Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Olympic Junkie

I’m watching the Olympics like a true junkie at the moment. I’d intravenously inject newsfeeds if I could. Periodically I treat myself for working hard by having a quick look at the BBC website to see if we’ve won any more golds. I’m always the same with the Olympics. The first one I can remember was 1980. We were on holiday in Tenby and must have been lucky enough to have a television in our guesthouse room. With this in mind, it’s probably quite surprising that I was so profoundly against the Olympics being staged in London. In fairness, my beef was always that I felt money was being diverted from the arts in order to stage the event, and that ordinary Londoners were being screwed over in the process. I still believe this to be the case, but am simultaneously very pleased to belong to the hosting nation, and ferociously proud of the GB athletes who have done so well. The Olympics are genuinely proving to be an antidote to the pain of this year’s bad weather and the awful financial situation we’re all in, and for that, I’m hugely grateful. My hard-line position thaws with each day, and sometimes I even find myself wishing that I’d booked to see an event; how many of us wish we were in the main stadium on Super Saturday, for example?

What bores me, however, (as a veritable connoisseur of the BBC’s coverage) is these silly glamour-pusses who are dusted up and stuck in front of BBC cameras to work as the anchors for Olympic coverage. You know the ones; zero personality, lip-gloss like olive oil, perfect complexions generated by trowel-loads of make-up and, more crucially, no interest in sport. I’m not talking about the wonderful female presenters who genuinely do know their stuff. Sue Barker – great. Denise Lewis – great. Clare Balding – double great (God, I love that woman)... But for every one of those genuine sports women, there’s three of these blandly attractive female presenters. I watched a woman this morning describing one of the corners of the triathlon route as a “hair pin bend” and worrying that the blokes running ‘round it might slip over. The person who she was interviewing stared at her disbelievingly. They’ve started parachuting these women onto football shows as well, thereby creating an own goal for the BBC. They do it, of course, to prove that sport isn’t a male-dominated world, but by selecting personality-free dolly birds, they play into the hands of chauvinists, who will either objectivise the women or legitimately argue, “well if that’s the best you can do, women obviously don’t know a thing about sport.” News anchors are the same. There’s a revolving series of silly young women who seem to present BBC London news, all, we assume, hoping to be promoted to prime time entertainment slots as quickly as possible. When will the BBC stop sacking the women with wisdom and age on their side, simply because they’re not perceived as totty any more?

I’ve been in Durham all day. Another first! We’ve been making a film to launch my next project, 100 Faces. The question we’re asking people across the North East and Cumbria: Why was 2012 important for you? We “vox-popped” that very question to a number of Durham’s finest today. It’s astonishing how open and willing to chat people are in the North East. We had some wonderful answers; “2012 was the year I got back together with my wife after splitting up for 2 years” and perhaps my favourite, which came from a 10-year old lad; “2012 was the year I finally made double figures!”

I’m afraid it’s still a secret what I shall be doing with the answers to these question, but the launch will happen next Wednesday, so if you live in that region, keep your eyes and ears peeled...

On the way back from Durham, I achieved another mini-first by visiting the curiously named Durham suburb of Pity Me, which features on the soundtrack to my A1 film. “Why is there a town called Pity Me?” The lorry driver asks. I’m still none the wiser. When I asked one of the residents the question, she looked a bit confused and said “I think the name goes back to the 16th Century.” Wikipedia offers up a number of theories, one of which suggests the name might have been coined in the 19th Century as “a whimsical name bestowed on a place considered desolate, exposed or difficult to cultivate...” Surely there are maps from earlier than the 19th Century which would show if this were a valid theory?

August 7th, 1662, and Pepys was, once again up at 4am and in the office, working hard, by 5. He continued to find great pleasure in the work he was doing, and felt greatly proud of himself for abstaining from wine, plays and adultery!

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