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Not being one for too much Radio Four, the much supposed soundtrack to craft workshops across the nation I tend toward other options if I want sounds from outside with me. Its not that I don’t like some of the station’s output, there is some great stuff; Thinking Allowed, …Clue and the occasional Sherlock Holmes play but having shared spaces with all day listeners I long ago realised the necessity to edit and mediate. Inane comedies about care workers and pointless quizzes about literary quotations had me reaching for the off switch. But the main thing about much radio is the uneasy punctuation of the day with hourly news bulletins pretty much repeating themselves, the segmenting of time to the clock, thirty, forty-five and sixty minutes, try some local stations for more intervals; half hourly news, a reminder of what to expect in the repeat in thirty minutes? and the travel bulletin every twenty minutes; an annoyingly matey and chirpy announcer trying to make their mark telling me about an incident on the M25, the M25? It’s not even in London and I’m not going anywhere. Music of various types is what usually paces out the day with me and the work but outside of that; which I could go on for hours about I look forward to the arrival of summer and the slightly fizzy reception of Test Match Special. Now cricket, that’s a thing to spend a week in the workshop with. It just seems to fit, the pace the rhythm and the low-key chuntering of the commentators. It goes on all day and it takes five days to play a match. Sport at the speed of craft. The day’s action, sorry, did I say action? Perhaps a sequence of events gradually unfolding would be more apt starts at eleven o’clock thus offering a decent couple of hours or so to get some noisy machining done to set up a day at the bench polish off a couple of croissants and to take the bins out to the skips bringing back someone else’s rubbish that looks certain to be useful one day. And that’s just it, the game unfolds over the day; with an almost imperceptible rhythm each over of six balls lasts about five minutes they take as long as the bowler’s style dictates within reason. The commentators, always in pairs burble along describing the game and perhaps more importantly chatting about almost anything under the sun, pigeons, cake and the busses on the Arlingford Road; cut up and punctuated multiple strands evolve, turn and return, an arcane rule, a record that has stood for eighty years, the way a particular batsman’s stance reminds one of them of someone who played in the 1960s. the iterations, the repetitions, something familiar in the re-treading and re-thinking going over old ground to define refine and pin down but never quite getting there, always open-ended. It’s also the intervals that fit, no hurried half time or recess here, this game has the manners and confidence to take a lunch-break; a proper lunch break and halfway to the evening they take afternoon tea, this is polite; this is slow. So an ongoing slowly moving succession of small events accrue and at times, sometimes unexpectedly a breakthrough; a small victory on the way to the target. And somehow that sense of something yet possibly nothing happening can coexist with the pace and direction of work, one can mentally block it out to focus and think; let the mind rejoin with the sound as the flow of things becomes more subconscious. Something might have happened or not, it lets one do this. Bringing an external tracker of time passing to the workshop but without the chimes or the pips, something else occurring within time yet somehow marking its own passing through the day not quite in abeyance to the clock. The lunchtime chat the other day revolved around the news of a proposal to start an English premier Twenty-20 competition. Twenty-20 cricket is a limited over game lasting for 20 overs a side and taking perhaps 3 hours to play in the evening. It’s great but it’s a different thing. Same tools, adapted mentality, different product. Invented as a way to popularise cricket the fast and furious few hours of slogging the ball around the ground is certainly exciting; especially at the ground with a couple of drinks even if the blasts of music through the PA system greeting each boundary do get a bit grating. But it just struck me how a thing or a way has to change to engage, to bring people on board and most of those changes are to do with immediacy, the thrill of a quick result, to be done and your way to the next thing. Introduced when the English Test game was in decline the short-form of the game brought along some new followers; Test cricket and twenty-20 coexist happily; different enough not to tread on each other’s toes. Now that the England test side are on a relative up the crowds and interest have returned for a while, drawn in by the success and the results; the ends and the artefact. Can we hope that the process and the slow build is found as engaging; the possible boredom the chance that nothing might take place; but the spaces for so much to happen.

David Gates

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