It was good to read this week that Derbyshire's innovative and impressive membership campaign has thus far recruited over 150 new members. It deserved to, as the pricing of £139 for a season's county cricket viewing makes it a purchase of wonderful value.
Yet it should never be considered that Derbyshire support and a passion for the club and its cricket, is the preserve of members alone.
Back in the days of gaslight when I started this blog (so it seems), my reason for doing so was simple - to see if it would enable me to make contact with any other Derbyshire supporters out there on the internet.
Never in a million years did I imagine it would take off as it has, nor that it would enable me to make more friends and acquaintances than I ever felt possible. I have exchanged regular emails with people living all over the UK and have had occasional messages from others overseas, as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, Canada and the United States. I have become friends with former and current heroes, managed to get two books published and had more fun in the process than one could ever imagine.
Support isn't the sole preserve of those whose personal circumstances allow them to go to most or all home games, nor those whose lifestyle allows them to travel the country with their interest. Hats off to all concerned who do, as I'm sure their dedication is appreciated, but this is a shout out to many others who, for a myriad of reasons, are simply not able to do so.
When I was a lad, between the ages of nine and twenty-two, I was rarely away from Derbyshire matches. I lived locally and my Dad, or friends, regularly used to attend with me. Further education intervened a little, but long summer holidays meant I could still get along to more games than I missed. I saw the dark days of the early seventies in fine detail, then enjoyed the Barlow years along with everyone else. I saw many wonderful cricketers along the way. They were glorious days.
My job then took me to Scotland, a country that I love dearly and I have been there ever since. Every April I wish I was closer to the best place on earth, Derbyshire, but I know that, for now at least, my life will continue to be where my job is, my son works and my daughter studies. Family contentment is a big thing for me, like many others, so I accept that my opportunities to attend games are limited. Even more so, as the needs of elderly parents, north and south of the border, increasingly eat in to available time to go and see some cricket.
As things stand, with a range of other things on the go, I will perhaps manage between six and eight days cricket this summer, assuming that the 'family stuff' doesn't take priority between times. I will be down for the first two days of the Leicestershire four-day game in May, all being well, then the first couple of days of the Chesterfield Festival, when I hope to meet up with an old friend or two and am praying it doesn't rain. I had hoped to see the season opener, but couldn't get time off work. Maybe no bad thing, based on seasons past, when I have sat in the stand with more layers than a show-stopper cake on The Great British Bake Off.
I'll make a couple of days late season too, but the fixture schedule is such that I need a decent forecast and at least three days to make it worthwhile, one for traveling in each direction. You don't do a 650-mile round trip without planning and I have book stuff that needs to fit into my holiday allocation, along with family breaks. T20, with ten hours driving for three hours cricket, isn't realistic, unless I am down there for other reasons.
Does it make me less of a fan? Of course it doesn't. The very occasional critic of the blog has usually used the 'you're never at games, so how can you comment?' tactic, rather overlooking the fact that the blog is and always will be an opinion piece. I don't write commentaries on games and am grateful for the comments of those who were there to fill in the blanks that are there between many press reports.
Yet, when you have watched enough cricket, you know how Billy Godleman square cuts, Wayne Madsen cover drives and Imran Tahir bowls. It doesn't stop me from wishing I was there on the good days, and being glad that I wasn't on the bad, yet nor does it change the fact that there is no one any more passionate about the club, its performances and its ongoing and gratifying stability. There's plenty of others like me out there too.
You might look at 150 new members and think that's good, or you may think 'is that all?'. In the context of football support, it is perhaps small beer, but the comments of people on here who have come back in to the fold and plan trips to see Derbyshire this summer for the first time in many years is gratifying.
Interest in Derbyshire cricket is booming. We have recruited well and the on field 'offer' this summer is the best it has been for some time, while off field there are 'proper' facilities. There are genuine reasons for optimism and that will result in a few more planned trips, IF it translates into results and improved performance.
For those, like me, whose attendance is limited, feel free to pitch in with comments, to mail me when you wish and to share in that passion. If you are able to get along more frequently, enjoy every minute and remember that there are a lot of people out there, all over the globe, who are slightly envious of you and are following every ball on a phone, tablet, computer or television somewhere far away.
But sharing that passion, all the way.
And massive supporters, as they have always been.