The hay is in and it’s time for cricket. That has been the way in these parts for as many as five hundred years: cider, cheese sandwiches the size of doorsteps and a game of cricket while everyone waits for the harvest to ripen. Lazy days indeed.
But the Squire still likes to get a few hours work out of his hands and so last week Third Man was sent to the stables to have a good clear out.
“Sort through all that old cricket gear, TM, and have Knight come down to see what it’s worth.”
Well, there were bats of all shapes and sizes, balls of great antiquity, boxes of boxes, even those once sported by wicket-keepers which protected the greater part of the abdomen from the fearsome edge taken standing up, boots made from the finest kangaroo and gloves that wound round the digits with the complexity of a cat’s craddle.
There was even a sight-board or as they say now a sight-screen.
In fact this antique, an image of which is displayed above, was the first sight-board to be constructed in these parts; a period piece from the mid ‘50s.
Thought unsporting by many for whom the random passing of an inexperienced house guest was considered to be all part of the game, such screens were shunned by the Cognoscenti.
However, the Squire, ever the innovator, wouldn’t hear of it and had one knocked up by Cartwright, using canvas and timber taken from the hulk of HMS Reductable, and painted by a long forgotten visitor who had made the mistake of coming clean, at breakfast, that he was interested in the technical aspects of painting and its materials.
Third Man had to admit that the old screen scrubbed up well and was wondering whether it might be brought back into service for Twenty20 if given a coat of black paint. In fact the Squire had sanctioned this plan which was about to be effected when Mr Knight arrived.
Spurning the 1747 Winchester bat which TM thought might be the find of the assorted paraphernalia, Knight made straight for the sight-board.
“Wouldn’t do that Third Man. I may be mistaken, but I think that’s a Ryman. We’d have to check of course. Isn’t Crispin from Sotherby’s playing here at the weekend? He’s your man for Rymans.”
So, the black paint was put away and the arrival of Mr Crispin on Friday afternoon was a cause of some excitement.
“Yes, yes, Knight was right. It’s an early Ryman. Does Your Grace recall anything about the young visitor?
“Well, I recall he was attached to the American army and doing something secret up on the Hill. Said he was keen on cricket, so we thought we’d give him a game. Turned out to be one of those jazz saxophonist type of cricketers. Rather too keen to keep his fingers out of harms way to be much good, so, apart from entertaining the ladies after dinner, he was a bit of a flop. Oh and he put a coat of white paint on the screen that I thought we should provide at this end of the ground.”
Third Man helpfully recalled that the young American was engrossed in the Rothko that the Squire had just aquired at that time.
“You’re right TM and the de Kooning in the West Wing. He’ll be in the guest book if you’re looking for provenance, Crispin. Another of those minimalists I suppose.”
“Actually, he describes himself more as a non-illusionist. Keen to present his materials at their face value – in this case as a sight-board.”
“Interesting notion, Crispin: a real and substantial object, not itself made to be regarded, but a thing that makes something else more visible.”
The Guest Book indeed revealed the name, Robert Ryman and in a section inviting comments he had written, “Cricket does not exist independently as a thing or a game, but exists in relationship. The meaning of cricket depends not only on the interaction between the players, but on cricket’s relationship with place and with the spectator. It is the interaction that initiates the experience.”
“Can’t think why we missed that at the time, TM,” mused the Squire.
“Are you sure we’ve got it the right way round?” inquired Third Man.