As a travelling sports journalist you hobnob with sporting figures in a plethora of settings. There are the glitzy promotional events at plush hotels.
There are the official press conferences at makeshift locations in and around the venue – at the WACA Ground in Perth press conferences are held at a damp indoor gym where water trickles down from the air-conditioner, and electrocution is a serious occupational hazard.
Then, there are more personal settings like sprawling farmhouses or ultra-luxe penthouses. At times, the locations turn out to be more than you bargained for – champagne joints in the afternoon or after-hours clubs in the afterhours.
Sometimes, of course, it’s very basic. Sometimes, it’s a portable toilet!
The toilet beat
Not, that it’s an entirely unfathomable place in journalistic circles. In fact, you’d be surprised to know that there’s a sub-beat of cricket journalism devoted to lavatories.
The toilet beat, as it’s called, is assigned to cub journalists who wait for commentators, who are mostly illustrious former cricketers, to put down their microphones and head to the restroom.
It’s not the most glamorous of places to get that first big interview but many have found their feet thus.
The incident that one was involved in was more co-incidental. Still it’s quite something to meet a David in the John. Especially if that David has the surname Moyes!
After a 1-1 draw between hosts South Africa and Mexico in the 2010 FIFA World Cup opener at the Soccer City stadium in Soweto, one headed down the four spiral levels it took to exit the venue.
If you pardon the pun, yours truly was rather ‘flushed’ after a match, and an opening ceremony, that promised much but delivered little.
As one made his way to the portable toilet, the words of Scottish novelist Irine Welsh echoed the sentiment.
“I fantasize about a massive pristine convenience. Brilliant gold taps, virginal white marble, a seat carved from ebony, a cistern full of Chanel no.5, and a flunky handing me pieces of raw silk toilet roll,” said Mark Renton in Trainspotting.
Upon entering the shaky, temporary structure the closing line of the above sentence rang loudly. “But under the circumstances I'll settle for anywhere,” said Renton as he made his way to “The worst toilet in Scotland”.
This one wasn’t quite the worst toilet in South Africa. It was close enough though!
Say it isn’t so?
As one was exiting, a lanky man in a sharp blazer opened the door and said in a Glaswegian accent, “After you,”, as he gestured with his right hand.
On closer inspection it turned out to be Moyes, who was in-charge of Everton at the time and in South Africa to provide colour commentary for an English broadcaster.
After acknowledging his polite gesture, one said, “Of all the places to meet the next Manchester United manager the men’s room would be the last choice.”
Moyes smiled — with his nasolabial folds (or what you non-scientific types might call ‘smile lines’) stretching from ear-to-ear — and said, “That’s very flattering, but I don’t think Sir Alex Ferguson is going anywhere,” before the conversation meandered onto topical news talk as it is wont to do.
Clearly, prophecy is not his thing!