A Peculiarly British Pastime

A Peculiarly British Pastime

I don’t know what it is about us Brits, but we have this peculiar pastime of putting ourselves down, shooting ourselves in the foot and basically looking for the negative in everything we do.

Take the Olympics for example. We are on the eve of hosting the biggest sporting event in the WORLD and instead of celebrating what we’ve already achieved – successfully completing all the new buildings ahead of schedule, restructuring facilities and systems in London itself to enable easier passage of athletes and officials, having one of the most trouble-free torch relays of all time – what do we find our news media full of?? Not the successes, no, that would be too much like admitting that we’re actually quite good at what we do.

For the last couple of days we’ve had catastrophic prophecies about the lack of security provided for the athletes, anticipated massive problems at Heathrow over the handling of baggage and visitors, days and days of complaints about how a bridge on the M4 was cracked and needed repairing thus closing the road for a few days, politicians hurling abuse at each other because “someone” should have forseen all the problems and it’s just not good enough!!! (stamp stamp our feet stamp stomp and hiss)

There are the predictable snipes and snide guffaws about the anticipated opening ceremony – “a field?? In a field???!”. There is the awful picture of traffic being confused about the Olympic fast-lane in central London today in the press this afternoon – give them a break for goodness’ sake, it’s only the first day of the new regime and these things will always have teething problems.

The headline that accompanied this picture was “The road to nowhere: The most ridiculous example yet of how Olympics lanes are making a farce of driving in London” (Daily Mail)


We use words such as “farce”, “ridiculous” and “disgrace” when in actual fact the opposite is true, but we just don’ t like things going well do we?

Apparently, the security staff didn’t turn up at a Manchester hotel over the weekend to lock it down ahead of the athletes who will be arriving in a day or so. What did the press say? Not “well done Greater Manchester Police for stepping into the breach today!” but “it’s a travesty!!!!! How can we trust that the athletes will be protected throughout the games??!”

The security issue is the biggest thing that we are terrible at celebrating. When the story first broke last week that G4S hadn’t managed to purloin enough staff to cover all of their security posts, Sky News was rolling it for hours and hours, saying that the Army had had to be drafted in to cover the “mess”. Alongside the story were aerial shots of the surface to air missiles being put in place on top of tower blocks in London to protect the athlete’s village and the shooting range from possible air attacks from terrorists, amongst other things.

Now, is it me, or does the fact that the Army are there protecting our citizens, our visitors, our competitors and our country from possible terrorist acts (probably on the grandest scale that the Games has ever seen) a good thing, or cause for self-flagellation about how bad we are?

It must be a British thing. You can’t imagine the Americans saying “wow, we are so bad that our military have had to come and protect us”. No. The view there would be more along the lines of “watch out terrorists and trouble-makers, our Military force is here to stop you and you had better behave yourselves!”

I absolutely despair of my country sometimes. We seem to enjoy picking ourselves to pieces and highlighting the negatives rather than celebrating our positives. I wonder what will happen when the Games start and we actually start winning things? Maybe there’ll be endless news inches about the quality of the medal, the flowers (why do they give flowers to men?), the fact that it’s raining…..

We’ve perfected the art of the stiff upper lip to the extent that now, if there’s nothing to be stiff upper-lipped about, we construct something just so that we can be bloody miserable about it and make ourselves happy again by complaining about it.







7 thoughts on “A Peculiarly British Pastime”

  1. Very true Pam, similar over here, if someone bangs into us (Canadian) we say “Sorry” or “Excuse me” when it was them banged into us not the other way round. Terminally polite!


  2. It is indeed tragic that such a global event of peace and cultural exchange can be marred by these nuts. Looking back I think it was not a good idea that President Carter did not allow USA athletes to go to Russia for Olympics.

    “watch out terrorists and trouble-makers, our Military force is here to stop you and you had better behave yourselves!” – now that is so funny. A terrorist behaving himself ! Ha !


  3. On the flip side however, too much self- adulation (i.e. Life in these United States) isn’t good either. But yes, “watch out terrorists and trouble-makers, our Military force is here to stop you and you had better behave yourselves!” would certainly be the sentiment here!


  4. It seems that you Brits are doing a fine job of making the Games a safe and secure place, from what I’ve read and seen on the TV. Better than China and Greece for sure. As well as the USA could do, or even better. You have nothing to put yourselves down about. Hold your heads high!


  5. Thank you Pam for a the real perspective from you who are across the pond from me and in the thick of it , so to speak.
    It’s not so ironic that I had been thinking the worst given the press that the UK is receiving here in the US.
    I’ve heard people say, No, they will not be able to pull it off. I am stunned because are the Olympics not about bring all nations together in the name of sports? In the spirit of unity.

    Good on you Pam for speaking up. I believe you should print this post and send it to the editor of your local newspaper.
    Just thinking out loud here. ~ BB


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