In his blog post ‘Cricket Bags – Good Home Sought’, my cricket obsessed husband posed the question ‘So what is it my wife has against my cricket bag?’
Well, plenty actually. As he shrewdly concludes himself, for both of us The Bag is not just a bag. For him, it is a repository of hopes and dreams. It represents an alternative life of sporting prowess, a belief in the possibility of heroic performance, a call up to the team that might just still happen, a remembrance of magnificent times past, a clinging on to youth.
So what is The Bag to me? It – or they (for my son has his own large bag too) – are firstly irritating and oppressive in the amount of space they take up. Together, with various accoutrements spilling out of them, they can take up the entire floor space of our front room. They sit there, squat and ugly, bringing to mind sweating men on a train, legs spread wide, flaunting their maleness and laying down their expectation that they can take up as much room as they damned well please. The contrast between The Bag(s) and my daughter’s sporting equipment – a small velour leotard and a tidy drawstring bag of hand guards – could not be greater.
It doesn’t stop with The Bag either. There are the stumps, the helmet that won’t fit into The Bag, the balls that get taken out for a bit of casual tossing in the air (and then get left on the stairs as some sort of perverse assault course), the endless cricket coaching paperwork spilling out over the floor and left on various random surfaces throughout the house, the jumper that been taken off, rained on and then thrown on top of The Bag to slowly rot. Or most of the contents of The Bag, which have been rifled through in some search or other and dumped on the floor next to, but not back into, The Bag . There has been a gradual annexation of the front room, to the extent that I rarely go in it now. It is not just that there is not much room to stand in, but that the computer is usually tuned to BBC Sports or the Bundesliga highlights catch up on iplayer, with a junior male member of the family sprawled in front of it. It has become a male preserve, albeit one with my old Virginia Woolf books on the bookshelf.
The Bag also represents to me my expected role in the proceedings – being the support act. When I look at The Bag I see subservience. I see the washing that needs to be done, the washing that is only done by me. In my son’s case, I am either the bore who has to nag him to extract the dirty clothes for washing, or the inadequate servant who has failed to produce white clothes washed and dried on time. I feel I am being inadequate generally – as if I should leap at the opportunity to rush up to the club and do a bit of ‘admin’ so that the men/boys can get on with the more interesting stuff. Or should pop on a batch of scones and a fruit loaf so that the men/boys can have something tasty and suitably homely to eat when they troop off the field at tea, exhausted by their sporting efforts. Although I have not been asked to do either of these things and I know that I genuinely could not shoehorn anything else into my week at the moment, I resent the fact that I even feel guilty about failing to want to contribute in this way. I am not being a proper cricketing wife and mother.
The Bag in this context represents to me the fact that male leisure time is leisure for them and leisurely in nature. A cricket match lasts hours and hours and hours. Watching a test series lasts days and days and distracts one’s husband in the very marital bed itself (headphones, SkyGo and an Ipad are a heady twenty first century combination in the bedroom). Female leisure time includes having to do the washing, or the cooking, or the driving, or the watching – not the participating and none of the glory.
For as long as I have known him, my husband has gone away every August bank holiday weekend with The Bag on ‘cricket tour’, with old university friends and fellow cricket fans. At first, I was wholeheartedly enthusiastic about this tradition and referred to it as ‘cricket tour’ to my own family and friends, who on occasion (I’m looking at you mother) seemed rather confused that an accountant (not his job, but what my mother has believed his job to be for the last 17 years) would be doing on a cricket tour. After child number one, it was still an uncomplicated issue for me. However, after child two and child three put in appearances, it became clear that, due to the increasing age and decreasing fitness of the participants, there was no ‘tour’ at all. Since at least 2001 they have stayed in the same luxurious farmhouse. Since not long after that, they played the same one or two matches against the same local team, meaning precious little cricket and no touring whatsoever. I did not and do not mind my husband having a holiday, which he deserves, but I did find the assertion that they were going ‘on cricket tour’ increasingly hard to stomach when I was staying behind to look after three very small children. The grandiose Bag was part of that (self) delusion for me. Please call it a holiday – and I’ll admit to being jealous at not having an equivalent outlet in my life.
But I’m not all bad (I hope). I am pleased that my husband has a passion for something that engages him on a physical and intellectual level. I am delighted that he has something over which he seems likely to be able to bond with our older son (and possibly younger son) on an ongoing basis. I see the bond which he has with his own father, due in no small measure to their mutual passion for the game. I am very proud of the wonderful job he is doing as a coach for junior teams. If he could just been a teensy bit tidier and find somewhere for The Bag, quite soon, he would be practically perfect.
I agree with him, we need a shed. And as a wise woman said back in the 1920s, I need a Room of My Own.