Saturday, 28 July 2012

Britishly Odd

Cliche... or trope?

After a week of graduations, I had a double dose of community celebrations yesterday, which is more than enough for anyone.  First, we had the University's 60th Anniversary "staff party", which neatly recycled the graduation marquees, then there was the opening of the Olympics, which neatly recycled the old Teletubbies set.  As a result, I have a throbbing alienation hangover this morning, especially after hearing the more-or-less unqualified praise for Danny Boyle's production on the radio.  Eh?

The Olympics thing, it seemed to me, was the apotheosis of a bouncy-castle aesthetic, not to mention a sentimentalized travesty of British history (wot, no slavery, riots, wars, Empire, or rickets?). Above all, it was far, far too long.  I bailed out at the point that I realised yer real, actual Queen had been persuaded to go along with a fantasy about skydiving with James Bond into the stadium.  Just a bit of fun, Your Majesty!  Irony, Ma'am, it's what we do best.  Though I must admit they did "steely" quite well, too, I thought. (You saw what I did there?  That's art, that is).

If they'd stopped at the forging of the Satanic Rings, it would have been OK.  But, of course, they didn't.  Who knew that the NHS involved jiving, jitterbugging, and bouncing on beds?  And I'm still puzzling over what vision Kenneth Branagh -- in role as a top-hatted entrepreneur -- had at Teletubbie Hill, and why he then recited Caliban's speech from The Tempest as if it were Henry V's speech before Agincourt.  Odd... But Britishly odd, I suppose.

The uni staff party was a dull but authentic affair by comparison, though there were some half-hearted attempts at a bouncy-castle aesthetic, up to and including a bouncy castle.  It was rather reminiscent of a village fete, with lots of people wandering about and mingling for an hour or two, more out of a sense of duty than any expectation of pleasure.

I did meet the vicar Vice-Chancellor, but only because I was standing next to my colleague Linda, the librarian at the Winchester School of Art, who has interviewed him for her blog (they share an interest in knitters, knitting and knitwear).  I think it's quite difficult being a top dog at occasions where people are officially encouraged to be informal and, let's be honest, where 80% of "your" staff haven't a clue who you are, anyway. You never catch the Queen dressing down, or acting all ironically chummy with the proles, do you?

Silver machine...

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