October 12, 2012

My crutches have gone. I’ve handed them back. Though, living close to Catford, perhaps I should have kept one.

I don’t know what it is about Catford, but most of its people have a crutch. This isn’t the lazy observation of a Catford call-througher, passing from Forest Hill to Lewisham, depositing his crutches back at the hospital, now he has, at last, been discharged: been declared officially fixed after fracturing his pelvis some yonks ago.

This observation; that most people in Catford have one crutch; is 100% true. And it’s no exaggeration. At least 76% of Catfordians have a crutch. Or, put another way, about 1 in every 54.

Why this is the case nobody knows. Do they – Catfordians – regularly fall over? Breaking bones willy-nilly? Do they get the standard two crutches and then, when better, think “I’ll keep one, just in case?” Do they pass one on to a friend? For emergencies?

It’s an odd thing. Only see in Catford. And only seen by lazy wannabe McIntyre’s.

But it is true!

And here’s another thing. You never- NEVER- see anyone with crutches in Dulwich Village.

I guess it’s just the way things are. Here’s my fractured pelvis.

When the Olympics opened and Danny Boyle made us all feel happy to be alive- in those heady, crazy, joyous days; before Savile, before Armstrong- I danced around the lounge. A newly-wed full of non-jingoistic, patriotic pleasure. I trooped up and down, on the rug, mimicking nations never heard of before, entertaining my wife with my tomfoolery, terrifying Archie, the dog.

Then, two days later, still full of hope and awe, I jumped up at Charing Cross station to rescue a caught balloon. I never reached the balloon. But I did fall hard onto the stone station floor. And I did, thanks to a drink or two, shrug it off, putting on a brave face for my new in-laws.

But when me and Zoe came to change trains at London Bridge it became clear all was not well. Something to do with my colour I believe. And the fact that I wanted to just lie down on the floor.

I enjoyed the Olympics. The Paralympics too. All from my bed. All on Tramadol.

Now, I’m better. And I’ve written this. A blog post. My first in… I can’t use yonks again… It’s been a while though. I’ll try harder. One a week. At least.

Now the crutches have gone it is time to slowly build up those blog muscles once more.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

December 24, 2008


Today I dragged my mum, sister, niece and nephew along to San Jose University to see Rigo 23’s statue of two former students. The statue portrays Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ human rights protest at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. What did these two men do? Oh, apart from win Gold and Bronze medals in the 200m? They removed their shoes and raised black-gloved fists, heads bowed, in a dignified and silent protest on behalf of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. That’s all. For this, they were expelled from the games.

The man behind their expulsion was Avery Brundage, the IOC president; a man who in 1936, as President of the United States Olympic Committee, saw nothing wrong in the Nazi salutes on display at the Berlin Olympics. Oh, he also thought the Olympics was no place for women. As far as every great and inspirational story has obstacles and, bluntly, baddies, they don’t come much badder than Avery.

Tigerlily Films made a documentary for BBC4 called Black Power Salute. The director, Geoff Small, talks about it here. Please read it. You’ll like it. It’ll take you a couple of minutes; roughly 6 times the time it took Tommie and John to change the world.

tommie-smith-john-carlosThe silver medal was won by Peter Norman; a white Australian. As an opponent of Australian policies specifically designed to restrict non-white immigration (and as a decent human being), Peter wanted to do his bit at the medal ceremony to show support for OPHR’s stand against racial segregation and racism in general. Maybe to the surprise of Tommie and John, he borrowed an OPHR badge from Paul Hoffman, a (white) member of the US rowing team. He wore a badge, that’s all. And for this he too was punished.

“While he didn’t raise a fist, he did lend a hand.” Tommie Smith.

Peter Norman is missing from the sculpture. Some, it seems, have been offended by this. They shouldn’t be. Peter attended the unveiling, and when he died in 2006 both Tommie and John were pallbearers at his funeral. John Carlos said, “Peter was a piece of my life… I was his brother. He was my brother. That’s all you have to know.”

And the sculpture acknowledges Peter’s contribution in the most moving of ways. In his place is the inscription; “Fellow athlete Australian Peter Norman stood here in solidarity. Take a stand.”

We can all be Peter Normans. Stand amongst giants. Lend a hand. Take a stand.