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

Experienced flyer but the nerves are still there….

I’ve made 22 plane journeys in 28 years. Here’s a breakdown of those:-

Malta – 6 times

Munich – 2

Jersey – 2

Edinburgh – 2

Dublin – 2

Manchester – 2

Fuerteventura – 2

Porto – 2

Majorca – 2

No problem at all, you might argue. But the nerves with me start days before a flight. A mixture of nervousness and apprehension pervade every fibre of my being before stepping on a plane.

Then all of a sudden, the reality takes over. Horrible, doom laden thoughts go through my head as to what might happen to the plane. The thought of being in a metal tube, flying at 500 mph and 6 miles above the ground, sends me into something approaching real fear. I’m not alone in this of course, millions of people around the world have this phobia. Phobia is a fear of something that is safe or harmless, generally speaking.

Flying is safe. So I try and comfort myself in the fact that billions of journeys are made a year and a tiny percentage of those end in disaster. On my recent trip to Malta, I was in more danger travelling on the roads with the daredevil driving than on a jet aircraft. After 22 journeys, so far so good.

I get onto the plane and find my seat. I strap in and watch the normal safety instruction from the cabin crew. My stomach is doing a passable impression of a washing machine. Churn, churn, churn.

Then the captain taxis the plane into position. The apprehension grows. Then we line up on the runway. It’s like going to the gallows. All of a sudden, whoooooosh! The engines power up, the force of the take off nudges you back in the seat and the plane roars off at 160 mph or so. Then before you know it, the plane lifts off. How it does this is still a source of wonderment to me. Engineering marvels.

I don’t look out of the window. If at all possible, I pull the window blind down or take an aisle seat. I try to shut my eyes as the craft steadily climbs. The power is increased. Then after about 15 minutes, the plane levels off and the cabin crew start their preparations for the inflight service.

Once the plane is cruising along, I do calm down a bit. But then there is the turbulence. The bumping and the jolting. Of course, turbulence has never brought down a jet to date. But that doesn’t stop me grabbing the arm rests or the seat in front of me. The plane goes faster to counteract the changes in air pressure. I’ve had a few bumpy journeys, but apart from an unnerving experience back from Porto last year, generally the flights have been smooth enough.

So nothing to worry about? Well, 30 minutes before the landing comes the descent. Again, some of these have been ok. The landing in Malta the other day was smooth and trouble free. But coming back saw the plane steaming in to the runway and after an inordinate time, it came to earth with a resounding thud. Of course, technically, this is not a cause for concern. It just feels like doing three rounds of the wall of death. I can be quite fearful.

But the comforting thing is that the pilots are well trained and are there for your safety. My senses are on full alert (part of my autism diagnosis) and danger is sensed constantly even though nothing has happened. My heart rate is high but when those wheels touch down, the heart rate slows and I feel relieved to have got through another flight.

The only frightening experience I’ve had (apart from the turbulence and the occasional hairy landing) was a go around in windy conditions at Gatwick 11 years ago. Ironically that was coming back from Malta too. I didn’t know what was happening and was very scared for some little time during and afterwards. Of course, this is a normal procedure and also happened on Saturday last when the air traffic was busy around Gatwick. Nothing to be alarmed about. All under control.

So there you have it. Despite 22 flights and several trips to Europe, I still like to have terra firma under my feet. I will make further trips by plane in future years. The nerves and fear will still be there. But flying is one of the safest forms of transportation on the planet, and is getting safer. Statistically very safe. But that won’t stop my senses being on the highest alert.

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
  • Into the freezer….time for that warm coat

    Clocks go back tomorrow here in the UK and just to prepare us for those winter blues, the weather has turned very cold. It’s gloriously sunny and clear but the wind has turned round to the North, never a warm direction in the UK.

    Time to dig out those winter clothes. I’ve been wearing thin jackets and t shirts for the last few weeks since my return from holiday, but out came the big coat and indoors, the central heating makes it’s first appearance since we had the Beast from the East back in March. Hibernation begins. We pile on the weight and hunker down for those long, cold months until March and April come round.

    Don’t feel too bad today. I’ve popped out for a brief while, bumped into someone I know from cricket, and the grimness of Wednesday is but a distant memory. Upward curve and all that.

    Nice relaxing day today watching sport on the TV and keeping warm. Perfect.

    A.S.D Brooks

    Knocked sideways…..

    Good morning. It’s Monday and the sun is shining down from a glorious blue sky. However, last week, my euphoria from the cricket tour of Portugal took a severe dent.

    Wednesday of last week saw some bad health news as far as my immediate family is concerned. I won’t say who it is and what is wrong, suffice it to say that he will need a lot of strength and support from those around him.

    That news has knocked me sideways really. I’m still trying to process it. My head has not been right at all. The news brings home the reality that has certainly hit me since returning from holiday. I’ve not gone out so much and I even cancelled an evening out on Friday.

    Some would say why? Why cancel an evening out? Nothing is going to happen yet, so continue with your life, Allen. Well if it were only that simple to just carry on. I just cannot concentrate on things that I usually can concentrate on.

    Well, eventually, I have to carry on. There will be a time when I will have to continue with my life. The bad news has come as a shock. I’m dealing with that shock. Certain things may have to be temporarily sacrificed.

    Last Thursday, I went to Peer Support group. Normally, I’m in quite a good mood and keep my dialogue to the other members to a minimum. But last Thursday, the spotlight was on me. I needed to offload. I needed for others to see how I was feeling. How I kept it all together and didn’t break down was a miracle really.

    After the recent cricket tour, I’ve been invited onto another one somewhere else in Europe. But this time, I may have to be here in England. I hope that the person I’m talking about is in recovery and that life can move on again. But I’ve been knocked sideways and am finding it difficult getting back on track. I’ve been through this before, a few times in fact.

    It’s going to be a long, cold winter……

    A.S.D Brooks

    Turbulence in the air and mentally too….

    I liken the last couple of days to the journey back from Portugal last Wednesday. It was a smooth ride by and large, but there was moderate turbulence over France that caused the bumps and shakes.

    This what it has been like over the last 48 hours. Smooth, then pow! Turbulent mind. Thoughts all over the place. Like the plane, I find that the turbulence will be uncomfortable for a while. My heart will race, my anxieties will heighten. When will it end? Like a plane that encounters turbulence, it has to move faster, accentuating the shakes and bumps. My mind will work faster, with a million thoughts, not all of them good.

    Then it will be over. The mind slows down, the ride becomes more smooth, and I’m back to somewhere near normal.

    So mental health issues such as mine can be compared to a plane or a ship sailing the ocean wave. Smooth, and then bump, shake, bump, shake. Goes on for a while and then all good. I’m finishing the day better than when I started. Less turbulent and intrusive thoughts. Less tired. I’ve always found anxiety can make me very tired. But I’ve had a good day with lots of good people. Righting that turbulent mind. You can’t believe how much of a difference those good people make to my life.

    Tomorrow is another day…..

    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

    Childhood memories….

    This place was frequently visited by me back in the 1980s as the school I went to, Rushcroft, is only next door. Many a cold winter’s day saw Allen Brooks running around slowly and aimlessly, sighing nostalgically for the next English or Maths lesson. Never been the most athletic of people!

    I went to this sports ground yesterday to watch a friend of mine play football. It was an exciting game too. To prove it’s a small world, the opposition goalkeeper is someone I know from cricket circles.

    It was a game of typical weekend amateur football. Frequent arguments with each other, arguments with the referee and plenty of contesting of decisions. Watching the poor referee struggling to control 22 players made me think that I made the right decision to stick to cricket. Though we have our problems in cricket, it does have some traditions that are adhered to. It was quite amusing to see grown men getting worked up over not much at all. But it all added up to an exciting match.

    Anyway, back to those childhood memories. I umpired one of my first matches at the venue over 30 years ago. I ran the 1,500 metres there once. I finished so late, the milkman was doing his round the following morning! I also remember sneaking across the ground to take a short cut home only to be stopped by the irate groundsman who threatened to report me to the headteacher. I quickly turned tail and took the longer way home…..

    And boy it was warm yesterday. Unusually so for mid October. Today, it’s back to normal. Wet and cold. I’m staying in today, catching up on some admin. That’s what Sundays were made for.

    It’s been ten days full of memories. Great to store in the mind when things aren’t so great personally. Keeps me going through those dark, cold winter months.

    A.S.D Brooks

    T shirt and shorts….in mid October….in the UK

    I seem to have brought back some Portuguese warmth to the UK. I’m off to watch a mate play football in a while. And it’s not football weather, it’s weather more akin to cricket in the summer.

    23 degrees, sunny and quite humid. We’re not far off winter time now. Ridiculous isn’t it? Though if you believe the weather headlines in the newspapers (loose term), we’re in for four months of snow in the UK. Great headlines, just to frighten people. I think the newspaper editors print those stories in the probability they’ll be right at some point.

    But with the hot and dry summer we had here in the UK, it is a faint possibility that high pressure systems centred over Northern Europe could bring us some wintry blasts. Cold days maybe, but four months of snow? I’ll believe it when I see it.

    That’s not bothering me today. T shirt and shorts in mid October. I’m not complaining. The weather sure is a fickle mistress.

    A.S.D Brooks

    19 hours sleep in a day and a half….

    Since arriving home, I’ve been catching up on some sleep I missed out on. 7 hours after I arrived home. 5 hours yesterday afternoon. Then 7 hours last night.

    That catch up of shuteye has seen me feel more refreshed and less groggy today. I went and paid my colleagues a visit at SANE, but they were light on staff so I only stayed for a brief while. Hope to be back to normal with them on Tuesday of next week.

    Had a delightful Thai green curry at a local restaurant and I am sufficiently replete this afternoon. Booked a lunch date with an old school mate of mine who I saw a few months ago. Slowly getting back into the swing of things. Also, our local cricket umpiring classes are starting soon and we have our AGM on Monday. As per the last five years, I’m in the hot seat once again. Looking forward to getting started with the new attendees soon.

    Nice to be in English rather than Portuguese mode!

    A.S.D Brooks