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Look After Yourselves Tonight as No One But the Police Will Be Watching Out for You

31 Dec

As Christopher and I are getting ready to ring in 2015 like everyone else on Earth (except for the Australians, who have, per usual, selfishly preempted the rest of us), I thought I’d pass on a few quick tips to keep you safe on New Year’s Eve.

1.Keep costumes simple. It might look lovely at the beginning of the evening, but how difficult will it be to keep it looking lovely if you end up shagging someone out by the bins?

2.Think before you dance. It’s as simple as that.

3.Follow appropriate party etiquette.

4. Be sensible about alcohol. Many a foolish activity has been inspired by drink.

5. If you’re feeling a bit worse for wear tomorrow morning, treat yourself to a hot bath and a big ol’ bucket of shame. That should help.

Have a darling New Year’s Eve, my dears! I’ll be toasting you all shortly!

Memo to All Idiots: Stop Being Idiots

10 Aug

This morning a friend sent me an email letter to which was attached a ‘hilarious’ photograph of something she saw on her travels across the US (I won’t say which state it was in, but if you assumed it was a Midwestern one, you would not be wrong). It was of a bumper sticker that read:

If I pass you on the right, your in the wrong.

The car displaying this sticker was unsurprisingly red and had hubcaps on its wheels which spun even when the vehicle was stationary.

Unlike in England where two-way roads are so narrow bicyclists barely have the space to travel down them, most roads in America are multi-laned in each direction. Americans drive on the right side of the road (and before any Britons assume that I mean right as in correct, rest assured I mean right as in not left: you will not find me in any motoring-based morality arguments like that). The general rule is that those driving the speed limit should drive in the right lane, and that the left lane be used only by those who are speeding (which happily makes it quite easy for coppers to spot lawbreakers).  The left lane therefore is also known (by twats) as the ‘fast lane’.

Clearly the driver in the red Ford displaying said bumper sticker feels strongly about this guideline. He is clearly so outraged by those in the left lane travelling at the speed limit that not only does he feel the need to overtake them, he also takes the opportunity to remind them that they are in fact wrong’. I can only deduce from his placing of a non-removable decal on his vehicle (not even on the bumper, mind, but across the rear window) that the ‘fast lane’ issue is a passion of his, something he feels in the very pit of his soul.

Perhaps I should admire his commitment. However, I do not. Because he is clearly an idiot, and idiots do not deserve admiration for anything they do.  There is one simple clue to his idiocy—though I’ve no doubt there’s plenty more evidence available—and I trust that you all spotted it instantly within my unbiased description above.

It’s the word your.

Not driving fast in the ‘fast lane’ may be frustrating and naive, but if you need a clear cut example of something that is across-the-board, out-and-out wrong, you need look no Stop Sonfurther than the word your.

Your means ‘belonging to you’. I assume the driver meant you’re, meaning ‘you are’. While I acknowledge the two words sound the same, they are in fact two completely different words. The bumper sticker might as well as read ‘tomato in the wrong’. Tomato does not mean you’re and your does not mean you’re.

God gave us the English language to use to communicate with one another. It’s a great language. It’s got words like crumbly and delicate and trumpery, fantastic words that incorporate a range of sounds and many shades of meaning. But the language only works when used correctly. Using words incorrectly destroys marriages (my darling, our love is so holey) or results in incarceration (I have the head of that old dear hanging over my fireplace).  Using words incorrectly is wrong.

If I ran the world (which as of yet, I do not), people driving slowly in the left lane wouldn’t give me much pause. But people who say your when they mean you’re would immediately be banished to Idiot Island (formerly Molokai) where they would be exiled until they learned to speak correctly. If that took their entire lifetimes, then so be it.

Your Body When Dancing

27 Jul

Earlier this month, I wrote about the body and why it’s okay to like yours even if it doesn’t fit the unrealistic ideal perpetuated by the media and my mother. However, now that I’m thinking more clearly and my finger is fit and flexible once again, I feel compelled to attach an addendum to my previous treatise.

It’s about dancing.

KeychainHave you ever heard the phrase ‘Dance like no one’s watching’? It sounds wise, doesn’t it? But as with many life philosophies written on key chains and fridge magnets, it needs a little unpacking.

It implies that most of the time we’re dancing, we restrict ourselves if there are others around because we fear being judged by someone else. It is only when we are alone — when ‘no one’s watching’ — that we (the key chain implies) ‘let go’ and respond naturally to the music.

Here’s the irony: when you dance as if someone were watching — and I’m the one who’s watching — I am going to be judging you hard.

Because there’s no better guarantee that you’ll look a twit than if you try to control your body while dancing. Dancing should occur without restriction because it is a natural function of the body: like sneezing, breathing, or orgasm, it is simply an instinctual reaction to external stimuli. If you try to control your sneeze, you can actually blow up your brain (or something, I don’t remember exactly, I didn’t do the research myself). If you try to control your dancing, the result can be equally devastating (at least to me, if I happen to be there when you do it).

What I’m saying is this: don’t think about who’s watching. Just dance. Sometimes you might look silly, but that’s fine — you look ridiculous when yCharlie-Brown-Christmas-Peanuts-danceou sneeze but you don’t stop yourself from doing that. Have you ever seen your orgasm face? I confess I didn’t watch the entire video your ex posted online, but from what I saw, I’m confident it wasn’t pretty. Yet, that video received over a thousand likes before your lawyer had it taken down. Why? Because you were just being natural, you were just letting yourself go and enjoying the moment.

That’s what you should do when you hear music you want to dance to: let yourself go and enjoy. When I see people who refuse to do this — who dance as if they know people are watching them — yes, I will mock them. I don’t even care if it is during the father/daughter dance. I mean it was her third wedding anyway, and why have an open bar if they didn’t want people to take advantage of it?

Right On Red (How to Drive and/or Make Love)

9 Mar

carUnfortunately the time when most of us first experiment with operating a car or doing sexy-sex is during our early teens when we have the least control over our brains and bodies. Most of us probably had our first driving lessons from a family member (I’ll leave any further comment to the Freudians amongst you), but even if we are given professional instruction, we just don’t have the mental and physical capabilities to effectively perform the functions needed for a satisfactory experience. Sadly, though, we stick with our awkward, teenaged techniques and continue to do it wrong for the rest of our lives.

This undoubtedly explains why 3500 people die on the road each day and why the toxic stink of sexual dissatisfaction fills the bedrooms (though generally not to a lethal level) of many homes around the world. I’d like to pass on some advice I’ve picked up through my travels, which may help improve your skills and keep your insurance company off your back as well.

Safety first

Buckles, helmets, condoms — don’t be daft, you know what this paragraph is going to say. Also, don’t text. It’s dangerous and rude and not the best use for your fingers during this time.

Honour local laws and customs

In many places, it is legal to turn right on a red light. However, this is not the case everywhere. When I’m in an area where it’s illegal and some jerk honks to pressure me into turning right on red, I want to slam it into reverse and ram him (and not in a good way). Different locales have established rules or guidelines which need to be respected, and it’s important to be aware of these so you don’t offend or end up in cuffs (again, not in a good way).

The opposite of defensive is not aggressive

My mother suggested early on that the goal is to be a ‘defensive driver’, meaning my job is to respond only to what others on the road are doing. This, like most of what my mother says, is tosh. If all I do as a driver is react to what others are doing, I’m never going to get to my destination. I’ll be stuck in neutral, letting everyone else have their fun whizzing by, swerving to avoid my timid self. Obviously, it’s important to watch what others are doing and respond appropriately, but driving defensively is not wise.

However, the opposite of defensive is not aggressive. I don’t want any one’s bumper up in my face and I doubt you do either. This strategy is only going to lead to broken bones or blue balls, and no one wants to end up on a list of those statistics.

Instead you should aim to be offensive. Think about sport (especially if you’re trying to last a little longer): if all you do is loiter around your basket/goalposts, you’re not going to win. But if you blindly crash through your opponents, you’re going to end up on the sidelines with a technical or red card. To score, you must focus on the offense — be strategic and focused, while being prepared to respond to whatever is thrown your way, and you’ll come out on top.

Know when to slow, speed up and stop

The gas pedal is what gives you control over your speed. If you’re coming up to a stoplight, simply lift your foot from the gas and your car will slow. Don’t ride or slam on your brakes. Follow traffic patterns — if people are going faster than you, you probably need to speed up. Otherwise, they’re going to get there before you and might be dressed and out the door before you arrive.

Knowing when to just simply stop, though, is also important, especially when it comes to milking a metaphor for all its worth. Watch as I prove this right now.

Special advice for motorcyclists

  1. Maintain smooth wrist action
  2. Any additional riders should hold your hips to keep balance
  3. Be careful when giving it choke

The Internet Is Tricking You

19 Feb
Come for the click-bait; stay for the advice.

Come for the click-bait; stay for the advice.

You may have arrived here because you like Benedict Cumberbatch. That’s fine, no reason not to, just because he once refused to share a cab with me, claiming he was allergic to my perfume. I don’t hold grudges; if anything, I pity him if it’s true that he can never enjoy the smell of lilacs (though I wonder if he’d have been so insistent had he known the bottle of scent was given to me by Terence Stamp).

Regardless. Here’s the thing. You won’t find anything here about Benedict Cumberbatch (excluding the anecdote above, obviously). You were led here under false pretenses. Because, my dears, the Internet is lying to you.

I am terribly sorry to be the one to tell you about this.

Now let me ask, what do you think of when you think of the Internet? What visual image appears in that little head of yours? Perhaps it’s a big ‘ol mess of wires connecting countries on a map. Wrong. That’s not the Internet.

Maybe you prefer to think smaller and simply picture your own little device whenever you think of the Internet. I like that you’re keen on synecdoche, but I’m afraid that is not appropriate either.

If you insist on my suggesting a concrete image for you, I’d have to say the Internet is most like a big ass, fire breathing dragon. Not unlike the dragon in those Hobbit films (hold on there, didn’t one Benedict Cumberbatch provide the voice and motion capture for that dragon? Oh my, it looks like I’ve accidentally mentioned that name again!). Anyhoo, get your mind off him for like two minutes of your life, please, and listen up. The Internet is a most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm who is fucking with your head, even as we speak.

Benedict Cumberbatch does not approve of being used like this. Unlike you, he doesn't have any choice.

Benedict Cumberbatch does not approve of being used.

Every time you “log on” to the Internet, you are giving away a little piece of your soul. This most frequently takes the form of your privacy or your self-control. And what’s worse is that the Internet is trying to trick you into believing you want to do this. In most other circumstances (excluding the minds of many high school male athletes), this kind of trickery would be considered criminal coercion. Not so here. The Internet can get you to do most anything it wants you to by almost any means whatsoever (say, by misleading you into believing you’ll learn something new about Benedict Cumberbatch).

It’s a dirty business really, and we should all be ashamed of participating it. I know I’d be ashamed if I weren’t so sure the stats for this blog post will be exponentially higher than any of my previous ones. That’s the thing: at the moment, most of us are pretty happy with the situation. We may lose some things because of it, but we gain others. Yes, our personal details got hacked but we were able to buy something from Target without having to actually go to Target, so it’s swings and roundabouts, isn’t it?

I’m not suggesting you stop using the Internet (in fact, why not subscribe to this blog? I won’t even ask for your mother’s maiden name). I’m not even suggesting you stop telling strangers your mother’s maiden name, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.

All I’m saying is this: be aware of what’s going on and the role you’re playing. The Internet is using you. Google is aware of that purchase you just made. The NSA knows you. I know they know you because yesterday when we had lunch together, your name came up in the conversation. It’s likely your identity will get stolen, your sex tape made public, or a good year of your life lost to Candy Crush Saga. Tread carefully.

The fact that the dragon’s got a voice that gives you fizzy knickers shouldn’t permit you to forget that ultimately what he wants is your gold. Or your soul. Both of which you should remember are the precious (yes, I know that’s Gollum, but work with me here, people, I’m trying to make a point).

No Raccoon Has Ever Lied To Me

2 Feb

Raccoons-bite-baby-sleeping-in-cribI’ve never seen a raccoon in England. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re furry grey animals with fluffy tails. A bit like squirrels except less squirrel-ish and more raccoon-ish. Their most distinct feature is the black mask across their face, making them look like fluffy bandits. Cute! What I like most about raccoons, though, is that they are incredibly trustworthy.

This may come as a shock to you, but as a child, I lived for eight months in Canada. My mother led me to believe that this location change was due to my father’s draft dodging. Alas, I was too young to realise that not only was the draft not enacted at the time, the US was not even at war. Nonetheless, to this day, I still see my father as a conscientious objector, and I look back at those months with great fondness.

One afternoon I decided to head out for a long walk in the Canadian wilderness. I went out with one of my brothers (or sisters, I don’t remember exactly, and does it really matter?). We hiked through the woodland, making small talk and pausing frequently for me to capture nature with my Kodak Instamatic.

It was mid-July. While most of us tend to think of cold when we think of Canada, I can assure you it was well hot. After an hour or so, my brother (or sister) and I were regretting not bringing drinks with us and decided to head home. However, we had lost our way and raccoon-wallpaper-10-752390neither of us had a compass with us. As we were plotting out our plan back to safety, I noticed a little raccoon with her kits in a nearby tree. I stood up to take a snap (even in times of danger, I am committed to my work as a documentarian) when I swear the mother beckoned me towards her. I cried out, and she and her babes scuttled down the tree and took off. We ran over to where the raccoons had been, and spelled out in pebbles at the root of the tree was the word “wow.”

“What do you think it means?” my puzzled sibling asked me.

I walked slowly around the message. From a different angle, it spelled out “mom.” So I determined that the raccoon was either directing us towards something worth seeing or leading us to our mother. Either way, we decided to follow and took off in the direction in which the animals had fled.

We quickly caught up with the raccoon family, primarily because they had thoughtfully stopped to wait for us. Again the mother used her little paw to urge us forward. As we made our way through the trees, we began to hear the sounds of a waterfall and then of gleeful laughter. We were almost home safe!

As we rounded a corner, though, it quickly became clear that we were not at the Whitt-Wellington homestead but rather the raccoon had led us to a park for nudists. My brother (or sister, whatever) and I stood transfixed as we watched the nudie grown-ups frolicking in the water, lying in the sun and bending over to pick flowers. For a few moments, we were frozen in our tracks. Then, we turned our heads away from the spectacle and saw the raccoons running away, so we followed again for quite some time until we ended up behind a police station. We went in, our folks were called, and eventually we got home. Neither my sibling nor I mentioned the nudists to the cops, our parents or each other. That day I learned what a naked man looks like, and all I could say was “wow” (read whatever tone you want into that). The other thing I learned was that raccoons can be trusted.

I bring this up today because it is 2 February, also known as Groundhog Day in America. In Pennsylvania, a whole bunch of people get together to listen to a groundhog called Punxsutawney Phil predict Groundhogs are Liarsthe weather. (If you’re not familiar with groundhogs, they look nothing like raccoons.) If Phil sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter; if he doesn’t see his shadow, an early spring is coming. The problem is, of course, that groundhogs are notorious liars, and Phil’s predictions are usually wrong.

Don’t go to groundhogs for your information. If you want the truth—however harsh, wrinkly or dangly it might be—a raccoon will lead you to it. If you want to know the weather, however, simply look out your window.

Pleasure v. Pain: Which Brings More Pleasure?

17 Sep

Don’t be daft: obviously, the answer is pleasure.

Or is it, Agatha? you might be asking in that cute way you do when you’re trying to look clever but are really just being silly.

Well, yes, it is. Because pain is always painful. Guaranteed.

Whip of DesireNow if you are currently clad in handcuffs with a ball gag in your mouth, you might be tempted to speak up to contradict me. You needn’t bother. I’m well aware of the whole “pain is pleasure” scene, as the young sadomasochists are calling it these days, though I remain skeptical. I mean, we all love a good whipping, sure, but those welts are going to sting like a bitch the second you lower yourself into a nice, hot bubble bath and then you’ll have wished you thought twice last night before introducing leather play into your bedroom shenanigans. Let’s face it — orgasms are a dime a dozen (if you’re a Gold Club member) but few things are more pleasing than a long, hot soak. Write that on a piece of paper and tape it to the door of your sex cupboard (or car dashboard, if you’re a member of the dogging community) to remind yourself for next time. In the long term, doing what you can to avoid pain usually pays off dividends.

However, pain does have a purpose and the next time you feel it, I recommend you stop to think about the lesson it is attempting to pass on. Pain is rarely subtle; it screams but doesn’t whisper.

For example, if your hand hurts because you’re hitting it with a hammer, you’re probably going to want to stop hitting your hand with a hammer. Pain’s messages are usually as straight forward as that.

If your ears are hurting, turn down your iPod or purchase higher quality headphones.

If your eyes are hurting, you probably need more sleep or to take breaks from looking at the computer.

If your nose is hurting, cut back on the cocaine.

I am not even a doctor and I know these things.

Emotional pain works similarly. If your heart is breaking, pain is trying to tell you that your taste in romantic partners is poor. If you suffer from a panic attack on the drive to work, you probably should quit your job. If you feel despondent, why not lift your spirits with some cocaine?

So while we can learn from pain (and learning should always bring joy), ultimately the evidence has shown that pleasure packs more punch in the pleasure department than its alternative. However, this is not say that pleasure doesn’t have the potential to bring harm. It does, because everything does. Are you really that naive? I’m sure you familiar with roses, yes? They’re beautiful, very pleasurable to both look at and smell. Yet if you eat two thousand tonnes of rose petals, you are going to get a very nasty tummy ache.

So I generally don’t recommend doing that.

It’s Your Body

7 Sep


I hear the word a lot. It’s usually used to dismiss something, to question its credibility or to accuse the person speaking about it of being a liar and/or idiot.

You already know how I feel about liars. And idiots. Now I’m going to tell you how I feel about bollocks. Well, specifically complementary medicine, which is what curly-haired clever clogs currently enjoy dismissing.

Complementary medicine can refer to a wide range of health remedies — from herbs, tinctures and oils to procedures like cupping, acupuncture, and energy therapy. These options are seen as alternative, because they are not scientifically sensible as things like drilling into teeth, putting pigs’ parts into humans and swallowing chemicals in tablet form are.

I am not going to defend complementary medicine. However, I am also not going to rip it a new asshole either. Because, while I have no truck with most of it myself, those who judge should keep a few things in mind.300px-Jekyll.and.Hyde.Ch1.Drawing1

If you think everything scientists get up to is automatically above board, I’d like to remind you of Victor Frankenstein and Henry Jekyll. Yes, they had white coats and medical books but their methods were a little dubious, don’t you agree?

Drink MeAs long as no one is being swindled out of cash or doing damage to themselves, if something relieves someone’s symptoms or worries, who am I to judge them and their gullibility? There is such a thing as the power of the mind, you know.  What about Alice, eh? After drinking a special potion, she went on a pretty magical adventure — is it asking too much to allow a little girl some joy? (Please do not be distracted by my over-reliance on fiction-based evidence.)

Quite frankly, some of what falls under the complementary medicine label is actually pretty clever. For example, making sure you get good nutrients can prevent getting poorly in the first place. Filling your room with some nice smelling lavender isn’t going to cure genital herpes, but it might lift your spirits so you focus less on that painful itch. Sometimes what is actually common sense is banished as bunkum, just because no pharmaceutical company can market it.

Massage is another treatment that often gets unfairly lumped in with alternative therapies. Unless, of course, it’s called physical therapy when all of a sudden it’s medically sound. Whatevs. I happen to know that certain types of body manipulation are extremely beneficial: they can relax stiff muscles, can hasten injury recovery, and, if done in the right alley, can earn you a quick tenner.

All I’m saying is this: I don’t care what you do. Go to a GP with a certificate and swallow her elixirs or go to a herbalist and rub his salve into your chest. As long as you get the facts for yourself before you do anything, you won’t ever hear of bollocks coming out of my mouth. Promise.

Do Good And Don’t Worry To Whom

12 Aug

This proverb is one of the many reasons I love the Mexican people (their overindulgence in cilantro is perhaps the only reason I do not). Too many people today only “do good” if it benefits their friends or family or even themselves personally—by helping them get promoted at work, go to the head of the class once they get to heaven or satisfy their God complex.

When was the last time you did good without worrying to whom? You just did something good, something nice, something kind. You didn’t tell anyone, maybe not even the person who benefited (making anonymous erotic phonecalls, I’m afraid, does not count). What would happen if you did something like this today? What could it hurt? Whom could it help?

I’d like to say I do good like this all the time. But, of course, I can’t say that because it would be taking credit for my good acts, which nullifies the very point I’m trying to make (pay attention, please). So I won’t say that I do good all the time, but instead I shall say that I will try to be more like the Mexicans and spread a little sunshine around—to anyone, to everyone—just because doing good is good. You should do some good, too. If you do, resist the temptation to email me to detail what you’ve done, because one, keeping quiet about it is part of the challenge and two, I’m not really that interested in you as a person and you are quickly becoming tiresome to me.

Cricket for Dummies Girls Foreigners Novices

14 Jul

A lovely dear American friend named Martin got in touch to say:

Miss Agatha,
Over the past few days, you’ve been doing quite a lot of bellowing about something called the Ashes, which I have deduced is related to the sport of cricket. While it’s always thrilling to hear you cry out with joy, I confess I feel unable to truly appreciate your excitement as I find cricket somewhat confusing. I’ve been doing some research, but still feel befuddled. Can you help a poor man who just wants to understand?
Yours truly,

I don’t doubt Martin is not alone in his bewilderment, because it can be hard to understand any sport if you weren’t taught the rules by a frustrated, middle-aged primary school PE teacher who still lives with his mother. Even I myself once was ignorant.

Because I love learning, I went directly to the library to educate myself on the history, rules and strategies of cricket. The librarian suggested two tomes: Cricket for Dummies and Helping Women Understand Cricket (if you guessed the librarian was male, you are correct). Personally, I don’t like those . . . for Dummies books because I don’t believe in starting off the writer/reader relationship with an insult. The other book was equally appalling: most of its pages were dedicated to advice on keeping large plates of sandwiches fresh and jugs of tea hot to ensure players’ satisfaction at the lunch interval. Outrageous!

There’s also quite a famous summary which is often titled “Explaining Cricket to Foreigners.” Now, of course, we can’t ignore the xenophobic stupidity of the title nor the fact that, while the explanation is correct, it’s clearly designed to mock those who aren’t familiar with the sport. Here it is:

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay all out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!

So it makes sense that Martin would come to me, a woman famous for her thoughtful clarity and extensive experience with bats and balls. So let’s get to work.

If you are familiar with baseball, realise that this will actually hinder rather than help your understanding. It ain’t baseball, people, and trying hard to connect the two is just going to get your brain cells in a tizz. So stop doing that.

Instead please read through the following helpful explanation of test cricket.


In the middle of a great big grassy field is a strip of dirt (called the pitch). At each of the strip’s ends are three wooden sticks (called stumps) with two little sticks (bails) balanced across them. Together, the stumps and bails make up the wicket. This is important.

Two teams of eleven players each wear white outfits.

Throwing the ball (which is maroon) at the batsman is called bowling. Bowling involves a little run then a little jump then whipping the arm up in the air before releasing the ball. It looks wonky at first, but it’s a proper skill because the bowler can’t go too wide (called a wide) nor can the bowler’s front foot cross a certain line (called a no-ball).

Batsmen use fat, flat bats made out of willow, with a thin handle at one end. Batsmen also wear helmets and pads to protect their legs because just because the ball is maroon, don’t think for a minute it can’t do some proper damage if you’re hit by it. (However, fielders do not wear gloves because they aren’t pussies about it.) That batsmen stand in front of the wicket to protect it from being hit by the bowler.

What’s that you say, Agatha? How can the batsman be standing in front of the wicket when you just said there are two wickets on the pitch?

Get your mind blown, suckas. There are two batsman. But there are also two bowlers! Can you believe that?

A bowler bowls six times at the batsman standing in front of the wicket at one end. This is called an over. Then the other bowler bowls six times to the batsman in front of the other wicket. The fielders move position to be better prepared to catch the new batsman’s hits.

One player on the fielding side stands behind the wicket; this player is called the wicket keeper. Big, webbed gloves help the wicketkeeper stop the balls that have been bowled but not hit.

There are two umpires on the field. They also wear white shirts but black trousers. There is a third umpire who looks at video replays, and a fourth umpire who is basically the other three umpires’ bitch and brings them drinks and new balls if the ball gets too beat up.

Here is a cricket pitch.

Here is a cricket pitch.

Here is a cricket pitch that has been invaded by a swarm of bees.

Here is a cricket pitch that has been invaded by a swarm of bees.


One team bats while the other fields. A team is at bat until ten batsmen get out. This is called an innings (no, not an inning). Then they switch places and the second team bats until ten of their batsmen are out. Each team gets two innings.

Obviously the goal of the fielding team is to get the batsmen out.

The goal of the batting team is slightly more complex: the batsman must protect the wicket from being hit by the bowler (if this happens and the bails fall off the stumps, the batsman is out).

The most ideal way to protect the wicket is to hit the ball with the bat. If it’s hit hard or far enough, both batsmen run to the other wicket and one run is earned. If they’ve got enough time to run back to their original wicket, they get another run. They can do this as much as they want but if a fielding player is able to knock the bails off the stumps with the ball (including by throwing the ball directly at the stumps) before the batman gets back to it, then that batsman is out. However, if the ball is hit so hard that it rolls to the edge of the grassy field (called the boundary), neither batsman has to run; that team just automatically earns four runs. If the batsman hits so the ball goes right over the boundary, six runs are earned. If the ball is hit up in the air and a fielder catches it, the batsman is out.

Another way a batsman can get out is called leg-before-wicket (LBW). The batsman cannot use the body to protect the wicket. If the bowler bowls a ball that seems like it would hit the stumps, and the batman disrupts the ball’s flight with a body block (well, a leg block since the pads more easily absorb the force of the ball than, say, the batsman’s crotch would), then the bowler (and other fielders) jump up in the air and yell “How’s that?” (usually written as “Howzat” for comic effect). If the umpire deems that yes, the ball would have hit the stumps if it weren’t for the batsman’s big fat legs, then the batsman is out LBW.

Though both batsmen run at the same time to earn runs, the one who actually hit the ball gets the credit. If a batsman gets credit for fifty runs before getting out, the batsman holds up the bat in the air and all their supporters cheer. If the batsman gets one hundred runs before getting out (called a century), the helmet is removed and the bat is held up. The batsman gets a standing ovation, sometimes even from their opponent’s fans, and the commentators talk about how this is a historic moment.

Brian Lara of the West Indies once scored four centuries in one innings without getting out. Now that was a historic moment.

On the other hand, if a batsman gets out before ever scoring a run, it’s called a duck and the crowd should feel free to mock the batsman, especially if it happens on the first ball that’s bowled (or if the batsman’s Australian). This situation is called a golden duck. Quack.

Please keep in mind, though, that the batsman does not have to hit the ball, doesn’t even have to try to hit the ball. As long as the bails don’t fall, it’s cool. Sometimes quite a long time passes in between runs. As a viewer this can seem tedious, I will not lie. But it can be very strategic play. This is especially true if one batsman is much better than the other. The crap one just has to not to get out; after six bowls, the other batsman is up and can start swinging and scoring.

Test matches last a long time, usually three to five days. If an innings is over quickly, that means fewer runs are earned. That’s bad for that team. So the teams try to make their innings last as long as they can, scoring as many runs as they can. Hanif Mohammad of Pakistan once made his own innings last for over sixteen hours! What the hell, dude? Each day’s play is usually about seven hours, with a few breaks for drinks or lunch. The batsmen who haven’t got out at the end of the day are the ones who start the next day.

During the match, the scores reflect only the batting team’s status. The scoreboard will say 113-4 or the commentators will say “At the end of that over, England are 113 for 4.” The first number refers to how many runs have been earned; the second refers to how many wickets have fallen (how many outs). At the end of the first over, the team’s score might be 250-all out (250 runs, all batsmen out). When the first team bats again (the third innings), those runs are added to their previous total but the out total goes back to zero. After the end of the third innings, the team that batted first can no longer earn any more runs. So if their grand total is 456, this means that during the fourth innings, the other team is “chasing” 456.

Obviously the fourth innings is key in determining the match’s winner. If the team batting during that fourth inning overtakes the score of the other team, the match is over and they win. If both teams play their full two innings (where each has ten batsmen out twice), the team with the higher score wins.

However, the match could actually end after the third innings (when the team that batted first has finished batting for the second time). If that team still has fewer runs than the other team, the match is considered lost (since that team won’t have another chance to bat) and the fourth innings don’t have to even be played (since the team with the higher score would just be adding to their already higher score). Everyone goes home and the people with tickets to Day Five of the test match feel they have been slighted, even if their team has actually won. Babies.

You can also have a draw in cricket, which many people whinge about — “It lasts five days and there’s not even in a winner? Whinge, whinge, whinge.” Yeah, well, shut up.

A cricket match ends in a draw if the fourth innings does not end (meaning the batting team has not got ten outs) by the end of the allotted time (by the end of play on Day Five). If that’s the case, it’s a draw regardless of who has the higher number of runs. Sometimes a team will just make that last innings go on forever, even if they know they won’t be able to score enough runs. It’s a hard way for a match to end (if your team is the one in the lead), but you know what? Life is hard, mate. Get used to it.


Like many sports, cricket is full of complications. There are many ways to bowl the ball and different fielding positions. There are cunning strategies. There is new technology to highlight one’s viewing pleasure and help umpires make their decisions. A scorecard can be kept using symbols and notes. Statistics and records are thoroughly analysed. Test cricket is played between different national teams, but there are many different levels. There can be one day matches, matches that last for only forty overs, all types of crazy shit.

But I think perhaps we’ve had enough for today.

Except to mention that the particular test match that had me erupting this week is part of a very important series of test matches that takes place every other year. It is called the Ashes and highlights the longstanding rivalry between England and Australia. Let’s let Lego explain:

So there, Martin, is cricket.

I’d just like to end with the suggestion that you and other readers from non-cricket playing countries and/or who are unfamiliar with the game just watch it. It’s hard to comprehend anything in the abstract. Think about the first time young people hear about sex — they can’t imagine how it works or why anyone would be interested. This is why it’s better to actually watch it happening (actually now that I’ve written that line out, please disregard my previous sex analogy). I’m just saying cricket — like all sports — has tons of little details that are hard to sort out just on paper. In fact, despite my own understanding of cricket, when I read back all I’ve just posted, I think, what the fuck are you talking about? So read but then watch and it’ll all fall into place.

Who knows? Maybe once that happens, you’ll fancy playing it yourself. Just don’t play for Australia or I will instantly become your mortal enemy.