Friday, 13 June 2008

Best of British.

Give us our torch back!

I was reading this mornings papers when I stumbled across an article about the Olympics. It concerned the ending ceremony when, traditionally, the nation hosting the Olympiad four years hence has a showcase slot towards the end after which the then host nation hands the torch over. There is great consternation as the Chinese have planned a 'very formal' closing ceremony and the Brits have decided to send a troupe of 'hoodie dancers' and a disabled rock dancing group in to perform the ceremony and take the torch. Hooray! Apparently Sin and Rella, Jaxx and Rap'un'zella will be wheeling and dancing in, cavorting a bit and nicking the torch. Hooray again! I have to admit that hooray was not my first reaction though, dear wanderers. I spluttered over my bacon and mushrooms and my tea visibly shook in my hand and I thought 'is this the best of British? Really? The best they could come up with? Visions of Britannia, Axminster carpet, roast beef and Jimmy Saville came through my mind and, in the end, I thought that, yes, this is probably the best we can do. Not only that, I should be proud to see us puncturing a gleeful hole through that corrupt, human rights denying, war mongering nation's sense of solemn self glorying ceremony.
Really! What did you want? The smoking room of Boodles Club wheeled on stage or the Dining Room of the Ritz complete with silver domes and sweaty foreheads? The Turkish Baths at the RAC? The Queen and Prince Philip on wheels, pushed by the Grenadier Guards? A box full of Victoria Sponge cakes exploding into the red arrows trailing red, white and blue smoke in the shape of David Beckham (a local footballer)? Personally I should like to bring a cortege of International judges learned in the law and human rights onto the stage to try the Chinese Government for their recent atrocities, take their torch and give the president a sharp rap over the knuckles with it and then go home in a double decker bus singing sea shanties, but as that is unlikely to happen I shall settle for the troupes of dancers which show the world that we are an accepting nation, great because we are open to change and great because we are not ashamed of any of our citizens. And that we believe in true equality.
I was even more cheered when I turned the page and read an article which made me very, very proud to be British. It told of a housing estate in Scotland where thousands of asylum seekers were placed over a couple of years. The locals formed a residents association to make them feel welcome and they undertook a programme of language skills and local improvement. Voluntarily. The government then, years later, came to take away those whose cases had been turned down and you know what? The locals formed a vigilante group, without being asked, to keep watch, every night of the week, from 2 in the morning until eight in the morning, walking the streets looking for the riot vans which stormed the houses and took the people away for deportation. Once the vans were spotted, the locals (white Scots who had been here since it was built) phoned around and eighty percent 'all those who could walk' would mob the streets around the houses being raided and secrete the immigrants amongst themselves, because 'they are our family as well, and we're not having them taken away'. This echoes the community on the Shetland Isles where every single inhabitant of those blessed Isles joined together to keep a family in a similar situation on the islands, seeing off the Police and a small army or Press. 'These are our brothers and our sisters' said one, 'and I will not stand by while they are deported'. Hooray again.
And hooray again, because there is a network of people throughout the country doing this, retired men and women who have given up a quiet retirement and rest to fight, often because they are committed Christians, against the law that does not feed or house asylum seekers because they have been rejected. Of course, there are checks in place to make sure that they really should have passed, and I am eternally grateful and proud that there are those out there who stand up to the gutter press. I am proud also that there is a network of people who offer accommodation to such people, for nothing, in their own houses and that not one of them has had cause to regret this. I am happy to find that there is somewhere literally in my backyard where this is happening.
So, China. You may be horrified at us bringing disabled dancers to take the torch away and your thoughts may be echoed by many in this country but this is evidence of the Christian values that we have in this country, values which many today will be looking for, as they fume in their pews, wondering what has become of the world and such values, tutting at this troupe of dancers. For myself, I could not be happier. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ and if the Christian action which this country is exhibiting on the world stage is by non Christians then we, my friends, have cause for shame.
I will not be here this weekend, it is time for a little holiday, so I will communicate again through the magic lantern on Monday. I leave you in the capable hands of my three co-bloggers.