A Mischief Of Magpies

If the Sun were the size of a beach ball then Jupiter would be the size of a golf ball and a Mischief of Magpies would be as small as a pea.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Well Congratulations, Your Nation Is Now Officially Slightly Better Than Vanuatu

I have been watching the Commonwealth Games over the last few days, and I have come to the conclusion that it has only marginally more purpose to it than an attempt to move a mountain with a bucket and spade.

There are only about five countries actually competing. I know, I know, there are actually about sixty represented, but have you seen Vanuatu or St Kitts & Nevis win anything? I sure haven't. The problem with this is that I suspect the winners don't feel like they've achieved too much. There's no US of A - although of course if the treasonous upstarts hadn't started picking a fight with us all those years ago then they could be competing now - and let's face it, the USA set down the benchmark in practically all fields of athletics.

I have a problem with athletics generally. It's not particularly entertaining to watch, so you have to surmise that the reason for it is divorced from the spectacle. I can see that in Ancient Greece, it would have been a considerable advantage to be good at throwing a spear, but certainly not now. What about the pole vault? Certainly couldn't use that outside an athletics stadium. You couldn't even use it to leap over small buildings, because you'd break your back on the other side unless there was a crash mat. Athletes just like to say that they're good at chasing or leaping or splashing, but there is no end for this. Team sports - with the notable exception of rugby, which is a carefully constructed charade to allow posh people to grope each other's buttocks - have a pleasing aesthetic to them. They're good to watch, athletics isn't.

One of the daftest comments came during the end of the marathon, as the runner from St Helena ambled in about a day and a half after everyone else had finished, and Sally Gunnell - or someone, it may not have been her - said 'it just goes to show the spirit of these games.' They're crap, you mean. To be fair, you can't blame the bloke. The volcano that he calls home isn't actually large enough to hold a marathon without seeing some of the island twice, so it should hardly be a surprise that he was a bit out of his element.

Now consider the swimming. In absolutely all of the heats, the best competitors were put in lanes 4 and 5, so that you knew before the start that they would be the ones slugging it out in the end. Me and my mates were having a competition trying to predict whether lanes 1 or 8 would come last, which was somewhat more interesting. The eventual conclusion was, I believe, that Guernsey is slightly better than Jersey and The Isle Of Man are better than Gibraltar. You'd think that with their proximity to the sea, they might be a bit better at splashing, but sadly, alas. It really is a deathmatch for the minnows.

In the spirit of friendship, therefore, let me propose some additional sports that could be a laugh:

1) 'Conquest!'

This would be a one-off. Countries other than Britain would compete to put on a dramatisation of the manner in which they were annexed into the Empire. Points would be given for realism, and lost if countries try to alter events a bit.

2) 'Supermarket Sweep'

I firmly believe that athletics should more closely reflect modern life. Spears have no part, but we all have to do the supermarket shopping. Plus, I know that deep down you were sad when they took it off the telly. On a side note, why did they always go for the most pointless objects in that programme? I mean, wouldn't you just grab all the DVDs - small and valuable - rather than seventeen 1kg boxes of Frosties?

3) 'Unicycling'

Who doesn't laugh at those wacky clowns and their funny antics? Events would include the ubiquitos races, but also a style event where participants get extra points for colourful outfits and quality juggling. Oranges would be low scoring, television sets high. Everyone's a winner!

DWP 007

Either several helicopters have gone over/past/near my building, or the one helicopter has been circling my block of flats for the past half hour.

I'm begining to wonder what's going on.

I'm a paranoid soul, you know. I have been ever since I met a woman whose job it was to investigate fraudulent benefit claims.

Not that I'm making any false claims, you understand.

But neither where some of the people she tracked. People report each other to the DWP for all sorts of reasons. You can do it anonymously.

This woman used to be up at all hours of the night following people to make sure they weren't working as well as claiming.

Ever since, I've wondered who might be eating their sandwiches in that dirty white van there. Or who might be filming from across the street.

The woman doesn't work for the DWP anymore. She's on Incapacity Benefit. For stress.

Good, eh?

The helicopter's still about.

Repeated as Farce

Whoever chooses the daily article from the Guardian's archives to go on their website has a great eye for historical resonances.