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Long shadows on county cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and old maids bicycling through the morning mist.’

When former Conservative prime minister, John Major, described his personal vision of England, he could hardly have imagined it would one day be brought to life by a staunchly left-wing film director and producer.

But this idealistic scene is destined to feature in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, which has been devised by Danny Boyle.

It seems certain, however, that the director of films like Shallow Grave and Trainspotting will ensure this £27m extravaganza has a gritty, urban sting in the tail.

If not, he will deserve a gold medal for producing irony on an epic scale.

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