John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Friday 13 July 2012) London accents

John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Friday 13 July 2012) London accents

Roy surveyed his cluttered living room and decided that he ought to go to work. He spent the morning there, surfing radio news: thousands of troops to boost Olympic security; Michael Johnson carries Olympic flame through Stonehenge; Syrian civilians massacred; weather men forecasting yet more rain. The phone-ins: can you remember a summer this bad? Will the Olympics mean travel chaos? Londoners, we want to hear from you.

He spent the afternoon monitoring the Tour. The winner of stage twelve was Britain’s David Millar, who’d once served a doping ban. Millar dedicated his triumph to the memory of Tommy Simpson, who’d died on the Tour 45 years earlier to the day, his body, pockets and hotel room lined with amphetamines. Roy had forgotten about Simpson, who’d died when was he was twelve, but now recalled the shocked aftermath of his demise. Don had blamed dirty tricks by the French.

It drizzled steadily as Roy drove home from Croydon. He put a steak pie in the oven and opened a beer. Being out all day made the house feel emptier on his return. He took his pie and beer upstairs to what had been Lucy’s bedroom, a sterile space these days compared with Leila’s. He sat on the bed and switched on the little telly on the desk.

Roy was keen to watch the Diamond League athletics, live from the national stadium in Crystal Palace Park. Only two weeks until the London Games began; 14 days of scares, recriminations and speculation followed by three more weeks of the same, but with more sweat and slow-motion replays. Roy could feel his anticipation rise.

The pink running track was reflective-wet, but the women’s 400 metres hurdles was won in style by Britain’s Perri Shakes-Drayton, who burned up a top class field. She was new to Roy: a black girl from east London, pretty and lean. White man Roy, portly and plain, first willed her to the finish line then gazed at her as she unwound into limber elation: muscles, midriff, smile. Roy contemplated her, curious, and softly mourning the futility of his flickering desire

There was a trackside interview. Shakes-Drayton spoke, short of breath, of the opportunity she’d had to race against the best. Hers was an accent Roy knew only from snatches of overheard talk by a type of passer-by he preferred not to make eye contact with. She explained that she’d told herself, “Come on girl, pull your socks up.” She beamed: “I had some aggression on me!” And then: “Ah mean – I had a very good day at the office today!” Roy wanted to tell her he liked her, a girl to make a father proud.

Mo Farah easily won the 5000 metres: a skinny longlegs, Mekon head, stub of beard. Roy knew more about him: born in Somalia, a GB medal hope. Roy didn’t believe it, east Africans always won those events. Farah had a chirpy south London voice. An advert for McCain was behind him as he spoke. They were Roy’s favourite kind of oven chips.

All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE. Picture of Perri Shakes-Drayton, July 2012, from here. Follow John Vane on Twitter.

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Categories: Culture, Roy's Summer of Sport

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