Fantasy Bob has intercepted an emergency communication from the Doughty Groundsman of the Bethlehem Cricket Club to its Governing Council. He has managed to translated it from the Hebrew.
The Council has requested a full explanation of the recent damage to the square, recognised as the finest batting surface in the province of Judea.
In the bleak midwinter I am mainly engaged in minor maintenance tasks of the sort the club members think simply do themselves. One afternoon last week I was beginning to lock up when there appeared at the gate this man and his young lady. 'More bloody foreigners trying to flog me yet another Christmas tree', I thought. I was preparing a witty rejoinder invoking the spirit of Nigel Farage when the man spoke,
'We need somewhere to sleep,' he said.
Well, this was a new one on me. I was about to suggest he try the Travelodge at the end of the road.
'Please we have tried every hotel and B&B on the TripAdvisor list but they are all full on account of Hogmanay High Jinks organised by your highly imaginative Town Council. We are desperate: we need shelter - any shelter. I can do a bit of carpenting work in return.'
I could hear the desperation in the man's voice. His lady friend looked demurely at me with a pleading look in her eye. She was immaculate. I felt myself weakening.
'Well,' I said, 'the tractor shed is full, but you might find room in the scorehut.' I was aware that, against my better judgement, the Council had allowed the overseas amateur to kip down there a couple of times last season after one Koppaberg too many. Besides, some joinery work on its dodgy floorboards wouldn't go amiss.
The man was effusive in his thanks. As his lady friend followed him through the gate, my reservations grew. They were accompanied by a donkey.
'He'll be no trouble,' the carpenter assured me.
'He'd better not be,' I said, 'just make sure he stays off the square.'
I watched them tether the beast to the door of the scorehut. As I left the ground I noticed a bright light in the sky to the east. It was a silent night but all was bright.
Next morning I arrived at the ground intending to cut back the holly and the ivy from the boundary fence, only to find sheep everywhere, several of them nibbling on the square. I shooed them off as best I could, but not before I was knocked over by the donkey who seemed unduly excited by the sheep and had worked his way free from his tether. It took me twenty minutes to catch him and re-tether him.
I quickly made my way to the scorehut where I was surprised to find not only the homeless couple from last night but a baby and a group of what I took from their rustic attire to be shepherds.
'What the **** are you doing here,' I asked.
'We were abiding in the fields, washing our socks, when an angel came unto to us and we were sore, and shit scared. But the angel said unto us that he brought good news. I thought it was about time I won the lottery, but the messenger of the Lord went on and said that a saviour has been born and we would find him in a scorehut. And so we hied ourselves hither for a dekko.'
'Get these sheep off the square.'
A piercing whistle left the shepherd's lips and a black and white collie bounded out of the score hut.
'Come by, lad, come by lad.'
Ten minutes later, the square was clear and the sheep were penned in the practice nets. But all the whistling and shouting got the donkey going again and he worked himself loose and galloped across the outfield. One bark from the dog and he skidded to a halt in the middle of the square. The dog was now torn between keeping the sheep in the nets and dealing with the donkey.
Just as the dog was getting things under control there came a jangling sound of bells from the gate and a trio of unlikely suspects in fancy dress came into the ground each wearing an outsize turban and carrying a shopping bag.
'Who do you think you are?' I asked.
'We have travelled far,over moor and mountain, following yonder SatNav and come to worship the Messiah. We bear him gifts of gold, frankspencer, and something else which I always forget.'
'That's as maybe, but get those **** camels off the square.'
For three ships of the desert were now waddling up and down on a length at the pavilion end. This new livestock was too much for the donkey who now started braying excitedly; which set off the sheep bleating and every neighbourhood dog starting howling in sympathy. A shout came from the hut, 'Please, you'll wake the baby.' But no crying he made.
The sheepdog made a bolt for it to try to get the camels under control. Five minutes later the camels were in the nets. But the sheep were on the square and the donkey had worked himself free again and was ready for anything. He made a brave but forlorn effort to mate with one of the camels. The dog knew something was wrong. Five minutes later the sheep were back in the nets making things difficult for the trio of junior members who had just arrived for some winter practice. But the camels were parading up and down the square like they owned it. The donkey was eyeing the sheep wondering if he had a better chance with one of them.
Suddenly, a troop of mounted soldiers stormed through the gate and galloped across the ground. They thudded to a halt in the middle of the square and their commander challenged me,
'Where are your firstborn?'
'Why ask me?' I said, my patience was wearing thin. 'I’m not the Convenor of the Junior section. Now get your ******* horses off the square.'
'When your Junior Convenor comes tell him to send all the firstborn of the club to Herod, Chief Exec of CricketJudea, ‘cos he wants to give them extra coaching.' So saying they galloped twice around the square and disappeared.
Little by little things settled down. The couple emerged from the scorehut and pronounced that they had to move on. I thought I heard them mention something about catching a flight to Egypt, but I could be wrong. They mounted onto the donkey and off they went. The shepherds and the camel riders followed soon after. No thought of clearing up after themselves.
The light in the sky to the east of the ground seemed to dim and I was able to inspect the condition of the square.
I regret to report that it is not a pretty sight. There are hoof and foot prints everywhere, many patches nibbled bare and a significant amount animal droppings of various sizes scattered all over.
As he left, one of the camel riders said to me that a miraculous event had taken place.
In my opinion it will take another bloody miracle for the square to be anywhere near ready for the coming season.
Joy to the World.
Hon Doughty Groundsman
Bethlehem Cricket Club
|The club's recent guests leaving the ground|