Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Night Coracle to Cairo
I pay the BBC licence fee so that I don't have to waste time listening to opinions on other wirelesses, so when a chap called Leyne assured me that both the argy and the bargy in Tunisia would go no further I was happy to switch back to the Third Programme for some soothing Xenakis.
I was not pleased to wake up two week later to discover the Copts, Ankhs and other denizens of Durrell's feverish novels getting their Hannibal on in the teeming streets of Egypt.
"What's wrong with you? Arabs have the right to elect useless sods instead of just inheriting them, as you pointed out in your last post!" a reader might rile.
Indeed, and I like everyone else totally and utterly support the revolting Egyptians in all ways but the ones that might do them some good. The cause of my chagrin is, as ever, purely personal and national:
"So, you Welshes have screwed up another perfectly decent holiday resort. Thanks a lot, I was looking forward to a spot of shark-punching down Sharm el-Sheikh, now I'll be lucky to get a week in a bucket dangling from a Somerset gibbet."
Yes, the conspiracy theorists who are my colleagues have worked it out. The cause of Mr Mubarak's downfall is once again The Welsh Connection.
When the moderate, non-violent Islamic Jihad gunned down President Anwar Sadat at a military parade in 1981, BBC Wales's flagship news pit-pony "Wales Today" was quick to spot that the new president had a Welsh wife, Suzanne.
Wales was a land of austerity in the early 1980s, and even news was scarce. As a result, smouldering Gail Foley, random sports bloke David Parry-Jones and the other news colossi of "Wales Today" spent much of their time finding Welsh angles to other countries' stories in order to pad out a bulletin otherwise devoted to rugby disasters, werewolves, and firemen shrugging in front of charred holiday cottages.
A particular low point was the Jeremy Thorpe trial. This tale of former Liberal leaders, by-the-hour inversion, velvet collars, Great Danes and, for reasons that escape me, former King Constantine of the Hellenes attempted to grip a nation already being thoroughly gripped by the newly-elected steel claws of Lady Thatcher.
It received lavish daily coverage on the BBC national news, and Welsh viewers had to sit through it all again on "Wales Today" just because the caddish Mr Thorpe's co-defendants were a spit-roast of Welsh businessmen.
The Mubarak succession was a gift to "Wales Today". They yanked a cub reporter off his permament pitch outside a rainy steelworks, gave him a Fodor guide to Luxor and the bus fare to the Mubarak in-laws' council house in Pontypridd.
What reporters are meant to do in such circumstances is ask about Mrs Mubarak's early life, her forgetting the words of "Y Wiwer" at the school eisteddfod, and other things they might know about, not demand instant analysis of the Middle East like some Radio 4 harridan.
The Ponty Mubaraks, like most of the Welsh population, conversed by constantly rearranging the words "Duw", "fuck" and "aye" in overlapping patterns like an early Steve Reich piece, so the ensuing doorstep interview was a masterclass in the clueless leading the scabrous:
[Shiny reporter] "Do you think your relative Mr Mubarak will be a stronger leader than the dead Mr Sadat is?"
[Unshaven man in vest] "Well, he won't let hisself gets killed so easy though but and."
It didn't get any better, as question after leading question produced ever-more baffled responses from a group of people who, come to think of it, were quite possibly not even related to Mrs Mubarak at all. It's not an uncommon name along the Rhondda Riviera.
I like to think Suzanne's ghastly relatives all descended on Cairo in 1981, like secretaries on a cake trolley, in pursuit of cockle concessions and anything they could carry off.
The Egyptians are used to being ruled by other people - Hyskos, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Albanians, the English, Israelis (parts only), and giant Sun-rolling beetles if you go back far enough - so Welsh administration was likely to be relatively benign.
After all, we Welsh have long-cherished fictional links with the Ancient Egyptian people, largely thanks to Prof Sir John Morris-Jones's article "Pre-Aryan Syntax in Insular Celtic" - an ambitious attempt to bypass England via a Welsh-Berber linguistic bridge across the Bay of Biscay, unfortunately based on occult loon Prof Wallis Budge's ouija-board guesswork about Ancient Egyptian grammar.
But enough is enough, or "Kifaya!" as they say in Ponty. Seething increased in recent months when it became clear that Mubarak intended to transfer power to his idiot son Goronwy (known as "Gamal" in Egypt, owing to the absence of typically Welsh sounds and animal shapes in hieroglyphics).
But the final straw in the brick of Nilotic anger was the news that the Mubarak clan had handed over maintenance of the pyramids to some Welsh cowboys.
The prospect of these tombs emerging from the Griffiths Bros, Builders & Decorators tarpaulin either studded with pebbledash and satellite dishes or brownly glossed into a Toblerone theme park (children and Free Wales Army veterans, half-price), was too much for the Coptic back to bear, and so another country collapses into Cambrian-created chaos.
Borges once wrote a story in which Thoth, the baboon lord of the Nile, joins other ancient deities in an attempted coup against The Academy. But he, like his fellow putschists, can no longer speak, only howl like a beast.
We Welsh may not be much more articulate, so I'd give it a couple of weeks before sending a camera crew back to Pontypridd to ask the newly-arrived Mubaraks how they like the view.