It’s a funny old world and maybe sometimes we just look for connections, because they are there, we think they are there, or just because we want to. In an webworld full of infinite words and available knowledge, these connections become more frequent, daily. Yesterday evening, 24th July 2010, I was sorting out a few plants in my garden, the ones which had really not recovered from the hot weather in June. Hot weather we had missed, for June saw us in South Africa for the World Cup and thus there was little watering intervention happening in the Payne garden. So, there I was with iPhone in my ears, left hand flicking through some music, right hand struggling with an over-heavy watering can.
So I settled on Peter Gabriel’s ‘Scratch My Back’ album, which is a beautiful collection of covers the great man has selected. He sings his version of someone else’s song on this album and in return the original artist sings one of his songs, on a different album. First up on shuffle is ‘My Body is a Cage’, originally by Arcade Fire. Naturally enough after that epic, I decide to listen to the original again which of course is equally amazing. Deciding to switch to an Arcade Fire half hour I get the pleasure of ‘Intervention’. The amazing Bach like opening sequence, complete with a wondeful church organ is a prelude into the the most wonderful song and accompanying set of lyrics. Curious as ever about their possible meaning, I decided to look them up, whilst watering and stumble upon a forum discussion about their likely meaning(s). Sure enough, I then spotted a reference to ‘Intervention being a protest song ala Bob Dylan’s Hurricane’ . For old times sake, I gave ‘Hurricane’ a digital spin and once that wonderful tune faded out, like immediately afterwards. I decided to pop over to Twitter to see what’s up in the world. What’s the first post I read? From @montymunford ‘That was the story of the hurricane – too much booze. RIP Alex Higgins’ .
So the man who had got me and my mates into snooker had finally faded away, indeed his burn out had been slow and tortuous. This was the man who had shown his emotion when winning the Embassy World Professional Snooker Championship in May 1982 the same year as my first ever World Cup ‘live’. I watched that snooker final with some of school mates, Keith, Gus and Dom and we lived on a diet of music, Grape Nuts and beer. 3 weeks later I had kicked my exams off the menu, threw some shorts and T-shirts in an Adidas bag and boarded the Magic Bus (yes it was the name of a coach company) bound for Bilbao. This year I spent a fair bit of the World Cup with Keith and Dom and although Gus could not make it, he was there in spirit.
The Hurricane was the man who made snooker, the old man’s game exciting, the man who had put the real colour into snooker. A man who made it an adrenaline sport for the viewer. A man who literally kept you on the edge of your seat whilst he moved around the table like a hustler with a nervous twitch . The second greatest boy genius from Belfast. And like his sporting brother, a frustrating genius, who never really achieved as much as his potential suggested he might,according to the media. But maybe he did and maybe that day in 1982 lives in the memory precisely because it was his pinnacle, achieved before the booze, fags and cocaine rendered him ‘past his best’. If there is a lesson there, then some if not many will never learn from it.
My, my, hey, hey – Alex Higgins really did come out of the blue and went into the black, but this time let’s hope he is not forgotten.