THE BIG INTERVIEW
THE BIG INTERVIEW WITH THE STABLEMASTER – By Antoinette Cosway
While Cork Burns, Stazza’s Stable Scholarships, The Bandit Races, All About The Stablemaster/Coach Stazza/John Starrett, The Way Out Of Covid-19 For Road Racing, And Much More…
I’m nervous. I’ve just ordered a mojito from the bar in the 5 star neoclassic mansion, La Maltese Estate—€35 for a cocktail; it better give me superpowers. La Maltese Estate is one of the top boutique hotels in the world. Famed for its opulence, a great sushi restaurant, and some of the top cocktails on the planet—not to mention the best view on the island of Santorini. Perched like a throne at the highest point of Imerovigili, La Maltese scopes the world-famous Caldera. The rich and famous come here to wed; I’m here to do something I vowed never to do, I asked the The Stablemaster for an interview and he said, yes.
But it’s not the price-tag for the mojito that has me quivering, it’s the thought of interviewing The Stablemaster. Known as the Keyser Söze of the running world: he’s feared by those who cross him, loathed by begrudgers, and loved by those coached or ‘touched’ by him, but mostly, he’s loves Himself.
The mojito, made famous by one of the greatest writers of all-time, Ernest Hemingway, seems like the perfect cocktail to take while waiting for The Stablemaster.
This is a first: he’s never agreed to a profile interview. Trying to research the man is impossible. Yes, you can find many of his coaching successes, ranging from beginners through elites, and all the battles he’s won on a range of social media platforms—playing myriad characters—are there for all to see, but John Starrett, the man, is a mystery.
Here he comes—Armani sliders, black Boss swimming shorts, and plain grey t-shirt—no shades. Quick sip of the mojito—wowser, that’s good: perfect blend of mint and lime with a rum slap across the face.
He’s stockier than I imagined. Big shoulders and the sexiest eyes I’ve ever seen. There’s depth in those eyes—the gangsta’s glint shimmers on the surface but deeper into those mesmerising, hazel lovepools…
Hi Antoinette; nice to meet you. How are you? Is Ben looking after you?
I stand and we shake hands—his shake is a mix of strength and softness; reassurance.
Yes, I’m fine and, yes, Ben’s the perfect gentleman.
He lets go of my hand, carefully. Nothing uncomfortable. The perfect amount of time.
Isn’t he just the perfect gent. He’s a political refugee from Sierra Leone. He’s worked here for a few years now. You know, here’s a little story for you…Actually, are you ok here or would you prefer to sit out on the terrace? Right now, as the sun’s setting, it’s beautiful. The temperature’s tempered by the meltemia which gently swirl around the landscape and bless the skin with refreshing kisses.
I stand, my small fingers clutching my mojito. I feel my face reddening. He nods to Ben and we stroll out onto the terrace. We sit at a table, overlooking the Caldera. It’s breathtaking. The breeze is, as he said, swirling around the landscape and, more importantly, kissing my burning skin.
I see you went for a mojito. Perfect. They do a saucy little mojito here—apart from homegrown mint and freshly squeezed lime juice, the secret’s in the rum: they use, Flor de Cana. Flor de Cana is a silver rum, or more accurately, Ron—a Spanish tipple.
I sip my mojito and smile.
Refreshing? In Havana they say you shouldn’t muddle the mint too hard: it unleashes the chlorophyl and turns the drink bitter. Ben, however, discovered a way to pulverise the mint and enhance the flavour without the bitterness: he plucks the mint leaves from the sprigs and pummels them with a crocodile tooth.
I nearly spit my mojito into the softly lit infinity pool. I manage to keep it in but it rushes up through my nasal passage and nearly gushes out of my eyes. He smiles and nods. I need to be on my guard. Ben arrives with a crystal goblet and a carafe of red wine. Deftly, he half fills the goblet.
No, my eyes are mojitoing.
No, it’s just the swirling meltemia, pecking my eyes.
You know your Greeks. And such fiendish employment of ‘pecking’. I’m impressed. Thank you, Ben.
As Ben heads back into the bar, The Stablemaster sips his drink and smiles.
You were about to tell a ‘little story’ about Ben…
Oh yes. But first, a question: your name—Antoinette, or should I say, Bertha—it’s Creole; did your parents name you after one of the most famous villains in literature?
I’m impressed. Villain or victim? I see Antoinette more as a victim; victim of colonialism, misogyny, and sexual awakening.
Quite. I agree. All the same, it’s a beautiful name. Anyway, this interview. Maybe I should allow you to ask the questions—my apologies.
He sips his wine and then cradles the goblet in his hands.
You’re a hard man to research. There’s very little out there about the real, John Starrett. There are snippets about your coaching philosophy and successes, and your hilarious social media battles, where you really get under the skin of your foes, but there’s little or anything about the real you. Who are you?
You see how the sun’s changing colour? It’s changing from a bright yellow to orange, and it’ll end up deep red. As it sets, instead of the focused ray it funnels down onto the sea, it’ll cast out a red net across the horizon. It’s something to behold.
Where were you born and brought up?
I live in Ireland now, although I do spend many months of the year travelling. I’m not one for anchoring. I suspect that stems from my rootless youth. A few weeks back, I was in a restaurant called, The Home. Fantastic little place on the beachfront in Agia Pelagia. The owner/waitress, not sure which, gave me and my girls a postcard each—the place is a quirky beach shack with excellent food and music. The quote on the postcard said: “Give your kids roots and wings.” I hate all the cheesy quote stuff people pinch off the internet and post on Instagram and Facebook, etc. It’s droll. Read the books in their entirety and understand the context of the quotes you’re robbing. Come up with your own thoughts and beliefs. It’s like the coaches who plagiarise my work. Anyway, no doubt, we’ll get into that. That said, this one smacked me on the nose. To me, it’s the categorical imperative of parenting; in fact, if we modify Kant’s central concept of deontological moral philosophy, the categorical imperative applies equally to coaching and life, although, if I may contradict myself, again, I’m not a believer in absolute and unconditional truths.
Of course. Categorical imperative of parenting—roots and wings. Like Red Bull.
If, for example, you have a runner and they’re hugely talented, they work hard, and they have the dream, but if they don’t have the grounding, they’ll never fly.
Yes, I see what you mean.
Are you warm enough? Would you like a blanket now that the sun’s setting?
So how does the categorical imperative, this quasi axiom you’ve modified, apply to your life, your beginnings? Did your parents give you roots?
It depends how we define roots. In his brilliant book, Preoccupations, Seamus Heaney wrote at length about roots, in some form—excuse the pun—roots drove every poem he penned. Roots kept him grounded but also enabled him to grow wings. Every poem began from the ompholos of his roots and cast out like a net on the horizon, constantly morphing—from there, he had the confidence in his wings (his words), and soon enough the spade, the spud, and the fisherman’s tales, became wings which soared…
Mid-sentence, he stops—to sip his wine.
…Delightful. What a lovely wine. It’s soft, fruity, and light. Where were we? Ah yes…I was born in Bicester, Oxfordshire (so I’m told). Despite the rumours, I’m not Greek or Irish (although, both countries have amazing mythologies, something I love). I’m not English or British either. I spent most of my youth in Germany, moving from place to place. While no physical roots—no place, in the traditional sense, to call home, I felt rooted within our family. Everything my parents did was for me and my brother, Phil. Ironically, perhaps we were too rooted. But then, I suppose, it depends on how you judge a life lived…
To be continued…