Tim Key: 'I used to love cricket with my dad – he was an adult so he could hit the ball for miles'


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The Independent Online

We saw that it was summer and so we hired a car and drove to Sussex to watch a cricket match and eat a picnic. There were four of us. Me and CDG and two hags that CDG associates with. By 'hags' I only mean that these two young ladies both own cats, or look like they do, and they regularly cackle at me for no reason. They can't cast spells and probably aren't old enough to be proper hags but I call them it anyway and I believe that they enjoy it. Well, they came too. Me and CDG picked them up on the A205.

I used to love going to the cricket when I was young. Robin Smith! Gladstone Small! All that kind of stuff. Pads! And I also used to love having picnics. My old man would sit there on some knoll or other, dolling out rolls like they were going out of fashion. Stuffing meat in the rolls and clods of butter that wouldn't really spread because our country was too cold, so would instead just sit there in chunks, leaning against the meat. Maybe the occasional block of cucumber would be in there, too. Some salt. And we'd all sit there in our cagoules, eating this stuff. Squash would be handed round. My brother would take too much of the squash. I'd ask if there were any Penguins. Bliss.

Me and CDG and the hags stopped in a service station on the M4 because we'd just almost crashed because the hags were too noisy, and we decided to buy stuff from M&S for our picnic. We had lots of quarrels on all the different aisles about what should be in the picnic. The hags bickered about how many hummuses would be right and I struck my friend CDG in the face because she was trying to put a pot of something bright pink into the basket. I then suffered the indignity of having to defend my ham, which turned out to be a diversionary tactic so that one of the hags could put in goats' cheese. I was on to her, though, and hoicked it out. Then I snuck a significant amount of corned beef in, the hags paid up, and we had another go at driving safely on a motorway.

The cricket pitch was in an idyllic village that had pubs and a castle and a post box and flowers and young lovers and no crime ever. We parked up next to the cricket and honked our horn and wandered over to a bit on the other side that looked a bit greener. The hags had a rug so we opened that out and used our knife to cut the Brie or wave at aspects of the picnic we didn't agree with. They waved the knife at my corned beef, then I took it and waved it at the marinated peppers and the Cava and the Brussels' pâté and their throats, and the sun waved its rays at the whole lot of us. One of the hags said something mean about the Scotch eggs and I went and sat on my own. I ate 50 Skips and watched these beautiful club cricketers bravely standing in the sun and occasionally applauding one another.

My dad used to take all the kids from my street to play cricket when we were little. I used to love that. We had a sack with stumps and bats in it, and we'd belt tennis balls as the sun went down. It was my favourite thing about the summer. My dad must have been 40 and he'd only bat right at the end, when all the kids had had a go and were cheering and yelling at him to have a bat. He was an adult so he could hit it miles. We'd all be delighted as he smacked it out of the park again and again and then we'd get tired and want to go home, but he'd get us to bowl some more at him and he'd keep smacking it and the ball would keep sailing over towards the putting green until it was almost dark. And still he'd go on.

I constructed a roll like in the olden days, full of damp, warm, congealed corned beef and half a handful of butter. And I leant against a knoll by the boundary rope, and I watched a great strapping batsman twonking the ball back over the bowler's head and I sighed. Total contentment. Summertime.