Losing – Everybody Hurts

Losing is an interesting word, and losing is an interesting and varied concept. You can lose something, you can lose a friend or partner, you can lose it in the sense of getting angry, and you can lose at sport or any kind of contest. You can lose in love. The list is quite long.

The definition competitive people will identify with the most is the concept of losing at sport or a contest. I am a terrible loser and nowadays avoid being competitive altogether just to escape the terrible but ridiculous sensation of having got fewer points than somebody else in relation to some kind of ball, for example. At school, I used to be beside myself if I lost, particularly if I was in a team and felt (unkindly) that other people had let the team down by not performing up to scratch (kids are harsh judges!). I remember being in floods of tears escaping off the netball court and running back to my dorm at school after such an event. It was hard, especially as I was used to winning absolutely everything at that age! Eventually you develop a kind of jokey attitude to it such as an England follower of any game usually must, and dry and mordant wit gets you through. Sometimes, though, it’s just too much to watch. Remember Andy Murray crying when he lost his first Wimbledon final (how Sue didn’t fling her arms round him, I don’t know!), or Jana Novotna when the serene Duchess of Kent spoke to her sympathetically and ended up giving her a graceful hug. Worse is when entire teams of footballers cry on the Wembley turf, having lost an FA Cup Final, their one shot at glory. One event I remember most vividly was during the 2012 Olympics when John Inverdale ended up by more or less crying with two British rowers who chokingly and haltingly explained that they felt they had let everyone down by coming second. Second! A Silver Medal! At the time, it was no consolation to them that it was a fantastic achievement (it probably still doesn’t seem so to them). It was bad enough that these young, manly guys were so upset but then when John Inverdale did the continuity handover in a voice about an octave higher than usual, I lost it (eyes are watering now!).

Also interesting is whether in the first place you actually ever owned or had what you now consider lost, but that’s too philosophical for this post.

It’s all just context, though, isn’t it. You only have to watch one news item where the cameras are going round the latest bombed city or town and some poor man is showing you what he’s lost: what used to be his house and where his family was killed. It makes you feel ashamed.

I’m sure Shakespeare has some sort of quotation on this dilemma, which most people often find themselves in, but I’m not aware of it. Louis MacNeice said it well:

“World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural.”

There’s no real answer, though.  Just make the most of, and appreciate, what you have while you have it!


Since I wrote this two years ago, England have won the cricket World Cup, an achievement which still makes me marvel no matter how many times I replay Jos Buttler hurling himself towards those stumps on the final ball of the Super Over!

Football saved my life tonight

(Despite the play on words in the title, it wasn’t Elton John’s Watford that saved my life!)

Radio 5 can be pretty awful.  Some of the daytime stuff is just terrible (well, in my view anyway).  A long time ago when a long relationship had ended I was in pretty dire straits.  I just went to work and came home again, a beautiful Spring came and passed me by, summer dragged on and turned to Autumn, then Winter.  One night I’d come home and gone straight to bed, or got under the cover anyway, with all my clothes on.  I put the radio on and turned out the light.  Radio 4 was having a bad night, Radio 3 was all jarring modern stuff with long silences between the pieces (Jilly Cooper once said that you knew if you’d tuned into it because of the silence even though you could tell a station had been picked up!).  I never listen to Radio 2 and wasn’t in the mood for Radio 1.  That left Radio 5 (now 5live), which I’d never bothered with.  The guy sounded like he was talking inside a biscuit tin (it still sounds like that) but he was obviously very excited by the match he was watching and I couldn’t help being drawn in to what was a Champions League game.  It was just tremendous stuff.  I can’t even remember who was playing now but the whole thing got me back into my love of football, which I’d been denying to myself for about 25 years.  At the same time, it somehow revived my interest in life and I never really looked back.

That sounds incredibly shallow but sometimes it’s that simple.  You don’t always need therapy or Prozac.  Just some all-consuming interests will help you get by (yes, I know from experience if you’re really depressed then nothing will engage you).  Perhaps I was already coming to, but I’ll always feel that I have football to thank.

It had been an early interest as I’m of the era who remember when England actually won the World Cup and the family even went down to the Royal Garden Hotel to see the team show off the Cup on the balcony!  It was all very glam and everyday football in England wasn’t really like that at all, but it got me started.  Ah, many a World Cup campaign has come and gone since then and now it seems more real if England don’t even get as far as a knock-out stage than it might if they actually won.

So don’t knock football.  There’s more to it all than just a game of two halves and sick parrots.

Aurora Borealis – Curtains?

Living some way further south than the southernmost point at which you can usually see the Northern Lights in the UK, I’ve never actually seen them.  I suppose if I were that keen I would arrange a trip to Scandinavia, and perhaps I will some time in the future.

I first came across the Aurora Borealis as a child when looking through an ancient book which must have belonged to one of my parents – The Wonder Book of Would you Believe it, I think it was called!  There was a ghostly painted illustration of the curtains effect produced by the Aurora and that, coupled with the musty smell of the old book, is what I always see in my mind when the Aurora’s mentioned.  At around the same time I was given a doll, a bit like a Barbie doll but with dark hair and a massive bouffant.  She had a lime green dress with a huge white and lime green polka dot collar and had pointy feet but no shoes.  I promptly christened her Aurora.  I’m not sure where she ended up and I only have one doll now from that era, and that’s probably because it wears clothes hand-knitted by my mother so she didn’t bin it!

Incidentally, apparently my grandfather nearly woke my mother up when she was little and there was a good showing of the Aurora from where they were living at the time, and she always wished he had done.  Maybe my fearsome grandmother stopped him!

Anyway, I heard on the radio the other day about a very near miss that occurred in 1995 when Norwegian and American scientists launched a rocket from off the Norwegian coast which was carrying research equipment to study the Aurora.  Naturally this was detected by Russian radar operators.  For one reason or another, the Russian authorities got as far as activating their nuclear ‘suitcases’ and were preparing a nuclear attack, the first and only time that this has ever happened apparently.

Eventually Russian observers realised that the rocket was heading away from them and then had fallen to earth harmlessly, so everything was stood down.  The Russians notified their people a week later.  There hadn’t even been time to do that and if it had been a real nuclear attack, Bam –  Imagine, Boris Yeltsin with his finger on the nuclear button?!  In 1995, it was generally felt that that was as near as the world would ever get to nuclear conflict because East/West relations were opening up.

At the end of the radio programme, the presenter pointed out that many more countries now possess nuclear capability and some of these countries are unstable to say the least, and somewhat concentrated in a part of the world where the possibility of violence and war is always present or is even actually happening.  So what now?


Wish I was back on my bunk bed playing with my Aurora doll, I think!

Arnold’s Lion – or I know what I saw

Riding along in the train on the way to Reading one morning, I most definitely saw a lion.  It was happily strolling around in a green area where there always seemed to be fairground equipment stored.  Nobody else was looking – they were all either asleep, reading their papers or listening to their Sony Discmans (Discmen?) with their eyes shut.  I told my husband when I got home that evening and he clearly thought I was a bit mad, although he was very nice about it.

People don’t always believe you when you tell them what you’ve seen, so much so that you can eventually end up doubting it yourself.  Or it can work the other way round.  People can convince you that you’re seeing something when you’re really not.  A classic place for this to happen is at school, when the whole class gets to witness it.  I was once convinced by a group of friends that they could see a particular girl (admittedly rather an eccentric one) up a tree.  Eventually, I fell right into the trap and said “Oh, yes!”.  Collapse into meanie mirth by everyone.  Actually there was kind of an excuse, because that was the summer it was discovered that I had probably been quite badly short-sighted for about 5 years and I was pretty used to not really being able to see stuff which I knew was there.

This can all have its serious side as well, though.  Think about witnesses to serious crime or crimes against humanity.  There have been occasions when people have to ride out years of people doubting or even rubbishing them when they say that such and such happened.  Or the same with whistle-blowers – you have to be brave, but you know when something has to be reported, even though it’ll cost and you know you may not be believed.

Some years after the lion sighting, we were having dinner with some friends.  We were talking about the trains (you could talk for hours about what was wrong with BR back then!) when the guy half of the couple, Arnold, suddenly said: “You know, I saw a lion from the train near Reading once”.  Cue rolling of eyes and wry grin from his wife.  My husband’s mouth dropped open (the lion sighting had become a regular joke in our household) and I guess mine must’ve done too because Arnold sighed: “You don’t believe me, do you?”.  “Oh blimey, yes!”, I said.  “I saw that and nobody has EVER believed me!  I totally believe you!”.  It was a bit of a relief to both of us because we’d eventually thought that perhaps we must’ve imagined it because it was so improbable.  So there you go.  Fact often stranger than fiction, good examples of which are Brexit and the election this week of the creature from the orange lagoon.