Wednesday, July 06, 2005

£200 million is a lot of fecking goats

HOORAH! WE’VE got the 2012 Olympics!

Take that, you rifle-dropping, cheese-eating, surrender monkeys. Take that, you donkey-chucking, bull-stabbing, siesta merchants.

Right. I can calm down now. And no doubt the true nature of this NuLabour victory will be expressed in more restrained terms. We didn’t in fact beat Paris and Madrid. We actually beat the Red and Blue cities.

And now the worry sets in. Let’s face it, we don’t actually have much of a track record of successfully staging major events and enormous building projects where London is concerned. The 1966 World Cup was spread around the country and relied on the icon of Wembley for the capital’s involvement. The 1996 European Championship was another brilliant nationwide affair while the 2002 Commonwealth Games was a purely Mancunian extravaganza.

As far as the Southerners are concerned, they’ve cocked up the Millennium Dome and that wonky bridge across the Thames. And have you travelled on a train in London lately? Those Indian chappies who cling to the roof of the Delhi to Calcutta express look more comfortable. And have you tried driving to the East End? By the time you’ve dodged the muggers, rapists, gangsters and Pearly Kings and Queens doing Knees Up Mother Brown in the middle of the road, you’re rapidly losing the will to live.

Still, it’s pie and mash all round. Let’s enjoy the moment. And hope that the Del Boys can get it right over the next seven years.

SATURDAY, EH? What a day!

Thousands of happy people gambolling on the grass in London, some brilliant performances, a few old-timers showing that they’ve still got what it takes, and all beamed into the drawing room of Beelzebub Mansions where I was lazing in front of the 48-inch plasma telly with a bucket of cold beer and a box of pickled onion-flavoured Monster Munch.

Yes, I really enjoyed the one-day cricket final against Australia.

Forgive me for being a wet blanket, but the idea of trekking all the way down to that London just to stand in a field with 200,000 sweaty airheads, Lefties and hippies while millionaire pop stars preached twaddle at me from a stage that was a mere dot on the horizon held all the appeal of a double shift in a vegetarian sausage factory.

If I’d wanted to enter into the spirit of the occasion, I’d have parked a portable telly in the Lower Meadow, retreated the half a mile to the herb garden and stood there all day clasping a plastic bottle of warm water and refusing to flush any of the toilets in the house while my man Whittaker jumped up and down in front of me waving a flag that read “Aimee luvs Dildo, Maxwell 2 go”.

(For the benefit of older readers, I should point out that the banner refers to a particularly whiney female singer and a popular current television series.)

Even more baffling were those people who queued up all night to get tickets to stand in an area of Hyde Park where they couldn’t even see the stage but got to watch the whole nonsense on a big telly. What is the point of that? How much did their transport to London and hotel rooms cost? How many boxes of anti-malarial drugs would that pay for? How many fecking goats would that buy?

And I’m still puzzled as to why the damn thing had to happen at all. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the swivel-eyed loon and his G8 chums had revised their aid to Africa budget several weeks ago, and had substantially increased it. Is that just so they can pretend that they’ve listened to the mob? (And did Monsieur Chirac arrive at Gleneagles with a Tupperware container of horse and pickle sandwiches under his arm, given his views on British food?)

And is there really any point in gifting yet more billions in cash to corrupt dictators who’ll fritter it away on fighter jets, limousines for the latest mistress or gold-plated George Foreman low-fat grills? Even the Nigerian government admits that its country’s past rulers have stolen or misused over £220 billion in aid since independence in 1960 – the equivalent of every penny we’ve sent to Africa in the past 40 years. Under those circumstances, why should African poverty still be the white man’s burden?

And don’t get me started on global warming, which appears to be the other issue agitating the assorted soap-dodgers who smashed up the Burger King restaurant in Stirling and their pop star advocates. In the past year I have been to see both Coldplay and REM in concert (groovy, eh?). On both occasions, the audience was assailed by trendy propaganda about protecting our planet, yet a cursory glance at their tour schedules shows that these prophets of doom happily fly around the globe in their private jets, belching out enough poisonous emissions to poison a thousand fecking goats.

So was this whole, hypocritical, self-reverential ego-fest more to do with record sales and restoring reputations than actually achieving anything real? It should be noted that virtually every single act that appeared on Saturday saw their record sales soar on Monday. There wasn’t a Pink Floyd CD to be had in the country by lunchtime. Even the foghorn-voiced Annie Lennox was knocking out a Greatest Hits album.

Now a few weeks ago I had a pop at Sir Bob and Sir Elton and Sir Bono and Sir Sting for not putting their own hands in their reinforced pockets when it came to providing relief for Africa. I may have pointed out that they could probably buy most of it between them and then sub-let it to the Welsh. So thank you to those artistes who have already committed to donating their extra royalties to charity.

OF COURSE, it’s easy to sneer, and on that point I yield to one of the nation’s master practitioners, Mr Mark Steyn of Her Majesty’s Daily Telegraph. Writing on Tuesday he points out that when Linda McCartney died of cancer, her lawyers fought tooth and nail to have her estate probated in New York, rather than London.

The reason for this is that the family thus avoided the 40 per cent inheritance tax on the estate, and copped for the best part of £150 million. As Mr Steyn points out, the original Live Aid concert in 1985 raised around £50 million for Africa. If the McCartney family had paid inheritance tax on dear Linda’s dough, the amount of cash going into government coffers - and then possibly onto Africa as aid - would have dwarfed that.

So yes, it’s easy to sneer.

AND I’LL sneer further at another target of recent weeks - Sir Bob’s preposterous announcement that an armada of small ships would set sail for France and bring back thousands of protesters who would then be ferried by coach up to Edinburgh to annoy the local populace with their inbred rudeness and horse and pickle sandwiches (and given the obduracy of the natives, that would take some doing).

In the end Sail8, as it was imaginatively named, sank as fast as a Spanish frigate off Cadiz. Only five yachts made the crossing and when they got to Normandy could find no-one waiting (or even willing) to travel back with them – not even an asylum seeker. Sir Bob, who was due to meet the “flotilla” on its return, duly found something better to do and legged it. And who can blame him.

AND HERE’S another thing. If Live8 was intended to “raise awareness” and influence the outcome of the G8 summit, why didn’t they just pick an easier target?

One man is easier to influence than eight, right? Yet in Rome there is one man who could, at a stroke, help alleviate the AIDS epidemic that is decimating Africa.

Perhaps Sir Bob should next turn his attention to getting Pope Benedict XVI to endorse the use of condoms. It would make a damn site more difference than having a pathetic crack addict shamble around Sir Elton’s piano.

IT CANNOT be ignored that while reams of every newspaper and hour upon hour of our public sector television broadcaster were given over to Live8, and the desire to give more money to Africa, a small space rocket was approaching its destination 83 million miles from Earth.

Its task? To fire a missile at a passing comet. Just to see what happened, like. The cost of this pointless exercise? Say £200 million. Or an awful lot of fecking goats.

I suppose we should be thankful that, given that it was an American project, they managed to hit the right comet, and didn’t blow up one of ours instead.

I SUSPECT that the availability of reliable supply of water is a major priority in alleviating Africa poverty. It certainly is in Sussex, where the manicured lawns of suburbia have been hit by the first hosepipe ban of the year.

So well done then to artist Mark McGowan, who has turned on a tap for a year at an art gallery in London, and intends to let it run for a year, so wasting 15 million litres of water. (And how many fecking goats would that keep going?)

"Basically it's an art piece for people to come and look at and enjoy aesthetically," he said. "It is also a comment on a social and environment issue.”

I know not if Mr McGowan, whose previous “masterpieces” include pushing a peanut around London with his nose, has received a Lottery grant for this latest project. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone not surprised that Lulu’s sudden health crisis (“I must get my cholesterol down to 4-something”) coincides with an advertising contract for low-cholesterol drinks, of anyone who hasn’t yet voted to remove the odious Maxwell from the Big Brother House, or of anyone who fell the TV advert and bought a packet of Toastbags. They don’t work, trust me. You’ll spend the next week fiddling around with a fork trying to get cheese, mustard, horse and pickle out of the bottom of your toaster.


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