Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Summer Camps

Summer Cricket Camps are all the rage. Every corner of Edinburgh seems to be given over to one or other such camp. Fantasy Bob wishes them well - it is never too early to give youngsters a good grounding in the skills of cricket, even though this year the main skill required is putting the covers on.

FB never attended a cricket camp as a youngster - indeed he never attended a cricket camp at any age. His sublime skills are largely self taught. No one showed him how to eat an empire biscuit. He just picked one up one day and found he was a natural.

Had there been cricket camps in FB's day he might have been twice the player he is, which is still half as good as anyone else. But instead FB has other memories of summer camps.

When he was a teenager FB was forcibly recruited to the Boy's Brigade for a number of years- a fine organisation which FB's parents thought was a more fitting activity for him than the apprenticeship in juvenile delinquency that seemed to be his own choice at the time. The BB, as it was called, had marching and gym and games and then a bit more marching. You had to wear a belt with a brass buckle that had to be shined every week. It was vaguely military and proudly Christian. Just what the aspirant juvenile tearaway needed. It had the great merit over the Scouts in not having a woggle to worry about or any of that faux outdoorsman stuff.

So when FB's BB platoon went on its summer camp, tents were absent. Dryness was assured. The platoon took occupation of a village primary school and billeted itself on the floor of the classroom. The locations were the most exotic locations the NE of Scotland can offer. Rhynie, Insch and Kemnay were among them. Hill walking seemed to be a principal occupation, which instilled in FB his great love of avoiding anything to do with hill walking to this day. There may even have been the odd game of cricket of some description although it is likely to have been played on uncovered wickets. But football was the sport of choice and the local youth were challenged to matches against FB and his City chums. But sadly FB's memories of these adventures are only sketchy. He attributes this to mental poisoning by mince - mince was on the menu morning noon and night.  Never has FB eaten so much mince.

Then summer camps took a gear change for FB when as a student he applied to Camp America to spend the summer in America as what they called a counsellor at a American camp. For some reason which reflects FB's extreme good fortune at all points of his life - except when facing leg spin bowling - he was selected by a camp in San Rafael in Marin County in the San Francisco Bay Area. Not only was it in a seriously cool area, but it was not a residential camp.  Instead all the kids went home at 4 o'clock.  So FB spent the summer as the guest of a number of American families.  He did not have to eat mince at any point in this trip.

And he was paid - not a king's ransom but decent pocket money. He had the weekends to explore San Francisco, which continues to fascinate. At the camp he was an object of curiosity to the kids who had a limited grasp of where anywhere outside California was.  FB finds that life repeats itself for he is still an object of curiosity to Carlton's junior members who have never seen anything so fossilised attempt a quick single. 

The Bay Area had everything as far as FB could see except cricket.  his worldwide readership will understand what a sacrifice this venture was on FB's part when they realise that he missed the summer of listening to TMS describe the West Indies tour of England in which they were led by former Aberdeenshire player Rohan Kanhai and beat England 2-0 in a 3 test series.

But FB did play some baseball, or more correctly softball, with the kids, and was taken to Candlestick Park to see the SF Giants play. At that time they were a top side although Willie Mays, reckoned to be the greatest all round baseball player ever had left them at the end of the previous season to finish his career in New York. Among the players FB actually saw was Dave Kingman who was reckoned to be longest hitter in baseball at the time. While he hit a fair number of home runs, he also had a habit of swinging and missing a lot and led teh stats on strike outs too. FB will resist the suggestion that watching Kingman had a influence on his own batting style.

At the end of the summer FB took the Greyhound Bus from LA to NY which is another story altogether and almost as exotic a return journey from the BB camp's mini bus back from Rhynie.  FB was invited back the next year, but the US economy slumped as OPEC turned the screw and they cancelled.

Summer Camps - you can't have too much of them.  They're wasted on the young.

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