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Holland Park Press

The Importance of Cricket

9 January 2011 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar

On Friday I read an article about England winning The Ashes. It was the first win in Australia in 24 years. England secured victory with ‘an innings and 83 runs’. Since 1882, the Ashes is a test cricket series that takes place between England and Australia. I had to add the previous sentence for our Dutch readers. Actually this is one of the big differences between England and The Netherlands: the importance of cricket.

The article in Friday’s Guardian started as follows: They came in their thousands to form an English corner of a foreign field’. This sentence is a play on words on lines from a poem by Rupert Brooke: ‘There’s some corner of a field/ That is forever England’. This highlights another difference between England and The Netherlands: in England poetry is often quoted.

There is however a sport which has a obsessive following in both countries: darts. Personally I would have preferred cricket to have been adopted, but you can’t have it all. Last week, the semi-official world darts championship took place in England’s Frimley Green. This is broadcasted live in England as well as The Netherlands. Mention ‘Frimley Green’ to the Dutch man in the street and he answers ‘darts’.

This time I noticed that Dutch darts players speak English with a combination of a Dutch and regional English accent. Unlike most Dutch people who speak Mid-Atlantic English.

This triggers the next difference between the English and the Dutch: the use of curtains. At street level you have full view of Dutch living rooms, yet upper floors are curtained off. This is reversed in England. Street level is closed off but at upper levels the curtains are not drawn.

Someone once explained to me that the Dutch are happy to put their possessions on display. At my publisher in London, I smoke my cigars on the balcony. Hence I have watched many an Englishman prance naked around their room. I cannot offer a sociological explanation for this phenomenon.

Moreover, the English are world champions in small talk. In Dutch this is sometimes called talking about ‘small cows and calves’. Literally translated this sounds bizarre in English. Apart from having a negative connotation: ‘we talk about nothing’.

The English can conduct an extensive discussion about the weather (‘it rained cats and dogs’), whereas the Dutch resort to telling their life’s history. As far as this is concerned the Dutch resemble Americans.

When travelling, I often think: show me your stations and I can tell you something about your country’s character. For example, think of Paddington Station in London or York Station. They give you a warm feeling; inviting you to order a beer.

A visit to a typical Dutch station prompts you to order a strong coffee. This is related to style. Dutch design is clean and functional but not very inviting. At English stations you notice a lot of red, dark blue and green. At Dutch stations it is mainly light blue and yellow.

We do agree, however, on humour. Both countries relish the absurd. When I state that German humour is a contradiction in terms, people in both counties understand.

However, quite importantly, continental Europe is bereft of cricket. Anywhere in the Commonwealth cricket is a topic of conversation. For the rest of the world it remains a mystery. But I imagine, if cricket had been popular in Germany and France, by now England would have adopted the Euro. So don’t underestimate the importance of cricket.

Harold Pinter once said: ‘I tend to think that cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created on earth – certainly greater than sex, although sex isn’t too bad either.’ Even his last interview featured cricket.

It is about time that I become acquainted with the rules of cricket.

© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press

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