Olympic Ceremony: Britain Doesn't Explain Itself

I kept off Twitter last Friday because I wanted to take the complete Olympic opening ceremony in one big gulp without interruption to get the full impression. When you tweet during an event, it becomes broken up into 140 character chunks and the whole sweep is lost. I was so glad I did, because with only a few minor quibbles the complete effect was just so much more gloriously eccentrically British than the sum of the parts.

For instance, I started off grumbling to myself, "Hasn't Boyle read Tess of the D'Urbervilles or Lark Rise to Candleford?" The rural life was far from a sunny idyll for most of those who worked on the land on fixed wages. You can't encompass everything about 18th and 19th century social and economic history into 30 minutes of course. But the spectacle was glorious and I thought to myself, this is very much in the romantic tradition so absolutely fine.

Looking down on the stadium as it changed colours and was swept by waves of fireworks, was like looking at a huge kinetic Renaissance jewel. Inside, people ebbed and flowed through the huge space in perfectly choreographed waves, the movements in every dimension providing the eye with such nourishing food. Like shoals of fish or flocks of birds, wholly manifest in the adorable cycling doves of peace.

As a passionate fan of children's literature and the NHS, I loved the fact that Danny Boyle had been given his head and we just weren't 'explaining' ourselves to the world at all. I am writing this without finding out first what the world thought, so that is a treat to come. Why the hell shouldn't Mary Poppins clone herself and help out at Great Ormond Street Hospital? Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

The music is a personal soundtrack to our lives, from Jerusalem sung solo by a marvellous boy treble, to David Bowie's "Heroes," via Tubular Bells and Led Zep, Elgar, "Abide with Me" and "Chariots of Fire." It had me sighing with delighted recognition, a feeling of reliving (but without the drowning).

The dance was spectacular, given that many were volunteers -- loved the pogo'ing punks with their big beautiful heads and bouncing boots (prefiguring the glories of the Paralympic runners).
And beautiful Beckham, smiling up the Thames in a speed boat, lovely young future footballing star ahead of him, hair blowing in the wind of their going, grasping the streaming flame. Heart lifting stuff.

Now to my quibbles. Really! He's COMMANDER Bond, not Mr. Bond! Also, inclining that granite head to his sovereign is surely a Foreign Office regulation? And were those STUNT corgies? I didn't quite believe in them.

And the herd of random Sergeant Peppers! Why?

I very much liked the U.S. team uniform by Ralph Lauren -- great berets. Kangol? I very much disliked the undignified gold armpits and frivolous cropped white trousers of our team. Sort of outfit that can only really be carried off by daft 15 year old girls and the team demographic is far more diverse.

Favourite outfits of all were the African ones -- particularly the women's joyous headdresses of stiffly folder fabric au choix.

We welcomed the world on Friday night, but on our terms -- above all it felt confident -- why shouldn't we bring on the rockabilly nurses and get them to jump, petticoats flying and held aloft by genuine NHS doctors!