Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Flame, Fury and Farce

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth, Act V, Scene V

I'm in two minds about the Olympics. From a sporting perspective, I love it. I enjoy the drama and the spectacle and the ridiculous sense that you get for five minutes that maybe in some small way it does the world good to come together for such a great sporting occasion. But then the drugs cheats rip right into that idealistic notion, and part of me thinks it's just a tawdry sideshow.

On top of all that, this time we have the knotty problem that is the fact that the IOC in their wisdom decided that China was fit to host the 2008 Olympics. The IOC of course have a fine history of giving the Olympics to dodgy nations (see Munich 1936, Moscow 1980) and of course in theory, politics and sports shouldn't mix.

I know six or seven years ago, or however long ago it was that China was awarded the Games, the IOC might have been forgiven for thinking that China was changing, becoming more consumerist, more western, more democratic, more like US perhaps, but hell do they pay no attention to human rights abuses?

The persecution of Tibetan monks isn't something that started a month ago, it's been going on for decades. And Chinese determination to destroy Tibetan culture is a bit of ethnic cleansing every bit as unpleasant as what happened in Bosnia. Tianamen Square happened less then twenty years ago, and I imagine (though I don't know enough about it to be sure) that plenty of its architects still have positions of power. Certainly from my quick trawl through wikipedia it appears that the Chinese government have all but wiped out reference to it from their history books, and a whole generation has grown up knowing nothing about it. They are benefitting from China's growing prosperity and presumably a lot of them are unaware of the brutality of a regime which is currently presenting a smiling face to a world that knows better.

So, I don't think China should ever have been allowed to host the Olympics, and I was pretty horrified when I heard the Olympic flame was coming to London. Personally I think Gordon Brown should have fudged it, sod whether or not we're hosting in 2012, it's about time our politicians showed some moral fibre. But hell, no one said anything about Zimbabwe or the Sudan till it was too difficult to ignore, why should they say stir up things with China? Because China are simply too necessary for us now. Where would we all be without their cheap goods flooding the market? And how long would our economy survive without their input?

And that is the nub of the problem. Jim White pointed out (rightly, I think) in yesterday's Telegraph that it isn't fair just to target the Olympics/sports people for getting into bed with China to suit their own purpose, we are all complicit to a degree.

I was initially against the likes of Sir Steve Redgrave, Paula Radcliffe and so many of my other sporting heroes/heroines carrying the torch through London, as it did seem that they were condoning what is happening in Tibet and elsewhere. But presumably when this was decided, the situation hadn't escalated the way it now has. What looked like a reasonable proposition even six months ago, looks very different now. Besides, as Sir Steve said on Sunday, he thinks protests against the flame should happen. By allowing the procession to go ahead and descend into the farce it has done, while it may damage the Olympic ideal etc (Olympic ideal, not already tarnished beyond all measure anyway? Discuss.), actually allows the wider voice of the protestors to be heard. I really really hope the Chinese government has been thrown into turmoil by the pictures beamed round the world of protestors trying (and succeeding yesterday in Paris) to extinguish the Olympics flame. And the banners already aloft on the Golden Gate Bridge make it all too abundantly clear what the rest of us think about Chinese abuses in Tibet.

I'm not normally a fan of civil disobedience, as I don't think ultimately it achieves all that much, but I have to admit to cheering when I heard yesterday that the flame had been extinguished, and the procession abandoned. No clearer message can have been sent to the Chinese government than that.

I also feel immensely sorry for the athletes involved. They train four years for the Olympics, they might only have one shot at it. They cannot be expected to bear the burden of feeble politicians' lack of spirit. And I think the people who carried the flame on Sunday in incredibly difficult circumstances deserve our respect. For people like Tim Henman and Paula Radcliffe to be booed (something I don't incidentally condone) must have been a bitter pill to swallow, but they could have easily opted out. The fact that they carried the flame and took the flak allowed the protestors to make their point.

I suspect this Games is going to be horribly controversial and leave us all with a bitter taste in our mouth. But now I think, yes, it should go ahead, because I hope it will become a focal point for people's anger at what is happening in Tibet, and though ultimately their sound and fury may signify nothing, it is, I think very much worth the candle.

Monday, April 07, 2008

My Perfect Weekend

So Dr Who's back. And oh what fun we had...

We enjoyed (to my surprise) Catherine Tate.
We loved Super Nanny Sarah Lancashire.
We laughed at The Doctor and Donna missing each other at the beginning.
Spouse and I particularly enjoyed the Bernard Cribbins cameo (and for me there was a particular sweetness about the fact he had an allotment).
but we thought on balance the adipose aliens were just a bit crap. No2 in fact thought they were the most rubbish aliens since the Absorbalof, and as she pointed out, THAT was designed by a nine year old, what's the Dr Who team's excuse hmm? All that CGI and that was the best they could do?

Having said that, it does hearken back to the pre CGI era, because let's face it, to those of us of a certain age most of the aliens (daleks and cybermen excluded) were a bit crap when we were growing up. And the sheer silliness of Dr Who sometimes is part of its perennial appeal. So I can put up with crap aliens for the enjoyment of Donna and the Doctor racing around, and having lots of good jokes. I particularly liked the one about journalists, and the mating one at the end.

And I did enjoy seeing a lot of him... (goes without saying)

And I was genuinely surprised to see something of her... which is nice and intriguing. My theory has been since Rose got trapped in the parallel universe that she is going to find a way through parallel universe Torchwood Cardiff rift, and make her way into our world as a ghost. It will be fun to see what they are going to do with it.

So that's my family's Saturday night sorted for the next twelve weeks. Haven't DARED tell them that Dr Who is off air for most of next year.
And if the return of the good Dr wasn't enough. We also wokeon Sunday morning to a blizzard, so we hotfooted it up the Downs (why aren't they called Ups? No 1 has been asking this question for years and I really have no idea), where we tried (and failed) to use plant trays and wash baskets as sledges - though luckily we met some friends who generously shared their proper sledges, the girls made snow angels, a really decent snowman for the first time ever, we had a snowball fight, and Spouse's fingers nearly fell off because he made the mistake of leaving his gloves in the car.
Once everyone was quite cold enough we went home to hot chocolate and hotcross buns, and all the kids put their pyjamas back on as they decided it was cosier.
Aaah. Dr Who, and snow. What a perfect way to spend the weekend. (Ok, Persephone, if you're reading this, I'm sure you won't have the same sentiments, it just doesn't happen to us very often!)
By the afternoon the sun had come out and the snow had melted as if it had never been.

I wonder if we perchance strayed into a parallel universe for the morning?

Friday, April 04, 2008

London Marathon

And they're off. Well nearly... On Sunday 13 April thousands of the terminally insane, otherwise known as marathon runners will be pounding the streets again for FLM 2008. I so wish I was one of them. (Don't tell Spouse but I am hoping to be again next year, as the charity I ran for, Tadworth Court Children's Trust is the official FLM charity next year. Any brave souls out there reading this might like to know that they are hoping to field a thousand runners to celebrate. Go on, you know it makes sense...

Anyway, it being a while since I've mentioned this:

coupled with the fact that someone picked up one of my You Tube videos and asked me to post it on the ITV grassroots website, I took the opportunity to do a little tinkering, and have come up with this:

You can see it on the site at:


And I've just posted the Pastures New one (unaltered though) here: