The BC ferry, Queen of the North, is a beautiful ship, with dining rooms and pubs and play rooms for children, berths and feature movies. We found a spot to starboard and settled in for the 15 hour daylight voyage through the inside passage. We had munchies, and Claire had her book and maps and I had my computer with three hours of battery power.
The day was cloudy, so we didn’t get to see the post card views of snow capped mountains over sea and wooded hills, blue sky and sunshine. But we saw it as it is mostly: misty soft green fuzzed hills of endless trees, rocky shore and gray calm seas, under blue gray cotton clouds, an occasional shower. Orcas, and eagles cruised, and a long-liner fishing boat motored north on pewter ball-peened seas.
We took turns of the deck to photograph lighthouses and once a white cruise ship negotiating a tight turn in the channel ahead. The day seemed short.
At the next table were four Brits on holiday, visiting vestiges of the Empire. They had seen Zippy and had questions. Tandems are popular in England, but not for touring it seems. They were all older, and we soon got on the subject of World War II. One of the men had served in Burma, and when the conversation turned to Big Band music and dancing (our favorite), I detected a bit of testiness; he hadn’t got to all those war-time dances, he’d been fighting in the jungles. They told a story about a bomb landing in the garden and, thank God, not going off. Good thing they love their gardens and keep the soil rich and soft.
The subject turned to old money, twopence and thrupence and shillings, and farthings… Finally we got on Cricket, and I asked for an explanation of the game.
“You have bowlers and batsmen and, uh, a wicket keeper,” said the first man, the one who seemed to know.
“What do they do?” I asked.
“Not much,” said the second man. Laughter all round.
“The bowler bowls to the batsman on the other side.”
“Does he roll it on the ground?” I asked.
“Oh, no, overhand. A fast bowler can, a test player, can throw the ball at 98 or 100 miles an hour.”
“What’s a test player?” I asked.
“Well we play Australia, New Zealand… international play… Yes, now, where was I?”
“You were bowling.”
“Oh. You can send your best batsmen in first, and they can get out several ways. They can be bowled out; that means they get the wickets knocked down. Or they can be stumped. If they are outside the pocket crease. which is a mark in front of the batsman. If he misses the ball and the wicket keeper catches it, you can stump him. It takes the bails off the, the bails are the two sticks on top of the stumps, takes the bails off the stumps.”
“Of the wicket?” I asked.
“Three wicket stumps and the bails, make the wicket.”
“Or you can be LBW, that’s late-before-wicket, so if the ball hits your legs before the wicket, you’re out. It all depends on what the umpire thinks… You see if your bowler’s a googly bowler.”
“Say again?” I asked.
“If he’s a googly bowler. The ball lands just off side the wicket and it breaks over.”
“A curve ball.” I said.
“The ball twists. That’s another way you can be out. Or you can be caught, you can hit the ball and it’s caught by one of the players, in the field, which is about 11 players in the field, so you can get out that way. Or you can be run out. If the ball is thrown back as the player is between the two wickets.”
“Two?” I asked. “Two wickets? Like having two home plates in baseball?”
“That’s right—I think. Where were we. Two batsmen and two wickets, and they run between. You’ve got one batsman here and one on the other side and the bowler bowls to one and if he hits it they can run, the one up here and the one over there, you see.”
“No,” I said. Laughs all round.
“We don’t understand it either, most of us, but it’s the national game you see. So it’s Cricket,” said one of the women.
The first man, the one who knows, her husband, carries on, stiff upper lip, he’s going to give it a go. “There are six balls in an over, six in a row. If nobody scores a run in those six balls, it’s called a maiden over.”
“Made-and-over?” I asked.
“No!” Laughter. “Maiden, you know, a girl.”
“Why maiden?” I asked.
Laughter all round. Nobody knows.
“You’ve got a bowler, a wicket keeper, and you’ve got slips, they’re stationed near the batter so they can catch the ball, you’ve got an offside fielder and a near side fielder, a lone stop, who is back on the boundary. If the batsman hits it beyond the boundary and it’s not stopped, you get four runs for that. It he hits the ball and it goes farther, over the boundary line, you get six runs for that one. What else, oh yes, then there’s the, silly mid-on. Don’t ask me what that is. Suicide place that’s what it is. That’s close to the wicket. Of course if the batsman hits it and you’re in the way, you’ll get it in the face you’ll know… They do use the face guards now.”
“What’s a sticky-wicket?” I asked.
“The sticky-wicket? That’s just a.. No, it’s just a… Doesn’t have anything to do with Cricket.”
“Oh.” I was disappointed, but pressed on. “How do I understand all the terms they use when they give the test scores on the BBC?”
“I can’t understand it either,” said one of the men.
“Any other game you know exactly who’s winning at the time, but you can’t tell in Cricket,” said one of the women.
“Wa…yes you can. You don’t understand the game!” Her husband said, sounding misunderstood.
“What’s the point?” she said. Laughter all round.
“Nobody understands it, really,” said the other man. More laughter.
So you see what a wonderful thing a national pastime can be. Nobody seems to understand it, but everybody loves it. A bit like baseball eh.
(during our ride around Australia I came to love Cricket!)