So Sebastian Coe won’t get the message.
“I understand that the Olympics are a really big deal,” I say, “but I’m not sure what you want me to do about them?”
“Not about them Al,” he says. God I hate being called Al. It’s what you say when you get hurt. And not a vicious, manly sort of hurt, like fighting a tiger sort of hurt. But more a sort of forgot-the-cupboard-door sort of hurt. Isn’t ‘Alan’ short enough. Is the second syllable too much of a reach? “It’s the opening ceremony. We’re short a performer.”
He wants me up some ribbons doing acrobatics? He can’t possibly expect me to compete. What would the event be? I ask him explaining that it’s been coming on to three decades now since really I did anything sporty. Juggling? On the grand scale of things I’m a better juggler than I am a guitarist no matter who I’m distantly related to, but that still makes me only enough of a juggler not to be someone who is not a juggler. It’s not even a category is it? It wasn’t on the census. Skateboarding? Much the same, going in a straight line apart from very wide corners cannot possibly be an Olympic event. He’s got in for me, he doesn’t fool me. It’s because I killed his fucking paladin. It was a long time ago. I killed a lot of people’s paladins. Probably everybody’s paladin. Fucking paladins.
He says, “Mark Thomas has dropped out.”
“Mark Thomas, Al,” there it is again. It’s because I call him Sebastian. Yes, that’s definitely it. “A comedian, well a social commentator. Like that Chumbawumba, or one-hit-wonder I call them.”
“They’ve had a million albums out, Sebastian. Tubthumping was just some awkward fluke. They were going a long time before and are still going now. They just look like they’re going to a dinner party now. Less nuns.”
“Anyway, you do know Mark Thomas?”
“I know Mervyn Peake,and Terry Thomas, and Michael Praed runs the post office. Everything in the post office is pregnant. Even reading out the blog to your girlfriend will get her pregnant. But no, not personally. He was on the radio last night. He proposed that we should demonise spoons in society.”
That’s stuffed him, “For why?”
“So as to reduce knife-crime amongst the young. Look, what was he going to do?”
“He was going to take the piss. It’s a very British thing. I’ll be there, Branson will be there, we’ll all be dancing, badly, in blazers. You’ll piss yourself, only,” he says, “don’t do that. The Queen will be there too. It’ll be Bognor all over again.”
But, “I don’t do that anymore, Sebastian. I’m settled, I’ve got kids. I’m nice now. Blame the internet. Hidden by silly names people are just bloody rude to each other in the certain belief they won’t get a smack in the mouth. I’m quite polite now.”
“Al, baby – the big lights, the bright city. You owe me, Al. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about Sir Tasslehoff...”
Shit, I knew it was the fucking paladin. “Sebastian look, time’s change. You can go on line now. You can... do things with phones. Do people still farm? You can farm, on line. I’m certain you can. People seem determined to tell me about it. Or notify me. I’m pretty sure that apart from me the only people in the whole country who haven’t farmed on line in the last year, are farmers.”
“You owe me, Al. You owe me big.”
I suppose I do.