Thursday, 2 August 2012

My hopes for the Olympic Closing Ceremony

I vowed not to watch The London Olympics below, due to "sponsorship strangulation". Happily, this seems to have disappeared, at least from the main sporting venues appearing on TV.

I watched the Opening Ceremony until overcome with fatigue around midnight. I will refrain from comment on its entertainment value - apart from mentioning that I enjoyed Mr Bean's "beanish" antics which as ever reflected a certain innate British cunning. I thought the Queen was gracious to take a part, but the Fleming's Bond would surely have greeted her with "Good evening, Ma'am".

I was confused by an engineer in a stovepipe Victorian hat (Brunel) delivering Caliban's lines about "Isles of Wonder" from Shakespeare's "Tempest" but I admired the "long distance" endurance of the volunteers (one of whom I know)  who had rehearsed, in mud and terrential rain every weekend for 8 weeks - both Saturdays and Sundays. Many did a working week on top.

As far as I understood it, the storyline was:

British rural peasants (e.g. some of my Norfolk ancestors) survived the downturn in livestock e.g. horse dealing, a traumatic move to over-industrialised cities and smokestacks, to celebrate today:  "free" NHS care for the sick, the Beatles and 60s liberation, votes for women, Harry Potter and rap.

The trouble is that I cannot identify with this story. Having narrowly survived ME, I am enlightened about the limitations and even (sometimes) dangers of the NHS e.g. in relation to chronic conditions. I was never a keen 60s or keen Beatles fan. I am certainly not a "Harry Potter devotee". I cannot say that "rap" means much to me, though I warmly welcome "Windrush".

The fact is that my rural ancestors came through the trauma of "The Coming of the Machine" to become rather better off in London, through talent and hard work. They did not particularly welcome The Beatles, because they were were aspiring classicists by the 1960s.  Some had met the great composers or composed music performed at the Proms.   

This was due to Christian evangelicals' pressure in the 19th century for universal free education and free scholarships for the poor to places like The Royal Academy of Music. As a result, my family was no longer very poor and completely uneducated. They were avid readers and many had university degrees. They had done the Grand Tour - and more. They were engineers, musicians, lawyers, historians, curators, church ministers, civil servants, teachers, some constantly flying or sailing round the world, often sitting at the Captain's table - but now creating loads of carbon, living possibly beyond the limited resources of our highly populated, post-industrial nation and pushing the limits of our environment.

I keenly hope that the future chapter, dramatised in "The Closing Ceremony" will return us to "community" and "sustainability" in our green and pleasant land. I can think of no other conclusion that would have any truth in it -  for me, personally.

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