When we heard about one man’s plan to cycle to every Yorkshire County Cricket Club fixture across a summer, we thought it was a project that we could admire, perhaps even support. Who in their right minds, would choose to go to Derby, let alone cycle there to watch cricket? Surely the man in question must be a few spokes short of a full wheel. We discovered through the wonders of social media that the intrepid fool was also raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society along the way, which tipped our opinion of him from ‘possible nutter’ to ‘probably a half-decent egg’. Anyway, Simon Hood has written a book about his trip – a book we thought had a slightly odd title – and we began reading it eagerly.
Turns out, that apart from a couple of token references to Headingley and a brief mention of childhood matches on the village green, this book isn’t about cricket at after all – it’s about football; Hood was travelling around the country to watch York City Football Club. Nevertheless, we carried on reading regardless, and thoroughly enjoyed it. At the time, York City were stuck in the rut of non-league football, making this an account of playing in places far more anonymous than Derby.
Although football is the common thread tying the chronological chapters together, this rarely feels like a book just about the sport. Its about the kindness of strangers that Hood encounters, its about the unheralded small towns sprinkled across England’s back roads and its about frequent pints of beer. The tale is told with a nice sense of self-deprecation (the author describes himself as a “camp Mick Hucknall”) and knowing wit, appropriate for the kind of book you usually expect to be written by Radio 4 gameshow comics. Despite very very occasional questionable geography (I remain to be convinced the Ridgeway that runs across Wessex and the Chilterns also crosses Lincolnshire), Hood comes across as the interesting kind of guy you meet in decent pubs, but with an ingrained knowledge of when to stop an anecdote from becoming boring.
So this book is certainly worth investigating – even though it’s not about cricket at all. We’ve discovered since that Hood is also a Yorkshire fan, so perhaps his next challenge could be cycling to all their matches (a Pro40 game in Chester-le-Street the day after a 4-day match in Taunton could prove tricky though). However, based on his publicity photos, he’s already decided that his next odyssey will be some kind of sponsored Ryan Sidebottom lookalike contest – something that no doubt he’d turn into a decent book.
Due to the public and/or publishing industry’s obsession with bad literary porn and cricketing autobiographies, Bicycle Kicks might not be in a good bookshop near you yet, however it is available to order here and if electronic gadgets are your thing here.