Thursday, 29 August 2013

THEN BACK TO TREBANOG


Cliff Morgan OBE, the mercurial rugby international and broadcaster who died today aged 83, was a proper Welshman. Low-level charming and quietly passionate, he was blessed with deep modesty and a voice that resonated. Once heard, it was never forgotten. He'd be the loudest person in any room, without opening his mouth.

He hailed from Trebanog in the Rhondda Valley, all but an ember's throw from Merthyr Tydfil, my father Ken Jones's birthplace. Both were sons of coalminers, and neither ever forgot it: when life has literally been the pits, getting paid to play sport is the dream from which no one awakes. Cliff turned down an offer to sign as a soccer player for Tottenham Hotspurs, and legged it instead onto the rugby pitch. My father opted for football, becoming a marginal pro, and later watched from the stand as another talented Jones, also a Cliff (and the one we know as 'Uncle'), made soccer history on a world-record transfer deal to Spurs.

In 1951, aged only 19, Cliff Morgan was selected for Cardiff; he was part of the Grand Slam-winning team of 1952, and the following year showed his colours against New Zealand's fearsome All Blacks. In '55 he was the star Lion during the team's tour of South Africa, scoring a momentous try against the Springboks in Johannesburg. Their 23-22 victory before a crowd of 96,000 down in the Transvaal was, Cliff always said, the greatest moment of his sporting life.

Retiring at 28, he took to broadcasting with BBC Wales. He soared within the Corporation, becoming editor of Grandstand, and then head of outside broadcasting. He revolutionised the way the BBC covered sport. He later knocked wind from the sails of the lot of them by moving to ITV to edit current affairs show This Week.

Cliff suffered a stroke in 1972, which left him partially paralysed and unable to speak. Astonishingly, he recovered sufficiently to commentate on the legendary match between the Barbarians and the All Blacks at Cardiff Arms park the following year. He went on to star on A Question Of Sport alongside his buddy Henry Cooper, and, unforgettably, to BBC Radio 4, where he became a legend.

The cruellest blow was the more recent and terrible illness that silenced him. Even so, he insisted on giving a speech at his own special birthday party on the Isle of Wight.  That was humbling to behold, and will stay with me forever.

RIP dear Cliff. What an honour to have known you. Carpe diem, as you always said, and onwards.


Friday, 23 August 2013

SINGULAR SENSATION


 
 
We live in a singlist world, people. It just doesn't do to be just you. Couple up or be banished to restaurant Siberia. Don't even think about walking into a bar and having a drink by yourself. Prepare to be treated like a weirdo when you travel alone and not obviously on business.
I don't hear too many men moaning about this, but some of my girlfriends in full-blown rose mode - the irresistible fragility we achieve, just before our petals drop off - seem almost suicidal about solo-dom.
Come on, weepers. Live your lives. Get happy in real time, rather than await some fantasy happy stance that the future we don't even know we're going to get may never fetch. Haven't we all resisted retiring to an echoing bedchamber, wishing there were someone to cuddle ... but haven't we all, also, if only sometimes, quivered there wishing that the head on the other pillow wasn't his ?
All your friends are happily married? Zoom in: how many of those gargoyle husbands would you swap your do-as-you-please for?
In any case, why do we need another human being to validate who we are?
Insofar as anything goes, these days, we have pretty much the perfect world. Compromising one's existence for second best is for mooses (meese??) Single life is pretty desirable, most of the time. The smug marrieds may conspire to have us believe otherwise, but only because it is they, in truth, who crave validation.
So burn the Dyptique candles daily. Fling out all the bedlinen foaming with memories of labours lost, and make a date with the White Company. Fill the freezer compartment with Haagen Dazs and king prawns, eat them together if you like, in bed, while watching old episodes of Thunderbirds. Lust all you like after Geoff Tracey, and wake up to pristine sheets.
Blokes come and go. The only person you can bet on to stick around for the rest of your life is you. Make friends with her. Dust her off, take her out, treat her cute, and she'll treat you in turn to many years of good, honest fun. Your mates really like her. Toughen up in the knowledge that most of your married girlfriends secretly envy YOU.
Besides, everything but everything ends. Every perfectly blissful match made in heaven winds up with a heart torn in two.


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

BEWARE THE URBAN SOCIOPATH


Delectable Rosie, MD of Blake Publishing, she tells it like it is. Yesterday's lunch was tasty food for thought which has taken a night to digest.

So we discussed a few folk, mutual and otherwise, and she nodded sagely.
'The urban sociopath', she declared.
'Beware. A lot of them about these days.'
Who is he?
Look around you, my friends, and take note. There's at least one in your life.
Often a relatively high-achiever, a bit 'alpha', who can't or won't 'fit in.'
He has either a conscience like a sieve, or lacks one completely.
He is always in the right: it's everyone else who is wrong.
He cares only about himself: the rest of us are for his benefit.
He is reptilian, cold-blooded, he barely blinks.
He is egocentric, having an exaggerated sense of self-worth.
He is a predator, with a lust for life, power and total control - over money or people or situations, which he strives to achieve through superficial charm, manipulation, intimidation, aggression and sometimes violence.
He can be delusional, irrational, and is rarely remorseful.
A sociopath may be made (nature/nurture), or true (he was simply born that way). There are other kinds, every shade of grey on the spectrum, but really, aren't we all bored out with those?
He can be callous, over-sexed, contemptuous of women. He is mostly incapable of long-term relationships - whether with a partner, children, colleagues or friends. He can be sublimely charismatic, irresistible even, oh sure. But he doesn't give a flying duck about you. He lies compulsively: He is way more qualified than you happen to know he could ever be; he is writing a best-seller, is about to hit the big-time; he once served in the SAS, he knows personally the guy who slaughtered the Princess of Wales: he has seen both the bullet and the Fiat, never found. He was once a millionaire, gadzooks, but the Government robbed him, and he now banks only off-shore. He has a safe at home containing £3 million-worth of gems.
He'll tell you he is in love with you on the first date - he's a fantasist, too. He will push every boundary of sexual behaviour, or attempt to, and try to compromise you beyond your wildest nice. He will never feel guilt, he cannot learn from his mistakes.
He is incapable of understanding what he is supposed to have done.
He thinks that this post is all about him.
Didn't Carly Simon sing it?
London seems to be crawling with such deadly losers these days. Other cities, countries and continents too.
What happened to the human race?
Go well, my daughters, truly. All your daughters, and your sons.
I have been here, seen it, done it.
I am watching, and I bite.