What a relief, after a week of truly awful headlines, to pick up a newspaper and read that the country has managed to do something right.
England may be a land of tawdry politicians, incompetent police and an unscrupulous press, pillaged and burned by hordes of dysfunctional urban adolescents, but all is not lost. We have managed to produce, by the somewhat eccentric standards by which such matters are recognized, the best cricket team in the world. The occasion for this triumph has been a four-match series against the previous title-holder, India. In the first three games England has simply battered the Indians into submission.
Cynics and jeremiahs beware, for there is life in the old lion yet. The tattered tail still occasionally twitches.
Cynics and jeremiahs will decline to heed the advice, of course, on the grounds that a peculiar game played by a dwindling number of Englishmen at home, and in just a handful of countries once reluctantly seconded to membership of the British Empire, hardly qualifies as a matter for rejoicing. But a triumph is a triumph, in whatever field it occurs, and if it’s a cricket field, then that’s as good a field as any. Let others, whatever their particular endeavours, follow suit.
As we used to sing in Sunday school, “Lead kindly light, amidst the encircling gloom….”
On Saturday evening Martha and I threw an engagement party for my daughter Sara and her intended, George (how old-fashioned that ‘intended’ sounds) and it provided further blessed relief from the week-long images of hooded looters, arsonists and brick-throwers.
Sara and George were once members of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain – that is how they met – and a number of their fellow choristers were among the guests. Midway through the evening I asked them to sing a couple of numbers, inciting a quite different form of youthful protest from the ones we’d been watching on television all week.
They were unrehearsed, they complained, and had been given no opportunity to warm up. I insisted on rebuking their professionalism. “Just pick a couple of uncomplicated standards, and don’t worry about the rusty pipes. It’s just a party.”
Well, needless to say, they sang beautifully (by any but their own standards of perfection) and brought the house down – a marquee, actually – thereby emphatically undermining the impression of a Britain besieged by an entire generation of inarticulate and uncultured thugs. I was proud of every last one of them.
It was the second small British triumph of the weekend.