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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Are top tennis players actually tougher than the rest?

I used to play a lot of tennis. I used to play all the year round, Christmas Day included. The only time of the year I didn't play was Wimbledon fortnight. That was partly because the sight of the top pros would make me want to throw my racket in a skip. The same TV action that was making me feel like giving up was having the opposite effect on people who never played. They were burrowing under the stairs for their equipment, racing down to public parks to give it a go as if their tennis ability was just an old muscle that needed to be re-awoken. Presumably some while later they were wondering why their slice backhand didn't go within an eighth of an inch of the net and then dip sharply before hanging a sharp right like Roger Federer's did. Then they'd give up again until the following year. And they still didn't realise just how mind-bogglingly good the best tennis players are. I know Tim Henman never won a grand slam but the abuse he came in for in this country came mainly from people who staggered down the park once a year rather than the people who knew just how tough it is to prevail in the upper reaches of this sport.

Watching Murray only just overcome Wawrinka last night was a salutary reminder that there can't be many sports that require more of the competitors than men's professional tennis. It's you and you alone, using personal reserves of stamina, concentration, athleticism, touch, power, nerve, cussedness and geometric aptitude that most of us couldn't summon for three minutes, let alone four hours and more. I've hit maybe twenty tennis balls in my life that connected with the sweet spot and went not just roughly but exactly where I wanted them to go. These people are doing it ten times a minute. There's not a split second for coasting or allowing their brain to switch off and their body do the work. They have to be pushing the other guy back a millimetre at a time, putting his feet in slightly the wrong place, forcing him into the tiny hurry that will produce the crucial error. If they don't do that he will do the same to them. And when you don't win, as happened to Stanislas Wawrinka last night, you just put your racket in your bag and go back to the dressing room, vowing to do better next time. He'll probably be out playing doubles today. Remarkable, as Dan Maskell was wont to say.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A man of property


I've just found this. It shows my grandmother Lois (left), my great-grandfather Smith Taylor and a cousin who used to live with them.

It's unusual in that it's not a studio picture but it seems too good to be an amateur snap. Obviously whoever's taking it has had instructions to include as much of their house as possible. What I don't understand is that the back of it is a postcard with a space for "a half penny stamp". They must have been posted to friends and relatives to show off.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Let us now praise Another Nickel In The Machine

Jude Rogers, fellow member of the Society For Mooching Around Old London Pubs With Literary Associations, sent me a link to Another Nickel In The Machine, one of the best blogs I've seen in ages. It combines three of my favourite things - London, history and serendipity - in one endlessly browsable package. I've just been looking at the piece about Errol Flynn and his 15-year-old girlfriend Beverly Aadland at the Lido Club in Swallow Street. It also shows you the house in Castelnau in Barnes where he went to school and a YouTube clip of him on a panel game with Neil Young's father. How could anyone resist?

Is death just the start for the Michael Jackson industry?

A few hours after the death of Elvis Presley in 1977, as his family were sitting around Graceland shocked and weeping, Colonel Tom Parker turned up. He hadn't been closely involved in Presley's affairs at that time, preferring to spend his time gambling. It was Parker who galvanised the shattered family with the words "this changes nothing".

Even he can't have known how right he was. When Presley died there was no etiquette for handling the death of a rock superstar. The media weren't sure if they were dealing with a washed-up has-been or a figure who was still relevant. I don't think Downing Street felt the need to make a statement. "People" magazine, America's foremost title about entertainment and celebrity, could have put his face on the cover but didn't, reasoning that he no longer meant that much to the average American. I happened to be in Memphis that year and visited Graceland to look at the grave. You could just walk into the grounds. There were no conducted tours and very few souvenir shops. The massive resurgence of interest in Elvis took some time to gather. The Elvis impersonators in their white suits took a while to get their act together. Dead Elvis was eventually more popular and more profitable than Live Elvis but it wasn't immediate.

When John Lennon was shot three years later the news organisations were primed by the Presley experience. The wall-to-wall coverage of his death was encouraged by the fact that he was both British and American, therefore both nations claimed some kind of ownership of him, politicians and public moralists could persuade themselves he was a key thinker for our times, his murder threw up all kinds of questions about random violence and the levers of the media were being pulled by people who had grown up adoring the Beatles and everything they stood for. At the end of December 8th 1980, after having gone through a day of hacking out tributes, a remark of Annie Nightingale's on the TV set me bawling. I wasn't crying for John Lennon, of course. I was crying for myself. Lost youth, good times, perspective, all that kind of thing. These things trigger something in us that needs to come out eventually. The Princess of Wales was not a rock star but the reaction to her death was on the scale of Lennon's but this time with a previously unfamiliar hysteria thrown in. Even the people who were flinging roses at her hearse in the Finchley Road on that mad day probably think better of it now. But at that time there was a pent-up desire for an extravagant, apparently un-British show of emotion. It was the kind of thing that used to be sublimated via religion or dancing round the maypole. In the TV age it was delivered via the box.

Judging by the way that Google almost broke yesterday under the strain I think it's fair to say that Michael Jackson's was the first death of a massive star in the internet age. TV and radio suddenly look and sound very quaint, huffing and puffing in the wake of the story, trying to assemble talking heads to say anything meaningful; even as they are talking people are coming up with new angles and implications. What happens to the kids? Where does this leave the London shows? Are his mother and father speaking to each other? Do you think these shows will actually happen in some strange animatronic form? How long will Sony leave it before the TV ads start? Bet they're glad they didn't auction the personal effects a month or two back. Does McCartney get the ATV catalogue back? I hear the funeral is going to be Muslim. What religion was he? Will Neverland be reopened to the public? How many people are working on one-shots right now? And so on.

Is there anything wrong with that? Well, it doesn't represent us at our most worthy but it does represent us at our most human. In the wake of any death in any family human beings have a huge desire to just sit down and talk about it. They may be talking about the deceased. They may be grasping the opportunity to talk about something they rarely talk about, which is life. They may just want to gossip. Thanks to the internet you can now take a seat in the world's largest living room with millions of souls who are similarly fascinated and listen to discussions you might not wish to instigate yourself. Because a lot's changed since Colonel Parker's pronouncement in 1977. Parker was essentially a small-time thinker. Thirty years later, with the technology at the disposal of the entertainment industry, death can be just the beginning. I'm sure there are people working on it right now.

This post is also on The Word site. I've written a piece about Michael Jackson which is in today's Independent.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why I don't use book shops much

I usually buy books online. I tend to get scolded at dinner parties for the damage I'm thereby doing to my friendly neighbourhood bookstore. I fear that bookstores, friendly or otherwise, may be damaging themselves without help from me. On Radio Four this morning I heard an extract from a book called "The Junior Officers Reading Club". Having your book read on Radio Four is the publishing equivalent of a Radio One record of the week and therefore you'd expect the trade to be at least slightly poised.

Finding myself in the King's Road this afternoon I went into a branch of one of Britain's biggest book retailers, a place I might reasonably expect to find such a book. I enquired on the ground floor. Years working on the other side of the counter have taught me how to be a good customer. My presentation goes like this. "They're reading a book on Radio Four this week. [I'll confess, I half anticipated that I wouldn't have to go any further than this. I was wrong. ] It's called something like The Junior Officers Reading Club." There's a slight flicker of recognition on his face but he has to look it up on their computer system (which probably means he's looking on Amazon). He tells me it's downstairs in History. Obvious place, really, for a book about serving in the army in contemporary Afghanistan. The tyranny of categories kicks in, which is half the problem for book retailers, as it is for record retailers. You don't just have to work out where it is. You have to work out where they think it is which is based on what they think it is. These are not problems for you and Google.

I go down to History unaccompanied. If I'd asked after the Bovril in my local Sainsbury the assistant would have taken me to it. That's how they roll. Seemingly this does not apply to the spending of £16.99. I look – and bear in mind I'm a world-class looker – on the table where the big-selling military books are displayed. No sign. I ask another assistant. I've been sent down from upstairs etc etc. Again there's that faint gleam of recognition from him. I'm starting to wonder if they coach that gleam. He looks on the system which assures him that the book is present in the store. He takes me over to the place where it is assigned to live. He looks without success. He goes back to the desk to check whether it's actually been "put out" (because there's a whole world of difference between in-stock and on-sale). As he does so I look down and see the book. One copy, which means either there have been lots of sales and the staff haven't noticed or they have ordered one copy which suggests their buying could be keener.

Then I thank him. How English am I? What am I thanking him for? He didn't know what I was after or help me find it. In fact most of my time in the shop I was dealing with the difficulties of being in the shop. In a shop they've often hidden what you want behind lots of things they think you want. It's a bit like going to the office. Most of the time in the office you're dealing with problems that only arise because you're in the office. On the occasions I complain in a shop I invariably end up saying "you are confusing your problems with mine. If you hadn't introduced a system to make your life easier you might be making my life easier." Anyway, I bought the book. More fool me. I should have just ordered it on Amazon. It would probably have been home ahead of me.

A few years ago I did a presentation at a meeting of the Institute of PRs. Don't laugh. I concluded by saying that in the near future all providers of information would be replaced by just two things. One was Google, an unparalleled way of pulling information towards you. The other was what I like to call the House Hippie. House Hippies know everything. They are Google with skin. When I worked in retail there were a few House Hippies. They were often terrible with customers but they knew more about the stock than the most sophisticated retrieval system. If something was a Radio Four book they bloody well knew. I stand by what I said, particularly when it applies to PRs, who seem to recruit a remarkable number of people who have a passion for anything but communication. They long ago stopped informing people of anything. In this maybe they are just recognising the reality of the world against which I came up this afternoon. Any information of any interest you find out yourself. The only people worth consulting are experts. And if a shop has a range of stock which is so wide that the staff can't be expert in it, they mustn't be surprised if we go to the digital shelf and help ourselves.

(This over-long post was written in a hospital corridor waiting for a family member's x-ray to come back. Slight fracture.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I love radio. Why doesn't it love me?

I love radio. If I was going to do away with all media but one it would be radio I'd hang on to. Over ten years ago in the vanished kingdom of more money than sense I felt I ought to get one of these new fangled digital radios. I went to John Lewis where they had a couple of tuners on sale. Things hadn't yet reached the stage of portables. I bought a Technics tuner for what I think was the best part of a thousand pounds. Yes, you read that correctly. I'm not a complete dolt when it comes to setting up audio equipment but I could never entirely get it working to my convenience. I quickly gained the impression that the stations had been clustered for the convenience of the media owners rather than the listener. Later on I realised that the government were flogging off so much "spectrum" that the signal was getting worse all the time. Many hi-fi people say it's now actually worse than FM. But just as they were going quiet on the subject of audio quality they were starting to talk up the range of radio services that were going to be offered. However no sooner had these stations opened up than they were cutting back or closing. There was not enough advertising around to finance niche services and so everybody had to cluster in the middle of the road or go out of business. The promised internet radio revolution never happened either because the more popular sites became the more they had to pay for bandwidth and music rights. Then the recession gave Channel Four an excuse to change their mind about launching a radio station and suddenly a medium which was positioning itself for dramatic advances was abandoning its weapons and tiptoeing away in the dead of night.

There are maybe ten radios in our house. That's not counting the devices we've got that are capable of receiving radio signals. Some are portable. Some are fixed. A handful are digital. Most are analogue. Because of the digital delay it is impossible to do what I'd like to do, which is listen to the same programme while moving from the kitchen to the dining room. The only solution to that is to switch the digital radio to analogue. Because some clown is promoting club nights on pirate radio from the top of a nearby tower block it's difficult to get proper FM reception on Radio Four in my area. To get round these problems, and to save my family anguish, I decided to listen to the Twenty20 World Cup Final on the internet via my iTouch. I fired it up and tuned it to Five Live only to be told that (presumably because of rights issues) this was one broadcast they were not able to bring me. Since last year we have been trying to turn off anything in the house that uses "stand-by" power overnight. This applies to digital radios. It means that every morning when I make my way downstairs in traditionally fragile state I have to bend down to the plug to turn on our very lovely digital radio at which point it emits a piercing "meee" sound to announce it is ready to be switched on. This lowers my scene somewhat.

I realise that the proposed "digital switchover" ought to save me at least some of those problems but there's a part of me that agrees with Libby Purves's scorching column in The Times in which she lays into the radio industry and the government for a succession of blunders, technological letdowns and high-handed digital decrees that have left people with the feeling that this is an industry that only enters their life in order to take something precious away. (I might also bundle into this battered parcel of discontent the fact that Simon Mayo will no longer be on Five Live because the latter is moving to Manchester, as perfect a case of tail wagging dog as I can call to mind right now.) I also agreed with my old friend Trevor Dann of the Radio Academy when he said on this week's Broadcasting House that the radio industry needs to come up with a product that adds something to people's enjoyment rather than curtailing it. How it's going to happen I have no idea. Identifying with the listener (make that "customer" for a while) might prove very difficult. What we don't wish to hear any more of are their problems.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A thought about speeches

In the course of attending a lifetime of speech days I have finally realised you can tell a good speaker from a mediocre one without actually hearing a word of what they're saying. The poor speaker looks at their notes. The good speaker looks at their audience. The poor one thinks you're listening to hear what they're going to say. The good one knows you're listening to them because they're interesting to listen to.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Let us now praise "A Point Of View"

A Point Of View is one of the best things on Radio Four. It consists of wise old heads talking about current affairs. Because they're wise old heads, what they generally say is a variation on a theme of "this is not so new" or "pull yourselves together".

It's on early on Sunday morning, thereby ensuring the wisdom never reaches anyone under the age of 35. In the past it's featured the likes of Brian Walden and Katherine Whitehorn. The series that finished recently was done by Clive James. In the last one he managed to involve Kim Jong Il, MP's expenses and the botched election for the Oxford Poetry Professorship. You can read it here and even listen to it here.

I listened to it for the fourth time while walking home from the Tube last night. What's refreshing, particularly amid the humbug and prudery of our present media, is his recognition that God-given talent can reside alongside tawdry behaviour and that many of the great poets of yesteryear were imposing themselves on teenage girls even when they were at the age when they might have been better off delivering "A Point Of View". That in itself should not have disqualified them from lecturing on poetry because, as he points out:
good poets are often frail people, and people who are not frail are seldom good poets.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Is this why footballers always take the money?

It must be odd being a professional footballer at the best of times. It must be even odder when they're on their annual holidays, knowing that at any time a phone call may come with the news that in a couple of weeks they're to report at an entirely new place of work. This may even be in a different country. There will be no time for a fond farewell to erstwhile team mates. This isn't just an upheaval for the player. It probably involves their wife, children, parents and courtiers in tearing up roots that have barely had time to bed down.

I've had a distant glimpse of this since a young family friend joined the fitness staff of a major football club. Promotion or relegation at the end of a season means that the manager moves. Depending on the budget at the new club or the disposition of the incoming manager at the present club the fitness staff might find themselves staying or moving, sometimes hundreds of miles, sometimes to a different country, always at a few day's notice. Nobody, of course, is complaining that this makes the job intolerable but it might help explain why whenever football people are offered a large amount of cash they tend to take it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How much does it cost if it's free?

This American Life is an excellent radio programme/podcast produced by Chicago public radio. This is popular all over the English-speaking world. But the more popular it is, the more it costs Chicago public radio. This is a classic example of the economics of the web, the exact opposite of the economies of scale that we traditionally believe in. Now they're having to make appeals like this one.

Monday, June 15, 2009

This is what you can do with your 39th game, Scudamore.

In case Richard Scudamore is thinking of reviving the idea of the 39th game, may I make a suggestion. As I understand it, the idea behind the 39th game was to access previously untapped markets, encourage valuable shirt sales and stay one step ahead of the NFL, the IPL and the other competing leagues across the world who are after the same leisure pound and big TV rights deals. When he suggested it at the beginning of last season he was shot down in flames. One of the many sound objections was that teams couldn't waste their time flying halfway round the world in the middle of an already hectic season.

I have a plan which gets round that problem and puts the Premier League in touch with a section that their whole future depends on. The 39th game should be played in England in front of under-18s only. Just kids. No corporates, no season ticket holders, just the young people that everyone professes to be so worried about.

Nobody who's seen that stat about the average age of a supporter at the Stretford End rising from 17 to 47 in the last forty years can doubt that the people the Premier League has lost contact with are young people who no longer go to top rank games unless they've got a wealthy and/or indulgent parent with a season ticket.

In the past few years under-age club nights and rock gigs have proved a massively popular boost to the live music business, putting artists in touch with their most passionate fans and planting the seeds of a lifelong interest in gig-going. Surely football would reap even more benefit from under-18s Saturday. It would look and sound totally different on TV, do more good than all those embarrassing football in the community photo-calls we see on MOTD2 and might even turn our current feelings about top footballers from seething envy to something approaching affection.

What could possibly be wrong with that? It ticks every box. All except the one that says football's highly paid bureaucrats should get an all-expenses paid jolly-up to somewhere warm where their sponsors wish to interest the locals in their lager and internet gambling.

Open University Cricket

I've been quite enjoying Empire Of Cricket, the BBC-2 Sunday night series, for the clips of Bradman's final duck, Botham's Headingley innings, the tie between the West Indies and Australia and old faces like Shane Warne, Clive Lloyd, Richie Benaud, Neil Harvey and many others. What's quickly become tiresome is the narrative spine of the series, which seems to have been cobbled up by a sociology lecturer looking for a way to justify his grant for a planned jaunt round the cricket grounds of the world. Each episode is devoted to a country and each country becomes an example of a theme. In England it's class distinction, in the West Indies it's racial discrimination, in Australia it's nationalistic self-confidence; presumably the series will continue in this vein. Those are obviously powerful elements of the story but the focus on them, which no doubt ticks a box somewhere, comes at the expense of any feeling for the things that interests me far more. How does the game operate in all those countries? What does amateur cricket feel like in Antigua or Sri Lanka? Is it taught in schools? What kind of status do the great heroes of the game enjoy in those places? What's it like to go to a game of cricket there? What does the grass smell like? Are they as sentimental about it as we are?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

This Old House

We'll have lived in this house twenty-one years on Saturday. I'm not a big one for birthdays and anniversaries but I'm feeling oddly sentimental about this fact.

We were telling somebody about it yesterday. "Do you like your house?" he asked. Well, it has one unique feature. It has been Our House so long that it ceased being something you could assess the likeability of decades ago. After twenty-one years we are intimately familiar with its every noise, creak, sticking door, loose tile and eccentric flushing action. We can find our way around it in pitch darkness.

When we moved in the two kids were small enough to have barely any recollection of the previous place and the third had yet to come along. There's a lot taken place under its roof, whose slates, I note, could do with a little attention. I note also that a digit has dropped off the house number, meaning couriers have to use their powers of deduction. There are many improvements we would make if we were in the first flush of ownership. But it's strange how your view of house ownership changes in twenty-one years. We don't cast envious eyes on anyone else's pile or think life would be better if we had more space or a rural address.

Somebody asked the other day if we would ever move. While I was thinking about it, the GLW issued a statement on our behalf. We would only move, she said, if the neighbours moved out and were replaced by people we didn't get on with. She's right. Of course.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Where the media is not going

Rupert Murdoch has said he can see a future without printing presses. He's already planning to charge in some way for access to some of News International's websites. Does he know what he's doing? I would guess that he doesn't entirely but he knows he has to do something involving revenue rather than expenditure. The alternative is watching his print business drain away.

The reactions of the digerati are predictable, whether they're represented by Michael Wolff on his news aggregator (polite way of saying leecher) Newser or Jeff Jarvis on the Guardian Media Talk Podcast. It won't work, they say. If Rupert would only hang on a year or two, listen to his users and change his corporate culture a new dawn would eventually break in which News International would no longer be looking at a declining market.

I can't get over the blithe confidence of these guys. It's the same airy faith that it will all work out I find in anyone who works for a publicly-funded organisation or gets their money from a very large vault rather than from customers or advertisers. You can't help but think that if they really knew a radically new way of doing things they would be out there raising the finance to launch the big game-changer. Because if they're right there must be an enormous opportunity.

Rupert Murdoch probably doesn't know what's happening. I certainly don't. I am however prepared to stick my neck out and say what I'm pretty sure is not going to happen.

* "New models" are not going to be cooked up in universities or think tanks.
* The decline in ink and paper advertising revenue is not going to be replaced by digital advertising revenue. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever.
* You can not blame this crisis on the short-sightedness and penny-pinching of all newspaper proprietors large and small.
* Since the internet abolished scarcity you can not get a premium on advertising revenue in premium environments.
* If users don't eventually pay in some way there will not be anything worth paying for.

Now tell me what is going to happen.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Joining the unprofessionals

On Friday night we watched "My Life In Verse" in which comedian Robert Webb "went on a journey" in search of e.e.cummings. This search brought him to the feet of Clive James, who used to present this kind of thing himself. Webb is no doubt a talented guy but he suffers from the same affliction as all funny guys when called upon to present a TV programme; he's not comfortable sitting and listening.

On Saturday afternoon former jockey Willie Carson was sent into the weighing room to interview the jockeys before the Derby. Clearly heartsick that he was no longer competing himself, he struck an uncomfortably chippy note so pronounced that one of his interviewees asked why he was shouting at him.

On Saturday evening former footballer Steve Claridge had the job of anchoring Five Live's football phone-in "606" and experienced such difficulty managing the callers that in the last fifteen minutes of the programme the switchboard was jammed with people having a go at him.

Are we living through an experimental period when nothing is presented by anyone who knows about; a) the subject; b) presentation; c) ideally, both?

Or is this the shape of the BBC to come?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A vinyl weekend

When records were rare and precious and the concept of replacing them utterly foreign, every scratch, every cigarette burn on a cover, every mark that the spindle made on the label (above) was like a dagger to the heart. Now that any record can be replaced with a few clicks, it does the heart good to see each ancient bruise.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Tapping up a rich Auntie

I'm sure there's never been an ideal time for the BBC to reveal how much it's paying its top radio talent but right now must be the worst time of all. The argument about having to pay top dollar in order to compete with offers from commercial rivals never did hold water. Where else could John Humphreys and Chris Moyles hope to earn a fraction of what they do presenting daily shows on a publicly-funded national broadcaster? But now that the commercial tide has gone out their, er, packages are going to look even more anomalous.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

So who else are they going to give a whistle to?

In Saturday's Cup Final Chelsea's Florent Malouda let go a shot that hit the bar, bounced down over the line and then back into play. Neither the ref nor the other officials thought it was a goal and so they carried on. TV replays showed that it was a goal but thankfully it wasn't controversial. Chelsea held on to their lead and won the cup. This gave rise to the usual arguments about "modern technology". (Football people's belief in "modern technology" is about as well-grounded as 17th century villagers' belief in witchcraft.)

It works in cricket and rugby, they say. Well, in those sports it works far from perfectly and both games have one characteristic that football doesn't. When a decision needs to be made in cricket and rugby the ball is dead. In the Malouda case play was continuous and the only person who can stop play is the ref, who saw nothing wrong with it. So who would stop the FA Cup Final so that a TV replay could be consulted? Guus Hiddink? Roman Abramovich? One of the players? A representative of a Chinese gambling syndicate?

The technology may well work but somebody has to provide the interval for it to do that work. If you allow anyone other than the ref to be the arbiter of all decisions about how play is conducted you're letting in all manner of madness.

We hate it when our friends become successful, particularly in magazines

To the Museum of London at the Barbican last night for a party to mark Time Out's donation of forty years of its archive to the Museum. The public will eventually be able to search every back issue over that period. As Tony Elliott, the founder of the magazine, pointed out, there are whole areas – pub-rock, fringe theatre, alternative education – that have waxed and waned over those forty years and would have no historical record at all were it not for their coverage in the pages of the magazine.

To celebrate this occasion Tony Elliott had invited many of the people who had contributed to the magazine's glory days and played a part in shaping the city's view of itself. I spotted Miles, Jeff Dexter, Alan Parker, Pearce Marchbank and there were many more I wouldn't recognize. On one level it was AbFab come to life. Maybe I've just got an acute nose for this but I also caught the whiff of mild resentment that always seems to hover over any reunion of media people; no matter how graciously the boss behaves, somebody still thinks their contribution was never properly recognized, their byline hijacked, another stood in their precious ration of the light and they were condemned to a life of obscure jobbing while somebody else got his place in the sun.

If the enterprise didn't work they all seem satisfied that it didn't beat the odds. To bend a line from Alan Bennett, they are united in the magnificent equality of failure. But if it succeeds they never ever forgive.