The drummer who learned that second Best is better than nothing
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.
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.