Gardening Leave, part 4

More lies. Obviously.

Studio voice  Good morning, Madames et Monsieurs! Good morning, and welcome to The Stuff of Champions! And here’s your host, everyone’s favourite alliterative former Arsenal defender turned scout turned television personality … Gilles Grimandi!


And today’s special guest, the one and only … Monsieur! Raymond! Domenech!

Applause. Studio lights up, music fades

GG  Hello! Hello! Hello to all of you. And hello to you, M. Domenech!

RD  Good morning, Gilles. And may I say what an honour it is to be invited onto your show.

GG  Why, thank you —

RD  (to camera) And good morning to you too, viewers.

GG  Excellent.

RD  Shall we talk about the World Cup?

GG  (laughs) Ah, M. Domenech —

RD  “Raymond”, please.

GG  Raymond, then. We will come to the World Cup, I can assure you. I am surprised, in fact, that you are so eager! (audience laughs)

RD  It was a wonderful time. They both were. Truly wonderful.

GG  But first, Raymond, please tell us what you are doing with yourself at the moment.

RD  Of course, Gilles. My pleasure. I am doing a lot of gardening.

GG  Gardening?

RD  Gardening.

GG  In … the dirt?

RD  In, as you say, the dirt. I have an allotment.

GG  An allotment. Tell me, M. Domenech —

RD  Raymond.

GG  Raymond. What are you growing?

RD  I am growing asparagus, and I am growing beetroot. I was growing rhubarb but somebody or something has been playing around with it. I do not know who. I am growing lettuce, and …

GG  … and?

RD  I am growing … the future of French football!

Audience gasps

RD  Yes! I am coaching the children of Paris! Soon, a new generation will continue the glorious tradition of French football, and I, who led the great teams of the past, will have nurtured the great teams of the future! Like the courgette, coaxed from fertile soil; like the vine, reaching for the sun —

GG  This would be the under-11s of the Athletic Club de Boulogne-Billancourt?

RD  It’s very prestigious.

GG  Indeed. A proud Olympic history. In judo. In cycling. In figure-skating –

RD  No matter. The future is what counts. The children look to me and they see a proud man. A capable man. A winner.

GG  A winner?

RD  A winner. I tease the children. I say “When you have won two World Cups like Raymond, then you may go home. Until then, more laps!”

GG  Two World Cups?

RD  There was one small boy – a funny story, Gilles – one small boy, who was a star. He was brilliant. Reminded me of Vikash Dhorasoo at his most terrifying. And he came to me one day and he said “M. Domenech, here is a piece of cake for you. It is my birthday.” And I said to him “Your birthday? But, it is November 7!” So I took him into my office and showed him my charts, and my books, and I explained to him that the dominance of Pluto means that his fundamentally introverted nature and the feminine aspects of his character could only undermine the team, and I sent him off to the judo teacher. Poor little mite. He cried and cried. (laughs)

GG  Sorry, Raymond, if I can just take you back —

RD  The cake was very good though. Lemon drizzle.

GG  — you said “two World Cups”, yes?

RD  I am afraid I did not bring my medals.

GG  But surely, M. Domenech, you do not have any medals to bring.

A long pause

GG  My apologies! Apologies! There is, of course, the runners-up medal from 2006, where we lost on penalties. Only on penalties, ladies and gentlemen! (applause builds, fitfully, then quickly subsides) Now, M. Domenech – Raymond! Sorry! — how did it feel, to get so close to —

RD  We won.

GG  Pardon?

RD  We won. Yes, Gilles. We won. We won!

GG  Ah, Raymond, I think –

RD  When Zizou was dismissed, the boys were scared. They did not know what to do. The Italians were so strong. So strong. They were unnatural. Cannavaro was so bald. Gattuso was so hairy. Those shirts were so tight. So I said to them; I said: do it for Raymond. Do it for your coach.

GG  Raymond –

RD  Six perfect penalties. Sylvain, bottom-left … crack! David, top-right … crack! Eric, Willy, Patrick … crack! crack! crack! And then, to win, Fabien! Straight down the middle! I could hear the crowd. “Raymond! Raymond!”

GG  Ray–

RD  Then the Euros.

GG  Ah, yes. Now. You didn’t pick —

RD  (laughs) If I am honest, I barely remember the final.

GG  The final?

RD  After the struggle against Spain in the semi-final, the final was a relief, if anything. Two early goals — and it’s not often Thierry scores once with his head, let alone twice! — and we were home. The Germans tried hard, but we were effortlessly superior.

GG  No, no, Raymond. Please. Let me –

RD  And then, of course, South Africa!

GG  Did we win that too?

RD  (laughs) Ah, Gilles, you big silly!

GG  Good, good.

RD  Of course we did!

GG  What?

RD  Do you not recall? Ah, but you were working. The stress, Gilles, you must take care of yourself! This time, we knew the Spanish were coming. This time, we were ready. I remember saying to Anelka before the game: “Nicolas, the will be marking you. I will play at you at right-back, to give you space.” He replied — well, I can’t say what he said on television. But he scored.

GG  He scored.

RD  The only goal. But I was not nervous. We were always in control.

GG  Nicolas Anelka, playing at right-back, scored the winning goal in the World Cup in South Africa for France.

RD  Well, yes. Who else should he have scored for? (laughs)

GG  M. Domenech.

RD  Raymond.

GG  Raymond. Listen. All these victories –

RD  I know, I know. Yet modesty remains my greatest attribute.

GG  No, listen —

RD  I am well grounded. I have my family, and my allotment.

GG  No! Listen to me!

RD  I grow beetroot!

GG  Listen!

RD  Caulifower!

GG  (shouts) Listen!

RD  (hysterically) Jerusalem artichoke!

A long pause

GG  Raymond —

RD  Will you marry me?