My life and work have not kept to the straight and narrow, or to a single path, but it’s always amazed me to see how disparate experiences and people connect – it’s become a kind of 5 degrees of separation game. But I would have sworn there could be no connection between my work with Valerie Eliot on her late husband’s literary estate (“Dear Mrs Eliot”) and my current work on and about China.
A few days ago I received an e-mail from the authorized biographer of Harold Abrahams, the sprinter from the movie Chariots of Fire, asking me to put him in touch with Valerie Eliot in the hope that she would have memories of Abrahams, who was apparently life-long friends with the family of Frank Morley, who was like T. S. Eliot a director of Faber and Faber. Abrahams was one of two British runners whose Olympic story was told in Chariots of Fire. Here’s the background, if you don’t know the film or the story.) The other runner was Eric Liddell, whom we wrote about recently in China Gold: China’s Rise to Global Power and Olympic Glory (e-book and preview available at Scribd.com) because he is sometimes referred to as China’s first gold medallist, who grew up in Tianjin with his missionary family. He died, too, in China, in a Japanese internment camp.
Now I wonder what Eliot, also a devout Christian but much more high church than Liddell, thought about athletics events on a Sunday.