The Olympic Spirit

And so the long-anticipated, much-heralded London 2012 Olympic Games are almost upon us.

I can’t quite believe the Opening Ceremony is just six days away.  My only hope is that it will not be, well, crap!  I dread the event being a laughing stock.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not writing this to knock.  I love Britain.  Carry On films, Sooty, Shakespeare, cats, Del Boy, gardening, fish and chips on a wet seaside holiday, Royal Weddings, a nice cup of tea (park your clichés here) – all valuable aspects of our culture.  I relish our uniqueness; quirkiness; our self-deprecating sense of humour.

Only in Britain could Alan Carr and Zippy from Rainbow become cultural icons (and I for one am bloody glad they are as they are both brilliant!!).  Only in this country could Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards become a hero while nobody ever knows the name of the guy who won that ski jump event.

Zippy: icon












But self-deprecation won’t wash in a huge bolshy arena like this.  The Americans are so proficient in bigging themselves up, whereas we Brits love to knock.  We celebrate the underdog; the small things in life.  Which is all well and good, but next week the world’s eyes will be upon us (sorry – another cliché alert) and we really need to be showy and brash.

Los Angeles in 1984 gave us spacemen and Lionel Richie; in Sydney in 2000 we were treated to Kylie and drag queens.  Pleeease tell me the best we can do is not David Beckham standing there like a tree, or Boris Johnson flopping a flag around looking like a demented Matt Lucas!!

Despite never being sporty at school (I used to habitually bunk off PE), I have always loved watching the Olympics.  I shall be glued to the TV on Friday night for the Opening Ceremony.  I hope not to be watching it, cringing, through my fingers.

Let the Games begin!


The Four Matthews (Revisited)

As I aim to pick up my (metaphorical) pen and start writing again very soon, I felt the sudden urge – prompted by a visit to Blacks today to buy new waterproof trousers for future walking trips – to plug my most recent novel The Four Matthews.

You can read the blurb here:

And the story itself kicks off, appropriately enough, with Chapter 1:

My Torch Relay Story

Awaiting the Olympic torch’s arrival along Suffolk Street Queensway, opposite the Mailbox

That title probably sounds pretentiously grand, as though I was an actual Olympic torchbearer, or my “story” is distinct from that of any of the thousands of other folks who lined the streets to see the torch’s progress.

Everyone’s experience is unique, though, and what distinguished it for my husband and me was that Saturday 30th June, the day the torch passed through our region, happened to be our 5th wedding anniversary.

Our spot was along Suffolk Street Queensway in Birmingham, across the road from the famous Mailbox.  The torch made its way to the city in the evening, following its progress from Derby that morning, to the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, to Lichfield, Tamworth, Great Wyrley, Bloxwich, Walsall, Willenhall, Wolverhampton, my hometown Dudley, Oldbury, West Bromwich and Smethwick.

A young rock band (never discovered their name) were performing beforehand in the subway beneath the flyover (where the coloured lanterns are, if you’re familiar with the city) close to the Mailbox.  Their set, which included covers of the likes of Rage Against the Machine, did not, I’ll admit, seem to make them the obvious choice for what was ultimately a feelgood family event.

Nathan and I huddled into the doorway of an office block, which actually proved a good little vantage point as we were atop some steps, as well as providing shelter from the unseasonal weather.

There was a highly excited atmosphere in town.  The crowd were so buoyed up, every passing vehicle – from the “normal” traffic and Saturday night taxis (I was surprised the road wasn’t closed) to the police motorbikes and the sponsors’ lorries (including the Coca Cola one) – was greeted with a cheer fit for visiting royalty.

Eventually, dead on schedule at 19:24, the convoy of minibuses with tracksuited occupants heralded the arrival of “our” torchbearer, a young man from Spain by the name of Emilio Sola.  The moment was very blink-and-you-miss-it, but at least I can say “I was there!”  This is a unique experience in our lifetime.  It will never come round again.

We didn’t get to see Sir Cliff Richard, who was carrying the torch on a later leg down Priory Road in Edgbaston, en route to the concert that was taking place in Cannon Hill Park (I can’t say as we are fans of The Wanted, the boyband headlining that event).

We needed to stay fairly close to the city centre as we had our anniversary meal booked at Jamie’s Italian, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in the famous Bull Ring.  We had an unforgettable dinner there – pricey but worth it.

So not a bad weekend, all in all.