Day 28: A podcast in which we discuss Pink Floyd, the number of cars on the Hinckley Road, and work

Contributor: Richard:

Following on from Day 20’s podcast, in which Mark and I discussed my current obsession with the 1980s and 1990s and whether Mark has been dreaming, we turned our attention to 70’s music (especially The Bee Gees), our views of labour (alienating or purposeful), the number of cars on the Hinckley Road in Leicester as a measure of desire for herd immunity, and the potential for democratic planning rather than competition. Fun, huh?!

You can listen over at Richard’s blog.

Day 24: Thinking about mental health

Contributor: Richard:

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Sticker on street furniture near the Pompidou Centre, Paris.

NB It feels important to note that there are some alternative routes you can take around managing your own mental health, and that support is available from a range of organisations including Mind (I had a good experience of therapy in 2000 with Mind in Darlington), Relate and Samaritans. Of course, there will be a range of possibilities for people with a range of life experiences. My point here is not to advise.


This is a shortened version of notes on mental health in the age of Covid-19 over at my own website.

I left therapy after a decade in May 2019. It was the right thing to do and happened on my own terms, although it was negotiated over a long period with my therapist. This integrative and humanist therapeutic relationship helped me to save my life. It enabled me to hold and contain myself as I relived past trauma, and as I experienced a second breakdown after my Mom’s passing.

I have been thinking about what I have taken from therapy into the world as we now experience it. I have also been thinking about how I would have coped/not coped had I still been in the eye of the storm (I would have found the switch to virtual therapy incredibly difficult, in part because the human is so important in the therapy room and I feel that is missing online).

This morning I saw a retweet about how difficult it is for many to access therapy, either because NHS-funded therapy is time-limited, focused upon cognitive behavioural methodologies (a herd immunity for the soul), and has long waiting lists, or because private therapy is too expensive (although some therapists will undertake pro bono work). The original tweet focused upon crowdsourcing advice for people who are struggling, and a call to ‘share the wealth’, as if the assets that define good mental health are resources to be accessed like those on the Commons.

I have always struggled with this kind of call, although I completely respect the intention that lies behind it. In the same way, I struggle with calls for people to focus upon a positive mental attitude, or to be mindful or resilient (or to engage in mindfulness so they can be more resilient), inside a world that is alienating, and where a corporeal and physical, viral, destabilising force has infected that world. Too often, I see these calls as short-termist, or as an attempt to suture an alienated Self so that it can cope in a world that is increasingly unliveable and toxic.

When I was in therapy, I had a sense that the work was operating on multiple levels. First, my embodied trauma and what had been, because we may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us. Second, the everyday, alienating reality of an unjust world, in which we have to sell ourselves over and over again, and watch as others are brutalised, exploited or expropriated. Third, the closing down of the horizon of possibility for life, given the politics of austerity, climate heating, ecosystem collapse, economic populism, and so on. Fourth, how to struggle for the alternative, at the level of myself, my communities and the world.

Now each of these levels have been infected and recalibrated by the virus. Whilst I give thanks that I have worked through my embodied trauma, and I am able to find the courage and faith to struggle against an unjust world, and to accept the enclosure of our futures whilst attempting to do the right thing, I grieve that this is not universally or equally experienced. This brings me back to the idea that we can share the wealth in terms of mental health, in-part because the process and journey through therapy is so individual (although hopefully experienced in a wider, communal ecosystem of friends, carers, families, communities), and in-part because the idea of equality or equal access under capitalist social relations is nonsensical.

For instance, we know that many precarious members of our communities, or those who are black or minority ethnic, are anxious about the role of the State during any lockdown as they are at other times. We know that, in spite of the work of mutual aid groups, local councils, voluntary action groups, and so on, people are separated and isolated, and lack the day-to-day support they need. We know that the State and corporate response is on business continuity, business resilience, maintaining some form of capital circulation through monetary intervention, so that productive capacity can be shored-up in the medium term. We know that care has been marginalised because we see how the State fails care-workers and health-workers. We know that those who are regarded as economically unproductive, with apparently lesser human capital (in terms of productive skills, knowledge and capabilities) or social capital (in terms of access to networks), and who are marginalised by dint of race, gender, disability, sexuality, will be further disciplined or ignored.


In the full blogpost I detail 17 things I have taken from therapy into this situation. Three that feel relevant in this moment are noted below.

7. Feeling is everything. Acknowledging feeling is everything. Reducing the cognitive content, and respecting how I feel is everything. It took a long time for me to go with the feeling, and to sit with the feeling, and to trace its contours and its lineages. Sometimes staying with the feeling is fucking impossible, because it hurts too much. My Mom’s death taught me this in spades. For too long in my life, the fear, anxiety, grief, anger were displaced. In spite of this, I make sure that I acknowledge and respect and listen to how I feel. Those around me have to get used to my occasionally drawing their attention to their feelings.

13. Therapy is a process and it is not linear. Life is not linear. I did not know this in my heart until I was in very deeply. Now I see my life as a process, unfolding in countless, indeterminate and determinate ways, through myself, my loved ones, my communities and this world. What matters is the concrete: the lived reality of place and people. The Corona-crisis is part of that unfolding, and we must struggle for what makes sense to us, rather than the abstract ways in which people and institutions (including families) exercise power. This means a rejection of certainty, a weighing up of options, and an ability to live with the consequences of my own decisions (be they going to a pharmacist for a friend or not seeing my Nan or approaching my work in a different manner). Moreover, as my life unfolds in a non-linear way and is a process, I work to trust that good enough is good enough.

15. Therapy taught me that sometimes all I can do is hold on for tomorrow, even when sometimes existing from minute-to-minute feels fucking impossible. Persevere.

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The Reconciliation Statue at Coventry Cathedral. This is all there is.


I am not sure how sharing the wealth helps with this for those who are isolated, made marginal, suffering structural oppression or exploitation, or in abusive relationships. Perhaps it is all we have in these days of social isolation, when we cannot hold each other physically close and we have limited mental stimulation. We know that the uncertainty is incredibly stressful, and that the psychology of isolation is damaging to our physiology as well as our psychology. Finding any port in a storm demands new connections, possibilities and hopes, and some form of mental and physical activity. Finding any mechanisms for controlling our existence, like establishing a routine, however limited in nature, is crucial. And here I am privileged again because I have a yard in which to sit, a partner, a mutual aid group, a roller for my bike, some t’ai chi I can do, I have books and writing, and 10 years of therapy in the bank. I have resources, activities and some control.

Maybe mindfulness or CBT techniques are better than nothing; that said, over time our collective and individual PTSD will require much more. When we have moved to our new position, we also need to recognise how our way of building the world and our social metabolism with the world has left us so mentally and physically vulnerable. This capitalist society has left shockingly paid people to keep the wheels turning, and to cope with deaths in hospitals and care homes. It has left people with limited resources to have to make decisions that put themselves and others at risk. It has left us divorced and separated from each other and the world, in a dystopian solitary confinement. It has left us so depleted that we are sharing CBT tricks on Twitter and building from the bottom as a just-in-time form of social solidarity. The virus has amplified the horrendous, alienating reality of capitalist social relations, and we deserve to live rather than to scrabble for survival.

It is the power of long-term, collective commitments that offers a new hope and a new shared wealth based on unequal individual and collective lives. In this way, I see my therapeutic experience as part of a wider ecosystem that I hold and to which I contribute, and that is shifting and moving. In this way, my thinking about mental health, ill being and moving beyond, replicates some kind of facilitated, mutual aid, in which survivors, self-help groups, voluntary organisations, friendships and professionals develop some alternative practices for-life that can be open to all. From each according to their ability. To each according to their needs.

Day 20: Reflecting on The Coronavirus Diaries

Contributor: Richard:

Following on from Day 8’s podcast, in which Mark and I discussed the genesis of The Coronavirus Diaries, we return to discuss the project and diary entries we have received so far. On the way, we discuss my current obsession with the 1980s and 1990s, the music of The The, whether Mark has been dreaming, and applauding key workers whilst looking out for the international space station.

You can listen over at Richard’s blog.

Day 14: ‘On all-time football XIs, because we have given up listening to the news’

Contributor: Richard:

“What seems a lifetime ago, Chris and I discussed our England and Wales Cricket XIs and a potential Rest of the World XI. We did this because we can’t continually discuss the virus. I have certainly given up listening to the news. Actually, this is nonsense – I never listen to the news because all the mainstream media is good for is manufacturing consent. I have stopped scrolling through my Twitter feed looking for coronavirus updates, and rarely now listen to the podcasts I once did. Instead, I am looking for meaningful analysis of the state we are in (in particular, in relation to my own work in a University, and education more generally), and distractions, which generally take the form of writing or podcasts about football, cricket, cycling, revolutionary communism or quantum mechanics.

So, in order to move beyond our concerns at our dwindling stocks of real ale and stout, we decided to focus upon our England and Rest of the World football XIs. The same rules that we applied to the choice of our cricket teams applies once again here. These have to be players we have seen playing, either live or on television, during our football-watching lives. The choice of teams tells you a lot about each of us, I think, in terms of the type of player and their psychology or personality, the mix of players from Europe versus rest of the world, and the type of formation or approach or aesthetic.

Once again, it is clear that either England XI would be eviscerated. It was ever thus.


Chris’s England XI (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper:

Peter Shilton – at only 6ft, relatively small for this position but turned out to be a giant of the game. 1005 professional games and 125 England caps speaks for itself.

Defenders:

Stuart Pearce – never the most graceful of footballers but gave 200% every match he played and wore his heart on his sleeve for club and country. A take no prisoners attitude on the pitch and a love of punk rock off the pitch made him a legend of the 90s.

Tony Adams – plied his trade with the Arsenal back four of the mid 80s and 90s and their record speaks for itself, add to this 66 England caps and you understand the measure of the man. The only player I believe to have captained a title winning side across 3 decades.

Terry Butcher – I just can’t get that vision out of my head of him playing with that bandage wrapped around his head and blood pouring down his face against Sweden in 1989… True Grit and determination.

Gary Neville – first choice at right back for England and Man Utd for over 10 years. Formed a great partnership down the right for club and country with a certain number 7 and was an easy name on the team sheet.

Midfielders:

Darren Anderton – commonly known as ‘sicknote’ across the country for his injury prone career, but when fit was a phenomenal player… tall, quick, great step over and a fantastic delivery into the box earns him a spot.

Paul Scholes – in my view one of the most dependable players to pull on the 3 lions shirt. His vision with the ball at his feet was nothing short of genius and he had pace and strength to go along with this. If I had to pick any of this team that would stand a chance of making it into a World 11 it would be him.

Chris Waddle – the memories of that mullet disappearing in between the quarter and semi final of Italia 90 will always stay with me and to this day i still believe it made him even quicker. A good advert for a traditional winger… great pace to go round any defender to hit the byline and deliver a fantastic cross.

Attackers:

Alan Shearer – 283 goals in 559 club appearances and 30 goals in 63 caps are stats that can stand up against any striker. Strong with both head and boot and stood tall against the toughest of defenders and midfielders (especially getting under the skin of Roy Keane back in 2001).

Paul Gasgoine – pure genius or sheer madness was the best way to describe Gazza. Such a deft touch with the ball at feet and skills to match any player in the world. Very much hampered by off field issues throughout his career but a joy to watch on the pitch.

Gary Lineker – 48 goals in 80 appearances is pretty impressive to say the least, considering the only two players to better this tally were Wayne Rooney with 53 in 120 games and Bobby Chalrton with 49 in 106 games. Hence Mr Lineker’s scoring record for England makes him an easy choice for my starting 11.


Richard’s England XI (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Peter Shilton. I always wondered whether Shilton was bothered that Ray Clemence stole 61 caps from him and Joe Corrigan another 9? Whilst everyone talks about that 1990 penalty shootout in terms of Pearce and Waddle missing, Shilton never got near a single German penalty. That said, any player who gets his 1000th league game playing for Leyton Orient, having won the European Cup twice, is an absolute legend.

Right-back: Phil Neal. I always had a grudging respect for Neal. He loved an overlap, and who doesn’t love an overlap? In fact, this team is going to be predicated upon attack, because you only live once. I’m always drawn to the fact that Neal was the only player to feature in all four of Liverpool’s European cup wins in the 70s/80s. I wasn’t a big fan of Liverpool, but I do like an industrious player.

Centre-half: Rio Ferdinand. An atypical England defender, because it wasn’t just blood and thunder. God how I loathe blood and thunder. I loved his ability on the ball. I wonder what Pep would have made of him?

Centre-half: Des Walker. He lit up Italia 90. Young, quick, great in the tackle. Everyone talked about Gascoigne, but Walker was the highlight for me. I am still gobsmacked that he went to Sampdoria under Sven Göran Eriksson who played one of the best central defenders in the world at left back. Moron.

Left-back: Ashley Cole. A carefree attacking full-back under Wenger, able to become a great defender under Mourinho. I’m not a big fan of people who get speeding tickets, but I do like players who excel at goal-line clearances. So Ashley gets the call.

Midfield: Bryan Robson. It was that goal against France at Spain 82 after about six seconds or something. And all those shoulder injuries. And the constant rumours when he was manager at Middlesbrough about drinking on Yarm high street. And the fact that he held England together during the 80s. God I hated the 80s.

Midfield: Owen Hargreaves. Two Champions League winning medals. England’s only world-class player in the mid-2000s. Completely underrated, and too often played out of position. Massively hampered by injury. I wonder just how good he could have been.

Midfield: Paul Scholes. There are way too many ManUre players in this team. This is causing me some pain. Anyway, Scholes is going to have to hold, because Hargreaves and Robson are going to be given licence to go and go.

Forward: Steve McManaman. Underrated in my opinion. I always love a mazy dribbler. You don’t get to be man of the match in the Champions League final if you aren’t gifted. Scotland and the Dutch eventually had no answer at Wembley in 1996.

Forward: Alan Shearer. I always remember a goal he scored in the qualification for France 98, away in Poland. After some laughable, it’s a knockout defending, Paul Ince broke and slid the ball through, and Shearer buried it first time in the far corner. Then he wheeled away with that trademark right arm in the air. Along with Walsall’s Martin O’Connor, he is probably the finest penalty taker I have ever seen.

Forward: Laurie Cunningham. Wonderfully gifted, and I need someone who can play on the left. Quite how he only got six caps is beyond me. Ron Greenwood was clearly an idiot. I like the fact that he started at Leyton Orient. I’m not a huge fan of the fact that he went to West Brom and went to Real Madrid. In fact there are too many real Madrid links in this team. Anyway, I had also forgotten that he played the last half hour of the 1988 FA Cup final. Good work.


Chris’s World XI (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper:

Gianluigi Buffon – 77 clean sheets in 176 international caps is all that needs to be said here.

Defenders:

Paulo Maldini (captain) – over 1000 club appearances coupled with his long international career make him a strong option in this team. Part of the ‘immortals’ Milan team that went i think 58 games unbeaten.

Thiago Silva – one of my three selections to still be playing now. Strong, quick and great vision with the ball and great in the air. Ability to control the game from defence to attack with his passing ability and also a great leader.

Franco Baresi – another member of the Milan immortals and voted the club’s player of the century. A giant at the back for Italy despite being under 6ft and also had the ability to push up into the holding midfield role when required to support the team.

Lillian Thuram – part of the world cup winning team of 98’ and an absolute beast at right back… quick, aggressive in the tackle and great down the wing makes him an easy choice. Add into this that he was two-footed and he was just as competent playing in the centre also.

Midfielders:

Frank Rijkaard – plied his trade with the great Ajax team of the 80s before moving to Milan where he became a legend. Only 73 international caps but a great advert of how a defensive midfielder should be… strong, aggressive and great vision. Was also able to switch to centre back if required where he played in his early years.

Zinedine Zidane – 95 goals in just over 500 club appearances and 31 goals in 108 internationals is brilliant for any midfielder. The list of glowing comments from managers and players is endless including Maldini, Keegan, Carlos and Ronaldhino. It is hard to find any weaknesses he had in his game and also a master of the headbutt in the chest.

Kevin De Bruyne – another of my choices to still be playing. Best attacking midfielder currently in world football and would easily walk into any club starting 11. Long range passing is as good as any past or present and vision in attack is phenomenal, but his main strength is in his work rate in every game. If he sustains this level through his career he will make any world 11.

Attackers:

Thierry Henry – technically gifted in every area of his game but especially at playing through the channels and one on one against goalkeepers. Wenger certainly got the best out of him at Arsenal playing him as the lone striker but he also notched up a lot of assists when drifting out wide. Probably not high up for a lot of statisticians but it was always a pleasure to watch him play.

Lionel Messi – 70 international goals in 138 games and averages just under a goal a game for Barcelona.  His shorter size gives him great pace and agility with the ball at his feet, but his strength in the upper body makes him difficult to dominate as a defender. You would find it difficult to find a pundit that wouldn’t include him an all time world 11.

Marco Van Basten – saved my all time favourite til last… signed for Ajax at 16 and then played for Milan ‘immortals’ also. Strong in the air, acrobatic, two-footed, quick and technical elegance all added up to produce i believe the perfect footballer. Sadly his career was cut short at only 28 due to a series of ankle injuries that he never recovered from.


Richard’s World XI (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Dino Zoff. He was properly old school. I would have gone for Buffon or Iker Casillas, but I just don’t trust goalkeepers in short-sleeved tops. It just isn’t right. Plus, Zoff was about 78 when he won the World Cup in Spain with Italy. He gives us all hope.

Right-back: Danny Alves. He was in that Barcelona team. The really great one, as opposed to the great one. He loved linking up with midfield, providing options through overlaps, and as we know midfield is the beating heart. If things are going wrong, always look at centre midfield. I don’t know why I’m discussing midfield here, other than it is enabled in its relationship to the back four.

Centre-half: Lillian Thuram. To be honest he could have made this team is for back as well, because for a while he was the best full-back and centre half in the world. A completely dominant force, including in his anti-racist activity. All hail the anti-racists of this world.

Centre-half: Thiago Silva. Franco Baresi-esque. I was never a big Brazil fan. In fact, I don’t really like any team that is any good, apart from Alan Buckley’s 1980s Walsall. Silva would have gelled with that Walsall team. Strong in the air, tactically aware, awesome at reading the game. He would have had a job evicting Colin Brazier from centre half though.

Left-back: Paulo Maldini. Could have played at centre half or right back. Irritatingly gifted with lovely blue eyes. Positioning and marking made tackling a secondary activity. I celebrate the cerebral nature of his play.

Midfield: Sergio Busquets. He’s in the team because it allows me to play two number 8s, and in what universe wouldn’t that be the thing? I was tempted by including Graeme Souness, primarily because I have a grudging respect for him after his performance in the second leg of the 1983/84 Milk Cup semi-final at Fellows Park. But his politics… It could have been Kante, but I’m sold on Busquets because, as Vincente del Bosque said: “If you watch the whole game, you won’t see Busquets—but watch Busquets, and you will see the whole game.”

Midfield: Clarence Seedorf. I like single club players, you know, like Walsall FC legends Kenny Mower and Ian Roper – players who ploughed a particular and singular furrow season after season, in spite of the peculiarities of those who managed to them. However, I also like those players who demonstrate their expertise and intelligence by dominating in a range of geographical and physical locations, and Seedorf is that player.

Midfield: Andres Iniesta. Football is about space-time compression, and Iniesta’s gravitational pull completely skewed space and time for that great era of dominance for Barcelona and Spain. I remember sitting and watching Walsall play Doncaster Rovers at home in September 2015, playing tiki-taka, and recycling the ball and working the opposition, and it was balletic and mesmeric and geometric and dialectical. It was an opening up of possibility, and our lumpen-supporters sitting behind me were demanding the ball was hurled into the box, and effectively wanting it to be given away because they didn’t have what it takes to sit with the ball and work space and time. I loved watching Iniesta because he had what it took.

Forward: Diego Maradona. Messi is a better player, but I like my characters to be openly flawed and human and bipolar in nature. I love the duality of Diego/Maradona, and the desperately to escape the favela and to provide for one’s family, and the need to survive on a rutted pitch and to carry everyone’s hopes with you. Of course, this took its toll, but the tormented grace was a demonstration of humanity.

Forward: Ronaldo (the real one, R9). He ignited everything. He took me out of the torpor of the 1990s, and he was almost impossible to play against, to comprehend, to imagine, to analyse, to describe. He was also almost perfect in 1-on-1s with the keeper, and alongside controlling the ball from throwing that is the most difficult skill in football. I have so much time for players who carry their average teams through competitions – Messi and Argentina in 2014, Maradona and Argentina in 1990, Ronaldo and Brazil in 1998. I love it even more when there is failure at the bitter end and the taste of mortality.

Forward: Roger Milla. We continue to patronise African football, and seek to colonise it by extracting the most valuable players for our leagues, or by dumping television rights and club memorabilia/shirts in the global South. As the linchpin of that great 1990 Cameroon team, and as a relatively old man (in footballing terms), Milla gave us a new light, and a new sense of possibility. His right-footed touch and finish for his second goal against Romania, his left-footed finish against Colombia and subsequent mugging of Rene Higuita, and his setting-up of Ekéké for Cameroon’s second were sublime.”

Day Eight: ‘A podcast about the Street Diary, why we are so tired, the idea of the common good, Ethel Merman, and the 1973 FA Cup’

Contributor: Richard:

“Mark and I had a chat on Skype last night, which I recorded. This morning I stripped the audio out and edited it on Audacity (if you want more details so that you can create a podcast, let us know), and then uploaded the edited project as an mp3 to my site.

In the podcast we discuss the orgins of the Street Diary, why we are so tired, the idea of the common good, Ethel Merman, and the 1973 FA Cup Final.”

Listen at: http://www.richard-hall.org/podcast/episode-15-in-which-i-blather-on-about-the-1973-fa-cup-final-ethel-merman-and-citizen-science-under-the-dominion-of-covid-19/

Day Four: Passing the time in the backyard


Contributors: Chris-next-door and Richard:

“The beauty of our road is the ability to chat over the back wall. I said hello to the Polish family in the house behind ours for the first-time last week, when their youngster was blowing bubbles. We keep an eye out for the pensioner who lives next door to them, although she has family popping in. Thankfully, we also have the ability to chat to our neighbours, and they have grown to become treasured acquaintances.

Since we began socially distancing and then moved into some kind of lockdown, we have tried to maintain coffee in the back garden at 5pm. In the last few days, Chris-next-door and I have been discussing the greatest England and Wales Test Cricket XIs that we have seen, either live or on the TV, in our lifetime. We then moved on to discussing our World XIs. We were only interested in test matches.

The point of this, in part, is to act as a distraction from the grind of the news, from which I have largely switched off to be honest. Instead, I am finding more redemption in self-reflection, and in particular, considering my present life against what I hoped for and what I have experienced. This is also pushing me to take a historical focus – what must it have been like for those here and elsewhere on the planet trying to make sense of plague, pestilence, famine and flood? What must it have been like psychologically, emotionally, cognitively and physically? And how might we work through this differently?

Anyway, I was apprenticed and learned my craft as a historian. The idea that we may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us, is very important to me. In particular, the past that I have witnessed, and about which I can make more sense, as long as I can reflect upon how and why I feel as I do as I make my judgements. Sport is very important in this – with whom do we connect and why? Who has remained with us? Who would we want in our corner in a struggle?

So here we go.


Chris’s World XI

Sunil Gavaskar, India, 125 Tests, 10,122 runs at 51.12. Anyone that can maintain that average against the West Indies in the 80s must be bloody good.

Graeme Smith, South Africa, 117 Tests, 9,265 runs at 48.25. Crept under the superstar radar for many years, also a left-hander, so good to open with.

Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka, 134 Tests, 12,400 runs at 57.40. Short gritty aggressive batsmen, great on the leg-side.

Jacque Kallis, South Africa, 166 Tests, 13,289 runs at 55.37, 292 wkts at 32.65. Mr all-rounder, huge batting average and could bowl at 90mph if needed.

Steve Waugh, Australia, 168 Tests, 10,927 runs at 51.06, 92 wkts at 37.44 (captain). Could grind out an innings against the best attacks in the world. 50 to 100 conversion rate up there with the best.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul, West Indies, 164 Tests, 11,867 runs at 51.37. Number 6 possibly hardest position in the team but managed to average 50+ batting with the tail.

Adam Gilchrist, Australia, 96 Tests, 5,570 runs at 47.60, 379 catches, 37 stumpings. Could take an innings away from you in a session and also second highest test dismissals.

Curtly Ambrose, West Indies, 98 Tests, 1,439 runs at 12.40, 405 wkts at 20.99. 6ft 5”.A Aggression, don’t try and get under his skin as it only made matters worse.

Malcolm Marshall West Indies, 81 Tests, 1,810 runs at 18.85, 376 wkts at 20.84. 90+ mph skiddy swingers… almost impossible to play sometimes.

Glenn McGrath, Australia, 124 Tests, 641 runs at 7.36, 563 wkts at 21.64. Pigeon… draw a 12 inch square on the track and he would hit it 6 out of 6, always aimed for top of off stump.

Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka, 133 Tests, 1,256 runs at 11.67, 800 wkts at 22.72. 800 test wickets says it all, great average for a spinner also.


Richard’s World XI (this is from my heart, and not my head, and therefore there can be no Australians. Ever.)

Virender Sehwag, India, 104 Tests, 8,586 runs at 49.34. I love an opener who effectively says “screw you” to any bowler. His refusal to move his feet mirrored my own batting style. That is where any mirroring ended.

Gordon Greenidge, West Indies, 104 Tests, 7,558 runs at 44.72. I always remember his 214 at Lord’s in 1984 after England, hilariously, chose to declare. Idiots.

Younis Khan, Pakistan, 118 Tests, 10,099 runs at 52.05. Intensely focused, like me. Relies on the bottom hand in his batting, like me. Not particularly stylish, like me. One of the greats…

Sachin Tendulkar, India, 200 Tests, 15,921 runs at 53.78. I was never a big Sachin Tendulkar fan, to be honest. Although I did see his first test century in Madras (as it was) in 1993. It was baking hot, but you can’t argue with a ticket for all five days for 10 quid, and all the curry you can eat. Anyway, you don’t play that number of tests and have that number of innings and have the weight of a nation on your shoulders and end with that average if you aren’t half-decent.

Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka, 149 Tests, 11,814 runs at 49.84 (team captain, because he wears it intensely but lightly, if that makes any sense). He is batting at five, because there are too many amazing number 4s. The power of Sri Lanka in the noughties shone through him.

Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan, 120 Tests, 8,830 runs at 49.60. Like me, he felt that fielding was beneath him. Like me, he felt that running and exercise were overrated. Unlike me, he was a gifted strokeplayer.

AB de Villiers, South Africa, 114 Tests, 8,765 runs at 50.66, 222 catches, 5 stumpings. It bothers me a little that I’m including someone that Boycott gushes over, given my disdain for the Yorkshireman. However, I love a maverick who isn’t obsessively selfish.

Richard Hadlee, New Zealand, 86 Tests, 3,124 runs at 27.16, 431 wkts at 22.29. Always have the Australians in trouble, and carried his team. What’s not to like?

Dale Steyn, 93 Tests, 1,251 runs at 13.59, 439 wkts at 22.95. Scary and skilled. The worst combination, unless you like facing raging bulls.

Curtly Ambrose, West Indies, 98 Tests, 1,439 runs at 12.40, 405 wkts at 20.99. 6ft 5”. 1993, 7-1 off 32 deliveries in Perth. Awesome.

Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka, 133 Tests, 1,256 runs at 11.67, 800 wkts at 22.72. I saw him devastate England at Trent Bridge in 2006, in spite of being swept for six by Monty Panesar. I love the fact that his bowling action got under Boycott’s skin. Lovely stuff.


Chris’s England XI

Graham Gooch, 118 Tests, 8,900 runs at 42.58, 23 wkts at 46.47. Stood out against possibly two best teams ever in W.I 1980s and Australia 1990s.

Alistair Cook, 161 Tests, 12,472 runs at 45.35. Dream of a cover drive and again great conversion rate from 50 to 100.

Joe Root, 133 Tests, 1,256 runs at 11.67, 800 wkts at 22.72 – cheeky Yorkshire man with a phenomenal technique and strong in all facets of the game

Kevin Pietersen, 104 Tests, 8,181 runs at 47.28. Devastating when in the groove and take any attack apart, pleasure to watch in 2005 against Brett Lee.

Graham Thorpe, 100 Tests, 6,744 runs at 44.66. Great on the leg side and also a fantastic square cut.

Ian Botham, 102 Tests, 5,200 runs at 33.54, 383 wkts at 28.40. Up there with Sobers and Kallis for all-rounders, talisman of the team and could win a game on his own.

Matt Prior, 79 Tests, 3,920 runs at 40.83, 217 catches, 13 stumpings. Averaged 40 with the bat and also a strong keeper, good morale booster behind the stumps.

Graeme Swann, 60 Tests, 1,370 runs at 22.09, 255 wkts at 29.96. Troubled batsmen by pushing the ball through quicker than most spinners, great stats for a finger spinner

Matthew Hoggard, 67 Tests, 473 runs at 7.27, 248 wkts at 30.50. Skiddy, great outswinger, deceptive pace.

Bob Willis, 90 Tests, 840 runs at 11.50, 325 wkts at 25.20. Tall and quick, had a great short ball.

James Anderson, 151 Tests, 1,185 runs at 9.63, 584 wkts at 26.83. Can reverse swing a pebble when he wants to, still troubling the best batsmen in the world in his mid-30s.


Richard’s England XI (heart trumps head, but it is my list.)

Graham Gooch, 118 Tests, 8,900 runs at 42.58, 23 wkts at 46.47. Really great moustache. There is something very reassuring about a cricketer with a moustache. Plus, that 154 against the West Indies in 1991. It was the first series I watched with my other half. That summer will forever be young love and Gooch’s moustache.

*My friend Chris (a different one) reminded me that Gooch toured South Africa under apartheid. So, as an apologist for racial violenceand injustice, he’s out. So instead…

Michael Vaughan, 82 Tests, 5,719 runs at 41.44. I can’t believe that I had forgotten Vaughan started his test career as an opener (averaging 45.49), before he became captain, and scored his highest test innings of 197 against India at Trent Bridge at the top of the order. I loved watching that innings from the Fox Road stand, in the sun. When will we see those days again?

Marcus Trescothick, 76 Tests, 5,825 runs at 43.79. Open about his mental health. Loves sausages. He set the tone for that great summer of 2005 on the first morning at Edgbaston. Like living in a dream.

David Gower, 117 Tests, 8,231 runs at 44.25. He wasn’t a number three, but I want him in my team. Mainly for the aerobatics and that 123 at Sydney in 1991. You have to have someone who played for Leicestershire, right?

Kevin Pietersen, 104 Tests, 8,181 runs at 47.28. I love the fact that he irritated the clique that thought it owned the England dressing room. We would never have won in 2005 without him. He is the main reason I can never have Prior or Swann in my team.

Ian Bell, 118 Tests, 7727 runs at 42.69. It is the Ian Bell of 2013 who gets in. I always had a soft spot for him. Gifted yet fragile, and in five Ashes winning teams. Lovely stuff.

Ian Botham, 102 Tests, 5,200 runs at 33.54, 383 wkts at 28.40. He almost made it into Don Bradman’s best England and Wales Ashes’ team. If he was good enough for the Don, he is good enough for me. Plus, 1981, innit?!

Jack Russell, 54 Tests, 1,897 runs at 27.10, 153 catches, 12 stumpings. I love a man who takes baked beans on tour with him. Another standout moustache, and a glimmer of hope in a dreadful decade for English cricket.

Andrew Flintoff, 79 Tests, 3,845 runs at 31.77, 219 wkts at 33.34. Wasted in the early part of his career, because we thought he was the new Botham, rather than the new Andrew Flintoff. We will always have that over versus Ricky Ponting at Edgbaston in 2005, and running him out at The Oval in 2009.

Monty Panesar, 50 Tests, 220 runs at 4.88, 167 wkts at 34.71. I loved Monty. I loved what he represented. I loved that sweep for six against Murali in 2006. I love that he kept trying to find a way, in spite of the ridicule. And I could never have Swann in this team. And we need a spinner. It was almost Tuffers. But my heart belongs to Monty.

Bob Willis, 90 Tests, 840 runs at 11.50, 325 wkts at 25.20 (team captain, because otherwise it will be Vaughan and his batting will drop off a cliff). He won the test at Headingley in 1981. I love the fact that he blanked the media at the end; I love a human who wears their heart on their sleeve.

James Anderson, 151 Tests, 1,185 runs at 9.63, 584 wkts at 26.83. We wasted his talent for so long. There is something very reassuring about sitting in the Eric Hollie’s stand at Edgbaston watching him run in.


NB 1: clearly, we could make decisions based upon longevity, career statistics, purple patches that individuals had, and the nature of the pitch. Who knows why and how personal events, world events, life circumstances and so on impact individuals when they are at work? And sport is work, whatever we think about it. It is tedious, and boring, and brings us together, and gives us some purpose, and it is alienating. But that is another matter. So, maybe we would take Ian Bell at number five for England in his 2013 incarnation, over Graham Thorpe’s performance across his career. Maybe we would take Shane Warne over Muttiah Muralitharan in Australia, but not on the subcontinent. At this moment, I am not sure any of that matters. It’s what and who lie in your soul.

NB 2: in any case, England get beaten by a World XI nine times out of 10. In fact, they probably get beaten by a World Second XI nine times out of 10. So my heart will always trump my head, because that one time we win matters more than we think.”

Day Two: A random and disordered Coronavirus list

Contributor: Richard:

  1. Will I see my Nan again? She is 60 miles away and extremely vulnerable. She brought me up for a while and is the light of my life. I have had 18 extra months with her since her fall, which are a blessing. I have been grieving her for a while. What will it be like not being there? Will there be a funeral? How will we celebrate the light of her life?
  2. My Dad and my father-in-law also extremely vulnerable. They are also too far away and need to self-isolate. They are part of the reason I am so angry about this Government’s response, and the wilful, naïve or thoughtless behaviour of those who congregate anyway. Our leaders condemn our families through their actions and omissions and carelessness.
  3. There is much grief coming. And it carries a significant potential energy.
  4. Currently, mourning trumps productivity. Work tell us: business continuity; business-as-usual; take care so that you can hit the ground running when we get back to normal. I want to weep. I shake my head.
  5. This is the new normal. The world-as-is, is not the world we thought it would be. Maybe it is not the world we wanted. Or hoped. Maybe it will become more possible for more people, rather than more austere for most. Maybe. Probably not.
  6. I still see too many people on the street, driving, walking the dog, carrying cans, sitting in back gardens smoking with friends, rather than socially isolating or maintaining distance. Oh. My. God.
  7. We are moving transitionally, from suggestions to stay-the-home, through distancing towards isolation, with occasional psychological dislocations thrown in, as we realise that pubs are closed and parks are closed and there is no football. I wonder how this will feel for many of us in a week, two weeks, a month. I wonder how this will impact our collective and individual, emotional well-being or ill-being. How will it recalibrate our being?
  8. I worry about those on the street and beyond who are vulnerable, old, ill, infirm, immobile, abused, locked-in, unsafe. I feel powerless. Mutual aid and state aid and local government aid seem weak in the face of the virus, which shows us how fragile we are.
  9. I will re-read the books that are in my soul. Geoffrey Holmes, British Politics in the Age of Anne (for the insight and the tapestry). Peter Davies, All Played Out: The full story of Italia 90 (for the nostalgia and the emotion and the loss). David Peace, GB84 (for the indignation). Philip Roth, I Married a Communist (for the loss of autonomy). Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (because we may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us). Andy Merrifield, The Wisdom of Donkeys (because chaos does us no favours). Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook (because it points to recovery and hope). The Angela Davies reader (because what comes next will be a struggle for many of us). Alec Clifton-Taylor, The Cathedrals of England (because spirituality matters). And there are others.
  10. I will make time to focus upon Spring on the road – Blue Tits and Great Tits in the buddleia, the leaves emerging on the Oak tree, Magpies in the Silver Birches, cherry blossom, the landscape of green at Western Park.
  11. I will make time to Skype my friends, and hopefully renew or sustain some kind of connection.
  12. I will try to play chess, and make sourdough bread.
  13. I will try to focus upon one thing at a time.
  14. As our emotions become more plain to see (if they can be seen), and as they are revealed because we cannot hide in our work and in our distractions, I hope that we can forgive ourselves a few things.
  15. I hope that we can persevere.