The Thing Is With Steve Canavan

Iwent to a swimming baths at the weekend because, for the first time in my life, I have a roll of fat on my stomach and feel the need to sort it out - or at least I have since Mrs Canavan casually remarked about the new postman's smouldering looks (she's right too; he's a dead ringer for David Beckham, so good-looking he even looks cool in a Royal Mail uniform).

Apparently swimming is an effective way to lose weight (though I could try eating a bit less as well I suppose), but it’s not a pas-time I have ever felt comfortable with.

There are three reasons for this, the first being my dad almost drowned on a family holiday when he went for a swim in the sea. We were on the beach playing cricket and saw him waving at us. We cheerfully waved back and carried on playing. Fifteen minutes later my blue-faced exhausted father staggered pathetically on to the sand and collapsed. Turns out he’d been caught in a strong current and his wave hadn’t been a greeting but a cry for help.

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The second reason for my ambivalence towards swimming is that I’m not very good at it. I am to swimming what Jose Mourinho is to good humour. I seem incapable of using my arms and legs in unison and can just about manage two lengths of a pool before requiring a lengthy break and a generous helping of oxygen.

Lastly, my torso - it isn’t the best, indeed if it wasn’t for my wrinkled, wizened face I could easily be mistaken for a 13-year-old boy. Much as I’ve tried lifting weights over the years - well, I’ve been to the gym twice - my muscles have steadfastly refused to increase in size. Biceps are something I’ve never experienced, and thus appearing in public in a pair of trunks and nothing else, with my pathetic body on show to all and sundry, is not something I’m keen on.

But because of this little bulge of fat which has suddenly appeared I headed to the pool and gingerly entered a little ringed off area marked as the slow lane. There was also a medium lane and a fast lane and much as I wanted to jump in one of those, I had to be realistic.

The upside was that the other two lanes were quite busy, whereas I had the slow lane to myself and set to work, completing my first length of doggy-paddle in a reasonably quick time, just shy of 11 minutes.

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Then from the far end I noticed a bloke wearing goggles and dressed in a horrifyingly small pair of Speedo’s (put it this way, it looked like he had two small boiled potatoes stuffed down his trunks) emerge from the changing room, clock the other two lanes were busy, and jumped in my lane.

He began to swim furiously towards me and, reaching my end, proceeded to do one of those fancy Olympics-style upside down turns and push off back for his second length, simultaneously spraying water over my face.

I was mildly annoyed but graciously forgave him and set off back up the pool. I was barely a quarter of the way along when he was back passing me again. This time, and despite the fact I was tight against the rope on my side of the lane, he caught my right thigh hard with his foot. I turned around, expecting him to stop and apologise, perhaps offer to pay me substantial damages, or at the very least get me a cappuccino from the cafe afterwards. But he carried on swimming, seemingly oblivious to the vicious assault which had just occurred.

At this point it’s fair to say that I really didn’t like him, which is probably unfair. I mean for all I know he may have been a born-again Christian who had devoted his life to raising money for the homeless in Somalia. But it wouldn’t have mattered - I’d made my judgement.

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This fella was clearly flouting the rules so I did something uncharacteristically daring. I began to swim at a leisurely pace right up the centre of the lane, knowing full well that Mr Speedy would have to either (a) swim right into me at speed (I was very much hoping this wouldn’t happen as he was quite a big chap and, a bit like a road collision involving a Range Rover and a Fiat 500, I was pretty sure I’d come off worse) or (b) he’d have to stop, which would really annoy him (all good swimmers hate to be held up or to have to stop).

I swam down the centre, he headed towards me at break neck speed, arms flailing, head bobbing up and down, spittle flying from his mouth in all directions. Then, just when it seemed my life was about to end with a sickening thud in a communal swimming baths, he abruptly stopped about 30cm from my head, stood bolt upright, and shouted/spat ‘what the hell are you doing blocking the lane?’

I said, calmly, that this was the slow lane and that if he wanted to swim like Duncan Goodhew on illegal substances he should use one of the other lanes. He began to shout back at me, when the lifeguard - probably delighted to have something to do after spending his last seven hours watching a variety of unhealthy-looking folk splosh around in water - appeared from the side and said in the direction of my aggressor, ‘sir, do you mind getting out and using the fast lane?’

Faced with the voice of authority - despite the fact the voice of authority was about 16 and looked like he spent his evenings swotting for a Maths GCSE - shouty man meekly clambered out of the pool and trudged towards another lane.

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With the sweet taste of victory in my mouth, as well as some of the Speedy man’s spittle, I leisurely did a couple more lengths then got out to celebrate victory with a brew and an ice pack on my bruised thigh.

Menu for a mad world

I walked past at a restaurant on a trip to London recently and, as you do, casually glanced at the menu. What I saw stopped me in my tracks for I can say without hesitation that it was most pretentious nonsense I have ever seen in my life.

So flabbergasted was I that I stopped to write a couple of the dishes down. Here they are, recited word for word as they appeared on the menu.

“Pacific Ocean Black Cod Fillet: hand-glazed with a Japanese tamari and amuka honey reduction. Delicately balanced on a sumptuous organic pearl barley risotto, hand in hand with a delightful English courgette flower beignet, teriyaki jus.”

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Blimey, it probably takes longer to read that than it does to cook the thing.

Here’s the other – “Carpaccio of Maldivian long line caught yellow fin tuna: fanning an island of Rio Grande Valley avocado creme fraiche, with a splash of Goan lime, coriander and sprinkled with toasted organic sesame seeds, topped with young coconut.”

Damn, I would have ordered that but I really wanted old coconut, not young. Gutted.

I was so incensed by the whole wording of the menu that it took all my self-restraint not to march in and complain to the proprietor. What’s wrong with beans on toast, I ask you? The world has gone bonkers.