Friday, 1 August 2014

Glasgow Kiss

"That great old place I miss so much, has seen much better days..."
sang Billy Connolly in a rare, sincere tribute.
 But surely none better than this...

I work in a newsroom, which has various enormous TV screens suspended in corners, usually flickering silently except at newstime.
On the morning of July 23 many staff were to be found staring at these soundless screens in a mixture of disbelief and irresistible morbid curiosity. In New Zealand, if it isn't a breaking news story of national importance only one other event can capture this much attention - sport.

But this wasn't quite sport, more of a prelude to - but so many other things at the same time. Spectacle: kind of, song: definitely, dance: in a manner of speaking - and a giant bunnet-wearing Loch Ness Monster.

'Nessie, I believe in you...'
It could only be the Opening Ceremony of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. I passed an open mouthed, transfixed Editor and remarked "I was born there, you know!"

"You must be so proud...", he drawled even more drily than usual.

"Prouder than you were of the last Air New Zealand in-flight video" I thought wittily, in retrospect, several days later. (actually, make that every Air New Zealand in-flight video)

The world has been introduced to Glasgow and the belief that frenetic enthusiasm, a lethal over-dose of tartan and dancing Tunnochs tea cakes can overcome all budgetry and choreographical deficiencies. It has also witnessed the unabashed purple-tartan suited exhibitionism of John Barrowman - his indestructible self-confidence supporting the entire dodgy structure of the ceremony in another world-leading feat of Scottish engineering. Not only that, but he also sent a message to the 42 participating nations who still outlaw homosexuality in one way or another, which will be talked about for years to come.

John Barrowman, about to become the purple people eater...
And this was only the beginning. A bizarre musical interlude where performers seemed to pass the words of a certain prehistoric rocker's ballad (which appears to have nicked the tune from 'Loch Lomond') back and forth to each other threatened to summon the dread presence of the 'ancient one' himself. And sure enough: London-born Rod Stewart manifested to take the stage and finish it off. Stewart has always looked and sounded crusty, so he got away with it. Elsewhere, Susan Boyle warbled nervously, Ewan MacGregor and James McAvoy purveyed charismatic pretty-boy earnestness in the worthy name of UNICEF and Billy Connolly proved he could still spin a good yarn, even from behind comedy blind person shades.

The often grumpy Celtic weather gods appeared to be in a very good mood, and the glimpses of familiar landmarks showed them at their very best. The copious iconography of the city was well-used, particularly this gentleman who I was delighted to see still sports his traditional traffic cone.

The Duke of Wellington in customary attire.
I believe the 'organisers' missed a trick in not giving us a Police Box, however - as Glasgow was the last city in Britain to still have them on the streets for many years - and maybe throw in Peter Capaldi, as well. But of course, images of both are now copyrighted within an inch of their lives by the Beeb .

 A wee dug.
Our attention wavered as the nations were paraded into Celtic Park, led by a wee Scottish terrier which we hoped wasn't the the same one reused for each country (but given the apparent budget of the spectacle, we couldn't quite dismiss the idea). The best was past: Barrowman was off to ComicCon, Boyle back to the studio for her next Christmas album and as for Nessie and Rod... maybe deflated and put away until the closing ceremony?

Personally, I'm a great supporter of brazening-out cash-strapped ventures in pure panto style (I've been a Doctor Who fan all my life, after all), provoking the world to shout "Oh no it isn't..!" when sniffy detractors like most of Britain's Press attempt to condemn the Glasgow Opening as a 'Scottie Dog'.
I think the whole event was best summed up by an on-line comment which suggested that what we actually witnessed was the pilot for a new television series called 'McGlee'. Hoots, Crivens and help M'Boab - I'd watch it!

Made in Scotland, from Girders... unpronouncable too;
Made in Scotland from girders... it's called Barr's IRN BRU!
(With thanks to Bridget and Peter, without whom we wouldn't have seen this McExtravaganza)

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