The Olympics are such funny things. This evening, eleven members of my family gathered in The Sister’s house. The Younger Brother and I cooked lamb with garlic and rosemary, potatoes with olive oil and sage, leeks, spinach, and special green sauce. The supper was specially timed to coincide with Mo Farah in the running and Tom Daley in the diving. The Brother and I got in quite a panic, working out the fractions.
We do, amazingly, have an Olympian in our family (by marriage, but still counts; counts like anything) and we spoke with due awe and respect of his gold medal. The Older Brother is an athlete, over the long distances. But really, we are not what you could call sporty. Despite this, we watched that 5,000 metres as if we understood every tactical decision, every acceleration, every dancing step. We ran each stride with the glorious Mo Farah, twitching, flinching, hiding our faces as all the other runners came at him.
Miraculously, he shrugged them off. He was like one of those brilliant thoroughbreds who just find a little extra, when it really counts. I cannot tell you the whooping and shrieking that went on, as everyone in our house, from eighty to nineteen, went batshit nuts in the head.
Then the diving started. It was unbearably tense. Luckily, someone remembered that there was the relay race, with the mighty Jamaican team; we turned over for Usain Bolt’s last hurrah. Suddenly, we all became Jamaican. (This, according to the pundits, has been a feature of these games. Britons have been overheard saying: ‘I’m feeling a little bit Australian today.’ Or: ‘Yesterday, I was slightly Dutch.’) When Blake ran his beautiful lap and Bolt took up the baton and roared down the straight, we went almost more nuts than when our home boy soared to victory. Presence of greatness, I suppose.
Back to the diving. Young Tom Daley had started off a little shaky, in the qualifying heats, but suddenly he was bringing his A game. All at once, we became diving experts. ‘No rip entry,’ said my sister, shaking her head. ‘Helicopter feet,’ mourned the Stepfather. ‘Too much splash,’ said my mother.
The Younger Niece stared seriously at the television. ‘I love him,’ she declared. ‘I am going to marry him.’
Tom Daley, at the age of eighteen, not so very long after he lost his father to fatal illness, won the bronze medal, and we made so much noise that I’m surprised the police did not arrive. The future Mrs Daley was beside herself.
In some ways, of course, it is all absurd, but if a games can have this effect on an ordinary family, on an ordinary Saturday night, it seems to me that there really is something magical in the air. Normality will return, of course it will; perspective will come back. But I don’t expect many of us shall forget this still Scottish night, when we screamed and dreamed and hoped and shouted and laughed our silly old heads off.
Late now, so just a couple of pictures:
My own Olympians: