A Country of strange Sports.

jvo-510330w1Johan van Oldenbarnevelt

It is no wonder soccer is the world’s most popular sport. Everyone understands it and it is played with a round ball. You can understand how I felt back in 1956 after arrival in Australia, finding that not all balls are perfectly round. How anyone could play a sport with an oblong ball that could not be kicked towards where you wanted it, was a blow that I still have trouble in accepting today.

How could a country hold a better future that played such a strange game? In Holland I had never heard of rugby and was only vaguely aware of cricket. No one had warned us. Soon after arrival I met up with an oblong ball. I thought it was a mistake and that the ball somehow was an aberration, a rejection from the ball factory. No, it wasn’t I was told and I was totally unprepared. I went to bed that night with feelings of dread for the future.

We arrived in January and the drone of cricket on the AWA radio was seeping through the suburban venetian blinds on my way to and form work, together with the suspended, dusty and forgotten Christmas cards. ‘All out and in for a duck’ were cricket terms I don’t understand till this day. But, at least the ball was round. It was of some soothing comfort during those difficult times.

Here is an explanation of cricket to a foreigner; ( From tea-towel cricket)
“You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay all out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.

When both sides have been in and all the men have out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game”

My first job was as a ‘process worker’. The definition of that skill was as incomprehensible as cricket. It mainly included holding broom and sweeping up remnants of worker’s lunches. I was amazed that a meat-pie in Australia could be so callously disregarded, being half eaten. At least, that was of some consolation. In Holland a half eaten pie on the floor would be swarming with kids fighting tooth and nails over ownership and I would win! The others would be out!

I remember the owner of the factory having a wooden leg which used to creak as he walked around. He could well have been a soldier and casualty of WW2, he was a slave driver and everyone would be at his machine when the dreaded creaking came near. I gradually progressed and taught to work on lathes and milling machines. I quite liked being able to turn a piece of steel into an object of use. A new migrant boy would become the holder of a broom and baptised ‘process worker’. He too would be surprised at the half eaten meat pies. Such blatant show of wealth! It had to be a good country, even with oblong balls.

That’s how it was.

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32 Responses to “A Country of strange Sports.”

  1. Andrew Says:

    I was the opposite, Gerard. We didn’t have round balls where I was born. Only oblong ones. But we were the best in the world with them. Names of the oblong ball players were and still are venerated and celebrated. JPR Williams, JJ WIlliams, Gerald Davies, Barry John, and the great Gareth Edwards. Not to mention the Pontypool Front Row. But eventually I discovered round balls, the Dutch and total football. How exhilarating. Orange not blue was the colour. Cricket is an acquired taste. I know of no other game that has a Silly Mid On.


  2. Yvonne Says:

    I still don’t understand cricket, and after reading your tea-towel explanation, I don’t understand it even more!

    You had quite a few eye-opening experiences in Australia, I’m sure.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Don’t even try Yvonne. Yes, it was an eye opener and none more so than working in factories. They had some strange initiation ceremonies then as well which seems to have filtered down through the ages, into the present military force.


  3. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Gerard.I thought that cricket pertained to that blomming insect that drives me nuts with its incessant chirping. 🙂 Just kidding here. I have heard and read about cricket. A ridiculous game – the same as the American version of football. People over here go nuts over football. I’ve yet to understand the appeal.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes Petspeopleandlife..

      We live near one of the world’s holiest places of cricket, “the Bradman oval”.

      People talk in whispers when passing by, bus loads of Pakistani tourists fall on their knees exiting the bus, and yet…when the game is being played…not a soul,.. or perhaps a couple of isolated figures drinking tea from a thermos, all puckererd and wrapped up, clapping with a single hand just once every six hours.

      I don’t get it and now it is too late. ( with apologies to all cricket lovers)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. berlioz1935 Says:

    We were already warned on the boat about their sports. For me the biggest surprise was that they read their papers backwards. Perhaps a sign of their attitude to culture. The egg shaped ball introduced to us in Berlin by the American soldiers after WW II. So their was nor surprise.

    You don’t want to hear my opinion of the Australian cricket test team.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I tried playing soccer with the oblong ball and it was hopeless. I did once play for Scarborough basket ball club. A few months ago there was a re-union and someone phoned me up. I left the game as I kept breaking my nose and glasses.
      Sport was taken so serious I was afraid to make a wrong move. It was all about winning and not so much about having fun and a good laugh.
      My tennis also g (c)ame to nothing, especially when I changed my racket around to try and hit the ball with the handle. It wasn’t appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

      • berlioz1935 Says:

        I too found all those winning games silly. If something went wrong they try to blame someone. So, I took up running. A great sport and even if you run in a race people help each other and encourage even the slowest. Competition in running is the reserve of the elite runners.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, running is the most noble of all sport. Perhaps rowing is in that league as well. In England many from those private (public) institutions take up rowing. Later in life and in old age in the smoking room Edgar might ask Henry; did you ever row for Eton college?


  5. Curt Mekemson Says:

    I would have been right there with you Gerard when it came to cricket and rugby… I think my knowledge of the two sports is still on the same page. 🙂 Curt


  6. umairashrafi Says:

    Reblogged this on Umair Aziz Ashrafi.


  7. auntyuta Says:

    I have to keep your tea towel explanation in mind, Gerard. Maybe there is still some hope for me to learn something about Cricket next time that I have a chance to watch it a bit.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, I tried doing it by watching cricket, hoping I would get any wiser. The problem was that not much seem to happen. I think it is very esoteric and one just had to grow up with it. A bit like getting used to vegemite and learning to understand that just because it is brown it doesn’t mean it tastes like brown.


      • auntyuta Says:

        I did not grow up with vegemite, yet I learned to love it! It tastes yummy!
        I do like the looks of cricket players. For me too much happens in cricket that I do not understand. I never had a chance to watch a life game. I kind of like that the players seem to be rather relaxed, but focussed. And it looks as though they have to be very fit, otherwise they are not able to play well.
        Football or rugby looks much too rough for me. I do not like rough games like this.


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        You must have been made of sterner stuff Auntyuta. I never could accept vegemite and even today hide it in the deepest corner of the cupboard.
        Yes, football and rugby is rough and those men rolling around the grass would not know what ball they are grappling with. 😉


  8. roughseasinthemed Says:

    Like Andrew I grew up with the oval ball, except it was league not union. I grew up with cricket too but loathed it, could never understand it, still don’t but at least when I left home I never had to suffer it on TV again.

    Love the old photo.


  9. Patti Kuche Says:

    Great story Gerard! I remember stories of European football / soccer teams playing in Sydney, the matches always ending in a big bust-up, the Croats, Bosnians, Serbs, some Italian teams, maintaining their WWII scars.
    Just thinking about cricket puts me to sleep.


  10. Silver in the Barn Says:

    It’s just it, isn’t it, Gerard? Huge differences in culture manifest themselves in the tiniest of ways….shapes of balls, for instance. I can picture the recently starving Dutch boy in utter amazement that food could be so cavalierly tossed away. 1956 was a very good year for Australia!


  11. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist Says:

    It must have been a shock on so many fronts coming from war-torn Europe. We did a course that included a couple of Dutch people who lived in the Netherlands during the war and some of the stories they told us made me realise how lucky I was to be born here- yes 1956 was a good year indeed.
    My husband emigrated in 68 and for him the only game is soccer although cricket came a close second. He doesn’t see how you can play football when you are allowed to pick the oblong ball up.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Lily Lau Says:

    I wish I knew how to play rugby, but I have no one here to teach me!


  13. bkpyett Says:

    Loved your description of the game of cricket. Even though I grew up in Australia and had four brothers, I didn’t take to it. I was neither in nor out, though the wireless was a constant reminder that I was probably out of the loop, just letting the sound wash over me.


  14. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    And now I know how to play cricket. I laughed outloud Gerard. Your explanation could have been an Abbot and Costello skit. With such determination and good humor I have no doubt that you would have captured the half eaten meat pie first.

    Liked by 1 person

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