January 26: art galleries and my back

Today is the last day of the Daumier exhibition at the Royal Academy. I had planned going. I like Daumier. It rained today. I haven’t gone. I’m making a lentil soup instead. I nearly went on Friday. Friday is late night opening. I didn’t go. I put a chicken in the oven.

It’s not just the inconveniance of negotiating masses of people plonking their big heads flush in front of a little canvas or sketch. There’s my back too. My back mostly doesn’t trouble me much nowadays. Not since I started focusing on exercising it. But it remembers its role when I go to an exhibition. My assertion has always been that my back doesn’t like slow and interrupted walking, the stopping and starting of a museum visit. My back needs to be moving at a regular velocity. I don’t know what a back specialist would make of this. Though I think I am a bit of a back specialist myself by now. I think I’ve figured it out. My back also plays up on a shopping trip with someone who is more taken with shop windows than I am. It could be that these are activities I do not love and my unconscious, in the form of my back, is having its say. Maybe if I booked my back in for analysis it could really have its say, get the whole thing off its chest and never trouble me again.

There is also the little matter of payment. I am to pay the art gallery ten or fifteen pounds for the privilege of having it give me a backache for the rest of the day. Do you blame me?

Maybe I just don’t like art galleries.


January 12: the melancholy of the ex-footballer

There is a mildly tragic melancholy about the ex-footballer. Footballers from the eighties and before you understand. They made money but not that much money. I remember asking my dad how much Bobby Charlton earned. £100 a week was what my dad thought. He was probably about right. When their career was over they put their savings into buying a bar in Spain or a garage in Stretford and that was it. Then, a couple of years later, you read about them selling their cup medal and England caps for a few quid.

Today money is not the issue. If you are earning £100,000 a week, you don’t need much of a career. But the melancholy abides. What do they do after the punditry gig falls through? Lots of golf, obviously. A fair deal of gambling. The purchase of a racehorse? But what do they do on a rainy Tuesday afternoon flanked by their twin garages in their dreadful suburbs?

I remember reading an article in the French newspaper ‘Liberation’ on the death of the legendary Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin, the ‘Spider’.The modest, not to say poverty-striken, life he had eked out after his career as a goalkeeper was over. Peter Handke’s novel ‘Angst des Tormanns vor dem Elfmeter’ (The Anxiety of the Goalkeeper at the Penalty kick) evokes the emptiness of all that non-match time. When I was a boy travelling in the minibus to play a match after school, I remember looking out of the window at normal people in the street, people who didn’t have a cup match coming up in half an hour. What empty lives they had, I remember thinking.