He was sitting at our table drinking a pint of cider. I say "our" table because we'd booked it, as indicated by the paper label with my name on it, propped up next to the ketchup bottle. It was pub quiz night and, being tragically familiar with the names of Wags and TV theme tunes, we'd arrived in the hope of carrying home top prize. But it was he – aged about 30, muscular, turning a Blackberry over in his hands as he gazed at a football game – who would test our nerves that night.
This is what happened. Being courteous, we don't ask him to leave the table. We just sit down, and he even introduces himself. There are plenty of other seats in the pub, but we don't sweat it, not yet – besides, he says with a smile, "I'll move in a minute. I'm just going to finish my drink".
An hour later, the pub is packed, four more of our team members have arrived and we're struggling to squeeze around what now feels like a doll's house-sized table. The stranger is on his third pint of cider. He says nothing, and doesn't move. His phone rings several times, but he cuts it off. He glances back up at the game on occasion, but mostly, he looks at us. And drinks.
The quiz still hasn't started but conversation falters. The men around the table shift in their seats. I wonder if the evening will end in a Begbie-like episode of table turning, perfected by Robert Carlyle's Trainspotting character. I hate pubs, I say to myself, and I hate being polite. In the end, like a coward, I creep to the back of the pub and ask the female bar manager to get him to move, which she does. Naturally, this goes very badly. He demands to know what "issues" we have with him. He's tensed up and angry; we are flaccid and embarrassed and ashamed not to have found some solution that would have saved face all round. He starts arguing with the manager, she asks him to leave, which he does, but only after striding back over to our table to ask what he'd done wrong. Somebody croaks something about just wanting to have a nice evening but he looks glazed over and doesn't understand. We come second in the quiz. It doesn't matter: we feel like utter losers.
Flavio, the Godfather
So, Flavio Briatore, squirer of supermodels, co-owner of QPR and Renault F1 boss, has fallen on his sword following allegations of race-fixing. Is anybody who's ever met him surprised? This is a convicted fraudster who in a previous career in finance dodged the authorities and fled to the Virgin Islands.
A year ago, I interviewed him in Monza. It was a fortnight before Piquet's crash. He told me he found motor-racing "boring". What drove him was showing off, and winning – it seems, by whatever methods. One thing that I recall clearly was that his PA had customised her mobile phone to trill out the theme from The Godfather whenever her larger-than-life boss called. A case of a cliché that rings true.Reuse content