1973: A playing field. Important? Really?

Friday 1st June 1973

Diary entry

School Bus from end of the road.

Registration Options for next year. Dropping German, Biology, and craft choices. Doing Engineering Drawing and French, Physics and Chemistry. No music or Art or R.E. Doing Geography and History.

Period 1 English Mr Dennis Play auditions for the Car.

Period 2 Maths Mr Chamberlain Algebra

Break Library Duty Sorting my shelves, Q to R. Read a bit of Swallows and Amazons

Period 3 Geography. Student Teacher. Southampton

Period 4 Music Mr Pullin Composing on the Glockenspiel again.


Period 5 Woodwork. Mr Langman Making a tie rack

Period 6 Metalwork Mr Pike. Knurling the handle of the screw driver.

Bus home

Paper round


Ride bike to Pilning

Football in playing field with Greener, Nunny, Studs, Arnie, Humph, Denzil, Nigel G, Tim H, Chip H, Fuzzy F, Mas, Big Mas, Choke

Watched Cricket practice.

Bike home in the dark.

Homework Maths and English exercises. Geography, Wrote about double tides in Southampton water.


I was getting very bored with Severn Beach life and so called fun of living in a seaside resort without any sea or much of a resort. I was tending to move my friendship circle towards Pilning. The playing field there was to become my second home for a few years. If I was bored I would now get on my bike, ride up the then country lanes to Pilning, and be guaranteed that there would be someone around for a game of football or just a chat. The circle of people who went to meet in the field seemed so much easier to me. There were boys and girls who wouldn’t give me any hassle of either macho or girlfriend type.

On a Friday evening the cricket club would hold practice sessions. Deborah Humphries was one of the circle of friends in the school field and her Dad Vernon played for the club and opened the batting. It was Debbie who suggested I go and talk to the people at the club about playing for the team. It took me several weeks to pluck up the courage to do so but eventually I walked across the field and asked if it would be o.k. to join in their practice sessions. I say I did, but I think it was probably Debbie who did all the talking and for that I am ever grateful. The club had some legendary local names playing at the time. They were however, somewhat older than me and some in the final years of playing for the club. The names included:-

Roly Pitcher, Verity Small, Ivor Clarke, Glyn Williams, Vernon Humphries, Peter Kingscott, Ivor Humphries, Don Baker, Colin Reeves, Adrian Webb, Kevin Lewis, Richard Hodge, Ron Howse and Don Nunn..

It wasn’t until the 18th of July that year that I first played for the club. I am not sure I was particularly welcome or trusted as reliable to play. I was, more importantly, available and keen. I did some scoring for the team in the meantime. Tom Hooper was an old friend of my family and was the regular scorer. He was more than happy to let me give him a break and help with the book or board. It had also helped that I had been scoring for the Severn Beach team for a few years and knew what to do without much instruction. What didn’t help was my opinion of the players they had in the team that I watched. To be truthful it was past its best and struggling to get out the numbers to keep going. The club needed an injection of youthful talent and in the next few years our group of mates were to give it some new faces. If I was to give my opinion at the time only Vernon and Don Baker could really bat well and only Colin Reeves would give me a hard time when he bowled. I wouldn’t of course get much of a chance to prove it and definitely didn’t voice it. That season, and for a few more that followed, my chances came as a number eleven who had to prove he could keep his wicket and dead bat his way up the order. I learned a lot very quickly playing in men’s cricket at this age. Ivor Clarke, the veteran wicketkeeper, wanted me to throw it harder and flatter. I wanted to throw it safer and accurately. Don Baker wanted me to hit it off the square by going across the line and hooking. I wanted to stroke it into the gaps and look stylish. I didn’t score many at first, but would often be not out. Pete Kingscott would tell me I was rubbish. I would secretly suggest he was well past it. Ron Howse was my mother’s cousin and could bowl accurately. He also was of the school that thought I was far too young to be playing for such a great club. In the mid-sixties the old boys were a good local side that would win at a decent level.  By 1973 they were living off their memories. Then again, don’t we all think we were better than we actually were?


The Roller in the compost heap

I walked through the field yesterday. The square is just about noticeable as a raised table, but one would need to know where to look. The pavilion is long gone but Kev’s mower shed survives as does the concrete practice strip that runs under an out of place container next to the village hall. A roller is buried deep within a large patch of stinging nettles. In the long hot summer of 1976 we had to resurrect the use of that roller. In school we made a new bung and filled the roller with water to a level that made it very heavy to move. Rolling the pitch became a Friday evening team exercise before funds allowed Kevin to get a motorised version. I suggest it has been abandoned to the field compost heap because it is now impossible to move. As a roller it may have been heavy but it was chipped in places and probably did more harm than good to the square. The stinging nettles also give the location of Kevin’s better prepared topsoil. The Kevin here is Kevin Lewis, son of Mr Lewis the schoolteacher. Kevin was the man who kept the club going by looking after the square and field for so many years. He opened the batting and scored plenty of runs. He was everything that was good about that club.

This small part of Pilning was the place of many firsts in the next five years; 1973 -1978. I am willing to admit to the following:-

  • The first dance with a girl. No I am not going to tell you her name. It did involve some 10cc and “I’m not in Love” which dates it at 1975.
  • The first kiss with a girl. Not the same as above and I am still not telling but it did occur in a disco at the village hall. It appeared that all of Patchway School had walked down the railway line to join in the fun at our village hall. It was probably a birthday party, that party probably for Debbie H. It did not lead on to me having a girlfriend.
  • The first walk home of a girl after a disco. Different again but from the same village hall and met with an indifference to the whole experience that left me totally free to play sport without worrying about any sort of commitment to what was the then alien sex.
  • The first beer. Not out of a can on the field, but at the cricket club. It was a very safe environment to learn how to drink. My money was limited so I couldn’t get drunk. There were plenty of people who would happily tell my parents if I was stupid as a result. It was also the thing to do after a game. The club survived on the proceeds of the bar. Who was I to suggest I could play and not contribute to its survival? Aged 14 Watney’s Starlight it was then.
  • The first experience of being drunk. Not the same as above but at the club. The club had a ritualistic clearing of the stock at the end of the year. The bar would close over the winter and everything had to go. That November night, aged 18, so legal, we cleared the bar and I went to my sister’s house in Wainbridge Crescent, I intended to sleep there unnoticed and without evidence of my talkative state. I didn’t even get up the stairs before returning the contents of my stomach to the open air and their carpet.
  • The first game of men’s cricket. July 1973 V Blagdon. This is detailed elsewhere in this Blog series here
  • The first hundred V Patchway Sunday XI 16th July 1978 105 Not Out.

pilning cc 50s

A question, the answer to which I do not know. This is a Pilning team of earlier vintage. can anyone name the players?

Also on this date

1985       Great Brickhill W 34

1991       Winslow Town H LD 14

1993       Abbey National H L 2

1994       Eggington H W

2009       Worcestershire

2011       Essex

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