The opposite of hubris (not pubis)

I am currently sitting on a train thundering across the green fields of middle England towards Swansea for a fleeting Long Arm Films meeting with Jimmy. It is all quite pleasant actually; I have a good seat, the coach is relatively quiet and I’ve just drunk a plastic beaker of woefully poor red wine in near-record time. Outside the window bucolic Hardy-esque scenes (minus the rape, child-murder, mud and sheep plunging to their deaths) of cows, paddocks, spinneys, painted farmhouses and wonky-roofed barns speed past in an extended journey montage from some terrible crime thriller in the mid 1980s – to wantonly mix my metaphors and indeed my centuries.

Jimmy and I are spending tomorrow in some of the High Tide locations shooting a second crowdfunding video to launch the second half of our campaign. We were pleased with the first film – we thought it relatively clever and original and a decent contrast from the pleading, doe-eyed and entirely banal cavalcade of videos that are rife on sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter. I also liked the gag about Brad Pitt and the fact that any of it at all was intelligible given we shot it in a force nine gale on the beach is something of a secular miracle and testament to the brilliance of our DOP Chris.

If you haven’t seen the video then you can treat yourself by clicking here.

Lots of people seemed to enjoy it; some kindly soul even tweeted that although we “failed to mention what the film was about, the video was engaging and original”. Which was nice to read. But something niggled. And it wasn’t just the muscles in my aging legs. Someone whose opinion I trust completely suggested, in the most generous, caring and delicate, terms that perhaps our video portrayed us as a couple of dicks. And not in a good way. Asking people NOT to give us money when we actually wanted the opposite may have been a triumph of irony and post-modernism but it lacked grace, sincerity and, again with reference to the opinions of my lovely friend, made us look like dicks.

And no one wants that. Unless you are going to a very niche fancy dress party in which case I’m sure it would be most welcome and you’d probably win a prize. And AT LEAST a snog.

Our fear that we’d sink into the quicksands of anonymity with a video like all the others currently flapping and bleating around crowdfunding sites ignores the rather blatant truth that most rational, normal people don’t visit crowdfunding sites and so the comparison is meaningless. And if you are going to ask people for money then it is probably better to do it with charm and wit yes, but with also a decent dollop of sincerity. Which, being British, Jimmy and I have never been much good at.

So we’re going to try again. We’re assembling some of the Long Arm team on top of a Welsh cliff at an unreasonable hour tomorrow morning to make something new. And hopefully do it well. And then hope that it works.  And so that’s why I am missing the finale of Doctor Who and heading westwards. We’ve just stopped at Swindon (for American readers, Swindon is very much the Las Vegas of southern England in its neon glamour, twenty-four hour gambling and sexiness; where the impossibly rich and the impossibly beautiful collide in a heady mix of perfumed brilliance, raunch and decadence and dance their out ritualised courtship under a five times life-sized rotating plastic Winston Churchill whose balls are lit with real fire and whose cigar puffs out tinted smokey plumes of nitrous oxide and brandy) and on the platform were eight men dressed as smurfs, their half-naked bulging bodies painted bright blue and each in a bright red hat. They were swigging from cans of lager, jumping up and down and singing a song that went something like “La, La, La! We’re lads! We’re pissed and we’re blue! We’re the fucking smurfs”.  It is currently 7.42pm. Oh England, my England, how profoundly do I love thee.

And with that I should end this blog entry. I will have more to say after our day’s work tomorrow and there are a number of High Tide announcements scheduled for the coming weeks that should have you quivering even just a little bit with excitement. After the difficult days when “the incident” occurred we are back fighting fit (well, Jimmy is at least) and the pre-production process on High Tide continues apace.

Be wary of modal verbs. “Should” my old mucker, my rascally friend, always turning up in my sentences to cause mischief like a dastardly uncle who gave you whiskey when you were ten. “Should” – the lexical passport to excess, joy and a thumping headache many hours later as the flat, blue light of an early morning cracks your eyes open like pair of Christmas walnuts and pours pain into the clogged pipework of your brain.

I SHOULD end this blog entry here but we’ve only just emerged from the Severn tunnel and my book is tucked in my purple rucksack on the rack above my head and I can’t be bothered to rummage around to find it. So I am going to continue writing in order to pass the time on the approach to the Welsh Riviera. Feel free to look away now. It may be safer.

I met my dear friend Kris last week for some beers in the same pub we’ve been going to for the past thirteen years. Now is not the time to write the full story of our relationship, except to say that he remains one of the foremost influences on my creative life. For all our adventures over the years, the comedy shows, the pasties, the dressing up as yellow witches on the streets of Edinburgh, Kris’ counsel both wise and unwise is something that I’ve sought and trusted.  So after the somewhat tumultuous previous week for Long Arm Films he was the ideal person with whom to drink too much on a school night.

Our conversation ranged over many topics, and then kept returning to High Tide. Which must have been tedious for him although he was too polite to say so. Actually, Kris isn’t often polite after a couple of drinks so perhaps he genuinely didn’t mind. Kris is also a writer and he’s had three series of his show “On the Blog”, written with another one of our great pals Dave, broadcast on Radio 2. Which was well deserved because it was brilliant.  So Kris knows what it is like to have casting crises (buy him a drink and he may tell you a very funny story about Barry Crier), endless script drafts and, relevant to this meandering point, endless meetings. Jimmy and I have had a lot of meetings in recent weeks and we have a lot more planned. And as we’re relatively new to this malarkey, we always feel somewhat fraudulent; as if we really shouldn’t be there, that someone is always on the cusp of discovering that we don’t know anything and then ejecting us from the building after first making us empty the bins. Don’t misunderstand me, it is brilliant having these meetings (well, some of them at least; the ones that take place in pubs particularly) and I am sure we’ll get used to them but at the moment we feel like slightly awkward teenagers standing in the corner and drinking squash at a sexy party being thrown by late-twenties socialites and sophisticates.  Kris recognised this sensation and we agreed that the only solution was just to smile and keep on pretending. And pretty soon you’ll realise that no one really knows that much more than you do. And in Kris’ words, keep this up and one day you’ll wake to discover that you’ve been made Prime Minister. “Shit! How did THAT happen?”.

I think there’s an important life-lesson buried somewhere amongst all this frippery. Set your mind to something, do your research, appear confident and assuming that you don’t have to fly a plane or perform neural surgery then there’s a decent chance you’ll do okay.

(Oh quick, the buffet car is closing in ten minutes. The man on the tannoy has told us to hurry along to avoid disappointment. A disappointment that is surely not as profound as finding it open! I thank you.)

For me the antithetical psychological position is also true and once nearly got me killed. (I’m sorry, I am REALLY going off-piste now; don’t worry we’re only half an hour away from Swansea, your torment will soon cease). And in what field did I prove my utterly disastrous ineptitude upon? Well, the cricket field.

I love cricket. I grew up watching cricket alongside my cricket-mad mother and it brings a genuine smile to my face now to think of days spent watching test matches during the summer holidays, Mum doing the ironing, me rocking back in the little chair beneath the sitting room window, both of us cheering on Willis, Botham, Gooch and then Atherton, Gough and Caddick. We were both big fans of Devon Malcom and not only because he was called Devon. (I am sad to think that I can’t watch the cricket with my son now without paying Rupert fucking Murdoch for the privilege which I REFUSE to do even though it breaks my heart). I played cricket in the garden with my friends, I played cricket at school and I was okay. I wasn’t amazing but I was far from terrible, was solid with the bat and could even bowl at an occasionally batsman-troubling medium pace.

However, it all stopped when I left school and started drinking and writing scripts at university. Or at least it stopped until another friend called Chris (although this time with a “Ch” rather than “K”) asked me to play in a cricket match to raise money for his wonderful charity Global Action Nepal (look it up) who do amazing things for people in that country. I was only too pleased to have a reason to visit Lillywhites to buy some new cricketing gear. The only problem was that I was now in the company of some actually pretty good cricketers. Chris himself is very good player, as is Dave (of “On the Blog” fame from an earlier paragraph) and Dave’s brother Tim was almost a professional (as well as being one of the nicest, most thoroughly decent chaps you could wish to meet) and so my very modest abilities, which had grown even more modest during the years of decay, were going to very publically shamed as the match commenced.

So I pretended to be an idiot. I am not a stupid man, actually I am in many ways, but you know, I did okay at school, I know a few things, I’ve written a few half-decent scripts, I am not without intelligence. But the only way I seemed to be able to get through these cricket matches was to act as if I were one ball short of an over (American readers, I really wouldn’t even bother googling that one). I put my pads on the wrong way around; I fell over comically in the outfield; I held my bat upside down to little hilarity from my teammates. I was a cartoon cricketer. And I was predictably rubbish on the field.

We played one year at Hove on the south coast, a ground which is often used for professional matches, which was a massive thrill and utterly absurd for someone of my piss-poor standard. I did the usual routine, made a few silly remarks, ensured that EVERYONE knew that I wasn’t really a serious member of the team and then the gods intervened. We were fielding first and after about twenty minutes my attention waned and I made the utterly unforgivable error of turning my back to the square and looking towards the darkening clouds in the hope that it might rain and mean that I wouldn’t have to bat. There was then a MASSIVE SHOUT OF “BADGER!” (a nickname; I may explain during another train journey) and I turned to feel, and I am not exaggerating, a cricket ball brush past my nose on its way to the boundary. Now, if you don’t know, cricket balls are SODDING HARD and as such I was about three centimetres (I have quite a small nose, some have called it cute) from, at best, a MASSIVE head injury.

I laughed it off. But I was pretty shaken. And felt ridiculous. I had been punished. The gods (looking like WG Grace obviously) had taken my inverse-arrogance, my desire not to appear in any way competent for fear of being less than brilliant, and sent a cricket ball hurtling towards my skull to show their contempt.

What’s the opposite of hubris? Pubis? (no) But whatever it is, I showed it. And I was justly scorned.

Later on in the same match I managed to hit a beautiful cover drive almost to the boundary. Everyone clapped. It was a genuinely good shot. And on a first-class ground too. And at that point I though it best to bring my cricketing career to a close.

And in a completely accidental way, I’ve stumbled on a decent conclusion to this journey-spanning piece of ragged prose. I think the lesson to be learnt from the above is simple: appear confident; say what you mean; aspire to honesty and clarity. Or in our case, don’t ask people NOT to give you money when you want them to give you money. It is all related.

Be better.

And tomorrow that’s what we intend to do.

Thanks for sticking with this to the end. You are very patient. I will post the new video when it is finished.  Hello Swansea. Hello Jimmy. Is there somewhere open we can still get a drink?

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