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Downhill Fast

I would have thought, what with the amount of snow we have had this year, that there may have been a bit more interest in the Winter Olympics displayed in the car. Normally any major sporting event is seized upon as a temporary topic of conversation to while away our moments together.

For instance, I’ll never forget the irony of discussing Jenson Button with an old lady who was clutching an old Lidl bag full of cat food as we sat in a traffic jam on West Derby Rd,

“I’m made up for the lad, he deserves it after what he has been through”

She sad this as she counted out, in five pence pieces, the fare. A sudden image of Jenson Button, toiling against the odds, spiralling fuel prices, a traffic planning department organised by a council that digs more holes than a mole that has lost his keys sprung into my mind… “poor old Jenson” I thought ” it must be murder when someone throws up in the back of your Ferrari on a Saturday night.”

But, as a night worker with easy access to a radio I am normally excited by the prospect of any event that will fill the small hours and drag me away from local radio . Even if it features sports that quite frankly, verge on the insane.

So I tuned in the first night of Radio Five Lives coverage, the normally excellent Monday to Thursdays “Up All Night” programme promised to flit back and forth to Vancouver with coverage of all the key moments… what could go wrong?

Initially I was a little confused, as all the commentators seemed to talk about was that there was a lack of snow,

“They should have held it in Bootle last week” one passenger muttered

And then, I wondered, who was this mysterious “Team GB” they spoke of? Over and over I heard “Team GB are really looking forward to this event” or “Hopes are high for Team GB”

When did we start putting words in the wrong order? I don’t order a “Pizza to Out Take”, or a “Curry Indian”. Woe betide the first person who declares that they support “Team Everton” in my cab… they are out, and I’m not stopping whilst they go!

But leaving that aside, I was impressed as the BBC told me they had sent a team (Team BBC?) of over seventy to cover the event… I was impressed until I had a look at the Team GB (its catching) Winter Olympics website where it told me, and I quote

” approximately 50 athletes across six sports” would be attending… erm, “approximately”? Shouldn’t someone check exactly how many are going? I mean any loser could bunk in. All you need to do is get an old shell suit, a posh name and jump on the plane… although judging by the medal table that appears to be what has happened!

We are standing (or maybe that should be lolling), as I type, in joint twenty fourth! (makes you proud doesn’t it!) only seven places behind Australia! Now leaving aside the facts that the table only goes up to twenty four and Australia doesn’t have any snow it makes me proud to be from Country GB! Sorry I mean Great Britain. Although, thinking about it, maybe we should have asked the BBC to represent us, seeing as there were more of them than there was athletes. Good to know my licence fee is being well spent.

Our sole medal winner is Amy Williams, she won Gold in something called the skeleton… which, and I am only guessing, involves sliding down a hill on something. Apparently, according to the Olympics website, Amy’s friends call her Curly Wurly, her father is a Dr of Chemistry and she attends Bath University studying Sports Science (although in view of her event I would have thought Medicine or Archaeology might be more apt).

I’m pleased for Amy, it must be great to work towards something for years and then to be told you are the best in the world for it, I’m really pleased for her. Although… and I don’t want to sound a bit churlish, it made me wonder exactly how many people do the “Skeleton”? I’ll wager there are thousands around the country who would love to have a go of it (whatever it is, I could look on Google but I’m not sure I want to, for all I know it involves a spade and a grave yard or even worse… Tony Robinson).

You see maybe that’s what is wrong with the Winter Olympics, if you aren’t middle class or above, you’ve no chance of ever taking part. A quick audit of Team GB’s (aaaaarrrggghhh) website reveals host of names that wouldn’t sound out of place in a St Trinians film, Chemmy, Lorna, Eleanor and Elise aren’t likely to  be seen dead buying a pasty from Sayers, and the blokes? Well Kristan, Benjamin and Edward wouldn’t be caught dead climbing over the gates at Creamfields either.

So maybe that’s why nobody in the cab has cared about the Winter Olympics, its not that Vancouver is too far away, its maybe the chances of  competing in them is a world away.



Novelist and broadcaster. Writer of the John Rossett series of thrillers.

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