footnotes, appendices and apparatus to the anatomy
grouped loosely by subject
8. on Melancholy Lives
Irvine Brealey described himself as an anarchist who wanted a quiet life and lived in secret if mild fear of the revolution coming because he’d have to look busy; and who liked to use the word anarcholepsy to describe the revolutionary condition of grumpy somnolence masquerading as civil disobedience, or vice versa.
He had, for some reason, a fondness for Star Trek, to the extent that he had amassed all of the DVD presentation box sets for The Original Series and The Next Generation. He had stacks of videos, too, which he did not need to watch any more in this digital age, but which he kept piled on a shelf in his living room because he knew that his wife, who fiercely disapproved of his smoking pot, would never go near them, and hence would never discover the homemade bong and stash he kept back there. The bong was made from a Coke can pierced at the end, and once his wife was in bed he could sort himself out with a near-odourless hit in seconds, such was the oiled efficiency of his technique. And there he would sit, all glazy and grand, watching Star Trek or reading anarchist tracts probably written in analogous circumstances by other stoners.
Alfred Cannoner is a grizzled, scabrous and unpersonable gentleman of fifty or perhaps fifty-five years of age.
Clarke took me down to see him one morning at the lock-ups where he works. He poured us each a filmy whisky and settled into the sulky rhythms of the reluctant host.
You cannot count Cannoner as a member of the Projects, exactly, because he thinks we are all idiots, considers the Failed Life a sham or a cult, and wants nothing to do with any of us except insofar as we hearken to his art. But we have co-opted him anyway, not because he is interesting as a failure – he is a common-or-garden drunk – but because his frankly unappealing work is grounded in a surprisingly clear understanding of what it is he is trying to do. Whatever he thinks of us, Cannoner is not an idiot.
He shares, moreover, the melancholic’s steady detachment from his own circumstances. In other words, he recognises and accepts that what is so is so, irrespective of whether or not it conforms to his convenience or orbit of interest. He stands obliquely, teeth gritted, to the drift of truth in the world.
Or to put it another way, his work is coherent, consistent, right; and it isn’t his fault if no one likes it.
Lock-ups in the popular imagination are seats of crime. After the heist, you meet in a lock-up. The sadistic torture dungeon is a lock-up – chains dangling from the blood-spattered walls. Lock-ups are like the rooms in Bluebeard’s castle, each one concealing an anonymous someone's dark life of the soul.
I ask if he intends to dismantle also these, and he says if he can get that far back, yes.
Anatomy is a process of dismemberment, of course, a dissectional or vivisectional practice leading via tunnels of groping gore to some shrivelled male fantasy of intellectual clarity and mastery of the body.
A fitting locale, then, for Cannoner’s disquisition on the carceral archipelago, as Foucault styled it.
He is attempting to move from one lock-up into the adjacent one. The mosaic is in the first, the Vitruvian man in the second. He works at a Deckerboard in the mouth of the second, pottering into the first as occasion demands.
The first, as I say, is home to the hundred or so squares of the mosaic, but at the back of it there are shelving units bolted to the walls, and on them multi-coloured plastic tubs of sorted bolts and wire and washers and resistors and capacitors and so on; and ranged at the top a series of smaller models which might or might not at first sight be studies for the Vitruvian man, but which are in fact early works – the votives, as Cannoner calls them. They are a series of statues of human and animal body parts – ears, legs, penises, paws, snouts - and occasionally whole figures, mostly modelled in clay or what looks like plastercine, but ornamented with stationery (paper clips, rubber bands, staples, scraps of envelope, strips of tape) and occasionally what I suppose is an early manifestation of electronic components.
They are versions, of course, of the little primitive statues ancient peoples left in supplication or gratitude around temples, requests for healing or protection. Any museum in Italy has a thousand of them, in bronze or clay. Cannoner’s are not very well made, but then neither are the primitive votives.
I do not know much about Cannoner’s life, but I do know that he has been kicked about from institution to institution – school, borstal, hospital, asylum, dole-office – but now, for all that he drinks and smells and makes himself obnoxious, he is moderately free of them. He inherited a flat and one of the garages from his father; his second garage is rented by Clarke.
When in his twenties he decided he wanted to be an artist, he went to Paris and lived there in a blaze of ignorance for six months. He did no work because he had nothing to work with, but he says he visited some street markets and looked at the paintings tied to the railings and set up on easels, and was puzzled by the fact that many of them were good, technically assured, showed talent, even; but these were not artists setting out, but were failures, some as old as he was now. And he said there were various reasons why each of them was here in this particular circle of hell, various failings, some were indolent and comfortable, some were trying to please, others had no taste; but at root, the problem for each of them was the same: it was life that was the struggle, not art.
Art, he said, like all proper human endeavour, is rooted in the technical struggle. A struggle with form, or against recalcitrant materials. And part of the technical struggle is addressing the work of your predecessors. The history of your art. You live a life, as an artist, which necessarily revolves around that struggle, and everything is drawn into it, like a country on a war footing, war economy. It is a serious business. You are not trying to see through the art technique to some truth of your life. The life is simply there as a hinterland. A bit of context. Perhaps an encumbrance. Perhaps a resource. But it is the thing you make, and which stands outside you, that counts. And to make that thing, you have to wrestle with technical issues. It’s a structure. You accumulate, and then you structure what you’ve accumulated. Discard nothing, only structure it, order it.
'My goal', he says, 'is to use everything. Everything I already have. Accumulate nothing new. I have everything I need. Use up everything in my great work, my Vitruvian man, keep expanding until it’s all used up, all has its place. I dream that my bench and my tools, every scrap of dust in those garages will find their way in. A totality. A completeness. And then I can stop.'
There is an insane segue here, of course, between considering art a technical struggle, and considering the universe to be a giant puzzle which must be mastered; the pieces of which, incidentally, are located in your garage.
It was only later, after a few more drinks, that Emmet told us he was in love with the woman who was distributing the pamphlets. She looked, he said, like Sandra Bullock, which he seemed to think was a good thing. He said she touched his hand as she handed him the pamphlet, and met his eye and smiled. He said he was resolved to go back to the trade fair, which was in Birmingham, and go up to her and ask her out.
It is easy for Emmet to develop an infatuation like this, since non-consummation is his type of romantic love. His susceptibility and shyness demand no reciprocity, no words. Apollo to a forest of Daphnes, puffed up and inept, the thoughtless brushed fingers of a pamphlet girl who looks a bit like the ageing movie star Sandra Bullock are quite sufficient to unkilter his universe, for a few hours at any rate.
It is much the same for everyone: desire is total, consummation sporadic. There are whole forests of women that I will never even meet. Where I differ from Emmet however is, first, in the realisation that most of them I wouldn’t want to, and second in the prevailing geometry: my own forest, if you will, is gravitationally shaped by the presence out there somewhere of one vast dark tree, a woman I suppose I loved and subsequently mislaid, and in whose shadow much of my life since has been lived. For many years, in other words, I had an unconsummated longing for a woman with whom I had had a lengthy and involved affair.
Perhaps this damaging and prolonged aftershock was merely a nostalgia, a senseless yearning; or perhaps it was a catastrophic redistribution event, the remaining elements of my life requiring time to coalesce and assert themselves. Either way, if I could climb into a dendronautilus of suitable specification I would set off across the boundless forest in search of that one tree that stands at its centre, beating back across time if need be on my futile quest, because now I would know better how to navigate away from it. The reefs, swell and currents of the forest are just that: reefs, swell and currents. If I did nothing else in the battling spray-soaked misery of those years, I charted the arboreal ocean and its treacherous archipelagos well. This time I would sail straighter.
Clarke, it should be said, has a slightly different take on Emmet’s ineptness. He does not like Emmet – neither does Kelley – and intuits in him an aggressive, because frequently thwarted, Will. So while a rooted Daphne for us might represent the tragic incompletion of life, for Lloyd these diaphanous elusive moving targets are now gnarled to the ground, helpless, to be shaken and plucked and hewn and pleached as and when convenient. It follows that his almost endearingly oily attentiveness in the presence of women and ironic self-deprecation in their absence are both vehicles of an instinctive guile. Emmet has more women, Clarke avers, than you would think. And they don't like it.
Emmet is not so much the naive and impulsive Apollo, in other words, as a kicked dog sniffing around Daphne’s ankles.
This at any rate is the popular legend.
His name was Konrad Moscicki and in fact he spoke English perfectly, having been largely brought up in Merton where he and his father and brother had come to live before the outbreak of war. His father had been a high-school teacher in Poland, an intelligent and literate man, but in England he had worked as a house painter, a profession into which Konrad had followed him. Konrad was bilingual but taciturn. He played a bit of football up and down the south London and Surrey leagues, and had arrived at the end of his career - if you can call it a career – at Kingstonian.
You could hardly call Konrad an exile, but he had grown up in a exilic culture – a home where the intellectual and cultural life was sealed off and distinct from the life in the world outside. Every morning Konrad and his father and brother would step through their door and spend their day in that world, working, sitting in pubs and cafes; but they knew that at the end of each day they would retreat to a home that was on a remote plane of existence. Perhaps this is one adequate description of the Failed Life – a life of shared exile.
I use the contrast in this passage between the upstairs and the downstairs of Solomon’s bookshop as a sort of organising principle, but in truth it is no longer a healthy or merely interesting asymmetry but a practical problem.
Clarke brought me to Solomon’s library to talk about the possibility of locating our model of the Palladian North End there, but the proposal to make the library a locus of the Projects became tied up, in this and subsequent conversations, with the more immediate and less clearly stated need to rescue Solomon’s shop from his own neglect.
When I talk of his shop as a space overwhelmed, it is in fact a foetid cornucopia of unsorted books. People bring them in from time to time (not so often now: old books mostly go to charity shops) and he pays them whatever they judge fair and stuffs the books, unexamined, into whatever cardboard box is nearest. Customers in turn are forced to go through these boxes and make Solomon an offer for anything they want. It is not a bookshop anymore, but a space in which the clearing of books takes place.
Solomon talks glumly of shutting down. He is at or past retirement age, and he can no longer cope with it. In the morning when he opens up he darts as quickly as he is able in between the toppling boxes of books and secretes himself in the back office where he frets over more immediate and tractable problems of emendation, keeping the shop at a mental remove for as much of his day as he can.
But I encourage him to continue, to put it right. Or rather, of course if he wants to shut up shop and retire then he should, but he should put it in order first, wind it down like a good administrator. I argue that his proof-reading and re-reading projects are spun from the shop, the shop is his lock of wool. It provides not just the economic but also the material base of his work; the library is generated from the lump or mass down below. It is a system, a machine. The uncertain progress of his various reading tasks I put down to the inefficient working of that machine.
We therefore agree that I will contribute some of my time - a couple of afternoons a week - to setting it all in some sort of order for him. I look forward to running increasingly fine filters over the stock, chucking some out, gifting others to charity shops, shrinking the rest gradually into the shelves; perhaps I will set up an online inventory of the best books, rationalise the taxonomy, alphabetise the stock, introduce some sort of grading by height. I can imagine the tidy-minded pleasure of selling a book and filling the gap on the shelf with something from the piles on the floor.
In recompense for my time I will have the use of Solomon's van - an old Mark V transit - for the couple of gardening jobs I have by now picked up.
In part this is because Solomon is not well – he has always been a moderate smoker and in recent years a series of perhaps related lung infections has confined him to his bed for tracts of each winter – not, you would think, a disadvantage when all he should be doing is reading, but the re-reading is now often bottlenecked by the proof-reading, and his invalidity leaves him crushed by fretful worry about, of all things, the state of his business; all he can bring himself to do in these periods of what he describes as physical retrenchment but which we understand – Clarke understands - to be at least in part seasonal depression is sit in bed drinking his Hong Kong milk tea and watching television.
Solomon estimates that for this and other reasons – books creeping on to the list, trouble sourcing editions, and so on – he is five to seven years adrift on his schedule. This will be made up, he calculates, if he lives to 85. Once he is properly retired his means will be slender - he will need to lock down all remaining editions before he shuts his shop for good - but his time his own.
He says that he is hoping to have one year, perhaps more, at the conclusion of his re-reading project in which he can reflect on his achievement, perhaps pen some remarks on it for posterity, and never pick up a book again, just buy the paper and eat toast.
By Solomon, in fact. Old Sol wears glasses for reading so thick they look like swimming goggles, as though when he reads he is immersed in some other element, silent, colourful and perilous. He was much taken by my mention of the isolarion, having as he does a special affinity for unlocalisable detail.
In truth I have very little idea what an Isolarion is. My whole knowledge is derived from a Googled decimation of Isolarion by James Attlee, which seems to be about a bloke walking up and down the Cowley Road in Oxford looking for a cobbler's.
From Norbiton, the Cowley Road in Oxford is such a remote entity I can hardly begin to conceive what that must be like.
Clarke insists on calling Isolarions ‘Isolariums’, as though they might be, not maps, but sun-filled schizoid spaces of isolation, perhaps a tower-top with a deck-chair and a six-pack of Heineken.
Emmet Lloyd's fortune, I now know, is derived from a family nursery business. Nursery as in plants. Half the nurseries in South London, it seems, are owned by the Lloyds.
For a number of years it has been his chief objective to 'go technological' and he has employed a number of software engineers to create a searchable database of all plants (whether all Lloyd's plant or all plants is not clear to me). Each of these software engineers has left in different circumstances; but given that the database is to be cladistic rather than Linnaean, fully searchable also with image-matching capability, and, the latest notion, user-led (whatever that means - a sort of plant wiki, perhaps?), there is doubtless some correlation between the upward spiral of the specification, and the downward spiral of the engineers.
I confess it seems an interesting project.
When we visit him he had the previous night listened to the Champion’s League semi-final first leg between Barcelona and Chelsea on the radio.
I like listening to the European football, he says; it is more of a match of minds; less exciting to watch, perhaps, but then.... I give you a for instance. Mourinho, who is a tactical purist, I read recently that with his Internazionale he was playing a team, I don’t recall, an Atalanta, perhaps, or a Cagliari – not one of the top teams, you understand - and he said that three times he, Mourinho, changed his formation and three times his opponent changed his formation to match. Probably he still won, I don’t think this was an excuse. But he said, in England this would not happen. I added in the back of my head, it would not happen because the opposing manager would not notice. And I tell you, I notice, and I am a blind man listening to the radio in my apartment many miles distant. And I notice.
On the radio, he continues, they talk for people who follow football like it is a series of events, some haphazard ball kicking, not a process with a spatial structure; they say, this man is running with the ball, that man is running with the ball; this one passes to that one, here’s a man on the floor, he took a dive, here’s the golden boy who’s scoring a goal; was that a handled ball or wasn’t it? and so on. Just a procession of events. Just occasionally, by accident, I suppose, they really show you the game. Really let you glimpse it. They tell you, this player who plays typically in this position is playing higher up the pitch than usual; that player has dropped to the left; it’s like, all this noise, and suddenly something, in code, something that tells you what’s really happening. You see it, in your mind’s eye, you understand all in a flash.
So what I need, you see, as your manager – I won’t do this, you understand, but hypothetically considered - is someone who can describe what is going on correctly. It all starts from a description. If we can describe what we can see, we can begin to understand it. All talk about football is talk about the description of a game, not the game itself. So you need someone who knows how to describe what he sees. Who knows what to ignore. Not a commentator, you understand. It would be a matter of procedure and agreement. Perhaps description is the wrong word. It would be a conversation about the game.
You see, there is structure on the pitch, and the structure emerges and takes effect slowly, more slowly than the ball and the players move. For a manager, there is no sense of hurry. The boys rush around out there, the ball flies around with violence in the agonistic matrix of the teams; but the manager sees a structure, a geometry, slowly evolving, developing. He understands. And then he acts, and it seems decisive only because he understands and others do not.
I remember we had a butcher called Sam who was about seventy at the time; his floor was strewn with bloody sawdust, and he wore his jet black hair slicked back. He liked my mother and used to tell her about his romantic woes with his lady friend. He would then roll up rump steaks for her in paper and charge her 10p (we’re having a sale, he would say).
He also used to pop around after work, always bringing gifts of steak. My mother’s advice must have been good. My father didn’t seem to mind, because we had no money as a family and he very reasonably coveted the steak. I took the steak for granted, but coveted in turn Sam’s large digital watch.
Sam also had a parrot, at home in his bungalow, not in the shop, which we went round to feed at his request when he was on holiday once. It seems the parrot was content to shut down for days at a time, sitting motionless in its cage under a covering, but did require occasional feeding and watering. I don't remember that it said anything.
The parrot was there as an ornament.
Her full name, preposterously for an Irishwoman, is Veronica de Viggiani - she had been married to an Italian from whom she was now separated, but whose name she retained for the present. Her use of the name Monica stemmed from her own childish mispronunciation.
The name Veronica - later falsely etymologised as the vera icon, the true image - is associated of course with the sudarium, the cloth with which Saint Veronica wiped the brow of Christ on his road to Calvary and which subsequently retained his image.
Coincidentally, Veronica (de Viggiani, not the Saint) strongly reminded me of the woman I had been in love with in Italy, mostly, I surmised at the time, because of the colour and cut of her hair (black and shortish) and the size of her nose (small). I subsequently realised, however, that I had surmised incorrectly, since it was really a gestural characteristic which was common to both women: an oblique, alert, perhaps slightly furtive way of looking at you when she - they - thought you were not looking. Since this was of necessity a peripheral perception on my part, it took me some time to learn to filter for it.
It was for this reason - the resemblance - that I chose and choose to call her Veronica in spite of her mild opposition.
The story of her nativity, so far as I could establish it at this point, was that Kelley had abandoned her pregnant mother in Ireland when he ran to California. That would make Veronica about 40 years old, or so, in the summer of Hunter Sidney’s death.
Hunter Sidney and Veronica had struck up a working acquaintance (his description) around the time of his involvement with and estrangement from Kelley’s wife. He says that, whatever the mechanics of their introduction, it had been a sense that the lives of both were peripheral to someone else’s more potent drama that had united them, in dudgeon as it were.
This admittedly dismal meditation was set in train by my discovery of Veronica de Viggiani in Hunter Sidney’s garden. Not for the first time, I became aware of groupings or histories in the people I knew as fellow citizens – Hunter Sidney, Kelley, his wife, Tony dell'Aquila – which threatened the disjoint integrity, if I can call it that, of the Ideal City itself. I don’t go so far as to call it a faction, a cabal, a conspiracy – if it were I could at least hope to expose it , extirpate it, stamp it out – but it was an underlying geology, or topography, invisible to the daily eye but shaping every footfall.
In short, where the Norbiton side of the equation in Norbiton: Ideal City was concerned, I was conscious of standing outside that which I had created or helped to create.
However, this conclusion led on, perhaps inconsequentially, (and perhaps not – I am no psychologist but I recognise the possibility of a connection) to the repeated sense of wonder in her presence – especially insofar as it was repeated regularly over the next days and weeks - akin, as I have said, to love or desire, but not love or desire. A sense of wonder which left me, like Columbus, with a futile desire to appropriate this new country or continent in ways that would not render it harmless, familiar.
Futile, because as Stephen Greenblatt remarks:
‘By itself a sense of the marvelous cannot confer title; on the contrary, it is associated with longing, and you long precisely for what you do not have. Columbus’s whole life is marked by a craving for something that continually eluded him, for the kingdom or the paradise or the Jerusalem that he could not reach, and his expressions of the marvelous, insofar as they articulate this craving, continue the medieval sense that wonder and secure temporal possession are mutually exclusive.’ Marvelous Possessions p.81
Emmet Lloyd tells me that his father in the 1980s did in fact build a bunker in their back garden. His nursery business had by then taken off, and Emmet thinks that the bunker may have been an index of insecurity, a compensatory or apotropaic gesture to the gods.
His father's imagination, he says, was certainly lurid enough for that: he was a big man and lame in one leg; he would go clumping over his nursery fields, spade in hand, bellowing incomprehension at his startled employees or pitching in with the work in terrifying bonhomie. Perhaps his vision of nuclear strike was bound up with his greenhouses, says Emmet; a nurseryman has constantly on the anxious fringes of his mind the possibility of damage to his greenhouses, as if the whole of his business were enclosed in a fragile glass case necessarily subject to attritional damage: the tenor of his business is an everlasting remedial fretfulness. Perhaps the old man woke at night in the sweat of dreams where mushroom clouds girded the horizon of his nursery, until in one more local flash the glass of his greenhouses passed through his flesh like a catrillion unleashed photons.
The bunker, says Emmet, is still there, derelict in a corner of the garden. And his father too, vast and durable, still lives in a corner of their house, clutching to the business like the ancient mariner to a spar of wreckage, mumbling his visionary shibboleths of gross profit, sunk costs, depreciation and amortisation.
...the story of that escapade...
It seems that Mrs Isobel Easter was herself the instigator of the crime. She and Kelley had come to Rome for reasons that are not entirely clear to me – the whim and luxury of the rich? the desperate attentions of Kelley? – and Hunter Sidney, desperate and abandoned, had followed them there. His affair with Isobel reached, in Rome, its greatest intensity and its sudden conclusion, the one following hard upon the other.
At a certain point in the course of this holiday, Isobel Easter was visiting the Etruscan Museum of the Villa Giulia with Kelley, when, the two of them having drifted apart, she noticed, in among the silent cabinets, that one was open. She tells me that there was a centimetre of space where the glass front had not slid fully across, and, looking around at the entirely empty gallery, she laid the palm of her hand against it and tested it. It was not locked.
She says that she did not have the gall to open it more than an inch or two, but she took out some paper and sketched the two objects that she thought could be most easily reached – the lamp and a sort of votive statue on the shelf above. I have the drawing, given to me by Hunter Sidney.
That lunchtime she saw Hunter Sidney and showed him the drawing she had done, described to him where the objects could be found, and laughingly suggested that he steal one or both for her. He went to the museum immediately after lunch, or as soon as it next opened, found the room, the objects, the cabinet; slid it open as she had done, and stretched his hand inside. He says he would have stolen the statuette, given the choice, but it lay slightly beyond the lamp, and he was simply too nervous to have his hand inside for more fractions of a second than was necessary. He took the lamp and put it in his pocket.
He says it then took him a couple of sweaty minutes to realise that it was not like shoplifting, they would wait until he tried to exit before they stopped him, there was nothing to be gained by hanging around, seeing if he was watched. So he left the museum and ran, he says, the length of the Villa Borghese until he could lose himself in some streets.
The next time he saw Mrs Isobel Easter she ended the affair with him before he could give her or even tell her about the lamp, so in the end he posted the lamp, well-wrapped, to her home address.
Solomon and Hunter Sidney and I have come down here with Solomon’s van, to Cobham. Emmet says I’m a commercial gardener now, I should go wholesale for my plant needs, and he is happy to oblige me in the matter; and while I am not interested in his flattery (such as it is), I am interested in a day out in the van.
Emmet Lloyd’s family owns many of the retail nurseries in South West London and what I suppose you would call Inner Surrey, not all under their own name. Lloyd’s father over the years bought out his competitors almost absent-mindedly, changing little of them when he did. According to Lloyd, his father was, contrary to appearances, not much of a businessman. Rather, he was a Plantsman. He swallowed up his rivals as opportunity arose, but what he was really buying, deep in his head, was more plants, or outlets for more plants.
Later, in the office of the Ur-nursery, Emmet Lloyd shows us the digital manifest of the nursery. It is a real-time map of operations. Mousing over one of the colour-coded plots brings up detailed information on batch sizes, stage, condition and so on. What I took to be medieval hundreds, subject to a tacit understanding on the part of the nurserymen who knew the borders and histories and soil-types of the plots from gnarled years of experience, are in fact rigorously defined and docketed zones; the nurserymen, it transpires, carry barcode readers.
Lloyd is proud of the operation, and as a pragmatic organisation of the Ur-Nursery it is impressive. But it is, ultimately, nothing more than a catalogue, always running behind whatever is actually happening out there, in the fields and greenhouses.
A catalogue has no predictive power. It tells you nothing, or next to nothing, about total-plant-space. A taxonomy, properly understood, tells you precisely everything you ask of it. It can be argued that Linnaean taxonomy is nothing more than an elaborate nomenclatorial system – it overlays the actual relations of plants only arbitrarily. But that arbitrariness is its strength. By selecting a fixed number of variables the taxonomist can control how many taxa will be called into being. It is thus a gradable system, and one which, like the periodic table, allows for exempla which have not yet been discovered, or do not in fact exist.
It is a godlike dominion. It is not necessary to see something, not necessary for that something to be anything other than imaginable, in order to exact tribute from it.
Clarke has put together a team to take on a Kingstonian XI. I like to think of our team as an Ideal City representative XI, but Clarke is firm that it is the wheezing ghost of Norbiton FC.
We manage a few inexpert practice sessions, Nestor sitting on a fabric camping chair, hands on his walking stick in front of him and chin on his hands. He wears a pair of black sunglasses, and has put on a tie for the occasion, and a jacket.
Nestor had argued previously that what he needed in order to coach us was an amanuensis who could supply him with an adequate description of the game. He has settled for this on his Bolivian housekeeper, a woman whom I have never heard speak English. She sits next to him and knits, keeping an eye on the football; occasionally she leans over and mutters into his ear in Spanish, and we see him nodding and musing. Every so often he explodes with incomprehensible instructions which Clarke translates for us.
From time to time I wonder, sitting on my arse in the mud, if he is as blind as he gives out.
In our practice sessions we have found sufficient players for some eight-a-side. Nestor can choose from the following:
Veronica de Viggiani
Konrad Moscicki, formerly of NFC and Kingstonian
Steve Moscicki (Konrad's son)
Nev from the station coffee shop
One of Clarke's colleagues
Two of Cannoner's nurses
One of Emmet Lloyd's nurseryhands
One of Ted Kelley's masons
One of the barmen from the Albert
One of the waiters from the New Devi Tandoori
He generally lines us up as follows:
The best coaches, it is said, can break down their whole vision into single bits of information; any given player is given only the bit they need (stay close to x, don’t give him time to come inside on his right; if y goes on, you drop back; and so on); it might seem that there is no tactical finesse to the whole, that there are not enough diagrams and clipboards in circulation; but, like a painter who stands close to his large canvas to paint what can only be read from some yards back, the whole comes into focus over the course of ninety minutes. A game with a programmed structure.
Nestor lacks this fundamental ability. Notwithstanding the intellectual clarity of his chalkboards and the emotional clarity of his terrifying spittle-filled touchline pantomimes, we inevitably implode on the ball in a matter of minutes, and conduct the bulk of the game more or less like this: