The months since the death of my Sun legend wife have been the hardest of my life

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SHE was the first woman to get a job as a football writer on a tabloid newspaper – but last year died of cancer, aged just 56.

Sun journalist Vikki Orvice had worked here for 24 years and interviewed stars including David Beckham as well as athletics champs Mo Farah, Paula Radcliffe and Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Her husband, sportswriter-turned-author Ian Ridley, 65, has found the months since her death the hardest of his life.

But when his therapist suggested that spending last summer watching cricket might be the perfect distraction, he decided to give it a go.

This is the inspiration for Ian’s latest book, The Breath Of Sadness: On Love, Grief And Cricket, in which he reflects on his loss and how cricket has helped him heal.

He says: “I had always promised myself that one year, when time opened up, I would spend a summer watching county cricket. After my therapist suggested it might be time, I decided to do it.”

Ian and Vikki were together for 24 years and married for nine. Vikki was stepmum to Ian’s two children from a previous relationship — Alex, a picture editor and photographer, and Jack, a musician and songwriter.

Ian adds: “The summer of 2019 would be the saddest of my life but one of the most joyous in the history of English cricket.

“There would be a thrilling World Cup, won by host nation England in the most dramatic of fashions at Lord’s. There would be a drawn Ashes series between England and Australia. The series would contain one of the greatest England wins, as Ben Stokes at Headingley delivered one of the most breathtaking Test innings ever.”

For Ian, of St Albans, Herts, the particular joy of last summer was the peace and solitude of watching county games.

He says: “I would visit places that had meant something to Vikki and me. There would be Hove, the Isle of Wight, Leicester and Northampton, Lord’s, Scar-borough and The Oval.”

This year, he had planned another season — but then came Covid-19, changing everything.

Ian says: “I found myself bereft again and, although grateful for my fortunate environment of a house and garden, I was aware of the bitter-sweetness of Vikki being everywhere and nowhere in it.

“I would have given anything for her to be back with me, but I was relieved she would not have to worry about treatment, the coronavirus and her compromised immune system, nor the care-home plight of her mother (Jean, who died last September, having lost husband Fred in 1996).”

Of grieving, Ian adds: “The only advice I can offer anybody is to find ‘their cricket’, something they can latch on to as focus and diversion. And if at all possible, find a good counsellor with whom to spill the unalloyed yucky stuff.

“My story is not unique. As I sat alone in the crowd at The Oval in the season’s final week, I realised I was among people who all had tales. As the saying goes, ‘Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about’.”

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