THIS ISLAND LIFE It is somehow fitting that Old Father Time, in the shape of a hunched weather vane atop the Mound Stand at Lord’s, gazes out across the spiritual home of cricket, because it’s a sport with which people tend to remain associated most of their lives.
This makes it all the more poignant when, at depressingly more regular intervals, the old boy swings his scythe and another of its most memorable exponents is called to the crease for the last time.
Jim Winter loved his cricket and I think it’s fair to say that during the 40 years he played for Havenstreet CC, the village cricket community on the Island loved him right back.
The reason was simple. Not only was Jim a decent and honourable man in a world where both qualities are becoming increasingly rare, he was also an outstanding character in a sport which tends to breed them as a matter of course.
Not even his closest friends would describe him as an elegant or graceful practitioner of the sacred arts but cricket never had a nobler enthusiast. Jim was a wicket-keeper, which meant he was in the firing line for hours on end, season after season, as cricket balls were hurled in his direction at a variety of heights and speeds from surfaces which usually ranged from unreliable to corrugated.
This meant he was not always able to stop them in the conventional way (ie with his gloves) and when contact with them was occasionally made there was no saying which part of the gauntlet would be taking the impact.
As a result, it is reckoned Jim broke all his fingers over the years and never once went to hospital to get them reset.
“I’m too bloomin’ busy for all that silly nonsense. Anyway, it stops hurtin’ after a while.”
It also made life difficult for anyone else who might wish to take over behind the stumps, because the club gloves became moulded round his bent and gnarled digits to such an extent they became almost impossible for anyone else to wear. As a batsman, it’s fair to say Jim was not often mistaken for Colin Cowdrey.
His approach was best described as agricultural, which, being a proud countryman all his life, he regarded as something of a compliment.
His big pal was the late Mick Sparshott and whenever Jim inadvertently stopped the ball with his nose, the inside of his knee or some other unguarded or unconventional part of his anatomy, laughter was unconfined from the general area of mid-off.
In a lesson millions would do well to learn in these debt-stricken times, Jim managed to build a lovely family home (in Havenstreet, where else?) without ever owing anyone a penny.
He obtained the land in lieu of wages while putting in an agreed number of hours a week for local farmer Trory Russell, over many years. At the same time, he had a regular job with the Forestry Commission and was doing private tree work at weekends.
He then dug all the footings by hand and did the cement-mixing and labouring for the bricklayer he had employed — and who was paid out of his savings.
The Post Office account was also raided to fund a plumber, electrician and tiler but Jim laid all the floor timbers himself.
When the family moved into Winter’s Wicket (what else could he have named it?) there was not a penny owing — so Jim then set about creating a marvellous garden.
That was 36 years ago and, until the last few years when he became too ill to work the land, he and his late wife, Muriel, never had to spend a penny on vegetables or fruit. The good Lord, and Jim’s creaking back, always provided.
Jim Winter has now come to the end of a life that was so well lived he left the perfect legacy — you will not find anyone with a bad word to say about him.
Are those sonic booms really a sound memory?
The memory of two distinctive noises remain lodged in my brain from the 50s, when I was kid enjoying the playground also known as St Michael’s Avenue, Ryde.
One was the siren at the old fire station in the town, which was an ominous sound even to eight-year-old ears, as it wailed out its desperate warning.
The other (which I’m certain I can recall but which sceptics keep telling me is a figment of my imagination) were sonic booms.
Nowadays, these dramatic explosions often warrant stories in national newspapers but I’m sure they used to resonate in the skies around Ryde on a fairly regular basis.
Someone once told me they were due to pilots, freed from the life-or-death demands placed upon them by the Luftwaffe ten years earlier, learning to enjoy themselves as they gallivanted around the heavens.
I know the mind can distort memories — especially when some of them are more than 50 years old — so is there anyone else out there who can recall these sonorous booms?