Tag Archives: london

The Baby Subsequently Known as Prince (or Princess)

The royal baby is due to enter the world any day now, his or her arrival sure to herald a new age in mildly distracting chitchat among royalists, morning television presenters and baby enthusiasts everywhere. The world will be invited to gawk in collective wonder at his or her cute ickle shoes, cute ickle face, and cute ickle life of hollow luxury, haunted evermore by the terrible, oppressive burden of responsibilty it must bear until the end of its days. Oh, and the cute ickle hollow part of its head. That thing is weird, man.

The Prince or Princess of Cambridge is in for an eye-opening few weeks, as it becomes accustomed to its new but transient position as the most adorable news item of the day. This will pass, of course, and as the baby grows into its esteemed position, its lofty duties and obligations, and its enormous, beak-like nose (thanks a lot Grandad), it will be replaced by some new internet-based phenomenon, like a scruffy three-legged dog that rescues a family of endearing ducklings from the BNP. Or something.

For a while, however, this young child will be the focus of boundless attention on social media worldwide, and will be trending so much that even sensible people will become enamoured with its presence, so much so that they forget that trend is not a verb.

People the world over will sit agog at their screens, frothing at the mouth in a regally induced stupor as they vacantly tickle and cuddle the virtual image of this messianic child, singing and gurgling to its pixellated form until their own children have long since starved from neglect, and their carcasses are mere husks, laid as sacrifices on the altar of #RoyalBaby.

It is impossible to predict how the child will react to the adulation that will be showered over it like confetti over a hungry passing seagull, whose stomach will later explode after ingesting the celebratory detritus. I imagine if his or her impending majesty were to keep a diary of these hectic few weeks, it would look a little something like this…

Day 1:

Today I came out all covered in goo and I met Mumsie and Daddy. They are nice. Mumsie said that I only cost seven pounds ten, but that sounds like a lot of money. I think my name is Hair because the doctor said that I was the new Hair. I think I must be called Hair because I already have more than Daddy.

After I was cleaned off, I met the whole family. They are very nice, but most of them are very old. Uncle Harry is my favourite because he is very funny, and his hair is pointy. Mumsie pointed to the television in the room and told me that the man called Kay was talking about me on the News about the sky, but I didn’t understand what she meant.

Another man was there with a camera. I think his name was Magazine because I heard people say Hello Magazine to him. The man looked different to Mumsie and Daddy, his face was brown. Even browner than Auntie Pippa’s face. Great Grandad asked him where he had learnt to use a camera, and Great Grandma told him to shut up. I think ‘shut up’ means the same as ‘go to sleep’, because that’s what he did straight away. After a while I met Grandma Camilla too. She is very nice. Great Grandma says she is not part of my family but I think she was only joking, and Daddy told her to stop being awful.

Day 2:

Today I got my very own iPad. On the back it has a picture of a crown and the letters H.R.H. Uncle Harry says that stands for Harry’s Really Handsome, but I think he’s fibbing. I heard Great Grandad say that Uncle Harry was a waste of space, but I don’t really know what that means. I should Google it.

Mumsie helped me to download some apps. One is a game where you throw birds at pigs and everybody dies. It’s not great. I also got an app called the Guardian, which is full of stories, but they’re not very good. Some of the women who write the stories look like Grandma Camilla, and they seem to be very angry with somebody called Cameron. I think he might be on X-Factor. Mumsie said that his wife is a cow, but I think this was a joke because people can’t be married to animals.

Day 3:

Today Mumsie helped me to set up my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I have thousands of followers on Twitter already, and I got some very nice messages. I even got one from Adele, who is a famous singer. I downloaded his album this morning and he has a really nice voice. Even nicer than Grandad’s singing on the night after I was born when he drank lots of fizzy water and Great Grandma told him to be quiet and that he was an oaf. I don’t know what an oaf is but I think it means you have a nice voice, so I Tweeted Adele saying he was a nice oaf.

Later I got Tweets from men who Mumsie says are bad. A man called Piers said that the monarchy was a relic of a bygone age. I didn’t understand these words but I think it was about Great Grandad because before he went back to sleep he said that Piers talked out of his bum. I asked Uncle Harry and he said that this was true.

I also got a Tweet from someone called Frank Boyle, who said it was a shame that someone called Jim Fix It had died before I was born, because he would have liked me. I think it is a shame too because I Googled Jim Fix It and he wore funny suits and glasses, and he looks like a nice man.

Day 4:

Mumsie showed me the pictures that Magazine took of me. He put them in his shiny book and Mumsie said that people buy the shiny book so they can see me. There are seventy-eight pages of pictures and I look very shrivelled and purple in all of them. Mumsie said that Magazine got his lighting wrong. Maybe that is why his face was all dark.

Day 6:

Mumsie helped me to upload a picture on Instagram of me chewing on my toy crown. I like my toy crown because some of it crinkles and some of it has bells and some of it is shiny and some of it is fuzzy and some of it is squelchy. Mumsie said that lots of people shared my crown on their Facebooks, but it was still there when I went to bed, so I don’t mind.

Day 8:

On my Facebook today someone called LADBible posted a picture of Mumsie feeding me my milk, and they said that I was a breastfeeding LAD. I do not know what this means but Mumsie says she doesn’t like the picture, so I think maybe the lighting was wrong in it.

Day 11:

Today I was on Facebook and I found a page called ‘Like if you’re bored of Royal Baby’. It had lots of likes, and people had made me into a meme, and I cried when I saw it.

Mumsie told me to ignore it, and that the man on the News about the sky was still talking about me, but when I turned it on they were talking about somebody called Pervert Schoolteacher, who I’ve never heard of.

Day 13:

Today I looked at the Daily Mail website. I think it is a website about holidays because they have lots of pictures of people at the beach. They had a picture of Auntie Pippa changing my nappy, but they cut me out of the picture. All you can see are my socks which say H.R.H. and the rest of the picture is Pippa. I’ve decided I don’t really like Auntie Pippa, and she has nothing to do with holidays anyway.

Uncle Harry says that Auntie Pippa is ‘a goer’ but whenever I see her she is just sitting down and not going anywhere.

Day 16:

Nobody Tweeted me at all today, except for Kanye West, who sent me a picture of a Duplo Buckingham Palace that North made, and he said it was better than the real one where I lived, and that North was better at Duplo than me. Daddy says that Kanye is derivative, and Mumsie said that North’s Mumsie is a tramp. Tramps have no palaces to sleep in and live on benches in Hyde Park so I feel sorry for her. Great Grandad said something about Kanye too but Mumsie told me it was a bad word.

Day 19:

Nobody is talking about me on the internet at all today. Mumsie and Auntie Pippa have been talking about shoes for six hours and I am very bored. I wish Uncle Harry was here, but he had to fly his helicopter to a war to ask the people to stop fighting. I watched him for a while because I knew the News about the sky would show him in his helicopter. After they showed Uncle Harry they had a story about a man whose lighting was wrong who got shot with a gun. And they said that Pervert Schoolteacher is still at large, but in his picture he looks quite small.

Day 21:

Today I threw my iPad on the floor and it broke. I don’t like the internet anymore. Now I just like to play with my toy crown and listen to Uncle Harry’s funny stories about a girl he knows whose name is This Stripper. Or listen to Great Grandad read me his diary from a hundred years ago when he was in a war against some Germs.

Most of all I like to be with Mumsie and Daddy when they cuddle me and pretend that I am a cloud, and they say that I will rain some day.

Before I threw my iPad away I sent one last Tweet to the man called Piers after Uncle Harry had taught me a bold word and helped me to make a funny picture with Piers’ head and some tall men whose lighting is wrong with no clothes on. It made me giggle so much that I got sick on Harry, and he called me a stupid baby, which I think is like an oaf. I love my Uncle Harry, and I love all my family. I don’t need the internet to have fun. Now where’s my crown? My gums are sore…

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Demolition Lady

Paddy O’Donnell stood motionless in the dock, his hands cuffed together at his waist, a scornful look of indifference etched on his scarred face as he stared fixedly at the judge who sat before him. His arms and neck were covered in a sprawl of black ink, his skin a patchwork of intricate Celtic symbols, murals of fallen comrades, and various words and phrases scrawled in old Irish script. Somewhat incongruously, he also bore quite a detailed tattoo on his forearm of Irish actor Colm Meaney as Chief O’Brien from Star Trek. The magistrate’s officious voice echoed around the grand chamber,

‘Mr. O’Donnell, you have been found guilty of each of the charges levelled against you. You have not shown an ounce of remorse for your heinous actions…’

As the judge continued to address him, O’Donnell’s lips curled into a sinister smirk.

‘…hereby sentenced to life imprisonment at the Royal British CryoPrison. You will be eligible for parole only after serving no less than fifty years in cryostasis.’

O’Donnell did not react but maintained his leering glare as the judge looked down at him over the rim of his glasses.

‘That is the judgement of the King’s Court on this, the third day of September 2029.’

As the judge’s gavel fell and the guards began to escort him out of the courtroom, O’Donnell turned to look at the magistrate once more.

‘He’s not my King, your honour,’ he spat contemptuously at him, although unfortunately this venomous riposte was negated slightly by the fact that the judge had already left his seat. As O’Donnell was led away he raised his head and crowed to the assembled masses, ‘Tiocfaidh ár lá’, his face still contorted in a fiendish grin as he was taken from the room.

Constable Jessica Phillips stared distractedly out of her hovercar window as the buildings of London rushed by in a glistening blur. It was early still, the roads almost empty and awash in a bluish neon haze of artificial light. As the car steered itself around the corner onto Simon Cowell Square she noticed a car that had been pulled over by two traffic drones. The driver had clearly tried to make a run for it, since he lay prostrate and unconscious on the kerb as the drones processed the vehicle.

The radio hummed quietly as the car glided towards its destination.

‘This is 20FM, your only station for non-stop 20th century music. That was I Will Survive, a huge hit for Gloria Gaynor in 1979. A hundred years old folks, and still a great tune. Stay with us, coming up after these short messages we’ve got a classic from Will Smith…’

‘Radio off,’ muttered Jessica as she continued to gaze out the window. The Captain’s phone call half an hour earlier had unsettled her. He was not a man given to panic, yet his voice had betrayed an anxiety that troubled her as the car cruised towards the imposing Metropolitan Police complex. Newer Scotland Yard was an impressive feat of architecture, its glass edifice shimmering in the dim morning light as the sun crept over the horizon.

She had met the Commissioner only once, briefly, at a fundraiser for the Science Academy a few years earlier. Something about cloning worker bees as part of their Pollination Project to alleviate food shortages. She remembered he kept making awful jokes about stinging and honey and hive minds, at which she had laughed heartily of course. Not that such fulsome indulgence had furthered her career in any way. Her superiors had always seemed wary of her obsession with the culture and history of the 20th century, as though she was somehow infected with the barbarity and lawlessness of the period. Eight years on the force and still a Constable. Perhaps this impromptu meeting was the opportunity she had been waiting for. This thought lifted her spirits, and she skipped up the marble steps to the entrance as the attendant drone guided her hovercar to its parking space.

The Commissioner’s office was, like that of most professionals, purely functional; all austere minimalism, white walls, straight lines, and gleaming chrome surfaces. The shelves were neatly stacked with masses of colossal grey volumes – legal reference material, political polemics, that kind of thing. She scanned some of the titles: Order from Chaos: Before and After the New Constitution, Civil Liberties: Bane of a Unified Society, Zen and the Art of Drone Maintenance. The only colour present in the room was the deep crimson in the swollen jowls of the man himself, a look of flustered anguish greeting her from behind an enormous desk as she entered. The Captain was already seated in front of him, and nodded curtly to her as she sat down.

‘Thank you for coming at such short notice Constable Phillips. Time is of the essence here so I’ll get right to the point.’

Jessica listened attentively as the Commissioner outlined the situation. It transpired that yesterday evening, during a routine parole hearing at the CryoPrison, a convicted terrorist had somehow escaped. He had also managed to free several of his comrades, after which they took control of an entire wing of the facility and barricaded themselves in. This O’Donnell character was one of the leaders of the Actual IRA, a group of revolutionaries from the early part of the century, who were very sensitive about confusion with other contemporary factions such as the Bona Fide IRA and Seriously, We’re the IRA. These terrorist organisations sprang up after economic difficulties forced the Irish government to sign the Act of Union II in 2023.

The Commissioner continued, ‘Which brings us to why you’re here, Constable. The Captain tells me you’re something of an enthusiast regarding the 20th century.’

‘Yes Sir, I studied the history and politics of the era as an optional module during my Citizenry Training. But the 21st century IRA was quite different to…’

The Commissioner held out his hand to stop her.

‘It’s not an expert on the terrorists we need, Constable. We unfroze our own last night, after the escape.’

Phillips looked from the Commissioner to the Captain in confusion.

‘I don’t understand Sir…’

‘You’re the expert on our expert, Constable Phillips. You’re to be her handler for as long as this situation takes to resolve.’

With these enigmatic remarks the Commissioner pushed a button on his desk and addressed his secretary in the hallway.

‘Sarah, please send in the Baroness.’

Jessica turned to face the door as it slid open with a hiss. A figure she instantly recognised swept into the room, her beady eyes surveying the three of them with a slight hint of curiosity, and no little amount of disdain. Her hair was immaculately coiffed, her overcoat prim and pristine. Her frail hands, more bone than skin and practically translucent, were tightly gripped around a small brown handbag.

‘Well it’s about bloody time. Woken up after sixty-odd years and left sitting out in the hall with only a frightfully dull woman and a flying robot for company. It’s a long way from 10 Downing Street, I’ll tell you that much. If Denis were here, he’d tell you…’

‘Ah, Mrs. Thatcher,’ began the Commissioner hesitantly, ‘I do hope the security drone didn’t bother you too much…’

‘Infernal Japanese invention no doubt. Of course you know what Ronald always said about the Japanese…’

‘Baroness,’ he interrupted again, ‘I’d like to introduce you to Constable Phillips. She’ll be taking care of you while you’re with us.’

Jessica, still in shock at what was happening before her, stood up and extended her hand.

‘It’s an honour, Ma’am.’

Thatcher looked her up and down with a contempt that wasn’t so much thinly veiled as stark bollock naked.

‘A woman? Couldn’t you find someone more…senior, Commissioner?’

‘I assure you Ma’am, the Constable is an expert on…’

‘Yes, yes, alright, she’ll have to do’ she snapped impatiently.

‘Although if I may say so dear, you’ll never be taken seriously walking around with all that slap on your face. I told Edwina Currie the same thing. Edwina, I said, if you act like a whore then you can expect to be treated…’

‘Yes, well, no time to lose,’ interjected the Commissioner hastily.

‘We have a Situation Room set up at the prison. Let’s get over there and see if we can sort out this mess.’

Jessica sat in the back of the hovercar, nervously trying to answer Mrs. Thatcher’s incessant questions to the best of her ability.

‘These flying contraptions must cost a tidy sum, dear? I hope you’re not paying through the nose for labour costs, they seem quite flimsy.’ The Baroness was fidgeting with the video screen in front of her and had managed to break it cleanly off its mount.

‘Well Ma’am, we don’t really deal in money anymore.’

‘No money?’ she exclaimed, aghast at the notion.

‘Why if old Major heard that one he’d chase you round the House with his cricket bat. No money indeed. How on earth do your companies function?’

‘There are no private companies anymore. Everything is run by the City Authorities.’

‘Sounds a lot like Communism to me dear,’ replied Thatcher, and spat on the floor of the car.

A flat, monotonous voice buzzed from the speaker overhead, ‘Expectoration in a municipal vehicle is a crime. A civil obedience drone has been dispatched to your…’

‘Override dispatchment. Authorisation code Phillips Bravo Foxtrot.’

After a slightly awkward pause Jessica went on,

‘People need control. There’s practically no crime anymore; any that does occur is taken care of by the drones. They can be quite a deterrent.’

‘And the whole country is like this now?’

‘The major cities are. Some outcasts prefer to stay in the wilderness, but it’s total chaos out there.’

‘So there’s no crime, no resistance, no trade unions to be faced down, no foreign dictators to be put in their place, nobody protesting or clamouring for change?’

Phillips shook her head.

Turning back to stare out the window, Thatcher muttered with a hint of sadness, ‘What on earth do you do for fun?’

The Situation Room bustled with activity as they entered, the Commissioner waiting for them in front of a screen that showed the interior of the prison wing. A breathless subordinate ran to greet them, evidently still finishing his lunch as he clutched a half-eaten sandwich and a glass of milk.

‘Mrs Thatcher, it’s an honour. It’s all go here as you can imagine. Anything I can get you?’

‘Yes, I’m thirsty,’ the Baroness replied coldly, and snatched the glass of milk from his hand. The Commissioner motioned to her and she strode across the room to where he stood, an audible hush having descended amongst the assembled crowd as every pair of eyes followed her regal march across the floor.

The Commissioner greeted her at the screen, ‘The leader of the terrorists is ready to talk, Baroness. As per your recommendation, we’ve disguised his real voice and replaced it with an alternate.’

‘Good. He’ll get no free publicity from me.’

‘Quite. We weren’t sure whose voice to impose on him, so we picked a prominent celebrity from your era. I hope you approve, Ma’am.’

‘Yes yes, let’s get on with it, shall we?’

She stepped up to the intercom and addressed the prisoner, ‘Mr. O’Donnell, this is Lady Thatcher. What exactly is it you want that’s so damned important?’

There was a short pause, then through the makeshift speakers that flanked the giant video screen came the unmistakeable voice of 1990s’ entertainment personality Mr. Blobby.

‘I’ve told your Commissioner what I want. I want equality. I want justice. I want…’

‘Oh shut up for a minute, you sound ridiculous,’ she snapped. She turned to the Commissioner and raised an eyebrow. ‘Well, what does he want? His country freed from oppression, I suppose. His children’s children released from the yoke of bondage most likely, yes? The lifeblood of his comrades in arms vindicated by the submission of…’

‘Eh, fag breaks,’ came the crackled voice over the intercom. Thatcher turned back to the microphone, a look of confusion on her face.

‘Excuse me?’

‘Fag breaks. Just a few a year or whatever. Gets bloody cold in that thing, you know.’

The Baroness swivelled and cast an accusatory glance at the Commissioner that would turn a lesser man to stone.

‘This…is what you brought me here for?’ she snarled at him. Before he could answer she turned on her heels and promptly marched out of the room, followed closely by Jessica.

‘Eh…is that a yes?’

The hovercar drifted through the evening fog towards the Citizens’ CryoFacility on the outskirts of the city. Phillips sat opposite the Baroness, who sat sedately silent in her seat.

‘You’re sure you don’t want to stay a few more days Ma’am?’

‘What’s the point? May as well get back to that blasted ice cube for another lifetime I suppose, until I’m needed again.’

Jessica sensed the resignation in her voice.

‘You might grow to like it here, after a while.’

‘I thrive on conflict dear. In a world without any, what good am I to anyone?’

Sighing to herself, she sat back in her seat, her eyes glazed and downcast. For the first time that day Jessica didn’t see a fearsome, indomitable force of nature, but a tired and lost old woman who felt discarded by the world.

‘Well there is one place I can think of Ma’am, but like I said, it’s total chaos.’

Thatcher looked up to meet her gaze, her wizened face betraying a trace of a smile.

When they reached the outer gate the Baroness turned to Jessica and shook her hand.

‘Thank you Constable. You’ve been very helpful. I shan’t imagine I’ll be seeing you again.’

‘You’re sure about this Mrs. Thatcher? Once you go out there there’s no turning back.’

The Baroness looked her in the eye,

‘Don’t worry dear. This lady’s not for turning.’

With that she shuffled through the gate and into the bleak terrain beyond. Leaning against her hovercar, Jessica watched the hunched figure disappear into the grey mist.

After a few moments she sat into the car and began her journey home. ‘Radio on.’

‘…back to 20FM folks, and here’s a song from the 1980s that captured the mood of an angry nation. I don’t know about you but I’m glad those dark days are behind us.’

As the car thrummed its way back along the grey highway into the sprawling cityscape, the opening bars of Ghost Town reverberated around the interior of the immense machine, and a tear rolled down Jessica’s cheek as she surveyed the dark, lifeless metropolis that awaited her return.


The Kids Aren’t Alright

After nearly a week of wanton destruction and violence, the riots that spread across England have come to a close. At this stage the young criminals who’ve been vandalising their own communities have probably run out of glass to smash, or trainers to steal, or perhaps just run out of energy considering most of them probably exist solely on fast food. They’ll still kick in a McDonalds window if they get the chance though. If you’re wondering what that smell is, it’s the concept of irony being set alight and kicked to death by a group of thugs from Birmingham. Only after they stole his trainers though.

Aside from piles of rubble and hilarious photoshopped scenes from the riots, the one thing we have an excess of in the wake of the past week’s events is questions. What made thousands of kids angry enough to set fire to everything in sight? Why was David Cameron on holiday when his crystal ball had told him there’d be riots when he was away? Where can I get that slick grey hoody that guy with the handful of iPods was wearing?

Over the last number of days there has been much written in the media in an attempt to answer the question of why this happened. Russell Brand wrote an interesting article in The Guardian which criticised the portrayal of the rioters and looters as animals and monsters, and he makes a good point. It is natural for people to distance humanity from terrible acts but if societal problems are ever going to be tackled successfully, they must first be understood.

The youths committing these acts have the same capacity for violence, greed and stupidity as the rest of us. They also share our capacity for kindness, empathy and all the other traits that were displayed by those who rallied together to clean up their communities after they had been devastated. Which of these qualities come to the fore in a young person is dependent on millions of variables, and it is their development and growth and the experiences they have that will ultimately shape them. Calling them monsters is a cowardly way of avoiding the fact that massive sections of western civilised society are breeding grounds for young men, in particular, full of hate and malice.

Kevin Myers wrote an article this week in which he noted that the vast majority of the rioters were Afro-Caribbean. He went on to cite the lack of father figures in the lives of these young men as a contributing factor, given the massive amount of single mothers in the areas affected. He also recognised that it was a failed immigration policy that resulted in the breakdown of community in these areas, and led to disenfranchisement of massive groups of young people.

There are many other relevant factors that affect these groups of people and cause violent tendencies, such as poverty, peer pressure, lack of education, boredom, alienation from society, early exposure to criminality, to name but a few. Myers is absolutely correct, however, in his assertions that a lack of parental control and the unbelievably poorly conceived immigration policies of successive governments have greatly contributed to the situation. This is true not just in Britain, but across the world.

Of course, because Mr. Myers has a history of making somewhat incendiary and controversial comments, and because we live in a society so laden with sanctimony masquerading as political correctness, these comments have been branded by many as racist and offensive. Apparently just noticing that the rioting crowd was predominantly ethnic, something that is demonstrably true, is now in itself a racist act. What a pathetic world we live in where adults cannot even discuss issues with clarity, never mind attempt to solve our society’s ills, without having a label thrown at them to discredit their argument.

What we must not do, however, when asking why this happened, is confuse explanation for justification. Nobody needs a father figure to tell them it is wrong to steal from a kid lying at the side of the road with a broken jaw. No amount of government money spent on playgrounds and youth centres will stop a certain element in society from taking any excuse to get out in the streets, burn down people’s homes and livelihoods, and throw rocks at the police. And no policy changes from the Tories, who everyone seems to be singularly blaming for this crisis despite the fact that Labour were in power as these young people grew up, will change the fact that some people do not want to be educated, or informed, or bettered in any way. They are quite happy to simply remain as they are and continue to blame everyone but themselves.

The only thing more depressing than watching the horrific scenes of the riots on television, and seeing the fear on the faces of the innocent people affected, is listening to the debate that is ongoing in their aftermath. Because it is abundantly clear to anyone listening that nothing is going to change. If there is one universal truth about our species, it is that we do not learn from history. This is the society we’ve made for ourselves, and it’s one we’re going to have to live with for a very long time.


The Hour of London

Celebrations were held in London this week to mark the fact that only one year remains until the 2012 Olympic Games are upon us. Next summer will see the city play host to the world’s most eminent sporting event, with the best athletes from around the globe coming together to compete.

The modern Olympics have changed drastically since the first tournament was held in 1896, now basically consisting of massively expensive and ostentatious opening and closing ceremonies, with a few races thrown in here and there for good measure. Next year’s opening ceremony will be overseen by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle. Perhaps the ceremony will be based on one of his films: an extravagant, futuristic celebration based on Sunshine? A Trainspotting-inspired journey through the darker recesses of urban British counterculture? Or maybe a return to the zombie-infested London of 28 Days Later, complete with Thriller-esque choreography? Whatever he decides to include, it seems the ceremony is in safe hands. Let’s just hope it doesn’t last for 127 Hours. Or star James Franco.

The Olympics used to be all about the events, and for the purists there is no better example of the famous adventurous Olympic spirit than the 1900 Games held in Paris. The Games were held for over five months, and along with the usual sports like athletics, football and gymnastics, certain events were trialled over the course of the Games that failed to become official Olympic sports. Among the stranger contests held this year were firefighting, hot air ballooning, delivery van racing and poodle clipping. The most bizarre, however, and certainly one that wouldn’t be allowed today, was live pigeon shooting. Nearly 300 pigeons were killed in the event, with the winner reaching a tally of 21. Pretty impressive considering Dastardly and Muttley couldn’t even get one.

Of course the 2012 Olympics will feature some ridiculous events too. Dressage, for instance, essentially involves a group of insanely rich toffs who are all related to each other trotting around on their horses. The medal is then awarded to whichever of them looks the most upper class. There is also the rhythmic gymnastics section, in which artificially shrunken pre-pubescents pretend to be cats and roll around with ribbons and balls and other feline accoutrements. Whoever comes fourth in gruelling events like the marathon each year must be really pissed to see one of these tiny cat-people come away with a gold medal after playing around on the floor for a while.

The Olympics these days is more about personalities than anything else. Firstly there’s athletics superstar Usain Bolt, the chicken nugget-powered fastest man in the world over 90 metres, at which point he slows down and moonwalks the rest of the race just to mock his inferior opponents. Secondly, adopted American son and über-celebrity David Beckham, who has stated he wants to play for the British football team in 2012. Maybe if they win they’ll finally give over about 1966. Let’s just hope it doesn’t go to penalties. And thirdly, eh, that Canadian curling guy. Yeah, him.

Aside from these few colourful characters, the inevitable bone-crunching falls in gymnastics, and the excitement of watching the hammer and the javelin in the hope that someone gets nailed in the head, there is very little of interest in the Olympics. A West African will run really fast and win the race. A Bulgarian bloke called Artem with no neck will lift slightly heavier things than anyone else and win a medal. And whatever Belgian cyclist has pumped himself so full of drugs that his heart beats about 700 times per minute but not so full of drugs that his calves explode, will win the cycling events. All very predictable and not very exciting.

What the Olympics needs is a breath of fresh air, something to reinvigorate it and make it compelling viewing once more. While going back to some of the events of the 1900 Games is probably not the way to go, there may be some inspiration to be gleaned from going back even further, to the Ancient Olympic Games.

Traditionally the last event of the Ancient Games was the ‘Hoplite race’, in which competitors had to compete in full body armour, including helmet and shield. This would certainly make the 800 metres a bit more interesting. Or the Olympic boxers could take their example from the Greek competitors who weighted their leather gloves with metal. Hitting a man when he was down was perfectly legal, however if you went too far and killed him, he was automatically declared the winner. Bit of a Pyrrhic victory really. One tradition that isn’t likely to be revived, however, is the nakedness of all competitors in the Ancient Games. Although it would probably make beach volleyball even more popular with male viewers.

Maybe all the Olympics needs is a new image. Its motto, ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’, isn’t exactly awe-inspiring. How about ‘5 Rings to Rule Them All’, or ‘The Olympics – Drug Free Since, eh, the Last Olympics’. Although the way things are going, in a few years the motto will probably be ‘The Olympics – Silver Medals for Anyone Who Isn’t Chinese’.

The 2012 mascots are similarly disappointing. The puzzlingly named Wenlock and Mandeville sound like gay lovers from some rejected BBC period drama set in the stables of a stately home. They don’t even look particularly athletic, seeing that they are supposedly made of steel. The whole cycloptic thing they have going on can’t be much good for their depth perception either. They’d never get out of the blocks in the delivery van race, and as for poodle clipping, forget about it, they don’t even appear to have fingers.

Despite the somewhat faded grandeur of the modern Olympics, I will still no doubt be glued to the television for its duration. It only comes around every four years, and is the pinnacle of achievement for the athletes who have trained so hard and sacrificed so much to be there. Which is what makes it all the more enjoyable when they fail spectacularly. Now I’m off to find some pigeons. I reckon I can beat 21 before the day is out.