I lost a friend recently.
I don’t know what type.
I am not sure that it matters and even though I hadn’t seen him for perhaps 4 years – it upset me.
Paul was not an especially close friend, but someone I held a close affection for and some for whom I had a lot of time. One of those friends who I would see for maybe 3-4 months a year and then not at all for the other 8-9.
He and I played cricket together for the local village team until the club folded. He had played for the club for over 25 years, despite having to travel from Sheffield to Lincoln every weekend of the season. It was just what he did, because he loved to do it. We couldn’t get people to walk across the road to the playing field on a Sunday afternoon, but Paul would be there. Larger than life, the wrong side of a 40 mile drive.
When I say larger than life I do mean it. Paul was 5’10” and 26st. One of the gruffest, most uncouth, foul mouthed and delightful Yorkshireman anyone could wish to meet.
I realise that this is an education blog so allow me to explain why I am writing this tribute to Paul here. He was not a teacher, not professionally, not conventionally. He was not a man who would grace a classroom (for long), but he could teach and did every time he took the field.
Everyone knew Paul, literally everyone. He had been around for so long, played everywhere, talked to anyone, had a beer with whoever. We were just glad that he was on our team. Bright red football socks over his whites (which were rarely white), fluorescent pink jockstrap (enough said really), false teeth, floppy red hat, 4 1/2lb of Willow (the biggest and heaviest bat any one had ever seen!) and the unerring skill to batter 4s and 6s for fun, even though he was never a fan of a quick single (unless to steal the strike for the next over). Something Paul taught you very quickly was ‘don’t run, there’s no point, I won’t be’. He made damn sure you could count to 6.
He also taught you not to judge a book by its cover. Paul was an expert bowler, not a ‘pie-chucker’ as his build suggested but a skilled swing, seam and spin bowler who could ‘think’ a batsman out better than anyone I ever played with or against. He could also week in and out, bowl 10 overs straight through, I couldn’t run in for more than 3 without needing medical assistance. Yet there he was, all 26st, ball after ball, giving away little and always near the top of the averages and leading wicket takers.
While this may prove to be a short post – there is a point.
I am no talented cricketer, I have ‘all the gear and no idea’, but by playing the game with Paul, I learned plenty and many more would say the same thing.
He believed in the spirit of the game, that it should be played fairly and no matter win, lose or draw, as long as everyone could say ‘they did their best’, he was happy. If you couldn’t say that, he would tell you why you didn’t and how you should have – and you’d listen. Because it was Paul.
People respected him for the fact that he did it his way and if you didn’t like it, tough, it was his way, you didn’t have to like it.
One of the finest lessons he ever taught me (and this is where I will conclude this eulogy) was when he once berated a team mate who was shouting at a young lad who had mis-fielded a simple ball and allowed a boundary from his bowling.
Paul ‘explained’ that there was no point in that action, it didn’t help. The lad knew he had messed up, he didn’t do it on purpose and he wouldn’t be trying to repeat the mistake – in fact why get cross at all? He was doing enough telling off of himself in his own head – why not say something nice to make him feel better?
Oh, and don’t bowl another sh*t ball like that, that gets hit over there!
1964 – 2014
Rest in Peace Bash
A lot of people miss you.