Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

'I lie there, avoiding eye contact with the men in tight Speedos who always seem to be at these places'

The Cooperman is not quite the finely honed athlete of his youth. Being a dad and breaking 40 has taken a bit of a toll on the old Adonis temple. Ben told me that I should go swimming as it’s the best exercise and there are always lonely chicks in bikinis hanging about. I took him at his word. About a year ago, I joined a posh club in Mayfair that has a very good pool. Needless to say, I hadn’t been to the place since paying the exorbitant joining fee, so I was glad to find a reason finally to do so.

I stop at a store on Wigmore Street and buy a couple of pairs of swimming shorts, some deep fluffy towels, and racing goggles. Suitably equipped, I turn up at “my” club, only for some snooty doorman to refuse to let me in, as I’m not a member. I argue with this guy for a good half-hour. Apparently, the problem is that I hadn’t filled out the “personal details” form, nor had I sent in a couple of photos of myself. So, they had taken my joining fee plus my annual fee but they refuse to let me in. How British is that? How “gentlemanly”. If only duelling was still legal, I could have sorted it out then and there with a pair of Uzis... I eventually have to go and get some photos done of me in a Tube station, and fill out the form at the door before this Nazi lets me in. He actually says: “Welcome to the club, Sir” as he finally opens the big doors for me. I give him the bird, and head off towards the swimming pool. This being a top, luxury gen-tleman’s club, the locker-room is disgusting. It looks like it was decorated in the 1880s, and smells just as bad. There’s a couple of fat old men sitting in towels, trying to sneak a peek at the Coop’s marital equipment. Welcome to Britain, repressed-sexuality capital of the world.

I get out of there pronto and climb into the pool. There’s an area for “free” swimming, and then two lanes, one fast and one slow. This presents a huge problem as the slow lane is seriously slow. In fact, it’s basically for the dead. There are about five old people drifting around in it, and it’s not entirely clear whether they’re alive or not. It’s like swimming through the aftermath of a ferry disaster.

I, therefore, opt for the fast lane, but this is full of a**holes in swimming caps who think they’re training for the Olympics. If you don't keep up with their impossible pace, and you get in their way, they try to plough through you like they’re the most important thing on the planet. I head for the “free zone”, but spot several bloody plasters on the bottom of the pool and finally give up. Swimming for exercise is not for me.

I get out and wander over to the loungers to rest my weary body and mind. A waiter turns up and I order an Americano (what else, huh?) and life seems a little better. I lie there, trying not to make eye contact with the men in tight Speedos who always tend to be at these places. I start to read the paper when I realise that there’s suddenly someone in the lounger next to mine. I get ready to parry the inevitable gay thrust when I realise that it’s actually a chick, and a real hot one at that.

She’s reading the Indy and keeps looking over at me. She finally leans towards me and politely asks whether I’m Cooper Brown. I love being famous. I smile and tell her that, indeed, I am he. I ask her if she’s a fan of my writing. She looks me straight in the eye and says that, no, she isn’t and she can’t understand why anyone would read my “misogynist, pathetic rants” every week.

She then starts to tell me that I should be ashamed of myself and that she knew of several people who had written to the Indy to get me fired. I totally lost it. I had not taken a day off to go swimming with gays and be harassed by chippy lesbians.

I stormed out of the place, got changed, and told the Nazi at the door that I was resigning from the club and wanted my money back. He smiled patronisingly and gave me yet another form to fill out. I tore it up into tiny pieces in front of him and hit the sidewalk. I’ve had it with clubs. The Groucho Club, my other haunt, now seems to let absolutely anyone in off the street as long as they can mention a member’s name. I was in there the other night, and I think that I must have been the only guy present who was actually bothering to pay the membership fee.

I’ve got summer blues, if I’m honest. I’m pissed off about my movie, my life, my having to live in the UK and be related to lunatics. I need a good vacation somewhere. I called Victoria but she’s too busy with the jewellery business. I tried Ben but he’s in the middle of some takeover and is at the office 24/7.

Then, just as I was despairing, Hugo, my mad brother-in-law, rings and announces that he wants to come and stay again. I suggest that we head off somewhere exciting and have an adventure week. He is totally up for it. This can only spell trouble ahead... and I LOVE it.

I’ll fill you in next week. Cooper Out.

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