I sip my polystyrene cup of coffee pensively. Another dayâ€™s play going pear-shaped; we are not having a good season. The clouds have blown over again and all I can do is pray for rain. Politely, I clap the end of the over: another maiden for the opposition bowler.
Owen slides into the seat next to me. It is most unusual for him to arrive unannounced.
â€œHector wants to see you.â€ No hello, no how are you, no little hug.
I frown. â€œAny idea why?â€
He shrugs. â€œIâ€™m only the messenger.â€
â€œBugger. I wonder what Iâ€™ve written thatâ€™s offended him?â€
I abandon my coffee and follow Owen through the membersâ€™ bar and up to Hectorâ€™s private office. If we were a football club, Hector would be the owner. In English cricket things are more genteel; instead, he is our chairman and chief source of cash. I have met him only twice before.
As Owen punches in the combination to the private area, I ask him if heâ€™s OK. His head is down as he replies, â€œJust busy, thatâ€™s all.â€ Now I am sure Iâ€™m in for a major bollocking, maybe even being told never to darken the clubâ€™s doors again. Owen must know, and he is too kind to tell me. Perhaps Iâ€™ve even dragged him into the mire as well.
I have never been in Hectorâ€™s office before. It has a grandstand view of the pitch, and gives an over-riding impression of black. Black leather sofas, black desk, dark grey smoked glass table. The carpetâ€™s probably dark grey too, but I donâ€™t look at that â€“ I have decided to look Hector in the eye.
He extends his hand towards me. â€œWillow! Sorry to drag you away from the game â€“ although itâ€™s not exactly edifying cricket.â€
I shake his hand enthusiastically. â€œI donâ€™t know whatâ€™s happened to us this season.â€
He laughs hollowly. â€œYou do, youâ€™re just too polite to say!â€
Hector gestures to one of the sofas and I sit down. â€œCan I get you a drink or anything? Gin and tonic maybe?â€
â€œNo thanks. Iâ€™m driving.â€
Why is he making me feel about two inches tall? Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s deliberate.
He sits down in an armchair next to me and we chat about this and that. I feel myself relax a little; he wouldnâ€™t be this friendly if he was going to tear me off a strip, but my mind is working overtime, trying to work out what he does want. It canâ€™t be my scintillating company; I feel as though Iâ€™m acting like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
In the end, he comes to the point. â€œAre you very busy at the moment? Do you have the bandwidth to take on a major project?â€
Actually, I am very busy, but Iâ€™m still interested.
â€œIt depends what it is.â€
â€œAnd how much itâ€™s worth!â€
Itâ€™s my turn to laugh now. â€œIt wonâ€™t be worth much if itâ€™s to do with cricket.â€
â€œWell it is. I want you to write a kind of history of the club.â€
Iâ€™m puzzled. â€œHasnâ€™t that guy from the membersâ€™ committee already done it?â€
â€œOnly up until 2000. I want something more up to date; something thatâ€™s more off the field than on, and youâ€™re good at writing about that.â€
I get it now. The club history, starting from the moment Hector rode up in his Jag and became our knight in shining armour. Actually, despite the downsides, Iâ€™m up for it. I need a major project to consume my mind and stop it wandering. I lean forwards. â€œWhat exactly would it entail?â€