Dom Joly: My metatarsal mishap makes me a footballing superstar

Sunday 13 March 2011 01:00

I'm back from Argentina, a lot earlier than expected. I was supposed to stay there for another week and then head south to go on an expedition to Antarctica for two weeks. Sadly for me, I was in Argentina taking part in a TV show called Total Wipeout and the name turned out to be very apt.

I broke three of the five metatarsals in my left foot on the last obstacle of the qualifying round. Adrenaline allowed me to somehow finish the course, but I was then whisked off to hospital in a most unglamorous manner and my trip was over. Good telly though, which is all that matters – right?

The irony of my getting a "footballing" injury in Argentina, despite my loathing of the game, was not lost on me. Every cab-driver would ask me what was wrong with my foot? "Metatarsal ..." I would reply. "Ahh! Rooney, Beckham ..." they would smile, sympathetically, as though my top international football career was on hold for a while.

I did love my five days in Buenos Aires, however. I'd always wanted to go there. In fact, I almost felt too much pressure before I went. Everyone I talked to said the same thing: "It's the best city in the world – amazing steaks, beautiful women, tango." It was as though everybody had been given the same script.

I really worry when I'm supposed to like somewhere, as usually the only way is down. To be truthful, I was a little disappointed on arrival. I'd been expecting some Latin overload and it all felt a touch too European – big, wide boulevards, a pick and mix of European fast food chains and supermarkets. Global homogenisation had been hard at work and it wasn't quite what I'd pictured.

The Argentine capital, however, is a slow-burner. It's a city that creeps up on you and slowly pulls you in. On my first evening out I decided to sample the legendary steak scene. Walking into my restaurant of choice at 8.30pm I did a double-take. The place was deserted, and I wondered whether it was closed. The maître d' finally came out, and looked at me in a puzzled manner. He looked at his watch as though I was crazy. Nobody even thinks about going out in Buenos Aires until after 10pm, and that is just for early drinks. God knows how anybody gets any work done, what with their complicated system of siestas and fiestas.

A startled waiter brought my steak to the table. I say steak: it was more like half a cow. The size of the thing was unbelievable. To prove how wonderful the meat was, the waiter proceeded to carve the steak with a spoon. It cut through the meat like butter and I looked suitably impressed. It tasted fabulous and I hobbled back to my hotel with my crutches buckling under the weight of an extra ruminant.

I did find one area that was vaguely Latin. La Boca is a very touristy district by the docks, and is full of multi-coloured little houses populated entirely by professional Diego Maradona lookalikes and tango dancers. Most of the dancers there were not really into their craft: it had become a bit of a chore. When their hot and steamy dance was over they could be seen sitting forlornly on a chair in a back room smoking a cigarette like some bored Russian hooker. Maybe they were just tired, having finished supper at five in the morning?

Now I'm back, and about to have my operation in glamorous Swindon. I'll be in plaster for a couple of months, and this will creep into my UK tour dates. I'm already looking around for one of those mobility scooters. I'm going to pimp it up and use it as part of my act.

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