Magazine article The Spectator

Better Than Chocolate

Magazine article The Spectator

Better Than Chocolate

Article excerpt

FATTY BATTER : HOW CRICKET SAVED MY LIFE (THEN RUINED IT)by Michael Simkins Ebury Press, £10.99, pp. 314, ISBN 9780091901509 . £8.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Surely the most sought after among what Lord David Cecil described as 'The Pleasures of Reading' (a lecture title that lured John Betjeman in the expectation of a paean to the architectural delights of Berkshire's county town) is the moment when an author articulates a feeling that you imagined was peculiar to yourself, expresses an emotion that you have carefully suppressed. In Michael Simkins's extremely enjoyable memoir of his lifelong obsession with the 'summer game', this moment occurred on the very first page where he confesses to constantly making the evocative sound of a cricket ball hitting a bat.

Having practised the same strange habit ('like some sporting Tourette's sufferer') since boyhood myself, this was literally the click of recognition.

In the early 1960s, young Simkins, son of a sweetshop proprietor in Brighton, would have incurred the displeasure of today's 'childhood obesity' gauleiters. As a goalkeeper in his primary school playground he tended to focus on his bar of Cadbury's Walnut Crinkle rather than the ball. Then, in the summer of 1966, came what he happily doesn't describe as 'an epiphany' -- for, as What's My Motivation? , his jolly romp about the actor's life, showed, Simkins is far too down to earth for such flights of fancy.

No, thank God, not the ruddy footer World Cup, but the magnificent sight of Colin Milburn (who 'seems an amalgamation of every fat kid who has ever sat in the corner of a school changing-room having gym shoes thrown at him by his classmates') battering the West Indian fast bowlers. As the author writes, 'I may be only ten, but I can spot a role model when I see one. He's not only fantastic at sport, but is obviously no stranger to a tub of Quality Street. …

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