Thursday, 2 August 2012

Sport! What is it good for?

I haven't got a clue about sport but I insisted on watching the Olympics Opening Ceremony, mainly because I was convinced someone was going to shoot Boris Johnson and I didn't want to miss it.  Apart from that disappointment, a couple of things struck me:

Britain is stupid.  Lots of people online in the first twenty minutes complaining that all this grass-and-farmers stuff is really old fashioned, and do we want the world to think we're still like that.  Despite the fact that we still had a good three hours of history to go.

I am stupid.  I was moaning about tokenism (precisely one black mill-owner, one wheelchair dancer, etc), until I was reminded that most of these people were volunteers and producers simply had to pick the best performers for each thing from whoever turned up, so it was probably pretty representational.  In any case, all the performers were good and handled it with as much dignity as one can have while dressed in a top hat and performing interpretive dance about the industrial revolution.

No, it is Britain that's stupid.  Lots of different people online complaining that the production was "far left".  One expects this kind of spluttering from the Daily Mail, that's their job, don't do it for them.  There are many millions of things more left wing than saying "actually, world, we're quite proud of our healthcare system and the people who work in it".

Danny Boyle is of a similar age and background to me, and thus has exquisite taste in music (I'll let him off Frank Turner, since he did get the Who in twice.  I would have preferred Billy Bragg singing Jerusalem though).  

Trevor Nelson's cousin was in one bit, you know.  Nice to see #stoptalkingtrevor trending worldwide, as well as in our house.

The forging the ring bit was fantastic, but watching it without thinking of Tolkien was like listening to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.

I now get the point of sport a bit better.  I picked up lots of geographically educational stuff just from watching the parade of athletes.  Including the fact that our lot looked rather like a combined stag and hen party composed of budget airline crew. I really enjoyed all the background facts though - Bhutan didn't get telly till 1999!  The flag of Paraguay is different on each side!  

Maybe Boyle could now do some spinoff shows (The Adventures of Queenie?  Tim Berners-Lee and the Texting Teens?) to keep us amused for the next two weeks.  Or would the nation rather watch someone we don't know do something marginally more quickly than someone else we don't know?  Oh.

Was that a goal?

I was so delighted at being welcomed to Coventry by the nice ladies in the official purple Olympic shirts that I didn't notice the rest of my party explaining to them that, lovely thought and everything, but we don't need welcoming, thanks, because we live here.  Oh yes, so we do.  The stewards got on with welcoming everyone else - the fans who'd travelled from New Zealand and Cameroon, the general fans of women's football, and the rest of us who thought that it would be fun and interesting to go to an Olympic Game.  

The stadium is walking distance - it's the same place we saw the Specials last year, temporarily named the City of Coventry Stadium, as Ricoh weren't going to cough up the cash to be official sponsors.  Their punishment has been to have their name unscrewed from every sign in the place, leaving faint ghosts of clean lettering everywhere.  One tiny "Ricoh" remains, like a fingerprint, on the soap dispenser in a ladies' toilet.

It was hard to choose a team to support, as New Zealand holds happy memories and a good friend with her lovely Kiwi family, whereas Cameroon had nicer outfits. For me, it was more fun to not pick a side and just enjoy the game, particularly as I'm not really sure what a football match is meant to look like.  My highlight:  "official wine", a Brazilian Shiraz in an Olympic-branded bottle.  I was also really impressed by the Cameroon supporters who cheered and applauded both teams throughout, even though they lost.

I wonder what football supporters from around the world have made of Coventry?  Friends who've visited us tend to be pleasantly surprised, maybe because they get edited highlights - here's the Priory ruins, here's the Cathedrals, here's the museum, here's a wonky mediaeval pub, here's a Tudor street, here's a Pizza Express housed in a sixteenth century building with unpredictable floors.  Quietly cut adrift some of the less lovely shopping precincts, and Coventry would make a perfectly nice small town.  I hope our visitors got a chance to look around.  We've got a bit more crime than New Zealand and a bit less scenery than Cameroon, but we're as much part of "Team GB" as London is, and what's more, we have a 6 metre tall Lady Godiva who is currently making her way to London on a massive horsey-cycle thing.  I hope she accidentally treads on Boris when she gets there.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

A limerick for the Reverend Richard Coles

(I felt bad for being amused when he confessed on Twitter that he couldn't track down someone's ashes.  So I finished the limerick for him)

I have lost some cremated remains
I have checked all the bins and the drains
But it's really alright
For the soul's taken flight
All that's lost is the dust and some stains

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Feather forecast

We saw a kingfisher on New Year's Eve.  Zip.  Swoosh.  Shimmer. A bird made entirely out of onomatopoeia.  It was zooming down the river, under the bridge the foxes use to cross the road.  On Christmas Day there were three greater spotted woodpeckers chasing each other round the sycamore just past the end of our garden.  They came and had a peck at the food we put out, but in an ironic way, as if our bird feeder was a sort of avian McDonalds, not to be taken seriously, but handy for a quick bite while out and about.
Now it is icy and  the poor bramblings and chaffinches are having trouble getting seeds from the dispenser.  They can't cling on like the blue tits and great tits and coal tits do, so they hover like hummingbirds, surely using more energy vibrating their wings than they could possibly get from sunflower seeds?  I tried scattering seeds on top of the compost bin, but that is the squirrel equivalent of giving the date and address of a party on an unsecured Facebook account.

Moving to Coventry has introduced me to the suburbs and gardens and stuff, but more than this, it has introduced me to whole new times of day.  Walking to work at 5am, that's when I see the foxes.  It would never previously have occurred to me to consider a job that required getting up at 3.30.  3.30 is the night.  That is a time for going to sleep, not a time for getting up.  It is a strange unused time, a time for realising a party has definitely ended, for lying awake listening to the World Service,  heart-in-mouth hospital trips, confused visits to the toilet, waiting for Father Christmas, desperately trying to get something finished for the next day, or catching a holiday flight.  It's not normal.  It's doubly surreal to be using that time to put on a uniform and walk through the night to go and perform mundane tasks for a corporate employer.  It makes it kind of fun, because it's not real.  And you get to see foxes on your way there, and kingfishers on your way back.