One topic sure to make most faces glaze over in the staffroom is “the cricket”. Even England’s thrilling victory in the cricket World Cup final failed to make many inroads, with a fair number of colleagues not even aware that the event had happened at all.
I do understand that sense of repulsion – that complete unwillingness to engage with a particular sport. I have the same feeling of deep disappointment and despair whenever I am trapped with people talking about motor racing, cycling or horse racing. It’s not what we look for during our precious few minutes of rest and recuperation, still less during our summer holiday.
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However, I would still recommend all cricket-refusers to try listening to BBC Radio 5 Live's Test Match Special this month. From next Wednesday, all the way through to early September, there are potentially 20 full days of full-on escapism ahead. (Some of you will end up feeling the need to smuggle in earplugs during Inset day: just wait.)
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A holiday fling with TMS
The programme ticks so many holiday boxes. You're not off to some exotic location but you still want to feel away from it all for the rest of the holiday? Listen to TMS. You want to get on with some useful holiday chores but are finding it difficult to get round to them? Listen to TMS. You want to enjoy a harmless holiday romance with some gorgeous new lover? Listen to TMS. Tes may be the love of our life for most of the year, but – let’s be honest – no one will blame us too much in August for a quiet holiday fling with TMS.
People who don’t even like cricket often develop an infatuation with this programme. Ostensibly, the commentators and analysts will be covering one of the most intense events on the men’s sporting calendar: England vs Australia for the Ashes. But no one is taking it too seriously.
There are times when the cricket is, at most, a mere subplot. The rest of the talk is pleasingly random.
“I have some sad news,” began Phil Tufnell, as he assumed his morning stint in the commentary box last Sunday.
“Not the pigeon, surely?” responded co-commentator Jonathan Agnew.
Apparently an ailing pigeon had been one of the stories from the previous day. It had not ended well. This came soon after a discussion about mixed martial arts, in which Agnew appeared to be unsure whether or not horses were involved.
An unfolding novel
As for the cricket itself, each five-day match should be viewed as an unfolding, twisting novel. The first one ended in a heavy England defeat on Monday, although there were times when it looked as if the team might win convincingly.
The characters in the commentary box and on the field grow on you as the series develops. As well as listening to TMS, I have been reading some Thomas Hardy this holiday. There is surely no doubt where you will find the faster-paced and less predictable storylines.
Despite exam results and all that goes with them, teachers need to keep switched off as much as possible in August. Switch on to TMS instead.
Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire