This is a cricket book for northerners. That pretty much makes me the ideal audience. I’m also a sucker for witty cultural allusions, so Slipless in Settle makes it in there along with All Quiet on the Preston Front. Both Preston and Settle are fairly inconsequential provincial towns in the North of England – in Lancashire and Yorkshire respectively – and linking them with glamorous Hollywood movies or dramatic historical events creates an amusing kind of bathos that I can’t help but like.
If you’re not sure, slip is a fielding position in the traditional English sport of cricket. That’s all you need to know about cricket except it’s a game that mystifies foreigners and typifies some essence of Englishness with its combination of grass stained whites, sandwich teas and freezing summer days.
Harry Pearson set out to spend his summer watching cricket played in the local leagues of the North of England, and each chapter focuses on one Saturday’s expedition to do just that. Pearson ranges widely, but follows pretty much the same format for each chapter. He describes the journey, the towns and villages, the people he meets, and the cricketing history of each club he watches, mentioning local delicacies such as jam doughnuts or Manchester tarts, and summarising each match.
Pearson is incredibly well informed about cricket history, and chooses amusing anecdotes and interesting characters as well as including an impressive range of statistics about the players and clubs. I have to admit I did laugh out loud on several occasions, and my wife enjoyed the jokes too when I shared them with her. However, they are pretty corny – you have been warned.
All in all I liked this book which was an easy read, though I did find it annoying when during the match summaries Pearson played havoc with the language, mixing past and present tenses in quite an arbitrary way, and thus breaking some of my most cherished rules of grammar!!