The drum­mer who learned that sec­ond Best is bet­ter than noth­ing

The Herald - The Herald Magazine - - First Up - RAB MCNEILL

ALL my life, it has been my am­bi­tion to be a Nearly Man. But I just never made it, and I am con­tent now to stop striv­ing and to ac­cept that I am never go­ing to amount to any­thing.

I shall pause here for a mo­ment. Si­lence. Not a word. You just sit there star­ing. You’re sup­posed to protest at my self-den­i­gra­tion, you wee swines that you are.

Any­way, be­ing some­thing isn’t ev­ery­thing. Much of it is down to op­por­tu­ni­ties or luck, a con­cept al­ways apt to make me in­dulge in fits of de­ranged laugh­ter.

In the mean­time, I shall come to the point (I can see you look­ing at your watch, madam). The afore­men­tioned pre­am­ble hereto­fore has been by way of in­tro­duc­tion to the news this week that Pete Best, the drum­mer spurned by The Bea­tles, over­came nearly 60 years of re­sent­ment to wish Ringo Starr a happy 80th birth­day.

Pete was dumped in a cow­ardly way, through the band’s man­ager. None of his for­mer mates made any at­tempt to con­tact him again.

In the end, in­stead of drum­ming for the most pop­u­lar band in mu­sic his­tory, he be­came a civil ser­vant for 20 years, which must have been al­most equally sat­is­fy­ing. In­deed, at one point, he at­tempted sui­cide.

Imag­ine con­tem­plat­ing how close he had come to be­com­ing a house­hold name like John, Paul, Ger­ald and Ringo.

Ac­tu­ally, he is al­most a house­hold name. Many peo­ple know his story, and feel for him. Lady Luck was not on his side, and he was left to rue What Might Have Been; a WMHB of mas­sive pro­por­tions at that.

I might have been the best postie in Royal Mail his­tory or a grass-cut­ter revered by his clients. In­stead, cir­cum­stances and a se­ries of du­bi­ous ca­reer choices mean that, in­stead, I pros­trate my­self here for your de­ri­sion. Ach well, it’s bet­ter than work­ing, I sup­pose.

And the postal ser­vice or hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­try’s loss is noth­ing to what Pete missed out on with the Bea­tles. An­other class of peo­ple I often (rel­a­tively speak­ing) think about with re­gard to missed op­por­tun­ties is the older foot­baller.

Theirs was not a case of fail­ure or lack of tal­ent. They were just born at the wrong time.

Paid a trades­man’s wage, and pre­par­ing for matches with a fish sup­per and a pint or two, they must look on today’s pam­pered, grotesquel­y over­paid play­ers and won­der about WMHB.

These days, in ad­di­tion, a player’s ev­ery kick is avail­able on the telly. Back in the day, these poor fel­lows might have drib­bled past five de­fend­ers, nut­megged the goalie and blootered the ball into the top of the net with exquisite panache, but it was never recorded for pos­ter­ity. I guess you’ve just got to shrug your shoul­ders and, in a word that only a cheer­fully grim and at­trac­tively dour coun­try like Scot­land could pro­duce, say: “Ach.”

Reg­u­lar read­ers of this col­umn know that its au­thor (ba­si­cally God com­mu­ni­cat­ing through the fic­tional char­ac­ter “Rab McNeil”) is al­ways com­plain­ing about life.

Put con­cisely, he finds that life just isn’t good enough. Rot­ten weather. Ir­ri­tat­ing dis­as­ters. A stupid wee coun­try full of short-legged nut­ters. Cy­clists free to cause may­hem.

Dumbo an­i­mals that can’t even talk.

Serendip­ity (three spell­ing at­tempts at that) is all. In the end, we con­trol noth­ing. But things have nearly al­ways be­come bet­ter. If you are also a failed Nearly Per­son, you could, as I do, just say to your­self: “It could have been worse. I might have gone bald.”

In gen­eral, there is much to be thank­ful for today, such as sausage rolls, a choice of trouser colour, and ef­fi­ca­cious cures for syphilis.

In the mean­time, we wish Pete

Best all the best. And Ringo too. For my­self, I am con­tent to re­main, as the song says, a real nowhere man, sit­ting in my nowhere land, mak­ing all my nowhere plans for no­body. It’s re­ally very sat­is­fy­ing.

Note likely

IT is pos­si­ble that I was the only per­son in the coun­try sad to read that police con­sta­bles are ditching their tra­di­tional note­books for dig­i­tal doo-dahs. It’s sup­posed to save time and, there­fore, money, but I wouldn’t trust it. For a short while, I made the mis­take of writ­ing things in a sup­posed “notes” sec­tion of my mov­able tele­phone, but these al­ways dis­ap­peared in the tra­di­tional man­ner of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.

In­cluded in these miss­ing notes was my ad­dress, mean­ing I only got home that day by de­scrib­ing my house to passers-by and ask­ing peo­ple if they knew where it was.

Some­where in the elec­tronic ether, there’s a whole col­lec­tion of my ideas, short sto­ries, novel chap­ters, notes on col­leagues’ walk­ing styles, and so forth.

It’s the ethe­real equiv­a­lent of that place in a par­al­lel uni­verse where all my lost read­ing glasses have gone

So, no, I shall stay a note­book man. That said, one of the most embarrassi­ng mo­ments in my jour­nal­is­tic ca­reer came dur­ing a face-to-face in­ter­view with the CEO of a ma­jor com­pany, who asked me to read back what he’d said, and all I’d recorded in my note­book was: “What is this daft **** on about?”

Later, I burned that note­book, in a sim­ple but mov­ing cer­e­mony in my back gar­den – some­thing that you couldn’t do with a dig­i­tal de­vice.

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