Keep taking the tablets

Every day I take levodopa, rasagiline, entacapone, carbidopa, propranolol, metformin, simvastatin, benserazide, clonazepam, rotigotine and a modest number of vitamin supplements. These amount to 19 tablets/capsules/patches usually at six timed intervals. That’s 133 a week, 6935 a year. Yes, count them.

Some are delivered to me in bottles, others in those infernal blister packs which seem to serve little purpose other than to destroy one’s nails. They certainly don’t make it easy.

And they come in pretty much every colour of the rainbow, albeit with a preponderance of white. My propranolol tablets are a rather fetching pink (usually – occasionally they are white thus making them indistinguishable from the amitriptyline tablets of the same dose and in identical packaging) and have the letters embossed on them although you would need the magnification of the Hubble space telescope to read them, so minuscule are they.

Two tablets, on the face of it identical, are apparently distinguishable as well. Clonazepam (pale whitish peach) and simvastatin (pale peachy white) I understand can be distinguished from each other by their embossed lettering. Clonazepam also has a kind of score mark down the middle. No chance of a drug error there then.

I’m told that you can have your daily tablets lovingly sealed into your own personal blister packs by your pharmacist should you so wish. Also, bearing in mind just had diabolically difficult blister packs can be, deliberately sequestering one’s medication into such an inaccessible format seems perverse.

Moreover the resulting blister packs (certainly those that I’ve seen) are virtually the size of an A4 document wallet. And secondly, as was the case this month, pharmacists make mistakes. In this case they managed to double the dose of one of my drugs. Oh well, that’s life (or death).

There are some medications where this makes little difference but in the case of others can have serious consequences. At the end of the day it is quite important to be able to distinguish your different drugs especially when, as in my case, there are so many.

There is also the psychology of colour to factor in. For example, drugs affecting the heart and circulation tend to be red, orange or yellow – bright colours for brighter days. Conversely drugs affecting the mind and brain tend to be more muted – muted purples and blues, perhaps hinting at the dark arts of psychopharmacology and neuropharmacology.

These are not just mere flights of fancy. The colours and shapes of tablets to reflect marketing considerations and integral part of the overall promotion [1]. A recent paper found that different shapes of tablet also has an effect on patient responses [2].

Of course little of this applies to generic drugs. Once a drug’s patent expires it is a free for all. Every Tom, Dick or Harry can make and market their own version of Sinemet. And they don’t have to make it even look like the original’s comforting pastel pink and baby blue capsules.

Generic drugs are a minefield in terms of regulation. But that’s for another day.

[1] Drug Tablet Design: Why Pills Come in So Many Shapes and Sizes.

[2] Olesya Blazhenkova, Kivilcim Dogerlioglu-Demi. The shape of the pill: Perceived effects, evoked bodily sensations and emotions. PLoS One. 2020; 15(9): e0238378. published online 2020 Sep 8. doi: 10.1371

DBS Diary 14 – airport security gates

As many of you know, I had a DBS operation (deep brain stimulation) a year ago which has given me a huge new lease of life. But you still have to be on the ball to avoid circumstances that will disable the apparatus.

It’s a party trick for many Parkies to switch off their DBS to demonstrate how quickly their symptoms, particularly tremor, return sometimes even to the extent of being unable to restart the device. I tend to eschew these kind of demonstrations – I’m not a performing seal despite my flappy fins. No exhibiti in a freakshow. I won’t perform for your entertainment.

A situation we DBS chappies are invited to avoid is that of the metal detectors used by airports. There have been occasions I gather when such devices have switched off cardiac pacemakers and, since the DBS system is fundamentally a brain pacemaker, one can reasonably suppose that the same might apply. With that in mind I’m quite belligerent about these portals.

Returning from Paris on the Eurostar last weekend I was faced with just such a scenario. Younger daughter waltzes through the portal without so much as a bleep or a ping. But no way am I going to do the same.

“S’il vous plait monsieur” I call out to the armed officer standing disinterested nearby. He strolls over languidly with a vague air of irritation at the Englishman who had torn him away from an interesting conversation with a very fetching female colleague.

“Monsieur?” he says

I point to the gate portal and say in what I think is pretty decent French when you consider the last lesson I had was nearly 50 years ago. “Je suis desolee mais je ne peut pas passer par ce porte la parce que j’ai un pacemaker” I gesture to my chest.

“stimulateur cardiaque”. I emphasise, leaving nothing to chance (and suddenly remembering the word).

“Pas de probleme, monsieur” he says and points to a small paragraph of text in French, English and German explaining that the portal is safe for people with pacemakers “in the majority of cases”.

Now, I don’t know about you but for me “the majority of cases” falls a little way short of the kind of reassurance I need in this situation. So I have to raise the stakes and it is at this point that I have a mental block and forget the word for doctor (which is of course ‘medecin’ as I recall a few minutes later) and substitute the halfway plausible ‘docteur’ which sounds like it could be right.

“Mon docteur m’a dit absolument pas” I say, throwing in an appropriate gesture of finality to emphasise the point.

Meanwhile, younger daughter turns round to see what the kerfuffle is all about. This confuses the customs man.

“Your docteur?” He says pausing briefly before his lightbulb moment “your daughter”. He points to my daughter. This confuses matters further.

“My daughter” I say abandoning all efforts at French “not my doctor”.

Younger daughter decides that we stand a better chance of getting through the gate if we fess up about the DBS.

“It’s not really a pacemaker “she begins, thereby immediately attracting the attention of the customs officials who now feel they have been misled. “It’s a brain pacemaker” she says and points to my head.

“zen ‘e can go through ze gate.” says the customs man.

Younger daughter shakes her head slowly for extra gravitas. “No” she says. “If he goes through this portal” she says suddenly and forcefully extending her arms widely “his head will explode “

“Pouf- just like that” she adds for emphasis.

Well-intentioned though her intervention doubtless is, it becomes immediately apparent that words like “explode” are not ones to use in the presence of security type people. Especially those who don’t speak English. And have guns.

There is a brief sound of holsters being unclipped, guns cocked. In what felt like a lifetime but was probably only a few seconds, the security guards realise that I am no threat to them (especially with an imminently exploding head). They offer to search me instead which seems a much more reasonable prospect. I immediately volunteer to be searched by the rather gorgeous blonde but in the end it is the rather rough and unshaven Neanderthal. Still, better than having an exploding head.

A small American child, behind us in the queue, is visibly disappointed. After all, an exploding head is not something you see every day. Even in America. Sorry lad, can’t help.

A message from the lettuce

“Today, as we say goodbye to Mrs Truss, we can be proud of our Tory MPs. For this, fellow vegetables, is not simply a victory for one iceberg lettuce. This is a victory for all lettuces – Lolo Rosso, friseee, endive, romaine and beyond. Indeed lettuces throughout the country can hold their heads high and be satisfied with work well done. Mrs truss has learnt the true strength of the salad lobby. No longer will lettuces be marginalised to small side dishes. Lettuces throughout the country can expect, nay demand, to be centre plate.

And it doesn’t stop at lettuces. Radishes, cherry tomatoes, sliced beans in vinaigrette can emerge from the shadows and take their rightful place on the dinnerplate. We have a right to speak under right to be heard.

The Tories have led the country for too long. It is time for salad items and vegetables in general to stand up and be counted. I believe we need a swift transition of power from Mrs Truss and her government and I will expect to appoint my cabinet within a week. This will be a cabinet without prejudice against minority groups and, yes, sprouts will be represented in this new government of vegetable unity as we move into the broad sunlit uplands of consensus politics. I thank you for your attention”.

Paxman, whining buffoon

Let me first explain to the non-British amongst you. Last night saw the broadcast of a supposed ‘documentary’ about Parkinson’s. So far so good. However this shed little light on the condition itself and rather more light on the presenter Jeremy Paxman, recently diagnosed with PD. Jeremy Paxman for those of you unaware of him, is a British news and current affairs sort of person renowned (if that is the word) for his aggressive combative interview style. Not everybody’s cup of tea then. Some of his interviews are legendary such as those in which he sought albeit unsuccessfully to bring then Home Secretary Michael Howard to account ( He has also hosted many episodes of University challenge (that’s Paxman not Howard) with a style as abrasive as Bamber Gascoigne was adulatory.

Paxman has of course, one imagines, rather cultivated this reputation and it’s probably the case that politicians generally deserve this kind of treatment more than in times of yore. Times change, politics change, our respect for them changes. In some ways we created Jeremy Paxman.

Okay enough of the preamble. Let’s get to the point. Parkinson’s is a cruel condition yet some people are somehow elevated by their Parkinson’s (Tom Isaacs springs to mind, Perry Cohen too), spurred on to great deeds, and able to somehow improve the lot of others not just themselves. Many others are, not surprisingly diminished by the condition, defeated even. Paxman is one of those, a man with little to say of the condition but an hour of prime-time television in which to do so.

Sure, complain about the condition and its many vicissitudes but to package a series of unrelated visual anecdotes into an hour ‘documentary’ about Paxman’s tribulations with Parkinson’s fell a little short of the mark. Did we really need to see him picking up faeces from his dog? And what was that entirely unprovoked outburst “Brian Blessed is a wanker” about? From what dark recess of Paxman’s mind did that emerge? More so, why was it left in by the editor? One moment we see Paxman surrounded by many books, a byword for scholarship, Renaissance man even. The next he is the pub bore, desperate for a laugh, or at least a reaction.

The program ultimately was a mishmash of separate little vignettes about Parkinson’s which ultimately did much less to illuminate the condition than one might have hoped. There were tantalising glimpses of a future both positive and negative punctuated largely by profanities from Paxman. I’m sorry Jeremy but I think you have diminished yourself in many people’s eyes. But at least the program wasn’t entirely irredeemable – we did get to hear about Joy Milne and her remarkable ability to detect Parkinson’s with her nose. Now there was real hope.

The call of the croissant

It is often enough said in the context of Parkinson’s that our past is gone, our future uncertain and therefore the only remaining reality upon which to cling is the present. We live for the moment, squeezing joy out of that toothpaste of misery.

That certainly applies to me. My friends and family often accuse me of wilful impulsivity. Accuse is perhaps too strong a word. But there is no doubt that my predilection for unusual and unexpected actions does sometimes wrongfoot them, leaving them wondering why and how. Take this morning for instance.

Actually let’s back up a bit to put everything in context. The pub in which I commonly imbibe, The Broken Arms, had a terrible week with barmaids falling like the casualties at Passchendaele. One by one they succumbed until, by Sunday, even Lady Eleanor and Amazing Grace had to concede defeat. This is not normally amongst my more successful or appropriate expressions to use with the fairer sex but it was the case that they “looked like death warmed up”. I suspect I’m no longer on either of their Christmas card lists because of this inappropriate transgression.

Eventually, more or less anyone who could pull a pint found themselves behind the bar. It was pretty much as I would imagine a World War I trench to be. Just step over the bodies. That sort of thing.

First thing Monday morning, I knew something was not right. A definite tickle at the back of the throat, my cheeks pink and my temperature rising sharply. By lunchtime, my temperature was now one of the reactor cores at Chernobyl, and my cheeks as red and inflamed as a baboon’s arse. Not pretty. I retired to bed.

Fortunately this particular bug, whatever the little blighter was but Covid it wasn’t, was one of those 48-hour types. I felt like death warmed up. My mouth and throat looked like one of the Lascaux cave paintings, only messier. Leaving aside the associated nausea and flatulence (I may have to destroy the mattress), the entire episode passed through my system like Hurricane Ian.

By this morning, the storm had passed and apart from a slight feeling of weakness and a sense that I had not really kept enough fluids down on the previous few days I felt fine. I woke early (around 4:30 AM as I recall), with an overwhelming and inexplicable hunger for croissants.

Under normal circumstances the ensuing chain of events would go something like this: awaken, yawn several times, be vaguely aware of pastry in some form, turn over and go back to sleep.

Occasionally a variant of this along the following lines might occur: awaken, a bit of yawning as before, stretch, extract myself from bedclothes and attempt to stand vertically, gingerly make my way downstairs, dazzled every few seconds by the newly installed motion sensitive lights. Find some of last night’s pasta on the side in the kitchen. Eat it, at the same time wondering why it tastes better now than it did when served six hours earlier. Continue to ponder this weighty matter as I head back upstairs and attempts to go back to sleep.

You will however notice that both of these activities involve waking up and going back to bed. None of them involve getting dressed, picking up money, car keys, a four pack of Red Bull and a McDonald’s sausage and egg muffin, and heading up to Maidstone to join the M20 to Folkestone, then the Channel Tunnel and France.

This one did.

And had it not been for my failure to pick up my passport would have ended even further from home. After a very brief flirtation with the idea of trying to see if my credit card served as a sufficient ID to get into France (it probably would have done pre-Brexit), I pulled over into a layby, switched off the engine and fell asleep. Couple of hours later and I was back at home, in bed and wondering if I had dreamt it.

The fast food wrapper and half drunk Red Bull proved otherwise. I have always been impulsive even before Parkinson’s but this was Royal impulsivity in velvet robes and ermine, encrusted with precious stones.

I spoke to Shel about it. She knows me better than practically anybody outside my family. I don’t think even she couldn’t quite believe it.

“You know” she said “you can get croissants in Britain”.

The Union Jack

Like most of the country, perhaps most of the world, I watched much of the coverage of Elizabeth II’s obsequies. It has to be said that we do this kind of pageantry, pomp and ceremony awfully well in this country. The music was well chosen and magnificent. Pipes and drums by the hundred. I have to confess a weakness for the skirl of the bagpipes, despite having not one drop of Scottish blood in my make up.

One can talk, and Hugh Edwards the BBC anchorman, did at some length of the symbolism of every last detail of the ceremony, down to the very flowerbeds from which the flowers for the wreath were chosen – three palaces no less! Nothing of the quick trip to the local garden centre here.

Over the last few decades the Union Jack has, to my mind, taken on along with the cross of St George, a darker edge, being so often misappropriated by right-wing groups and by sporting hooligans. Perhaps I’m oversensitive but these co-opted uses and associations of the Union Jack have made me uncomfortable. The flag was seen often as an aggressive image, inviting confrontation. Over the last few decades, this has been a gradual erosion of the more noble associations of the flag.

I think that changed yesterday. I think the Union Jack once more became a symbol of unification. The images of skinheads, hooligans and the worst kind of football tribalism were, with one great arc of pageantry, swept aside. The Union Jack became once more a proud symbol of the unification of kingdoms. Nothing could demonstrate better to the thug element how unwelcome they were. The Union Jack, once again, is a symbol of the best of us, the better angels of our nature. It is, once more flag I would feel comfortable flying.

The Queen has been perhaps our country’s best export, our best ambassador. With simple manners and a notion of service that few brought up in post-millennial Britain would understand, she has put forward the best face possible of the UK.

Reading the above you would probably conclude that I was an out and out royalist, prepared to throw down my life for my country. You would be wrong. If anything, my views are marginally in the direction of republican inasmuch as I reflect on these matters at all. But symbols are important as yesterday showed in abundance. In the space of nine hours, the union Jack once more became the symbol of the best of our country and not the worst. We have taken the flag away from the hooligans and thugs. It represents us once more, not them. Thank you your Majesty, thank you.

A beloved monarch

It was clear by early afternoon that this was not a simple health scare. The gathering at Balmoral of her children was clear indication that this was the final act of her Majesty’s life. Details were sketchy, as perhaps they should be, but ‘medical supervision’ is a bleak euphemism for pain relief and dignified management once the outcome is clear.

The formal announcement later in the afternoon was sombre, measured and simple. Her Majesty was as dignified in death as she was in life.

I find it difficult to express my feelings clearly. Perhaps I am, like much of the nation, experiencing my own personal recapitulation of bereavement. Certainly, I find myself reflecting on the death of my own mother and father and my feelings around that. And, at the end of the day, the Royal family are still a family first and foremost. Stiff upper lip extends only just so far.

Much has been said of her longevity, dignity, honesty and perpetuation of what might now be considered old-fashioned values. There is little I can add to what will undoubtedly be a torrent of analysis over the coming days and weeks. Wherever one’s political leanings lie, whether left or right, red or blue, they are today irrelevant. Whether monarchist or republican, let’s seek unity not division .

The clocks have stopped on one of the most remarkable reigns in history. But they have also brought to an end the life of a much loved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

The family needs time to grieve. And grieving rarely follows a timetable.

Across the river and into the trees

I have been a lucky man. Life has, thus far, been kind. Those may seem absurd sentences for someone who has had Parkinson’s for 16 years, type II diabetes and even a heart condition thrown in for good measure. A year ago I had neurosurgery to implant electrodes that would control my shaking hands and restless feet. Hardly the medical history of a lucky man you might think.

You would be wrong.

I often feel a fraud. I know many with Parkinson’s, crippled by the vicious tarantella of dyskinesias and the agony of dystonia. I know many whose nights are full of terrors, stalked by demons, prey to wild beasts. Or riding that ragged edge between sleep and dreams toward the gates of delirium. I know diabetics, models of compliance, entering their later years as amputees, their digits, one by one plucked from them by neuropathies, vascular insufficiencies too numerous to mention, and the blackening of sores and gangrene.

Were these afflictions to afflict me, I would doubtless rail against the injustice, the savagery and relentless onslaught of the condition. But instead the Almighty, by whatever pronouns you know him/her, has seen fit to give me more time to reflect.

Before L-dopa, life expectancy with Parkinson’s was six years from diagnosis. That would take me to 2012. I would not have seen my eldest musician daughter graduate from university let alone my younger children. No paediatric intensive care nurse. No skilled paramedic. I would have missed all of it, serving only as food for worms. And even within a life expectancy of six years, they would have been pretty grim. A slow waltz into darkness.

Worst of all, I would have missed the last series of Game of Thrones.

Primo Levi, in “The Drowned and the Saved” touched upon it in the apparently arbitrary murders in the WW2 concentration camps. The suicide rates amongst survivors of the death camps reflected their inability to reconcile their own survival against the extermination of many other similar individuals. This paradox drove many (the author included in all likelihood) to take their own lives, unable to understand their salvation in the context of the greater drowning.

Yet others, better patients than I, can write with authority about the screaming agonies of dystonia, the tarantella dance of dyskinesia and the many invisible symptoms of this sordid syndrome. Not me. I may preach from the same pulpit but my words if not my authority are carried away on the breeze.

I am not alone. I know of others who whether vocally or sotto voce, feel equally uncomfortable. Often in the aftermath of successful DBS, our bodies react to this liberation by making us feel guilty about advocacy. I can (but won’t) name friends who feel equally uncomfortable. So how do you speak to the “drowning” from the comparative security of the lifeboat.

If one of the central pillars of advocacy is the acknowledgement of experience, then we are muted. Yet I would argue that it is that transition from drowned to saved that is, in itself, informative.

So brothers and sisters, perhaps you should be the judge of this. Is my voice no longer relevant or meaningful. Do we press on in the hope of regaining our authority or do we, like Stonewall Jackson recognised the need to collect our thoughts once more and “cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees”.

In God’s Country

The platform was longer than he remembered. And, some four decades on, he was no closer to understanding why the station name should be that of another village. One so small it hardly ever featured on maps. A hamlet really.

A scorching hot day, the track rippling with mirages. Even the songbirds and crickets were quiet. With a perfunctory tap of his cane he turned. At least they haven’t moved the pub he thought. From the outside it all looked familiar. The Broken Arms – beer garden, satellite and wifi. And the bar had moved. Jack thought “I have been away too long. Too much has changed”.

He clattered coins on the bar, turned and, with a little incontinent splash of ale on the carpet, sat down with a crumpled sigh.

Zara knew better than to ask. It was just one of his ‘moods’, one of the times at home when he seemed to withdraw to a different place. Maybe even with a different girl. She often wondered.

“It’s all different” he murmured. “It’s not how I remember it”. She placed her hand ever so gently on his. He looked up for a moment. “I wanted it to be the same”.

“It’s been forty years I’ve been away” he thought “that’s half a lifetime. More to some”.

Even the beer had changed. No longer the yeasty froth of yesteryear. “Bloody chemistry kit now” he said aloud.

“Come again” asked the barmaid, her jade green, almost orange, eyes, all buttons and bows, fancy ties.

“Nothing” said Jack “Nowt. Nowt of ‘owt”. Even the words sounded stupid and untrue in his voice. Pastiche. Phony Yorkshire.

He was a phony Yorkshireman. He knew it and it didn’t fool Zara for one minute.

Jack grew up in Yorkshire or at least he thought he did. His comical absentmindedness, and Zara’s gentle ribbing, had long since given way to dementia. He took tablets for it, when he could remember.

That tickled him. “When I can remember”. Without his noticing, she would count his tablets to be sure none were unaccounted for. It started as a kindness but the years had made it a necessity. Sometimes he muddled one tablet with another. Sometimes he forgot altogether. She could tell those days. He hardly recognised her, withdrawn to his private world.

Mostly she saw him on Thursdays. She did his washing, tidied the kitchen and read from the newspaper when he couldn’t find his glasses. “Down the side of the sofa?” she would ask, enjoying his childish look of surprise when there they were. They were always there. Along with biscuit crumbs, broken biros, postage stamps and torn scraps of paper with phone numbers.

“Penny for your thoughts” Zara would venture.

“They’ve gone up. They start at tuppence now. Inflation, you know” he sometimes replied. She rarely pressed him further. Sometimes he just talked gibberish. Once in awhile he mentioned names. She knew none of them.

Sometimes she would talk to Jack, remind him how they had met, replaying the narrative for him. Like Steinbeck’s Lenny, he never tired of hearing it. He was older than her but somehow, when she told the story, he was younger, stronger and braver. And, the bit he liked best, he was a Yorkshireman. One of the proud sons of God’s Country, as he never tired of calling Yorkshire .

“I come from tough northern stock” he would say, chest puffed with pride. Sometimes she would tease him, remembering the days when they traded one-liners, fast and furious, sharply sparring with each other. Those days were long since gone. He couldn’t think fast enough and she was too kind to hurt him.

He thought it was his idea but actually it was hers – to travel south, to visit the land of his exile one more time. He needed a change of scenery – she knew that. Something to close the gap between reality and his private distant world. Maybe she would find him again in Yorkshire, maybe the hidden places were real and she could share them. Maybe he was in “God’s country”.

Yorkshire belonged in those anguished dreams and false memories that overwhelmed reality as his mind crumbled. Outside of his demented reveries, he was a Kentish man, a man of apples and hops, his landscape punctuated by oast houses, fertile fields of fruit, of tractors and hay bales.

He hadn’t wanted to travel by train. Steam railways were in his blood, in the corners of his dissolving mind. He had no place for diesels. From the fragments of stories long lost in the eddies of time, generations of his family had built locomotives and carriages at the plant works in Doncaster. His grandfather had supped at the Black Bull, down by the marketplace. Supped too much, if truth were told. As his own memories of Kent faded, he replaced them with an imagined Yorkshire childhood.

But there were no more trains. So they travelled by car, ticking off the towns as they passed. They spoke little. Sometimes he slept, slumped forward against the seatbelt. Sometimes he seemed awake, but remote. Occasionally she would catch a tear. Sometimes she thought that the more he wandered, the more she loved him. “Isn’t that what love is” she thought.

He tried to show her some of the places he visited in his mind. The plots, overgrown with thistles and weeds, where his imagined grandparents lay. The bridge where he used to watch the great locomotives of the London North-Eastern Railway pass beneath on their way to Edinburgh. The houses where he had lived, the town fields and their rusting goalposts. They watched kestrels flutter above the motorway, past idle pit heads in Armthorpe and Askern. Where he conjured Rotherham, Barnsley and Sheffield from Ashford, Canterbury and Broadstairs, she could not follow.

Jack’s voice even changed. His accent drifted north with him. She hadn’t seen him smile in months as his decline had accelerated. But here, he positively beamed. At first. Gradually it became too much. His mind, filled with memories of a Yorkshire childhood, both real and imagined, confused him. Jack thought “I have been away too long. Too much has changed”.

Zara would take him each day to the Broken Arms where he would nurse a pint, maybe a sandwich to eat. The pub took him in, frail, distant and warm. Regulars listened to his incoherent ramblings about Yorkshire. Zara often left him snoozing in the sunlight. He talked about being “called home” as he put it.

It was a Tuesday when he died, quietly unnoticed by the fireside. No fuss or bother, his hand clenched around the price of his pint. Although in Kent, he was always now in Yorkshire.

Zara could hear him mouths the words – In. God’s. Country.

Take off those pyjamas

Okay, repeat after me “limited overs cricket is not cricket”. Again. “Limited overs cricket is not cricket”.

Cricket is a game of infinite subtleties, nuances and fluidity. When played at its best, the game is almost infinitely beautiful, composed of tiny, almost invisible elements, a cornucopia of tiny battles between batsman and bowler. Cricket is the sound of leather on willow, the scattering of stumps and the slap of leather on hand.

And this soundtrack is played out over the most elastic of timeframes. In a full test match, taken to its most extended form, the game incorporates five luncheons (not lunches) and five tea breaks. A further fifteen short breaks may be taken for drinks.

This is the way sport should be played. Cricket is tactical and strategic, skilful and subtle, strong and courageous. Whether or not we like it or concede it, cricket, in common with so many team sports, is a surrogate for warfare and all the better for that. Countries that compete with each other in team sports on the whole do not fight each other. That course of action is conducted on the cricket field.

Over the last several decades cricket has truncated somewhat. Increasingly we are offered “limited overs cricket”, a grotesque parody of the real game. The real game of cricket takes place over the course of 4 to 5 days at the professional level with two innings for each side. That said, my old school used to play an annual fixture at Lord’s against Harrow. Although only two days in duration, it nonetheless consisted of the magical two innings per school. It was therefore, by my definition, cricket. Also, if you were playing, it excused you from double geography.


Why was that cricket (not why were you excused double geography)? For two reasons. Firstly the game took place over two innings and, secondly, all three results (win, lose, or draw) were possible and therefore all shades in between. It taught the players all sorts of realities about life. It taught players of the injustices (there was no Hawkeye, ball tracking or snicko in those days). If the umpire raised his finger, you were out, plain and simple. Your protest, of which there should, in any case, be none, was, even when given by the most myopic umpire, limited to a brief raising of the eyebrow, lasting no more than a second before walking off. You did not offer your thoughts on the umpire’s parentage, eyesight, or intellect. Nor did you invite him to pistols at dawn, a ruckus in the car park or any one of a plethora of punishments. The truth is you were out for no greater reason than that you were given out.

At school we could not get our fill of cricket (which is more than can be said for geography). I listened, under my blankets, on a scratchy crackling radio to the test matches in Australia where, in those days, overs of eight balls were the norm. Whatever happened to that?

Let me get to the point (and there is no need for that language). “Limited overs cricket” is not cricket. It is a travesty of cricket, like a cricket cartoon. The kind of cricket that might be played by the seven dwarfs. Comedy cricket without any competitive edge. Limited overs cricket is not, I repeat not, cricket the For a variety of reasons. Here are some.

CRICKET IS NOT PLAYED IN PYJAMAS. Even when I’m asleep and dreaming of cricket, it is in whites, or technically more accurately creams. Playing cricket in pyjamas was, I suspect, the creation of someone without any background in the game. A marketing man perhaps. Kerry Packer incarnate. Personally I struggle to keep a straight face when I see otherwise respectable cricketing figures in pinks, fuchsias, oranges, and so on.

2. CRICKET IS NOT FOOTBALL AND THEREFORE DOES NOT REQUIRE NUMBERS. I can understand their usage in the hustle and bustle of a football match but the same does not apply in cricket, a largely static game. Does it really make it easier for commentators? Or is it just another way of milking the merch. I don’t have any problem with discrete numbers on a player’s cap, denoting his position in the pantheon of former and present players. That seems a genteel nod of respect. By the same token, we do not need their names on the back of their shirts either. Cricket calls for neither numbers, names or night attire. Cricket can trace its origins back as far as the 16th century with international cricket being recorded in the late 19th century. Nowhere does it say pyjamas are acceptable.

SHORTENING A GAME DOES NOT MAKE IT MORE EXCITING. This seems to have been a false premise from day one. 50 over cricket was conceived as a way of getting a meaningful match between two sides which could be completed in a day. In other words the game was fitted to the format rather than developing a format which suited the game. But the biggest problem and the most savage of indictments is the fact that it has stripped the game of that most valuable of commodities – patience. It was only a short step from there to even shorter forms.

THE HUNDRED AND T20 FORMS OF THE GAME HAVE SHIFTED THE EMPHASIS FROM QUALITY STROKEPLAY TO MERE SLOGGING, chasing wide deliveries and so on, lofting the ball to Cow Corner. In my opinion they are profoundly detrimental to the development of quality batsmen. Defensive strokes are practically unheard of. And in a T20 game, where the entire quota of wickets is rarely taken, the penalty for squandering one’s wicket is much less punitive – somebody else can get the runs.

LIMITED OVERS CRICKET IS KILLING THE ART OF BOWLING. Whereas test match bowling is a weapon of infinite subtlety and variation, in the limited overs game the emphasis is solely on dot balls and defensive field settings. We are losing the art of attacking cricket. Slips are a rarity, attacking fields equally improbable. Were it not for the imposition of a minimum number of fielders within a short distance of the wicket, captains would simply pack the boundary. The fact that such rules as power plays were introduced reflected this natural imbalance.

One can, and many do, cite the success of the IPL. Yes, it is successful. Yes it allows cricketers to be paid handsome sums of money for their services and yes, it owes its success to the relative failure of test match cricket as a spectator sport in the subcontinent. Fireworks, loud pop music, dancing, microphones, illuminated bails. Who knows where it will end. It bears no relation to any version of the game I’ve ever played. Why 20 overs? Why not reduce it to 10. Then the whole match will take no longer than a football game. Is this really the future we want for the game?

By now you will have realised that I resent any incursion into the test match structure as anathema. Pink balls, floodlights, even day-night games are a no-no as far as I’m concerned. They have no place in test match cricket. As Richie Benaud once famously said “limited overs cricket is an exhibition. Test match cricket is an examination”.

And long may it remain so. Throw away those pyjamas, shine up that red ball with spit and sweat, and stare into the batsmen’s eyes. Because that’s cricket.