My eternally-un-named friend lives in Greenwich. She hates it. I understand why.
Last night, by the River Thames, there were food tents, comedy shows and a bandstand with music. A two minute walk away, we passed two men in their late 20s or early 30s standing on a street corner by Creek Road, near the Up The Creek comedy club. One was talking on his mobile phone:
“The guy is testing the stuff and then he’s giving me the cash,” he said to the unseen person.
A little later, after dark, nearby, we passed by a children’s play area amid council blocks. Three boys in their late teens passed through quickly, one putting a white plastic bag at the top of the children’s slide, as if leaving it for someone to collect later.
Greenwich Council is notoriously uncaring unless you live in one of the elite streets. It is a bit like North Korea. It looks stylish on the outside but has been allowed to rot at its core by uncaring bureaucrats.
So I was interested to see the so-called Olympic Torch Relay pass through Greenwich early this morning. The small central one-way system in town was cordoned off with occasional single lines of partially-interested onlookers standing behind metal barriers.
“It’s only three seconds of your life.” I heard one adult tell a child.
It was like a half-hearted small town parade where the people in official jackets outnumbered the onlookers and it was noticeable for occasionally smiling policemen. I was reminded of a line from the movie Get Carter:
“You were lucky. They also kill people.”
I guess the Metropolitan Police saw it as a welcome PR opportunity to try to distract from the more realistic image yesterday of the thuggish copper who killed an entirely random innocent man and got away with it despite a 12-year record of violence against ordinary people. It is rare that the left wing Daily Mirror and the right wing Daily Mail newspaper both run stories about endemic police brutality.
The Olympic shenanigans this morning were all about PR.
There were the red Coca Cola frisbees, a gigantic red Coca Cola coach, small Marks & Spencer paper triangles with a union flag design on one side and, on the other, the slogan On Your Marks… for a Summer to remember.
People were taking photos with smart phones and iPads; the traffic was blocked by policemen on bikes.
A man from some Chinese television company was interviewing a bemused woman beside the Cutty Sark, leaflets were being handed out for Greenwich’s Premier Gym & Health Club, a group of Sikhs were giving out free vegetable roti rolls promoting Langgar 2012 – “Sikhs serving langgar and embracing diversity”.
And, in among it all, barely glimpsed, was a small woman speeding along the road in a wheelchair holding aloft a golden Olympic torch and…
…a minute later round the corner, there was a man in white running with the same Olympic torch. They seemed an unimportant afterthought.
Nearby, on the Thames, the looming grey warship with the attack helicopters on deck waited for any terrorist incident. Up the hill on Blackheath, the ground-to-air missile system was presumably being manned. And somewhere, atop various South London blocks of flats, were other missile defence systems.
But, in Greenwich this morning, the Torch Relay seemed to be mostly an excuse for people to dress up in pink or green or red tops as wardens or volunteers or crowd-controllers and for the police to parade in yellow jackets on motor bikes.
People had come out in small numbers to see the spectacle of people organising things.
For much the same reason, next Friday I will be watching the Olympics’ Opening Ceremony… To see how the highly-talented director Danny Boyle has spent his multi-million pound budget. And, like everyone else, just in case there is a spectacular terrorist attack live on television.
Last August I missed the English riots by being in Scotland. This year I will miss the English Olympics for the same reason.
I think the Edinburgh Fringe will have fewer sponsors and a few more laughs.
My eternally-un-named friend’s opinion?
“It’s just something else to put up with, like the weather. I don’t want to be here.”