Anything sporting, whether it affords an opportunity for pride or crushing disappointment, is welcome entertainment at the Legion.
I think we all enjoyed the opening ceremony to the 2012 Olympics. Lord knows, they went on for long enough.
I was behind the bar, explaining which Shakespeare play Kenneth Branagh was quoting from, and worried about closing time. I believe the ceremony is still available to view online – it lasts around four hours. An unbelievable work of theatre, I think we all stood up a little straighter for being in the same country as that. Danny Boyle did us proud.
A friend of mine stepped in and helped me behind the bar. She grew up in Austria, and as such, had a very limited knowledge of Shakespeare. I am my mother’s daughter. With an all-but-unhealthy attachment to literary quotes, I recited along with Branagh, the speech from The Tempest.
“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked, I cried to dream again.”
The Tempest, Act 3, Scene 2
To be honest, after the ceremony was complete, it felt quite cathartic. There had been such a build-up for so many months, that even those of us with nothing to do with anything felt some sense of relief that it went off without a hitch.
The Olympics are vitally important to so many people, and emblematic of what a human being can achieve, with passion, commitment and drive. Oh my.
However, after the first week, we were getting a bit bored. We cheered, as one should, for those who had broken records or participated despite all odds, but, as a collective, we wondered when it would be done with, from pretty early on.
About three weeks after the Olympics finished, one of my chaps came to the bar and started talking about the Games. I should explain, this nameless chap, was a great drinker and seemingly a very nice guy, but he was a terrible homophobe.
All the other chaps at the Club knew I was gay, and really didn’t give it a thought. They weren’t interested in me romantically, and besides, I’m short and funny. A lot of older men will read ‘short and funny’ as ‘lesbian’, so it wasn’t much of a shock. However, I didn’t make a point of telling this particular chap because, frankly, I wasn’t looking for an argument. That said, I rarely have to look for an argument.
Anyway, he came into the Club and started talking about the Games.
“You know what the best thing about the Olympics was?” he asked.
“That they finished?” – a popular but incorrect answer.
“Clare Balding,” he stated.
Mouthfuls of beer were choked and sputtered.
Without doubt, Clare Balding was the best thing about the 2012 Olympics, she’s a hell of a broadcaster, and who doesn’t want the title Champion Lady Rider, but coming from this fella, we all took a moment to remember how to breathe.
“Clare Balding was the best thing about the Olympics?” I asked, checking I hadn’t had a stroke.
“Yes,” he asserted. “Definitely.”
“She’s one of your lot, isn’t she?” asked my lunchtime friend, pointing at me.
There was a silence. Absolute.
The chap looked confused. “What does he mean?” he asked. “Are you a horse rider?”
“No,” I answered, thoughtlessly.
The near-broken innocence in his voice was painful.
“Well then, what does he mean she’s ‘one of your lot’?”
The joy of Merlot in the afternoon is that my friend didn’t even think.
“She’s a lesbian.”
He was astounded. We could tell. He conveyed it in his blinking.
“But you’re not a.. Clare Balding is not a lesbian.”
What followed was twenty minutes, never to be recovered. Explanations of myself, and of Clare Balding, who I’ve never met but wound up explaining nonetheless, and seventy-something schoolboy giggling from his friends and mine, who were stunned that he could have been oblivious for so long.
By the end of it, the man’s wife came in to collect him, with their teenage daughter. The chap announced my sexuality to his startled but I don’t suppose surprised wife, and deeply embarrassed daughter, and did his damnedest to show that it didn’t affect him in the slightest.
He didn’t care at all. Not even at all. Even though he was saying the word ‘lesbian’ like he had tourettes.