Helen Martin: Reality bites at a cricketer’s tea

The job of tea lady is no walk in the park. Picture: Getty
The job of tea lady is no walk in the park. Picture: Getty
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IN football-mad Scotland there’s a stereotypical idea of a cricket tea . . . Miss Marple, postmen on bicycles and a ­village green in the Home Counties. The vicar is the umpire, the local bank manager is captain and the ruddy cheeked farmer has had a ­couple of ciders too many to connect the bat with the ball.

Tweed-skirted ladies neatly cut up cucumber sandwiches into triangles and maintain a plentiful supply of afternoon tea, while the flighty village temptress floats around unsteadily in an organza frock sipping on Pimms and making eyes at the young bucks.

Now for the reality of living next to a proper cricket ground in Edinburgh where groundsmen nourish, manicure and roll the grass, where cricket is not a casual game for amateurs on a lazy Sunday afternoon but, in however gentlemanly a way it is expressed, a serious contest to be won.

To be fair it’s taken them a decade but now, they’ve got me. I have been recruited as a tea lady. Ty-phoo and a few cucumbers? Think again. The second team publishes critiques and reviews of cricket teas online so the honour of the club is at stake.

My debut was in at the deep end at a First XI match. The Chief Tea Lady outlined what each tea team of three or four had to provide. “About five-and-a-half loaves of varied sandwiches, five plates of cakes, baking and so on, savouries such as pizzas, sausage rolls, samosas – we need veggie options, then fruit – lots of fruit, and of course we make tea,” she said brightly, a seasoned hand who knew her way round a cricket pavilion kitchen and, it turns out, actually understands the infernally complicated rules of cricket.

I produced my share – 20 home-made sausage rolls, two sponge-cakes with filling, boiled a dozen eggs to go with the grated cheese and onion in my one-and-a-half loaves of sandwiches and packed it all in a hamper. Would it pass muster? What would CTL think of it? Oh God, what if none of the players or officials, not to mention the spectators, ate my offerings? Would I have to hide, mortified, behind my garden wall for ever, living on stale and mouldy, rejected egg sandwiches?

And there’s the timing. In most situations ­at a pre-appointed time and their food is produced. No-one knows when two strapping cricket teams will suddenly demand sustenance.

It could be after a certain number of “overs” (by the way, don’t make my mistake – there are no “unders”), or when it starts to rain.

Tea ladies have to be ready to spring into action like ninjas at a moment’s notice.

Only once the players have eaten are the spectators allowed a morsel.

I’m pretty sure that’s a tea lady rule because the cricketers are too polite to make a big deal out of it.

Each one delivers their empty plate to the pass, says “Thank you very much that was lovely,” and returns to the field of dreams. Ideally there is enough left for them to have another nosh once play is over, they don’t have to worry about indigestion any more, and the crowd has clapped them off the pitch.

Yes really, everyone applauds both sides. This is cricket, after all. Their last duty is to boost the bar takings.

My duty is to figure out the menu for my next “gig” in two weeks for the second team . . . the one that does the tea reviews.

Be gentle with me boys.

Keep your kids pictures from the wrong eyes

THERE is a tendency today for parents to regularly post cute pictures of their offspring online – after all, that’s what most people do with photos in 2014.

Now some are complaining because sites such as Instagram are deactivating their accounts. They are angry that amidst so many paedophile scandals, “innocent” semi-clothed pictures of their kids are being treated like porn.

They are missing the point.

I don’t know what a paedophile thinks when he or she sources and looks at pictures online but I’ll bet it’s a world removed from the pride and love felt by mummy or daddy. Those who repeatedly chart and illustrate their baby’s progress on the net seem oblivious that all sorts of people will follow, some feeling – creepily – they are getting to know the child.

The dangers are apparent and chilling. We all have pictures of our kids on the beach, in the bath, and bare-bottomed in the garden. They should be treasured in an old-fashioned family album.

Not posted for the world to gawp at.

Orange is disorder

THE risk posed by the Orange Order’s Edinburgh parade on the weekend before the referendum is not their triumphalism but the reaction it causes in others to their presence. This time, having nailed their own orange, red-white-and-blue colours to the mast, they will be winding up people planning to vote Yes as well as Catholics.

We could do without it.

Games security is too extreme

HIMSELF is a sports writer. I’m glad I’m not.

The anti-terrorist security measures even for accredited Press at the Commonwealth Games are so extreme it wouldn’t be surprising to see Orla Guerin wearing a Hurt Locker suit to commentate on the gymnastics.