Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Charlie Hipkin

Asked me to write this, so here I go. It's now been about two months since the big Aussie (who's actually English apparently) departed the motherland and headed back to Alcatraz's big brother. So, in this blog I'm gona try to recount some of the better times with him.
It makes sense to start at the start, so we'll begin with the first time we crossed paths. The big time cricket sensation that I am, in May last year I rocked up to play for Camberley third XI at a recreational ground behind a leisure centre in Woking. The team was a shambles - we were under the joint captaincy of Richard Faulkner and Nigel Crowdy, we had Ben Hill behind the stumps and had two people I'd never met before in the team. One of those people I didn't really speak to and never saw again, but the other was some big bloke who I'd been told I was sharing the new ball with.
So I went up to him and introduced myself and he said his name was Charlie. We spoke for a few minutes and then I asked, 'so how old are you? 25?'
'Nah mate, I'm 18,' came the response. I couldn't believe it, but there you go. Charlie got his first wicket fairly quickly, although as he's six foot three and hit the guy on the thigh pad, I'm not sure the decision of LBW was strictly correct. He also made 23 with the bat, but unfortunately for him, I was the hero of the day, taking four wickets and making 14 not out to save the game along with Iron Man Nige.
Later on in the season, during which time we'd struck up a good friendship, I was given the task of picking Charlie up on a Saturday morning before the day's games. So I turned up at whatever time in the morning to find him rather flustered. He trogged out of the building he was living in, dragging his bag with one hand and carrying his whites with the other. I can't remember the exact details, but essentially he'd only just taken his whites out of the washing machine, and hadn't had enough time to put them in the tumble drier. Absolutely sopping wet.
I had an idea. This idea meant the entire 30-minute journey back to the club from Windsor saw white garments flapping out of the windows of my car, in a desperate attempt to dry them on the wind. Sadly it had no effect. Charlie laid them out on the patio in the sun, but I don't think that worked either. Nothing worse than putting on wet clothes.
Another point in the season saw the game which Charlie is still recounting, and provides the rest of us with a specific line to remember him by. I wasn't at the game, however the goings on have been drummed into everyone so much that I sometimes think I can actually remember being there. I've no idea who Camberley were playing, or who won, or even how many runs Charlie scored, but I do know one thing.
"Mate...did you know that I hit four sixes and lost two balls?" Yes Charlie, I did know that, you told me earlier. And yesterday. And last week.
From that point on, no matter what was achieved by anyone, "Yeah but did you hit four sixes and lose two balls?" was the response. Superb banter.
Another thing that needs a quick mention happened in a game that was otherwise very disappointing and poor from a CCC perpective. Playing Staines and Laleham in the Development League, following a largely dismal batting performance, lit up only by Sam Holmes and Alex Boorman as far as I remember, we took to the field.
The point of interest came when I was fielding at fine leg and the ball came my way. I stopped it adequately enough, but my throw in to Charlie, who was keeping, was slightly undercooked. Charlie, in prime position behind the stumps ready to take the bails off if necessary, realised my throw wasn't going to reach him so took a step forward. Perfectly acceptable, you might think. Well, yes, apart from the fact that Charlie either forgot, or didn't realise, that he was behind the stumps. So, in attempting to move towards the ball, all the lumbering Aussie managed to do was boot the stumps, trip up and fall flat on his face. Cue howls of laughter from me and everyone else. A rare high point on an otherwise frustrating day.
Other highlights for me were going to watch Man Utd - Newcastle, and especially Aston Villa - Arsenal. The latter game was particularly good, although the day had an almost catastrophic subplot which just added to the banter. As we were cruising up the M40 at about 9am in preparation for a 1245 kick off in Birmingham, my car suddenly lost power. At first I thought it was cos I was driving on a snowy part of the road and the tyres had lost grip, but as I moved into the middle lane and still got no response, the realisation dawned on me. I'd run out of petrol.
As we pulled over onto the hard shoulder, I sat there in disbelief whilst Charlie pissed himself laughing. Luckily, for once in my life, we were considerably early, so even after the hour and a half delay, we still arrived in Birmingham an hour before kick off. Not so luckily, the ordeal cost £138. But even so, walking down the hard shoulder of the M40 in the snow with one of your best mates is a memorable experience. Then for the game to be as good as it was meant the day was a success.
Less of a success was going to Wembley to watch England play Montenegro. The less said about that the better I think, although Wembley is still awesome. Another good match was QPR - Watford, where the Hornets produced arguably their best display of the season against a previously unbeaten Rangers side.
Another special memory for me is when Sam and I went up to Watford to get the specially made shirt as Charlie's leaving present. Having already tried twice to get to Watford by myself, but failed due to weather and traffic conditions on the M25, finally getting the shirt just before Charlie caught the plane home was a relief. But the best was yet to come.
Sam and I had agreed to meet Charlie near where he lived for a quick drink and one last chat before he left, but little did he know that we had a surprise for him. Upon arrival, I hid round a corner with the shirt, while Sam bantered about how I'd had to go home. Just as Charlie approached, I stepped out, carefully holding the shirt so he'd only see the front of it when he took it off me.
The look on his face was one of pure joy, but it was nothing compared to when he turned it around. On the back read his famous line about hitting four sixes and losing two balls, carefully positioned so to look half-decent. It was clear Charlie was very happy with the present, which made sitting on the M25 for hours on end instantly worthwhile. The three of us proceeded to a nearby pub where we had a couple of drinks before a photo or two, and manhug and the goodbyes.
All that remains to be said is that we all cannot wait for your return mate, whenever that may be.

If anyone reads this and has any particular memories they want to relive, feel free to comment. No doubt I've forgotten something obvious.
Here are a few brief ones.
The day we bowled a team out for 59 and lost.

Getting in the car after the Man Utd - Newcastle game at 2215 and still sitting in traffic at 0100.
Being 73-6 chasing 177 to win, me due in at 9 and not getting a bat cos you and Dibs put on 104 to win the game.
Specialist third man.
I am massive.
I never drop outfield catches.
"Harry Stephens can't really have the best regard for me cos the first time he saw me play I let through shitloads of byes and was out first ball."

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