The Olympics, our national identities and a very cool nappy
Tolkien’s Shire, black gentlemen in the industrial era, Caribbean migrants after the war, a choreographed NHS, “Jerusalem” and other classic hymns, a lesbian kiss, light, colour, sound, James Bond, The Queen… The opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics was ambitious, accomplished and, well, trippy.
My only real criticism? They didn’t show the Trinidad and Tobago team for long enough. We’re a small country so I understand why we didn’t get much screen time but what little time in the spotlight we had was cut even shorter by a cut away to Spain planting its flag. My brother suggests a tactic for preventing this occurrence in the future: triple the length of our name.
Talitha woke up somewhere around “L” in the tributes’ parade (were you thinking about The Hunger Games too?) and Laurence couldn’t get her back in her cot so we brought her down to watch “T”. We’re not bad parents, I told myself as my one-year-old played got the building blocks out at approaching midnight, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.
Never have I felt so emotionally involved in the Olympics. I’m not hugely into sports. Of course, there’s the usual stuff we associate with The Games: the coming together of nations, the test of the human body and spirit, the transcendence of political struggle (though I still flinched when Syria appeared on screen).
What I’m experiencing, though, in a fresher and deeper way than I ever have, is an interrogation of my sense of national identity. I have felt close to these Games because they’re based in London. I am actually living in a country where something this big can and does happen.
It’s not just that I live here. Last month the UK Border Agency granted me permanent leave to remain. I am now a permanent resident of the United Kingdom. I am married to a British man. I am raising a (I guess mostly?) British child. I have lived here for seven years. My accent is very confused.
But I am not British. I knew it when I saw my flag. It echoed through me when George Bovell (stop calling him Boh-vul, BBC, it’s Bow-vell) won his heat in the 100m backstroke yesterday.
I cannot reconcile myself to the Twitter hashtag though. Text speak is so 1990s, Trinidad and Tobago. Why are we pushing “i4tandt” as a hashtag? For a start it doesn’t mean anything to the outside world. Many people also seem to need an education in how to use hashtags. Use it when you’re tweeting about T&T in the Olympics, not to when telling us “Good morning” or that you’ve just eaten lunch.
Last month, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee made me question what it means to raise a child who is both British and Trinidadian (Trinbagonian to be politically correct?). What does it mean to hold on to the place that birthed and grew me while embracing the one in which I’ve transitioned into adulthood, marriage and motherhood?
Is it as simple as putting a Trinidad and Tobago flag on a cloth nappy?
Billy Bums made this bespoke creation that Talitha will be rocking in Trinidad and Tobago next week. I commissioned it. The craftsmanship is so admirable I’ll be giving it its own blog post soon.
Images 1 & 2: Wikimedia Commons, user Dudek1337