Friday, 11 June 2010

The Spirit of Austerity

... in which we look forward to the London Olympics of 2012

At least the Word Cup will provide an original reason for the boys to ignore anything I make or do. My shepherd’s pie was spurned by all three of them, on grounds of vegetarianism (M1), Facebook (M2) and preening (M3).

I have been been receiving intelligence from my fellow freelancers, for whom UMzantsi Afrika holds many attractions. A few years ago, Uncle Percival in Gauteng told me he had decided to invest in cement because of all the football grounds to be built across South Africa. He now tells me that the rebuild of Soccer City in Soweto is a billion Rand overspent, so I hope that next time I stay, the former “maid’s quarters” will have been rehabilitated.

As every freelance knoweth, there is nothing like unto a contract for over-spending it. Neither South Africa’s new stadia, nor my neighbour’s extension works, are exceptions. Plus ├ža change.



Workers fix a giant vuvuzela soccer horn on top of Cape Town's famous unfinished highway bridge (REUTERS/Mark Wessels)

I like the new addition. Is its creator hinting at an uncertainty in the national psyche, in this outsized plastic horn?

Closer to Mandall Mansions, my tax adviser Isolde tells me that the bill for constructing the Olympic facilities in London will make the South African over-hang look puny. She fears that even Sir Bors will not be able to prevent Dave’n’Nick from reducing the number of Olympic Rings from five to three.

Never mind: we islanders know how to put a brave face on things. As Mrs M puts it, we must look beyond the misery of cheese-paring, and embrace the Spirit of Austerity. What finer example for us than the famous 1948 London “Austerity” Olympics!

Informal soundings around here have shown that the spirit that gave us the Spam Fritter and the Bouncing Bomb lives on in our community. We have raised our eyes above the wobbly wheels of the paper mills and Winchester disks down in the lowlands. We have raised our eyes unto the hills.

Some readers may be aware that the harmless sport of cheese-rolling has fallen victim to the national shortage of neck braces. We were therefore especially pleased to receive the WI’s proposal to introduce Olympic Sponge Cake Rolling in Moor End. Former Moor End post mistress, Mrs Vivian Ayres, is to be approached to provide the official sponges, at a regulation unfilled weight of 1lb 3½ oz. Vivian’s cakes have long been prized at Mellor church fete and other events for their compression strength and high tensility, making them perfect for fantastic birthday constructions. A number of cake-rolling sites are being assessed for safety. Personally I favour the meadow that descends from the south face of the church down to Knowle Farm. I’m sure that John will be more than happy to keep the cattle out of harm's way for the day.

We have received several submissions in relation to the archery contest. Mrs M feels that the Devonshire’s garden-feature pergola offers more scope than the Royal Oak, even though the Oak would just about have room for a darts board if it rains.

There has been one disappointment. We have had to advise Chris Mann and the bell-ringing team that Teddy Bear Bunjee-jumping from the church tower is unlikely to be accredited as an Olympic Sport in time for 2012.

Great sporting events are so often marred by bad weather. We wish the South Africans well: the Johannesburg winter can be vicious. The winter of 1997, when I was playing my small part, ahem, in the preparations for the coming spectacle, was especially bitter. A hard July frost having cracked the yellow crust on top of the mine dumps, the Highveld wind mixed it with the sulphurous smoke from a million coal braziers, before blasting a fine, frozen, and toxic grit through my host's leaking office window, 100 foot above ground level in Soccer City. It was so cold I had to wear long-johns and a balaclava under my armour, even in my freezing Holiday Inn bed.

Our local contributors have considered every meteorological eventuality for the 2012 Austerity Games. For instance, if drought dries out the route for the canoe slalom in the River Goyt, we will build a bob-sleigh run down Moor End Road. M1 has been test-running this in the Fiesta.

He says he’s minded to compete. I say he’s off his head.

Come on, England!

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