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To hell with Andy Murray, Britain should honour mediocrities – like me

December 31, 2016

F Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri

It’s New Year’s Eve. As the fireworks start to turn my neighbourhood into an imitation Aleppo, the dog sits shivering in the downstairs loo, and I sit mournfully at my desk, reflecting on another failure. I have been passed over yet again for an honour. Andy Murray and an array of anonymous worthies all got gongs in the New Year Honours. And I got nothing.

I’ve clearly been cozying up to the wrong people. I’m not even sure who I should be cultivating to get my moment with the monarch or one of her offspring, and to be able to put OBE or MBE after my name, or even to refer to myself hereafter as Sir Steve. Is it as it was in the old days, when some benign tutor used to sidle up to their students and tap them up for a career in Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Or is there a network of people whose job is to watch what you do and send your name to the Prime Minister? Is there a Commissioner of Gongs to whom you can write recommending your brother, sister or next-door neighbour? Or write under a pseudonym recommending yourself?

Whatever the process, I, the author of countless missives of bad prose (631 actually) should surely have been rewarded by now for sheer tenacity. Week after week for many years I have written nonsense in many forms, praying for that viral post that will turn me into a blogging superstar. Alas, it never comes. More likely that my wife will win the lottery. After all, she has a one in a billion chance, whereas I seem to be competing with at least that many bloggers to reach my rightful audience.

And what of my campaigns? I’ve spent the past year desperately trying to persuade Americans not to elect Donald Trump. Surely that deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. And ever since July, I’ve been barking away like a loquacious solitary drinker in a crowded pub about the evils of Brexit, while all those around me think I should be taken away to a secure institution.

If my literary efforts are not to be recognised, perhaps my sporting achievements should be. After all, if all those obsessives who flew the flag for Team GB in Rio get their names on the list, I should certainly be cited for my services to mediocrity. I am the exemplar of worthless golf. I’ve hacked away at the same course for the last fifteen years in search of the perfect round, yet never came close.

I know far more about the natural history of the outer reaches of my course than any local David Attenborough. I can tell you in which piece of impenetrable long grass adders lurk, where the red kites hang out, where the crows dump the balls they scoop up from the practice range, where you get bombed by kamikaze ladybirds and in which part of the rugged terrain you are likely to fall into a foxhole and never emerge. If dinner ladies and council clerks get their medals, surely I, as a representative of the millions of bad golfers digging up turf every week, should have my moment of glory. For services to agriculture, perhaps.

If not for blogging and golf, at the very least I should get my gong for destroying the entire canon of Delia Smith recipes and besmirching her reputation with everyone who comes to dine with us. For services to the National Health Service.

On second thoughts, maybe I should remain anonymous. Fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For my generation at least, it seems that the more famous you are, the greater the chances of your dying at an age fairly close to mine right now. I’m also mindful of a story about my grandmother. She was a silent movie actress before she retired to look after my father and uncle. After she stopped acting, she got a series of tax demands, each of which she ignored. When the gentleman from the Inland Revenue finally came knocking, she told him that Madame Arcati (or whatever her stage name was) was deceased, and that they should stop bothering her forthwith. Which they did. The moral of the story was stay under the radar, and if it looks like you’ve been rumbled, deny everything.

If greatness is eventually thrust upon me, perhaps it would be better if it happens when I’m in my eighties, when it would be very difficult for me to partake in orgies, benders and nose candy. How wonderful to be Hendrick Groen, the Dutch inmate of an old people’s home who wrote a diary describing his life of increasing decrepitude, of accidentally poisoning fish with the remnants of the afternoon tea and quietly enjoying the sight of a large care worker who sits on a plate of cup cakes and rises with them firmly imprinted on her ample backside. Whether or not the writer isn’t who he claims to be is irrelevant. He’s produced a best seller, and given my generation new hope. When we finally get carted off to our care homes we might still get to have some malevolent fun at other people’s expense.

Until that day, I will be content to bask in my mediocrity. The William McGonagall of countless blog posts. The Salieri of deathly prose. And then, one fine day, after I’ve gone, I will be recognised as a shining beacon of thankless endeavour. An inspiration to all those who try and fail. Again, again and again.

For who would have thought that words like these made the great McGonagall immortal:

The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!
With your numerous arches and pillars in so grand array
And your central girders, which seem to the eye
To be almost towering to the sky.
The greatest wonder of the day,
And a great beautification to the River Tay,
Most beautiful to be seen,
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!
That has caused the Emperor of Brazil to leave
His home far away, incognito in his dress,
And view thee ere he passed along en route to Inverness.

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!
The longest of the present day
That has ever crossed o’er a tidal river stream,
Most gigantic to be seen,
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay !
Which will cause great rejoicing on the opening day
And hundreds of people will come from far away,
Also the Queen, most gorgeous to be seen,
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!
And prosperity to Provost Cox, who has given
Thirty thousand pounds and upwards away
In helping to erect the Bridge of the Tay,
Most handsome to be seen,
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!
I hope that God will protect all passengers
By night and by day,
And that no accident will befall them while crossing
The Bridge of the Silvery Tay,
For that would be most awful to be seen
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!
And prosperity to Messrs Bouche and Grothe,
The famous engineers of the present day,
Who have succeeded in erecting
The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay,
Which stands unequalled to be seen
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

Which goes to show that there’s hope for all of us.


From → Books, Politics, Social, Sport, UK

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