“Do you know what I mean? D’ya get me? Know what I’m saying?”  Confidence comes from knowing that others understand us. So much so that we use countless phrases every day to check that we are being properly understood, and not misinterpreted.  Even those with a vast command of English, and the ability to employ it well, can be confounded by the inability of others to keep up.  Try using a few obscure big words in a presentation to the wrong crowd, and you can easily alienate your audience.

“She really gets me!” is commonly used when describing a well matched partner.  It doesn’t take Friedrich Nietzsche to know that being understood and accepted for what we are, further enables us to drop any facade, and truly BE ourselves.

This goes to the heart of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, last Friday. This was one man’s vision of how we can allow the world to know us; to REALLY know us.  For the rest of the world, the United Kingdom is actually a very difficult country to know. We have such a detailed and rich tapestry of history, which has interacted with every corner of this earth in wildly varying ways, both positive and negative, especially over the past 300 years.  The United Kingdom is now the most globalised country on the planet.  Almost every other nation has a stake in the UK. And yet, there are so many differing perceptions of what Britain is, and what the British people are; even those of us who live here would struggle to answer that.

So this was the question Danny Boyle was attempting to answer, in the opening of the 2012 Olympics.  If I am any judge, he has passed with flying colours. This also appears to be the consensus view amongst the 27m UK TV viewers, and of course the newspaper critics and commentators.  Very few of us would have felt up to the task, but still know that he did represent us very well indeed.  And whilst it may have seemed peculiar to some around the world, yes, we really are like this.

The two words which spring to mind, when i saw saw this event, are warm and authentic – and of course very British.


Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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