Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Going Loco Incognito and Other Tales of Madness

There is much to be said for madness; my own belief is that most people are pretty heavily quirky and that this can tip over quickly and easily into very difficult behaviour should circumstances facilitate this.  And also that difficulty  is the key characteristic of madness.  You can be as mad as you like, if your behaviour inconveniences nobody else - hence the vast superiority of being immensely rich and powerful if you wander over the borders.  If you are poor, woe is your lot, for society does not easily tolerate annoyance from the poor, because society can't avoid it.  Proximity is everything.

With this in mind, I have been watching Ruby Wax and Jon Richardson this week on C4 Goes Mad and I am interested by Ms Wax's selection of people who are high achievers - these seemed the people most unlikely to be sacked if they disclosed their mental instability.  While they have economic value and have competently disguised their frailty to date, they would seem to me to have every good chance of surviving mental illness and indeed retaining their jobs.  It was a charming watch, but it didn't seem to actually examine what it claimed - it examined the people who can dodge the consequences of their condition, not those who are defined by it.

Cue Jon Richardson's programme on OCD, which was perhaps more realistic, with less of an agenda.  It showed the cost of mental illness - and a form of mental illness, unlike depression, for which there seems remarkably little treatment available - to people in terms of their ability to work, and worse, their relationships with others.  The guilt and sadness of having a child to whom a condition has been passed down was shown very clearly, and it was far clearer that these were people unable to control their condition.

What intrigued me most was that both conditions seemed to have a strong relationship with anxiety, though the illnesses that manifested were quite different in their symptoms.  I hope to see more exploration of the questions of how anxiety can be dealt with on a social level - it was salutary to see JR working out his own salvation in terms of needing to live with people, even if they annoy him, and I would be interested to see other pro-social solutions. Although he clearly is quirky rather than ill, this, and the compounded success of employment for those who can maintain it, seem to indicate some de-medicalization and re-socialization of the treatment of mental illness is long overdue.

So I look forward to the World's Maddest Interview tonight.   

Monday, 2 July 2012

a surprising conclusion

When the commentators at Wimbledon burble about how it is THE BEST grand slam I have always assumed that this is because they are English and they like to think so.  But now I am beginning to think it maybe is.

Firstly, it is lovely and green.  Roland Garros is okay looking but it is like looking at an oompah loompah/jumblie design day out.  Very orange courts, very navy uniforms, and some dangerously funky coloured outfits.  Wimbledon - soothing on the eye, with players in crisp white clothes that look like a persil advert and are uniformly easy to see.

Our ballboys and ballgirls - dressed in Ralph Lauren - are also the best.  Very seldom, if ever, do they trundle out onto court in mid-play.  See their fitness, dedication, and accuracy.  They are a credit to us.  If we cannot produce a player, look what brilliant factotums we can train.

There is also the fact that for two weeks of the year only, we watch tennis.  Passionately, as though we know about it, as though we love it with the same passion as football, suddenly, like love, we are in again.  Sometimes you look at other tournaments and the non-attendance on the show courts is woeful. Nobody expects the outside courts to be heaving with spectators during the early stages, but not to fill centre and number 1 courts seems amazing.  And it fills my hard mad heart with pity for the players.  It is wretched to be a gladiator without an audience.  They may save you, or condemn you, hiss or whistle or shout for the opponent, but without them, what a sad thing sport is.

And tennis commentators are also the flower of the profession.  Do they whinge and gloom like the ex-pros on the footie?  No, they are intellectually spry and witty, with a lively variety of accents and intelligent commentary, and they know amazing amounts of stuff.  In football it seems a law that if anyone knows anything, it must be solemnly repeated by all the commentators before it has been finished with.  It is like cows have been given suits and the power of speech.  Contrast with the cut and thrust of commentary on the tennis.  Although I still don't entirely understand how John McEnroe has come to have such a shining, dedicated hope that Andy Murray to win Wimbledon, I want the world to know how much I appreciate it.

Lastly there is our loony aspiration to win ANYTHING SPORTING AT ALL EVER.  It is in such full, desperate flower at Wimbledon.  For a week we shriek and wring our hands and agonise.  And then our Only Hope is knocked out, and there is our cheery insouciant acceptance of foreign substitutes - our fondness for Federer and Nadal, as though they are English on the inside.  As if, once you have won Wimbledon a few times, really we own you now, and actually, you really are secretly English, and just in denial.

So it is the best, not because of the prize money, but because it is taken so seriously and done so well.  Because even if English Tennis cannot produce the best players, it has strangely managed to produce an excellent - maybe the best - of the tournaments.  So maybe we should be glad, because really we are winning the tennis every year.