From the personal journal of Mr Otto Von Beach :
Baron de Coubertin and I never saw entirely eye to eye—even in his cuban heels he stood a good six inches shorter than me—and his high-handed dismissal of Shove Ha’penny from the roster of Olympic events just moments after I had bested old Uriah Turk with a jammy sergeant in the rear bed remains one of the great sporting injustices of the modern era.
Neither can I easily forgive his deplorable efforts to impose metrification on the 4 x 400 Yard of Ale relay and the consequent disqualification of the entire British drinking team including, of course, my beloved Cissy on the anchor leg.
Still, I am not one to bear grudges—especially against those who now reside a decidedly imperial six feet under—and so it was with a modest, yet palpable, sense of anticipation that I left my studio for a few moments last Tuesday to witness the arrival of the Olympic torch on its passage to London.
I say “London”. It became quickly apparent that no one in the Olympic caravan had the least idea in which direction our capital lay, choosing instead to weave this way and that across the county in a manner more redolent of a champion yard-of-aler than a man intent on reaching his destination. De Coubertin was a stickler for geography and I have no doubt that such wanton circumambulation has him spinning in his grave faster than the chicken rotisserie at his favourite bordello in the rue St Denis.
Disagreements over the direction of travel notwithstanding I was determined to secure a better vantage point than I had managed for the arrival of Her Majesty. Calculating that its elevated position would afford me an excellent panorama, I made my way swiftly to All Saints churchyard and scaled a small tree.
This proved to be a costly mistake. Certainly, my lofty roost provided me with a grandstand view (see figure 1).
However, it also placed me within a stone’s throw of the various omnibuses that preceded the torch, each of which were filled with a rough-looking assortment of pedlars and travelling salesmen of the most desperate kind. I was just debating the wiseness, or otherwise, of dispensing commercial samples from the top deck of a fast-moving vehicle, when one such misguided missile—a small, but perfectly formed bottle of Coca-Cola—chose to terminate its parabola in my yew and dislodged me from my perch.
I cannot be sure exactly how long I was out for. Perhaps a few minutes. Perhaps only a few seconds.
That all was not lost is thanks in large part to the swift intervention of man’s best friend. A passing terrier took pity on my plight and licked my face repeatedly until I regained my consciousness—if not my dignity—and I rose to my feet just in time to see the torch pass from view.
Take heed, de Coubertin. If you and your hawkers plan to fell Von Beach with drink, it will require something a good deal stronger than an over-sugared syrup-based mixer.