Disasters Of An Olympian Kind

I have had cause to write of this before but I had one of those days, the other day and so thought this worth repeating.

You can imagine the sort of day I’m talking about. You manage to put on mismatched shoes, the keys you take aren’t for the front door and the debit card in your wallet is the one that expired yesterday and the new one is safely in the drawer by your bed. I was contemplating the lack of any ability to catch the train I needed to catch to make the appointment I’d fixed when a woman stood up from the seat and headed for the incoming train, which I was destined to wave away. As she did so her left leg seemed to lag behind and then remain lagging as she pulled at the unexpected inertia. The train doors were now open and a certain panic had set in. For some reason her leg was refusing to leave the bench. With one final heave she kicked her leg and it freed in a very respectable arc, were she to be taking a goal kick.

Sadly that was not her plan and the result was a yawing tear and her tights ripped in ways I doubt tights do very often at 8.17 on Crystal Palace station. Just before the doors closed I caught her eye. She was mortified. She may have been carrying a spare pair but for the whole journey and a bit beyond she was going to be channelling her inner punk without the spiky hair and piercings, naturally.

Which made me think, of course that, most of the time when you think things are bad for you they are probably worse for someone else.

Which then made me think about the times when that was patently not true.

And as I stood on the platform, there, on the horizon was an immediate memory trigger for one such terrifying disaster and a salutary lesson if ever there was one, which was…

Do not, ever, let me bid in an on-line auction.

Especially if it involves an Olympic torch. Or anything really.

Back in the early days of 2012, as we headed towards the glorious summer that was London’s Olympics, I was working at LOCOG – the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games as a lawyer. By this time the Olympic flame had been lit by the rays of the sun on Mount Olympus in Greece and flown to the UK to begin it tour around the four corners of the nations that make up Great Britain. Every bearer of the torch got to keep their own version but, naturally, spares had been made to ensure they flamed at the appropriate moment. By now there were quite a few such spares and the powers that be decided to auction them off. Some were signed by celebrities to increase their attractiveness.

So it was that one warm afternoon, in about March 2012 that I was sitting at my desk and I had this mad urge to bid. A neat souvenir, I thought.  I looked at the latest available torch – signed by Jonathan Edwards. They were timed auctions and this one had about 25 minutes left. The price was somewhere around £2,200. The last couple, not signed, had gone for about £2,000. So I thought, you know, I’ll spend a bit of cash here. I registered, I thought about my bid and decided to go in at £2,750. I’d knock out the competition. I  remember being very careful where I put the decimal place – after all I didn’t want to bid £27,500 by mistake, did I? I clicked ‘bid’ and a short message appeared on my screen.

‘Congratulations Geoffrey. You have bid £1,375,491.72. Keep an eye on the  bidding to see if you have been successful. There are 15 minutes left.’

I shat myself. I couldn’t have done that. I hadn’t typed that. There was a mistake. A MISTAKE. I banged the Esc button, I tried to go back. I ripped the cables out of the machine and rebooted. How on earth could I stop this happening? By now I was pouring sweat. I’d just sold the f*****g house to pay for a sodding torch. ‘Hello darling I’m home. Shall we pack now or after dinner?’ I hunted for a contact number. All I found was an email.

Dear sir. I have just bid – I could barely put in the number – but I didn’t. I couldn’t have. I withdraw. It’s clearly a mistake. Please. Call me.

I gave my mobile number. The message was full of typos but off it went and I sat back. Of course, nothing happened. I stood. I prowled the floor. I worked in an open plan office and no one was aware of the humongous catastrophe that was about to rip the nadgers from me in less than the time it takes to make a decent cuppa.

I had a moment of inspiration. We were the body in effect selling these torches. Someone had to have a contact number I could call. With as much sangfroid as I could muster, I found that person, I calmly asked for the details, trying not to pool sweat into their key board as I lent over their shoulder to read what came up on screen and hurried to find a private space to call them. Less than 5 minutes to go.

‘Hello, is that [name withheld]? Can I just check about the current on line auction for the torch?’

‘Jonathon Edwards? Yes it’s going really well.’

{Groan} What is the highest bid? I think I may…’

‘Two thousand four hundred.’

‘What? Have all the bids come through to you?’

‘Yes we have instant updates.’

New Forest-20120714-00008
some of the stories of those carrying the torches were inspiring

It turned out they had me registered but no actual bid. Shaking somehow I explained what had happened. My new bessie laughed. No one bid that sort of money. I tried to join in his gaiety and failed. He rummaged around his site but found nothing indicating I had bid the national debt of Latvia. He laughed again. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll clear your registration. But sorry, you’ve missed Jonathon. Still, David Beckham is coming up. You can go for him.’

Oh sure I was going to do that again. I had already been informally self-defibrillating off a uplighter I’d yanked out of the wall for the last ten minutes. I slunk away. I went home early. I sat in a dark room with the lights out. Every time I watched another inspiring image from the torch relay my left eye twitched much like Herbert Lom in the Pink Panther films.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in humour, memories, miscellany, Olympics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Disasters Of An Olympian Kind

  1. Now I must change my garments

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Funny experience with online bidding:) I’ve worried about that sort of thing with Ebay and only do the “buy it now” items these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. George says:

    Was the auction sponsored by Tena Man?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. willowdot21 says:

    Oh! Geoff I had already read this and so knew the outcome.. but I was still sweating in sympathy 💜💜💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Darlene says:

    This was very funny. I can’t understand how that could have happened. Whatever would you have done with a £1,375,491.72 torch??

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mary Smith says:

    Love the 72p at the end of the line of numbers – just roughing it up a bit to make sure?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My underarms weep for you. Great outcome. Tough journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ritu says:

    Oh my!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So, no Olympic torch then?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Adrenalin is definitely brown Geoff! Bloody hell!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Your train mishap reminds me of a terrible bus ride my poor husband endured. A very large very drunk man kept asking to get off the bus. The driver carried on without stopping. Suddenly the very large very drunk man yelled “Everyone pick up your feet.” Yup. A river cascaded down the aisle!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. josypheen says:

    Oh noooooo! Did you need to change your undergarments when you saw £1,375,491.72?

    p.s. Poor lady at Crystal Palace! when a day starts off that badly, she should’ve got off the train and got to see the dinosaurs in Crystal Palace park. They would probably like her new punk look. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It took me quite some time to stop laughing long enough to write this comment. My daughter read it first and gave little away. I was rolling on the floor and at 70, that’s quite the sight. Then I laughed all the way through the comments. I think everytime I see a torch, I shall laugh freshly, thinking about this.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. How are you still alive?
    With the kind of odds your attract — the earth should have opened and swallowed you down to the lower tectonic plate by now.
    Good Grief – this had to be a horror.


Comments are closed.