Village and Vale
Sharing in the golden glow
THEY say it's not the winning but the taking part that counts - which is an honourable and lofty sentiment. But my goodness, winning feels great!
I was always dismally unsporty - the sort of child who dropped the egg in the egg and spoon race! As a teenager I evolved a variety of ploys to get out of athletics, including fainting half way up the 100 metre track. I did enjoy tennis (at which I was hopeless) and netball, at which I jumped a lot, albeit to little effect - but I was quite resigned to my lack of sporting or athletic prowess, and I don't think it scarred me for life.
I am pretty sure, though, that I would have seen through the "everyone's a winner" farce of stopping running half way along the track so that we could all walk across the line together.
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We aren't all good at everything but most of us are good at something. And sooner or later all of us have to get used to the idea that life is a lottery anyway.
However, our national tendency to self-deprecation (which is quite endearing) and to finding reasons why something won't work (which isn't) was given a well-deserved jolt by the unqualified success of the Olympic Games.
It has been a magnificent tonic after this non-summer and the financial doom and gloom, not to mention the horrors of Syria and the environmental disasters in Africa.
Sporting success is not the answer to the world's problems, but feeling better about ourselves, nationally and internationally (and London 2012 was a triumph of global achievements) is a good thing. It puts our problems in perspective, and perhaps makes us feel more inclined to do more for those many who are so much worse off.
Maybe we all got slightly addicted to the success, but there were so many wonderful stories, so many feats of almost unbelievable skill and courage, such highs of achievement and lows of disappointment, that we all got carried away with it. On Monday I must have been among the vast majority who felt a little anti-climactic, rather tired (the closing ceremony was another late night) but still elated by the sheer joyful excess of it all.
I was particularly struck by the way the excitement was infectious, encouraging people to talk to strangers, to share the pleasure and to celebrate the successes of Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Victoria Pendleton, Kath Grainger, Ben Ainslie, Peter Wilson, Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, et al ...
We found ourselves watching - and then discussing - sports that we knew nothing about, such as tae kwondo, or positively disliked, such as boxing.
I had a lively conversation with someone who lives near our office in Stalbridge. We have nodded hello in the mornings for years, but in the golden glow of the Olympics we got chatting about the sailing in Weymouth - he was enthusiastic about it and had been down to watch several times - and the dressage, which was clearly quite a new sport for him.
Everyone who watched the dressage was bowled over by the magical extended trot and the symbiotic relationship between horse and rider. It was truly, and without hyperbole, poetry in motion.
I even began to wish we had applied for Olympics tickets, just to appreciate the atmosphere. And then out of the blue, we were invited to go with friends to the Paralympics to watch the dressage, where we have a local rider - Deb Criddle from Somerset.
Sometimes I get down about things - don't we all? But a year which for me has included a Royal garden party, the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant and now the Paralympics at Greenwich is something to celebrate. And there are four more months to go ...