JOHN LIGHT: My 70-year love affair with Cheltenham Festival

john light my 70 year love affair with cheltenham festival - JOHN LIGHT: My 70-year love affair with Cheltenham Festival
john light my 70 year love affair with cheltenham festival 1 - JOHN LIGHT: My 70-year love affair with Cheltenham Festival

THE Cheltenham Festival is upon us.

Not horse racing, music, literature or science but the cricket festival.

First day, Monday, July 15 v Leicestershire.

It has drawn me there for 70 years, when my father first took me to see Surrey in 1949.

Laker and Lock were in the opposition and Stuart Surridge was captain.

Next year I queued to see the great West Indies side and have never missed a match since.

My father had first gone to watch the Australians in 1926.

As a Cotswold forester he had no paid holiday apart from snatched Saturdays at Cheltenham, it was a constant world of work.

Happily the 1947 agricultural workers wages act changed that and we could go together.

The festival is of course much more than cricket.

It is a chance to meet old friends, make new ones and reflect on matters of considerable importance, such as where to go for an evening pint, or supper.

Are Birdlip a powerful cricket team as they used to be? (no!)

Will Cheltenham Town finish above Forest Green in League II (very definite No!).

Mrs Light and I can claim two start-ups.

Firstly the Exiles lunch, which has now grown into a full Exiles Day, and the College Service?

This is a multi-faith celebration of cricket and the Cotswolds and this year is taking place in the wonderful college chapel at 10am on July 21 – the first day of our regular battle with our friends from Worcestershire.

It will end at 10.45am so no cricket will be missed.

We are singing some different hymns this year.

It is of course open to all faiths or those of none.

I became chairman of the county club when Penny was ordained.

It seemed an obvious thing to do.

Being chairman was a great honour.

As a teenager I said to my father that in later life it was something I would aim for.

His sceptical reply is with me still: “There is more chance of a camel getting through the eye of a needle than a working class lad…”

To my sorrow he never lived to see me achieve that honour.

Walking round the ground at my first festival in post took me three hours and two handkerchiefs.

See you there.

lLet John know your thoughts by emailing him at jonpen22@tiscali.co.uk

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