Friday, 8 February 2008

Gobbing from the Balcony, the American Election and the Dangers of Being a Dead Cert.

A friend who lives in the States (American not Emirate) sent me this link to a New York Times article and told me how the Presidential Campaign in the States was becoming a tad more exciting and inspirational than it has been for many a year. The first black president or the first woman president, is this a ‘win-win’ situation for a change in the tone of American politics? However it is also possible that Clinton and Obama are so busy tearing each other up that the solid, elder statesman McCain slips up on the inside and pips them at the post. He may be elderly but he has five years as a tortured prisoner of war in Vietnam to wave like the red badge of courage and people do like a hero, especially if the opposition is busy assuming they have it in the bag if only they get that nomination. Voters don’t like being presumed upon.

I recall watching that Grand National in the fifties when Devon Loch was tearing up to the post to win by miles and then he jumped an imaginary fence, landed on the ground and was beaten. An account of this has recently been posted on Youtube and that old Pathe news style, plus jolly background music pushes all sorts of nostalgia buttons.

There I am back in Ilkeston Road cinema for some reason called The Ritz but which bore no resemblance to anything ritzy at all. Other kids always took delight at spitting down on you from the balcony, the seats directly underneath being referred to as ‘gob alley’. Only the stupid, the naive and those with an already well honed sense of victimisation (who would in later life go on to be deemed passive aggressive) resorted to those seats. The woman with the torch who patrolled the balcony ineffectually waved it about like a searchlight at a POW camp, yelling “Pack it in or you’ll all be for it’ rather than ‘Achtung’. What the ‘it’ was that we were for was never clearly defined but the ‘it’ word was used as the ultimate deterrent. The closest we came to ‘it’ was the short, fat, balding manager who suffered from some sort of asthma and who could hardly breath by the time he got from his Office to the scene of any gobbing crime. I learnt later that at the age of seventeen he had been gassed in the first world war, hence the shortness of breath but of course even if we had known then, children are notoriously unkind when hunting in packs. Later studying Lord of the Flies at school I only had to think back to the Ilkeston Road Ritz to understand not just the metaphor but the thin veneer of civilisation and humanity that really did exist in the world.

The memorable phrase in the race commentary of course was ‘Devon Loch can’t lose’ and a nano second later, he’s on the floor and being passed. The jockey of Devon Loch was Dick Francis who subsequently went on to become famous as a fiction writer. I have a sense that should the Democratic horse fall flat in the final straight; some works of fiction will be perpetrated on the public by the jockey that is eventually given the Democrat ride as to why they lost when there appeared to be such a ground swell of opinion in America for change.

Clinton is playing the ‘I am a woman but tough as old boots’ card but she can still have a little weep to camera just to soften the PR edges if necessary. She has survived being married to a lying cheat of a husband ( quote ‘I did not have sexual relations with that girl’ unquote ) and yet they can still both move through the corridors of power like a dynasty in waiting.

Whatever the outcome at least some people have shown an interest, the poll turn outs have been high and one can only hope that come an election here the public become equally enthused to at least have an opinion and a willingness to get up off their backside and get down to a polling station. Apathy is that one horse race that collapses before the post and of course no-one is ever a winner in those circumstances.

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