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Renaissance Man?


There is a TV Programme, “Who do you think you are?” Which focuses on a person’s family tree and, with luck, the appearance of new forebears due to offspring conceived out of wedlock. . Any grand thoughts of a distant Auntie being related to some little known European royal family are usually dashed. All quite titillating but not really my cup of tea. But it has got me thinking, not so much “Who do I think I am?” but “What sort of a person do I think I am”?
First thing to say is that I am no saint. I have done some pretty silly things in my life but few that have harmed anyone but myself. I have only actively wished a modest level of harm to two men - one of whom is dead, God rest his soul- and I thank heaven that there is no such thing as reincarnation. The other is a well known personality who raised his profile in the first place by abusing the MCC Committee and pouring scorn on the game of golf as a pastime for the old and decrepit. Then he had the gall to turn up at Charity Golf days with wife and brand new sets of clubs, little doubt seeking a nice bit of publicity in the process. When we meet we simply swap the shortest courtesies - which pleases me to know that my antipathy is reciprocated.
I was pretty unreliable in my late teens, early twenties and a really shocking time keeper. I also had a rather cavalier approach to life and responsibilities.. I sent a “Wish you were here” postcard to the Sussex County Cricket Club from Copenhagen informing them that I was otherwise engaged and unable to play for them in their next match. I took against the best efforts and hospitality of. a Mr Dowty in his well intentioned efforts to get me to play for Worcestershire - particularly when I was made to wear a pair of overalls on a tour of his factory. I just reckoned that I was not cut out for overalls.
The net result of this kind of arrogance is that I have never been fully employed by anyone at any time in my life: probably because I was not the only one to feel that I was unemployable.
Not that I have ever been work shy. When I apply myself to a project of my own choosing, then it has my whole and undivided attention. Like when I formed my Sports PR business Ted Dexter & Associates which cured my time keeping weakness at a stroke. *
It was in my last term at Radley College when I had a hard game of rackets in the morning, scored 3 tries with two conversions for the 1st XV in the afternoon, was heard listening to operatic voices in the early evening, before repairing to the Grand Piano in the Mansion and knocking off a couple of Chopin preludes. “ Quite the Renaissance man it seems” said my Social Tutor and I admit I liked the sound of it, if not quite knowing what it meant.
The Encyclopaedia Brittanica description of Renaissance man, (or polymath) is as follows: one who seeks to develop skills in all areas of knowledge, in physical development and social accomplishment and in the arts. A point is made that you do not need to excel at any one activity. It is enough to tackle it seriously and see how far you get. I like the physical development bit obviously and I feel the social accomplishment bit is covered by my willingness to take on responsibilities all my life. Perhaps the arts bit is a bit shaky but a love for music and particularly opera and love of language - being fairly fluent in French, Italian, rudimentary German and Spanish may be some modest qualifications
Though not in the least proud of my time as Conservative Party Candidate for Cardiff South East in the 1964 Election (big swing to Labour) I was not afraid to take on such a formidable opponent as Jim Callaghan on the basis that the experience could surely do me no harm and possibly teach me some new lessons in life.
The physical development side is interesting. By the time I was growing and getting stronger in my mid teens, I was already fully aware that looking after my body was important. For that reason I have only ever had one or two puffs on a cigarette. When the first drugs came on the scene during our early married life, it was definitely a NO NO and we lost friends as a result.
Health wise, I always think of myself as a strong and vigorous character even though there have been a number of setbacks. I had a spell of pleurisy at public school and an operation to remove the inside cartilage of my left knee leaving a lifelong weakness. I had a bout of pneumonia in my early 30’s and then a fractured right leg in a car accident. i suffered Carpal Tunnel problems in both hands leading to three operations and leaving me with a 20% disability in my left hand. I have suffered a chronic inflammation of the tendon below the thumb in both hands.
My hearing is impaired by a military thunder flash going off near my left ear in training. I was peppered with small metal splinters to both forearms and chest when a machine gun misfired during my National Service in Malaya. It was lucky that I was looking through binoculars at the time which saved certain eye damage. I have had three major surgical interventions to my lower back. I have suffered from cancer of the prostate. I suffer from high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation I am currently under scrutiny (fourth CT scan coming up) for a suspicious swelling of lymph nodes in my groin. But here I am aged 85 still playing golf, still trying to remember that good posture is the answer to many aches and pains. 20 minutes every other day on an exercise cycle keeps the blood flowing. And walking the dog is surely the best medicine for an ageing body ever invented.
I have never suffered from depression, thank the lord, and remain as always optimistic - even about Brexit despite the current unholy mess it has caused in Parliament. Somewhere along the line I became a perfectionist. It is not a particularly admirable trait and I now try consciously to break away from some of it’s absurdities.

So what does it really take to be considered a Renaissance man. I suppose I had better list my credentials. PHYSICAL Public School Cricket and Rugby teams. Runner up in Rackets Final at Queens Club. All Round Athlete. Leading sprinter and held the discus record.
Cambridge University 2nd XV Rugby. Golf Blue. Cricket Blue. Later Test Cricketer and Amateur Golfer Handicap Scratch. SOCIAL ACCOMPLISHMENT 60 years married is easily top of the list. Head boy at Radley College. Cricket Captain. Captain of Cricket and Golf at Cambridge. Captain of Sunningdale Golf Club. Member of the Royal and Ancient at St Andrew’s. 11th Hussars, 2nd Lieutenant National Service in Malaya. 30 times Test Cricket Captain. Chairman of TCCB Cricket Committee. Chairman of MCC Cricket Committee. President of MCC. Appointed CBE. FLYING: Fixed Wing; Private Pilots Licence. Instrument Rating. Twin Engined Rating. Helicopters. Private pilots Licence. Training on Gyrocopters. ARTS. Lifetime book reader. Author. Journalist. Linguist. Music lover. Repairer of defunct Pianola ( still giving pleasure half a century later) Sketchy record in business but good enough to buy myself a pension with a 250,000 pound pot. Over 2000 songs collected and downloaded in my Iphone. Lover of Opera. Am I a Renaissance man? I like to think so but it is for others to judge.


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