We were playing cricket the other evening on the hallowed ground of College Park in Trinity College, right in the centre of Dublin, with the tourist buses alongside us in Nassau Street and Grafton Street just a lofted drive away to the north.
It being a few days before Bloomsday, and cricket being the kind of game where time for reverie is plentiful, I began to think about James Joyce.
Joyce was born a few doors down from where I live in Brighton Square, and the roads and avenues of Rathgar and Rathmines, their tennis and cricket grounds, their fine public parks and grand houses, feature in his work.
But Joyce was also a cricket fan. Although it’s well known that Beckett is the only Nobel Laureate to appear in the cricket almanac Wisden (thanks to a couple of appearances for the Trinity College 1st XI), I’d suggest Joyce was the greater cricket buff.
How else can we explain the appearance of no fewer than 31 cricket players (albeit with names slightly altered) in a tour-de-force passage in Finegans Wake?
Tomorrow, I play for a Writers XI in a match organised as part of the Lismore literary festival in Co Waterford. Such a match, in which a disparate team travels down from the capital to take on a provincial XI, has echoes of course of England, Their England by A G Mcdonnell, or of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.
But it is of James Joyce that I will be thinking as I field at third man tomorrow. In fact, cricket being a game of longeurs, I may even bring a copy if Finegans Wake onto the field of play with me.