It was under really sad circumstances I returned to Chesham and Ley Hill a few weeks ago as we paid our last respects to Eric Collier, a long term friend and fellow cricketer in the 80”s. The ceremony at the crematorium was very sad but a full house just showed how much Eric, a real Gentle Man, had touched people’s lives. I was hoping to see some of my other fellow 80’s team mates, but obviously after 25 years was not sure if they would recognise me nor me them having gone from a full head of hair to Zilch. As I walked in I immediately recognised Martin Leadbitter, who luckily recognised me. I looked round the hall not spotting anyone else other than of course Penny, Joe and Hanna. Eric’s’ Nephew gave an absolutely brilliant tribute, which I am not ashamed to sat brought tears to my eyes and reminded of a playing time, and friendship, going over some 40 years, the highlights being Best Man at Eric and Penny’s Wedding and Eric Godfather to my son Callum.
At the end of the celebration of Eric’s life people moved into an outside gathering area in glorious sunlight, it would have made a great cricketing day, plenty of swing. As I am stood with my wife Deb, talking to Eric’s brother, one by one my cricketing friends from back then, appear like magic, little Lewis who is no longer little, Colin, my opening partner and cricketing mate for 7 or 8 years, Matt, Nick, Mr Parkhouse, whose umpiring style set the standard for international cricket, I saw Ian Partington in the distance, whose dad Ken I remember because he bought me my first pint in my first season. We discussed about what we were all doing now before departing for the wake at Ley Hill CC, where else!
This sad occasion had brought us all together and was fitting we should end up at the club, and it was just like old times, reminiscence was in full flow along with fabulous Beer and Chips. Going to the cricket club after all this time was such a great idea. Seeing my picture at 23 on the wall, my poor son looks like I did at 20. I remembered sitting for numerous teas with Eric, we both loved cricket and Chelsea, then Eric loved horse riding! Oh yes! Penny had arrived. We chatted about why we were using orange cricket balls? (they were cheap!!) What had possessed Pete Pearce to put chicken manure all over the ground? Leaving us all covered in feathers after each game - Ley Hill CC gave you wings long before Red Bull! The facilities now are fabulous, even a ladies toilet. No longer a toilet you shared with the lawn Mower. You have a flat outfield, it must bliss not having to worry whether you are going to be hit on the shins or the ball flying over your head depending on where it bounced on the outfield.
Ley Hill formed a big part of my growing up under the guidance of Johnnie Rose, Grunt Grainger, Derek, Bill and Keith and with other friends Mark Hill, Steve Wilko Wilkins, Neil Prior, Trevor Teden, Dave Channer, Dave Bridger, Dave Mortimer, Dave Buffin. I never realised how many Dave’s there were! One thing is for sure there was only one Eric! A club that was never replaced in friendship and comradery by anywhere else I played, when I moved to the frozen north.