20/20 Vision

The great thing about the new world we live in is that because I don’t write cheques anymore I haven’t had to scribble out 2019 and replace it with 2020.  In fact, I think almost everything I do and every piece of kit I own automatically knows that we are in a new year.  My phone, tablet, and computer are all up to date. Having said that, I think the microwave has a date function on it somewhere but to be honest, that and the cooker never show the right time let alone the correct day or date.

Here we are in 2020 and I’m asking myself how that happened.  I’m still of a mind where the millennium seems like the other day and the 90’s, well the 90’s are still just a couple of years ago aren’t they? It was only when one of my kids asked to go through the junk at the back of my wardrobe to get some fancy dress clothes for a 90’s New Year’s Eve party that I realised time has indeed passed me by.  It also made me think I really need to sort out my wardrobe and buy some new clothes.

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Mal Pope & Orchestral Arranger Andrew Griffiths

The term 20/20 vision usually means people have perfect eyesight, the sort of vision that gets you into the air force. On checking what it actually means is that a person is able to see clearly at 20 feet what should be normally seen at 20 feet.  Some people have better ‘visual acuity’ as they call it, others, like me, have much worse.

The problem with my eyes is partly self-inflicted.  I think I was having a little bit of trouble reading the blackboard from the back of the classroom in my early teens but the real reason I wanted glasses was to be like my idol Elton John. Back then I had good eyesight and my own hair. Elton wore glasses and was balding, now, well how the tables have turned.

What I wouldn’t give to decide not to start wearing glasses.  Oh, and given the chance I’d take better care of my teeth and try to stop the dentist filling everything in sight.  Having said that I’m slightly less scared of the optician than the dentist.  Having an eye test can be quite relaxing.  The only trouble is my optician, Austin Roberts used to be a PT instructor for the commandos.  He wouldn’t say it but I’m pretty sure he is a master of unarmed combat too.  The only trouble is when I’m sat in the chair and he tries first one lens, then another and then asks which is the better, I always ask him what he thinks in case I get the wrong answer and upset him!!!

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Mal, Andrew and Drummer Ryan Aston

I’ve always been envious of those who really have 20/20 vision, not just their eyesight but also in planning their futures.  There have been times when I had a pretty good idea where I was going and went for it full pelt, other times, as the storms of life battered me off course I’ve sometimes been left shipwrecked wondering where on earth my life was headed.

Which are you, the man (or woman) with plan or someone licking their wounds looking for a way forward? I suppose the good thing about being my age is that usually I’ve been there before.  There’s an old saying that…

‘A fool learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from others’

Ok, hands up, I’ve been a fool much more often than I have been wise but at least I can see the mistakes and actually no matter how bad it looks if you just keep going a day at a time the sun always rises…eventually.

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Mal and Bassist Andrew ‘Wal’ Coughlan

This became very clear to me last March at the launch of Swansea 50 at the Liberty stadium.  One of the stories I always tell at these events relates to the civil rights movement in the Deep South.  I had been very fortunate to go to Memphis on a number of occasions around the turn of the millennium and got to know the Rev Samuel Billy Kyles who was a friend of Dr Martin Luther King.  Rev Kyles had invited Dr King to Memphis in 1968 and had wrapped his friend in a blanket after he was shot at the Lorraine Motel.  After I told my story a number of people came up to me and said how fortunate I had been to have that experience and I really couldn’t argue with them.

It was only a day or so later that I remembered the exact series of events that had taken me to Memphis.  It was broadcasting that had first taken me to the Deep South, but it was also a change in programming at the station I was working at that meant I was no longer needed. Although I retained my freelance status I was more or less unemployed.  The reason I was back in the USA was that I was travelling around with a guitar picking up gigs trying to make some money to send home.

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The same had happened some years before when a TV series was cancelled.  It seemed like the end of the world but what it made me do was get out and play lots of gigs with my band The Jacks and experience the world of South Wales social clubs just before that culture was lost forever.

Sometimes being comfortable in a steady job is good and, well, comfortable, but other times it can limit your horizons and make you smaller than you could otherwise be.

Now, I know you might say that’s easy for you to say and I know I’ve been blessed with friends and family as much as any man has, but, that didn’t mean that when the storms hit I didn’t want to pull the duvet over my head and hope it all went away.

If that’s where you are that’s ok, for a while, but it doesn’t go away and you have to get back in the ring.

As Mario Maccarinelli told me,

‘You take the punch; you go down on one knee holding on to the ropes until the count of 8

 and then you get back up and into the fight.’

So, I’ve been working on my 2020 vision.  I’m not sure exactly where it will lead but what I do know is that there will be people and stories along the way that will make the journey unforgettable.  I’ll try my best to share it over the coming weeks. I’m expecting bumps in the road, but it feels good to start the decade with a plan.

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