The 2009 Chap Olympiad
Chaps and Chapettes take a break from the Olympiad for déjeuner sur l'herbe
The Andy Lear Report

IT IS BECOMING something of an Annual tradition that every summer I get an e-mail from fellow Handlebar Dave Hill asking me if I am going to The Chap Olympiad, me replying saying I don’t know anything about it and somehow the pair of us bowling up there and me ending up the next morning with a head like a bucketful of frogs.

The Picnic in Bedford Square GardensThis year’s Chap Olympiad was held in Bedford Square Gardens and it was a great deal easier to get to than last year’s trek. I arrived at about mid-day which was what time the event was supposed to start and about half an hour before it actually did. One of the things I most like about these events is that they are so well mannered. Sauntering round the square waiting for the gates to open, it was the norm to wish good day to total strangers and doff your hat to the ladies.

Another major improvement over last year was that there were two bars so when the gates finally did open I headed straight for the nearest one for an afternoon gin and tonic. Atters in full caddish mode I had had a text from The Hill saying that he would be there at about 12.30 (which turned out to be hugely optimistic). There were a few familiar faces there, some members of the New Sheridan Club that I had got tanked up with last year; Richard, I don’t know if he is a member of The British Beard Club but he was certainly in Alaska. Atters was obviously and conspicuously there in full caddish mode. He had somehow come by one of those mirrors on sticks that bomb disposal people use for checking the underside of cars, and later in the Bounders event got his face slapped fully (and most deservedly) many times for using it to ‘check the ladies’ hosiery’… but I get ahead of myself.

I originally signed up for two events, the Cucumber Discus (an event in which I had some experience from last year) and a new event, the Umbrella Jousting. Some time during the first event, the Martini Knockout Relay, D Hill Esq., along with wife Ruth, and infant Milly (a.k.a. Monkey), added me to a third event, The Moustache Tug of War. The team needed a name and since there were only two Handlebar Club members therein we decided to name it The 100 Yard Tash.

The rules of the Cucumber Discus were that the Cucumber Sandwich was placed on a plate, the ‘athlete’ was required to hurl the same down the track. It was not the distance covered that was important, it was the separation of sandwich and plate that was scored. Last year the winner had achieved victory by the simple, but underhand, expedient of folding the paper plate around the sandwich so the two could not become separated. This year the plates were made of china so that scheme was a non starter. Various other nefarious ploys were employed; I, having doffed my hat to the audience, placed both plate and sandwich in the well used panama in the hope that it would constrain the two items but I must have had a bit of a bumpy landing because it didn’t really work and I got a ‘score’ of 26 inches which at least was within the range of the tape measure, several were not, some were ruled out of bounds when a projectile missed Fiona (I can’t remember her second name but she is a friend of the Handlebar Club, partly because she is a photographer but not least because her sister owns a pub that we visited once). There were several perfect scores of zero and so first place was awarded to the one that did it with most panache and aplomb whoever that was, I think I was at the bar by then.

Andy commits skullduggeryThe next event was the Umbrella Joust. The combatants were placed astride bicycles, given a shield of the Daily Telegraph and a ‘safety’ bowler hat and simply had to unseat the opposition by whatever means possible. I fancied my chances in this event. Long, long ago in my misspent youth I was part of the Molesey Maniacs, the world champion unicycle hockey team of nineteen-eighty-something and I still have a pretty good sense of balance. Skullduggery was also encouraged and since my jousting umbrella had lost its handle, for the first pass rather than trying to unseat my opponent I lobbed the umbrella at his front wheel hoping it would jam the spokes and unhorse him. As the compère observed, it was a good plan and it might have worked... but it didn’t. The umbrella bounced off the front wheel and so we turned around for another pass. This time I simply applied the ploy of pretending to ignore the enemy and cycle straight past him but at the last second prodded him off his mount with what was left of the umbrella, Victory! Hazaa! I had hoped that there would be semi-finals and suchlike but it was not the winning that was important it was the taking part. Anyway, had it progressed to heats, I suspect I would have been bested by one of the stars of the show, a very game lass going under the name of Louis X1V who had recruited an entourage to keep her atop her steed. She was the first to spill blood on the field of valour though and had a decent scrape on her hand from her bout. Health and safety, I am pleased to report, was not high on the agenda.

Next came the Tug of Hair. A large fake moustache was attached to Atters who was reclining in a comfy chair and teams of (allegedly ten) had to pull each end of the moustache in the manner of a traditional tug of war. Whilst there were four teams, people just signed up and the teams were created ‘on the fly’. Obviously I knew Dave Hill and his wife who were in The 100 Yard Tash, there was also a fellow that Hill had met the previous week at some journalistic silliness involving the magazine Le Figaro, to whom I was introduced but alas his name escapes me. Other than that, we took whoever we could get. It turned out though that more than forty people had signed up so the organisers had simply added everyone over to the fourth team so it looked as though we were going to be heavily outnumbered. Now rules are meant to be broken and even though the organisers were encouraging a culture of caddishness, there were plenty in the crowd who still adhered to the idea of decency and fair play. When it was announced that The 100 Yard Tash would be at a serious numerical disadvantage, help came from all quarters and our actual team was probably twice the size that anyone reading the official list of entrants might have expected. Victory again! Hazaa!

Although Dave had signed up for the Pipaththlon, an event whereby the ‘athletes’ were required to complete the first third of the course at a saunter, the second by bicycle and the third by any means they chose as long as their feet did not touch the ground, there were more prospective entrants than the event could handle and unfortunately he missed the cut. Some very inventive methods of finishing the last third were in evidence though, most involving outside assistance. People were carried in impromptu sedan chairs, dragged on sheets, wheelbarrowed, rolled... you name it... they tried it.

Chaps win prizesThe next event, The Three-trousered Limbo I could not really see what was going on but I did take more of an interest in the Bounders event that I alluded to earlier. There were various assorted women dotted about the track and according to the official rules ‘a chap must say something caddish to a lady, that receives a slap. The bounder with the reddest face, but the wryest smile, is the winner.’ Not only had Atters come equipped with his ‘hosiery detector’ but he also had one of those telescopic grabbing appliances for pinching bottoms from what he deemed was a safe distance. He was much mistaken and some of the slaps he (more than justifiably) received reverberated round the square with no need for artificial amplification. Needless to say, he won the event hands down. The last event, The Grand Steeplechase was of little interest to me and I was saying goodbye to the Hills, who had to get the infant back to bed in Brighton, and then there was the prize-giving ceremony. There were only three prizes, not awarded particularly for victory in the field but for simply entering fully into the spirit of the event. I forget the name of the winner of the Gold Cravat; he was a fellow of presumably Arab extraction who entered every event and had remarkable pointy shoes. The Silver Cravat was awarded to a cove known simply as ‘The Chairman’ and the Bronze to the previously mentioned Louis X1V who I am sure would have won gold had she not done so the previous year.

After the events were over there was an allegedly burlesque performance which to be frank I thought was a bit weak and then a band. I had heard the band warming up and I was expecting the worst but actually they were pretty good. I am not much of a dancer at the best of times and I had had more than a few G&Ts by then but Richard (who can dance) had bagged a couple of chappettes and could only deal with them one at a time so as a matter of public service I gave it a shot. It seemed to me that I was doing rather well, such is the invidious nature of alcohol. I suspect that to a sober onlooker it might have been somewhat less impressive and ‘my’ chapette finally got fed up with squashed toes and bruised shins after about an hour and escaped. No matter though the event was pretty much closing and so on to the pub where, once again, I was welcomed into the bosom of the New Sheridan Club, as convivial a bunch of chaps as a Handlebar could hope to meet. All good things, however, come to an end and wishing them all a drunken goodbye I headed home eventually which is where I sit now sipping aspirin and hoping I am recovered in time for the next event. End of text moustache


Text © Andy Lear / The Handlebar Club MMIX