Today sees the start of the Olympics in Beijing, for better or worse – with an expensive and spectacular opening ceremony at the multi-billion ‘bird’s nest’ stadium. It seemed China didn’t have the same problems at finishing it as Athens four years ago – I remember being there, seeing all the paraphernalia in the shops. There was a lot of excitement then, but none of the political controversy like now. All the fireworks cannot cover up China’s shameful human rights record. Some say sports should be kept separate from politics, but it’s impossible. The truth is all the nations taking part are condoning China’s regime by being there. In terms of PR it is priceless. China opens its arms to the world, but incarcerates, tortures and kills its own people…


A bard should be aware of the connections. See as many perspectives as possible.


Earlier in the Spring, I was in London in a hotel overlooking Hyde Park running a workshop (Awaken the Bard Within) for Alternatives when there was an uproar outside. We were in the middle of the intensive workshop, but it turns out the Olympic torch had just gone by, with its ensuing chaos: Chinese State Security running shotgun – ninjas in tracksuits – a phalanx of London bobbies in fluorescent jackets jogging alongside and a ‘mob’ of protesters with placades, justifiably protesting against China’s presence in Tibet. We watched the rolling footage in the hotel lobby – the game of flatten the protester played against the backdrop of London landmarks. Whenever one tried to make a lunge for the torch they were rubgy-tackled onto the tarmac by a scrum of coppers. Seemed like a new Olympic sport. It was a ‘difficult’ situation – especially since those who were selected to carry the torch were clearly delighted to have the ‘honour’ – it was their moment of glory, but it was sullied by the ‘nasty politics’ going on, and yet…we can’t bury our head in the sand.

            The image of the torch against the snowy backdrop of Hyde Park was a surreal one… (At least that’s how I picture it) And the fact that history had just passed us by, and we had failed to see it! How much of history happens like this – with those nearby oblivious of the momentous events transpiring around the corner?

Earlier, on the train up – I watched, bleary-eyed after an early start, the world turned Narnia after a rare snowfall. It was austere and soothing – in contrast the hectiness of the City, which I always find draining. I always seem to turn my head at the moment when the White Horse of Uffington comes into view. This time, its white contours were filled with snow, and surrounded by snow – white on white. Ancient, timeless…

The Long Man of Wilmington – no longer turf-cut – used to be visible as the snow melted. Some would remain in the indentations, revealing its outline. Now, yellow breeze blocks serve the purpose.

That icy day in Winter seems a long way away now, here on a muggy Summer’s evening in Bath…



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