‘When people said cricket was boring, I responded ‘Have you watched it after eight pints of still cider?’…
Historically, I have never really been a fan of cricket. It doesn’t inspire the same contempt in me that any form of rugby does, but I certainly couldn’t describe myself as a fan. It was with some trepidation then, that I sat down to read Slipless In Settle by Harry Pearson.
Pearson is a sports enthusiast who writes for acclaimed football magazine When Saturday Comes amongst others. Happily this means that football is never far away for Pearson, even when writing about cricket, which makes Slipless In Settle an appropriate starting point for a budding cricket fan.
The author immediately got my back up however, by suggesting that my home town of Doncaster is not part of the North. After resisting the temptation to burn the book in a coal fire (whilst simultaneously heating water on said fire to bath my whippet as I furiously scrubbed my flat cap), I decided to give Slipless in Settle another chance, despite this blasphemous libel committed against my home town in the prologue.
I recently read Stuart Maconie’s Northern travelogue Pies and Prejudice and whilst that book would work as a good companion piece to Slipless in Settle, Pearson’s work focuses much more on the lesser known stretches of the North. Sport is perhaps the only reason one would write anything about Carlisle or Workington (or indeed most locations featured in Slipless in Settle – Settle included), as there is very little else going on. This is not meant as a dig. A brief glance at Doncaster town centre confirms I have no reason for superiority over my Northern cousins. Indeed, it is refreshing to hear about some of the less glamorous locations in the UK in these London centric times and Pearson brings each of them to life in a respectful, almost loving, way.
Pearson’s obvious love for cricket is also infectious, and it was this that kept me reading through the references to past cricket players I had never heard of. Vitally, His description of the more complicated aspects of the game are simple to understand and he has the uncanny ability to make a lower league cricket match sound exciting, even after the fact. A rare skill.
Slipless in Settle is laugh out loud funny, always interesting and reads as a love letter, to perhaps the most British of all pastimes. It even inspired me to watch Doncaster CC take on Treeton* one sleepy afternoon and I’m pleased to report it won’t be my last visit to the cricket.
*Doncaster won by 5 wickets. Only their second win of the season. I had a BLT. It was delicious.