Five Hollow Rings
8.30pm, Friday, 27th July, 2012: the Olympic Opening Ceremony is girding its loins; I’m trimming the hedge. The stillness is eerie: the street, the village, the whole of this south Wales valley has gone quiet. There is not a car on the road, a step, voice, stir: even the dogs and cats must be watching. The only breach of the peace is the clicking of my shears… and next door closing their window.
As I work, I keep an eye on my neighbours’ TV screens; whichever way I turn, there’s one to watch, window-wide. All I want to know is that there is no bomb.
I think of Aleppo, whose two million inhabitants are awaiting noise and light of a different nature; try to imagine my own precious family entrapped there, to feel the terror: I can’t.
On Eira Owens’ screen I see a helicopter swooping low in the twilight – emergency? Hands freeze on shears, then relax: glitz is back.
I think of Eira Owens, petrified of pension cuts, and her two out-of-work sons, one laid-off, the other still seeking his first job, a year on from graduating. It’s a similar story down the street, round the region, all regions, but at least this evening, we have a spectacle to cheer us all, far off in the capital, in a theatre for the wealthy few.
I think of an email I received today. It was from the Leisure and Culture Officer at Melton Mowbray’s council, informing me he has no money for my proposed arts project.
A keen and conscientious supporter of my proposal, he had been investigating funding possibilities for the past three months, reporting back intermittently on hopes dashed here, raised there, until this morning when, with ‘further unplanned cuts’, he’d given up.
This council was the only one of the 50 I’d approached to hold out any hope of financing such a project. The rest had declared themselves cash-strapped, arts-team-stripped or, more euphemistically, had no plans for such schemes at that time. An unnerving number went on to warn me of the bleak outlook for the arts.
My proposal had been to lead a multi-arts, poetry-based performance by children for the public: a morale boost for all involved, and much more besides. But never mind: the children of my street – and all others, I suppose – are sat indoors this fine summer’s evening, watching the government’s showpiece instead.
Saturday, 28th July: the people of Aleppo are receiving their dreaded bombardment. Food and water running out, too, I hear on Radio 4 News. Then some jolly music: Olympic News! After all, we have a peaceful, free and fair democracy to celebrate, and a thriving culture, too, as last night’s show apparently reminded us. But, poor us! We have our sorrows too: no gold for Team GB! Worse still perhaps: hundreds of seats empty round the arenas, casting a hollow tone over this great extravaganza – hollow as an Olympic ring.
Monday, 6th August: time for a more positive note, I think! Stunned by the grace, dare, strength, skill, poise, elegance and sheer guts of all the gymnasts performing in the uneven bars contest. As a kid I’d considered myself, for a short time, star of the school climbing frame. How humbling to see youngsters only a few years older than I was then, performing such breathtaking and beautiful feats!
More thoughts on Twitter @KatyPoet