Archive | November, 2020

Tiers of a Clown

26 Nov

Now if there’s a smile on my face/ It’s only there trying to fool the public..

I confess that I was rather taken with this link to Smokey Robinson’s famous lyric, given that plenty of hospitality tears are being shed owing to tiers announced a few minutes ago. Even our Tory MP, Greg Clarke, pointed out the sledgehammer tactic of putting the vast county of Kent into tier 3 when the local stupidity (says their mayor) of Swale has led to a spike in the north of the county. Yet three miles south of Tunbridge Wells the greater infection rates of East Sussex are rewarded with a tier 2. I will be able to travel a couple of miles for beer and food at the White Dog in Ewhurst Green while my village locals are boarded up. C’est la vie? Indeed.

I didn’t come to my keyboard to tap out my misery; rather to praise Maradona. Flawed hero certainly but a sublime talent. The outpourings of grief from a stunned Argentina leave us in no doubt as to his lasting deification by his countrymen and women. Most of us here in the UK now smile at the Hand of God, cheating as it was. Strangely it played into our self-image as the hard done by losers, heroic in defeat. Truth is we were beaten by a genius. Any montage of his career highlights leaves me gasping in admiration. Even the Hand of God. Diego’s rise and fall is the stuff of legend. From Buenos Aires shanty town poverty to global superstardom. With his meteoric rise came a catalogue of marital, alcohol and drug problems which peppered his life. Also many, many sublime performances, one of which I was privileged to see.

January 8th 1984. Barcelona. I was the coach of Kent College 1st X1 hockey team, a school side invited to play in the prestigious tournament hosted by the Real Club de Polo in the great city. On a day off from playing, we managed tickets at the Nou Camp to watch Barcelona play Seville. The great man was playing, aged 23. He scored two stunning goals in the first 20minutes; one a quicksilver one-two and a finish to burst the net, the other a dribble and shot which demeaned three hapless defenders before finding an angle that the keeper couldn’t protect. After thirty minutes he was substituted; the expensive investment had done his job and needed protecting for the next game. Barca won 3 – 1 in a canter but the schoolboys from the UK would be fans of the little man for life. Fans too of the tots of Fundador brandy which was served on the terraces to warm the cockles of 80,000 fans.

There’s something about the hero, flawed or otherwise, who leaves the stage before his/her time. No time to grow old and decrepid and …average. We can rattle off our personal lists from Byron to Best, Buddy Holly to Hendrix. Their flaws or early departure from the stage make them, somehow, the more alluring. They give us hope that for however short a time we may survive on this planet, we can live with a little panache, leave a mark, albeit with less fanfare than Diego.

When Major Robert Gregory, at 36, was shot down over Italy in 1918, W.B. Yeats, his great friend wrote of this fine sportsman, artist, academic, renaissance man, the following:

Some burn damp faggots, others may consume 

The entire combustible world in one small room 

As though dried straw, and if we turn about 

The bare chimney is gone black out 

Because the work had finished in that flare. 

Soldier, scholar, horseman, he, 

As ’twere all life’s epitome. 

What made us dream that he could comb grey hair?

Something for the Weekend?

3 Nov

As Lockdown 2 approaches, I thought my readers would like an isolation recommendation. Or an early invitation to stocking-fill. Or indeed something akin to the old barber-provided remedy for an exciting weekend. The astute among you will already have guessed that this is my lame attempt to entice punters to buy my witty romp of a book that is Eye2i. An eye-catching title, if somewhat cryptic, it is the tale of three old men who, last year, took to their bikes and pedalled from London to Istanbul.

My marketing abilities are limited, save for arm-twisting friends and family or touting my bookywook around social media. I have exhausted the former and am now flogging the latter (dead horse). Please excuse, therefore, this obvious plug for Eye2i.

There are many reasons for me recording our adventure. Firstly there is the fun of reliving the saga for the three of us and our connections (as the horse racing fraternity would describe those with a vested interest) and to have a permanent record, of sorts. Secondly I wanted to keep the name BeatSCAD, the charity for which we raised a little money, in the public domain. It is one of so many small charities struggling for investment in these strange times. I was able, also, to reflect on what was going on back home – Brexit, Boris, Trump – while we were cycling across the continent whose union we had rejected. While writing during Lockdown 1, I added further thoughts from as recently as October 2020, to give a perspective on how our world has been shaken and yet how much strength one can get from the kindness of strangers.

It’s a light-heated read for the most part; see the Amazon reviews if you don’t believe me! It’s also, at 140 pages long, not too daunting for the sluggish reader. Profits, if there are any, will go to BeatSCAD, so you can feel that you have done a little bit to help the cause of this dangerous condition about which we still know too little.

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