So Andy Murray has capped the most wonderful summer of sport we have ever known. I tried to watch the progress of the Murray game on Twitter, but the tweets were flashing across my screen so rapidly I couldn't read them. It was as though I had my finger permanently on the scroll button. I checked the online news and saw that he had won the first two sets, so went to bed. In the morning, as expected, I heard that he had won. What I had missed, however, was the intervening 2 hours where he was definitely not winning. So well done, Andy. He has matured extraordinarily over the last year from his collapse at Wimbledon through his recovery at the Olympics to his first Grand Slam (our first Grand Slam win for 76 years). Hopefully now he can relax a little mentally and go on to greater things.
But what of this summer? Andy's win came at just the right moment. The Paralympics Closing Ceremony had ended on Sunday, the parade of Olympians through London on the Monday had finished, and we were in danger of slipping into anti-climax. And then along came another feat of sporting excellence. What a summer it has been!
But it is over. And, as if to underline the end of that chapter, the weather, which had behaved beautifully throughout the Olympics and Paralympics, and even during the Parade, now turn decidedly autumnal. The magical summer is over and the end of the year is approaching (I saw the first Christmas decorations in the shops last week and my first Christmas tree in the pub today!) and the slight chill in the air hints at an ominous return to reality. How long will it be before we stop hearing how inspired everyone in Britain is and what a united motivated society ours is, and start hearing people ask, ‘what has then Olympics done for me?’
Sadly, consumer spending was down during the summer, the recession is still with us, and various problems relating to production, transport and education have floated to the top of the public’s champagne glass of euphoria and consciousness. Never slow to take advantage, the unions are talking of strikes and even a general strike (as though not working will solve our production and export problems). I fear we will soon have forgotten the patriotism and collective well-being of the last few months.
But it needn’t be like that. I hear so many stories of children being inspired, from my neighbour’s little girl who decided to sign on for diving lessons, but found there was already a waiting list, to the little boy, looking in his colouring book at Captain Hook, with one leg and a hook for a hand, and assuming he was an athlete. Whatever else happens in the adult world, we must make sure this juvenile focus on sports is maintained.
How do we avoid sinking now into the doldrums? Well, one of the problems of course is the sudden lack of programmes to watch on television. I loved Boris’ assertion that the athletes created such enthusiasm and excitement on the sofas of Britain that, now only have they inspired the next generation, they have probably inspired the creation of another one. Anyway, to avoid misery and pessimism now, don’t revert to watching soaps; nothing happy ever happens there. You can watch the new season of Strictly Come Dancing if you like, but much better would be to invite the neighbours round for a game of boccia, or carpet bowls, or even dominoes. Me? I’m playing more bridge. I’ll get it into the Olympics one day.