What’s the one thing that makes your soul sing and spirit come alive?
What an awesome question to ponder – because for all of us this question will yield a different answer and, no matter the variety of answers that will certainly abound amongst us, each of our answers will be beautiful, uplifting, encouraging…
Think about when last you’ve done something almost purely for the purpose of making yourself happy, and awakening your spirit in the process? And hear me out before you criticise me for contributing to an already overly-narcissistic world. Yes, there is far too much material self-promotion in the world around us, but for the most part the people in my world are on the other side of that particular scale. The people in my world are those who are continually seeking to help others, put others’ needs before their own, run around after kids, family, friends, charities… you name it. And generally, everyone else is looked after before yourself. So it’s those people I’m talking to – when last have you done something that made your soul sing?
I am so blessed to be able to say that I did just that, for myself, a few weeks ago, prompted by my precious friend Dannean’s contribution to The List, being: “What’s the one thing that makes your soul sing and spirit come alive? Being in nature? Time at the sea? Browsing through an old bookshop? Whatever it is – do that!“
From dinner parties, to writing a blog, to kicking a nasty habit, the items on The List are clearly diverse, and so you would imagine there would similarly be numerous diverse options for me to consider in order to fulfil Dannean’s prompting. There was, however, absolutely no question in my mind as to what that one thing is that makes me “come alive” – and that is watching cricket. I remember someone asking me a few years back about where I’m at my happiest (hoping to provoke an appropriately philosophical answer to such an existential question), and my unhesitating response that it’s when I’m at a cricket match, being part of the crowd, cheering, and being totally immersed in the spectacle and strategy of it all. Not much has changed since I gave that answer a few years back – if anything, my passion for the game has only intensified.
And so it was that while most were planning their Christmas/ December holidays around being on one or more of our beautiful beaches, I decided to drive down to Durban for the five days between Christmas and New Year to watch the first Test Match of the series between South Africa and England. I booked a place for Chuckles in his doggy-hotel (with only the presidential suite being available because of the high demand at this time of the year – the doggy hotel and presidential suite clearly require further explanation in another post!)), found a place for me to stay in Durbs – and that was all the planning required.
So early on Boxing Day morning, I left Joburg to drive down to Durban, with much anticipation to join a nearly sold-out crowd at the start of the traditional Boxing Day Test Match. After a rain-interrupted day (which led to slightly dampened spirits in accordance with the weather), however, Day 2 in Durbs dawned without a cloud in sight – beautiful bright blue sky, no wind, hot sunshine…it was set to be an absolute gem of a day for watching cricket! But don’t worry – before you skip ahead to the last paragraph – I don’t intend giving you a blow-by-blow account of the whole five-day test match (haha, I can just hear your sighs of relief!). I can say, however, that it was one of the best days of test match cricket that I’ve ever been to – and not necessarily because of what happened on the pitch, but rather because of the awesome people I sat with and the general atmosphere I was part of. It wasn’t even that I went to cricket with my group of best mates, I actually went alone. (I know people find that strange – but I’m quite happy to be at the cricket by myself – it’s my happy place). But I met fabulous people that day in the stands – there were various groups of diverse people around me (including a father and his young son, a group of a few women from Joburg, an elderly couple who only arrived after the stand was sufficiently shaded for them, and another group of brothers and their families. Very diverse, and yet within the first hour or so, we were all chatting like old friends. Everyone bought each other drinks when they went to fetch a round, shared picnic baskets, laughed and cheered together – all brought together by a common love of the sport!
I have often been asked why I love cricket so much and although I’ve always loved most forms of sport and spent my fair share of time as a kid growing up in Bloem watching cricket at Springbok Park (who remembers those Benson & Hedges Day/Night matches that were so exciting??) – the intense passion for cricket I now have didn’t really grab me until about ten years ago. And while I’ve managed to come up with a few things about the game that intrigue and attract me, the truth is that I can’t really explain why I love it so much… I just do. (And that’s alright too – sometimes things just are… without reason, justification or logic… they just are).
In my university days, I remember some guys being visibly impressed when they first met me and realised that I could more than hold my own in any cricketing conversation or circle. You may forgive me for thinking at the time that my ever-growing love for cricket may even have yielded an unintended bonus of making me more attractive to the opposite sex. But that naive thinking was cruelly shot down one day when a bunch of my guy friends came over to watch South Africa play Australia and, while we were all gathered around the TV in my living room and in response to my “Not out, going down leg” comment after a particularly vehement LBW appeal, one of my mates calmly remarked “Wow, I would marry any girl who said ‘Not out, going down leg’ “, and calmly proceeded to take his next sip of beer. My single self audibly sighed… my cricket love and knowledge was clearly not going to make me more of a catch (pun intended), but rather merely rendered me one of the boys!
One of the beauties of cricket, for me, is the sheer unpredictability of it. I remember once asking my dad, at the tender age of 12 or so, how it was possible for the top batsmen in the world to still be clean bowled? Surely at that level of expertise and skill the batsmen should be able to handle any and every ball bowled at them – otherwise how can you be a top batsman? Dad wasn’t quite able to explain it to my satisfaction at that time (sorry Dad, you did have most of the answers for me growing up though 🙂 ) and I think that’s because of the very nature of cricket – even at the top of his game, a batsman will be beaten by a bowler, and conversely a bowler will be pelted for six by a batsman. That unpredictability, that excitement…it’s no wonder I get drawn into every game!
I also fell in love with cricket because of the intense strategy involved in the game, especially in the test arena, and the careful calculations that are required throughout the game if a win, or often even a draw, is to be on the cards. (And when I refer to these “careful calculations”, please be assured I mean things like thoughtfully considered field placings, wisely timed declarations and the taking of a cheeky single …. I do not refer to any calculations related in any way to the Duckworth Lewis system, which system has only caused South Africa marginally less defeats than our unfortunate lack of BMT (aka choking tendency)).
For many years, watching the Ashes at Lords has featured right at the top of my bucket list, albeit that I had little hope that I would actually get to do this given the virtual impossibility of obtaining tickets. But, through a number of instances of sheer luck, coincidence and good fortune, the universe conspired to transport me to the Home of Cricket in July last year, to watch the second test in the Ashes series. Not even having to wear an Australian cricket supporters’ shirt and cap (as I was travelling with a Cricket Australia group) could dampen my enthusiasm – there was clearly very little I wouldn’t do to sit in the hallowed ground at Lords watching the teams pursue the oldest trophy in Test cricket history, surrounded by tradition and, of course, drinking the mandatory champagne.
I was quite anxious walking from the tube station at St. Johns Wood to Lords on the morning of Day 1 of the Test – this had been on my bucket list for so long that I suddenly feared I may have built it up in my mind as too big of a deal, and that I was setting myself up for disappointment? Not a chance! As I went through the turnstiles, ascended the grandstand, and got my first glimpse of the gloriousness that is Lords, I stopped, smiled and just breathed it all in. Literally! I just breathed – THIS was the home of cricket, THIS was a dream come true, and THIS was the start of one of the most exciting and memorable experiences in my life.
So although my passion for cricket didn’t win me any more boyfriends at varsity, it has certainly brought me more colourful, fun and passion-filled experiences than I could have imagined. So whether it’s the major events like Cricket World Cup in South Africa in 2003, and the Ashes at Lords in 2015, or whether it’s just a local T20 match down at the Wanderers or Supersport Park – cricket ignites a spark in me. Because when I’m at a cricket match, I feel alive. I feel vibrant. I feel involved. I feel enough. I feel more of my authentic self – I’m just me. Deeply involved in a strategic but fun game, which I don’t like…I love.