THIS SPORTING LIFE – PART 1

skinnny-young-boy.jpg-smallI was never any good at sport at school.  Double games lessons when football or cricket were played were a torment.

One’s innate lack of ability was soon recognised by the better sportsmen who were invariably selected by the teacher to be the team captains and who then alternately picked their teams from the gaggle of youths shivering in their shorts and plimsolls.

Naturally, they selected the best players who were quickly nabbed, followed by the rump of indifferent players and leaving invariably last of all myself and one other youth, a gangly, freckly boy christened the ‘stick insect’ by the sports teacher.

Being the last to be selected was by no means the worst humiliation.  Far worse was having to endure the argument that then ensured between the team captains, neither of whom wanted either of us on their side.

‘Go on,’ one would shout at the other, ‘I’ll have the stick insect and you can have Weed.’  This last comment was a reference to my nickname at school.

‘Oh no!’ the other would yell back.  ‘I ‘ad ‘I’m last week.’

Eventually, the dispute would be resolved by the sports teacher and I would be placed in one team or another and then stuck in goal, that being the place where I could be reckoned to do the least damage to the team’s chances.

This, however, rested on the assumption that the opposing team would never get through the defence.  Sadly, this proved to be an arrogant error on the part of my team captain because sure enough the time came when, despite the superior skills of my team, the other team won the ball and came charging down the field towards goal and towards me standing uncertainly on the goal line.

When my team recovered themselves sufficiently to recognise that the unthinkable had happened, they all, with one voice, turned and yelled at me, ‘Stop them!’

Quite how that was to be achieved was not mentioned, but as luck would have it when a gloating opponent came charging towards me, savouring the prospect of an easy goal, he kicked the ground instead of the ball and fell flat on his face, the ball trickling at a snail’s pace into my hands.

Exultant, I held the ball aloft.  It was my moment of triumph which went straight  to my head and instead of clearing the ball, drunk the power I foolishly held on to it not wanting the triumphant moment to pass.

That was my undoing.  My enraged opponent had risen to his feet and charged at me like a wild bull.  I remonstrated by wagging my finger at him and calling him ‘a naughty boy’, but as I did so I inadvertently stepped back over the goal line.

‘Goal!’ shrieked our opponents as one man fell to the ground laughing hysterically, whilst my team’s joy at my success in saving the goal turned to fury.

It cannot often be the case that a goalkeeper is carried from the pitch on the shoulders of the opposing team.  That is what happened to me.

Given my ineptitude at both team games and ball games, it is surprising that I took up polo at the age of 50, but more of that later.

The mark of our time

The famous artist Andy Warhol said:- “In the future everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes”.

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In this world of short lived media publicity or celebrity of an individual or phenomenon, the prediction rings true but the reality is otherwise.

The overwhelming majority of humanity will be born, live and die in anonymity at least as far as the wider world is concerned beyond their own family and friends. 

The same is true of those who went before us.  Perhaps a faded photograph or two of somebody you might remember as a grandparent but in the photograph looking impossibly young and optimistic.  How did they leave their mark on the world?

The answer in my opinion is very much the same as you or I, by quietly getting on with it, working throughout their lives, supporting their families and when they eventually died leaving behind them only their flesh and blood as an inheritance for their descendants.
No matter how important we might consider that we are, even in this world of instant and mass communication, our lives are essentially no different to theirs in that respect.

In the wider sense of leaving a mark, we are surrounded every day by the marks of our forebears.  In the countryside it is largely manmade and man shaped and in the towns and cities all of which reflect the work of generations which went before us.

As you grow older and have more perspective on life, you cannot help but admire and in so doing honour the memory of all those unsung and largely anonymous individuals who quietly got on with it and did what had to be done before passing on the baton to the next generation that took their place.

They live, locked in our memories, as long as we do and when we pass, perhaps successive generations may at least for a while remember us.  We can hope for no more.

I hope you enjoyed my interpretation of what it means to leave your mark, and honour those before you.

Writing is deliberately taking over

tree-roots.jpg-smallWhat was once an occasional pursuit has slowly and deliberately crept its way into every aspect of my life like the roots of a determined perennial.

I now keep a table at my office especially for my creative endeavours, where from time to time when in need of a change of scene I go and sit down and write a little more of whatever story I am currently engaged with.

I normally write 1,000 – 2,000 words before stopping and then returning to do some of the “day job”. I am often amazed at my ability to jump in and out of a story with ease. However unexpected, I enjoy the balance between the two, the one providing a distraction and even relaxation from the other.

I do of course write at home as well when the opportunity presents itself but again would not normally write more than about 1,000 words at a time.

I often do not know what I am going to write next and in fact that is usually the case.  What I do is make sure I remember the last line that I have written and then think about something else and by the time I sit down to write again my subconscious imagination has had sufficient time to sort things out and the next part of the story comes out. It’s a bit like waiting for the birth of a baby.  It comes out at its own rate and won’t be hurried but if you are patient then it arrives naturally.

I don’t need to go and isolate myself in some silent room or library to be able to write.  I simply think about a story and write about it surrounded by people doing other things, just as you might read a book or listen to the radio under similar circumstances.

I wonder what will be next in my journey.

 

 

My author fuel and fire part II

Book inspiration smallI don’t get a great deal of time for reading what with work and trying to find time to scribble my own stories, so I tend to have any number of books lying around waiting to be read at any one time.

These are often books about historical subjects that interest me such as the early civilisations of Greece, Egypt or Rome, or I may be researching topics that have a bearing on what I myself am trying to write about, such as for example the Korean War or, more recently, the war in Vietnam.

When I do get a chance to read fiction for pure relaxation then I enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s novels, particularly the warrior chronicles.  He is in my opinion a worthy successor to Rosemary Sutcliffe who wrote amongst others Warrior Scarlet and The Shield Ring and also Henry Treece author of a trilogy, namely Vikings Dawn, The Road to Miklagard and Viking Sunset.

I have read too some of the Nordic Noir, for example The girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but for sheer escapism I find the American crime writers like John Grisham and James Lee-Burke second to none.  I just started one by Lee-Burke called Feastday of Fools.

Let’s also not forget the golden oldies.  I have just bought to re-read The Murders in the Rue Morgue, by Edgar Alan Poe in which Paris is terrorised by two horrible murders until the culprit is discovered and turns out **spoiler alert** to be an Orangutan with a razor.

The important thing as far as I am concerned is not the sometimes gruesome details.  In my view the quality of the story itself is paramount.  It is that that gives, what might otherwise be an over-long and over-detailed book, the reader an anchor.

A writer has to be a good story teller. The reason we feel so engaged when we hear a story, read a novel or see a play – whenever we experience a narrative – is quite simple. When we are being told a story, our brain experiences it as if it was really happening to us.

Of course this may seem obvious to some but in the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne “Easy reading is damn hard writing”

The fuel and fire of a new author

comfort_zone5.jpg-purpleThis post is for those who had a bad day, those who think it can’t be possible, those who are about to give up, or those who need to get back up.

I once had doubt in my mind: doubt that I would ever find the time alongside the day job to dedicate to my passion, doubt that there would be any point. Why would anyone want to read what I had written? Doubt that my writing would be any different from all the thousands of people, who have reached a point in their life where they have succeeded in their career, yet still held onto a fanciful dream.

Over the last 30 years I have been compelled to write at various times.  For some reason I find myself inspired to write.  A story wells up inside me and I then have to begin putting it down on paper.  Each such occasion lasted for a while and then died but over the years what has happened is that I have lived with a number of stories which have slowly developed and have occasionally bubbled up to the surface again.

So in the words of Susan Jeffers, I felt the fear and did it anyway! I’m not telling you all to run out and book a skydive but maybe just ask yourself:  what’s stopping you? Is it fear?

The reason I wanted to write was just that…because I wanted to, why was I worrying about its success? There was a slow realisation, that the only person standing between me and my daydream was ME.

So here I am.

I plan to depict my experiences of being a new author and how feeling the fear works out.

I have written 2 books so far: The Retainer – An intriguing tale of blackmail, betrayal and lust in the 1970’s, and A Hero of Our Times – A romp through law and polo with plenty of lust along the way.

I hope you like them.