From school playground to cricket field…..

Summer 1986 I think it was. It was a games lesson at school, and the teacher decided it was time to have some cricket practice. But the only thing was, I was pretty rubbish at playing the game. I could hit a ball, but catching and bowling were totally out of my league.

I then mused “I’ve seen Dickie Bird umpiring cricket on the TV….I wouldn’t mind having a go”….and so my first sojourn into cricket umpiring was there. I stood behind a set of plastic stumps and tried to do a few signals etc….and I seemed to get a bit of a taste for it.

I was 13 years old at the time. The following year, I did a trial match at my new school. If my first decision was anything to go by, then I may as well have given up. It was an absolute shocker, and according to the batsman, cost him a place on the team. Ooops! A lot still to learn.

In truth, I muddled by. My lack of experience, my youth, my nervousness and general incompetence in those days convinced a lot of players that I was not up to the job. And they would have been right. I felt like a fish out of water.

But, despite a lot of early traumas and problems, I kept going. And it’s important to remind myself of those days when I step out onto the field to umpire now. A lot of water has passed under the bridge in 32 years and I like to think I’ve improved in that time!! A lot of experience, good and bad, has been banked and I’ve come a fair way since that day in the school playground. My signals and I hope, my decisions and my match control have improved. It’s also important to enjoy it too. Last Sunday was a case in point. So vital to go through all the heartache to get moments like the thrilling finish that I was in the middle of.

There have been other great moments of course. I have been very lucky. My lack of playing experience has counted against me at times, but when you can have the best seat in the house, in all weathers (especially this year), what more can one ask for? I’ve met and shall go on meeting so many wonderful people who play the best game in the world. So many memories and many more still to lock away. My aim is to just enjoy it and get through to September, when the season ends.

Looking forward to the next match already….

A.S.D Brooks

Back in cricketing action??

Though I did some scoring out in Malta, I felt as though I wasn’t ready to get the cricket season started over here in the UK. But…..a phone call and a spot of lunch with an umpiring colleague has changed the personal mindset!

I just called him to just chat about what’s been happening with his season so far. The outdoor season is a fortnight old and it’s Easter next week, so we have plenty of games. All of a sudden he asked me if I was around Saturday and Sunday to help out with umpiring/scoring duties.

Of course I said yes. So I’ve got to dust my kit off that’s been sitting in the cupboard since last July. Ready to don that Panama hat and get out there. Can’t wait. Very excited for yet another opportunity. And it’s much needed. After the travails of the year so far, this has come at a very appropriate time. And the weather is on the improve as well, sunny and warm over the Easter weekend.

Don’t have any great expectations, just go out there and enjoy it. Relax and think that it’s better being out in the sun and warmth than the mustiness and coop like existence of the flat I live in. The butterflies are starting to churn around the stomach. But umpiring is like falling off a horse and getting back on it. I’ve fallen off many times! Good to be back.

A.S.D Brooks

Strong support….

I popped into SANE, the mental health charity I volunteer for, to discuss upcoming shifts and what happened to me at the Christmas party on the 17th.

If you recall, I had a meltdown and left well before the end. There was plenty of concern and good wishes that I would be ok. For the following 24-36 hours, I wasn’t ok. Trying to rationalise what happened would take up a lot of time, it was a moment when my brain fried and maybe it was the time of year and some personal issues that crystallised in one awful moment.

Today’s talk with my line manager was very reassuring. I take the view that if SANE didn’t think much of me or value my contribution, they wouldn’t have bothered to stay in touch or to find out how I was. They have superb support structures for all their staff and I feel flattered and humbled that they do value me.

I’m going to make a return in ten days time, and I can’t wait to get back to doing what I do at SANE. The staff have noticed that I haven’t been my normal self when I’ve gone in, but as I said I do have some issues. In other words, life is a little unsettled at the moment. I’m not a very good actor so I don’t hide my feelings very well. But to receive that support is very touching and heartwarming, and that support gives me strength.

In fact, in most of the mental health voluntary work I undertake, I receive a lot of support. And of course, there is plenty of support in the cricket world, from friends and family too. It keeps me afloat. Without it I would struggle, without question.

In this uncertain and volatile world, it’s nice to know that people do look out for others.

A.S.D Brooks

Review of 2018 – The Highlights….

As we’re approaching the end of another year, it’s time to look back and reflect on what has gone well for me this year. The events will be in no particular order but will mirror my own personal well being.

  • Presentations – Really have enjoyed doing these and there is the prospect of more in 2019.
  • Enjoyed volunteering with SANE, One Place East, Thrive LDN and Maytree and meeting new people.
  • Cricket tour to Portugal in October.
  • The whole summer of glorious sunny weather and for a change, getting a suntan in the UK
  • Watching the mental health play called WEIRD, and connecting with the writer Lucy Burke and performer Amy Doyle.
  • Going to Edinburgh to watch said play.
  • The football team I support, Leyton Orient, top of the National League with a chance of returning to the SkyBet Football League.
  • Enjoying following one of my favourite sports, National Hunt racing and picking out winners!
  • So lots of good stuff. On the other hand…..
  • A.S.D Brooks
  • Mind still in Portugal…

    Afternoon. If I told you that yesterday and part of today have been unbelievably crap days, you wouldn’t believe me. You would think that I would be in good fettle after a week away in sunnier climes. Wrong, very wrong.

    It’s been fairly quiet with the neighbours downstairs until yesterday morning when another argument exploded. I sat upstairs, shaking with fright. I heard the usual, bad language, lots of shouting and glass smashing. Great. Just what I need.

    I spent most of yesterday in a state of shock. As you know, I hate any sort of arguments and confrontation. World’s biggest pacifist. I suppose that’s not a bad thing.

    So yesterday evening it was the Umpires Association AGM, and I was in the hot seat. I managed to get through the 30 minutes of the meeting (I don’t mess about), and I don’t know how really. Just instinct. Had a bit of a laugh and tried to take my mind off the events of the morning. Still, my mind was all over the place, thinking very intrusive and clearly untruthful thoughts about those friends and colleagues nearest and dearest to me. Not good. Was in a dark place at odd intervals on Monday.

    Onto today, and the mind was in shutdown mode. Until I went into SANE, the mental health charity I volunteer at. The happy smiling faces and cheery nature of the staff took me back to last week in Portugal. How I wish I was still there…..

    Got through the tasks set and then got into a tremendous muddle emailing one of the cricketing tour party. I was sending him the scorecards and got very confused. That will teach me to actually read the emails he sent me. A few phone calls and emails later and all was well. My head was spinning though, like one of those spinning tops from childhood.

    Now, I’m outside City Hall for a monthly mental health meeting. Just trying to relax and calm down from a fraught couple of days. My mind is 800 miles away and needs to return to home base, hence the confusion and general dark thoughts. Not a good combo.

    That’s it. Just an update on things. Hope it’s quiet when I return home.

    A.S.D Brooks

    Getting back on the horse?

    The Tuesday of the seven day cricket tour saw yours truly pressed into umpiring service as my colleague was indisposed.

    Now I haven’t umpired for three months. You would think I would be a bit rusty. And I was, missing a couple of minor things. But the old enjoyment came back. I felt in control, relaxed and calm. The sun was beating down and the game was going on. But I was staying in the background, remaining in control.

    I heard the odd whisper about coming back into League action back here in England. No thank you very much. I want to enjoy my cricket and not feel under pressure. I don’t want my every move scrutinised and then ridiculed. League cricket is a hard school. Been there, done that, got the t shirt and commemorative DVD. It’s not the same as when I started off in panel umpiring back in 1994. There are other reasons too, centring around my mental health.

    The occasional walk on part will do me very nicely rather than a full umpiring role. As long as the players still respect me for doing the job, that’s all that worries me really. And I heard plenty of flattering remarks from not only our touring party, but the opposition too. That’s all very nice, but cricket umpiring isn’t the be all and end all of life for me these days. I have other concerns and activities. It’s nice to know I still have it in me to perform well and with credit. But the days of League cricket at 1st XI level are well behind me. No going back, and no changing of mind.

    A.S.D Brooks

    No place like home…

    Morning. I’m back home in London. Rather tired but nice to be back.

    That was a fabulous week in Portugal. A million memories. So many great things. A beautiful country. Endless warmth and sunshine. Plenty of laughs with my colleagues. Forming new friendships and just enjoying myself.

    On the Tuesday of the trip, I went out to umpire as my colleague was feeling a bit under the weather. We had a great day and rarely for me, I felt really in control. I didn’t have a great deal to do, but every player enjoyed themselves and there wasn’t a word spoken out of place. That’s how cricket should be.

    And a word for our hosts, Amigos Cricket Club. Formed three years ago by a conglomerate of ex pats, they were a delight to be around. Full of terrific people and with a great togetherness and spirit, they hugely impressed me with their administration and organisation. Indeed, quite a few clubs back in England could do well to copy and look at the set up.

    They don’t have a League structure in Portuguese cricket and Amigos CC rely on friendlies and touring teams from England. But it’s a hark back to the old days of friendly and social cricket, declining rapidly in England now. Don’t get me wrong, the teams over the last week wanted to win. Being friendly and convivial will never distil the competitive spirit.

    On a personal note, I’ve been invited back next year to umpire and score and be involved. I took that as a great honour and depending on my own personal finances, I would love to make a return.

    Amigos CC gave me this (above) as a personal memento of the week and it will take pride of place in my flat. But it was a week to treasure. Many laughs, great characters and great people. The food laid on by the club was out of this world. So much to remember. Truly brilliant.

    The flight home last night had it’s moment of concern for me when we had a bit of turbulence when flying over the Bay of Biscay. Aside from that, the take off and landing was smooth and didn’t worry me a jot. But the turbulence had me worried for a few moments before it all settled down again.

    Back home now and off to Peer Support group. Still bleary eyed and a little disorientated, but can’t wait to see my colleagues and return to the British way of life. But what a week just gone. Memories to keep forever.

    A.S.D Brooks

    Mooching around on Monday….

    (Church in AnsiĆ£o)

    Afternoon. As I type, a gentle breeze is blowing through the hotel room window. What can I say? Another blue sky day. Not seen a cloud since last Wednesday in England.

    No game today and I think the rest has come at a good time. The tour party was a little bit tired with the accommodation change and travelling to the games over the weekend. Me and my sparring partner have taken advantage of the hotel jacuzzi and pool and that was very refreshing, sorting out those aches and pains.

    We’re off for a meal later with a real character of the party. This chap is English born but has a strong American accent now, as he lives in Florida. He was an RAF pilot and a commercial jet pilot as well. The life and soul of any party. He had us rolling in the aisles at the game yesterday with some ribald mickey taking of some of the touring party. Very, very funny and a natural sense of humour.

    But the whole week has been like that. Lots of great fun, comradeship and good cricket too. The lunch and dinner at the cricket ground has to be some of the best I’ve tasted. In fact the whole operation there at Amigos CC is something a few cricket clubs back home could copy. Well organised and with a great sense of fun and competition. And a great group of people too.

    (Town Square at Tomar)

    A.S.D Brooks