Barcelona blooms, Bosnia burns and Bimbos beckon

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Indy Lifestyle Online
THE CLOSING ceremonies of the Olympics looked like the end of the world. A balloon reproducing a figure from Picasso's Guernica - I think that's what it was - a painting which expresses the horrors of war, did not exactly seem in keeping with a celebration of sports that included the likes of, say, synchronised swimming (the one species a colleague considers fair game for Norwegian harpoonists). The end of show fireworks were so relentless that, for a split second, I thought terrorists had taken hold just outside the stadium.

It was pretty weird stuff, but maybe the Spanish, with their own dark history, were unconsciously telling us something. Just over the horizon from the sports arena in Barcelona, on the other channel, was Bosnia and plenty of other sports stadiums ready for redecoration as prison camps.

For that eerie instant, I was reminded of Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Masque of the Red Death. Indoors, everyone is partying; outside, the plague rages. The party grows more delirious, until suddenly the crowd realises Death is in there, in the room with them.

Come on] Give it a break] It's summertime, when Parliament's gone fishin', the royals are on the Love Boat, the Kuwaitis are back at the beach and you're thinking nothing's happening. It is the Silly Season.

Who invented the Silly Season? It has a Bertie Woosterish kind of ring, a damn-the-natives-let's-have-the-other- half sort of quality, but Bertie did not have a television set. You look up at the screen between the wall-to-wall sports and the gin fizz, and there it is: the Rest of the World.

There is Somalia, with pictures of starving people, thousands of them. Women and children so tiny you could hold them in your hand, actually dying on television, as if in one of those nature films where time-lapse photography allows you to watch the flower open.

Closer to home, in the civilised new Europe, is Bosnia. Women and children fired on. Starved men in detention camps, allegations of torture and rape.

Sitting around in the garden wondering what to do - and knowing I'd probably do nothing at all - there was some faint comfort in the fact that I rarely saw the women doing the killing. Then I heard a report which alleged that in Bosnia a young woman had gouged out the eyes of a man with a broken bottle.

ON TUESDAY, the bimbo factor raised its head again in the American presidential elections, and President Bush 'bristled with indignation'. I like 'bristled'. He was busy bristling because someone published reports that he, George Bush, had had (whisper it) an affair] Well, the Silly Season is never really in full flow until the bimbo factor raises its head.

Unless you've been living under a rock since Tuesday, you'll know that it was alleged that Bush had had a longstanding affair with a State Department official named Jennifer Fitzgerald. Unlike the woman who said she'd had an affair with Democratic candidate, Bill Clinton, who was a Gennifer (Flowers) with a G, this was a Jennifer with a J. Tuesday was also Bill Clinton's birthday. What a present]

Anyhow, it was at a press conference at his vacation home that President Bush did his bristling. A reporter noted that the President had 'come to talk about foreign affairs' but ended up denying one of his own. When Bush was not 'bristling', he said he was not 'gonna take' any sleazy questions like THAT; said he was awfully disappointed that anyone would even ask him a question like THAT (I'll bet]). He wasn't gonna say anything about it. No, sir. Except it was a lie. But what could you expect in a 'screwy climate' like this, he said, which was perhaps an unfortunate adjective.

While George Bush was bristling, one of his henchpersons, perhaps one of his dirty-tricks-meisters who might have kept the story of Gennifer with a G and Bill Clinton bubbling as long as possible, appeared on television and did some bristling of her own. What comes around goes around.

Meantime, Barbara Bush just shook her head woefully. Millie, the First Dog, did not comment. Most of us just longed for Jimmy Carter, who had only lusted in his heart.

Anyhow, the Democrats will forever have a special place in their hearts

for Britain now because Jennifer (with a J) Fitzgerald is English born. So what else is there to say except: Happy Birthday, Bill, From Britain With Love.

BUT DRINK a glass of wine to three terrific women who won gold medals against the odds: Evelyn Ashford, the American who at 35 won a gold in the 4x100m relay - in her fourth Olympics.

To Derartu Tulu, the Ethiopian who won the women's 10,000m, the first black African woman to win a gold medal on the track. Did Elana Meyer, the white South African who came in second, hog a little of the limelight when she ran the lap of honour alongside Tulu? Did it matter? Probably not to Tulu. She was an image of grace under pressure as she won that race as easily as if she were catching a train.

And to Hassiba Boulmerka, the 1,500m champion, who has been attacked by Muslim fundamentalists in her native Algeria for 'running with naked legs in front of thousands of men' but keeps her faith and keeps running.

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