I’m in the sauna with an angry Brexiteer as large as a sumo wrestler
Michael Harding: I knew that if I opened my mouth I could never unwind my rage. My anger would be incarnate in the air
In hot water with the raging Brexiteer
For me the most terrifying experience of the year happened just before Christmas in the sauna. I couldn’t find a place to sit. The bottom bench was occupied by two small men, one at either end. The top bench was occupied by two slim women, also at either end. And on the middle bench, dead centre, was an enormous Brexiteer. He was as large as a sumo wrestler. He had cropped hair, and his feet were spread so wide apart that not even a robust DUP politician would have dared disturb him. I suppose I could have retreated, but I didn’t want to show fear in the face of the enemy.
How embarrassing it might have been, to be discovered later, whimpering in the shower, about how afraid I was to enter the sauna, just because there was a Brexiteer in possession of the space.
So I moved towards the benches, hoping the bull would move his arse. But he didn’t.
Then the slim woman on the top bench, like a sensitive hen at the back of a coop, eyed me and understood my difficulty. She shifted her position, allowing me negotiate my way around the lardy arse of the Brexiteer and perch beside her.
Thus we sat in silence, though I knew from the emotional charge in the air that I had interrupted something unpleasant. And in a few moments the conversation resumed.
Although it wasn’t exactly a conversation. It was more like a sermon. The kind that might be delivered at a breakfast table on the morning after the French Revolution, by some bull of the English parliament in his stockings and dressing gowns, while his wife bowed meekly and punctuated her husbands right honourable rage with soft supporting heckles of “Yes dear, you’re absolutely correct,” each time he drew breath.
But this man didn’t enjoy the modesty of stockings or a dressing gown. Nor was his personhood embroidered with lace ruffles or ambrosial wigs. No. He was naked apart from his togs.
His mighty thighs spread open on the bench, and his knees like headlands at the mouth of a great inlet supported his flabby fists, so that he looked not unlike Gulliver in a land of small people. But this enormity only accentuated the tiny swimming togs that poorly covered the complete terror of his loins from view.
And despite all that flesh exposed, he was ever more shameless in his convictions. The Brexiteer was in full-throated rage.
“Brexit is f***ing Brexit,” he bellowed. “That’s the facts. People got to abide by it.”
I wondered for a moment if this was some kind of religious ejaculation aimed at god. Or was it directed at some other mortal in the coop.
And then the woman to my right replied.
“That’s all very fine,” she said. “But this Brexit is going to ruin everything.”
Now I understood the tension in the air as I had entered. For the pair of them were in full argumentative flight.
“What about Scotland?” she wanted to know. “They voted against it.”
She was clearly upset.
But his voice grew louder. His muscles quivered and wobbled as he took in breath to release his vitriolic assumptions with such passion as would have carried his words across the floor of the House of Commons to land on opposition benches like spittle in their eyes.
In fact the only thing that the small sauna required would have been a Speaker to sit astride the heater, shouting “Order! Order!” and I might have supposed myself to be in that august chamber of English democracy, replete with so much hot air.
“What about Scotland?” she repeated.
“They’ll have to suck it up, wont they?” he declared. “The British has voted and that’s that.”
I was about to point out that Scotland voted to remain in the British Union at a time when they were persuaded that it was the only way to remain in the European Union.
But I knew that if I opened my mouth I could never unwind my rage. My anger would be incarnate in the air. I would have created more dark karma not for him, but for myself. I would be glued to his voice, tethered to the smell of his corpulent flesh, for hours, if I was to do something as intimate as argue with him. So I said nothing.
And eventually he left. The rest of us remained; holding that delicious intimacy which rises sometimes, when a great bull has quit the stage, and there is nothing to do but relish the silence that is left in his wake.