Saturday dawns cold and bleak. Swimming is part of the International LGBT games including Badminton, Bowling, Golf, Squash, Tennis, a trail run, table tennis and Volleyball. For me it’s the usual morning routine eating breakfast at least two hours before swimming. The journey to the pool is by metro and bus, it’s easier than anticipated. A bus arrives almost immediately and I think it prudent to ask if I’m going in the right direction. It’s no use trying to pronounce Czech words as several of the letters have completely different sounds and they just look at you blankly, so I point to the stop on the brochure I got from registration. Yes I’m on the right bus. There’s a screen showing the progress of the bus, the next stop and several beyond, so further reassurance arrives when my stop is indicated.
The pool is part of the Charles University but situated in an outlying suburb of communist era social housing. Blocks of apartments have been brightened up with coats of pain and replacement double glazed windows. I seem to be the only one arriving at the pool but down at the dressing rooms there are staff to hand me a padlock and key. There are a few others changing and I get talking to a French guy from Lyon. He swims with a straight club there. He knows of a couple who belong to Paris Aquatique and soon has me organised to make up a relay team which we call Out in Paris. Everyone seems to know of Out to Swim London so it’s good to be representing the club here even if I am the only one.
It’s a small meet and we’re allowed three entries plus relays. I’ve had the start list and noted that I’m the oldest competitor here today. I’m also the only one in my age group, so I’ll be checking that my times are respectable. I’ve been to New Zealand for a week and although I trained twice with Team Auckland Master Swimmers I fear all the flying may be a problem. It’s not and my times are OK. The competition starts at 11 and the events seem to fly by as apart from the 200 metres freestyle and the 100m Individual Medley, everything else is 50 metres. The commentator does everything in English and we are a bit surprised when he announces the 500 metres butterfly. He continues in this way, but no one does more than 50. There’s an hour for lunch with free food and coffee and the afternoon session is over by 3pm. Our relay team has done well but there are no age group categories for these so we don’t beat the sexy young Romanian team. We have the use of the pool to swim down for the rest of the afternoon and there is a free masseur provided and I decide to take advantage as its all been quite concentrated.
There’s time for an afternoon nap before venturing out to a local eatery which seems to be serving traditional Czech food. I’m shocked to find that people are smoking inside and the waiters take no notice of me so I have to really insist on getting a seat. I end up sharing a table with a young man and his girlfriend. She looks very bored and he casts me an occasional uneasy glance. It’s a steak house – though it’s pork, not beef. Mine comes in a creamy sauce with chips which are the best I’ve ever tasted. The side dish of vegetables is green beans and baby carrots – very salty and from the freezer. It all gets washed down with the usual excellent local beer.
I’m off to the Rainbow Spring Party by tram. Again, it all seems complicated as the No 9 (because of road works) has become the No 29 but I’ve got instructions from the hotel concierge and all is well. I’m going to watch the Gay Theatre which precedes the party in the icy cold warehouse venue. Divadlo-Leti is presenting what the postcard says is Gay Theatre performed ‘in Czech with simultaneous interpreting into English’. It’s a play for one actor called After Frederick by Mattias Brunn a gay actor and playwright, written in 2007, so it’s a little bit dated. The protagonist falls in love with Frederick and has to come out to his Mum and Dad, both of whom are OK with that. The next hurdle is leaving home to move in with Frederick and all is well for two years until Frederick begins to act strangely. He’s HIV positive and so is our hero, who falls to pieces. Frederick commits suicide leaving the boy to pick up the pieces and carry on. So it’s quite grim. The staging is very Eastern European so that the floor is a checker board and the actor can only step on white squares of vinyl. If he wants to cross the stage, he must lay a trail of white squares to walk on. By the climax the white squares are everywhere leaving one mirror tile for reflection. Then in a frenzy the actor scrunches up the tiles and throws them into disarray. The scenery is doing the sub-text. I’m the only taker for the simultaneous translation, which has involved another actor behind a glass screen speaking the English version into my headphones. I can sort of hear both languages but it’s best to concentrate on the English and the actor doing it is good.
The warehouse venue is freezing and I watch the company dismantle the lighting rig and pack up the set whilst waiting for the party to begin. Various heat blasters have been deployed and I make the mistake of getting a red wine (which is terrible) instead of Czech beer (which is fabulous). My French colleagues arrive and we chat and shiver. The music is heavy and dull so by 11.30 I’m ready to catch the tram back to my hotel.