16 The Daily Telegraph Tuesday 14 July 2020 *** Sport Final whistle huge source of solace”. He enjoyed eavesdropping on his fellow spectators, he laughed for the first time since his wife’s death watching a bloke attempting to negotiate his way across the Scarborough outfield during a lunch break juggling several pints, only to collide with someone playing Frisbee. In truth, though, cricket worked for him largely because it is a minority spectator pursuit. If he needed space to be alone with his thoughts, he could always find splendid isolation somewhere in the ground. And yet, while he found going to the cinema on his own only heightened his sense of loneliness, at the cricket he never felt alone. “The thing about going to cricket on your own is that it doesn’t matter: you are among fellow loners. Nobody affords you a second glance and you don’t feel conspicuous,” he writes. What is more, in this unique environment where he could be in company, but separate, he found the game a marvellous, steadfast companion. “Cricket didn’t talk back to me, it didn’t offer advice. It didn’t tell me what to do or how to feel. It was just there for me.” Clearly, he would never be unfaithful to his darling Vikki, but what Ridley has written in his wonderful book is a love letter to the game. And he is not exaggerating its healing possibilities. The opportunity county cricket offers for contemplation and reflection should never be underestimated. This summer, as the game retreats behind Covid-enforced closed doors, you can only wonder how many others are missing out on the sort of comfort he found in its rhythms. Indeed, Ridley’s book should be compulsory reading at the England and Wales Cricket Board. This is a work that offers heartfelt proof that, for many people, county cricket, the format the so-called custodians of the game seem determined to undermine, properly matters. Jim White Cricket’s power to heal a broken heart A ‘Cricket didn’t talk back to me. It didn’t tell me what to do or how to feel. It was just there for me’ fter he lost his wife to cancer, one of the many consequences for Ian Ridley was a debilitating insomnia. He would lie awake at night, his head filled with a cocktail of pain. But, as his grief spiralled, there was one thing from which he could draw comfort: at least he was much mourned in her profession. Her funeral was attended by 500 people, including many sporting heroes who counted themselves less as subjects of her work, more as friends. However, while the sporting world missed her humour, her kindness, her vivacity ... for her husband the pain was on another level entirely. In Ridley’s just-published account of his loss, he chronicles what he describes as “the insanity of grief ”. At times, it makes for a hard read: not long after her funeral, for instance, plagued by panic attacks, anxiety and irrational jealousy, he concluded it would be easier not to press on. But then he found cricket. Or rather, he found another side to it. He and his wife both loved the game: when her illness was diagnosed as terminal, they booked to go to Antigua to watch England play West Indies; a trip, sadly, they never got to make because her condition deteriorated. So, in his first summer alone, he drew up an itinerary of grounds they had visited together. Everywhere he went, he encountered memories of her. One chapter recalls a drive up to Scarborough for a Yorkshire game in which every motorway junction he passes reminds him of destinations associated with her. It is a heart-rending read, imagining him heading north, the tears falling on his steering wheel. Ridley did find some respite elsewhere. He developed an enthusiasm for cut flowers that might have challenged Elton John. He played over and again music they both loved. He committed to memory whole passages of C S Lewis’s But it was county cricket that became what he describes as “a spending his daytime in a place where he could nod off and nobody would notice. Because he passed much of the summer after his wife’s death watching county cricket. Vikki Orvice, Ridley’s wife, died in February last year. A pioneering sports journalist with a smile so bright it could illuminate a day/night match at Lord’s, she was New love affair: County venues like Scarborough would afford Ian Ridley the opportunity to recall happy memories with his wife Vikki (below) The Breath of Sadness, A Grief Observed.
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