Driving to work this morning up the B1363, lots of twists and turns, long hills, a light dusting of snow on the ground, I had Radio 1 on. Nick Grimshaw is the current Breakfast Show DJ. Here’s “Grimmers” from his twitterfeed.

"Grimmers"

He was doing the usual Breakfast Show DJ nonsense, this was all fine. Couple of not bad tunes in there. Then he introduced a segment about sport, using Soul Limbo by Booker T. and the MGs. He said, during it, that he loved it from growing up and had been disappointed to learn that it wasn’t an actual pop record. He only knew it, as generations of British kids who watched any kind of sport on telly ever would also be familiar, as the music from Test Match Special. The “cricket theme”. Oh, you KNOW:

“Grimmers” then starts having a five-minute discussion with the studio extra, who pointed out that it was, in fact, quite well known as a separate entity, “back in the day”. He sounded a bit embarrassed, to be fair. The piece about sport ensued. Meanwhile I am having an increasingly shrill imaginary conversational Q&A with “Grimmers”. It is one of those rhetorical rounds where a series of statements of fact are ended with an interrogative because you CANNOT BELIEVE that the person with whom you are speaking is unaware of this information:

‘It’s called Soul Limbo. By Booker T. and the MGs? Booker T. and the MGs, you know?’

‘They were the house band at Stax? Responsible for most of those classic soul/R&B sounds?’

‘They did a really famous song called Green Onions?

‘They were the backing band in The Blues Brothers?’

‘You are telling me that you got to be nearly 30 YEARS OLD, and a DJ on national radio, and you DO NOT KNOW the name or performing artist of one of the most iconic pieces of music in recent British media history?’

In my fever’d mind, Grimshaw, who has been nodding at me open-mouthed, responds:
‘We be, uh, jammin?’

GAH!

The Olympics are in full, exciting swing, and I’ve been busy watching that and enjoying the holibobs from school, and not having internets, yadda yadda.

Global sporting events only come round every so often, and they always seem to bring floods of grumps professing uninterest. You know, comments on the lines of “I shall be avoiding London for the duration,” or “Time to catch up on my 50 Games of Throats box sets…” I understand this. Sport is not to everyone’s taste, and if the point of the javelin, say, eludes you, well, enjoy the DVDs. You say shark, I say hot dog!

During this XXX Olympiad (everything about it is very sexy as far as I’m concerned), I’ve been aware more than ever of people coupling this kind of attitude with wider analytical agenda. Some of which I agree with, for example that some of the money for the Olympics would have been spent better on local sports clubs. £9 billion is an awful lot of sports kit. Private lanes for traffic… who is getting what slices of this massive cake? And it is, of course it is, a massive look-over-here distraction from the continuing sliding of the world into a morass of unevolved violence and environmental catastrophe.


The icing on the Bildenberg (that’s a take-the-cake joke for conspiracists) came with the opening ceremony, which prompted a lot of discussion as to Danny Boyle’s ‘intentions’, because some people still think that what a creator intended matters. There was such a lot going on during it, when these notes were compiled. Guzzling red wine for Britain, for example. If you want a blow by blow account of the ceremony, Warren Ellis did a very effective job on the Twitter. For us, it was a bit of a haze in the smoke from the artistic insania of Danny Boyle, who in a barrage of information overloading our fragile little eggshell minds at one point became confused with Frankie Boyle, dark comic arts insulting dolphins and Olympians everywhere for no apparent satiric purpose… This Boyle /Anti-Boyle personifies the confusing, exciting, “eccentric” melange offered to the world, which seemed to us, at the time, perfectly weighted for its intended goal of showcasing Britainland to the watching billions as a haven for creative oddballs and world forgers since the beginning of time, even since the era of Middle Earth and the formation of the One Ring.

You had, on the surface, a ‘slightly skewed’ but really straightforward rendering of a few hundred years of British history, packed together in a post-avant-post spot-the-referent tea-and-biscuit barrel of hyperventilating hyphenations. Sir Kenneth Branagh playing the frock-coat and bibberty bobberty-hatted I.K.Brunel, surveying his works with a mixture of awe and trepidation… the white light/white heat of industry and explosions of colour… lines from The Tempest speaking of a sense of admiration and wonder at all that twangling noise emanating from this little isle. An interesting choice, lines spoken by the ‘monster’ Caliban, specifically noting that even good captains of industry are not what they seem, perhaps merely players in a larger sport, playthings of the ineffable spirits that Prospero (Boyle, presumably) can only briefly control…

As a centrepiece, it celebrated in an appropriately Eton Messy way perhaps the last truly Great British collective effort, the NHS. Boyle’s vast play led to a bunch of diverse opinions as to its “true meaning”, including representations of childhood, a time of illness, ‘fictional’ children – the characters in the masque – threatened and protected by fictional heroes and villains, layer upon layer of meaning, obviously, as any exciting work should provide. People whose blogs I read, political figures and people close to me were in turns excited and disturbed by the dark elements in this, with readings including the death-by-Tory-dementors of the Health Service, or in fact a reinvigoration of it and the common Brits who have benefitted from it. A Tory publicity hound considered the scene a bit ‘leftie’ – this is the one who went on a stag do dressed as a Nazi, though; conversely, Conservative Mayor of London Boris Johnson, the spiffing BoJo, denied this reading utterly, praising the service – er, ceremony, excuse me! – as a celebrating Margaret Thatcher’s ‘victory’ over the miners. This endeared his razor-political-mind-lurking-behind-a-tousled-posho-fuckwit-mask persona to me still further. But then again, what are we to make of his role as the Hanged Man (Reversed)?

Well, quite – some things are also just very funny. Still it comes, though. The web, invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, also saluted during the Boyle/Boyce extravaganza, is helping to sustain battalions of the commentariat, armchair snipers… Aforementioned issues with the broadband in our new home over the last few weeks have meant that there has been no blogging, micro or otherwise, and no dipping one’s toes into the information pool. Following links to news reports at the Graun, in Wired, BBC, all over the usual shop, I am reminded of just how deeply in trouble, thrashing around in the waters of constant information and multi-layered analysis, some people are. There seem to be thousands of humans spending hundreds of hours commenting on threads with such earnestness, glibness, vitriol, lack of self-awareness… one wonders what drives it. More crassness in people hissing comments over the Twitterfeeds at athletes, people seeing and sustaining the dark side everywhere…

However, to return to that opening ceremony, there was this vibe of affairs of state explicitly linked to deeper, more positive magic all the way across the show. Frank Cottrell Boyce, writer of Millions, a book about two children that find a stash of money that brings fleeting fame, with the backdrop of a saintly dead mother… Look (as a couple of the BBC’s commentators have taken to saying all the time, as if their words are about to proceed across the screen in subtitles, or something, Ian Thorpe, I’m looking at you), look, possibly there was some sort of reference to some sort of something. You have a very proficient and innovative film maker directing a script written by a children’s fiction author. I would have been shocked had there been a ‘straight’ (rather than extraordinary, perhaps) rendition.

Yet, again yet, and perhaps this is a signifier of me getting bored with people attaching too much significance to occultism, I think the symbolism was played off a pretty straight bat, to mix sports and metaphors. The lighting of the cauldron moment was moving.

Preceded by the passing of ‘the torch’ from Olympians past to present, and the collated copper petals of global Olympian striving burnished and burning as they reached for the sky (etc)… Symbolic on an uncomplicated level, of human desire to run faster, shoot straighter, push ourselves further. AND, happy to note, the beautiful structure was constructed in York.

What’s my point? Any effective art works on a bunch of different levels; there is no real true meaning but the one you choose to take; people like to look for allegory when what are to be found are more elusive metaphors that cannot be said to ‘be’ one thing or another. This is not to ignore or be unaware of these dark narratives, but inspiration was what I got watching this, continue to get watching these athletes doing incredible things with their bodies. Not a feeling of being trodden on.

Perhaps that’s what They want me to think I’m thinking. I know what I know, as Paul Simon once suggested. While many commenters delight in distancing themselves from the Olympic flame, depressed by the march of corporate sponsorship… well, you don’t have to just accept the shiny shoved in your face. You can just ignore it (consumer choice, innit?), or you can answer back. We went to see the torch as it came through York. Here’s me and my best beloved responding to the Lloyds TSB photobus project that preceded it…

…although to be even-handed in our disdain (and after Spinal Tap) we were still jeering the Coca Cola bus.

So yeah, one might be cynical about the value or relevance of the Olympics. However, and to declare an interest as a teacher with a bun in the missus’s oven, when I see kids up trees wearing fake Bradley Wiggins sideboards near an ‘Inspire a Generation’ logo, I am pleased. Inspire a desire to burn off the opposition, undoped, that’s Wiggins. If even a fraction of that opening ceremony’s trawl through sixty years of pop music, Kinks riffs, Pretty Vacant, Satisfaction, Beatles, Atomic Kitten, Dizzee Rascal, brought anyone else to a frenzy of ‘Yeah, that was OURS’ chest beating nationalistic fervour and a wish to make an album better than the Stone Roses’ debut, job done. If the GOSH! Section, with JK Rowling, was suggestive to anyone that they could write a bubillion-selling heptalogy of books, or perhaps even be a Good Nurse like Mary Poppins, rather than a soul-stealing fiscalon dementor or whatever, then it worked the same magic as it did on me. If all you saw were bleak visions of mind-controlled proles, drone workers enmeshed in the hegemon, good luck to you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some stew, and some really tasty bread, and the wondrous Jess Ennis is about to throw a javelin into the eye of a cyclops.

Non-soccer fans not wanting to read something all about le foot may wish to look away now.

Today was the official closure of the first Transfer Window of the year in the UK, which was again being treated by the BBC and Sky Sports News (generally the two most reliable sources of soccertainment upon our sceptred isle) as the Single Most Gripping Thing to Happen in Association Football.

Perhaps the nadir of rolling news non-event sports journalism filler, the reportage throughout today was particularly poor. First of all, setting up a relatively recent innovation as something footie fans have been eagerly anticipating since the days of Sir Stanley Matthews is disingenuous and more than a little reminiscent (in its sickly enforced carnival excitement) of the Seasonal Red Cups at Starbucks “tradition” campaign.

Second, the posts on both the Beeb‘as it happens’ and Sky’s Clockwatch took on a tone of holiday camp enthusiasm, the typing on the tickers speaking of reporters all wearing a rictus of desperation as non-event after non-event spattered their empty chat room walls with rotten eggs, tomatoes, shite.

Witness the BBC this morning:

1154: Is it just me, or is one done deal graphic for five hours work a touch on the disappointing side? Worry ye not, though – it just means there are more to come. Plenty more. Is everyone you know getting involved yet?

Glossing over the graphics – technology now allowing us to assign a whimsical little icon for every possible permutation of non-event, such as the flying pig for ‘wild rumours’ – and the concluding plaintive and misguided attempt at whipping up some, any, interest, however, it must be noted that plenty was not forthcoming. It was not, if you will allow some abysmal football-related wordplay, even top ten finishing or relegation battling. Fast forward to:

1701: Of course, there’s bound to be stuff going on we still don’t know about. There’s just bound to be. Or I can just get my coat and leave…

…and you can almost hear the hiss of the toaster in the bath, Brian. At least the BBC were trying to lighten the tone by admitting it was watching-Johnstone’s-Paint-dryingly dull. Over on Sky, the channel that arguably invented modern football and take it VERY SERIOUSLY, in the way that people with buckets of cash depending on the issue will tend to, the tone was much more studied:

15.19 Sky Sports News understands that Valencia midfielder Ever Banega will not be making a deadline day loan switch to Everton.

That “understands” was priceless. It must have been so dismal in the Sky News Room having to cover what essentially amounts to a bunch of faxes being sent between lawyers that any attempt at intrigue was to be encouraged. How do you make nothing happening interesting? Over to Jeff Stelling:

“Exciting news from Merseyside there; our sources suggest that there is confirmation nothing is also happening at Ewood Park – Charlie.”
“That’s right, Jeff, nothing IS happening here in Blackburn. Nothing was rumoured to be taking place earlier on, and we can now verify that to be the case.”
“Great stuff, Charlie! Now, over to Jim at the Stadium of Light, where there’s nothing happening… can you illuminate us, Jim?”

Etc etc etc.

Eventually, it became obvious that the only way to liven up the Traditional Excitement would be to have the hapless hacks at the BBC and Sky covering each other’s updates:

16.55 Sky Sports News believes that the BBC suggests Svensson is NOT going to Bradford on loan, we understand we can reveal.

One could have gone on for, oh, 8.5 hours or something. Easy! Easy!