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Thursday, July 31, 2008

More on band biographies

The other day I blogged about the fact that the biogs of pop groups (particularly "indie"-fied ones) don't actually say anything useful. The one that triggered this was by Department of Eagles, who've made a record I've played quite a bit. This caused Fred from the group to get in touch and say that they'd toyed with introducing the fact that one of them had a grandfather who wrote and directed "The Hustler" but hadn't felt it was that relevant. I can see why they missed it out but I can also see why they should have put it in. He agreed that in their efforts to avoid clichés, many bands were in severe danger of making themselves just boring. We've been kicking this back and forth and I've sent him my colleague Fraser Lewry's biog because it's an object lesson in what a biog should be.

You only need a biog in the first year of your career. After that you've either earned a proper Wikipedia page, which is in the end the best solution to the biog problem, or you've disappeared or you've become Coldplay - in which case why do you need 2,000 words of unctuous drivel enumerating your platinum discs in Latin America?

In the first year of your career it's there for two reasons, neither of which have got anything to do with you or how you think it makes you look:
1. To provide a few gobbets of information that an average hack might feel moved to put in a caption. In this respect "Princess Diana once asked me the way to Marylebone Lane" qualifies but "hard-gigging four-piece who write all their own material" certainly doesn't. Too many bands describe what they're doing in completely music business terms rather than in terms that provides us with common ground. "So then we did some demos and found a new studio..." Oh really? Goodness, is that the time?
2. To give some poor local radio DJ or hack who's been put on the phone to try and write something for a gig listing something he can ask you about. To this end "so tell me about appearing on stage at Brixton Academy dressed as a white rabbit" works and "so are you really excited about your first national tour?" doesn't.

I've been thinking about this a lot recently. I had to do something with a well-known band who, like most well-known bands, aren't quite as big as they used to be. It wasn't the most satisfactory experience because they had a blasé attitude that seemed somehow fatally dated. I came away thinking 'they still think being in a band is somehow *enough*. I don't think it is anymore.' Who knows? Maybe a change gonna come.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Joey Barton

The argument about Joey Barton's last chance at Newcastle seems to be hinging on whether Kevin Keegan should "send a message" by keeping him on or sending him packing (albeit on disastrous financial terms). But surely this is, above all, a workplace safety issue. Barton has a history of unprovoked attacks on members of the public and team mates. He was convicted of causing actual bodily harm to Ousmane Dabo during a fracas at the training ground. If this were to have taken place in Sainsbury's or the Royal Bank of Scotland there is no earthly chance that any employer would give him a further chance or ask other employees to work alongside somebody who might assault them at any time. Multi-millionaire footballers have just as much right to be able to carry on their work without fear of violence as a bus driver does. Where is the Professional Footballers Association in all this?

Monday, July 28, 2008

We can't handle the truth

Interesting interview with historian David Runciman on Radio Four last night, He's written a book about hypocrisy in politics. It seems to argue that our apparent expectation that politicians make their actions match their rhetoric is unrealistic, forcing our leaders into adopting positions that are at odds with their personalities and not leading to the outcomes we want. He wrote a piece in the Guardian about it, focusing on how Gordon Brown measures up to these demands:

Brown in particular is paying the price for his inability to come to terms with the new confessional politics. People want to know who he really is, but if what he is really is a cautious and reserved politician who plays the percentages, then the public don't want to know. So he is forced to tour the daytime-TV sofas trying to show his human side, and ends up revealing only how uncomfortable he is with the politics of self-revelation. His caution and his constant calculation make him look like a man in a mask - the classic hypocrite with something to hide.

I can't abide the "they're all cheats and liars" view of politicians (although if that's true then at least it must mean they're a reasonable sampling of the public at large). We're the people who force them into obfuscation because we're always ready to scream as soon as they propose doing anything that might not be in our personal interests. Now that everyone in public life, from politicians through football managers to union bosses and chief executives, have taken the same course in masking the unpleasant truth behind linguistic emollients we can all now sympathise with the wise words of Carrie Fisher when she said "it's hard to be sincere in Hollywood because everybody does that fake sincerity so well."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"The Knowledge"

Last night on BBC 4 there was a pleasant surprise. They were doing an evening about cab drivers in the course of which they showed "The Knowledge", Jack Rosenthal's 1979 TV drama about the two-year ordeal that people have to go through to qualify for a cab drivers' badge. When it was originally shown on ITV there were only two TV channels. Consequently everyone you knew watched it and talked about it at work afterwards.

It was interesting, particularly to Londoners, for the light it shed on what was involved in getting to commit to memory every street within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. Nigel Hawthorne as the inspector they call "the vampire" emphasises that no city in the world requires its cab drivers to know even a fraction of what London asks of its own. "Not many brain surgeons either. But there you are. That's how we built an empire. Probably how we knocked the bleeder down as well."

Nowadays I work near the Public Carriage Office in London and so every day I see the men in suits smoking nervously outside on the pavement as they mug up on the direct route between Manor House and Gibson Square and the hundreds of other "runs" they still have to master. Makes you strangely proud to be a Londoner.

You can watch it here for the next week.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

There isn't much to say about modern pop groups

I get sent a ton of records. A surprising proportion of them are like Department Of Eagles. That's them on the left in the standard 2008 publicity shot. Hey, I know we're not rock star material but, look, we got our pal to knit in the background to prove we're not boring. Anyway I played their record and because it passed the first test by not being abrasive and noisy - I can't help it, I listen in the morning and I don't like loud noises unless I'm familiar with them - I played it quite a lot after that.

From listening to it I deduced two things: they were smart, or at least educated, sorts and they'd probably heard a lot of Van Dyke Parks. (The growing thicket of footnotes appended to rock history are increasingly the happy hunting ground of groups like Department of Eagles.) It used to be natural to find out more. That was in the days when there was something to learn. With a heavy heart I looked at their biog. I say with heavy heart because experience has taught me that what little there is to say about acts like this they are probably reluctant to tell us. If one of them has a parent who owns Coca Cola and the other once navigated the North Atlantic in a coracle, you can guarantee that they wouldn't tell us.

Like so many bands of today they met at university. Actually they're not really a band. If they were a band then one of them would not also be a member of another group at the same time. This is now standard for bands, particularly American ones. It's like in the Championship where half the players are on loan from over-resourced Premiership clubs. It's confusing. They have day jobs, which we should applaud, I suppose, but it does mean that they don't have that edge of guys who've held hands, closed their eyes and jumped off the cliff.

Right now there's probably some young hack on the Observer Music Monthly trying to cobble together a short introductory piece about them and probably thinking, there isn't much to go on here. When confronted with acts like this I wonder whether the ancient journalistic task of preparing the way for people like Department Of Eagles has just run its course. The idea that anyone would be inspired to listen to them by reading about their short lives or what they think about Barack Obama seems obsolete. Reading a great deal about something before hearing it belongs in the past. People don't do that any more, do they? Why bother when you can be nudged towards something instead? Of course you can still be prepared for something by reading about what a piece of music did to somebody else. But best of all you can get a taste for no charge.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

When hacks go crazy subs run and hide

All hacks feel a bit injured when the subs have changed their copy, whether in a wholesale or a minute fashion, but Giles Coren's latest rant at "The Times" subs won't be getting much sympathy from me. This is not just because it goes in for the kind of abuse that will probably have disturbed the sleep and domestic contentment of some of the people to whom it's addressed.

It's always difficult to know what is the correct etiquette here. If it's a giant error you can get on the phone and sound wounded but you're painfully aware that this is after the horse has bolted. If it's a tiny error the problem is you'll sound like a pedant with nothing better to do.

I have written the odd thing where I was aware enough of the chances of something going wrong that I've asked to check it on proof myself. But occasionally the cock-up is so massive and the chances of anyone on the outside noticing so minute that I haven't had the heart for the conversation. Drawing people's attention to their lack of professionalism only embarrasses me.

I did something for a national newspaper not long ago. They asked for 800 words. I wrote exactly that number and submitted it. Then, in a planetary first for journalism, they asked me to make the piece longer. I added as much as they wanted, making the piece 1,200. When the piece ran they had mysteriously cut it to 600.

This would have been annoying enough if they had taken this much out of the original. To do the same damage to the extended piece was vandalism. Now believe you me, I'm not precious. I am Hacko McHack of the Ancient Tribe of Hacks in the County of Hackshire and I'll spit in the eye of anyone who impugns our tribal honour. Plus I am a stout believer in Doctor Johnson's advice that you should read back what you have written, identify your favourite bit and then "strike it out". However I'll be buggered if I'll have the striking out done by somebody because they're incapable of doing a bit of elementary space planning.

"I'm sorry about that," they always say. "We'll pay you for the full thing." As if.

So, how's your career going?

It seems to be widely accepted that Barack Obama is the best communicator and speechmaker around at the moment. He's forty-seven years old. The guy who writes his speeches, Jon Favreau, is only twenty-six. What's even more amazing is that this is his second campaign. Good for him.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Let us once more recognise the God-like genius of Nancy Banks-Smith

I haven't seen "Bonekickers" and I don't think I'll be finding the time. However I'm glad it was done because otherwise Nancy Banks-Smith would never have got to write this:
Bonekickers (BBC1) is, it has been noticed, only a syllable short of bonkers. Hugh Bonneville, a decent actor tragically seduced by the temptation of a Harrison Ford hat, plays Professor "Dolly" Parton. Based, he says, on the archaeological adviser for the series, who "literally froths at the mouth". Frankly, I'd hesitate to share a table in an all-night cafe with any one of them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Down On The Corner

I've been thinking a lot about corners since watching "The Wire". The cops describe their progress in combatting drug dealing in terms of corners cleared. The young dealers look forward to the day when they can have their own corner. There's a whole episode in series four called "Corner Boys". That's how the school refers to those who are destined to slip into a life of crime. The series that David Simon did before "The Wire" was called "The Corner".

Creedence Clearwater Revival had a song called "Down On The Corner". The opening line of Tom Waits's "Jersey Girl" goes "got no time for the corner boys, down on the street making all that noise". Miles Davis made a whole album called "On The Corner". I've got a wonderful old record by the Isley Brothers called "Love Put Me On The Corner". (Matter of fact, it's here.)

The Corner is obviously the embassy of the sovereign state of Uptonogood. We have venues over here that perform a similar function but they're not usually corners, possibly because the high rises that were knocked down in Baltimore years ago still cling on here. So our corner boys have to make do with the pavement outside off-licences, near bus stops or in the immediate environs of fried chicken outlets. Which is nothing like as musical.

Monday, July 21, 2008

To ease the pain of idleness

The government girds its loins for another bash at changing the benefits system. There's talk of making sure that those claiming job seekers' allowance are actually seeking jobs and that those claiming incapacity benefit are actually incapable. It seems to be widely accepted among the political classes that since the carrot hasn't worked in reducing the number of people who are dependent on benefits then a little bit of stick might have to be tried.

I fear it won't actually work, not because it's wrong-headed but because there is nothing more draining than compelling the unwilling. I occasionally see some kids half-heartedly picking up litter on a roundabout or scraping graffiti from the park gates, presumably on some kind of punitive community service project. The person I feel most sorry for is the individual charged with supervising them. That person must be working twice as hard as any of us and for very little reward, financial or otherwise. Any teacher will tell you that the most difficult class to teach is neither the brightest one nor the thickest one. It's the one that is prepared to put most of its energies into avoiding doing anything.

Most people want to be active. They don't work just for money but for self-respect, companionship, stimulation or just getting out of the house. They would probably agree with the old biblical idea that idleness is a curse. They associate with people who are like them and probably have nothing to do with the others. "Forcing" people to work means somebody's got to do the forcing. Most of us would do anything rather than that.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

In the White Room

Went to the PPA Chairman's reception last night on the way home. They have it every year just before everyone goes away to their huge holiday homes on the Algarve. It's worth calling in on because it's one of those rare occasions where you can guarantee all the senior industry people will be there, swilling white wine and talking slightly too loudly in the very echoey Palm Court of the Waldorf.

The Economist's Helen Alexander finished her year as PPA Chair by pointing out that the magazine business could do more about diversity. It was a point well-made. From where she was standing she may have been able to see a non-white face. I couldn't see any at all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"The content of their character"

The most ringing sentence of Martin Luther King's 1963 Lincoln Memorial speech concerned his children: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character."

Liberal opinion was agreed on one thing at the time. That it was as wrong to judge people on the colour of their skin as it was correct to judge them on the content of their character. Richard Rees used this as a stake in the ground in a penetrating Analysis on Radio Four. He looked at how since the 70s the political class has either avoided the character issue altogether or treated it as a bourgeois invention. And what's more he gets people to actually voice the idea that they were never happy talking about character development.

"It's because of the unresolved class conflict of British society," says Matthew Taylor, a former strategy adviser to Tony Blair. I bet Matthew, who's the son of Professor Laurie Taylor and Anna Coote, got plenty of character building at home and at Emanuel School. The notion that he and other expensively-raised apparatchiks of all the parties thought that this was stuff that somehow didn't apply to the working class takes your breath away.

Please Mr Postman




One of my very favourite things is seeing a new issue of a magazine I subscribe to on my doormat. I start the day in an altogether better frame of mind. If you'd like to experience similar magazine-shaped happiness and get a gift as well, then allow me to direct you here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

And still they're blaming magazines

Monday morning is the time to put out your press release. They're so desperate they'll go big on anything. This morning the Girl Guides and the Mental Health Foundation have got some play out of a report that says "Teenage girls report pressure to live up to sexual ideals". Apparently the people to blame are magazines and websites.
Tracey Murray, trustee for Girlguiding UK, said young girls often found it difficult to cope with an increasing number of social pressures. "Young girls today often feel there is a growing checklist of ideals they have to adhere to. If they don't they often feel singled out and vulnerable to bullying." A significant number of respondents felt that images and advice given in magazines and online pushed them towards adult behaviour before they were ready, she added.
While it's true to say that girls do feel terrible pressure it's preposterous to blame it on magazines. The last ten years have seen the decline and in many cases the closure of the very teenage magazines that used to be criticised by publicity-seeking MPs for perverting the morals of adolescent girls. If they read anything at all now it's the celeb weeklies which are obsessed with the putting on and taking off of weight and are quite open about it. The whole question of body image is something they gleefully mine for stories of triumph'n'tragedy. At least all girls nowadays know it's An Issue.

If you've spent any time with teenagers (girls, particularly) you'll learn that their first response to any problem is to blame it on somebody else. Turn up with a clipboard and say "tell me about the things in your life that aren't fair" and they'll talk your ear off. You'll also learn that they cluster in small social groups, exert power by excluding each other and very often take a strange delight in hurting each other's feelings. I've raised boys and girls and I know which can turn ugliest.

And actually if you want to know what really distorts a teenage girls' view of the world it's television. It's here that the presenters of children's programmes are chosen as much for their eye-candy quality as for their talent. It's here that there are whole channels devoted to soaps, high school dramas and desert island shows in which the casts are always slighly better looking and slightly slimmer than they were the year before. It's here - just last night in fact - that two BBC newsreaders popped up on "Top Gear" flicking their hair and talking about who had the nicest arse.



Sunday, July 13, 2008

When cricket was a blood sport

The other day Kevin Pietersen got hit on the head by a South African bouncer. The commentators were a bit concerned about the damage he might have sustained because the blow dented his helmet. It made me go looking on YouTube for examples of just how much more of a blood sport Test cricket was in the days when batsmen took the field bare-headed, the pitches were much less predictable and the West Indian bowlers were in full cry.

They called Michael Holding "Whispering Death" because the umpire couldn't hear his run-up and terror was a key weapon in his arsenal. Brian Close, the living template of the stubborn Yorkshireman, was recalled to play for England in 1976 when he was 45 years old. In this over he faces Holding on a terrifying Old Trafford pitch with no helmet to protect his bald head. It's the most extraordinary example of "roughing up" you'll ever see. Close stands as firm as he can and is determined not to let Holding see how hurt he is, not even when he takes one right in the ribs. If you've ever been hit even in your fleshier parts by a cricket ball you can only wonder at the steel of the man. There's no sound at first.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

First thought, best thought

Yesterday my iPod came up with Bob Dylan's "I Pity The Poor Immigrant". I think it's one of my favourite records of any sort. I've played that one song about five times since and even tooled about with the chords on the guitar. Last night I looked out the album "John Wesley Harding" and played it all the way through.

I love the words - particularly that line about "his gladness comes to pass". You can't separate that from the singing, which is his most restrained and precise. He hits a frequency here that he never quite hit again. But there's something more than that. "John Wesley Harding" stills falls upon the ear as a blessed relief.

It was 1967. He'd written the songs in Woodstock that summer. He recorded them in Nashville. But that doesn't tell the whole story. I read here that he recorded the whole album in just three sessions of three hours each. That's what a union session was in those days. Three hours. Most of the time there were just two other musicians in the studio, drummer Kenny Buttrey and bassist Charlie McCoy. They don't really play like a rhythm section, not as we've come to understand it. Buttrey is accenting the songs rather than driving them.

Between the second and third sessions Dylan asked Robbie Roberston and Garth Hudson to think about overdubbing the tracks. They listened and couldn't hear a way they could be improved. So they were left alone. Forty years later it's still the most persuasive argument for the view that records increase in quality in inverse proportion to the amount of time spent recording them.

If you want to hear "Immigrant", it's here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The yes-no interlude

Just before I went out to get some lunch there was one of those polls on The Guardian website. Further to the knife crime issue it was asking its readers whether it was true that "people" were rude and thoughtless. Voting was running 85% in the affirmative.

The media is drunk on interaction. It has made the discovery that the dumber the question the greater the number of clicks. I don't know how I'd begin to answer that question, let alone reduce it to a yes or no. Most of the people I know are not rude and thoughtless. Most of the people I don't know are not rude and thoughtless. I encounter politeness and consideration from strangers everyday. I also encounter the opposite, in a range that runs from slovenliness to outright hostility, if not as yet knife crime. How am I supposed to decide which box to tick? Keep a numerical record and add it up at the end of each day? It just seems the most idiotic question to ask and is designed only to elicit anger and resentment, in precisely the same way that they accuse the Daily Mail of acting.

Anyway, when I got back to the office I looked for it and it seems to have gone. It may be just hiding or wiser counsels may have prevailed. I hope it's the latter.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The problem with film critics

I'm covering Word's film reviews while Jim White's away. This means going to a few screenings. This still has novelty value for me but it also brings me into contact with film scribblers, a sub-section of the hack fraternity which, encountered en masse, has a tendency to set my teeth on edge.

I cannot bear journalists who swap opinions with each other. Why would you do that? If they're interesting ones, you might be giving an idea to somebody else. If they're not, keep them to yourself. Film journalists, who move as a pack, subsisting on a diet of warm white wine and cocktail sausages, are forever telling each other what they thought of all the things they've seen lately and they do it in such a po-faced way.

The other day I heard one put his head back and, inbetween complaining about the free wine, bark "Oh, I was quite kind about it but I had reservations about the second act."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Who do you think you're kidding?

Whenever they're on the radio Members of Parliament are unable to resist the temptation to say absurdly flattering things about their constituencies. I've just heard Simon Mayo introducing the MPs guesting on his programme this afternoon. He sets up Dawn Butler as the member for Brent South and asks her to explain something about it for the benefit of people who might not know it.

It's the most diverse constituency in the UK, she enthuses, (as if that were some sort of moral quality that was embodied more here than anywhere else), and you can go to a different cultural celebration every day of the year.

"What about geographically?" he asks, which was what he wanted to know in the first place.

"Wembley," she says.

Oh.

Monday, July 07, 2008

How to write (latest in an occasional series)

Some old hand on The New Yorker described the magazine's journalism as being all about "a passionate specificness". This short item about the great Chip Taylor is a classic case. Every sentence contains at least one new piece of information, which isn't always the case. Hacks have written this piece before – Jon Voight's brother, professional gambler, wrote "Wild Thing", yadadada – but I've never heard the name or the profession of the third brother or the details of how Taylor used to combine writing country songs in Manhattan with playing the horses or – and this is presumably new information – how he's remarried his ex-wife but doesn't live with her. Wonderful.

Friday, July 04, 2008

It's a long story

Has anyone had to deal with so much change so quickly as Ingrid Betancourt, who's just been whisked away from six years of FARC captivity in the jungles of Colombia to be greeted by her own children (left), who are now adults?

A day later she is flown to France to be greeted at the airport by Nicolas Sarkozy. "How's the wife?" she presumably says. Ah. yes. Hum.

Charles Wheeler (1923-2008)

Charles Wheeler's death has just been announced. I was a big fan.

A couple of years ago I was at an "Oldie Of The Year" lunch at Simpsons-In-The-Strand. As the gathering was dispersing I noticed Wheeler hunkering down in the bar with Beryl Bainbridge, Alan Coren and Barry Cryer, intending no doubt to stay there all afternoon and put the world to rights.

I would love to have joined them. Now that they're short two members maybe I can.

What have we done to deserve this?

In one of their most puzzling programming decisions in a while, Radio Four have got Lenny Henry fronting a series that asks the question "What's So Great About?". They've already done Bob Dylan. Next they're doing Method Acting.

The minute I heard about this I was galvanised not to listen. This is, I'm afraid, because the person asking the question and presumably doing duty as the man on the Clapham Omnibus (or should that be the BBC town car?) is Lenny Henry. I've nothing against him but I can't hear him as the voice of stimulating scepticism. What are his credentials? Is he known as an original thinker? Is he a brilliant radio presenter? Has he suffered conspicuously at the hands of either Bob Dylan or Method Acting?

Then there's the subject matter. It's not as if people are leaving dinner parties in a huff having crossed swords with their hosts over Marlon Brando's performance in "On The Waterfront" or the value of Bob Dylan's Christian records. They should at least have the nerve to take on sacred cows of today like Amy Winehouse or The Apprentice or the pundits on Match Of The Day.

If, say, Clive James were to front the programme, I would expect the value to arise from an examination of the premises of greatness or not-greatness. What is good music? What do we mean when we say that acting is good? That's worth hearing. But I don't want the man-in-the-street's take on Bob Dylan because I heard it in 1963 and it was like water off a duck's back then as it is now. The only difference is now I'm bored with hearing it.

And surely in taking on this project the thought must have at some time occured to Lenny Henry that thousands of wags like me would briefly entertain the possibility of applying the show's premise to his own career?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

"And the winner isn't"

This clip of Welsh Culture Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas reading out the name of the wrong winner at the Wales Book Of The Year makes you wonder various things:
1. So there's a prize for the best English language book in Wales then?
2. If you're ever called upon to open an envelope at a ceremony it's best to know the contents first.
3. Thanks to You Tube an evening's embarrassment now becomes a lifetime of agony.

It's not that rare an occurence. Twenty years ago I was at a magazine awards ceremony where the celebrity prize giver Dame Edna Everage did the same thing. She named the wrong Editor of the Year. He was halfway to the stage when he had to be stopped with an apology. Then the real winner's name was read out and he went up to collect his (suddenly undeserved) award. The third person on the short list, my colleague Barry McIlheney, was not mentioned at all. We agreed he had dodged a bullet.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"A bolt of pecuniary fire"

I'm reading "Netherland" by Joseph O'Neill. This takes the events of 9/11 as its hinge, as does most contemporary fiction, it seems. In years to come they'll start teaching this as a distinct period. The hero's a Wall Street analyst. Here he is recalling what it was like in New York in 1998.

It was quickly my impression that making a million bucks in New York was essentially a question of walking down the street - of strolling, hands in pockets, in the cheerful expectation that sooner or later a bolt of pecuniary fire would jump out of the atmosphere and knock you flat. Every third person seemed to be happily struck down; by a stock market killing, or by a dot-com bonanza, or by a six-figure motion picture deal for a five-hundred word magazine article...I too became a beneficiary of the phenomenon, because the suddenly sunken price of a barrel of oil - it went down to ten bucks that year - helped create an unparalleled demand for seers in my line.

I've just checked and the price of oil is $141.75 this morning. Now if it's gone up by a factor of fourteen in the last ten years, that means it clearly can't do that again, can it?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Only sport can do zis


To Centre Court at Wimbledon to see Gasquet versus Murray.

At 7.15, with Murray two sets down, looking clueless, his first serve not working and facing a rampant Gasquet serving for the match, I packed away my water bottle in my back pack and made ready to go home.

It was another two and a half hours before I picked up the bag and left, Murray having won three sets to two.

And people still ask what it is about sport.