A New Me, A New Blog

Over the past few years, I have committed a cardinal sin in blogging. I have simply not blogged enough. I might as well have just TWEETED my thoughts. It’s taken me until now to realise that this blog is a tool that should be treated more valuably and with more respect. I LOVE talking to the world and although some of my close friends might disagree, I don’t do it enough! Why do we settle with just talking to the people around us – the ones in our lives? Just imagine how quickly we’d advance as a planet with all seven billion people talking to each other! OK, extreme I know, but I’m a dreamer and I like to dream BIG.

This blog so far has concentrated on all things CRICKET but with cricket season here in the UK coming to a close, my attention is turning back fully to the other things that interest me including music, films, celebs, current affairs, food, make up, hair products and styles, nail art and varnish, fashion and matters close to my heart.

Us women are very curious creatures. We love to know about what’s new and popular. We love to read about tried and tested products and scrawl the internet for ideas of how to mix up our styles, ready to impress our partners/co-workers or even just to test and stretch our creativity. Anyone who knows me or follows my @LilMissAshes persona on Twitter knows that I am a woman of many words. I have my opinions and often think I know what’s best. I will therefore be metaphorically throwing this blog into a blender to see what comes out.

Stand by for a new me…

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Fan the Flames

Well a big hello again from the crazy, Welsh, cricket-loving chick who likes to parade round cricket grounds, wine glass in hand and chatting to cricketers on the boundary and randoms in the crowd. It has been a WHILE!

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Wednesday, 8th July was a great day. It was it Day 1 of the 2015 Ashes – a cricket competition I fell in love with 10 years ago, almost to the Test. Not only was I lucky enough to have a ticket, but I was asked to speak on Jason Mohammad’s BBC Radio Wales Ashes Show, talking about what the Ashes coming to Cardiff means for us here in Wales. As a huge Glamorgan Cricket fan, naturally I had plenty to say! The debate went well, the host was happy, not to mention my Nan, listening back home in Neath.

What has sparked this particular blog however came very swiftly after the radio interview had finished. A 40-something England fan who was sitting in the pub we were broadcasting from, had obviously been listening in as he strode up to where I was packing up my things and rather angrily asked me to reiterate my statement of when my interest in cricket began.

“2005.” I answered. “After we regained The Ashes.” I answered simply to what I KNEW was a loaded question. My suspicions were confirmed when he exploded into a tirade of abuse.

“How many Test matches have you been to see?” He asked me.

“Four, I think.” I replied, rather proudly. In the next few minutes, this man, single handedly, portrayed everything wrong with people’s attitudes towards the sport I love so much – I just WISH it had been caught on camera.

According to him, 4 Test matches seen ‘in the flesh’ does not qualify me to have a view on cricket or talk about it in public, regardless of the many Test Match DVDs I own and many hundreds of Tests I have watched on the TV or listened to on the radio, regardless of the hundreds of county cricket matches I have watched, not to mention local teams, regardless of the CRICKET BOOK I have written and had published four years ago, regardless of the hours of cricket chats I have had with my fantastic cricket-loving Twitter followers, regardless of the times I’ve spent in the commentary box with BBC Wales, BBC Essex and BBC London, regardless of all the time I give to publicising the sport that always comes second to football!

Even after all this, because I haven’t followed England to every Test match, he believes me to be a fraud. If time and money were no object, then I would happily follow England round the Globe, but I am happy the way I do things. I have a life, a job I love and I’m saving for a house. I simply cannot afford it! And neither can most! Does that make us any less of a cricket fan than this guy?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

People were listening in on this conversation and if they weren’t cricket fans before, they’re certainly not going to become one now! It’s a FACT we need to start filling cricket grounds, and it’s this unwelcoming attitude that puts people off. I call them ‘The Crazies.’ The Crazies claim to know everything about cricket and look down on anyone who hasn’t watched it as much as them or for as long. I class myself as the total opposite. I love chatting to people with a ‘mild’ interest. They’re still unsure about calling themselves ‘cricket fans’ but they’re open-minded enough to give it a go, even if you can watch it for 5 days and still not get a result. We should be encouraging people, not scaring them off, making them feel inadequate and not ‘qualified’ to be a fan. In a word, I was disgusted.

What makes the situation even worse is that I know for a fact that he saw me as young(ish) girl, on her own, and therefore an easy target. I would bet my Ashes tickets that he would not have said anything to me if I was a man. As a writer of a cricket book aimed at getting women into cricket, I saw red at this point and called him out on it. He quickly walked back to his table. His poor wife apologised to me but all I wanted to do was apologise to her. At the end of day I wasn’t the one who had to live with an elitist arsehole.

The irony however, was that for all his bragging about all the England Tests he had been to, he was sitting in the pub next to the stadium, watching the Test match on the TV, two tickets short. I however, having just completed my radio interview, was standing there with three Ashes tickets in hand, when I only needed one.

No prizes for guessing what I did next…

That’s right, walked straight out the door and didn’t look back!

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I’m going to finish this blog on a positive and tell you a true story. A story which I want this idiot from the pub to read. It’s about a cricket fan helping a cricket fan, and is a great reminder to all that cricket should be for everybody.

There is a gentleman who lives in Cardiff who can’t afford to go and watch Glamorgan play. He can often be found on the path by the River Taff that runs alongside the stadium. He can just about see the scoreboard and hear the faint sound of leather on willow. Cricket makes him happy and he would give anything to go in and watch a match, but he just can’t afford it. The mother of a good friend of mine, another big cricket fan, took the time to speak to him one day about what he was doing. She learned how much he loved the sport so she took his contact details and is going to provide him with tickets and take him into the ground this summer to watch Glamorgan play.

The fact that he is not a Glamorgan member like me does not make him any less of a cricket fan than I am. For all I know he could love the sport more I do – I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the patience to stand outside a cricket ground for hours listening and not watching!

I just hope that people reading this blog embrace every type of cricket fan they come into contact with. If their love for the sport is just embers, don’t put it out with angry judgement, help fan the flames until they can burn brightly on their own.

#CricketFamily

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Move Over Y Chromosome!

Me at the cricket 3 years ago, ON MY OWN!

Me at the cricket 3 years ago, ON MY OWN!

Three years ago I wrote a book – a book that was aimed at women, introducing them to cricket. My motivation? To get more girls into the sport. Not necessarily playing it, but watching, enjoying and actually understanding it.

Last night I attended the Glamorgan v Surrey T20 match at the Swalec Stadium, Cardiff. For the first time, in the nine years I have been a cricket fan, my cricket buddy Abby and I were not alone. At one point I actually had to queue for the ladies, in a place that is unique in the fact that the women’s toilets are historically more underused than the men’s. It was a great feeling seeing so many women my age watching cricket.

I remember when it was often just Abby and I sitting in the ground under the age of 50, CWAGS (crickets WAGS) aside, chatting to the elderly men who took us in as one of their own. It’s can be scary being the minority, especially in an environment such as the cricket, watching a sport that is often said to be extremely male dominated.

Watch the IPL and notice the ground filled with both sexes. In fact some teams are even owned by women in India. I appreciate we’re still so far from that but I definitely saw from last night’s experience that we’re certainly on our way.

I was lucky enough to be a guest on the BBC Radio show ‘Good Evening Wales’ with Gareth Lewis before the match to talk about my cricket eBook, my blog and how we are going to get more women to the cricket. I talked about grounds thinking more about what women enjoy on a night out, such as having themed nights, encouraging them to dress up before going out etc. but the more I think about it, the more I realised I should have mentioned the part that the men have to play. Not the on-field cricketers, but the boyfriends, the husbands, the fathers and the brothers. I didn’t start watching cricket because I woke up one day and decided I wanted to learn about the world’s most intricate sport. It was my father, calling me into his conservatory to watch the end of the 2005 Ashes Edgbaston test. From then on I was hooked. All it takes is one game and a bit of understanding, and that’s what motivated me to do for other girls of my generation what my father did for me.

Men – you have to step up. If you want your lady to appreciate the fact that you like to stand around in a field for hours on end on a Saturday afternoon whilst a red leather ball comes flying at your face every now and again, make some effort. Teach her a different rule every week, ease her in by taking her to a T20 once in a while, or encourage her to start her Friday night out with the girls at a short but exciting cricket match drinking Pimms. I had my cricket epiphany (crickiphany), so can she!

County Cricket Grounds – Be a little flexible with your prices now and again. Unless you’re a member, cricket tickets can be expensive and extremely off-putting for those on the fence about the game. I’m not saying women’s tickets should be cheaper, that’s sexist. I’m merely suggesting you give some free tickets to your members to share out with their friends – a ‘try before you buy’ approach. I know this has been done by grounds in the past but I don’t see it enough. A great example of clever marketing would be what Glamorgan CCC have done this year – a £50 one-off payment to attend all of the home T20 matches. The short form of the game is a great place for new fans to begin. It’s only 3 hours long, fast-paced, full of atmosphere and 99.9% of the time there is a result.

Eventually, you won’t need gimmicks to attend. The cricket itself will stand alone and attract both genders equally, I really believe it will happen some day. Compared to 3 years ago, I am seeing more and more women at the cricket and it’s so refreshing. I’m not sure whether it’s the weather, the current good form of my team or the lure that some of the more handsome cricketers have over the young girls but it’s great to see women breaking into a male-dominated sport.

I haven’t given up on my dream of working in the sport media world. I believe my subject knowledge and often crazy, girly view on cricket would make for a fascinating radio show. I have done some cricket commentary before on various radio and internet stations – it’s usually quite funny listening to me attempting to soften my Swansea accent so people can understand me – and I have absolutely loved it. Male commentators aren’t always easy-listening for women who are trying to learn the sport – I’ve been told this by many a woman. I honestly believe I’d be able to fix that problem and will work hard to be given that chance. Us women are complex characters but once you understand what makes us tick, we’re not that hard to please. When I think about my favourite TV shows or movies, it’s not necessarily the story that attracts me, it’s the characters and it’s the same with sport. Once you know the personality of the cricketer, you can’t help rooting for them. I’d love to see them doing more personal interviews. I’m not talking explicit love-life details, just what makes them tick. It makes them more human and relatable. I, like many women, am pretty nosy. There’s a reason there are so many gossip magazines out there – we like to know everybody’s business!

Cricketers – you need to be in the limelight more. You’d become more of an interest so people are not just supporting the sport, they’re supporting the player. Yes, it’s putting yourself out there a little bit more, but think of it as your contribution to marketing a brilliant game. Your fans would appreciate it and you never know, you may just find your ground a little fuller next year. (See Freddie Flintoff).

I might be a bit of a ‘cricket geek’ but in my mind I’m the best of both worlds. I also love shopping, doing my nails and going for cocktails with the girls. My aim is to show other girls like me how fun getting into cricket can actually be, and I won’t stop until every country appreciates it like the sub-continent. They get it right, but so can we.

I’ll get there one day.