The Thing Is With Steve Canavan - December 15, 2016

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When I was younger I wanted to be a sumo wrestler so I used to shove a pillow under my T-shirt, barge into my sister as she was coming out of the bathroom of a morning, and attempt to flip her over.

Oh how she loved it, though in my defence I was going through one of those stages and was very young, just turned 23.

I mention this because, as I’m sure you are already well aware, it’s a big anniversary in the world of sumo wrestling – 103 years to the day since the birth of Tamanishiki San’emon.

San’emon (how lovely to be born with an apostrophe in your surname; Can’avan looks so much better) was one of the best ever sumo wrestlers, well until he snuffed it at the age of 35 after deciding to go ahead with a fight despite a doctor warning him that he urgently needed surgery to remove his appendix otherwise he’d die.

Turned out the doctor was right. Halfway through his bout, San’emon made a strange gurgling noise, fell over and went to sumo heaven, a building that must have a hell of a foundation.

For those who’ve never seen sumo wrestling, you’ve never lived.

It features two vastly overweight men (wrestlers weigh, on average, an eye-watering 31 stone) wearing what can only be described as giant nappies, trying to push or, preferably, throw each other out of a tiny ring (it is always advisable for spectators to steer clear of the seats immediately surrounding the ring less a bloke the size of a baby elephant land on your lap).

The sport originated in Japan more than 500 years ago, presumably because back then there was little to do and a surplus of extra large nappies.

Unlike, say, football or cricket, sumo wrestling has never really been adopted by other countries mainly because it is completely bonkers.

I may well be the only fan of sumo wrestling in the whole of the UK – a love that stems from the 1980s when Channel 4, perhaps hopeful that it would catch on in the way that the Premier League later did, bought the rights to screen it in the UK.

Each Saturday morning I rushed downstairs to watch it on the TV and to this day recall the concerned looks on my parents’ faces when they entered the lounge and saw me staring intently at two fat, half-naked Japanese chaps locked in an embrace.

I even had posters of the stars of the sport on my bedroom wall, so while my friends had images of Madonna or Kylie Minogue in frilly lingerie, I had a life-size picture of a morbidly obese man called Yutakayama Hiromitsu.

It was around that time my parents suggested counselling...

For a brief spell I wanted to become a sumo wrestler.

I read that their average day consisted of getting up at 11, eating a huge stew containing two chickens and various bits of fish, going back to bed for four hours, getting up for tea (three steaks and seven potatoes), then going back to bed again.

I hope I have sold the delights of sumo wrestling to you, but before you rush to put on a shed-load of weight and move to Osaka, beware that the sport has its downsides – mainly you’ll die about 10 years earlier than everyone else.

Health problems for sumo competitors include diabetes, blood pressure, kidney and liver disease, heart failure and, worst of all, serious nappy rash.

Might be safer to just shove a pillow up your shirt and attack your sister.

Sir David’s latest project is a bloody masterpiece

What a shame that the rather wonderful Planet Earth has come to an end.

Even at the grand old age of 90, Sir David Attenborough, the man with a voice so soothing it could send an insomniac to sleep, remains one of the best TV narrators of all time, though I must admit I feel sorry for his understudy (director of the BBC circa 1972: “Don’t worry Jeff, it won’t be long till David retires and you get the top job...”)

The series was every bit as impressive as anticipated and has considerably brightened Sunday evenings.

The news this weekend that it beat X Factor in the viewer ratings was heart-warming and a sign that society might not quite be going to the dogs yet after all.

My one complaint about Planet Earth is that there hasn’t been much gore in it.

Nearly every time they show a shot of, say, a lion chasing a giraffe, the giraffe has managed to escape.

I’d much rather have witnessed a true reflection of nature and the order of things and seen the giraffe having its head torn off.

As it is, I feel like it’s been softened slightly – a little like when school sports days stopped having winners for fear of upsetting the little kiddies – but then again, maybe I’m just a heartless old so-and-so.

That little macabre complaint aside, it’s been terrific and top marks to the BBC and Sir David for their sterling work.