I think I must have been the only person on the planet who, enjoying both satellite TV channels and, albeit intermittent access to the interwebthingy, missed the opening ceremony for the London Olympics. Put that down to a deeply ingrained cynicism for what once was supposed to be an event open to all citizens to enjoy and amateur athletes to compete in, and is now just yet another example of a costly ‘prestige’ project of the kind the World Bank and IMF roundly criticise formerly Third World (to be politically correct) Developing Economies for executing.
Having read all the reviews of Danny Boyle´s Greatest-Ever-Show-On-Earth-Ever, and having downloaded, at glacial velocity some of the highlights from You Tube, I do feel a bit of a fool. Looks like my grumpiness and scepticism led me to exclude myself from what appears to have been a great and widely regarded spectacular. Hoisted with my own petard, so to speak.
As if still unconvinced by the evidence of his own eyes, John Gray over on Going Gently posted waxing lyrical (he really should be a professional reviewer of the dynamic Arts) asking his readers whether they concurred. Well, much as I would have liked to respond, a few minutes of internet highlights of a three hour show hardly qualified me.
So I thought I would let John know what the Angolans thought of it by surfing a couple of their on-line newspapers, then cut and paste a few good quotes and post them as a comment on his blog.
For the Government view, one needs to read the Jornal de Angola, the state controlled media outlet. Not a single mention. Bugger all. Ok, I thought, I’ll swing over to one of only two independent newspapers in
and the only one having an online presence,
Folha 8. What surprised me wasn’t that
Folha 8 hadn’t run a story on the opening of the 2012 games, but that they
weren’t there anymore. All I found was a
notice saying the site was down. Angola
Blimey. What’s happened to Folha 8? I have to remind you, I live in the sticks. We don’t even have electricity or running water, never mind a paper delivery so I do get a bit behind.
I decided to ask Marcia because she knows everything.
‘What´s happened to Folha 8?’ She snorted.
Women do that, don’t they? Repeat an honest enquiry with the rising inflexion reserved for idiots.
‘It’s in jail’ she said.
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe her, more that I was trying to imagine how one jailed a newspaper, but my mind works like that sometimes. I mean, do you just seal all the doors and windows of its offices and presses with everyone still inside, wrap a chain around the building, padlock it and station a Screw outside?
Apparently, I wasn’t so far off the mark.
What the security services did in mid June was to raid the establishment and lift everyone and everything in it. I’ve seen it happen before when they raided the company I worked for claiming the activities of its employees were incompatible with their status, and the Angolan Security Services are miles more efficient than the Met (the best police force money can buy). No such impediment to rigorous law enforcement as a Human Rights Act here.
After publishing a series of frank articles irritating the government, Folha 8 did for themselves when they published a doctored photograph of the President and a couple of his senior Ministers in a police line up. This country really has got into the ‘Name and Shame’ culture but only for ordinary citizens. Watch the news at night and there they are, gits that should have been beaten to death in the street outside the scene of their crimes. Instead they are paraded in front of the cameras with placards hanging around their necks. Woe betide anyone who tries to do the same to a Party Official. And Folha 8 certainly begat woe by publishing that image, one I have not only seen but might possibly have on my laptop. But even I could not get drunk enough to reprint it on this blog. I do want to live here, but not in a way that gets me a stripy suntan in Bentiaba jail.
So I did what all roving journalists do when the option of plagiarising someone else’s intellectual property is denied them, I got off my arse, struggled the thirty yards to Marcia’s shop and asked her customers.
‘Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!’
‘Really?’ Don't forget, I hadn't seen it.
‘Oh’ they all concurred breathlessly, ‘she is wonderful!’
Crickey, it obviously went down well then. Hang on a sec…
‘Your Queen! She is fantastic!’
‘Of course your Queen! The Rainha Britanica!’ and they all looked at each other in exasperation, the way people do when dealing with a retard. I am used to that, my employers did it a lot every time I told them that it really didn’t help for them to refer to our clients as ‘ignorant jungle bunnies’ when they were the ones paying the outrageous bills.
‘You’d never see our President jumping out of a plane!’ they said.
Probably because he would never find anyone he could trust to pack his parachute, I thought. Fuck me. Hook, line and sinker. Mr Boyle, there’s a whole nation that has sucked this in. And since I am a man who can appreciate a well executed practical joke, you are right at the pinnacle of my esteem. So who am I to burst a bubble?
‘Her Majesty was accompanied by James Bond, though’ I pointed out.
‘James Bond! JAMES BOND!’
The shop filled with that rather provocative and not altogether unpleasant aroma of knickers spontaneously combusting.
‘Sr. Thomas, do you know James Bond?’ a doe eyed beauty asked me.
‘We served together once’, I lied eyeing her up with no hint of remorse.
Mr Boyle, I bask in your reflected glory. Round my Manor, Guvnor, anything British is suddenly real cool…