Made in Britain

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I remember loving the Olympic’s athletes’ parade when I was a kid, the horrible outfits, smiling faces and effusive spectators.  The first thing I thought after watching Danny Boyle’s opening ceremonies was, ‘Thank God, now I can have a comfort break!’  What a ceremony!  Infused with (postmodern) history, including a pronounced nod to the NHS, comedy, great music and a parachuting octogenarian, it was right up my street and I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

It also made me think.  As a Canadian living in the UK, I am a part-time anthropologist, learning about a culture(s) that is at times as familiar as an old jumper (sweater) and other times, as foreign as marmite on toast.  So what did the ceremony say about the UK?  Well, it may just be Danny Boyle talking, but if I were an alien viewing the UK for the first time, I’d think the UK was a confident, yet edgy, country.  A place both comfortable with its past, again in a crunchy postmodern way, and unsure about the future.  A country that might not know exactly where its going, but is sure to have an exciting time getting there and telling the rest of the world all about it later.  Let the Games begin!

The Angel’s Share

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Something lovely happened on the radio today.  Every Friday, unless I can possibly help it, I listen to Dr. Mark Kermode’s film reviews on BBC Radio 5 Live.  If you haven’t discovered this show, and you despise wasting hard earned money on crap movies, you must tune in (also available on I-Player and podcast and no, I’m not getting any kickbacks).  Mark – and I do call him Mark – has never recommended a film I haven’t enjoyed and those that he cuts to shreds – and I mean Higgs-Boson-sized shreds – I have the good sense to avoid.

Although I hear a lot of film reviews, I don’t go to a lot of movies.  Being the parent of a young son has something to do with this… But when I heard Mark’s review of The Angel’s Share, a new Ken Loach film about a troubled young Glaswegian father who discovers he has a nose for whisky, I simply made time for it.   I went with my friend Angus, and neither one of us were disappointed – a laugh-out-loud, yet poignant and, at times, hard-hitting take on intergenerational violence in Glasgow, with whisky as a main character, The Angel’s Share is a film that resonates on many levels.  Any film that makes you think while you’re laughing popcorn through your nose is doing something right.

Anyway, today was a Friday and I dutifully tuned in to Kermode’s film reviews.  Unfortunately, the good doctor was sidelined for the first 45 minutes by breaking news of a football variety – not only had John Terry been acquitted for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, Rangers had been demoted to the 3rd league of Scottish football.  On 5Live, this is a big news day.  So, Mark sat idly by, waiting for reporters to describe Terry’s reaction (there was none) and ruminating on the future of Scottish football (there is none – well, we’ll see…).

Then, out of the blue, came the familiar voice of Pat Nevin, former Chelsea winger and Scottish stalwart.  Nevin, widely regarded as the renaissance man of 5Live, gave his two cent’s worth and then did something lovely – he made a reference to The Angel’s Share, in a charming overture to the good doctor, whose programme had been hijacked – and a fine Scottish feature film.  Mark was mightily impressed and I hope the two share a beer or two someday discussing the joys of Scottish cinema, of which there are many.  I always thought Pat Nevin sounded like a decent guy and, today, I was pretty much proven right.

The Three-Wheeled Motorcycle

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There’s something new to see in Paris.  Unlike most Parisian things, it’s not fashionable, attractive, romantic, or particularly French.  What it is, is a very uncool, but quite practical, three-wheeled motorcycle.  They don’t tip over and yet they are as manoeuverable as a scooter or a two-wheeler.  And they’re everywhere on the Parisian streets, perfectly stable on their two-front wheels and driven by seemingly everyone.

What’s remarkable about these tricycles for grown-ups is why it took so long for them to be developed.  It’s not like it’s a revolutionary design.  I wonder how many engineers went up to their CEOs with a blueprint for a three-wheeled motorcycle only to be turned down with a haughty ‘No one would want to buy one of those!’  And now you can’t swing Pepe Le Pew without hitting one.

For me, the three-wheeler conveys a very simple lesson.  Sometimes, it takes a long time for a eureka moment to catch on.  An idea might seem too simple, too obvious, too naive, yet sometimes, it just might be that kind of idea that does the trick.  It makes me think of our current economic woes and wonder whether or not there might very well be a three-wheeled tricycle out there, ready and waiting for someone to give it a chance.