He keeps farmer’s hours. I keep the hours of students, actors and street-walkers. His inner alarm goes off at 6am. I require a clock with the decibel level of a fire alarm, timed for Thought for the Day. He likes tea in the morning. I like coffee. He likes shepherd’s pie and apple crumble. I like leg of lamb infused with rosemary and garlic and celeriac gratin. He likes spring, when all the world is fresh and new and full of hope. I like autumn, when the wheat is in the grain store, the grapes are turning into wine, and Nature stays put for a while.
He answers letters, pays bills, fills out forms. He does these things on time. I put things off until one duty treads on the heels of another and I have no peace. He isn’t interested in worldly goods. My tendency to acquire books, pictures, quilts, dishes, rugs, bags for life, candlesticks, cushions, stones, shells, feathers, hats-drives him crazy.
Three things enchant him: English partridges, wildflower meadows and the game of cricket. I like sidewalks, taxis, bookshops, art galleries, Pret A Manger, antique shops (more brocante than precious). And yet, he belongs to the London Library and the MCC, I belong to the Red Poll Cattle Society and the Slow Food movement.
He listens to the Test match on a Roberts radio that crackles like the wireless in Dancing at Lughnasa. I listen to Sean Rafferty on Radio 3, on a Bose radio that I paid for in instalments.
He is an optimist, who believes that man’s common sense and innate goodness will triumph in the end. I am a pessimist, who suspects that good doesn’t outweigh evil, love will not conquer all, that at the 11th hour, the planet will not be saved by an international treaty.
He took a rare day off to go to Lord’s for the Test match. I stayed home to look after a problem with the drains and the cow with mastitis. He is modest in his pleasures. I am philanthropic towards the pleasures we don’t share, even the long season of the Test match. He watches the replays each evening. I drink wine and read The New Yorker.
I believe that cricket, like Italian, is a language best learned in childhood. Like buon giorno and cappuccino, I have mastered a few words-wickets, centuries-but the scoring leaves me as lost as Tosca in the original. Although I know that Henry Blofeld is called Blowers, that cake is discussed as intently as leg-breaks, I couldn’t pass the cricket test.
He is a patriotic Englishman who wants Pakistan to win. He looks at footage of the biblical floods that have left millions homeless and destroyed the year’s harvest, and sends a cheque to Merlin, the medical emergency team. He wants the people of Pakistan to have the sliver of happiness that victory on the sacred ground of Lord’s will bestow. He watches in amazement the incomparable Mohammad Amir, aged 18. The young bowler’s brilliance leaves him speechless. I find the phrase ‘four wickets in eight balls for no runs’ incomprehensible. On Sunday, I learn the meaning of ‘spot fixing’ and ‘no balls’.
He feels bad for the cricket-loving people of Pakistan, who now have shame added to their sorrows. He’s also unhappy because this English victory feels hollow, although spot-fixing doesn’t necessarily affect a game’s outcome. I feel fury at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, because we’ve been here before -it’s the same tabloid that set up the entrapment of the Duchess of York.
He hopes that the scandal will stop the corruption that plagues cricket, football and other sports, believes that the game is up for men arriving with bags of cash. I suspect it will only end ‘no balls’, what in baseball is called a ‘foul’. He is sad for the damage this has done to his beloved cricket. I am sad because he is sad. Call it married love.