Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Being English

I was chatting in the lane outside the patio gate and my neighbour was complaining about the heat. I replied to the effect that, 'you are Greek, so of course you moan, but in England we don't see the sun and so when we come here we ...' and then I added an extravagant gesture of bliss; the wordless communication necessary when the command of language is deficient. Martin Amis put it much better in this interview about living in New York:
All I care about is the color of the sky. Have you spent time in England?
He is right - it is the brilliance of the light, the absence of the uniformity of grey, dull skies and the intoxicating, star-filled darkness of a warm night that I relish about being here.

And with the Olympics about to start, this also seemed spot on:
David Remnick said the English feel Schadenfreude about themselves—they delight in their own suffering, they take a sort of grim joy in that. 
The Olympics aren't my sporting cup of tea (to continue with the metaphor of Englishness) but friends of mine have been eagerly chasing tickets and are looking forward to the events with excitement. Meanwhile, those who would rather they turn out to be a failure are having a field day - they absolutely love G4S. There are also the usual contributions from those who hate sport and therefore think that it must be morally wrong to like it and that us sports fans have to be defective, or, even worse, pitiably deluded and unconsciously oppressed. Some leftists seem to cling to the hope that it will all go wrong and bring down the government, others just think that everything is deeply politically suspect. At least the gift for satire (as opposed to cynicism) is still alive and kicking everything within range:

The best anti-Olympic rant is Andrew Rawnsley's, simply because you can't fault his critique of the commercialisation, the costs and his argument that the supposed benefits are unlikely to materialise. He's right. Just ask Athens. Though his conclusion is impeccably cheery and utterly English in its final sentiment.
For all the blunders during the build-up, I have a hunch that the actual event will be largely successful. I hope so. Even an Olympiphobe doesn't want to give to the French the satisfaction of being able to crow that they would have done it so much better.
But for every cheerful sceptic, there is always miserablist waiting in the aisles. Hello Simon Jenkins.
I must balance the pleasure of watching young people competing for medals against dismay at the billions spent turning my city into a tacky shambles.
Dismay Simon? Come on, you're English. You're enjoying it.

I blame the weather.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

No offense intended, but it's funny how Brits became bipolar about the games. First they (you, not personally, of course) fight for the honor to host the thing and then curse it to kingdom come.

Anton Deque said...

'We' did not fight for the honour. I judge most of us are fairly indifferent, some openly hostile, others very enthusiastic; in fact, a mixture of responses as one would expect. In London the Games have not been popular with the wider public but that might change. The British media have a reputation to maintain however. They destroyed the Millennium 'Dome' (now a successful entertainment and exhibition venue) and other British 'flops' that in reality were not so. It's really a very British thing, so I can't help you further.

The Plump said...

I would say it s very English, rather than a British thing. We are a multi-national nation.The national sport is moaning. A friend who runs a small holiday company here put it beautifully. They arrive in paradise and complain about a spot of rust on the pearly gates.

However, it is a tendency that is magnified many times over by the media.

Anonymous said...

The best Olympic critic that I've read since we got lumbered with -- sorry, awarded-- the Games, is Iain Sinclair.

Too long for a screen, but a fine piece in the LRB is worth spending some printing ink on.

Anonymous said...

Don't want to go on, but an Englishman moaning about the greyness of the sky has spent too much time in London, or perhaps Brighton, the town I've lived in with the dullest sunsets.