Griping from the sidelines

I often amuse myself by disagreeing with just about every word that Carola Godman Irvine writes.

Sometimes it provokes nothing more than a non-plused shake of the head (such as her ludicrously cringeworthy and over the top hagiography of The Queen recently, imbuing our monarch with the genius of Einstein, the wit of Marx (Groucho, not the other one) and the humanity of Gandhi, and identified in her latest column as apparently the next Helen Mirren).

But this week she provokes far more earthy sentiments with her musings on the opening ceremony of The Olympic Games. Where to start? Carola’s assertion that it wasn’t “honest”, presumably because it didn’t “cherry pick” her own favourite historic events, is a scandalous accusation. To rubbish the inclusion of the NHS, probably this country’s greatest post-war achievement, as “mundane” is quite astounding. “Surely we have more iconic institutions”, she says. Really? A few investment banks perhaps? The only one that rivals the NHS, in my view,is the BBC itself.

But Carola’s icing on the cake was her breathtaking and frankly insulting suggestion that patriotism and multiculturalism are somehow mutually exclusive, conveniently forgetting that multiculturalism is our history, either through invasion or assimilation, from the Romans onwards, and very proud of it we should be.

What “true blue blooded history” did she wish to see? Hundreds of years of bloody conquest and colonialism? The dismantling of our manufacturing base by her heroine Margaret Thatcher and the mandate for the culture of greed and hypocrisy now coming home to roost? The re-domination in most aspects of life of the rich, titled, and privileged who don’t have a clue about the “ordinary people” (sic) they pretend to represent? I can’t quite imagine it. I hope Carola appreciates how the two world wars were fittingly, sensitively and beautifully commemorated by a short period of silence.

Carola finishes by saying that the event portrayed the UK as “stuck in the past, useless, and out of date”. Er, did she not see Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who brought the world up to date, at the climax of the show?

Thank goodness most people have rightly praised the opening ceremony as a triumph, leaving only the narrow-minded curmudgeons who are themselves “out of date” to gripe from the sidelines.

Philip Talbot

The Old Poorhouse