Unlike last year’s graduates, and next year’s graduates, our year seem set for a somewhat different experience. While it’s all well and good to nurse our sorry confidences that have been quashed, batted and blasted by the unrelentingly exclusive jobs market, we always knew the stable career mill was going to be a write-off before we even started at uni. Years before us suffered at its mercy, and years to come will too: it’s something we should, by now, just accept. This year though do deserve a smidgen of sympathy (and I’m not just saying that because I’m in it, but, every cloud). Whether the Olympics excite, thrill, arouse, electrify you, piss you off, or have no bearing on your emotions, graduating into an Olympic UK is nuts.
I can’t say I’m anti-Olympic (I have tickets to the women’s wrestling final…) but on the whole, the merits of a sporting event are not enough to justify, for me, the incomprehensibly increased amount of sweaty heat on London transport, sporting puns in every single television advert on every single channel, and more patriotism than the average Brit can or should take in a lifetime.
Visiting Oxford uni last week I was coerced into attending “Captain’s Cocktails” – a drinking event on a rugby pitch with stacked ladz and fawning girls (the former plying the latter with constant alcohol for six hours) naked but for red, white and blue paint/bits of fabric. Had I been told it was an EDL sex-fest I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid.
With the Jubilee, the Olympics, and the Euros, Union Jacks are bridging a Renaissance from its general fascist connotations, to pure unadulterated UK-loving. It probably won’t make it though: unlike the Americans, who have cheesy, heart-felt country-loving down to a tee, this year of Jubilee, Euros and Olympics has demanded such a force of camaraderie that it seems like the whole country’s been taken by surprise, and the arbitrariness of shrouding oneself in a flag shine through. We’re not built for this kind of passion. Or maybe we are and I’m not used to it. I was taken aback to say the least arriving home to see my mum, sister, and friends shedding tears as Alan Titchmarsh read out the day of the Jubilee, brandishing a Manchester city flag from the deck of our houseboat. But I think Elizabeth, herself, may not have quite got that one.
I can get into patriotism in one way or another though, if you give me a plastic crown, three pints of Pimms, and a well-cushioned chair and you can shroud me in whatever variation of St George paraphernalia you like. It’s the emphasis on sport that makes this closure somewhat defunct for me. In the various fashionings of my post-University life I’ve imagined over time I was all ready for a go-go-go, carpe diem, ‘screw employment’, take-life-by-the-horns approach; try new things, see new places, pervade new paths, and essentially shed the constraints of formal education in a big way.
But the literally global attention being paid to sports of all kinds instead throws me into a flashback nightmare of my childhood, with four athletically able sisters and two hyper-active parents, my incapacity in comparison really came to the fore by sustaining itself against all odds.
Despite weekly rollerskating, summerly tennis, regular go-karting, some bold skiing ventures, and ice skating every New Years Day my bones have become no less prone to snapping at the swing of a bat, and nothing – no man, woman, child, or animal – knows pain better than my coccyx. Further, the only medal I ever won was the result of a teacher reading the long jump list upside down. But still, the family persisted and I have forever felt like Steve Martin. Now the entire world is at it. Even Mariano Rajoy, Prime Minister of Europe’s current disaster zone, felt compelled to fly to Ukraine for Spain vs. Italy in the group stages of the Euros. ‘Nuff said.
This excitement and animation rings so much of a British attempt to keep up with the cool kidz, but with a slightly clumsy outcome, like a Bridget Jones-esque family affair; a bit forced, a bit try-hard, a bit of a let-down (Colin Firth’s reindeer jumper being replaced by the tragic Olympic kits). Yes, it will all die down, but my God is it being dragged out.