A Day At Lord’s by A. A. Milne

When one has been without a certain pleasure for a number of years, one is accustomed to find on returning to it that it is not quite so delightful as one had imagined. In the years of abstinence one had built up too glowing a picture, and the reality turns out to be something much more commonplace. Pleasant, yes; but, after all, nothing out of the ordinary. Most of us have made this discovery for ourselves in the last few months of peace. We have been doing the things which we had promised ourselves so often during the war, and though they have been jolly enough, they are not quite all that we dreamed in France and Flanders. As for the negative pleasures, the pleasure of not saluting or not attending medical boards, they soon lose their first freshness.

Yet I have had one pre-war pleasure this week which carried with it no sort of disappointment. It was as good as I had thought it would be. I went to Lord’s and watched first-class cricket again.

There are people who want to “brighten cricket.” They remind me of a certain manager to whom I once sent a play. He told me, more politely than truthfully, how much he had enjoyed reading it, and then pointed out what was wrong with the construction. “You have two brothers here,” he said. “They oughtn’t to have been brothers, they should have been strangers. Then one of them marries the heroine. That’s wrong; the other one ought to have married her. Then there’s Aunt Jane–she strikes me as a very colourless person. If she could have been arrested in the second act for bigamy— And then I should leave out your third act altogether, and put the fourth act at Monte Carlo, and let the heroine be blackmailed by– what’s the fellow’s name? See what I mean?” I said that I saw. “You don’t mind my criticizing your play?” he added carelessly. I said that he wasn’t criticizing my play. He was writing another one–one which I hadn’t the least wish to write myself.

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And this is what the brighteners of cricket are doing. They are inventing a new game, a game which those of us who love cricket have not the least desire to watch. If anybody says that he finds Lord’s or the Oval boring, I shall not be at all surprised; the only thing that would surprise me would be to hear that he found it more boring than I find Epsom or Newmarket. Cricket is not to everybody’s taste; nor is racing. But those who like cricket like it for what it is, and they don’t want it brightened by those who don’t like it. Lord Lonsdale, I am sure, would hate me to brighten up Newmarket for him.

Lord’s as it is, which is as it was five years ago, is good enough for me. I would not alter any of it. To hear the pavilion bell ring out again was to hear the most musical sound in the world. The best note is given at 11.20 in the morning; later on it lacks something of its early ecstasy. When people talk of the score of this or that opera I smile pityingly to myself. They have never heard the true music. The clink of ice against glass gives quite a good note on a suitable day, but it has not the magic of the Lord’s bell.

As was my habit on these occasions five years ago, I bought a copy of The Daily Telegraph on entering the ground. In the ordinary way I do not take in this paper, but I have always had a warm admiration for it, holding it to have qualities which place it far above any other London journal of similar price. For the seats at Lord’s are uncommonly hard, and a Daily Telegraph, folded twice and placed beneath one, brings something of the solace which good literature will always bring. My friends had noticed before the war, without being able to account for it, that my views became noticeably more orthodox as the summer advanced, only to fall away again with the approach of autumn. I must have been influenced subconsciously by the leading articles.

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It rained, and play was stopped for an hour or two. Before the war I should have been annoyed about this, and I should have said bitterly that it was just my luck. But now I felt that I was indeed lucky thus to recapture in one day all the old sensations. It was delightful to herald again a break in the clouds, and to hear the crowd clapping hopefully as soon as ever the rain had ceased; to applaud the umpires, brave fellows, when they ventured forth at last to inspect the pitch; to realize from the sudden activity of the groundsmen that the decision was a favourable one; to see the umpires, this time in their white coats, come out again with the ball and the bails; and so to settle down once more to the business of the day.

Perhaps the cricket was slow from the point of view of the follower of league football, but I do not feel that this is any condemnation of it. An essay of Lamb’s would be slow to a reader of William le Queux’s works, who wanted a new body in each chapter. I shall not quarrel with anyone who holds that a day at Lord’s is a dull day; if he thinks so, let him take his amusement elsewhere. But let him not quarrel with me, because I keep to my opinion, as firmly now as before the war, that a day at Lord’s is a joyous day. If he will leave me the old Lord’s, I will promise not to brighten his football for him.

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