THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Drivers to have 10-year health checks
That way, madness lies

Love the show, troubled by the message

I watched the Olympic Opening Ceremony from start to finish on French channel TF1. It's fair to say that much of it bemused the French commentators, but reading around this morning I see that - as the BBC used sports commentators for a cultural event - it was just as puzzling to the native presenters.

I loved the show. The theme was taken from the greatest Englishman who ever lived, but there was little (apart from several impressive coups de theatre) that would have resonated with our Bill. The glorification of the ordinary is a contradiction in terms, a paradox. Yet Tolkien did it with his noble provincials, the hobbits. And Danny Boyle did it too.

Was it political? Yes. Were the races represented proportionally? No. Did that matter? Not much. Nor are they in sport. If it's racist to observe that black people make better athletes, then I am racist.That sort of stuff doesn't bother me. They were young, enthusiastic and well-drilled. They were a credit to us, so I don't give a damn about their skin pigmentation.

The only real tragedy is that Britain's greatest mistake - the NHS - was given massive prominence. Its hospitals an archipelago of filth, generating new diseases. Its staff forming a producer cooperative on Soviet lines, above all criticism and routinely killing patients without fear of disciplinary action or even much by way of rebuke. Yet, it is a sacred cow. It is supported by all parties, including those that should know better. So it was sort of inevitable. Having lived in other countries where people are mystified by Britain's attachment to so obviously deficient a model of health care, I guess they just smiled at our eccentricity.

All in all I was relieved that we did not disgrace ourselves. My French/Swiss hosts in Mauritius congratulated me and told me to be proud, so I guess we pulled it off. Spent as we are in so many ways, we are still - it seems - a cultural superpower. At least in terms of popular culture. So to carp about the message is, in the end, a waste of time.

As I really don't care about the sport, and as I am safely away from the disruption of London life for the duration, I have nothing more to worry about now the ceremony is over - apart from paying for the costs through my council tax for the rest of my life.