Magazine article The Spectator

Mid-Life Midsummer Madness

Magazine article The Spectator

Mid-Life Midsummer Madness

Article excerpt

ZIMMER MENby Marcus Berkmann Little, Brown, £16.99, pp. 212, ISBN 0316728381 . £14.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848

Many things lead to addiction and obsessiveness, even madness, but one of the most surprising, and lasting, is cricket.

You don't even have to be any good (I know); it can still take over too much of your life.

Marcus Berkmann, a writer (how he finds time to write anything during the summer is a puzzle) is no great shakes at the game. His account of his annual batting-average varies, but he never claims even to approach double-figures. At university he and other cricket failures founded a necessarily doomed team called, with student gallows-humour, the Captain Scott Invitation XI. Berkmann wrote a book about this team's misadventures called Rain Men. ('A very funny book about some very sad men, ' Ian Hislop. ) It seems that in the end they all grew to loathe each other so much - obsession plus competitiveness is near-lethal - that a breakaway team was formed later, called, with slightly more sophisticated gloom, the Rain Men. Of this team Berkmann was captain, therefore playing every match, and fixtures secretary, therefore on the telephone all winter and summer. Obsessive? No, crackers.

Time passes, prowess declines, if indeed there ever was any prowess; hair recedes and girths expand, so now we have the title of this rueful book, because the addiction is undiminished by time or by obvious absurdity. Invited to take part in some far-flung game, a fellow mad philosopher e-mails: 'It would be so staggeringly pointless (especially if I get a duck) that it has to be worth doing. …

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