Olympic report: day… what day is it?

Nobody knows for sure when Robert Falcon Scott died. Not even he knew.

More than a week before he and his men crawled into their final tent, exhausted, frostbitten and out of food and fuel, he lost track of the days. Sometime in the middle of March 1912, gaunt with hunger and his agonized feet freezing beneath him, his focus, understandably, failed him. Suddenly he was unable to even remember which day it was.

On March 29th (by his own hazy reckoning) he made his final entry in his journal. He was trapped by an endless, swirling blizzard, only 11 miles from One Ton Depot. He was demoralised, weakened, starving and freezing; and in spite of the monumental heroism of he and his 2 surviving friends, none of them could countenance that final agonizing trek to their next supply drop, and the hope of salvation.

Lest we forget, within days, possibly even hours, they all succumbed to their bitter fate.

Lest we forget. What lovely words. Lest we forget.

It’s 100 years on, and I’m starting to know how he felt: I’m trapped by the fucking Olympics which swirls all around me; there is no escape, and my only outlet is this lonely journal, which I’m sure will be ignored.

OK, maybe a little melodramatic, considering I’ve also got warm slippers, and a king-sized bed and some illicit Hobnobs. But like Scott, I’m losing track of the days, and I feel like I’ll be here until I die.

Of course, I know it can’t last forever. It will finish eventually. I know it’ll finish…

… I just can’t feel it’ll finish.

So yesterday I took a break. I know, I know: I said I’d do one of these things every day, but you’re not paying me for this shit, so fuck off. Yes you. Off you fuck.

I decided to skive for an evening, and I went out with my girlfriend – who, believe it or not, actually allows me to refer to her as that in writing, in spite of the fact that I just admitted to buying Hobnobs when my stomach is under close scrutiny. Not by her – she seems only slightly appalled by it, bless her. But having seen Tom Hardy with his shirt off for a few hours I’ve realised that I might not be quite the perfect physical specimen I had thought.

“Make it so”.
Or rather, “Ffrrake hish shoooo”

As you might guess, my girlfriend and I went to see The Dark Knight Rises, which is a very good film, only slightly marred by the strange decision to have Tom Hardy play Bane as a sulky, steroidal Patrick Stewart, muffled by a cross between a ball-gag and a radiator grille.

He looks like he’s at a fetish party sponsored by Chrysler, and sounds like he’s had his face stapled to the inside of a bucket of trifle. Hey, we all have our kinks, but leave it at home Tom, there’s a good chap.

But now I’m back; and the Olympics is still trundling on like a £9 billion tank; and I can’t remember what day we were up to. All I know for sure is that when I left, Britain was a dismal failure, and when I came back Britain was a dismal failure with a few gongs.

I was going to call them Gold Medals, but (interesting factoid) the Olympic Gold Medals are made of silver. They’re not even Gold Plated, they’re just coloured using electrolysis. I don’t know about you, but if I’d just completed 10 years of crippling training for the Olympics, strained every sinew, and finally got my Gold Medal, I’d feel cheated.

Cheated twice actually: once because my Gold Medal wasn’t gold. And once because I’d just wasted a decade learning to row slightly faster than the team from Denmark, not quite as fast as the team from Argentina… and nowhere near as fast as a power-boat. And let’s face it, we’re all going to pick a power-boat if we want to go really fast. So what exactly was all that rowing for?

OK, I admit it: even I’ve managed to be a little bit impressed, in spite of my efforts not to be. It’s a jolly good thing to excel at anything, especially in a nation which seems to pride itself on being so mediocre. Some nations are born mediocre; some achieve mediocrity; some have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Britain, it’s all three. Even amongst nations lacking all distinction, we stand out as lacking more distinction than the rest.

And for the last few days it’s seemed like, hilariously, we’d even manage to turn a home advantage to our disadvantage. Assuming we’re spending our £9 billion at a fairly even rate, we had managed to blow two and a half billion pounds on not a single Gold medal. Not one.

The nation that brought the world the longbow even managed to miss out in the archery to a man with one eye, for Christ’s sake.

(It’s not clear whether he had both eyes when he started fooling around with arrows).

Did you know the longbow was the source of sticking two fingers up at people? I know you only come here for my wisdom, so here it is. The longbow was a revolutionary weapon in its day; and in Wales, where it was invented, it’s still considered quite modern. I’m not saying they’re behind the times, but if you showed an iPad to a Welsman, he’d burn you as a witch.

Well, he would if the Welsh had discovered fire yet.

Actually, that’s not fair. Wales isn’t the backwater the English assume it is. In some areas of Wales there is so much traffic now that the locals no longer point at the cars and shriek.

A dignified Olympian sits modestly on a throne and displays the fingers with which he plans to murder Frenchmen.

Anyway, when a Welshman was captured, the French would cut off the first 2 fingers from his right hand to prevent him from firing any more arrows. So as a taunt, uncaptured Welsh archers would wave 2 functioning fingers at their enemies…

… No, not at the French: at the English. The French only stole a couple of fingers, whereas the English stole their entire nation.

But they’re wreaking terrible revenge on the English by waiting until we go into their Post Offices, and then… dramatic music… pretending to speak in another language!! The swine!!

Come off it, you’re not telling me Welsh is a real language. They’re making it up as they go along! The Welsh for the town of Wrexham is Wrecsam. The Welsh for the town of Colwyn Bay is Bae Colwyn.

That’s not a language, it’s hereditary dyslexia.

Sorry, for a moment there I forgot I was meant to be writing about the Olympics, and decided to start a race war. I wouldn’t mind, but it’s my race! I’m almost entirely Welsh, and as proud of that as anybody should be. Which is barely at all.

The Welsh for an ironing board is board smoothio. Jesus.

Back here in advanced, modern, sophisticated and urbane England, there’s a vast, baying mob of people who are presumably unemployed, as they can spend all week sitting by a riverbank, bellowing at passing boats. I assume they’re hoping the boat will do something mildly interesting, but even if it does it will have absolutely no bearing on any aspect of their lives.

Sometimes, for a change, the mob stops howling at men in boats and howls at men on bikes instead. But not at ladies on bikes because, for some arcane reason that I simply cannot be arsed discovering, the ladies have been sent home.

I have to admit that for a long time I thought the menstrual cycle was a lady’s bike. I thought that’s why girls needed pads: uncomfortable saddles. Don’t blame me, I was only 34 and had had a sheltered upbringing.

I’m guessing here, but perhaps that’s why the women had to pack it all in: it was the wrong time of month to sit on a bike, so they had to pop home to have a cry and solemnly devour an imperial pound of chocolate. No wonder women complain about having “heavy days”: it’s all that Dairy Milk.

Meanwhile the remaining Olympians will continue to do whatever the fuck it is that they’re supposed to be doing – running around, throwing sticks, playing in the water or going for bike rides. And the mob will continue to yawp and howl.

When I ran around or rode my bike as a child I got no attention at all, not unless I fell off and got a really nasty grass-burn, or a wasp stung me on the lip. But for some reason the highly paid members of our national media, whose primary purpose is to hold power to account, are busy having a fucking shitgasm about the whole thing, like they’ve never seen a man on a bike before.

What the media have forgotten is that there is a much more important and exciting set of Olympics going on right now, and a lot more gold being splashed around too. There’s the Catastrolympics that’s taking place in Europe; the Kleptolympics that’s taking place in our banking sector; and the Corruptolympics landing actual criminal charges at the door of Cameron’s chum Rebekah Brooks.

And – lest we forget – a complete and utter fucking Slaughtolympics in Syria. And about that, I refuse to make jokes. Want to see a hero? I’ll tell you what: he’s not alive on a podium in London, and he’s not dead in a tent in Antarctica.

Lest we forget, he’s terrified and desperate in a shop doorway in Damascus. Lest we forget.

Whoops. We all forgot.


The Olympics: day 1 report

The Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world, and Britain is honoured to be hosting them.

I couldn’t let such a monumental event go without comment. I couldn’t overlook a time of such national pride. To do so would be tantamount to cultural treason, and as bad as totally ignoring the Queen’s Jubilee or cheering for Portugal when they played England in the World Cup.

Not that I did that.


So here we are: the London 2012 Olympics, which as you may know are due to start in London on 28 July 2012, but actually began three days early, and not only in a different city but in a different country: Wales.

Not that I think Wales is really a country, and I’m Welsh, or at least my Dad was. If the Welsh Nats can’t talk me into independence for the land of my fathers, they’ve got no chance of persuading Express-readers in Tunbridge Wells. Which I find odd, considering how many Express-readers hate the idea of European integration. You’d think they’d like marriages between neighbouring countries, being part of a United Kingdom that’s been hitched together successfully for 500 years. But no, Wales is English, and must remain so, and Johnny Foreigner can just jolly well bugger off.

Not that I mind about Wales being English. Couldn’t give a rubbery yellow fuck. And as I mentioned, I’m as Welsh as you can be whilst still being English: I’ve got a Welsh surname, a fondness for wet hills, and a niggling and slightly paranoid suspicion that everyone in The South is out to get me and somehow robbing me of my inheritance; that sounds like the Welsh to me. But even I’m not persuaded that Wales is a separate nation. It is, at best, a soggy and bizarre headland where 2 million people share the same speech impediment.

Back to the Olympics. Yesterday was “Day 1”, but strangely it was also “Day minus 3”, which is a bit of a freaky thing to get your head around, like the IOC have got their hands on a Tardis and are determined to fuck about with us. Perhaps the reason they had to start early is because – and this is just a wild stab in the dark – because the Olympics is actually a vast, bloated wank-fest which has tried to accommodate too many sports and have too much cultural significance. Maybe it’s really just a bunch of people running about, and only an insane person would think it was worth spending £9 billion (plus) on a puffed-up school sports day. Maybe.

It began, like all conversations with a bloke in a pub, with football. As far as I can remember I’ve never played or watched football in my life, because I went to a rugby-playing school which bred actual men who don’t fall over and weep when the wind gets in their eye, and who are educated enough to discuss the large hadron collider or Mark Rylance’s return to The Globe, rather than the off-side rule or being as sick as a parrot. But I do know what football is: it’s that game that children played in the park before they grew up.

As a thorough non-expert I had a struggle to work out exactly what was going on during last night’s coverage, but I think I’ve got a handle on it now: there are 22 players on the field, who play for 90 minutes. The aim is to kick the ball between two posts. So that’s 33 man-hours of football played, and they managed to score one goal.

These, apparently, are professionals. If they were men, they’d all be paid millions to do this, and legions of flat-headed throwbacks would worship at their feet. Literally their feet. But instead these were women, and therefore the coverage focussed on the prettiest ones and overlooked the fact that they all have to hold down a second job as a barmaid, and clean the kitchen when they get in.

At this point I should make a confession: I didn’t watch it. Of course I didn’t. I think the whole thing is a farce, and the only reason I haven’t referred to the Fucking Olympics as the “Fucking Olympics” before now is that I’m trying to reduce the amount of swearing in this blog to the level I employ in real life, which is barely at all.

In fact what I did last night was spend some quality time with a young lady of my acquaintance, and made a lovely risotto. Here’s the recipe – serves 2, and leaves plenty to be heated in the microwave the next day for a lovely, healthy, cheap lunch:

  • Chop an onion and fry it in a little oil at the bottom of a large pan for around 4-5 minutes, until it softens and starts to go clear.
  • While this is happening, peel and cut a butternut in half. Scoop the seeds out and throw them away, and chop the flesh into small cubes, around 2cm square. Roast them at around 180° in a shallow baking tray and a little oil for 20-25 minutes (or until they start to brown).
  • Now heat around 1 litre of vegetable stock (2 stock cubes in a litre of water).
  • Throw 2 good handfuls of risotto rice (about half a typical box of rice) into the pan with the onions, and heat it a little – for about 2 minutes, stirring it into the onion. This makes the rice crack, and allows the flavours to soak into the rice.
  • Now pour around 1.5 glasses of white wine onto the rice and onions, and crush in some garlic to taste. Stir the risotto until the wine soaks in.
  • Tear up some fresh sage and throw it into the risotto.
  • Get a ladle full of the stock and pour it into the risotto. Stir it gently over the heat until it soaks into the rice, then repeat until all the stock is mixed into the risotto.
  • Season the risotto with black pepper to taste
  • Stir the butternut into the risotto
  • Chop up a soft goats cheese – about a handful – and throw it into the risotto, and stir it until the cheese turns sticky and delicious
  • Serve with a nice, dry white wine and shaved parmesan (or veggie alternative from Waitrose).

You may have guessed that I’ve totally run out of things to say about the Olympics, and have a further 17 days to go. What were we thinking of?