M really dislikes it when I say the damp gets into my bones. But this morning, my back is aching, my joints are stiff, and I’ve been awake on and off since five a.m. wondering whether or not to get up. Just before I did get up, in a rare moment of deep sleep, I dreamed of M digging up the front drive with a shovel. I had other dreams, but I can’t remember them. There are water drops on my glasses from the rain outside. These are my privations. Not much, are they?
For those of you who don’t know cricket, don’t understand cricket, the following may be difficult. Shane Warne died yesterday. He was a special kind of cricketer. He was only 52. Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the death of a man who played what to all intents and purposes is a minority sport in the grand scheme of things (though not to me), may seem like a minor distraction. For those of us who love the game, who admired someone who, for those of us who are English, played for the wrong team (Australia), someone who was the ultimate spin bowler, this is an incomprehensible thing. Death is always tragic. The death of a hero cuts even more deeply. And the older we get, the younger our heroes.
Warne was mercurial, a man who did stupid and careless things on and off the pitch, a man who, when he was bowling would have every gaze, in the stadium, on the TV, on him, a magician, a keeper of the dark art of making a ball of leather and cork deviate from its natural path to move in unnatural loops and twists and turns. Spin bowling doesn’t look ferocious, doesn’t look physical or intimidating, looks simple. It is the opposite. A hop, a skip, a jump, a twirl of the arm, a counterintuitive rolling of wrist and fingers, the red projectile emerging somewhere along that unnatural curve of muscle, sinew, and bone to explode into a fizzing blur of madness that rises and dips, swerves and swings, rips dust from the grass, and finds its way through any defence any batter may think they have, all in a fraction of a second, when time stops and hangs there, and eyes are deceived by angles and trajectories, and even the air makes way for a sacred and screaming demon. That’s what Warne made of this game, every single time he took to the field and held the ball in his hand, and mesmerised the world into submission, bent it to his will. That is what has gone, and the world, with all its troubles and deceits and tragedies, is an emptier place without it. Warne may have been a man we English all loved to hate, our pantomime villain, but we could never take our eyes off him, could never stop loving him for the brilliant sportsman he was. And somehow his shape gave us all hope.
I have been working since 7 this morning, and I’ll be working again after yet another radio stint (which is now over). There is much need in the world that demands attention. For me, on a work and a personal level. I feel drawn towards the borders of Eastern Europe, but I will remain here, in dreary isolated England, and do my best from here.
There is no monotony in the repetition of tragedies, nor in the songs of ghosts.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 21