Root Menu

Chris Mason

In conversation with Alex Grigor

I live for my kids; search for my Amélie and the rest is superfluous. I know this is a strange opening and I need to elaborate. But fundamentally, to sum me up, that is why I am, who I am and where I am going. I have no worldly ambitions beyond these two quests. I have no desire to be rich or successful. I have no desire to lead in any field. I am scarily simplistic in that way. Except that I am a superhero.

I have two children by two different women, none of whom I see. It makes me sad. But it also makes me proud that I am the father of two wonderful human beings who know who I am and who are made up from a part of me. I feel a huge responsibility towards them…not in their day to day upbringing, but in being some sort of role model for them, so that if anyone ever asks them, they can say that their father is honest, respectful and loves us. So anything that I am about to become involved with, whether it be another person, another job, another city I always think of how it would be seen by my children – they are always in the back of my mind. Having kids has given me a focus that I had been lacking since giving up gymnastics. It is scary and exciting…if not entirely planned. God, I hope they don’t read that bit!

I used to want to be popular at school and had many different sets of friends that had nothing in common with each other. I’d spend break-time with the “geeks” and lunch-time with the “criminals” and I used to pride myself on that ability. Now I’m becoming more of a recluse. I live in a small studio, and no matter how much money I might make (which will probably be sod-all) I will always live in a small flat. I have no need for anything bigger, and anyway, large houses scare me. I would love to write: novels, screenplays, adaptations. But I would hate the attention and so would use a pseudonym. I don’t have anything particular I want to say, but I love a good story and have some that I’d like to write down. It’s like therapy. In fact, it is therapy. My love of films means that it would be wonderful to see my ideas as images – especially as children’s stories, where you can escape to another world or another time. I love 80s cartoons, because growing up, this was my escape and my world and it still is. I still watch old re-runs.

I love film as an art form. I think it is the most powerful and complete art form that exists. When cinemas become digital, access to huge variety of films will be inevitable, exciting and increasingly powerful in spreading ideas. A film that had a profound effect on me was Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amélie”. It is not only my exact sense of humour. It is not only a life uncomplicated by materialism. It is not only beautiful to watch. Above all, it personifies my dream girl. Of course I realise that she a fictional character. But her looks, her demeanour, her quirky sense of humour and her “joie de vivre” is what I long for in my perfect partner. I imagine my Amélie and me escaping the world and living for each other - stupidly romantic - but a wonderful thought.

That is not to say that I don’t participate in society, which brings me to my biggest secret. I am a superhero. I say this in all seriousness. I don’t mean that I can fly, or burn holes through steel doors with my eyes – although I was a professional gymnast, so I am mostlike spider-man…except for the web-spinning, obviously. I mean that I feel it is my duty to help people, save them, from whatever is destroying them. I try to be as selfless as possible. I feel that I have so much that I need to do to help others. This makes me feel empowered, but it also makes me vulnerable. I do get used quite a lot, because I will never say no to someone. If someone needs something I will always do my very best to help them, no matter when, where, why or how. I certainly don’t think I have been successful at all. But I’ve saved myself, and that was a big mission. My sixth sense is my ability to empathise with others’ situations, and thus construct some sort of plan to help them. Where most people see someone who is sad as merely sad, I see them as lost. For this reason I see three ways out of every situation. I guess this makes me some sort of optimist, but it is more that it avoids the feeling of being trapped – which is terrifying.

I work in retail, and have done all my adult life, so that I can come into contact with people every day, all day, in the hope that I might be able to make their lives a little bit better. It might seem like a God-complex, but I see it as simply being fulfilled by being a better person. Oxford is a wonderful town to live in as it is small and you can see the same people again and again and see how they are progressing and who they are, essentially. Thus, although I enjoyed competing for my country in gymnastics, I have a cosmopolitan outlook. I’d love to get to meet everyone and experience everything from all over the world. Some things I might hate, and some things I will love – but I’ll try anything once. I hate indecision, and talk about money. I am afraid of dark thoughts. I’m not particularly partial to spicy food or driving, but otherwise I think I’ll enjoy just about everything. However, I don’t feel I have to do this before I die. Ideally I would love to learn Spanish and move to Barcelona with my Amelie. It is a city that I love and feel comfortable living in.

Having not met my Amélie yet, I haven’t experienced true love. The kind of love where you can relax and give everything you have to the other person and they will give it back in return. I love my brother, parents and friends, but that is not true love in the sense that I seek. When I see other couples being deliriously happy together I feel quite lonely. I certainly don’t feel jealous, but I do wish I was in a similar relationship. My cure is to go and help a random person. It makes me feel better and takes my mind off the loneliness. The other day I helped a couple of American tourists with their luggage down to the train station. They tried to pay me for my troubles and couldn’t comprehend why I refused the money and began to suspect that I had smuggled something in their bags. The payment is helping people. It might sound weird, but I really enjoy it. On Christmas day I made a whole lot of cheese and pickle sandwiches to take to homeless people in St Giles, as I know it is their favourite. My friends thought I was being a martyr, whereas I thought it was just a way of giving someone other than me a festive day. Not that I am religious. I think Christmas has almost moved past the birth of Christ now.

Gymnastics was a life-changing experience for me. I got to travel and see the world, but within gymnastics it is a pretty murky and dark world. From an early stage I could see that the girls were treated differently to the boys. I think the way women are treated today is awful. There is no equality, no matter what men purport. I should have used my superpower skills back in those days, but I didn’t know I had them yet. My allies today are thus friends and my cat, but as I have already said before, everyone is my ally until proven otherwise.

I have loved this process of constructing a self-portrait. However, I am acutely aware of the number of personal pronouns littered throughout this piece. It feels self-indulgent. So I am now going to use my superpowers to help someone else…perhaps like this has helped me a little…woossshhh.