A really sweet thing has happened. The British nation appears to be happy.
Obviously, not every last Briton will be thrilled and overjoyed by the Olympics, and the bold brilliance of so many of the competitors from this little island nation. There will still be the grouches and the grumps, and hurrah for them, because if we suddenly turned into a land of Pollyannas it would be a bit creepy and Stepford-ish. But, to judge from the papers and the internet and the voices on the radio, the national mood is light. It has been heavy and filled with portent for a long time. Will the Euro go smash, and drag us down with it? Does anyone know what to do about the rogue bankers? Shall we ever see the return of growth? Now, the sun has come out, and benighted Britons are casting off their cares and allowing themselves a moment of heedless delight.
I don’t think it’s just the success of the athletes, although of course that is a source of admiration and pride. Anecdotal reports show that competitors of all nations are being taken to the battered old British heart. I think it is a more complicated cup of tea. It is that the world has come to Blighty, and we managed to put on a show. It is the lovely evidence that The Young People are not the Net-addicted, workshy idlers that some of the tabloids like to paint them. Their dedication and hard work are everywhere evident, from the track to the pool to the river. They are also all amazingly polite and modest in interview, giving credit to everyone but themselves, thanking the crowd, paying tribute to the people behind the scenes. Perhaps too it is the daily proofs that with determination and spirit and heart and industry, almost anything is possible. That alone is enough to lift the human heart.
There is an odd generosity about these games. Losers are cheered on; the crowds may be partisan, but they pay tribute to excellence under any flag. Strangers are smiling at each other in the street, striking up conversations on the tube, cheering in trains when a Team GB medal is announced.
The cherry on today’s cake came when Andy Murray showed all his fire and brilliance to win the gold medal at tennis. It’s not a game I know much about, but even I could see it was poetry in motion. He looked very young, and very happy, and the whole thing was absurdly moving, and I cried actual tears.
In a matter of days, the whole thing will be over, and we shall go back to normal, and find many things of which to complain. But for now, there is a whiff of joy and glory in the air, and there is something uncomplicated and lovely about that.
Some quick pictures from yesterday, when the sun was shining:
Red the Mare:
Hill, swathed in early morning mist: