The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - July 14, 2016

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It was Mrs Canavan’s birthday recently and, being a soppy old fool, I decided to get her a present.

“What would you like?” I asked, generously.

Mrs Canavan staggered slightly to one side, looked gravely concerned, and asked if I felt unwell.

She claimed I had not previously bought her a birthday present in our 10 years together but that is a complete lie: in 2011 I bought her a mop bucket, and an expensive one too – the GX351 Fabbo with an extra absorbent side panel and folding inline flaps.

“Well, I don’t really need anything,” she said in response to my offer. “But I suppose I could do with some new underwear.”

This is true.

Mrs Canavan’s collection of bras and knickers are all the same – slightly baggy and as stimulating as a five-day coach tour of Grimsby.

It was all so different at the start of our relationship.

Back then Mrs C wore all kinds of frilly, lacey stuff and it always matched. Then, about five months in, any old tat pulled from the drawer would do and it’s stayed that way since. To be fair, it works both ways.

On our first date I wore a pair of designer underpants that were meant to be – how can I put this? – complimentary in certain areas. They didn’t, though, have the desired effect: the first time she saw them, Mrs Canavan looked worried and asked if I had a hernia.

As our relationship developed I threw out the designer pants (they were very uncomfortable to be honest, and the ‘complimentary’ design just led to mild disappointment at what actually lurked beneath) and began instead to buy, like every man in a long-term relationship, three pairs of boxer shorts for a fiver from Morrisons.

But I’ve digressed. Back to Mrs Canavan’s birthday present request and despite my attempts to persuade her to ask for something else, she was insistent.

Now I’ll be honest, I’ve never been shopping for lingerie before – well, not since I went through an odd phase in my late teens (mum and dad were worried for a while but I came through it).

However, I’m a modern man, living in a liberal, modern age, so I headed to Marks and Spencer and gave it a go. My word, it was an eye-opener.

For starters I didn’t know there was so much choice.

Mrs Canavan has around 15 pairs of bras and knickers. They are all a kind of off-grey colour due to one too many washes. Some have mysterious stains on them (those are the pairs she won’t let me hang on the radiator to dry in case we get visitors).

She has one ‘special pair’, as she calls it. They are silk and black and are worn only on special occasions (the wedding night, my great aunt’s 100th birthday, the final of Strictly Come Dancing, that kind of thing).

But in Marks and Sparks it was like a whole new world. There were suspenders, basques, thongs, corsets, garters, baby dolls. One garment actually had bits missing where bits most definitely should be. You’d catch your death of cold wearing them.

I approached an attendant and asked for some plain white matching underwear, adding hurriedly “for the wife, obviously”, followed by an embarrassed little chuckle.

I thought that would do it but the attendant began asking questions about underwiring and padding and sizes. “Well, she’s sort of medium, you know, not too big, not too small,” I said.

“What cup is she?” the woman asked.

This stumped me. “I’m not sure,” I stumbled, “she’s not mentioned cups before – we tend to use mugs around the house.” “Basically,” said the attendant, just at the exact moment a man from my badminton club walked past, “it’s the size of the breasts in relation to the ribcage.”

“Hello Steve, everything OK?” my badminton colleague shouted. “Fine,” I replied, cheeks suddenly the colour of a tomato ketchup bottle, “just buying a gift for the wife.”

The upshot is that in my hurry to get out of there, I bought a sort of silk mini-skirted nightie that, to my eyes, was quite sexy.

“What the hell is that?” said Mrs Canavan upon opening her present. “Do you think I’m some sort of page 3 girl?”

She returned it the same day and we’ve not spoken about it since.

The lesson is clear: next year I’ll return to type and avoid buying a present altogether.

Chestnut bites off more than I could chew

Well done Joey Chestnut.

‘Who?’ I hear you cry. Well hang your heads in shame for he is, of course, the man who holds the world record for most hot dogs eaten in 10 minutes.

Chestnut gobbled 70 at last week’s World Hot Dog Eating Championship – one every eight a half seconds – to win the title for a ninth time in 10 years.

Now you may think this is a just a bit of frivolous fun, but you’d be wrong.

Chestnut is a ‘professional competitive eater’ and, remarkably, makes decent money by winning such tournaments.

Chestnut – who is remarkably, given what he does for a day-job, quite a slender fellow – entered the competitive eating scene in 2005 with, according to his Wikipedia page, “a breakout performance in the deep-fried asparagus eating championships, in which he ate 6.3 pounds of asparagus in 11 minutes”.

Since then he has earned notoriety by devouring 32-and-a-half grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes; 182 chicken wings in 30 minutes; and slurping a gallon of milk in 41 seconds.

Chestnut trains by fasting and stretching his stomach with water and protein supplements. “This sport isn’t about eating,” he said in a recent interview.

“It’s about drive and dedication”.

Superb and much respect to him, but for the time being I think I’ll stick to a desk job.