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.
And the last three were taken from terra firma.
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.