I've been in Scotland for 38 summers now and for all of them I have pined for the county of my birth, while still enjoying the many pleasures that Scotland has to offer.
In under an hour I can be on either coast and where we live, in a small village in the countryside north of Glasgow, is well-placed for the motorway network and ideal for dog walking, with plenty of quiet spots, old railways and woodland 'down the glen'.
My home is in the same area I have always lived since my first job, post-degree, took me north of the border. It was in a state school and I had five wonderful years there. To general incredulity, once I had the job nailed and was looking for further ways to engage with the kids, I started, with the help of a man who has been a long-time friend, a cricket team.
State schools in Scotland didn't play cricket and we struggled for opposition. We struggled for facilities too, using wind balls on blaes football pitches to play mini matches and the school gym to work on player techniques.
Blaes pitches were popular in Scotland, a hardened clay or shale with a grit top that were low maintenance. Many was the boy who emerged from a game of football on them with dirt in a cut. Sliding tackles were undertaken at your own risk, and, switching sports, a diving catch at cricket was worthy of an award for gallantry. Mind you, a spinner could get serious movement on blaes, making batting like the fifth day on a worn track in Mumbai. It went through for seamers too, and if it hit something on pitching your technique had to be right and your reactions quick.
Yet from these humble surroundings talent emerged. Two boys were tall,strong and lithe, becoming very good quick bowlers. Another, whose Dad was a professional at a Scottish club, could bowl good seam or off spin, while we had a wicket-keeper whose handling was so good that he eventually played for Scotland. Another lad, who was modest with bat and ball, had an extraordinary arm that ran out many, with a flat arm from the boundary edge over the top of the stumps. 'I skimmed a lot of stones in the sea at Largs, sir' he told me. They could bat too, quickly realising that to stay in they had to learn to defend; to score runs consistently they needed a range of shots.
We managed to get fixtures against the public schools in the west of Scotland, where the grounds were perfect and the setting somewhat removed from those we left behind. We went to these games in the school minibus and, by the time that group of boys left the school and I left my job for another, were beating them all, handsomely.
The cricket masters at those schools found it hard to believe that we had no facilities to speak of, yet were somehow managing. They were especially impressed by the fact that the boys, supported by the school PTA and by their parents, turned up immaculately. They arrived in blazers and ties, they took the field dressed immaculately in whites, they had their own kit. They looked the part and you could almost see them grow as they took to the cricket pitch together.
We even had a staff v school game at the school, watched by the pupils and parents (around a football pitch) and won narrowly by the staff (modesty forbids my mentioning a key innings) and the buzz around the pitch was how smart the boys looked in their whites and what an example they set in their appearance and conduct.
Which was why I was saddened to read Steve H's comments on the second team yesterday. A key factor of those boys performance was the fact that they did not look out of place in settings some way above that they were used to. They dressed the part and acted the part, even thanking the kitchen ladies at those schools for the teas, which those ladies told me was nigh unprecedented.
So surely Derbyshire can afford to ensure that players representing our second team look the part?
I know that we have a small staff. I know that means that our second team will perforce contain academy players and trialists, but my assumption would be that the former will have an appropriate sweater to wear.
It cannot be beyond the realms of possibility, then, for those on trial to be given the use of a Derbyshire CCC shirt and sweater to wear for the duration of the game. I don't expect that sizing will differ from medium and large, so a supply of these must surely be to hand for use, to be collected at the end of the game and washed for future use? Heck, my wife did that for a couple of sides I started at one workplace and at my hockey club, so there's a role model right there.
If times are that hard, perhaps they could even use last year's first team tops, suitably laundered and names removed?
I fully agree with Steve that it is poor to see someone running around with a view to a contract, or representing OUR county, wearing a top from another. It is unprofessional and at that level and upwards, players need to be prepared for everything that being a professional cricketer entails.
Of course it won't make a silk purse from a sow's ear, but there are plenty of people who attend second team cricket, me among them, and they should see a team that is representing Derbyshire County Cricket Club dressed appropriately, in the club colours, not those of other counties and local clubs.
It is the last step before the cricketing big time and should be regarded as such by everyone involved.
If I was picked for the county seconds, I would expect to be given an appropriate shirt to recognise that, even if I handed it back after the game. Every time I looked at that badge it would remind me of the importance and significance of the game and it would make me feel I was nearly, very nearly there.
It is definitely something for a club that, to be fair, covers most of the bases to sort out, sooner rather than later.
And I hope to see it for myself as the summer progresses.