Is Now A Good Time To Have A Mid-Life Crisis? (Or Is A Dog A Man’s Best Friend?)

As independent journalists, it’s important we hear all voices, but as Arti Solomons lays out what might be his ‘First World Problems’, we do sometimes wonder…
July 1, 2022

I’ve played cricket all of my life. I love cricket. I knew what was ahead for Joe Root this season, once released from the shackles of leadership.

Every year the email goes out in February from my village club, supplying the dates for the February and March nets practice sessions at our local sports centre. It’s always on a Sunday afternoon, for 2 hours and it has provided the anchor of my late-winter weeks for more than a decade. The renewed sense of belief, camaraderie and release that these sessions bring to our group of (mainly) over-the-hill sports people is immense.

This year, someone who has lived in our village for sometime, but never previously been involved with the club, started attending nets sessions. Approximately the same age as me, he’s popular, self-deprecating and regularly apologises for a wide ball, or for missing a shot. He was also quick to explain in February that he hadn’t played cricket for 20 years and also had a deficient left arm – and a weak right wrist, but was along for the training and ‘the crack’. Definitely no interest in turning out for any of our sides during the season. 

I live in leafy North Yorkshire. Work for me is predominantly in Manchester and Leeds. I’m an effective operator, but at 52, have had an eye on the future for some time.

I’m divorced. I have two kids: both high-achievers, a 26-year-old lawyer son and an 18-year-old daughter, who last week ticked off her final A Level exam. They are both the apple’s-of-my-eye. My daughter is still at home with me, but ‘Welcome Week’(Freshers?) at the University of Edinburgh commences 12th September and the preceding weekend there is a scheme to move her new term-time life to Morningside. The weekend is the only one this season that I plan to be unavailable for the 2nd XI.

12th September is also scheduled to be Day One of my new life. As a single parent with youngest child heading to university, I have pencilled in that day as the day I notify the Waitrose Mindful Chef that we change from menu for 2, to menu for 1. The opportunities are endless. I know there are many parents of 18-year-olds who are planning various Autumn Freedom Operations, while simultaneously looking forward to their darling children returning home later in the year, front-loaded with knowledge, wisdom and maturity.

Last Friday evening, as I joined friends for supper in their leafy garden, the weekend ahead looked promising. My daughter had set-forth for Glastonbury with her boyfriend. A year older than her; he has recently completed his first year at Durham. (University, not Jail.) He’s a largely sensible young man and his PPE study has been ‘fun’ to hear about this past year. I look forward to him bringing seismic change to government in the not-too-distant future.

My son’s firm has him in London currently, but his partner is from Madrid and the pair plan to base themselves in Spain by the year end. Think; the bravery and wit of Clara Campoamor Rodríguez and the physical attributes of Ines Sastre and you have Isabella. She is a 28-year-old Human Rights Lawyer and is captivating. I love it when they visit.  

Saturday cricket (at home to a very good side), was preceded as usual with a big walk with the dog. Yes; following divorce, we bought a dog.(I know.) The kids were both still home and perhaps it was a ‘healing’ thing? I shan’t dwell on the divorced man-of-certain-age-with-dog factor now, it will come up again. I’m acutely aware that most of you may not be here for the ball-by-ball testimony of my effort at the crease, so I will spare you the nuances of my game; other than to say that I bat at No. 3. Which I am proud of.

Following an eleventh-hour manpower crisis I arrived at the club to find our new nets buddy in attendance, wearing whites. “Josh (Captain) phoned…I’m incredibly nervous…I’m only here to make up the numbers.”

He practically apologised. “You’ll be fine. We need to win today.” I tried to inject a balance of support with a clear message that this isn’t Sunday nets. 

Lets call our man #7. It’s not his real name, but he was listed to bat at #7. Hopefully if he was called on, the runs banked would be sufficient to make his first outing an enjoyable one. Our opening pair struggled. I was padded and ready to go when my eldest child called. He wouldn’t call on a cricket Saturday unless there was an emergency; so I took the call. As our first wicket fell for 16, I was hearing that he and Isabella were northbound on the M1 and coming to stay for the night. No emergency, but forward-notice that they were hoping to arrive before the end of the match.

I had missed my slot and #7 was at the crease instead. How?

Two balls into his first over and he looked almost frozen. As if to press-home that he was only there for the numbers, he was wearing a short-sleeve shirt and for the first time, there were significant scars on both arms on display. Whatever led to that, must have hurt.

There was the clear smack of leather on willow for his third ball. Not sufficient for a run, but contact. Next came his more aggressive ‘lean-in’ stance, followed by a spectacular hook that sent the ball behind him and into the hedge for 6. Obviously there was much congratulation from the boundary as he shrugged shoulders and explained it was ‘a fluke’.

Over the next 45 minutes, I watched as our new superstar made 36 runs (including another 6 that went into the river). I have to admit it was slightly uncomfortable watching this ‘novice’ (with what he describes as his ‘wonky arms’) play outstanding cricket in my place. It was a relief when he was caught-out. At teatime we almost had the win.

My unexceptional time at Deep Midwicket was cheered by the arrival in the car park of my 2 favourite London lawyers. I scanned for a sign of a problem; but they were a vision of joy as I immediately absorbed some banter about being ‘stuck’ out on the boundary. We got the victory. My input was limited. But it was a good day.   

I had Meal 3 planned for Saturday night after a couple of pints (Californian-style Tofu & Brown Rice Noodles), but the kids had booked somewhere to eat in town. I asked, “Are you getting married?” It was the clumsiest thing to say, because I was feeling clumsy.

“Not imminently” was the rapier-fast response from both of them.

“But we have got some good news for you” came the follow-up. 

We went out. I had turbot; which for me is superior in everyway to any of its flatfish relatives . My wonderful eldest child chose not to announce that he and his beautiful partner are going to have a baby, but instead advised me that on a particular date towards the end of January, I am to be rebranded as a Grandpa. Kids grow up. Make plans. Create their own family units. It’s magical. But I wasn’t ready. These two young people are at the leading edge of their profession; they have so much ahead that is exciting, they are making a difference. They will create a family unit to be revered. But to emphasise the new role that I am to play; the grandparent, was – and is sobering.

Van Gogh Rubbing His Eyes

Possibly naively, I had assumed that when your youngest child heads out in to the world, it is widely acknowledged that Mums and Dads have accrued some leave? It may appear incredibly selfish, but I have worked hard for almost 27 years at parenting; still working hard, to now have a new role chosen for me. I may not have a partner, but I have been looking forward to a period commencing this autumn to be ‘off duty’ and focus on what I might want. If this is the point you are about to admonish me for a problematic perspective, perhaps citing; “They will be in Madrid. You don’t need to be involved”…stop.

Isabella; the product of a devout Roman Catholic family, is clear that bearing the child of someone other than a Cardinal, while still unmarried, will make her return to Spain ‘unenjoyable’. The mother/daughter dynamic is already writ large in her family. London I’m told is not the place for their new-born. Of course; instead they are now going to relocate to a point on the map between Leeds and Manchester. In the space of a posh fish supper, everything can change. 

By Sunday morning and their departure, my abject shock had been stilled. It all makes sense and of course, I’m overjoyed. I must, however, have been looking somewhat ‘vacant’ as I walked Bettie (our dog), because neighbours Liv and H pulled up alongside me and enquired “What are you doing?”

“Out for a walk with my best friend of course,” I offered.

For the record, H does ‘property’ and Liv is a Headteacher. They are friends. They’re both very funny, but quite blunt.

Liv; “Your dog is your best friend – and he doesn’t even know your name. Stop feeding him – and he’ll leave you.”

Generally I would have been able to deliver a witty retort with ease, but on this occasion I found her observation was profound and 100% accurate.

I went home; and spent the remainder of Sunday in a Pre-Grandpa isolation. 

On Monday, I was listed for court in Manchester and was overjoyed to awaken to an email from Lord Burnett, informing me that I may well be subject to disciplinary proceedings, if I join a planned ‘walk-out’ by Barristers and Silks scheduled for later that day, to protest the current state of our Legal Aid-funded work.

As a rule on a Monday, I am already looking forward to Tuesday evening cricket practice. This Monday felt different.

I joined a protest. I Made what I felt was an important statement. I apologised to my client, explained the relisting procedure and headed home. 

A night alone with a Mindful Chef and Wimbledon beckoned. With my daughter’s return from ‘Glasto’ planned for Tuesday; I ate supper on the sofa.

Just as Duckworth was requesting the roof be closed, my 18-yr-old and her boyfriend appeared with their badly-packed rucksacks on our driveway. I think I may have placed my head in my hands.

They were obviously hungry; and although eager to sit with me in the lounge, they were too tired to communicate effectively. I was left guessing as to Kendrick Lamar’s abilities in a Somerset field.

One crucial piece of fatherly news was imparted, while Jonny (Boyfriend) took advantage of our shower…

“I’m going to defer this year – and work and stay at home – but be in Durham at weekends”.

At the same moment as this exciting change of tack was announced, the fresh chilli that I hadn’t totally washed from my hands after my food prep – and had recently rubbed into my face, began to significantly impact my vision. 

“The strongest will is the will that knows how to bend.”

Alice Duer Miller   

(Mag North: It should be noted that the events recorded in this piece, relating to any individual's performance with a bat - are entirely subjective.)