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?

3 Responses to “Tiers of a Clown”

  1. Alex presnell November 26, 2020 at 4:17 pm #

    Nice one Soro.

  2. rocket1101 November 26, 2020 at 4:20 pm #

    Loved this vignette Paul. The word genius is often misused or overused. For Diego, the term flawed genius is exact. Also, loved the poem to sum it all up so well, “What made us dream he could comb grey hair.” Indeed.

  3. Charles Tisdall November 28, 2020 at 9:24 pm #

    Thank you Paul, yet another good read….

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