The Friday Fillip

For a brief while, a long time ago, I played silly mid-off — which was probably the most foolish of all of the “silly-this” and “silly-that” things I’ve done. It’s a fielding position in cricket, and I’ve got a picture here to show you what the “silly” part is all about. My theory at the time was that I’d be so close to the batsman that there’d be no time at all to think about whether or not I wanted to apply my bare hands to a very hard and very swift ball: it’d simply be a case of rapid youthful reaction time and plain old self-protection. Some of the time it worked, much to the chagrin of my palms; and some of the time I got my breath knocked out of me. Then I switched from cricket to baseball, where I had a glove and lots of time to think.

This fillip, then, is a meditation on cricket, but not the serious game, which calls for rather more concentration than a fillip should engender if you want to understand the rules. (And just on the silly off-chance that you might, I should tell you that Wikipedia does a decent job on the subject.) Rather, I thought, we’d have a look at other “crickets” that have crossed my path recently. And as a first stop, we’d better turn to the insect in question.

Gryllus pennsylvanicus is the common field cricket that you’re likely to find in your garden (or by your hearth if you’re lucky — or keep reptiles as pets). As is usually the case in life, the males are the noisy ones. Here’s a five-second clip of a “calling song,” in case you’ve forgotten the chirp all these weeks into winter. Which brings me to temperature and the arcane fact that although the field cricket can’t, the snowy tree cricket can tell you how warm it is: Dolbear’s Law (apologies for mentioning that word in a fillip) says you can tell the temperature in Fahrenheit by counting the number of chirps in 15 seconds and adding 40. Seems the field cricket is unreliable in this matter because the number of his chirps is related to mating success. Yes, well…

Which brings me to Dickens. No, not mating success, though he was a bit of a bad boy, but the lucky cricket thing and his novella, The Cricket on the Hearth (available many places online, but Project Gutenberg will do), which he divided into what we might call chirpters: Chirp the First, etc. etc. This was a work I didn’t know about until recently, and it’s pure Dickens, which you can tell as soon as the first named character is introduced as Mrs. Peerybingle.

Now from the past to the future, staying with writers though. William Gibson, the noted (and good) science fiction writer, has recently started a blog on which he posts patches of fiction, one of which is called… “cricket.”

Science fiction was a joy of my youth — as was early rock and roll. This naturally takes us to The Crickets, three guys who backed up Buddy Holly, one of the all-time greats. On the off-chance, silly I know, that you’ve denied yourself the pleasure of hearing The Crickets and himself, I’ve done the wrong thing of pirating 30 seconds of “That’ll Be the Day,” for your information. Note, too, that there’s some merit to the story that the Beatles wound up with that name as a result of an early imitation of The Crickets.

Time to finish up, if I’m ever to post this fillip. In which case it makes sense to return to the game of cricket. Chances are poor, I’d guess, that those of you who’ve not yet played it will have a chance in the future, so just for you I’m leaving you with Top Spinner Cricket, an online game that let’s you defend your very own wicket with nothing more than a mouse.



  1. Well the Phriday Phillipic took off in ways I wasn’t expecting. I thought it was going to be about Joseph O’Neill’s book Netherland about cricket in Brooklyn, or else a tribute to those quirky English tort cases like Bolton v. Stone or Miller v. Jackson [one of Lord Denning’s riper performances].
    And it’s nice to know that there are still country solicitors worrying about the law of cricket -see the latest East Sussex newsletter.