Olympic Refreshments

Here’s your chance to get involved with the Olympics! Why not join Frank in feeding strychnine to the marathon-runners?…

Well, it took a seemingly endless series of lengthy phonecalls with Seb, but I am delighted to announce that I have won my Olympic contract. The company I set up, Key Marathon Refreshments, will be the official supplier of snacks and beverages to the Marathon runners during their twenty-six-mile slog. Now all I have to do is to recruit a team of little helpers, like Santa’s elves, to fan out along the route, ready to press our snacks and beverages into the outstretched hands of stumbling, exhausted, and hallucinating runners. The helpers’ bibs and tunics are currently being stitched and sewn by indentured orphans in a secret underground facility. If you would like the chance to be on the team, please leave your details in the Comments. Previous experience of handing out snacks and beverages at a major sporting occasion will be looked on favourably.

In spite of the ballooning cost, there was much talk of hosting an “Austerity Olympics”, taking the 1948 London Games as a model. For me, this was far too modern. Part of my pitch to Seb was to insist that we go further back, to before the two world wars, and to take as our model the 1908 London Olympics. This was an age of true amateurism, of doughty athletes in baggy clothing who arrived at the stadium on the same omnibuses and charabancs as the crowds, when everybody had stiff upper lips and smoked like troopers.

Hence my menu for the Marathon runners’ refreshments is identical in every respect to what their 1908 forebears got, to wit:

muscatel grapes

calves’ foot jelly with lemon

new-laid eggs soaked in tea

orange segments



small doses of strychnine

Absolutely true, as noted in The First London Olympics 1908 by Rebecca Jenkins (2008). I must admit I am sorely tempted to up the dosage of strychnine.


Frank Key continues his marathon 1,000-ish words per day over at Hooting Yard. Recent topics include Danish eel investigations, bog standards, and the Household Cavalry.

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

7 thoughts on “Olympic Refreshments

  1. nigeandrew@gmail.com'
    July 13, 2012 at 10:26

    Sign me up, Frank – I’m your man!

  2. george.jansen55@gmail.com'
    July 13, 2012 at 14:09

    Long ago I ran in the first District of Columbia marathon. I had not been organized enough to register, nor did I manage to rise in time for the bus I needed to catch. I started 20 minutes late, and it was about 10 miles before I saw people with runners’ frames.

    On Minnesota Avenue, SE, I passed a policeman who was explaining to an older woman that the marathoners run the course continually, not stopping off for refreshments; she was disappointed, having brought a skillet of fried chicken to serve. I don’t know why I didn’t stop for the chicken–I wasn’t registered, my finishing time was going to be a rough estimate.

  3. info@shopcurious.com'
    July 13, 2012 at 17:40

    Will there be enough strychnine left over for the cycle race? Preferably to be taken before the cyclists reach Wandsworth, as the one way system is clogged enough as it is.

  4. Gaw
    July 16, 2012 at 21:24

    I believe this is standard health spa fare, except the items are either applied as an unguent or injected beneath the skin.

    • hooting.yard@googlemail.com'
      July 16, 2012 at 22:12

      They inject you with new-laid eggs soaked in tea?

      • Gaw
        July 17, 2012 at 10:15

        If applied by a suitably trained therapist they are a wonderfully reviving exfoliant.

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