The mood at the club is exceptionally upbeat: despite a poor start to the season, somehow we have managed to struggle through to the Twenty20 quarterfinals. Of course, thereâ€™s a long way to go, but the overall feeling of resignation has blossomed into real hope.
So itâ€™s a good time to start on Hectorâ€™s project to write the clubâ€™s more recent history. The man himself is away a great deal at the moment, only reappearing when we have a home game, so I decide to start by talking to the other people who were around at the time of the glorious revolution. Except it wasnâ€™t really like that; it was more like Hector pulling the last burning feather from the pyre and breathing life into the flaccid little corpse of cricket in this part of the world.
I hesitate to use â€˜phoenixâ€™ because in financial terms itâ€™s a dirty word. And this was very much about finance. A bungled attempt to move the club to a new ground had left the worthy but under-resourced amateurs who were running the show staring down the barrel of a very big gun. So they turned to Hector, who before then they had always carefully kept at armâ€™s length. Everyone knew they didnâ€™t want to do it; everyone knew it was their last resort. Some of them have never forgiven him.
There are still a fair few people around the club from those days, and some hold very influential positions. The director of cricket, for example, and the first team coach; the head of the ground staff, and even a few of those hapless committee men who almost led us to ruin. Some of them are happy to talk to me â€“ but only some.
Basically, I start with who I can get hold of. Once again in this miserable summer itâ€™s raining cats and dogs, so pulling my coat firmly around me I head for the back of the stands and slip between the big green double doors into the Aladdinâ€™s cave beneath. The smell of two-stroke assails me; I love this place; itâ€™s the nerve centre of everything that happens here â€“ the maintenance shed.
One of the young groundsmen is tinkering with the heavy roller while another bowls a tennis ball against the wall. He has a lousy action, but he thinks heâ€™s Steve Harmison. On a good day. I edge around a pile of buckets and rakes towards Ianâ€™s office.
He pushes away a mountain of untidy paperwork, grateful for the distraction. â€œHello, lovely. What brings you to the bowels of middle earth?â€
â€œYour wit, intellect and warm welcome.â€
â€œNot my beautiful face?â€ Ian has a face like a wizened walnut.
â€œAnd your beautiful face.â€
â€œLying cow. Shall I put the kettle on?â€
â€œPlease.â€ Thatâ€™s another reason I like coming down here â€“ Ian makes the best cup of tea in the county; good and strong, a real manâ€™s brew.
He flicks the kettle on and picks up a mug. â€œOne of these do?â€
I look at it closely and burst out laughing. â€œThe logoâ€™s the wrong way up!â€
â€œWhy dâ€™you think Iâ€™ve got them? Owen blew his stack when he saw them â€“ they were meant to go in the shop in time for the first Twenty20 game.â€
â€œOwen? Blow his stack?â€ That seems mightily out of character.
The kettle boils and Ian asks me if I want a biscuit. I refuse. He makes some joke about me watching my figure. And then we settle down to talk about Hector.