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Two Rooms And A View: 85 - An Eventful Evening

…I reported that Chris Peacock had sent me as the Third XI was one short for its next game on Monday. "Is there any chance of a game?" was my final comment.

He looked surprised and said, "Yes, I'm glad you called - see you on Monday at 5.15 p.m. We are travelling by private car."

I rode away as if I had been selected for the England tour of Australia…

Robert Owen becomes a cricketer, adding a new interest to his already busy life.

One Saturday early in May, I noticed several players had deleted their names from the third team for the following Monday and, allowing for the named reserves, the team was still one short. One of the players suggested that it was because they were playing Seaham Harbour away, and this meant leaving early and getting back late. I mentioned the fact that the third team was one short to the club secretary, Chris Peacock, and he suggested that I contact the third team captain, Bill Parker, as he might have already made arrangements for another reserve to attend.

I discovered that he lived just off Highfield Road. Going there on my new bike, I apprehensively knocked at his door. It was soon answered by a thin gentleman of medium height, accompanied by a youngster of about three years of age.

I reported that Chris Peacock had sent me as the Third XI was one short for its next game on Monday. "Is there any chance of a game?" was my final comment.

He looked surprised and said, "Yes, I'm glad you called - see you on Monday at 5.15 p.m. We are travelling by private car."

I rode away as if I had been selected for the England tour of Australia.

Looking back, I became a member of South Shields Cricket Club in the entrance hall of its treasurer in King George Road, and obtained a game for its third team, on the doorstep of its captain, in a house just off Highfield Road!

The youngster at the door with Bill Parker was very likely Bill Parker Junior. In later years and in the family tradition he made a major contribution to the Wood Terrace Club, playing for nearly three decades, captaining the first team for most of the nineteen eighties, and making several appearances for County Durham.

Having managed to get a place on the third team, getting there physically to play was the next problem. This required an early pass out from work (and I had only worked there for six weeks!) and a five mile, thirty minute cycle journey to get to Wood Terrace for the planned 5.15 p.m. departure. Fortunately I made it and leaving my new £20 bike under the pavilion steps, I was off, highly excited, in somebody's car to Seaham Harbour, for my first game for South Shields Cricket Club.

If I thought the build up to the game had been significant, it was nothing compared to the activities after the game. We arrived back at Wood Terrace at about 10.15 p.m., to find the ground in darkness and the large wooden gates locked. In the age before the club had a drinking licence, everybody had gone home or more likely adjourned to the nearby County Hotel. My six-week old bike, which I required for work the next morning, was, I hoped, still inside. This invited jesting, sarcasm and teasing from my team-mates who assured me I would never see that bike again.

After much discussion, some serious and some amusing, it was agreed that I should be helped over the six-foot-high wooden gate, to rescue my bike from the pavilion. As I lowered myself down on the other side, I heard my team mates shout in chorus, "We're going home and will see you next week!" I didn't know whether to believe them as I made my
way to the pavilion in a dark and deserted ground.

Fortunately the bike was still there and undamaged. Riding it back the 200 yards to the Wood Terrace gate, I was very relieved, but still had to get the machine over the wooden gate. This was not too difficult if somebody was at the other side to accept the machine, but practically impossible without damaging the bike, if I tried to do it myself.

On arriving at the gate, I found my team-mates were significant by their absence. They were obviously watching my struggles from a hidden viewpoint and enjoying my difficulties.

I did manage to get the bike over the gate but refused to drop it as this would most likely cause untold damage. Just as I was going to have to put the bike down, my tormentors returned and rescued the machine from my aching arms.

However, their evil deeds were not yet complete. As I struggled to climb over the gate, I could see someone riding away on my new bike, with an accomplice running alongside with my haversack. Not only that, but they were pretending to be Frankie Lane singing 'Jezebel' at the top of their voices. How they didn't get arrested I shall never know.

I chased them along Wood Terrace and Oxford Road before they relented and allowed me to repossess my belongings in Mortimer Road at about 11 p.m. The departing comment of one of the villains was, "Never mind the cricket match, can we do this again next week?" The match, in which I scored 14 runs, seemed to have got in the way of an eventful evening.

After my debut at Seaham Harbour, I played occasionally for the third team during the remainder of the season without making any significant contribution. One thing that didn't endear me to the selectors was that I had great difficulty getting to Wood Terrace for a 6 p.m. start, or earlier for away games. Riding five miles on a bike with a full haversack was not an ideal pre-requisite for a cricket match and I didn't dare ask for another pass out.

In an indirect and dangerous way the No 87 bus from Hebburn to Marsden helped. This bus left Reyrolles very soon after the 5.15 p.m. finish and did not stop until it reached Cleadon. A number of cyclists, including myself on cricket nights, used to practically fight to get behind it and use it as a wind break. With our front wheel only inches behind the bus and travelling at 20-30 miles an hour down Victoria Road, I dread to think what would have happened had the bus suddenly stopped.

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