Ken’s Tales 07

The Lost Bag

We had been playing at Southgate Adelaide and were returning along the Eastern Avenue. It was a glorious summers evening. Don Coote was asleep in the back, having put away a fair amount of ale. Dudley Twine was a passenger in the front, probably scheming out how he could always run a single off the last ball of the over. I was driving, and bursting for a wee wee. The Club Bag, for I was Captain, was wedged across the corners of the roof-rack of my A35.

I negotiated the Barley Lane Roundabout at a fair speed – no traffic lights in those days, every man for himself – when Dudley said, ‘I must have a pee’.

‘So must I’, I replied, looking ahead for a suitable spot on this very busy stretch of road.

Although changed now, there was a spot with a small embankment, hiding the road from view, and not overlooked from the rear. I stopped the car and prodded Don Coote from the front seat.

‘Do you want to wee wee’, I asked him.

‘Not out’ he replied, not opening his eyes.

‘The silly sod thinks he’s still umpiring’, said Dudley, ‘leave him, if he pisses himself, serve him right’.

We clambered down the bank into the field and with tremendous relief passed quantities of ale consumed earlier.

‘I needed that’, said Dudley, ‘that’s better’.

It was only when climbing the bank and getting a view of the car that I noticed the Club Bag was missing. I looked again in disbelief, but no, it was no longer there. I pointed it out to Dudley. ‘It’s that stupid bugger Coote’, he said, ‘he has hidden it behind the car. What a stupid thing to do, we could have driven off without it’.

I opened the car door and shouted at Don, ‘Wake up you silly sod, stop mucking about, what have you done with the Club Bag’? ‘No ball’ he murmured, still apparently asleep.

‘I’ll give you no–ball, you stupid clot, wake up’, I shouted, somewhat irate by this time.

He opened his eyes. ‘Are we there’, he said.

‘No we’re not bloody well there’, I replied, ‘Where have you hidden the Club Bag?’

‘What bag’, asked the yawning Coote.

‘The Club Bag that was on the roof until you started playing bloody silly tricks’, I shouted. ‘Where is it?’

Don said, ‘You have probably been driving to fast, I expect it fell off when you went round a corner. I have not touched the bloody bag’.

‘Oh dear’, said Dudley, ‘it sounds as if he is telling the truth’.

I drove the rest of the way to the Pavilion feeling somewhat low, and quite a bit stupid. Club Bags were always a problem and to lose one would be considered the height of carelessness. Left behind, yes, but to lose one was unheard of.

I was never a popular Treasurer, making it clear that I thought every penny spent on playing gear a waste of money. Players should provide their own gear. I was always in the minority. Now to have lost a Club Bag, I should never live it down.

It was the following Thursday when the phone rang.

‘Is that Mr Scolding, Treasurer of Hornchurch Cricket Club’, the voice said.

I said that it was.

‘Mill Hill Police Station, Constable Smith speaking’, the voice said.

Strange thoughts flashed through my mind. What could they want with me. I had always dreaded the police knowing that I even existed in case they should pin something on me. I had never been anywhere near Mill Hill.

‘Have you lost a cricket bag’? I could hardly believe my ears.

‘Yes’, I replied, ‘last Sunday evening between Southgate and Hornchurch’.

‘Do you have a list of the contents, can you describe them’, the Constable enquired.

Here I was in my element. Not only did I purchase all the equipment with a large discount from my firm, but I distributed it amongst the teams. I had been Captain long enough to see that we had a good bag.

‘Five Stuart Surridge bats’, I said, ‘one long handle. (Actually there were four), five pairs of batting gloves, one pair left handed, (actually there were four pairs), five pairs of pads, (actually there were only four), several used balls, (we had two), one wicket keepers box, two umpires coats, (we had only one), several sets of bails, (we had five bails), and one scorebook’.

‘Get out of that’, I thought to myself.

‘There appears to be some discrepancy’, the Constable replied. ‘We have kept the bag in the office, I’m sure no-one has removed anything.

‘Are you sure no-one has taken any gear for the station cricket team’, I asked, tongue in cheek. ‘We play the Met Police, but I’m sure that they have their gear provided, they always seem short of cash in the bar afterwards’.

‘That is not possible’, the young man replied, ‘you must be mistaken over the contents’.

‘Listen Constable’, I said. ‘Before the war, I lived in digs with a local copper; he would pinch anything; he used to come home early morning after a night-shift with a half a dozen hens eggs under his helmet which he would give to our landlady’.

‘Times have changed since those days’, he said.

‘When can I collect what is left of our gear’, I asked. ‘We want it on Saturday’.

‘Any time you like’, he said, ‘I shall not be on duty tomorrow but I will leave word that you are calling’.

‘How did you come by the bag’, I asked.

‘A motorist travelling in the opposite direction saw it fall from the roof of a car at a roundabout. He put it in his boot and dropped it off at his local Police Station’. ( I remembered Don Coote’s possible explanation.)

‘Can I have his address’, I enquired.

This he gave me and I said I would call in next evening.

‘Just ask at the desk’, he said, ‘give the reason for your visit to the duty officer’.

The following evening I duly presented myself at Mill Hill Police Station, the duty officer looked up from writing in an official looking book.

‘Can I help you’, he said.

I explained that I had come to collect a cricket bag which I knew to have been brought into the Station the previous Sunday.

‘Are you sure’, asked the officer.

‘Of course I’m sure’, I replied. ‘There it is on the floor under that desk’.

‘No Sir’, he replied. ‘That’s the station bag, we are playing a game tomorrow’.

‘Not with our bloody gear Constable’, I said heatedly. ‘You will find a H.C.C. label inside. I suggest you have a look’.

Reluctantly he opened the bag.

‘Yes you are right’, he admitted, ‘I thought it was ours’.

‘You crafty Constable’, I thought to myself, ‘things have not changed a bit’.

‘Well’, I said, ‘now that we have sorted that out may I collect the bag, I want to be on my way’.

‘Before you sign the book’, he said, ‘would you care to donate a piece of equipment for the station team’.

‘Sorry’, I replied, ‘it’s more than my life’s worth to give away the Club gear’.

‘Oh well’, he said, ‘please sign the book’. He pushed the Police Charity Box towards me along with the lost property book.

I lifted the box in order to sign the book. It was empty.

It was still empty when I left. I told you earlier that I was the Treasurer, not renowned for giving things away.