last overs. Mike, Simon, Chris and Dean were somewhere in the middle – fiery and gobby. Gareth, Tom and Joe, the youngsters, eight and nine year olds, just about taller than a full-size bat.
‘Pick up your rubbish lads,’ said Flyn. I went round with a black plastic bag as they sauntered off to practice behind the tea-bar. By the time I caught up, Shane had lost my cricket ball. I’d had it years, ever since my days playing country house cricket near Bedale in North Yorkshire. Flyn supervised coaching routines as I searched the neglected hedgerow in vain. Another small piece of grief.
June, Mike’s mum arrived, ‘Has he had anything to eat? Its the only problem I have with him, that and eating sweets. Don’t forget we have to go about five o’clock.’ Talented lad, Mike was due at the local pro-soccer trials.
Flyn and the squad moved into the distance. June, Lesley and I sat on the boundary edge. Small talk of this and that.
And then we were on, batting first.
‘Come on lads, get your pads on,’ said Flyn.
Everyone batted and bowled. 10 overs, start with 200, 2 for a wide except in the last over, 8 knocked off for a wicket. Short cover and midwicket boundaries. They gave us thirty odd in extras and we only had two down, one a run out. Our Chris got some time in the middle. I paced the boundary, shouting ‘two’ when they look as though they are settling for one, ‘shot’ for a Rick special, ‘unlucky’ for a mistake. Gareth told me off when I was a bit reckless, ‘Don’t shout for ‘em to run, we’ve ‘ad a runout already.’ We finished with 268. Strange we didn’t turn straight round, just when we were feeling good. Another two teams batted and fielded before we tried to bowl our lot out.
The grey overcast cloud turned into steady rain. Our turn to field. Reg’s over was expensive. So was Chris’s. No wides from us but their first two batters did well. And suddenly our lads were all having a go at each other, gone the mutual support and encouragement. They wanted to win badly. Flyn got them in a huddle at the end of the third over. Gave them a talking to. Then it was back to normal. Chris was at deep square leg and performed well, though with more work than was comfortable. Simon bowled all his six down the leg side. Gareth dropped them too short, but he was only three foot something. Good line and length from Rick and Shane, a couple of stalwarts. Two dropped catches, one a difficult small skier toward short point. Dean, keeping wicket, ran forward, got it and spilt it. Rick missed an easier chance off his own bowling. Then Mike clean bowled one. Last 2 overs and they needed 24 to win. Tight. Last over and 14 to win. Reg had the responsibility. He made up for his first and they were 4 short at the finish, good fielding, no overthrows and no wides. A man with a Barnsley accent and a microphone sat behind a window at the tea bar and summarised the scores after each over. ‘Most exciting match yet,’ he said. The small crowd clapped, and the boys, red faced and smiling, walked back to the van.
June, Lesley, Flyn and myself returned to brave the absent archers and hot brown water. Next thing we knew little Joe was weeping. Flyn had promised them all a game. But Joe had to bowl. Flyn said he hadn’t the strength to get it the full length of the pitch.
‘Come and have drink. We’ll get some sweets,’ said Lesley.
A shake of the head. Sniffs and tears. Staring at the wet floor. Face like a crumpled dish cloth.
Some of the team looked across.
‘You’ll be just right for next season. Our Dean had to wait until he got a bit bigger,’ said Flyn.
Joe was inconsolable and started to wail, ‘I wanted to play with a “corky” and wear pads and gloves.’
‘Have you never played with a hard ball before?’ I asked.
Somewhere another small child was listening, ‘Shall we put some kit on and play round the back?’
His face lifted and nodded and he scampered after me to the car boot. My left pad drowned him. My batting gloves too but he had his own bat. I drew a line in the grass, no need for wickets. A borrowed ball.
‘You’re bowling overarm,’ a statement, not a question.
He missed straight half volleys to dream about. I got a bit closer and he began to connect. I did a running commentary, ‘That’s good. Move your feet a bit. What happened there? Caught behind. Middle stump. Through the gate.’ It was chucking it down. A waif and a giant, playing cricket in the soaking wet.
‘Can I bowl a bit?’
He bowled off a short run, arm cocked, one eye shut. Mostly on target. Easier to praise and mean it. But it was a very short pitch.
‘Last three balls, and then we can watch the lads,’ I said.
We walked back via the toilets. The boys were well into their second match. Joe sat with June. Lesley scored. Flyn was out on the square, umpiring. I paced the boundary. Somehow it was an anticlimax. We were up against Barnsley and they were all Rick sized, even the girl with the pony tail. They batted first. We kept the wides down, fielded and backed up well, but they still scored 280. Again a break for two other teams to play. Little Joe was chirpy, always at the back of Flyn or Lesley. I found the keeper’s gloves. He was good and keen with varied and difficult short throws, until the lads took the field again.
Mike left with June.
‘Flyn has done well today, Lesley.’
‘You should see him when he’s not on view. It took me ages to get him and the boys going last Sunday morning after the second team match. They’re not used to thirty overs.
Our batting could not keep the score going against good length bowling. All off long runs, even the girl with the pony tail. We didn’t lose wickets, but we didn’t get runs either. Until our hero Rick stepped to the wicket, supported by younger brother Dean. Square drives and hearty pulls. Flyn had told them to play shots. A spectacular finale and the right result. Home team winners and the crowd slightly more animated. Chris hit two nice cover drives. No complaints from our lads.
Still throwing it down as we gathered in the car park and sorted whose kit went where and who was taking who home. I couldn’t see Flyn, until I looked over to the minibus. He sat immobile, staring through the windscreen.
‘Thanks Dave, that was really helpful,’ said Lesley.
‘He’ll be into Flyn’s ribs to play on Sunday,’ I replied. Little Joe was stubborn and he’d get his way eventually.
Over ten years now and I haven’t seen much of Flyn. Like the rest of us, he was a flawed diamond. Sparkling with dull moments or the other way about. He expressed himself in ways that made sense to him. But I’m not sure he was aware of how much he meant to kids like Chris. I think I’d heard he’d given up coaching, but cricket will be somewhere.
When Chris was at his peak
I was the cricket transport and I went nearly everywhere with him and his pals. I even went to watch his school team and here I have a confession to make. We sent him to private school. It didn’t make a difference to his local pals, or if it did, I never spotted it. He eventually came back to New College for ‘A’ levels, the same spot I’d been to. He studied engineering before going to university. At the private school, he was first on the team sheet for all the sports. His end of season First XI cricket team photo is one of my proud possessions. It didn’t matter that the First XI cricket team was the only team and was a bit of a ragbag. The boys enjoyed it hugely and put up with the jibes from the opposition for being stuck up. We played at Royds Hall and Salendine Nook Schools on very dubious tracks and one evening down at Paddock CC next to the railway cutting. The most notable thing that night, in addition to the cricket, was the master that umpired. He was completely useless. A doctorate in physics teaching geography. He gave one of the lads out LBW from square leg. Plonker.
Actually, the boys weren’t stuck up, but some of the parents? Every morning and evening the school car park was awash with chelsea tractors, mercs and beamers driven by painted ladies trying to impress each other. The fathers were probably all golf club members. Another confession. Yes, I was one of those who created morning traffic jams doing the school run.
When Chris first went to the school, the headmistress was a ‘Barbie Doll’, not unlike the ladies in the car park. She left in a hurry after her husband got in a little over his head trying to buy Manchester United. They were replaced by two sensible experienced ladies. We met the staff every year at parents’ evening. A lovely french teacher who took them abroad and threatened to tuck them in at night with a kiss. The tall bearded careers master who Chris said knew absolutely everything. Even the physics doctor was human. I played in the dads’ cricket match. In front of a pleasing two storey double fronted stone building, apparently once lived in and eventually donated by a Huddersfield worthy. A Crowther, or a Ramsden maybe. Some of the dads took it seriously and wore whites. I wore a livid blue tracksuit which the sports master found amusing. Chris had two overs at me, but I coped. I batted left-handed with a bloke who was in his work clothes, just took his jacket off. He owned an electrical shop in town and a year or so later, I bought a microphone off him. He didn’t recognise me. I nearly said, ‘Do you remember that partnership we had in the dad’s match?’ But I didn’t. We had one spectator who arrived half way through the game, ‘I’m on the riding school run, thought I’d drop in,’ he said. Why? Another plonker.
We also had a dad’s match at the local cricket club. An altogether more serious affair which nearly ended in a brawl. I don’t think they’ve arranged another one. Flyn umpired. I skippered. The boys had had a good run in the cup and the dads all knew each other pretty well. Just one real cricketer who played for Cartworth Moor and sold expensive blinds. His son was barely taller than a full-size bat. Used to wear his kit in the front room and practice his shots, so his dad said. Apparently the lad was really a tennis player and went to clinics in Spain. I did say they were expensive blinds. The other dads were not cricketers, but they were keen as mustard to win.
The boys batted first. We’d two overs apiece, a question of getting it on the wickets and hoping. I fielded at short mid off and started the aggravation by taking a catch. It wasn’t that I caught it, but the way I caught it. I was minding my own business, seemingly not taking a lot of notice. One of the lads played a bit early and lofted one at arms length above my left shoulder. My arm shot out and plucked the ball out of the air. Bit like a frog catching a fly with its tongue. Then I nonchalantly tossed the ball over my shoulder and walked away. No one moved for a couple of seconds. There were a couple of mild expletives and mutterings from the pavilion, but the lad had to go.
When we batted the chap from Cartworth Moor got us close and it was all about whether the non-cricketing dads could get bat on ball. The boys were excited by every wicket they took and cross at a good shot or a misfield. We coached from the boundary edge, ‘Hit it here.’ ‘There’s a run there.’ ‘Two, keep running.’ The closer we got the louder it all became. Three to win off the final over and the whole ground was bedlam. One of the dads got a streaky four and that was it. Uproar. Tears and protests on one side, smiles and backslaps on the other. The boys wouldn’t speak to us. I think we overdid in a bit.
During the regular season, Chris had represented the town at U13. Bradford, Craven, Calderdale and Heavy Woollen leagues, all in the same week. A festival and Flyn was assistant coach. The sun shone every day. Won three, lost one. Heavy Woollen were too classy. Opening bat played and missed like a pro. Didn’t worry him at all and on and on he went. Our top order had a bad day. We travelled around a good bit. Denby Dale, Blackley, Harrogate, somewhere outside Halifax on a hillside. They rotated off-spinners so Chris didn’t play every game. Nevertheless he caught the eye of the U15 town coach and was invited to indoor nets the year after.
That following year, Chris was at his peak. New coach who wasn’t Flyn, but the banter was reasonable and all the arrangements worked. Chris was man of the tournament at Armitage Bridge six-a-sides. Belted Holmfirth off the park. Last match of the season, not out and going well. Needed four to be the league’s highest scoring batsman. The coach shouted down from the pavilion balcony, ‘Stay in Chris, don’t get out.’ No need to guess what happened next. He finished up team player of the year.
I took him to Headingley on the Friday of the 2000 West Indies test. We beat them that day, two days in total. Caddick and Gough were magnificent. Chris spent the time playing a game on his mobile phone, standing up and shouting with the rest when wickets fell.
Chris did well when he was inspired by someone like Flyn. The private school gave individual attention and the impression they cared. He got distracted otherwise. The U15 town coach was harsh and if you didn’t bother, neither did he. I took him to the nets twice and wild horses couldn’t have dragged him there a third time.
Huddersfield New College was great for him and ‘A’ levels. His fellow students were hardly committed to the course and the teaching was often one-to-one. Great bloke, Cambridge graduate and just the right balance of discipline and banter. I met him when Chris enrolled. He started talking about key skills. Chris and I nodded sagely, and then he threw a bunch of keys in the air and caught them behind his back. Chris was away. Top marks and the engineering prize.
No need to go into what happened then and much of it I don’t know, but three years later he got a Leeds degree. I think he was distracted a little. He did get his private pilot’s licence though. Chris deserves praise because it was another awful summer and many of his trips over to the training airport at Sandtoft proved flightless. But he stuck at it. His flying tutor, who I never met, was, according to Chris, a smooth Greek playboy. Relaxed and cool, which when you think about it is no bad thing in a pilot. He also introduced Chris to the more upmarket of Leeds’s nightspots. My role in those days was to drive over Friday nights and some Sundays to watch The Rhinos. Buy him a dinner and few beers. The Arc or The Taps depending if we felt flush or not. I get all the awful jobs.
There is a story in here, around the time of the 2005 home Ashes series. During the summer vacation, I took Chris up to Crossland Moor airstrip to see if he could do a holiday job or maybe just hang out with planes and flyers. When we turned into what looked like a bridle path a car blocked our entry, driven by a scruffy looking bloke in tight fitting knitted cap. He wound his window down, ‘What do you want?’ Chris and I explained the idea, ‘I’m the owner. There’s nobody about, but you can go up and have a look.’
A new gravel car park, freshly fenced. The airstrip was a long rolled and rolled sloping cricket pitch. A battered caravan did for air traffic control. Sundry buildings, everything surrounded by fields and horses. Not a great deal to look at. We turned to the sound of a motor and the owner was back. He spoke to Chris and then started to open the tall wide doors of what must have been a barn before it was a hanger. He pulled out an aeroplane, just like that, and attached a tube from a tank next to the hanger, ‘I’ll just fill ’er up. I could do with a trip to Sandtoft. You can come too dad if you want.’ Sandtoft was an airport over by the east coast which just happened to be the training ground for Leeds Uni Flying School.
I’d no time to think, no time to say no. The owner’s mobile went off, ‘I’ve just got a few things to do, love, see you later.’ He dived into the caravan, ‘Just telling ‘em what we’re doing.’ He took the left seat, Chris the right, me in the back and we were off. It was a real aeroplane in that it had wings and flew, but I’ve always had a porthole, a stewardess and toilets before. I clutched the plastic seating for grim death, especially when we turned on our side and I looked straight down onto Castle Hill. What was I hanging on to? Plastic seats weren’t going to stop me from falling out. When he got it flying level again and I’d rediscovered my stomach, I tried to relax and enjoy. I could just about hear them chatting, looking at maps and spotting other aeroplanes. I even opened my eyes and dared to look out the window. There wasn’t much option, the plane was all window. The M62, past Wakefield and all the cooling towers. Fifteen minutes later he was on the radio and we slipped sideways, lost height and landed.
A proper airport with lots of planes and flyers. A proper air traffic box sat on a waiting room and a canteen. I didn’t realise how much I loved walking on solid ground. The owner met his pal, Sandroft’s owner, and Chris talked to his fellow students. I had a soft drink and tried to look as if I belonged as well.
I really did enjoy the return journey. I even talked, though the engine noise got in the way. We banked as we took off which was scary. By the time the airstrip approach at Crossland Moor came into view I was more or less taking things in my stride. Over Castle Hill and Woodfield Park, we lined up to land on what seemed to be a cliff face, and then I realised it was Beaumont Park. A very different perspective, almost like a relief map. Which was what I felt a lot of a minute later.
‘Come again any time,’ said the owner.
Back at the car park. Where are the keys? Was there smoke coming out the exhaust? The door was shut but not locked, keys still in the ignition, the engine still running.
We got the welcome we expected at home, ‘Where have you two been all this time. And wipe those grins off your faces.’
We did go again, once. One of the flyers showed us around the hanger and even offered us a ride. No way I was going up in a microlite.
Not the end, it just felt like it
Chris didn’t turn up for his player of the year award and hasn’t picked up a cricket ball or bat in anger since. I was ashamed and angry in equal measure. A slow bowler of promise and an attacking left hand bat. Fifteen years old with a lifetime of cricket ahead him. Its a bit like an arthritic joint. I can still feel the pain of it on a bad day.
So I wasn’t going to grow old watching him score hundreds for Yorkshire. There was another consequence of Chris giving up. I stopped net practice. We were fortunate to have half an acre and when Chris started playing, I built a cricket net up on our top field. A worn out gazebo frame draped with used tennis and football nets, stitched together into a cricket tunnel. The track was more or less twenty-two yards, uphill with a slight dip in the bowler’s run up. It was pretty flat apart from a sporting exposed fir tree root on a full length. Our house was at long on, the neighbour’s garden was in the covers and the farmer’s fields were at midwicket and long stop.
I always knew when it was time for a net by the sound of the motor mower starting up. When Chris was keen on something, he didn’t wait for me. This was not fun back-garden cricket. We had full protection and it was competitive. I had to dig in and remember my long lost forward press. The shoulders lose it with age, so my bowling was a struggle and Chris got plenty of opportunities to play shots. It was a father and son rite of passage thing, but it also kept me in some sort of batting nick. It was a lonely sad day when I packed away the netting for the last time and took it to the tip.
But it would be unfair to blame it all on Chris. There was also Mr Moult. The summer following Chris’s peak, Mr Moult played for Elvaston, a beautiful cricket club in Derbyshire and I played against them, for Almondbury Casuals. We fielded first and Mr Moult came in at five down, a first teamer returning from injury. Medium height, heavily built, a young muscular Colin Milburn. He repeatedly belted the ball in my direction with no intention of running. If and when I got a hand to the ball all I could do was deflect it. For twenty embarrassing minutes I was reduced to retrieving the ball from the boundary. Later, when I went in at seven, Mr Moult was brought on to bowl. Just for a fitness test they said. When not on his days off, he opened the first team bowling. He started his run up just in front of the sight screen and thankfully kept it pitched up. The sound of breaking wickets was not long delayed, followed by an extremely sad and long car drive home.
Its time to go gracefully when the number of embarrassments and mistakes exceed the number of successes. When the guffaws of team-mates begin to matter.
Chris I have not fully discussed the reasons why he didn’t turn up for his prize or why he gave up cricket. We have talked a lot about games, winning, losing and motivation to succeed. I’ve told him I gave up cricket at the same age as him. I was too promising too young, selected for a team of fifth form tearaways two years older than me. They were never going to coach and support someone who was keeping one of their pals out. I kept missing straight ones and then simply lost it. In retrospect, I wonder if the master who selected the team ever understood the sulky precocious talent. And, as dad watched my exam results rather than my forward press, he was happy for me to walk away. And I’d let it happen again, albeit not without a bit of kicking and screaming.
Triple grief. For two fifteen year olds who would never play cricket to their full potential, and for a hopeless old romantic.
Today, Chris, 24 years old, is in Southern Spain, learning to fly commercial aeroplanes. His instructors are all grizzly ex-air force guys with more stories than Bradman’s test average. We chat on the phone about The Rhinos, Manchester United, KP, Freddy and the rest of the England team and when we meet he talks fondly of his time in junior league cricket.
Flyn, two headmistresses in a private school, a Cambridge engineer, a Greek playboy and a few World War Two aces. A sports nut, several legends, story tellers all. People to admire, listen to and most of all cut Chris some slack. I tried to do the same, though I couldn’t stop myself from nudging him from time to time. He knows I’ve walked away from a few things, but he’s also seen me stick things out.
He’s his own man now.