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Laurence Inman’s Blog

TESTING TIMES

06-08-2009

So who is that phantom marathon runner who jogs past Edgbaston every time a Test Match is on? None other than Laurence Inman, who takes comfort in a chance encounter.

Every year since 1981 I have made a point of ensuring that my run takes me past Edgbaston during the Test March.

Don’t ask me why. It’s certainly not because I thought I’d be noticed by the telly and become a local character-celebrity-type-figure, an annual embellishment to the match, picked out by Richie Benaud as I trudged through the morning drizzle: ‘And here’s our old friend again, bang on time, flying round the corner from Pershore Road, still at it after all these years. If any viewers know the identity of....’

I do this especially when the Australians are playing. I can remember the roars for Botham’s bowling performance in that great year and for Gower’s enormous knock in 1985.

I did it three times last week. On Monday, the last day of the match, I was on my way back and had just reached the foot of the hill that leads up from the river to the Moor Green allotment site.

I like to really hit this, taking the first half fairly easily up to the end of the railings and then going ears-back eyeballs-out for the top half, trying to do it in twenty breaths. I’m a little over my ideal weight just now, and about to enter my seventh decade, but I think I’m doing okay.

I had to take a little rest at the bottom this time, though, because I was approached by a man, about my age or a few years older, carrying something large wrapped in a black bin-liner. He took it out to show me. It was a white polystyrene box, big enough to hold - well, I don’t know – a microwave cooker.

‘Would this take a coat of paint, do you think ?’

His accent was quite broad Irish, well west of Dublin, I’d say, although I am no expert in these matters.

Nor am I an expert on the chemical reactions involved in putting paint on various surfaces, and said so. He accepted this with equanimity.

‘I have this stray cat, you see, comes into the garden and shelters under a bush. I thought I’d make him a home. I found this in the skip at the top there.’

I didn’t mention that I’d also been raiding the same skip for laths, which I used to make a seeding-bed.

‘Should be just right,’ I said. ‘It’ll be warm and that stuff is quite strong.’

‘It’ll keep the rain out, will it ? It won’t rot away in the wet weather ?’

What was I doing during all those Chemistry lessons at school ?

‘No, certainly not.’

‘And I’ll have to cut a hole in it somewhere. In the top, do you think ?’

‘The top. Could do. Or the front here, up from the ground a bit to keep the wet out.’

And so we continued for another few minutes, two complete strangers discussing the welfare of a cat. And I hate cats.

People often chat to me like this. On three occasions I’ve been stopped by women who have had unpleasant things said to them by men. One even thought I was a copper. I’m glad that I appear safe and approachable in this way.

I take great comfort also from the fact that a man whose notion of normal human interaction, bred into him in rural Ireland perhaps, has not allowed life in a big English city to make him draw back into himself.

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