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‘Treat those two imposters just the same’

Success and failure, or Kipling’s two imposters ‘Triumph and Disaster’, what constructs those evil twins are! How do you measure them, how do you merit them, how do you know which the hell is which? One thing’s for certain amongst the maelstrom of my mind, you cannot have one without the other and, rather than treat them as twin sides of the same coin as I try to, as per Kipling’s advice, it would be easier if we could have one word for both. The Germans are quite good at coming up with such terms for existential states, I’ll have a hunt around and see if I can find one.

In the meantime, I’ve not been sleeping well and so it was I was awake at 6.00 a.m. this morning, listening to the excellent Radio 4 programme Something Understood. It was, serendipitously, all about a Sense of Failure. It didn’t help me get back to sleep but it was a thoughtful and interesting treatment of what can be a rather depressing sort of consideration. You can listen again here if you want.

I’ve more or less forgotten the whole thing now; I say that, I am sure it is lodged somewhere in my unconscious, but one thing that really has stayed with me is the snippet of a song they played by Charlie Rich. Now, Charlie Rich also sang the 1973 hit song that went ‘…if you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world…’ and I have realised that that is the first radio song I can remember (the second is probably Save Your Kisses for Me by the Brotherhood of Man). If I hear the Charlie Rich song, I am back in my bedroom in the first house I remember, when my parents lived together. The bedroom was at the front of the house, on the road, but set back with a giant sycamore tree in the front garden, that came between me and any traffic noise. I don’t know why I had the radio on, I used to listen to Stewpot’s Choice, I think it was on a Saturday morning. It’s a vivid sort of memory, because of the music. I think I had a candlewick bed spread (duvets were not yet en vogue) and I had a curious sort of wooden bedhead that consisted of an overhead light, with a little white push button on/off switch and a long narrow bookshelf running from the left to the right above me, so my head was sort of in a bookshelf when I slept. Perhaps that’s where it all started…

Back to Charlie Rich. I listened to the song they played on Something Understood again this morning. It seems to me more like a song of success than failure, but that leads me, circular fashion, back to my opening point. It’s all the same thing, probably, the only thing that changes is your perspective.

What has one ever learned from something marked ‘success’? Over to Charlie.

(And don’t be put off by the hee haw reference, there are no donkeys involved.)