Sunday, August 24, 2008

On not broadening your mind

In around 1584, the Elizabethan statesman William Cecil, Lord Burghley, had some sound advice to give to his son regarding travel on the European continent:
Suffer not thy sons to pass the Alps, for they shall learn nothing but pride, blasphemy, and atheism.
Oh glory days when foreign travel was still deemed hazardous enough to incite such heart-felt paternal admonitions! Were Cecil - her Majesty's Secretary of State and Lord High Treasurer - to be transported to the 21st century, he would be a happier man forsooth. For in 2008, journeying abroad seems to have exactly the opposite effect than the psychological metamorphosis feared by the Renaissance politician. You need a workout for your petty nationalism and naive xenophobia (aside from some serious exercise for your liver)? Go travel - the further afield the better.

The evidence: Rebecca Adlington, a broad-shouldered lass from marvellous Mansfield, who recently was whisked away to China to win a few gold medals for the UK.

This is what the buxom blonde has to say about Team GB (the term's synecdochic significance is of course unmissable) and its intrinsic superiority to the rest of the world:
For me being British is about politeness, kindness and fair play. You see it in the athletes’ village: people from other countries can be quite aggressive, pushing in queues and not treating each other with respect – but our lot are the complete opposite and I love that.
Er, do the names Tom Daley and Blake Aldridge ring a bell, Miss Adlington, and their rather embarrassing (and far from respectful) post-botched-competition squabbles?

And this in the week that brought us the splendiferous news that the King of London has a German background! Ethnic hybridity, here we come - only not to Mansfield, apparently.

I think I might have to take back my facetious comments from earlier this year and hereby predict that soon more people in Germany will know who Boris Johnson is.

Though we won't take him back, whatever he offers!


Geoff Coupe said...

You are wise not to contemplate taking back Boris. While I have a soft spot for him, he will always remain, in my eyes, a complete and utter buffoon. Yes, we need buffoons, but not, I think, as mayors of the world's great cities.

Kris said...

I must admit that I have found the Brits very ordinary in queues. Not as bad as Italians or the French, but not a patch on the Czechs or Germans.

They certainly wouldn't crack the medals at the Olympics.

Francis Sedgemore said...

"...whisked away to China to win a few gold medals for the UK."

A pedant writes...

Adlington was whisked away to Beijing to win a few gold medals for Great Britain, not the UK. Athletes from British-occupied Ireland can chose whether to compete for Britain or Ireland, just as they can choose which passport to hold; UK or Irish. There was no "Team UK" in Beijing, and there will be no Team UK in London come 2012. The IOC recognise only the entity that is Great Britain.

The Wife said...

Thank you all for your relevant, comforting, and/or shaming comments. Since we already have a Boris in this country (Boris Becker - remember? The colour of his hair is getting increasingly Johnsonian these days) I don't think we need to invest taxpayers' money in another one (or let another Boris stash the tax that ought to be paid in Germany in Monaco. Or Switzerland).

I still think he cut a bloody silly figure, waving that Olympic flag.

For the Great British Olympics. In Britain. If they sort out their plumbing till 2012.