One of the more venom-evoking things I posted appeared in 2005, and involved Britain winning the 2012 Olympics venue marathon. I pointed out that (a) nobody had ever made money from staging the Olympics and (b) Britain’s transport infrastructure simply wasn’t up to it. (It still isn’t). I have never since received so much spitting bile in return for my efforts to point out the obvious.
Within three years, the event was 40% over budget. Seven years on, today I’ve been reading that we will lose £3.5bn (and counting) because those responsible have cocked up the supply of hotel rooms. Tonight I watched a local London show on ITV showing how some Tube journeys normally taking 50 minutes will now take over two hours; and at least forty major Underground stations will suffer with queues throughout the day. Relief roads to regional events like sailing are either behind schedule, or insufficient for requirements. A source in Southern Trains told me last week that no matter how poorly attended the sailing at Weymouth is, the train service will be hopelessly overloaded.
The one thing we have completed in style and on time is the main stadium itself. But even that has been the subject of grubby wrangling about who will buy it, and what use the purchasers might put it to. Last but not least, for what must be the first time in history, the host nation’s citizens have found it almost impossible to get tickets.
In 1943, Nye Bevan rose in the Commons to join in a debate about fuel and food shortages during the War. This is what he said:
“Honourable Members, we sit here on an island built on coal and surrounded by teeming shoals of fish. Only this Government could arrange for there to be a shortage of both”.
The successful 2005 Olympic bid came more or less at the height of Blairite hubris, and the abolition of boom and bust by The Great Tillerman. I suspect that one of the problems City Clowns face is that they never quite caught on to this all being bollocks: they didn’t get it then, and they don’t realise it now. So my idea is this: every bonus due on the Square Mile this April is hereby confiscated, and will be put towards hiring 200,000 young jobless folks. Each will wear a stylish uniform, and their job will be very focused: to go out of their way to ensure that our guests – and that isn’t fluffy damn it, they are our guests – will be helped, comforted and made to feel welcome despite the inconvenience they will experience on account of our inability to either invest in transport, or organise a Happening on a Marijuana Farm.
But in a more gentle sense, life goes on here. There probably isn’t an Avian Survey Unit any more in the UK (s’a cuts mate, s’a cuts) but if there was, it would currently be showing an abnormal blip of activity in the South West of England. A careful study of the data would soon have all the arrows pointing to our converted barn here in Devon. We have the best-fed avian wildlife on the planet: our garden is an international runway for birds of every shape, size, origin, colour and species. And the reason is simple: three squares a day and all found.
If I was to tell you that my wife orders birdfood on the internet in 12.5 kilo batches, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But the proof is in the hordes of winged holidaymakers jetting into our garden in search of a winter oasis of plenty. Soon we shall have high-rise nests covering all the paved areas, and a range of nets, cages, turrets and bird-tables d’hotes catering for every taste: fastfood fat balls, mixed seeds, peanuts, bacon rind and God knows what. Older winged dinosaurs will shake their heads and say the resort has been spoiled by too much construction and noisy early-bird parties, but they will keep coming back because it’s all free.
To our new puppy Coco, this is not so much a mystery as a marvel. Like all very young people, her immediate assumption is that the whole tableau has been laid on for her benefit. Coco wants to play with all these fluttery things, in a sort of savage them to bits and then throw them around kind of way. But they don’t want to play with her, and it’s so unfair. Personally, I’d prefer it if she started focusing her attention on the required location of puppy-turds – but as the Stones memorably sang, you can’t always get what you want. Everywhere in our house there are informally arranged spreads of newspaper as guides for Coco about where to urinate. Like a Monopoly player trying to miss Mayfair, she manages to wee with clinical accuracy in between each pile of newsprint every day.
This is the problem with acquiring a puppy in winter. Summer is fine, because the outside doors can be left open, and every buttock-wobble or sniff monitored to ensure that, at the first sign of leg-spreading or bottom-emptying, the small hairy person can be whisked outside until gradually she catches on to the fact that poozanweez outside = good, inside = old grey chubby bloke having a small epi. But in winter, it’s too cold – and thus unfair to do that sort of thing to anyone. Especially me.
I spent much of the weekend trying to establish whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel actually committed adultery with her second husband Joachim Sauer while still married to her luckless first husband Uli Merkel. I still don’t know, although I suspect she did: she certainly shafted every other bloke with whom she was involved. But in the midst of undertaking this bit of sleuthing, it occurred to me what an odd word adultery is.
Shagging somebody while you are married to another doesn’t strike me as remotely adult. It is very often good fun and terribly exciting, but ‘adultery’ is not the word I would’ve invented to describe it. Very probably, the original Biblical derivation is one of the adulteration of sacred marriage vows – which is fine as far as it goes. Except that for most dunderheads in the UK, it’s become a rite of passage: “Look mum, I must be a real grown-up now: I’m committing adultery”.
We shouldn’t allow this sort of accidental linguistic encouragement of vice to catch on. I fact, I hereby announce my candidature for the post of Lord High Etymologistician General. In future, all dangerously suggestive descriptions will be banned. There will be no more of this bestiality: sexual intercourse with animals is not even nice, let alone the best. I shall also put an immediate end to having relations. Relations with one’s family are entirely ill-advised.
It’s a ghastly minefield, but I’m the chap to take it on. I am, meanwhile, reminded of the great Peter Cook sketch where – as Inspector Streeb-Greebling – he explains to a bewildered news anchor (played by Alan Bennett) that he thinks thieves are responsible for crime.
“I see,” says Bennett, “So you think thieves are responsible do you?”
“Certainly not,” Cook replies, “I think thieves are thoroughly irresponsible. If you think thieves are responsible members of society, then you must be a very odd cove indeed. You don’t work for The Guardian by any chance do you?”
In case you hadn’t noticed, News Ketchup is now a much briefer daily feature in the Slog’s right hand column. I want to keep it short but funny. If you don’t find it funny, I’d appreciate you telling me. And if I think you’re wrong, I’m sure you will appreciate me telling you.