The nearly man

Many youngsters want to be the next sporting superstar. Few make it. As a child I watched soccer, rugby and cricket. Played them all too. It was arguably a golden era, the 60s. England won the Soccer World Cup and I still have a block of six postage stamps with the England Winners imprint on them. Test cricket was played hard and fair(ish) and there was a lot less of it than today’s endless carousel of tours, one-day matches and 20-20s. Wales were putting together the rugby side that would dominate the 70s and provide the core of any Lions team.

Soccer died for me when I moved to a grammar school. No soccer pitches. Soft game. Only rugby there. If you didn’t play rugger or the weather was too bad we ran cross-country. I was always second or third on the runs. Beaten every time by a chap called Steve Palfrey. Short, wiry runner with endless stamina.  I played in the rugby team – fly half of course because my idol was Barry John. I had a great rival for that number 10 shirt. Huw Davies. He was better than me mostly. I lacked weight and speed. Now I only lack one of those. Sadly Huw left us at 17 after deciding he could not cope with his father’s expectations of him. That was the rumour anyway. A shotgun in a field. All over.

At cricket I could slog and bowl a bit. Nothing special.  Then I discovered golf. Played a lot as a teenager and a little in later years. I got down to 13, wanted to be in single figures but could not get there so simply stopped. I had reasonable hand-eye coordination and played an ok game of tennis. At university I teamed up with Jim and as a doubles team we were pretty intimidating. A combined height of 13 feet meant we were good at the net. Lob us if you want. That eventually went by the board because my back-hand was too weak. We were more successful as a pair for the University bridge team. But we didn’t need a huge wingspan for that. And so it went on. I was never quite good enough to be good at anything. The nearly man.

Looking back I think that is rather fortunate. I doubt if I would have had the temperament for top-tier sport.  Instead I can look back and reflect…. if only. And as with all nearly men, the older I get the better I was.

In the 60s sport was overwhelmingly amateur. Wimbledon, for example, went open in 1968 and the world didn’t end. Tennis seemed especially prone to disputes in those days. I remember the 1973 boycott over Nicky Pilic. I thought the field was weak as a Brit made the semis – good old Roger – but Borg played, Connors and the oh so elegant Vijay Amritraj. The gods of the weighing scales have not been kind to Vijay over the years but he was a wonderful player to watch in his heyday. The first winner I can say I remember well is Roy Emerson. And then Newcombe and Laver took over. Billie Jean and Margaret Court were dominating the ladies’ championships. My mother’s favourite was Maria Bueno. A sort of early version of Gaby Sabatini. Only much, much better. We Brits are usually the plucky losers. Murray has been a bit of a let down winning a tennis major and an olympic gold medal. In fact the olympics were something of a setback in the eternal quest for the pluckiest loser medals. Hong Kong came back with a solitary bronze. A rather jolly girl won it for pedalling very fast on her bicycle. Gah Yau!! The men, a glorious blank. So nowadays I am in the very best of company in my underachieving. The motto FILTH may have been made for me. (Failed In London, Try Hongkong).

Now the challenge is photography. I suspect I shall still be the nearly man but in an effort to be the nearly man who almost got there I am going on a photography workshop to Cambodia again. A week or so towards the end of May. Not wildlife but just street / documentary. Composition, colour, technique and lots of fun and self-criticism each evening at the daily review. I can’t wait.

I went back through some images of a very happy holiday conference this morning. We were in Zambia. Staying next to the Victoria Falls. Who would have thought work could be such fun? The first three were taken from a helicopter.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls - monochrome

Victoria Falls – monochrome

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

And the last three were taken from terra firma.

Sunset

Sunset

Crocodile and rock

Crocodile and rock

African Queen

African Queen

We looked everywhere for Humphrey Bogart but couldn’t find him. Not surprising really as he died before I was born. Ah well…………. at least he had a boat named after him. I doubt I shall be accorded that privilege. “The Nearly Man” isn’t a great name for a boat.

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14 thoughts on “The nearly man

  1. As far as the boat goes, I think ‘Nearly Sunk’ might be a worse. I was Nearly Famous this week. Nearly.
    Sportif is not, and never has been my middle name BUT I’m told I have a mean backhand. It came in very handy when playing rounders and tennis in the olden days. I’m a leftie see.
    I like the monochrome and but Crocodile, Rock is my favourite.

  2. I like the rainbows over the falls.

    But WHERE is my credit for inspiring you to write about sport? You didn’t mention Sprake either. Poor Careless.

    I liked cross-country. We went past the boys pitches/tracks and then later slowed down to a walk where the bad girls would have a few fags and the rest of us did nothing in particular. It was better than netball.

    Being a girls’ school naturally we played cricket. Except I didn’t. Lethal boring game. Rather like hockey which sadly was compulsory. My dad ranted about one day cricket matches for a year and a day. Possibly more. Tennis was OK. We were talking about Barry John and Gareth Edwards last night of course. Me and the other Welshman I mean. You forgot Nastase in the tennis list, one of my temperamental favourites. And what about Chris Evert. Navratilove too I suppose. And there was Roscoe Tanner with his amazing good looks serve. I didn’t like Borg. Boring. Your women’s tennis years are slightly earlier than mine, I don’t remember Court, but King seemed to go on for ever. I went to Wimbledon, can’t remember who on earth I saw though.

    Why are you going to Cambodia for a workshop? None in HK? Or just an excuse for a jolly?

    • Gosh so much to answer / comment on 🙂

      I didn’t give you credit because it wasn’t a Leeds United post. That may follow with all due credit. I played hockey once – German faculty against the Spanish. The German faculty was mostly chaps with no hockey experience. The Spanish fac was mostly girls with lots of hockey experience. It was scary beyond belief. We lost.

      I sat next to Phil Bennett at a charity dinner a few years back and paid an outrageous amount at auction for a signed photo of the great man and Gareth. Nastase was brilliant. Call me Mr. Nastase!! Umbrellas on court too. He was just wonderful. I adored the Ice Queen. Such a babe. And talented too. I can say “babe” because you commented on RT’s good looks. He came from Lookout Mountain Tennessee. Ditto Borg but apparently he was very different off court. Are you old enough to remember Billie Jean and Bobby Riggs? That was wonderful theatre too. She won of course.

      Cambodia is soooo much better for photography. More colour, more vibrant and the people are the friendliest in Asia bar none. No jolly at all except jolly good company. Fabulous place.

      • I didn’t suggest you wrote about LU. Rather football, rugby or Gareths, which you did, apart from the Gareths. I know because I went back to check have an excellent memory.

        Hockey was indeed scary. Violent in fact. Non more violent than the short women who always got selected to do cross sticks and had done it before I had even lifted my stick. I think being tall is not an advantage in hockey.

        I did like Nastase, such flamboyant play. A bit like Sprake in a way. Could be brilliant but could make such terrible errors.

        You can’t say babe (except it is your blog so therefore you can) unless you delete it as I did when referring to Tanner’s stunning appearance serve. No, I didn’t see it, but have read about it. I didn’t like her because my mum and dad didn’t probably because she wasn’t pretty. They did like Maria though.

        I have a sort of friend who went to Cambodia some years ago. He sent me a photo on a par with Lottie’s Indonesian man except I got all the details. Perhaps you should consider some photos like that too. Might even beat penguins. Did you know today is international penguin day or something like that? You’ve missed a trick there 😀

  3. Very nice looking monochrome and the sunset is brilliant in more ways than one. Cambodia sounds like a nice destination for honing your skills. You are quite good already but street and documentary sound like lots of fun.

  4. Isn’t it the lot of all artists to be the ‘nearly man’ (person?) Can we ever really be satisfied? The wonderful thing is that we can get so much pleasure from seeing another’s piece (photo, painting…) that we know we could never have done or thought of. Andrew, you have inspired many of us to keep trying harder. Can’t wait to see the impact of your Cambodian expedition.

  5. haha, I “nearly” read the entire post ;0………..in all seriousness, yet another great read with accompaniments

  6. I’m a bit late to the comment party, but I really like your sentiment here, and the construct of using the idea of the “nearly man” in photography. I suppose that wildlife, street, or landscape photography have their “jocks,” such as they are. However, I think the wonderful thing about art is that regardless of how many followers or “likes” those jocks get, they cannot take artistic vision away from anyone.

    I decided a while ago that I am not anyone’s nearly man–I own everything I make, and I think that’s the root of good artistic vision.

    Greta analogy, Andrew, and I hardly think you’re a nearly man. Enjoy your workshop.

    • Thank you Greg. I’m afraid I do get intimidated by the work of some photographers but I shall keep ploughing my own furrow. The workshop will be fun.

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