Comment: Offering a reality check in Boyle’s green and pleasant land
Here we are at the beginning of Highland Show week, which is the busiest week of the year for agricultural hacks, and I have taken up another commitment.
Yes, the week which sees every organisation and company in the agricultural world making some statement or announcement which will, they believe, change the world, and I have complicated my life still further.
Forget for a moment that any right-thinking public relations adviser should be telling their clients, “Look, avoid trying to grab the headlines in the week of the Highland. You are more likely to get better coverage if you hold off your announcement for a week or two and peace once again reigns in the world of the farming press.”
By now you will be wondering about my additional duties, which I can tell you are quite exciting. You will have noticed that award-winning film producer Danny Boyle has been awarded the contract to create the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.
Last week he unveiled a model of the stadium which will be converted into his vision of Britain as a “green and pleasant land”. The model showed fields with sheep grazing and others with farmers tilling the soil; ducks were seen swimming on a pond and there was a cricket match being played on a village green.
Boyle told those attending the unveiling that this was typical of the countryside he saw from the train windows when travelling between London and Manchester and denied it was a Britain that had slipped away at least 80 years earlier.
This was where I saw my chance: while he came up with the big ideas, I would nominate myself as technical advisor. It is possible that my fee would have been even bigger if I had called myself a consultant, but I missed that chance.
It will be my responsibility to ensure the details are correct. For example are the sheep grazing the meadow properly double-tagged? Nothing could be worse than half-way through the ceremony with the world looking on the government inspector coming along and finding tagging discrepancies.
I have yet to check as to whether sheep being at the Olympics is in fact permitted at all under the EU movement of stock rules, but I am sure the European bureaucrat who wrote the regulation covered that possibility.
I will, of course, be involved in the selection of the 70 sheep that will be taking centre stage. The last thing wanted would be a flock of “dyke loupers” that would then scatter their way around the stadium.
In my nightmares I see a headline later in the week saying the last escapee sheep has been speared by the champion javelin thrower.
In a complete antithesis of the athletic events to be seen later in the week, what is needed is a bunch of sleepy sheep, so no Blackies then. As it is a British event, there will be no room for Texels, Beltex, Charollais or any other incomer types.
There is also the issue of “a babbling brook” mooted for this make-believe rural idyll. For authenticity, there will have to be a fence around this to keep it clean and pure otherwise SEPA inspectors will be down on the spectacle like the proverbial tonne of bricks.
I have also concerns about the “farmers” who will be on show in this little rural vignette which for someone passing swiftly in the train reflects life in the countryside.
I understand they are looking for plumpish red-faced rather simple-looking folks who will look good in a smock. No acting ability is required but being able to suck a straw and lean on a gate will be seen as a plus point.
I see from the model of the farm that there is a massive thistle in one field so one of the first tasks of the “farmers” will be to scythe this down before the TV cameras beam the image of weedy pastures across the world.
So far, there has been little enthusiasm for my suggestion that there should be space made to include a farm office with massive piles of forms needing to be filled in, but I am arguing we must be authentic.
And on that theme, it does seem as if Boyle has got the weather right as clouds (artificial) will be overhead. My only thought being the real thing might be cheaper.
But then the whole spectacle is going to cost £27 million, including the fee for the self-appointed technical adviser.
There is so much to do and it is the Highland Show week too…
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North east