Scone’s a gonner but at least the roof’s missile-free
By Michael Moynihan
Ah, that delicious Saturday morning experience.
A hot coffee at your elbow.
A lightly buttered scone nearby. Some gentle music in the background, and the Guardian Review open on your lap as you peruse Nicholas Lezard’s paperback choices with a view to purchasing — then three-year-old comes in: “Daddy, can you guess which mermaid I am? Well? Can you?” Ah well.
There was a time when the coffee-scone-newspaper trifecta occurred in the same room at the same time, rather than being spread out over several days.
Now the coffee is discovered late, cold, and covered with a fine film of scum just before bedtime. The scone is assassinated on sight by the three-year-old’s younger sister. The newspaper can suffer huge indignities related to the scone’s afterlife which don’t bear repeating if you haven’t had your own breakfast yet.
However, one newspaper survived long enough one Saturday to tell us the above-mentioned Mr Lezard, the best man we know of to pick out a hidden treasure on the bookshelves, had written a book himself.
A sports book. Called The Nolympics.
Your columnist pondered the ethics of getting on the blower to a well-known and influential reviewer of books when he himself has a book in the pipeline, and ran through the reservations. Would it be proper? Would it be a little underhanded? Then we decided what our reservations could do and picked up the phone.
“Well, the book begins with a preamble putting the Games into context, stating my reservations and describing the run-up to the staging of the Games,” says Lezard.
“I’ll then be getting into a diary of what it’s like day to day, what it’s like watching it on telly and trying to get around London while it’s on — a time capsule of what it’s like having the Olympics in London, but I’m not being a cheerleader about the whole process.
“I’m approaching it with some misgivings, though I’m looking forward to being pleasantly surprised, though the way things are going so far I’m not sure how that would be possible.”
True enough. The long-running security issues which have scarred the build-up to the Games have furrowed brows in the English capital. However, there are other problems which range in seriousness from disruptive to dangerous for native Londoners.
“Already it’s starting to be disruptive, particularly if you live in east London,” says Lezard. “A thousand people there have been kicked out of affordable housing to make way for a basketball stadium — it doesn’t get more disruptive than that.
“Then you have people with missiles put on the roofs of their houses, people finding it takes a long time to get to work. There’s the hot weather we’re having at the moment — though that’s likely to change, of course — and then you have the announcements of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, at train and bus stations, which is pretty much more than human patience can stand.
“That’s the last straw, really.”
Clearly there’s a tormented pun to be teased out of a last-straw reference and Johnson’s hair, which looks like half a bale of straw... but we’re just not up to it today.
The obvious rebuttal would be that a man who chooses elegant fiction might not be an obvious fan of sport, cliched and facile as that charge might be. In fairness to Lezard, he establishes his sports bona fides — “Cricket’s my favourite game, but I watch the odd game of football and I did some shooting and fencing when I was young,” — and he offers a nuanced view of people’s expectations of the Games.
“The atmosphere might be of a party which is just about to be held: even if you didn’t want it to be held and you didn’t ask for it to be held in the first place, once it’s actually started you don’t put the mockers on it. But you can still make legitimate complaints and suggestions before it.
“It may not be as bad as pessimists like me think, but we don’t know yet, and the shambles about security, and the poor — rudimentary, really — training the G4S staff have had makes you just hope that nothing bad happens.”
Full disclosure: we had our conversation just ahead of the opening ceremony last Friday. Judging by The Guardian man’s tweets, his narrative of enjoyment paralleled most people’s: initial scepticism turning to enjoyment at about the time the Queen started stroking her corgi and wondering whether or not to say: “I’ve been expecting you,” to Daniel Craig.
Agnostic to convert in a couple of hours. Is that going to be everyone’s Olympic trajectory?
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