TALES FROM AN ENGLISH SAUNA – BREXIT, AMOROUSNESS & GOSSIP
A couple in their early-twenties sit at the far end of the sauna, holding hands, stroking each other and whispering quielty. A slight but sprightly old man with sagging skin and a suntan to be proud of lies on the lower long bench, taking up most of the room and making it difficult for anyone to sit above him. He reclines with the back of his hand on his head and breathes deeply. Every thirty seconds or so he crosses his knees alternately, (occasionally brushing the writer’s leg as he does so but never acknowledging this fact.) One gets the impression that he spends as much time in the sauna as out of it. A tall, broad man with a large belly enters the sauna and remains standing by the doorway; there’s no room for him to comfortably sit down without clambering over the old man, who is not offering to move.
“Well, they’ve extended the registration another 24 hours,” the Asian man announces, crossing his arms. He almost fills the entire door frame and looks as if he were the Official Sauna Bouncer. He remains looking straight ahead at the wood-panelled wall, making it unclear exactly who he’s addressing, if anyone.
“What’s that?”, says the old Captain Sauna, not moving his hand from his eyes.
“The government”, the OSB replies. “They’ve extended the online registration to vote after the website crashed yesterday. We’ve all got till midnight to register now apparently.”
“Is that so?” asks the Captain.
“Uh-huh. They’re doing it to get the Remain vote. They reckon more young people will vote Remain, whereas most over-45’s will vote Leave. And most older people will already have registered.”
“Well that’s the thing, isn’t it… I just wonder what’ll happen if it’s very very close, you know, two or three percent in it – would there be a re-vote?”
“There’d be a re-vote,” assures the OSB, still looking straight ahead.
“And how close would it have to be for that?” asks the old man, turning on his side to address the large man standing above him.
“I’m not sure”, comes the reply as the OSB for the first time looks down to address his Sauna Captain.
“Hmmm. Well they’ll be a recount for sure,” says the old man, mopping his brow. “That’ll definitely happen. It’ll go to the wire for certain.”
“You think?” says the bouncer.
“Well yes, unless…” he pauses and takes a lonh sip of the hot, dry air – the only place to take such a breath on these isles so far this summer. “Unless a lot of people decide to switch and vote Remain at the last minute. You know, all this talk of leaving, I don’t know… But then,” he adds, “then people might not go through with it. Better the devil and all that… That could happen! I might even do that myself. I’m not sure which way I’ll vote, all these pros and cons and that.” A heavy sigh and a Changing Of The Legs as the old man again touches the writer’s leg without acknowledgment.
“Hmmmm”, comes the deep, thoughtful growl from the bouncer.
The couple in their twenties whisper to each other and begin kissing. Some minutes of sighs and lip-smacking pass and the heat intensifies. No-one acknowledges the awkwardness.
“Have you seen Tony at all?” asks the Official Sauna Bouncer, still assuming his position on duty.
“No, he hasn’t be down. Not sure but he might be on holiday.”
“Did he get his car fixed?”
“That old thing – that’ll never be fixed!” the Sauna Captain asserts.
“What is it, a ’72?”
“’73, I think. Not worth the hassle, if you ask me.”
Another long hot minute passes. The kissing couple, after taking a breather, have returned to their amorousness.
“And what about Mr Mann? I haven’t seen him down here,” says the bouncer.
“Ah, well, there’s one for you. Old Mr Mann has had a terrible falling out with Management.”
“Oh yes. There’ve been complaints.”
“What about, his wind?” the bouncer says with a long chuckle, still looking dead ahead at the sauna wall.
“Well, no, not that,” the Captain adds with an air of seriousness. “About what he gets up to in the changing rooms.” The man’s hand is completely removed from his face now and he makes eye contact to show the seriousness of the situation. “You know”, he continues, “when he sits there and picks the dead skin off his feet and then leaves it lying about the place. Not nice at all.”
“Hmmmmm”, comes the deep grimaced groan from the OSB.
The young couple halt their caresses, whisper something, disembark the bench and exit the sauna.
“Right, that’ll do me,” says the bouncer shortly afterwards. “See you next time.”
“Right-ho,” the Captain says, hand now back over his face, “mind how you go!”