DIARY: Larky Starkey, Poppycock Watch: Lancing Danny Boyle, Exercise or die, Profundity of the Week
David Starkey is a very good historian. However, his description of Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond as “a Caledonian Hitler” shows another aspect of his personality.
He is an outrageously irascible fellow who delights audiences on the BBC’s often stodgy Question Time and Any Questions with his witty outbursts of feigned rage against the inevitably ponderous folk around him, including the studio audience.
There’s nothing we British enjoy more than irascibility in the face of tedium. Perhaps that explains the success of the Olympics Opening Ceremony.
In historical mode, Starko has a current Channel 4 series on the two Churchills, Winston and John (first Duke of Marlborough), and it is fine watching.
Starkey’s point is that it was Winston’s writing of a four-volume biography of his illustrious ancestor that led to his own place in history, defeating Hitler and Nazi Germany.
General John Churchill triumphed over the French tyrant, King Louis XIV, who had previously dominated the Continent by force of arms. It has become a forgotten war in our age of historical illiteracy. It is also relevant to 21st-century power grabs by a Brussels elite.
Is there no young Churchill today who can beat back the tide of European “union” — always a sly word for hegemony — and save Britain’s independence and freedom?
It seems unlikely. Our leaders are a compliant lot, with sweet smiles and soft words to turn away wrath — and happy to sign anything put in front of them.
That reminds me of one of England’s medieval kings who, watching an interminably long and dreary play, shouted out: “Enough, bring on the jesters!”
A bemused stage manager replied: “These are the jesters.”
Every newspaper commentator on the planet seems to have had a go at the Olympics Opening Ceremony, which was choreographed by one Danny Boyle — not exactly a household name outside the West End.
Danny boy is probably best known for two niche hit films: Slumdog Millionaire (entrepreneurship in downtown India) and Trainspotting (set in drug-besotted Scotland).
He’s clearly hot on the underdog, hence the widespread muttering that he’s a Marxist-Leninist running dog who wants to turn England into something akin to the former East Germany.
It’s easy to understand the schizoid reception for the ceremony, it was certainly a “game of two halves”. But I also suspect the critics’ verdict was coloured by their state of inebriation at the time.
Anyone sitting through it as sober as a judge would certainly pick up the leftie bias: NHS beds, for God’s sake, coal-blackened workers of the Industrial Revolution, Jarrow marchers and much else along those lines.
However dull they must have seemed to outsiders, they are part of our history, although were they the right material for a world showcase event like this?
What lifted the whole crazy shebang above the mediocre was its pounding energy and driving invention. A Celt had descended upon us and removed all pretense and Victorian stolidity from the landscape. It was merry shambles all the way. Take note, George, that’s how you get away with it.
I could have done without the ancient rockers, though, especially Paul McCartney, sell-by-dates long rotted away. I won’t even comment on the Queen’s bloomers.
Boyle handled the long march-past of athletes very well, percussing it with a constant rhythm of drums and bouncing drummers that gave it a Celtic celebratory air.
The cauldron at the end embodied a Celtic mystical symbol of rebirth, the womb of life and, of course, the Holy Grail. I do like a bit of mysticism with my razzmatazz.
And I absolutely rocked at seeing the head of the IOC making his speech on what looked like a hay bale set against a high backdrop of overgrown grass. It was the image of the night for me. Pomposity brought down to earth with a rustic thump.
I forgive Danny Boyle his political manifesto for that scene alone. A triumph!
Lots of press lately on the need for exercise. The British are singled out for our stubborn reluctance to get moving. As someone who works in a home-office I’m always aware of the need for getting physical.
I once ran marathons before badly crocking a knee. A simple transition to brisk walking maintained the cardiac and mental feelgood factor. Now I do a six to eight mile trek on most days.
The outward segment is all uphill so it conditions the backs of the legs which do the pushing.
Returning, often with a rucksack full of books, and other necessities, the downhill section strengthens the upper-front of the legs (the quadriceps), which restrain velocity on the down slopes.
My ideal example is the “mountain man” who walks uphill and downhill at the same pace. Try it, it’s not as easy as it sounds. The secret is: power up, restraint down.
As backup for inclement days, I have a long passageway in the house that crosses three rooms in a straight line, if all the doors are open. It’s perfect for a perambulation while reading a book, especially a Kindle which can be held in one hand. The iPad needs two hands if used landscape, but is manageable.
Reading runs away with time if you are slumped in a comfortable chair. By this simple expedient, a great deal of useful exercise can be totted up on a rainy day while simultaneously feeding the mind.
The world is not only your oyster, but also your gym — a boutique solution to life’s constant demands.
Profundity of the Week
Time waits for no man, says the amateur philosopher. Actually, it does, or we wouldn’t be here.
… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
Mystics in the Modern World is coming soon.
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