Eight years since the London Olympics

Back in July 2012, the London Olympics were looking to be a huge joke. What was clearly a new vanity project for Labour and Tony Blair at a time of prosperity became a millstone around the neck of a Tory/Lib Dem coalition who didn’t seem especially interested in culture or sport, and a London Mayor’s office run by Boris Johnson who was making mistake after mistake in the run-up to the event.  Security was a mess, nobody could buy tickets and if they did they were either too expensive or for events you didn’t want. Basically, as soon as we hit the month of the Olympics all that was expected was a giant mess.

Friends of mine, however, were going up to volunteer for the games, and one asked me if I wanted to go up and work a few days over the event doing some work in one of the offices on-site. So I went up a fortnight before it started, checked things out, saw it was carnage and decided to stay in Bristol for the duration as although the money was good, I didn’t really want to crash in a hotel in London nor did I want to piss all the money away.

The opening ceremony was to be done by Danny Boyle which at first excited people but then leaks of the show came out making people worried it was going to be shite. The ceremony was a Friday night which for me meant finishing work around 5pm, taking a walk home, and stopping by my local pub til who knows when? It was also cold and wet which that summer had been. It’d been dismal that year with few sunny days to call even a sunny spell.

With the ceremony on live TV in the pub, I couldn’t be arsed going home as I’d not just got a beer in, but it’d be funny to take the piss down the pub with everyone else so the ceremony started and we started taking the piss. What’s all this with the sheep and shit? Then slowly the banter stopped ”(hang on is that Underworld?? Was that Fuck Buttons????”)as more and more of us were sitting around watching and listening to it. We then realised this was something quite special, so I sat down the pub watching this event unfold before nipping home when the athletes started coming out (of course grabbing a fish supper on the way) to watch the rest at home.

That opening ceremony did define something for many. It defined the myth of a working United Kingdom and also showed that out of sacrifice we did create the NHS which to this day is still an extraordinary thing to do in that shattered time just after WW2. It showed the amazing contribution to music and culture these islands have produced and it probably still is the only bit of mass theatre most people have seen. It’s beloved of middle class liberals especially as they see it portraying the UK as it is, instead of as it could be. Obviously Boyle wasn’t going to go full in with politics, and in retrospect it is extraordinary how much he did manage to put in.

But for one evening in a grim, wet July things seemed good and it seemed like maybe the UK isn’t as bad as we think. Of course reality kicked in once the Olympics and Paralympics ended, and then a few years later in 2016 the reality of the UK was spattered across our screens for all to see.

Here though is the official Olympic channel coverage of the opening ceremony. It does have some wonderful Barry Davies commentary where he’s going full Partridge but it is a great document of something special eight long years ago.

VE Day was everything it shouldn’t be

Yesterday in Glasgow VE Day was barely noted outwith of official, very restricted, ceremonies, and this seemed to be the case over much of Scotland. Down south in England things were different. Street parties everywhere with lots of people mingling and drinking heavily together in a display of frankly, toxic exceptionalism which resulted not just in people going to A & E to deal with injuries caused because of drink and expose themselves to infection, but many parties just ignored physical distancing.

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Imagine being a family member or friend of one of the 32,000 dead (so far) who had to sit with a small amount of people at their funeral knowing they couldn’t hold their loved ones at the end watching people waving Union Flags and dancing the conga while indulging in this dangerous British/English exceptionalism which is less about giving respect to the end of the war in Europe 75 years ago than it is to build up the myth in time for Brexit that Britain/England is something which it isn’t.

So in 14-21 days time there’s going to be a spike in deaths, possibly sooner because here’s a police force saying they can’t deal with people breaking lockdown rules. Second waves in a pandemic are traditionally the worst but the fact is the first wave isn’t anywhere near over yet so while countries like Germany and France slowly, carefully lift some restrictions because they had a hard lockdown, we’ve played at it and now thanks to Boris Johnson sending out the most mixed of messages, this first wave will carry on and on for another month at least.

All because some people wanted to wave a fucking flag.

 

The Tories want you to die for the economy

This morning’s newspaper front pages are full of Boris Johnson’s plans to slacken up the Covid-19 lockdown so that by the end of May, start of June the UK is going to be open for business. As of yesterday, the UK has the highest death toll in Europe by any way you’d like to measure it, and the infection rate remains high while the death toll has actually risen for the last three days rather than fall which is where we should be right now.

Yet with all this happening all around us the UK papers are all about Monday being a day where freedom will come even though the science hasn’t changed, but what has changed is that newspapers are dying and they need the lockdown lifted so their millionaire owners can continue to make money and keep their influence. Tory backers are also itchy that they too will lose money so the narrative this week has changed from staying at home, and staying safe to the chancellor more or less calling furloughed workers scroungers.

Of course, the media in the UK is failing to hold the UK government to account which means with the highest death rate in Europe it can sail through this with barely a blow landed on it. There was no ‘leak’ to the press but a badly managed release of information which has now been dialled back as the devolved countries have no intention of letting anything slacken up til the end of May at least. Fact is the Tories want us to die for the economy. We’re facing a virus we’re finding more and more about every day but for Johnson and company, this doesn’t matter. It is all about getting us back to work, hope not too many people die and move on while waving flags and invoking a wartime spirit pulled right out of 1960’s war comics.

Basically, we’re at this point.

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And we all know how well that went after that…

Hope in the time of the apocalypse

Back in the 1980s we thought we were going to die all the time. Literally, you’d wake up, hear something on the radio about how some mad old bastard in the US or the Soviet Union nearly exterminated all human life last night but you’d get on with it. We’re now in 2020 and things are awful. We’re in the middle of a pandemic which sees a large chunk of the planet isolating while the reality of the future is starting to dawn on people that what we did prior to lockdown isn’t coming back. There’s a new future dawning and it won’t be a good one.

Yet there is some hope out there. People are still doing good things, society hasn’t fallen apart and this is a chance to assess what we’re doing with ourselves and the world. The other option is being scared and waiting to die which is frankly, not an option so find something that gives you hope be it watching a load of Star Wars films, whittering about comics or anything that keeps you grounded because til a vaccine is found and distributed things are never going back to what they were.

Hope prevails as long as you let it.

Let’s go crazy

As I approach my second weekend in isolation as the Coronavirus pandemic gets worse, and worse, it dawns on me that at no time in recent human history has such a single event effected the planet in such a way. The toll on people and their physical and mental health is going to be massive with people living the rest of their lives with the trauma we’re all experiencing right now.

When I hear people say this could be over in a few months, or realistically when a vaccine is available I tend to think the smarter ones are trying to avoid what we’re going to have to deal with at some point, which is the grieving and dealing with whatever you thought normal before this won’t be around after this. For myself I know I’m having severe anxiety and I’m not infected. God knows what the doctors, nurses and other NHS staff are putting up with, not to mention the family and friends of those dead.So I, and others, seem stuck between melancholia and hysteria.

Truth is we’ll dealing with this for years, in some cases for the rest of their lives. Once the scale of the pandemic becomes clear we’ll not put up with what we were before this because it’ll be trivial. We’re going to be very different after this so let’s have a conversation now about how to make things as best as possible for people after this.

You can save the comic book industry!

The coronavirus has essentially made clear the American comic book industry stands now on a precipice as the main distributor of new comics, Diamond, has suspended deliveries til whenever this all gets safe again which at best, is going to be July. If we’re lucky! Diamond are laying off staff, while nobody knows what’s going to happen as this week is the last week any new comics will definitely be published and shipped to shops. Thing is many of those shops won’t be able to sell them as they don’t offer an online buying or delivery service, so you can pretty much say those shops will not survive this.

I’ve seen several major crashes in the comics industry. By far the worst was in the 1990’s where shops crashed like ninepins as the speculator boom faded away, then the crash in the late 2000s ended up being a blip. This however is worse.

So what can you as a fan do? Some shops like Gosh and Page 45 need to be singled out because the world is a worse place without them, and because they provide a wide selection of comics outwith the spandex stuff but in this time, if you can, support your local shop. There might not be new comics to buy but this might be the time to see if they can dig out back issues for you, or pick up a trade or two. Anything to keep money flowing otherwise that shop you rely on for your weekly fix is gone and it ain’t coming back because the post-coronavirus world is going to look different to what it was only a week or two ago.

Good luck to all shops out there. It will be hard, some of you will go but as long as the community sticks together then that number will be smaller than it could be as long as people support them by buying what they can, when they can. I’m going to help by throwing out some recommendations in another blog of stuff to buy, but please use your local shop where you can.

Why is the UK government failing to deal with the Coronavirus?

We’re now weeks into the Coronavirus outbreak in Europe, and it is perfectly clear that failing to react in time will lead to something like Italy where the death toll as I type this has hit 1,441, with around 200 people a day dying as the virus takes full grip of the country. Other European countries are locking down, even ones like Denmark where there have been no deaths as yet. Here in the UK, the devolved governments are buying time to get equipment, infrastructure and people to help with the infected, but meantime Boris Johnson and the Tory government are talking of herd immunities and yet again bringing back romanticised false memories of war as if a war that saw hundreds of thousands of people die is a benchmark for bravery. Having nearly died a couple of times, trust me when I say there’s nothing fucking romantic about dying.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock was on TV this morning making it clear that in the UK’s worst peacetime crisis we have someone so totally inept in charge that you need to pay to get what information there is out of him.

Right now people are starting to panic with tales of panic buying being normalised and a sense that instead of a clear, effective line of expert communication we have a garbled bag of nonsense with too little being done too late much to the open jaws of doctors and scientists who warn we’re heading for a situation like Italy when the virus hits hard in a month or so.

We seem to be led by donkeys roleplaying war fantasies and dreams of British exceptionalism in their head who are about to be splattered by a brick wall of reality hitting them hard. Sad thing is people are going to die because of this, and as someone who has a one in six chance of dying if I contract the virus I’m going to be pissed off dying because Boris Johnson didn’t have a fucking clue how to deal with a crisis.

And oh, imagine what happens when Brexit kicks in next year.

 

The Crazies

The world is going to shit, and that was before the coronavirus. Now we’re in a world where entire countries are quarantining themselves, Real Madrid are all self-isolating, while Donald Trump tries hard to sit and read a statement to camera but fails to do even that properly. Meanwhile in the UK we’re not banning events where people can meet and spread the disease but we are buying toilet paper in such quantities that by now there must be households where entire rooms are bulging with the stuff.

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Though I can see why people are stockpiling toilet roll. In the event of a real genuine breakdown of civilisation what’s the point of looking all cool, moody and hard like Norman Reedus if you smell like shite because you can’t wipe your arse properly.

And now today hordes of London-based hacks are going insane not over Boris Johnson’s inept handling of the crisis (where we should be shitting down for a week at least)  because Nicola Sturgeon is giving early, clear warnings of what is happening. We live in the time of the Crazies where sanity has been replaced by a barely restrained hysteria and one might ask why am I not panicking as after all, I’m one of the coronavirus’s target audience seeing as my immune system is fucked after the cancer, stroke, etc, etc…

I’m not in a panic because after flirting with death you get used to living with it in the same way you get used to an unwelcome visitor shitting on your couch. The fact is you put your faith in the NHS to do what they can do, and if they can’t well, at least I don’t have to see people panic over whether their arse will be clean enough in the apocalypse.

Marvel’s tone deaf entry into UK politics this week is…

IT is 2020. Brexit is happening and the UK is out the EU, while Scotland and Northern Ireland pontificate about independence and unification respectfully. Things are simply, fucked at best and it is safe to say things are a tad delicate at the moment, so here’s Marvel Comics coming smashing into the room like Lewis Capaldi swigging from a bottle of Buckfast.

Here’s Marvel’s latest super-team, The Union.

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I mean, really??

Then there are the new characters, like Kelpie. the Scottish, McScottish, shortbread, Nessie, och aye the noo member!

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And Snakes, the Northern Irish character probably made of snakes, potatoes and Guinness because that’s all Marvel editors know about Northern Ireland.

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What is a pity is that the hugely talented Paul Grist is writing this, and Union Jack the character that sort of inspired his Jack Staff creation.

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Grist himself has said he’s pointed issues out with editorial to deaf ears, and I do hope Grist makes a success of this but I can’t help thinking this is tomorrow’s 50p comics today because the lack of understanding of UK politics is not going to help drives sales on this side of the Atlantic, while I can’t see folk caring on the other side.

Ah well, they might make a film of it I suppose…