Thursday 11 November 2004


I had dinner with my friend G and his wife. Earlier that evening I’d called to tell them I’d be 15 minutes late. G’s wife answered the phone.

“Where are you?” she asked.

“In Stress City,” I replied.

Lately, I’ve been under so much pressure that I’ve felt my life steadily unraveling. I should make a list, I’ve thought to myself on several occasions, of all the situations I’m likely to encounter between now and the end of the year so I can tick them off, one-by-one, as each turns into either a disaster or a catastrophe.

Keith Miller battingWhen I said this over dinner, G’s wife smiled at me sympathetically. G—one of my closest friends—said: “Remember Keith Miller?”

“The cricketer?” I asked. I’m not a cricket fan but my father loved cricket and he held Miller in the highest esteem.

Keith Miller died last month, on October 11, at the age of 84. His Cricket Online obituary notes that:

Miller was part of Australia’s 1948 tour of England, who later returned hailed as “the Invincibles”, and are recognised by many as the best side ever assembled.

My father, were he still alive, would be 85 this year. I was born in 1948, the year of the Invincibles tour. Miller had been a fighter pilot during World War II and Bill Brown, one of his team mates, recalled:

“He was the finest all-rounder I came into contact with—he could bat, bowl, field and he could fly an aeroplane.”

“You could bat him anywhere you want to, he was a strong hitter of the ball, he had a very good pair of hands—especially in close—and you could always give him the new ball with confidence. I don’t know a lot about his flying days but I know he flew Mosquitoes and they were in the thick of the action, and I admire him for that very much.”

G took a sip of beer and said, “Someone asked Keith Miller whether he ever felt under pressure while playing test cricket. You know what Miller told him?”

“What?” I asked. I had no idea.

“Pressure, I’ll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse, playing cricket is not.”

Messerschmitt 109

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I read this quote around the time Miller died. I think it's the loveliest antidote to hype I've heard in a while - and particularly appropriate to remember when viewing the news.

Still, sorry to hear that things are getting to you. Deep breaths, and all that.

Posted by rocky on 11 November 2004 (Comment Permalink)

Thanks, Rocky. It certainly had a salutory effect on me. As a friend pointed out in an email, by adding a certain degree of perspective to one's (perceived) problems.

Posted by Jonathon on 11 November 2004 (Comment Permalink)

Twice I have been wretched into a new perspective. Both times, it was a visit to a hospital that cast things in a new light.

A few days after the birth of our first child, he became jaundiced and had to be re-admitted. It is a serious, but not immediately life threatening event. As new parents, we panicked, and spent far too much time worrying about his progress and prognosis. Until the second night in the hospital. We sat and watched him, in a room with 3 seriously sick babies, and in the darkest hours of the night came to realize that we had it easy. We were fussing over whether it would take 24 hours, or 48 hours, or 72 hours of bright light before we could take home a perfectly healthy little boy. The others in the room wondered whether the latest drug would buy another few months of life or just make their child's remaining days less comfortable...

Currently, my wife is recovering from a hysterectomy. She's in the hospital for day 11 of what was supposed to be a 3 day stay. Until they can find the cause of a mystery fever, and build her red blood cell count back up, she'll be in. She's miserable - physically and mentally. As we walked the floor the other night, I pointed out that most of the patients were from Oncology. Either frighteningly young people taking treatments that made them desperately ill, or frighteningly old people grasping for a few more precious moments. By contrast, my wife's condition is serious, and disturbing, but not immediately life-threatening. And that perspective has made things all the more bearable.

Posted by Sys Admn on 12 November 2004 (Comment Permalink)

Jonathon: Perspective is good. I'm grateful for it myself, because I too have become a denizen of Stress City. Losing a job and selling a house are said to be two of the major stresses life has to offer, and I'm dealing with both. Let's all hang in there and trust that times will improve, eh?

And I'm very glad to see you posting again!

Posted by language hat on 12 November 2004 (Comment Permalink)

A pretty timely entry. I'm feeling the same and unfortunately I feel like I have two bloody Messerschmitts up my arse.

Still it was good to reminded of Miller's cheerful rejoinder, and I'm suddenly feeling better thanks to the laugh.

Posted by Allan Moult on 12 November 2004 (Comment Permalink)

Sys Admin, a long time ago I spent eight months photographing in a Neonatal Intensive Care ward. I later wrote this about the experience:

"I placed myself in the most extreme situation I could imagine, other than war. The point at which life begins and is immediately under threat. I experienced moments of great happiness as well as periods of the deepest distress. I saw ordinary people, faced with appalling misfortune, behave with the most extraordinary courage and dignity. I learned more than I can adequately describe. And I became close to people."

I mention this because I spent many hours with parents in the situations you describe: some with a child on the way to a complete recovery, others who would eventually leave the hospital without the baby they had planned and yearned for. Either way, the anguish they felt was real. And yet, frequently, those who were fortunate had the same realization you describe -- that compared with other couples in the ward they had been blessed with good fortune.

I hope your wife's health is steadily improving and that you'll be taking her home soon.

LH, I'm happy to hear that you are handling what are definitely two of life's greatest stresses. I do trust that things will improve -- as I said to a friend last night, I can't help but feel that the pain I've been feeling is associated with giving birth to a vibrant and productive new phase in my life. And thank you for the good wishes.

Allan, as you probably did, I laughed out loud at Keith Miller's response and immediately felt better for it. "Two bloody Messerschmitts up my arse" gave me a chuckle because I was immediately reminded of the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore routine in which, as Derek and Clive, they discuss the worst jobs in the world -- the worst of all being retrieving lobsters from Jayne Mansfield's arse.

Posted by Jonathon on 12 November 2004 (Comment Permalink)

For your reading pleasure, the Derek and Clive routine:

Posted by language hat on 13 November 2004 (Comment Permalink)

We could institute a new international measure of stress, similar to the richter scale for earth movement.

News items would appear describing world leaders experiencing 2.4 Messerschmitts, subsiding on Tuesday to 1.4 on the scale.

Posted by Gerrit Fokkema on 19 November 2004 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour