I suppose I have a bit of a tradition on my website now of reviewing olympic opening ceremonies, and having just watched the Tokyo opening ceremony, part of me wants to say something about it; but what can I say? I think most of all, I am left with a sense of curiosity at what could have been. It was obviously a very paired down ceremony due to the pandemic, and much of it’s content focussed on the pandemic and it’s effects. Don’t get me wrong, there were parts which genuinely amazed me, such as the drones which lit up to form a globe, and I felt the speeches about global unity and cooperation really resonated. Yet, as many others are noting, it was much more low key than your usual olympic opening ceremony. You have to wonder what the Japanese could have shown us, had they had the chance: what spectaculars did they originally have in mind? Just imagine that the pandemic bomb had exploded in 2012, and this had happened to London. So much preparation, excitement and build-up, all to come to nothing and get replaced with a respectful, far more sombre ceremony performed to an empty stadium. What could we have seen of Japanese culture, apart from the glimpses we got? I suspect they would have taken the world’s breath away given the chance, but Japan’s moment in the spotlight was dimmed by a virus. You really have to feel sorry for them.
I know I’ve blogged about this before, albeit not for a while, but I’m still curious to know whether other towns and cities in the UK are seeing the same level of redevelopment London now is. I was just down in Greenwich for my daily wander, and you should see the amount of building going on: swanky, modern buildings and complexes of buildings are going up everywhere. Not far from my house is Kidbrooke, which in the last few years has been completely transformed into a very well-to-do, gentrified area of blocks of flats, plazas and parks. What I’m now wondering is, is this just happening in London or is it the same case across the country. I haven’t been out of the capital for a while: what are the places I used to know, like Crewe, Stoke or Macclesfield like these days? Are they developing at the same rate London is, or is all the money being ploughed into the capital while the rest of the country gets left behind?
At about half past nine last night, I was just settling down to watch some TV: Ken Burns’ Hemingway was on, Serkan had gone home, and I was starting to look forward to bed. A few minutes before I had heard the familiar ‘ping’ of someone sending me a message over Facebook, but I’d chosen to ignore it until after the program. Suddenly, though, my doorbell rang – something very unusual at that time of night. I got up to answer it, and saw my neighbour Bilal in his wheelchair carrying a large tray of food. He said ‘Hi’ and asked if I wanted some.
I was slightly confused – I had had my dinner, and hadn’t asked for any help. I invited him in, still in two minds about quite what to do: this was obviously a generous gesture, but accepting that generosity would mean telling him how to set up my Neater Eater. Yet I needn’t have worried, as, following my instructions, he soon had me ready to eat, dishing out some delicious-looking chicken and cheese macaroni onto my dish. And then the obvious hit me: it was Eid, and my neighbours were probably celebrating. In that moment I wished I knew the appropriate expression of thanks.
Needless to say, the food was lovely. After I had finished it, I thanked my neighbour, Shazil, over Facebook, noticing that she had, of course, messaged me about an hour before to ask if I wanted any. It felt great to know I have neighbours like that, and now live in a lovely little community where everyone looks after everyone else.
When humanity has reached the point at which two men have become so obscenely rich that they can build their own rockets and launch their selves into space, while millions of other people around the world are dying of starvation, desperately in need of medical aid or otherwise struggling to live, surely it is obvious that something is seriously wrong. While I’m all for the exploration of space and scientific research in general, for men like Branson and Bezos to spend billions on what amount to publicity stunts when that money could have been spent helping us get past the pandemic, really takes the biscuit. Surely it tells us something is wrong with the worldwide distribution of wealth, and that perhaps it’s time to reevaluate capitalism in general. Otherwise this problem will get worse and worse, the divisions wider and wider. The billionaires’ stunts will get more and more expensive, while more and more people are left to starve to death.
Today will always be remembered as the day that wearing a mask became an overtly political statement. Before today, of course, masks were mandatory in all enclosed public spaces: if you saw someone not wearing one in, say, a shop, it was reasonable to assume they had a reason not to, visible or invisible. Yet today mask wearing has ceased to be the rule and has become a personal choice; while they are still recommended, people can chose not to wear them if they don’t want to. In doing so, they are making an overt political statement that they don’t care about those around them; that they put their own petty comfort before the wellbeing of others. That is a statement I find as selfish, arrogant as contemptible as voting Leave in 2016: both boil down to the same egocentric, right-wing mindset, but here people’s positions on the issue are more obvious and the danger more immediate. While much of the blame must go to the tories for lifting the rules far too early when they know full well what would happen, I can’t help feeling utterly enraged by the bare-faced scumbags, now walking around shops, openly and loudly stating that they don’t give a damn about anyone else. In a way society in England has now been split in two: those who wear masks who care about those around them; and those who don’t, who ignore the advice and therefore treat others with contempt.
I was recently struck by an idea: if we in the UK benefit from a National Health Service, which guarantees healthcare for all, regardless of one’s ability to pay, why not take the next step and set up an International Health Service, possibly through the UN, guaranteeing healthcare for all worldwide? As Aneuran Bevan, who founded the NHS, himself said, “No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.” Surely that applies no less to human society as a whole. An IHS would allow humanity to coordinate it’s responses to crises like the pandemic, as well as making sure everyone gets the healthcare they need. Quite how such a body would work or be funded I’m not sure, yet surely the last year has shown us the necessity of working together on issues which do not recognise national borders. The NHS is the last remaining virtue of the UK; the only thing we lead the world on. Let’s take the next step and export it to the rest of the world.
This evening finds me exceptionally happy. Ever since I had to move my blog to wordpress, I longed for my archive of old entries to be restored. It was always sort of on the back burner: I knew it would be a huge task, and I didn’t have a clue where to begin. A few days ago, though, I began to think about it again, and started asking questions on facebook. My Australian friend Darryl noticed and kindly offered to help. I was in two minds about it at first, but he obviously knew more about it than me. I sent him the archive in pdf and gave him access to my blog, and I’m overwhelmed with joy to report that my full weblog archive, from 2003 to 2018, is now back online and readable on this site. This might sound silly, but it feels like fifteen years of work, fifteen years of my history, have suddenly been restored to me. I’m ecstatic, and feel like a party. Most of all, I’m indebted to Darryl.
You might notice somethings a bit wrong with my blog. My friend Darryl kindly offered to help me upload my archive. He succeeded, but unfortunately all the old entries were uploaded with today’s date. We’re both working hard to resolve the issue. In the meantime, please bear with me.
UPDATE: all issues have now been resolved, thanks to Darryl. My archive – all fifteen years of it – has at last been restored!
It’s a lovely day here. I’ll probably head out for my daily roll, and may well find myself a pub to have a drink in later, perhaps down by the river. I don’t go into pubs very often these days, and when I do I try to aim for the least busy times, say around mid afternoon. It seems to me that I better make the most of the opportunity while I can: those in the know are now predicting another massive surge in Coronavirus cases in a few weeks time due to restrictions being eased too quickly, so my hunch is, vaccinated or not, we’ll all have to lock down again before long. A Friday afternoon pint in a reasonably quiet pub is something to make the most of this year. If the recent past is anything to go by, we don’t know how long such liberties will last.
I remember two or three times in the past, suddenly coming across bits of news that made my jaw drop in disbelief. Days when, turning my computer on in the morning and checking the headlines, I do a double-take at what I see. They’re usually bits of arts and entertainment news which make me squeal spastically with excitement, such as when it was announced that James Bond would have a role in the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, or when we found out that the Monty Python guys were reuniting in 2014. Out on my trundle yesterday though, I began to reflect on how long it has been since one of those moments happened. I check the arts and ents news regularly in the hope of something to brighten my day, but it feels like years since such a moment of awesomeness occurred: no reunions to look forward to, no concerts to try to get tickets for. I suppose it’s a mark of the times we are living through that we are enduring a kind of awesomeness drought.
Yet history shows me that the potential for awesomeness is infinite: if Bond can parachute out of a helicopter with the Queen, and if Stephen Hawking can sing The Galaxy Song, then surely nothing can be ruled out. I have a feeling that one day soon, I’ll come to my computer and see a bit of news so shocking, so thrilling, that it will set me buzzing with excitement. What it might be I have no idea, but that’s half the fun; yet I know it will happen – it’s just a matter of time.