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James Willstrop

James Willstrop: Isolation Conversation #3

Former World No.1 James Willstrop keeps us up to date with his diary entries.

Read the third instalment from the Englishman during lockdown below.

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Saturday March 21

Morning outing to Brimham Rocks. It got very, very busy at lunchtime as we were leaving. If everywhere is starting to close then what will the people of North Yorkshire do? Convene at its myriad of beauty spots, naturally.

It seems that this lockdown isn’t going to be a quick affair, and so some imagination is going to have to be applied in the training for squash department. In the last few years I’ve learnt to create ways of training quickly at home and to be economical about it when time and resource is short. Younger squash players and athletes will be worried about not having the facility and ability to train in good volume. As an older statesman of the professional squash tour (!) I would encourage young players to try to spin this positively. This is as good quality rest and home time you’ll ever get. No travel, no matches, no playing when you’re body is about to snap. You’ll never get another enforced break like it unless injury or surgery come in to the equation. Secondly, it’s a great opportunity to train differently and imaginatively. The body will love the chance to move in different ways. No excuses to not do that rehab you never get time for either.

And so in light of my evidently great wisdom here, I delve in to the garage to dust of the bike. There’s a perfect little hill on a quiet country lane near Harrogate I’ve found to do repeats.

Logan and me are writing our own version of ‘Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’. He is going to play almost all the parts. Hopefully we will make it in to a live show. Which we will perform.. to ourselves.

Sunday March 22

Up to gorgeous Burnsall this morning in the Dales. They were serving snacks at a kiosk and the poor lady asked me not to come close. She looked a bit frightened. Everything in Harrogate as we drove back was shut. Apocalyptic really.

People are being encouraged to not visit their mothers’ homes today, on Mother’s Day. That is the headline being generally flouted.

And so I indulge myself a moment to imagine calling my lovely mum, plot some conversations with her, and guess what she would think to all this today.

At this time where we might be forced to create space for ourselves, there could be more time for us to look back and remember or reminisce. The odd attic or two will surely be cleared out in the next few weeks, unearthing ways for us to revisit memories of people, places and things.

Monday March 23

TV news is on in the background summarising the latest on Coronavirus while a teddy is repeatedly thrown at my head this morning. People are having a go at all the ‘idiots’ who went to the seaside and for bike rides at the weekend in the weather. What did they think we would do?

It’s ok for these people to keep busily working and airing their views to the public via newspaper reports and TV reports. No one said we couldn’t go on a bike ride and no one said to not go to the seaside. Surely this would be an obvious option seen as though it is making use of fresh air. But with a repugnant self-righteousness, well known media figures are labelling us ‘thick’.

Finished watching White House Farm tonight, about Jeremy Bamber’s conviction of killing five of his family. Malc actually taught him at Gresham’s school in the seventies so I was asking him all about it.

Like everyone else in the country with children, we start the day and week off by doing the Joe Wicks PE lesson on YouTube. He starts off talking about how many followers and subscribers he has and that everybody in the country is on board; this brings on an inner recoil response in me, which I recognise is pathetic. I quickly recover, put my judgements and pre-conceptions aside and start jumping about the living room very excitedly like a bunny rabbit, as directed. If his work is getting a million kids moving then that’s got to be good.

Thursday March 26

The realities of all this are setting in for the people of Harrogate, as was apparent when I saw the same man washing the same car on Tuesday AND Thursday this week as I did my bike hill repeats session.

I had to giggle.

Before I realised that essentially I was doing exactly the same thing.

What is life if not an endless succession of repeated actions?
It certainly is going to be now.

Friday March 27

I balk today at how light hearted my written offerings are in this journal, when many are really suffering. People in certain sectors are selflessly pushing themselves to great limits to help others. People are stuck, alone, without love and comfort, or a comrade. Many are dying or badly ill.

People who aren’t under such duress took to their streets last night to clap for NHS staff in unison.

Corona culture this week
This Country, final series. BBC. This is just very like The Office but still manages to be unique and brilliant.
Inside No.9, Series 5, episode 3 and 4. BBC. Superb half hour nuggets of creepy television.

‘Too Late To Turn Back Now’ – Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose. We used this for the end credits of my film The Marksman. I first discovered it in a brilliant scene in the film BlacKkKlansman.
‘Friendly Fire’- Frances Barber, Pet Shop Boys, from a solo theatre show I caught recently.

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