Me and Bluey

 

I'm the one left right out
I’m the one left right out

This is the story of Me and Bluey or what could also be called, One Magic Day. Now with all my Early Days stories some of it is true, some is artistic licence and some is just pure bullshit however most of this story is true.

I started playing cricket in the backyard at mum’s and as my family grew up and left, or lost interest in cricket, my good friend Gerard Van Camper got me to join up with the local town team. Gerard’s brother Hank also played in out team as he was too old for the next division down so we had both of the boys play in our squad. And thank Gordon for that as they were both excellent players and our captain and vice captain as they seemed to know how to play the game. I asked Gerard one day about it and he said his Dad, Hank Senior, knew nothing about cricket but Gerard just picked it up, a natural I suppose you would call it.

So in this game we were playing the Toffs. Now a toff in my local area was a kid that went to private school. The state school boys referred to me as a toff as I went to private school but they tolerated me on game day. Gerard, Hank and another boy called Stephen were all toffs in the local side and were all subsequently tolerated especially seeing Gerard and Hank were excellent players. The side we were playing were kids at boarding school from the main part of the town and were allowed to join the local comp so they stayed out of trouble on the weekends.

Games were two half days on Saturday and the Toffs won the toss and batted on the first half day. The next week rolled around and when I arrived at the ground there was a real buzz around the place. One of the lads approached me “Gerard and Hank are on holidays in Holland and you and Bluey are leading the team” he shrieked, fancy a toff leading the team against the Toffs, class warfare was well and truly underway.

The coach came up to me with Bluey striding along by his side “Hung, you’re Vice Captain and Bluey is Captain, suppose you’ve heard the Van Camper boys are on holidays” I nodded, wow, vice captain at the age of 13 but no Van Campers, this could be a tough day.

The coach wandered off and Bluey put his arm around me. Now Bluey was taller, thicker, stronger and everything than me and he wasn’t someone you would pick a fight with. Bluey was from Hungary and his Dad was one of the butchers in the town. Bluey was pretty aloof even to the state school boys and I suppose a bit of a loner “Hung old son” Now when Bluey said old son you knew he was getting ready to fight “Hung old son, we are going to win. We are gunna beat these lousy Toffs, present company excepted, and go out in a blaze of glory. The Van Campers boys are back next week so this is out big chance” It was then I realised that I wasn’t able to breath and so Bluey let me go.

We still had four wickets to get to finish of the Toffs so we could bat. We all walked out to the pitch. Bluey said “Now spread out men”. One of the state school boys cried out “Spread out, you are supposed to tell us where to stand?” I immediately felt sorry for this boy, no one challenges Bluey. Bluey glared at him “Look old son, any minute now those Toffs are going to come out here and hit the ball all over the joint, you old son have to place yourself between the batsman and the boundary, get it, old son?” Holy shit three old sons and the kid was still alive.

With that everyone moved around the field to where they thought Gerard might place them. I started to go to my usual fielding position at mid on when I heard “Hey you, catholic boy” Bluey loved calling me this, “you bowl” and tossed me the ball. “I don’t open the bowling Bluey” I meekly replied “Well” said Bluey “you’re on a steep learning curve then aren’t you old son”.

Well for the record I took 4 for 28 and bowled them out. I had never taken that many wickets ever, I was stoked. Bluey came up to me as we were walking off the ground. The Van Campers usually opened the batting and Bluey and Stephen were probably the next best two “Hey catholic boy, me and you are opening, little Stevie wonder can come in next” “But Bluey, I don’t open the batting” I whimpered “Well” said Bluey “you’re on a steep learning curve then aren’t you old son”.

As we walked out to the middle Bluey approached me “No more hugs please Bluey I still haven’t recovered from the last one” I informed “Okay Hung but mate I’m shitting myself” said Bluey “but look I’m gunna go off like a fire cracker and what I want you to do is hold up one end, you have the best defence in the team” said Bluey. Well Bluey was a slogger for sure and after I read the Doug Walters Cricket Handbook my game had risen quite dramatically. “Okay Bluey, me and you to the death” I affirmed. Well Bluey’s face lit up and he smiled like I had never seen before.

Well for the record, Bluey went off, scored a century and we won the game. Me I batted as asked and got 25, my highest score then out and Stephen helped Bluey to win the game.

Me and Bluey had a bond after that, a bond that could not be broken, it was special, one magic day, one magic day.

Hungs Wide World of Shorts

Pic by Warrigal
Pic by Warrigal

Lillie approaches from the Vulture Street End, Boycott pads up, its bowled him, Boycott’s off stump knocked out of the ground, no shot offered, can you believe that……”, the lounge room roars into action, grown men cry, dogs bark, people flood the street tossing hats in the air rejoicing, backs are slapped, beers are poured, babies are conceived, this is summer this is cricket, this is heaven, their best batsman bowled without offering a shot, life doesn’t get any better than this, ah yes, cricket where the only thing better than cricket is more cricket.

Yes cricket, the one true national game. Forget your football codes cricket is life and life is cricket. Understanding cricket is easy. Get more runs then they do, simple. Nothin’ too hard bout that. And yes the culture, the joy, the atmosphere, its quasi-religious and coming from an atheist that’s saying something.

As a kid growing up in Wollongong all my mates played cricket and for me batting, bowling or fielding I couldn’t care less, just playing the game was all I needed. Weekends were cricket in the juniors Saturday morning, Grade in the afternoon. Sunday morning surf then when the nor’easter came in cricket in the park with me mates. Mum had to come and get me for tea as the sun had set ages ago. She’d call out from the street “Mark, get home, it’s as black as, tea’s on the table, how can you see that ball anyhow?”, “But Mum, a century beckons”, I always wondered why mum called me Mark when my name’s Hung, anyway some thing’s are a mystery.

My Dad, an Englishman tolerating us colonials, would get the bus to the bottom of Bulli Pass then from the roadside would hold up a sign “SCG”,

Pic by Warrigal
Pic by Warrigal

someone would always pull over and give him a lift. I was too young to go along at first but then my initiation came, the SCG, the hallowed turf, the smell of the freshly cut grass, the crowd, the banter between the Poms and the Aussies, always witty, never violent or abusive and supporters of both sides could sit together and barrack for their team. Mum would pack ham and mustard sandwiches and Dad would shout an ice cream, bliss.

Then as a young man going to the test with my mates, eskies full of beer, pies and hotdogs, hot chips and seagulls. Doug Walters would stride out and the crowd would erupt, “Dougie, Dougie” we’d chant. If he got a boundary the noise was deafening, all of us would rise as one, “You bewdy”. Then tragedy, Dougie caught in the covers, “Poms can’t field, how’d they catch that “.

Then as I aged a bit more and the Hill disappeared and my brother-in-law, Brad, and I would sit in the stands. One birthday, which falls in January, somewhere between the 4th and the 6th, hint hint, we went to the SCG and watched India play, Azzarudin, mate, me and Brad wanted to make him an honorary Aussie, he was brilliant. But it was against the Poms that was best, the old dart, the mother country, those were the days.

Tutu and I moved to Adelaide in the eighties and loved it. 15 minutes to the oval, no rain, 5 days of heaven. Saw the mighty West Indies, Adam Gilchrist, V.V.S Laxman, Wasim Akram and the graceful Brian Lara. In the first few years here, Tutu would bring books to the game to read but it gets hot in summer, 40 plus, so now she drops me at the Oval and goes on a spending spree on my credit card, I mean am I a winner or what.

So for those that don’t understand cricket, don’t worry. Just pretend you like it or compromise like Tutu and read a book, enjoy the fresh air, the sun, the community, being as one with total strangers, the total boredom, applauding your opponent for good play, all of these things are cricket and oh yes check the scoreboard occasionally.