Claus’s Prolonged Retirement

When Claus finished show jumping for Austria he looked around and thought about what he’d like to do next. Being an Olympian had been a dream, but he knew he would be a success. He always had been in the past, and people told him that he was one of the best riders of his generation. His career coincided with a golden moment in Austrian show jumping. It was politics that ended it, abruptly, as far as he was concerned, and a next chapter in his life began, unwillingly and with a certain amount of complaint on his part, justified, so people told him, as he still had so much to give and it was such a shame that petty jealousies could be allowed to get in the way of one the country’s favourite sports. Incidentally, the team declined when Claus left, a state of affairs thought by no knowledgeable observer to be a coincidence, and yet there was nothing that could be done. And so he dabbled in a few places at the craft he had decided might suit an opinionated sort of cove like him. He had always been good for an interview, as journalists knew he was a good bloke, and they recognised an ability to tell a good story and they let him write articles here and there and once retired he asked, begged, pleaded – at one stage on his knees, in the sports editor’s office – to be given more opportunities to write things. First they were comment and opinion and analysis and then he was given a column in which he could mix stories from his career with his view about what was likely to happen in the big tournament. Readers loved them. They thought he was a funny bastard when he was a rider but now that the gloves were off he was funnier and it was universally recognised that he really was a top bloke like all the show jumpers said he was. Publishing was the next challenge he took on and he succeeded titanically because a gargantuan appetite for good food and better wine at lunches which lasted some hours was just as popular in book circles as it was among old equestrian mates reminiscing about why the sport had gone soft. Even by the standards of former riders accustomed to being fed peasant portions when they competed in France, Claus could prodigiously put it away. This made him sought-after as a dining companion … which lead to more lunches, and this resulted in a book deal. The first book was something frothy, a confection replete with anecdote and witticism, theories and amusing speculation about all manner of things, and it sold well. After that the books got serious. People loved them. They thought he seemed a decent guy. A man who could almost be their friend – almost actually their friend – and there was a certain loyalty that came with this. People told him he wrote funny prose and it was true. Claus was forced to believe them. He had no reason not to. And he moved into biography, and succeeded there too, with athletes and politicians and business figures, told in his folksy style, which had now become a selling point on its own. Readers wanted to read him because of his idiosyncrasies and felt like he was really talking to them. And the shift to history was a natural one, using the large team of researchers in his employ, and he wrote the same way and debunked as he popularised and people who said they didn’t even like history would read his books and more copies were sold than all of his other books and he was the best historian the country had produced, or so people told him, and he had no choice but to believe them because the evidence was there. All he could conclude was that life was pretty good, that he, Claus, was pretty good, but to be honest, deep down, he already knew that and it had been true for some time.

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Published in: on August 18, 2016 at 8:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

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