Friday, 31 August 2012

Entre chien et loup

Dusk, my parents' garden. The barbecue coals dying down, and that half-light which gives everything a dreamy quality, soft around the edges, flowers glowing gently as the night creeps in.


Pictures from earlier in the summer. Today, I am off to Japan for two weeks. Finally.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

London, Olympics

Gone 3am, on a nightbus, from Clapham to Camden, heading up Whitehall. He says Haven't you blogged about the Olympics? Seems like a perfect topic.

No, I reply no, I haven't. I think because there is so much to say, and I don't know how to say it. 

I said that I thought normally, we Londoners are pretty low key about our city. We can be nonchalant about living in such an amazing place, we gripe about delays on the underground, grumble about the crowds on Oxford Street, the slow moving tourists, bemoan the time it takes to cross the sprawling expanse. It's not that we don't love London, but we love it in quiet, personal, ways. The way my heart soars whenever I'm standing at the top of Primrose Hill, the taste of a Franco Manca pizza, Southbank at night. The change that has come this week is that suddenly, collectively, we're shouting about it, we wholeheartedly, unashamedly, love the city, we love the Olympic Games. The streets and parks and stations are filled with smiling volunteers, helpful policemen, and there is an energy and an excitement that is palpable.

I said all that, or tried to say it, but it was the early hours of the morning and I never find it as easy to vocalise things as I do to write. Waking this morning and remembering the conversation made me think I should at least try to get something down, because it is unlikely that the Olympics will ever come again to London in our lifetime, and I don't want to forget. 

I'm not sure I can describe the levels of wonder that this last week has reached. But I'll write about the last twenty four hours, the little random moments, which are all I seem to ever be able to capture, and perhaps through that I can go some way to explaining.

Yesterday afternoon, watching live coverage from the velodrome, the edge of the seat feeling building through each race, the golds won, the elation, the pride felt for people I've never met, their dedication, commitment. Later, at German House, one of the national hospitality venues, the night settling around us, lights from Canary Wharf above. Beer from plastic tumblers. Inside, a live band, then suddenly the German Rowing Team up on stage, gold medals flashing. More music. Dancing with abandon as clothes became damp with sweat and the floor grew sticky underfoot with spilt drinks. The words to every song seeming to be written for this night, in this city, Team GB showered with gold (I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose, fire away, fire away //  Tonight, we are young, so let's set the world on fire, we can burn brighter, than the sun) Being ushered out at 1am, not wanting the night to end, getting on the DLR with a plan to head south from Bank, finding ourselves in a carriage with the German Judo team, one of them coolly revealing his bronze medal, telling me he'd given the bouquet to his mother (awww). iPhone snaps and not believing the night could get any better. Making friends with a German judo fan on the the northern line platform, persuading her to come dancing with us. Never making it to the club as members of our group slowly dropped out, until just three of us were left, listening to stories of German judo delivered in excellent English but with quirky turns of phrase which made me smile. Crouching behind a parked car on Clapham High Street, hiding from a drunken bystander who'd been pestering us, the three of us laughing at the absurdity of the situation. The brilliant, random way that such a big, often anonymous, city can deliver you moments of friendship at the strangest times, facilitated by this great sporting event which we are currently hosting, because I certainly don't usually make a habit of striking up conversations on late night public transport, but with this amazing change in atmosphere this week it suddenly seems like right thing to do. On my final nightbus of the night, getting into conversation with a guy who had rowed an inflatable rubber dingy along the canal network from West London to Camden that day. Normally I would have stuck my head down and played on my phone, but last night, high on Olympic fever, I made eye contact, smiled, began a conversation. This morning, tired but content, switching on the television to the emotional rollercoaster of the rowing, the joy at the women's lightweight double scull result, then sorrow felt on behalf of the men's lightweights who looked so crushed, so broken. 

And the other moments that have peppered the week. Walking down Birdcage Walk, coming towards me, a policeman chatting happily away to some tourists in fluent Spanish. Tuesday, the last day of the equestrian three day eventing, sitting high up, looking down at the arena, London skyline as a backdrop, The Shard, The Gherkin, Canary Wharf, breathtaking. The victory gallop of our riders with their silver medals, the roar of the crowd. Thursday at Camden beach, closing time, a devoted fan good humouredly pleading with security to let her stay two minutes more to catch the end of the boxing. The BBC coverage, the personal stories that give life to every sport, every athlete. Fans and supporters scattered through tube carriages sporting flags from all nations, facepaint, temporary tattoos.

It has been magic. 

There is still a week to go.

I don't want it to end, I know that I'll be bereft.