It’s the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, whoop de bloody doo. Many of the residents here in the East End of Glasgow have been left feeling like someone’s holding a party and a lavish banquet in our living room, only we’ve been confined to the spare bedroom with the dug for the duration of the proceedings with a packet of crisps and an auld telly whose channel is stuck on Dougie Donnelly. Naw, ye cannae get oot intae the lobby, away pish in a bucket. The neighbours have organised a “we’re trapped” party.
My hoose is going to be cut off because of the Games. The main road will be blocked off so that there can be a cycle race, even though the main road provides the only access for our wee area to the rest of the world. The cooncil haven’t seen fit to inform everyone officially – some neighbours got a letter, but there was none at this house or several others locally – despite the fact that this area is home to many elderly people who depend upon visits from care assistants. Just how are the care assistants expected to get in and out? What happens if a doctor needs to be called? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m just relieved that my other half, who suffers from vascular dementia, is currently in hospital, otherwise I’d be worried sick. Seemingly the care needs of Glasgow’s elderly and vulnerable people is not as important as a few people running and jumping about a bit. But never mind, Gordon Matheson can get to be on the telly and that makes it all worthwhile.
Being a sportophobe, who would attend therapy sessions to get over my irrational revulsion for all things involving semmits and running shorts only I can’t get oot the hoose for folk in semmits and running shorts, my natural instinct is always to regard sporting events with a bemused condescension. Sport is as relevant as tiddly winks, and less productive than macramé, yet millions of people invest it with an immense significance. Sport is just video games for people who don’t know how to switch on an Xbox. It’s a pastime, an amusement, a means of passing the time. So is sex, and sex is much more fun. Achieves the same thing too – you jiggle things about a bit, get hot and sweaty and lose calories, only with sex if you do it properly you get an orgasm out of it too. I know what sort of pole vaulting I prefer.
But I am unable to regard the Commonwealth Games with the usual detached bemusement, since I can’t get out of my fecking house to be detachedly bemused anywhere. Not even at therapy sessions for sportophobes. Instead I need to content myself with being detachedly bemused at whatever clown thought dressing up weans as Tunnocks teacakes was a good idea for the opening ceremony. Possibly the set designer for BBC2’s Scotland 2014. Maybe it was an artistic comment on the childhood obesity crisis from the same folk that thought blowing up the Red Road flats was a statement about urban renewal.
There are all sorts of pastimes, but only a minority get the glory and the TV airtime. I play with model trains and trams, but I don’t expect the bloody main road to be closed off just so someone can demonstrate their new scale model layout of Brechin train station circa 1950. And it’s even got working buses, which is more than you can say for the main road by my house during the Commonwealth Games. But some pastimes get a lot more attention than others, and those would be the butch male pastimes as opposed to the more female pursuits or geeky male pastimes. It’s patriarchal oppression you know. Is the Judean People’s Liberation Front represented at the Games? Or did those splitters in the Popular Front get the place instead?
Why are there no Commonwealth Games for women and geeks – or that minority group that just about everyone overlooks, geeky women. There’s a gold medal for fencing furfexake, how many fencers have you ever met? I did once know a guy with a samurai sword, but he got arrested for drug dealing and the polis confiscated it. That’s the closest to fencing you’ll get in this part of the world – apart from the neighbour who got creosote all over the back garden. There are no medals for creosoting, and the neighbour wouldn’t win one even if there were. There are no medals for knitting or extreme ironing either. No really, extreme ironing is a thing. If extreme ironing was a Commonwealth sport I might not moan about the Games being on … Well, OK, that’s a lie, I probably would. I reckon I could win gold medals for Scotland for camp bitchery, gay humour, and working up a full steam of righteous indignation. And also probably for telling gay jokes about car parks, but that might not go down too well with Gordon Matheson. Unlike his pal in the car park.
During the Winter Olympics at Sochi, there were calls for an international boycot of the games because of the appallingly homophobic laws and practices of the Russian state. Yet these Commonwealth Games will welcome nations which make Moscow seem like an Amsterdam leather bar in terms of its acceptance of LGBT people. In Scotland, the openly gay man writing this blog can poke gay fun at the openly gay man who is the leader of Glasgow city cooncil. In many Commonwealth nations both Gordon and I would be in jail. In no less than 42 of the 71 countries and territories which will participate in the Commonwealth Games, it is illegal to be gay. In Uganda it is an offence punishable by up to three years in prison for any person who discovers that someone else is gay and doesn’t report it to the police within 24 hours. All of you reading this blog would face up to three years in a Ugandan prison for not dobbing me into the polis within 24 hours of reading this. And I don’t sell drugs or possess a samurai sword.
Mind you, John Barrowman should definitely be in the jail, but that’s got nothing to do with him being gay and everything to do with crimes against fashion and good taste. That suit he was wearing during the opening ceremony should have come with a warning for epilepsy sufferers.
I’ll stop with the gay politics, because we’re not supposed to be using the Games to make political points. Nor apparently, points about good taste or artistic expression, and definitely not independence related points. The RAF doing a flyover trailing red white and blue smoke over Celtic park can’t possibly be read as a symbol of ownership or anything. Anyway, it’s only evil nationalists who could dream of politicising the Commonwealth Games, but despite the angst in the UK media, no one booed the English team, which was possibly a first in the history of Celtic Park.
The opening ceremony is still going on, but I’m going to end my review here – before I go blind with the bland multihued Rod Stewartness of it all. It’s like Brigadoon on acid, kailyard kitsch on smack, thus handily combining the two cultural stereotypes for which Scotland is best known – at least in the UK media. And this in a city which has world class designers, they must all have been away for the Fair.
As opening ceremonies go, it was pretty naff. It didn’t get the billions thrown at the London Olympics and we got an exercise in colourful cringe for ProudScots ™. But what did you expect? It’s a ceremony that’s trying to achieve two contradictory aims – on the one hand its obstensible purpose is to celebrate the city of Glasgow and the country of Scotland, but on the other the City Faithers don’t want to celebrate too much in case we get ideas above our station. So the independence debate is carefully danced around by brightly clothed volunteers wielding dinner chairs – nope, no idea what that was about either. The Games are the Basil Fawlty Don’t Mention the Indy Debate sketch in the middle of the referendum show. What they give us is the best of both Unionist worlds, John Barrowman in a lurid suit, and Susan Boyle crooning. It’s the best we can aspire to – under the Union at any rate. A wee pat on the heid from the big boys for trying, but you’re still a bit rubbish. Some people are more comfortable when no one notices them, that’s Scotland’s place in the Union.
Just about every symbol that represents Scottishness or Britishness can be seen as political during the referendum debate. But we’re not supposed to be mentioning the politics of the Games in case some Scottish person running away really quickly and getting a medal for it makes the rest of us realise that we can run away from Westminster and win a major prize too. Better than a gold painted medal anyway.
Running away from Westminster is one sport even this sportophobe will enthusiastically participate in. I’m looking forward to the event on 18th September.
Scotland’s going to win its self determination – that’s worth more than gold.
Update 11.45pm Wed 23 : Just took the dug oot in time for the fireworks to go off at Celtic Park. Lots of loud bangs and a very nervous dug. Which makes me wonder – whit eejit though it was a good idea to take 71 Scottie dugs to a fireworks display?