Goodbye Fred

Trip Start Sep 30, 2005
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Trip End Jun 04, 2006


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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Fred always called me Bob. Nobody else did, but from the first time we met, in Fred's mind I was Bob, and that was that. It stuck, "'Ello Bob, nice to see you mate, will you have a beer?" That was Fred.

I only knew Fred Hiscocks in his latter years. He was timelessly old when I first met him in 1996. Nobody really knew or discussed how old he was. Fred, was a man of his time, of an Empire, maybe. He was a kind chap who loved his sport. That was something I shared with him. I only knew a small part of his life, but Fred had obviously lived his share of experiences. After time in the army, Fred had been to his share of the corners of the World. I remember once hearing him in long conversation with two young Asian players, talking about places he'd seen in India and Pakistan. Few others could do that.

Perhaps in modern society it's become fashionable and acceptable to knock older people. Fred had more than his share of habits and thoughts that were of his era. He didn't reject the new out of hand, but he wouldn't kow tow to the ways and trends of modern life either. In this way, Fred seemed eccentric, but he wasn't crazy or daft. He would recount a day's events at length, and was lucid frequently offering different opinions or new insights. You might not share the same view, but you weren't listening to a broken record when you spoke to Freddie. He was pretty efficient too. He usually knew where he'd be a few weekends in advance, if Fred said he'd do it, you trusted that he'd do as he said, and he'd be there. There was no more confusion around Fred than anyone else in the sometimes chaotic worlds that are sports clubs.

Travelling with Fred was always an experience. He drove in inimitable style in some of the more interesting vehicles in the car park, not least the trusty, rusty Alfa which sounded ready for launch every time he fired her up. He was probably known to the local constabulary, but come the following weekend, Fred and vehicle would roll up safely. Granted, he might have parked in the hedge from time to time. Fred hated motorways and a car in which he was navigating would often leave first and arrive last. This was not because he got lost, as he had a fine knowledge of Sussex, Surrey and West Kent, but because he'd seemingly only travel on roads that existed before 1975.

A small, lean figure with dark skin, seemingly always kitted out in trademark gym pumps, body warmer and bobble hat or floppy white sun hat according to the season, Fred cut an unmistakable figure and had a unique trait I can only describe as Fredishness. For me he was also a connection with a time I never knew, when cricket was played more widely, and village greens across the land knew hundreds of Freds - this is an idea that will bring a few wry smiles and quips from those lucky enough to know him.

In the bar, Fred was happy chatting to young and old alike. Sometimes he'd perch on a bar stool alone, pint jug in hand (no new-fangled straight glasses for Fred), and gaze across the cricket field maybe lost in thoughts of summers past. We're all entitled to reminisce though and I can honestly say Fred never bored me with his.

On the field, we all knew his flaws, and everyone made jokes at the expense of his officiating or had occasion to curse him as sportsmen are want to do, but I never saw or heard of anyone confront him or openly dissent against him. We knew he was honest, and I think most teams accepted that fact. We all knew we liked him, needed him and respected him. Maybe he was sometimes a figure of fun, but he wasn't an old crank, he was a good guy. You heard "Cheers Freddie", "Thanks Fred", or "Get you a beer, Fred?" thousands of times more than the odd, "Bloody Hell, Freddie".

My favourite story is of Fred coming in for tea after another umpiring stint on the cricket field, having stood officiating the game at a distance of 22 yards. He stood in the clubhouse 15 yards away from the television and asked, "what's that on over there?" "That's the test match on the TV, Fred." "Oh," he replied, "I can't see that far." It didn't matter though, that was Fred. I was suddenly very glad I'd never drilled a ball straight back in his direction during a match though.

There's a bitter sweet irony that following a summer which saw the arrival in the public consciousness of a new British sporting icon called Freddie, we say fond farewells to our own Freddie, who in his own way was an icon too.
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