I was just sitting with my wife enjoying the morning coffee and laughing about how I suggested that even Dave (Saltman) should pay for his magazine subscription and then she turned and began a defence of the "poor guy" as she called him. From that discussion she then moved on to "just what is it about you lot, green side up, and you all think it's difficult, sheeesh!"
Well much more shaking of head and laughing which brought me to thinking that perhaps I should tell you how a wife, girlfriend, significant other, sees our profession.
Green Side Up
After some thirty years or so in the industry I have been able to meet a variety of people from many countries and have gone on to enjoy that friendship. Our common denominator has been the professional production of sporting fields and stadiums. The hours were, or are, long but the job just has to be completed on time.
I fell in love with my wicket. Yes, an odd thing but that is how my wife saw that "other woman" She would listen for me to be entering the driveway at some ungodly hour of the night, muttering and fussing in the cold kitchen about how "those stupid covers just wouldn't stay down during the storm". She would wonder just what this "other woman" was doing at 2am out in the rain?
I always had an excuse, according to my wife, as to why I was late home, looking like a drowned rat while this "other woman" was now safely wrapped up in canvas, all snug and dry.
She just didn't understand, was my thought. "I love you dearly, but surely you realize that tomorrow is the 1st day and that there is so much depending on the wicket quality, so many people from around the world?" Her comment at times was simple, "Do you know that tomorrow is also you son's first day at cricket and that he is opening the batting?"
My son, the opening batsman, so he plays cricket?
Yes, for many of us there have been similar stories. Of days and nights away from home, not realising that there was a life on the other side of the wall. Where did all those years go, I wonder at times?
On some other occasions the word concert was often used at around 3am. "Oh so it was the 'other woman' this time?" would come the sleepy comment from the kitchen, where she was to found in comfy slippers and robe, busily making coffee. "Is this supper or breakfast?" was a common enquiry.
"We are moving". I wondered who was moving, until coming home one evening to discover that the key didn't open the usual garage door lock. The mobile phone rang with an angry female telling me that we moved yesterday, fortunately just down the street. "Good news" I thought, that address is closer to the ground so now I don't have to travel as much.
Some will have no idea of the story behind this story but I am sure that many do. Yes, shake your head in shame, as you read. By nodding in agreement it simply means that you have had a similar "affair" with that "other woman." The one who lays prostrate, covered in a soft sward of green turf. You tend her with more care than a wife or girlfriend, you are there at her whim.
These days following retirement, my wife doesn't refer to her opposition as much although has recently commented "Just what is so difficult about planting something 'Green Side Up'" She still doesn't fully understand. "You lot are paid 50,000 to 90,000 a year to do what I do each weekend for free and you think that you are 'oh so special'".
Wives tend not to understand the technical nuances of our industry, they certainly appreciate some of the rewards, be they financial or in some cases entry to special events etc. I know that I have tried my darndest to explain just why it is important to be at the ground at 4am and I have developed quite the range of words to form sentences as to why we are unable to attend a function "next Friday." Well anyone can understand that "next Friday" is the second day of the Test or only two days before the World Cup Final or Wimbledon and well surely "You understand that I do have commitments?"
Our industry at times becomes a world of the singular 'I' and we have been known to forget that it was 'We' who began my career together, through the long rain or snow soaked nights helping me drag covers back on or explaining to your friends on Saturday mornings that "yes I do have a husband and yes those children do have a father", I know that I could never do that, how embarrassing. No in that situation I would consult Jim Beards book if I had any doubts about the parentage of the turf.
And so to all those women or partners out there who have spent countless nights waiting for the Groundsman to arrive home, listened to his wails about weather and how 'she' is ok now and that 'I put her to bed' perhaps my wife says it all in many ways and that is ....."And you really are paid to plant the grass Green Side Up?"