Times columnist Simon Barnes has endorsed those of us who wear our hunter-gatherer-ness on our sleeves.
In a short essay on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, Barnes spoke of the fans he has been accompanying on assignment while covering the Rugby World Cup in France:-
The rest are here in pursuit of the greater goal of wildness. Wildness not only in the atavistic action of rugby, not only in the warm illusion of membership of a tribe, but also in the sense of participating in a thrilling event in the open air in which wind and rain can play a vital part.
This is an event ever so slightly beyond human control, ever so slightly wild. I believe that we humans are all wild, but many of us are wild without knowing it. In the course of human history we have changed the world beyond recognition, but we have been unable to change our own nature. We are city slickers with hunter-gatherer souls.”
In a more serious vein, earlier this week in The Times Barnes picked up on a theme that I highlighted in the very earliest days of this blog: Jonny Wilkinson’s recovery from injury. This is what I said in January:-
Rugby player Jonny Wilkinson is famous for kicking goals that win England Rugby World Cups. He is also famous for being injury-prone. But he may yet become as famous for endurance, but not of the marathon kind.”
[By the way, excuse the old wire-service habit of claiming the scoop. The style is usually - "as first reported by the Knackered Hack". Readers of the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones will be very familiar with this I'm sure, for that is where I learnt it . If you catch me indulging in this sort of hubris again, you can slap me into Teddington Lock, with a large trout.*]
I’ll now stand aside while an unknackered non-hack provides some genuine lyricism. Here is Barnes:-
But never mind all that sort of courage. The still greater courage has been displayed when he has not been playing at all – that is to say, for most of the past four years. I never thought he would play for England again. His injuries and illnesses have been so regular, so terrible and so prolonged that I could not believe it would happen. It sounded like a Faustian pact, as if, as that fateful pass sped towards him when England played in the World Cup final four years ago: “Let this one go over and I don’t mind if I never play again.”
It has become a staple of the sports pages – a picture of Wilkinson with so many arrows in him that he looked like St Sebastian, each one neatly labelled with details of the injury suffered by this or that chunk of anatomy. He became Rehab Man, forever bullying reluctant muscles to stay firm and serviceable in defiance of whatever bit of him was damaged that day.
That is where Wilkinson’s true courage is to be found, that is where his greatness lies, in the realm of the unseen, in the places where we are not supposed to go. Not in treatment, either, but in the rehab, in all the solitary hours in which he has laboured for a goal we all thought was impossible, in a manner we all thought was futile.”
*For those who did not understand the trout reference look below, and purchase The Complete Monty Python’s 16 Ton Megaset here to experience a different kind of wildness.
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