Success, failure and other imposters

And the winner is…

It’s awards season! You’ve probably noticed. Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Oscars and of course: The Fringe Report Awards. I’m not a huge fan of such things; apart from the Fringe Report Awards (of course) and would hate to be nominated, and fail, because I must admit to the likelihood of being unable to smile and clap the winner. It takes me months to practise that sort of sincerity.

I am amazed at how the nominees do generally maintain their equanimity – I have yet to see one person who really looked as gutted and crushed as (surely?) some of them must feel.

The most gutted and crushed person I have ever seen was not at the Oscars or BAFTAs, but standing at the bar in The Red Lion. This was the watering hole of my teenage years. A fine establishment of the old-fashioned sort, it boasted two dart boards and a landlord called George, an ex-News of The World Darts Champion (the unofficial Word Championship of the time) who could, reputedly, throw three six inch nails into the treble twenty – blindfold.

George had a wife who was naturally called: The Dragon, because she really, really could breathe fire – I swear I saw it once.

Now, a young lad came to work in our town and gravitated to where a lot of similarly aged chaps drank: The Red Lion. After a short while, feeling at home, he brought in his tankard to put behind the bar where regulars kept similar tankards.

The Dragon said: no.

The lad sort of disappeared into himself – internalised as if a mini-black hole had inexplicably opened up somewhere in his sternum. He shrank, disappeared, and was never seen again.

The second most gutted and crushed person I have ever seen was me, in the departmental toilet’s mirror, after I opened the letter from Nature.

It was my very first paper and it was The Professor who said is should be sent to Nature, not me! I didn’t know how important my findings were – but if Prof said it seemed at least a possible!

It was summer and the Prof was on vacation, I had carte blanche to check his mail for anything with Nature stamped on the envelope. Every day I did. Every day no luck. Until finally in the third week: the letter from Nature arrived. So it was that I found myself sitting, on a sunny August afternoon, in the Prof’s office opening the letter from Nature.

Fortunately time has blurred the edges of my memory, the exact wording of the referees comments are lost, although the expression: ‘trite and trivial’ still sticks in the mind. I made my way shakily to the toilet; I don’t think I was sick.

So, congratulations all you award winners out there (well done Johnny!) but remember what was once said about ‘success and failure’ – it’s all about the taking part, the writing, the contributing, the science, not the winning! (He says casually glancing across to his Fringe Report Best drama Writer Award 2004, framed on the wall right next to where the Nature cover could have been). 

Dr Tel

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