Posted in Family, Personal life

2012 – That’s SO Last Year!

Mo Farah, Olympic gold medallist at London 2012
Mo Farah, 2012 icon (Photo: Wikipedia)

When I first started thinking about the imminent arrival of 2013, I didn’t want 2012 to end. For so long, 2012 had been a year to look forward to, full of promise, from that day back in 2007 when London, my home city, was awarded the 2012 Olympics. 

Then a couple of years later the build-up to the Royal Diamond Jubilee began.  Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a royalist, I was excited at the prospect of living through historic events that people would talk about for generations to come, like VE Day or Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  (I’m now rooting for the Queen to outlive her famous ancestor and set a new record that will be, by association, ours.)

2012 did not disappoint

These events created some very special memories for me. As the commentators said of the now legendary “Super Saturday” for British athletes, I will be proud to look back and say “I was there”.

Grandpa on his 80th birthday with a "Keep Calm You're Only 80" balloonNot all my favourite memories of 2012  relate to national events, but my other personally and locally momentous occasions, like the national ones, were planned and expected well in advance:

  • meeting my Canadian cousin’s daughter for the first time (I hadn’t seen her father since he was a child, in the 1970s)
  • a visit from my American schoolfriend’s daughter in July (I’d last seen her mother in the 1980s)
  • my father’s 80th birthday in September
  • the publication of my first book in October

As yet, 2013 will be more of a mystery tour. It feels odd to be on the threshold of a year of uncertainty, after a year of such precise planning and predictability.

It doesn’t help that I always find odd years disconcerting. 2012 always sounded like it was going to be neat and pleasing; 2013 just sounded messy and vaguely threatening.

But as it turned out, on New Year’s Day 2013 we awoke to blue skies and sunshine for the first time in weeks. This promising omen was echoed by a surge of optimism from my friends and family, cascading down my Facebook timeline and Twitter feed. Everyone seemed on great form and ready for another year of triumph

And all of a sudden, instead of being filled with foreboding as I take down the 2012  wall calendar and flip open the 2013 one in its place, I’m feeling excited and optimistic. It doesn’t matter any more that our national annus mirabilis has drifted quietly downstream into the history books. Starting to fill in my 2013 diary, I’m already at ease with writing the new year’s date – something that usually takes me months to get used to.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to be thinking to myself: “2012? That’s SO last year!”

Happy New Year and may 2013 bring you your heart’s desire.

Photograph of blue sky
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Posted in Uncategorized

The Last Post for the London 2012 Olympics

Last Post Bugle Call
Last Post Bugle Call (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are seven reasons why I should be glad that the London 2012 Olympic Games are over:

  1. I no longer have to worry about which events I’m missing if I go out for the evening
  2. On evenings in, I don’t burn holes in my ironing when, so gripped by the excitement of an event, I forget to keep moving the iron
  3. I can take the Union Jacks down from the front of the house, where they’re practically in shreds, having been there  since  the Diamond Jubilee kicked off this amazing English summer
  4. I’ll save  a lot of money on Kleenex, no longer being reduced to tears at least once a day by the athletes’ amazing victories
  5. Shops will return to their usual shorter Sunday opening hours (did you notice that the restricted Sunday opening times were removed for the duration of the Games, in hope of extracting extra cash from Olympic tourists? When were those poor shop assistants meant to watch the events?)
  6. We can reproduce the Olympic logo without fear of being sued
  7. I can once more plan trips to meet friends in London without worrying about being caught up in crowds of Olympic spectators

But – did you guess? – I’m bluffing. I STILL don’t want them to end, even though their closing days have produced so many wonderful memories to treasure. Not least was the Mayor of London’s priceless speech at the Athletes’ Parade through central London today. Only the gloriously brazen, blustering Boris Johnson could get away with some of the things he said – and whatever your politics, you have to love his spirit. (If you missed it, you MUST watch it here.)

The Olympic Rings, the symbol of the modern Ol...
Photo: Wikipedia

If Boris was right about the creation of a new generation on our nation’s living room sofas during the Games, I’m willing to bet that by time the  athletes are leaving the starting blocks of Rio 2016, Britain’s nursery schools and playparks will be full of little Jessicas, Ellies, Mos and Jonnies, named in honour of our London 2012 heroes.  I  hope there’ll be  a smattering of  small Borises too.

The Olympic Games are over, long live the Olympic Games!


Posted in Writing

The Olympic Spirit Meets Britannia

Laura waits patiently for the Olympic torchbearer, Union flag at the ready
“Is here nearly here yet?”

With the opening ceremony of London 2012 nearly upon us, I have to say that I’m entirely happy with my experience of the Games to date: watching the Olympic Torch pass by.

I didn’t want to miss the opportunity for my daughter Laura to see a piece of history in the making. About to turn nine the next day, she would remember the event for the rest of her life. It would also be the perfect overture to her birthday party, the theme of which was to be the Olympic Games (albeit our games largely featuring the garden hosepipe, making the most of the fleeting heatwave).The timing couldn’t have been better.

And so after school on the Tuesday afternoon, we shot off down the A46 to park near my brother and sister’s houses, a stone’s throw from the Bath to Bristol road. I’d have preferred to see the Torch crossing the Clifton Suspension Bridge, enabling us to segue neatly from Laura’s current school topic (Brunel) to the next one (The Olympic Games) but it would have meant missing a morning of school.

We strolled down to the Torch route at 5 o’clock and the sun was scorching. We quickly claimed a piece of (hot) pavement from which we could enjoy an unimpeded view and sat down to see what would happen next.

We weren’t really sure what to expect, but somehow I thought there’d be something to imbue us with the Olympic spirit, inspiring us to strive “faster, higher, stronger”. I thought there would be an international vibe to the proceedings, in preparation for so many nations coming together.

Laura and Tim wait for first glimpse of the Olympic torchbearer
“I think I can see him!”

I thought to myself, if this was America, there’d be marching bands with drum majorettes and baton twirlers, military precision and grandeur and pomp and show. If it was China, there’d be military might and vast crowds of synchronised dancers in colourful costumes.

But this was Britain, and what unfolded was an endearingly British spectacle. Here was the general public at its whimsical British best, turning pink in the hot sun without sunhats or sunblock, tucking into Mr Whippy’s 99s and making their own entertainment.

Several small children had brought along their own Olympic Torches, home-made in the best Blue Peter tradition, all sticky backed plastic and kitchen tinfoil. Many waved Union flags, dusted off from last year’s Royal Wedding and being given a preliminary airing in preparation for the Royal Jubilee. With a wry flourish, my brother produced a free promotional flag that he’d been given by a building company at the height of last year’s Will-and-Kate mania. The building company had since gone bust.

Amiable security guards, armed only with dayglo yellow waistcoats and walkie talkies, ambled about the crowds, trying to look busy to justify their temp agency fee. They were clearly at a bit of a loose end. One of them, with spectacular dreadlocks, suddenly seized a home-made Olympic torch from a child and started to run along the route, waving at the spectators as if he were the official torch bearer. A Mexican wave of cheers followed him. Then a couple of cyclists, having jumped the road blocks, pedalled cheerfully along the centre of the cleared street to further applause.

Official Olympic bus followed by torchbearer

Finally it was time for the real thing, heralded by pairs of police cars driving slowly and officiously along. But their windows were wound right down and the policemen inside were relaxed and smiling, proffering royal waves. Then came the sponsors’ open-topped buses, understaffed, a few souls in garish uniforms looking slightly embarrassed as they waved to the crowds. But the crowds didn’t care: they just let out a rousing cheer.

At last along came the Olympic bus (but it didn’t appear to be faster, stronger or higher). Jogging behind, holding the Torch aloft, was an elderly white-bearded sage. He looked as if he’d just come down from Mount Olympus. He waved and saluted as he trotted along, clearly savouring every moment of his three hundred metres of fame. The crowd went wild.

Olympic torchbearer passes by
Famous for 300 metres

And then he’d passed by and it was over. We all dispersed quickly and quietly, ripples of innocent pleasure radiating out through suburban streets. There wasn’t a hint of trouble. We’d all got more than we bargained for: a bit of a laugh, some unscheduled sunshine, a Mr Whippy and some community bonding.

I came home very glad to be British.

This post originally appeared in the Tetbury Advertiser, July 2012 edition.

If you liked this post about the London 2012 Olympics, you might also enjoy In A Lather Over My Olympic Shampoo