It was the summer of 2016. Phil and I were driving along, listening to commentary of an exciting cricket game. The score was close. Phil was screeching in excitement, banging the steering wheel, breath held at every ball. The radio suddenly announced that the match would over-run to day five, with tickets being offered at a bargain price. So he turned to me and pleaded for us to go. But I immediately said no. Impossible. Forget it.In my life before Pulmonary Hypertension, I’d really enjoyed going to the odd cricket match with my hubby. He’d got me hooked on the sport through wonderful summer evenings watching fast paced Twenty20 games at Leicestershire CC. And turned me into a true fan, when he whisked me off to watch England beat the Aussies on their own soil for the first time in twenty-odd years. However when I became ill with PH, I accepted that I’d never attend a match again. Everything about it now seemed impossible and scary. The long long eight hour match would be exhausting. The uncomfortable plastic seats wouldn’t provide enough support to keep my body upright. The noise would be too loud. The excitement too energy zapping. The weather exposure too draining. Whenever Phil suggested we buy tickets and try, my head just filled with a million reasons why not.
So during that memorable conversation, driving home; like every time he’d asked in the previous 3.5 years of illness… I said no. He just turned away, but I could sense his disappointment. The next day, as he listened to the radio commentary in our garden, I had a moment of clarity. I needed to stop worrying about what might go wrong. I needed to stop letting fear -and PH- dictate my life. So I researched it, found solutions, and psyched myself to go. Then bought tickets for the next test. And I’ve not looked back. 🙂For the last three summers, we’ve attended a cricket test match at our nearest ground, Edgbaston. And amazingly I’ve worked out how to make it work for me. 🙂 Phil drives to reserve my energy and save time (1hr 10 mins from sofa to seat!). Booking car parking at the same time as tickets, usually means we can reserve the disabled spaces in the grounds. I take my comfy moon chair, which fully supports my body, so I can happily lie in it for hours. I dress and pack for all weather possibilities- blankets and sun shawls and plenty of layers. I take my RADAR key to access the disabled toilets so no queuing. We take an enormous picnic, so I can keep my energy levels up by grazing on food all day! (hmm that’s my excuse anyway! 😉 ). And amazingly, the slow-paced nature of the game means that for the majority I’m just sitting and chilling, not exerting too much energy. It’s a perfect PH spectator sport!
We’ve now tried all three accessible seating areas at Edgbaston, and our favourite is a terrace in the middle of the Motorpoint stand. Disabled areas in stadiums and arenas and concert venues often struggle to strike a balance between providing additional support (level access, extra space for kit, away from pushing crowds) and providing the same great experience as everyone else. Often we’re seated on ground level which gives limited views (like in The Hollies Stand), or in the back-of-beyond thus away from the masses (like in The South Stand). When I’m watching the wickets fall, I want to clearly see the crease and the outfield players without standing up or straining my body. And also feel normal, one of the crowd, a fan amongst thousands more. Happily our favourite spot has the perfect balance. I can hear the drunken banter towards the players, join in the Mexican waves, singalong with the Barmy Army… and I can spot all those umpire errors! 😛
This summer has been a feast for cricket fans. With England hosting both The Ashes and the Cricket World Cup… since June we have been treated to almost daily matches. Our radios are permanently tuned to Test Match Special, the TV highlight shows are on record, and I’m forever checking into the BBC sports app. And amazingly, we’ve also been lucky enough to see two brilliant matches at Birmingham. Last month we watched New Zealand beat South Africa in a thrilling world cup game. The atmosphere was awesome; fans from every country, food from every country and extra on-site entertainment. And with the winner only decided in the final over, it was a truly exciting game to watch! 🙂 Then last Friday, we celebrated Phil’s birthday by watching the greatest cricket rivalry of them all- the first test between England and Australia. It was a scorcher of a day. The costumes in the crowds were super, the songs were loud, and the banter towards the Aussie players was hilarious! We watched Rory Burns achieve his maiden test century, and England bat run after run into the lead (sadly it all came crashing down the next day! 😛 ). It was brilliant.
And to top off a fantastic day at the Ashes, we got a mention on national radio! There’s a quirky tradition for celebrities and mere mortals to send a cake to the Test Match Special team on Radio Five Live. Cricket themed and elaborately decorated are the norm. Unfortunately Phil and I are neither bakers nor cake decorators… but unperturbed we cooked them some yummy ginger biscuits! And not only did our letter about Pulmonary Hypertension and organ donation get read out by Aggers and Tuffers (always raising awareness! 🙂 )… but they said our biccies looked “lovely”! Proud moment! 😀 (click on ‘Listen in browser’ on the link below to listen).
So I’m thankful for that conversation in the car, a few years ago. ‘Cause it made me stop and think. And so now summer means runs and wickets and cricket. And singing along with the Barmy Army!