Cricket in the Community: Keith's Story
The cricket pitch has always been close to Keith’s heart. Since moving to Westbury Fields, a unique retirement village in Bristol, it’s been close to his front door too. As we enter the cricket season we speak to Keith Bartle and his wife Christine about a lifelong passion for the sport and how they found a community within a community with Bishopston Cricket Club, whose main grounds sit at the centre of the village.
It’s been my life’s interest since April 1947 when I saw my first match. We lost by 3 wickets – I still remember.
Tell me a little about your cricketing history.
Keith: I’ve watched cricket all my life, since I was 7 years old. It’s easy to get desensitised when you’ve watched for so long, but sometimes you see things that are extraordinary. It’s been my life’s interest since April 1947 when I saw my first match. We lost by 3 wickets – I still remember.
We moved from Yorkshire and I’ve noticed a few differences between the style of play here and in the North. Sometimes I’m the lone voice shouting, “Come on, the Bish!”
What’s your background?
Keith: I got a scholarship to Bradford Grammar School and was brought up in Bingley, West Yorkshire. I worked in a lab for 6 years on an apprenticeship, then did a part-time degree and a PHD in Physical Chemistry... A sure way to kill any conversation!
How long have you lived at Westbury Fields retirement village and at what stage did you get involved with the cricket club?
Keith: It’ll be 5 years next month. We moved from Yorkshire and spent 3 months in rented accommodation before moving in here. I got involved with the club the April of the year we moved in. On our first weekend there was a juniors’ cricket match – I call them juniors but around here they call it youth cricket. I wandered across and within 20 minutes I had a pint glass in my hand, an explanation of what’s going on and Bill, one of the grounds team at the time, and I are as friendly now as we were then. Within 20 minutes I was hooked and have been with them ever since.
Christine: They’re good mates actually. They’re very welcoming to anybody that wants to go across to a Saturday match, or have a cup of tea with them. It’s one of the reasons we came here - the cricket field. We were very fortunate coming from Yorkshire too, as the design of this apartment is ‘The Yorkshire’! We felt it was meant to be.
How would you describe the cricket field?
Keith: The club has aspirations to play very senior cricket and that involves having a pitch which, to be honest is beyond my experience. In the North I looked after a pitch for nearly 50 years but it wasn’t anywhere close to the standard of this one. It is an astonishingly good wicket. The Trust own and maintain the outfield and the club look after the wicket.
What has been your role with the cricket club?
Keith: It’s an informal caretaker type thing. I look after some deliveries and do other small things. I’m regarded, I think, as one of the family. I knew I had arrived last year when I tripped and fell, you do as a Parkinson’s suffer, and a couple of the chaps rushed over. One of them said: “Before we pick you up Keith… are you going to get rid of that ridiculous hat?!”
Christine: It was his Yorkshire cap!
How would you describe Westbury Fields?
Keith: I’d say it’s a very successful retirement village. It’s not perfect, but nowhere is, and the main thing for me is that is surrounds the cricket field. That must be unique... It’s not just cricket that keeps us here though. The activities are really top class. Domenica [Activities Coordinator for Westbury Fields] is really outstanding and organises all kinds of trips and groups.
What advice would you give to someone considering a retirement move?
Keith: Examine the transport facilities, get a doctor’s practice you feel confident with, make sure you budget for the maintenance fee.
Christine: And do it early and make a firm decision you’re going to do it. Declutter and get rid of anything that you possibly can. Make the decision that you’re coming to live part three of your life. You’ve had your childhood, your middle years and then you’re getting to part three. Embrace it positively and make the most of it.