The following is just one of the chapters from a book by my late friend Gordon Thorburn. The book: 43 Unsporting Moments was illustrated and in parts inspired by myself and at times our joint ventures into sport.This one, was inspired by the man himself who enjoyed his squash and his beer, more the latter than the former. You can apparently get it on Amazon for 39p, or £17-50!
I did do a drawing for the piece, but frankly it really does not need it.The references to Steffi Graf and Bo Derek do rather date it, but it never fails to induce giggling from me.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
PARTS CANNOT BE REACHED
Germans are impressive, don’t you think? At least, the young ones are — tall, slim, fit, no self-doubts about their physical impact. And do you know why this is? And the girls? Why all German girls have superb figures, lean and louche, like Steffi Graf without the weight training? It’s because they have mixed sauna baths in Germany. Your correspondent was on a squash tour or, more properly, a trip to a squash team tournament in Hanover, when this discovery was made. His team, from a small English market town, had taken six players, one of whom had never been on tour before. Your correspondent, who had been on several, volunteered to step down from his well established position at Number Five string, nobly permitting his virgin colleague to play and thus sacrificing himself to three days of beer and bratwurst.
The gesture of self abnegation having been made and the first two half litres of Sonntagdonnerschnellmeisterhof having been downed, he had this conversation:-Six foot two, muscle-rippling, 100% fit, blond, blue-eyed, 24-year-old German from paratroop training college in Bonn: “Hello, I hear zat you are not playing for Bungleton, and zat you vould like to play for Bonn, jah?” Five foot nine, flabby, 11% fit, balding, red-eyed, 38-year-old British from smoking room of The Plasterer’s Arms: “Oh no, that’s alright,really. Ha ha.” German: “Unfortunately ve haf to play Klaus at Number Von because he is not happy ozzervise. But you play at Number Two kanst.” British: “Number Two? I was only playing Number Five for Bungleton and we’re just a four-court club, not a bloody squash-demonium like Bonn.” German: “Come on, ve know zat all English are good players.” British: “Well, I’m not.” German: “You English! So modest! Ve play you zen at Number Sree. You are on Court Ten at elefen o’clock.” The Germans are as well mannered as they are fit, which was how your correspondent got a game out of that match. He found himself playing the West Germany (at that time) Under 18 National Champion who, despite his lack of experience, could see that it was not quite the accepted thing to do, to wipe up a fat old visiting English 9-0, 9-0, 9-0, even if he could have done it with a seven pound weight attached to each testicle.
Your correspondent did not regret drinking until 4am that morning. There was no point. Had he led a totally abstemious life from Moment Zero he would still have lost that squash match. He thought it unnecessary for their host, the Hanover number one and an expatriate British, to greet him in the corridor with “Finished already?” That was regrettable, but nothing else was, except possibly the fact that he had another match at one o’clock and yet another at four. The sauna, he felt, would rejuvenate him. It would render him, if not fit, talented and determined, then at least serviceable.
About to enter, he could hear two lovers within, kissing with great enthusiasm and eating half-melted ice lollies at the same time. Then, there emerged two god-shaped and naked young German males whose private equipment would have tied for first prize in the produce tent at the Bungleton Show. Your correspondent hoped that the sauna would now be empty of Germans because his own private equipment was much abashed, more a shrunken violet than a symbol of British might such as Nelson’s Column or Churchill’s cigar.
The sauna was empty, and big enough to seat maybe 30 or more on wooden benches like a steeply-rising amphitheatre around the hot coals. Phew! That was better. He could feel the beer beginning to seep from his pores. Who cared if he was fat and had been humiliated by a German boy at squash? So what? He had other qualities. While he was trying to identify such features of redemption, in came a young Ursula Andress, or it might have been a young Bo Derek. She shrugged off her towel and sat, naked, about two yards away.
Taking care to ensure that the meagreness of some parts and the plenty of others was concealed as far as possible, he tried a sally. “I’m playing in the squash tournament” he said, with unsurpassed brilliance of wit, unparalleled aptness, and timing which even George Burns could not have equalled.
“Jah, so my husband is” said Ursula-Bo, massaging some skin lotion into her self-levelling bosoms.This was too much for your correspondent who, wrapping a towel around himself while trying to appear as if he wasn’t, went out and climbed up a ladder set against a gigantic wooden barrel full of water. At the top, he jumped in. When he came to the surface again, he wondered how Vorsprung durch technik managed to keep water in a liquid state when it clearly was so many, many degrees below freezing point. Heclimbed out and looked for his towel.
If swimming in the sea at Saltburn can reduce the male appendage to the size of an infant whelk, then surely the plunge barrel at the squash club in Hanover can render it invisible to the naked eye, especially when the eye, brackets, naked, is Ursula-Bo’s, who can climb plunge-barrel ladders astonishingly well.
Your correspondent decided that he would have a sauna after and before each squash match. In this way he could be doubly humiliated by naked German Apollos and Aphrodites alike, then he could be decimated on the squash court, then at about half past four he could say ‘Sod the lot of you’ and get pissed as a rat.
Thus he could show them that whatever they did, they could not grind him down.
He thought of other squash tours where similar things had happened. There was the one in Holland, for example, when out of three fixtures of five matches each, his team won just one game and therefore lost the tour 45-1. It was culture shock, he said to himself. I mean, finding that the Dutch have chips* not with fish, but with peanut sauce and mayonnaise; that one-year-old Gouda is the best cheese in the world and not at all like the stuff exported to Britain; and that the beer, which has the same name as in Britain, is absolutely excellent.
He remembered driving through customs. A zealous-looking officer had been about to open the rear door of the estate car and thus discover any number of bottles of Geneva gin plus vast quantities of contraband Gouda, when it was mentioned that all that sports kit was from a three-day squash tour. The official immediately lost his appetite for exploration and waved them through.
Of course, if we took strong clrink for long periods before and after squash matches, we must expect to lose. And we didn’t care, which was what made us superior. We didn’t care if we lost. Let our opponents care if they wished. Let them go naming and abjure all temptations. Let them do press-ups and trunk curls, while we warm up with pickled herrings and aquavit.
And then it hit him. That’s why all young Germans are physically perfect.
Well. Let them lead monkish lives of abstinence and self discipline just so they look great in the sauna. Huh!
It was half past three. He wrapped a towel around him, went to the bar, bought a beer, and walked with it into the sauna. There were four naked Ursula-Bos in there, and three male equivalents.
He dropped his towel, made sure they all got a look, and sat to drink his beer. Their faces conveyed a strange mixture of horror, contempt and fear.
OK, so you’ve got Hardy Kruger, he thought. Well, we’ve got Hardy Amies.
Damn! He’d left his cigarettes in the changing room. That would have shown them, wouldn’t it?
When I first posted this earlier today, I managed to get a typo in the headline! Mr Thorburn would have been underwhelmed.