We’ve had a few days now to try and get used to life without the Olympics. It’s not easy, is it? No more of that jingoistic fervour. No more expectations being constantly fulfilled. No more feeling affronted if one of ours didn’t win a medal, of any type, in an event. “What do you mean? We enter, we win medals. I demand a recount!”

The winning habit quickly became addictive. When Tom Daley didn’t qualify for his diving finals the poor chap felt obliged to apologise to us, letting us down gently so we wouldn’t go hot-foot to our GP in search of an anti-depressant.

Even when the women’s hockey team kept the nation waiting in a nail-biting state of barely-breathing suspense for a ridiculously belated 10 o’clock News, we didn’t mind. We were thrilled, awestruck and proud. Mind you, the hockey wasn’t a bit like the game I played in distant schooldays. For instance, where were the ice puddles, the bullet-like divots of mud and the shouting PE teacher muffled inside six scarves?

What the Olympics managed to do was distract me, and doubtless many others, too, from the fact that there was absolutely nothing else happening in the country. I mean, of course, nothing apart from Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith traipsing in and out of halls whipping up support in their Labour leadership campaign. As a sideshow to the non-event of Britain in August it hasn’t been the greatest magnet for attention.

Suddenly this summer we have become like the Continent (dare I say Europe, in this post-Brexit vote era?), where all the wheels of state are dismantled and the whole country disappears on holiday, if not physically then certainly mentally.

From that extraordinary period where there was a political development approximately every four and a half minutes, come August 1st we hurtled through a curtain into oblivion – a place where we became untethered and left to our own devices.

Mrs May and her husband took off into the Swiss Alps in their sensible trousers and polo shirts, giving us all a lesson in capsule wardrobe essentials for the modern holidaying couple. Our leader’s absence caused only a passing period of hand-to-mouth terror when it was announced that Boris Johnson had been left in charge, but I believe the baton has been handed on now and all is well.

Before the month of nothingness, at that time when anything and everything was happening at the speed of light, familiar faces were being expunged from our political landscape and new ones were emerging from the deep, like young shoots breaking the surface, and being introduced to the nation as Minister for Something Important. Inexplicably, my phone didn’t ring with a request for my urgent attendance in Downing Street, but I was prepared to be persuaded. Minister for Country Walks would have been a nice gig. Maybe next time.

The political landscape changed with such rapidity that when the music stopped and everyone took off on their summer break to read biographies and start writing their own, those of us left behind could only look around and say “Did all that really happen?”

Indeed it did. It was quite remarkable to witness the daily re-writing of history, but now we face the start of a new term, a new page in the life story of GB, and while the political commentators sharpen their pencils and their tongues, we can but hold tight for the ride – and be sustained by those glittering memories of Rio 2016.

Earlier this summer I told Geoff I wouldn’t be watching any of the Olympics. After immersing myself to the point of drowning during London 2012, I’d decided that Team GB could probably manage without me in Rio, and anyway I was disenchanted (sickened, actually) by the expenditure on something so comparatively transient and superficial in a country suffering the most chronic poverty.

My view on the latter hasn’t changed – how could it? – but my intention to let the entire event pass without my involvement soon came to nothing. At first this was because it was almost impossible to avoid Olympics-mania: the BBC bombarded me at every turn of the knob, on the radio and the TV. All normal schedules in the evenings seemed to be wiped away to give airtime to the Olympics, so I decided to give in and let myself be get hooked.

In no time at all I was in full Olympics mode, picking up on the lingo, reacquainting myself with old favourites such as peleton, omnium, repêchage, front aerial and double pike. I was soon joining the commentators in mangling nouns into verbs and reporting to Geoff that GB had medalled again in the rowing, and one of our cyclists had just podiumed.

The other reason I couldn’t avoid Olympics-mania was because I suddenly found I didn’t want to. I was enjoying it. It infected me – again.

My interest increased with each passing medal until I even found myself, unable to sleep in the small hours of Sunday, shuffling into a quiet corner with my iPhone to watch Jessica Ennis-Hill so graciously win silver in the heptathlon.

I was less enchanted by the glittery, sparkly wraiths of female gymnasts. They trouble me with their fixed expressions of joylessness and yards of bandaging around frail feet and ankles. I feel they are one untimely slip or ungainly landing away from a lifetime of self-recrimination.

The male gymnasts, on the other hand, possess physiques that are muscled and honed to a perfect degree, enabling them to do the most unfeasible contortions. All we lesser mortals can do is look on and marvel.

Where we would just thump down on a springboard and clear the pommel horse in one leap – as we did at school, with varying degrees of elegance and success – these gymnasts make a major production of it, spinning and twirling around on the horse, sometimes the wrong way up, and even, I could swear, inside out, before whizzing up to the rafters and landing with both feet nailed together and neither wobbling nor bursting into giggles at the absurdity of it.

Big hand, huge hand even, to the delightful Max Whitlock, GB’s double gold medal-winning gymnast, vaulter extraordinaire, and the country’s Next Big Thing on the celebrity circuit. A lovely chap for whom this richly deserved success exemplifies the spirit of the Olympics. Eighteen months ago he was suffering from glandular fever, so debilitating in its effects that he was scarcely able to move.

He made an amazing recovery and set himself two goals: to inspire the nation and to be remembered. Job done, I’d say.

In fact, so many of Team GB have done and are doing their job so well, and in such great spirit, that they all deserve medals. At the rate the medals have been pouring in, I’d say there should now be enough to go around.

Would I like to go to the Proms, my friend Carla asked me. I checked the diary and emailed back with an enthusiastic Yes, please.

Carla makes up a Proms party every year, mostly of her family who are London-based. This year, two of her relatives were going to be on holiday so the spare tickets needed to find homes: one to me and one to another friend of Carla’s called Viv.

Carla and Viv live near Andover and Salisbury respectively, so I would be making the longest journey.

They set off by train in the morning last Sunday to go and boil gently in the Globe during a three-hour performance of Macbeth. In complete contrast, I started my day by going to see my mother, taking her for a riverside walk and discussing hemp agrimony in some depth, as you do, and generally making sure all was well in her particular little world.

Later, I took the train to London and, just for the hell of it, joined the united nations of thousands in walking on the South Bank, where I failed to notice any hemp agrimony at all – just people, as far as the eye could see.

After an hour I crossed the Thames and rendezvoused with Carla and Viv, both delighted by their Macbeth experience. I told them about how Mum and I had enjoyed seeing frothy clumps of pink hemp agrimony beside a tributary of the Nadder, but it didn’t compare somehow.

I felt a bit Dorset bumpkin, a sensation that intensified as the evening wore on.

Am I really here, I thought to myself as I walked into the Royal Albert Hall for the first time in my life. And here, as I took my place at a pre-concert dinner table in an elegant third-floor room. And here, good heavens, all the way up here, as we settled in our seats at the front of a gilded circle.

Don’t look down, I instructed my my wimpy self, batting away the instinct to peer around too adventurously. I took in my surroundings only as far as incipient vertigo would allow. One woman fainted at the interval, my concern for her tempered by the relief that it hadn’t been me.

The music was wonderful and the occasion so memorable it will always stay with me.

As soon as the final piece ended and the thunderous applause erupted, the three of us with a 10.15pm train to catch from Waterloo bolted down multiple flights of stairs, out into the street and, at a speed which would have had Mo Farah shaking his head in awe, took off in the direction of South Ken Tube station.

We could have been in Lesser Spotted Bermondsey for all I knew, but after a while Viv halted us as she suspected we were going the wrong way.

“I recognise this road,” she said. “I had a flat here in my 20s and it wasn’t very close to South Ken tube.”

We asked someone. Viv was right. Really anxious by now, we hailed a taxi. Can you get us to Waterloo in 20 minutes, we asked.

The driver, confronted by a trio of breathless, wild-haired women, not unlike the witches in Macbeth, accepted the challenge.

Heroically, he got us to our destination with three minutes to spare. We seriously over-tipped him as we couldn’t wait for change, and executed a most impressive 200-yard sprint on to the train.

Phew! An evening at the Proms could rarely have been as hard-won as that.

It’s odd how a slip of the fingers can sometimes turn calamitous. Such a little mistake, such out-of-proportion consequences.

I guess we are all capable of the odd ’whoops’ moment – even those whose lives never wobble off straight lines. At the moment we have a Prime Minister who seems worryingly straight-lined and squeaky clean (I once laboured under a head girl like her). I think, though, that we can be confident Theresa May’s ’whoops’ moment will come sooner or later.

Her wobble, when it happens, will inevitably be public fodder. My friend Sue’s husband orchestrated a superb one that remained entirely private – until I received an email telling me about it.

It seems The Major (for that is the husband) had woken one afternoon after his post-prandial nap and, possibly as a result of some kind of disturbed dream, decided he was in need of a new pair of shoes.

Not for him the plod around shops in his nearest town, trying on and discarding brogues that, of course, are no longer made like they used to be. The Major finds that’s the trouble with everything nowadays – from politicians to pork pies. He fulminates about quality, about workmanship, service, prices, the whole of life and the universe, even his wife’s gravy – but that’s another subject.

On this occasion, still sleep-warm from his forty winks, the Major decided to spare any quaking shop assistants from his short-fused presence but to resort to the internet for one of his rare shopping expeditions.

He never roams far online. For him the internet is chock-full of loonies and trolls, all of them intent on cheating him and cleaning out his bank account. He goes straight to Amazon for anything he needs, and, it hardly needs to be said, where he uses his wife’s account.

Shoes, shoes. It can’t be difficult, can it? A pair just like the last ones, which were identical to the ones before, and the ones before that, and the ones before that. Plain and sensible, nothing outlandish.

He found what he wanted, chose the size, checked the colour, noted the estimated delivery date, ranted for only ten minutes about the cost, and pressed the button.

Job done. Almost immediately an email arrived in Sue’s inbox advising her of the Major’s purchase. Excellent. Except it was not the purchase of a pair of shoes, not even two pairs of shoes (it can happen). It was the purchase of two pressure washers.

One of us is going mad here, Sue decided, as she re-read the email and tried to make sense of it. She couldn’t. Either his fingers had taken on some kind of mocking, comic role or he had decided he would walk around with pressure washers on his feet.

The Major couldn’t make sense of what had happened, either. It obviously wasn’t his fault, quite obviously not, so one of us – and who could that be, he asked, looking meaningfully at his wife – is going to have to sort this out.

This Sue duly did, though it meant she had to stay in for about a fortnight to accept two deliveries and return two unwanted pressure washers whence they had unwittingly come.

The Major, meanwhile, continues his daily task of making enemies on the golf course. In quieter moments he stares wistfully at his fingers, wondering how they could have let him down so badly.

At the moment, until he can trust his fingers, he’s decided to stick with his old shoes.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a bird’s eye view of things. Of a school classroom, for instance, so we could see how much more enjoyable the whole learning experience is compared with when we were young, cowed into brain-numbed submission, or a crowded station platform to observe the lengths some people will go in their desperation to shove to the front.

The idea of squinting down from on high occurred to me last week when I was at the fabulous Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition at Tate Modern. My sister had spirited me there, and treated me to lunch, for a super-grade birthday outing. I was thrilled by the whole day, and especially thrilled to be able to see such a large and impressively broad body of work by one of my hero modernist painters.

The exhibition was shown in several rooms, about a dozen in all, spanning the years of O’Keeffe’s long and productive life, which ended at the age of 98 in 1986.

We had tickets for a timed entry, enabling us to side-step the long queues for this very popular exhibition. By about Room 3 I was aware that to get a proper view of any of the paintings I was finding I had to show immense tact and sidestep, duck, hover and sidle around others with the same intent.

It was an elaborate, rather tiresome ritual, a curious choreography performed by bending bodies and tilted heads, nimble feet and indrawn elbows.

If I could look down on this, I thought, I’d be able to learn a lot about human behaviour, about the politeness of so many, the boorishness of the few.

Anyone clever enough to annotate the ceaseless flow of fancy footwork into proper choreography would, I feel sure, be able to create a most interesting piece of modern ballet, perhaps set to a souped-up version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. You read it here first.

While in Room 7 I witnessed a bit of a verbal tussle going on between a uniformed attendant and a taut, fraught mother whose daughter, I was able to gather, had apparently been admonished for lunging towards a painting with a pen in her hand.

The mother was raising her voice in defence of her daughter, assuring the attendant that the child had had no evil intent. The attendant calmly responded that he wasn’t to know that and he was only doing his job.

Instead of smiling an apology for causing him concern, the mother became even more stroppy, her anger causing her daughter, aged about nine to stare at the ground, willing it to open up and remove her swiftly from the scene. The woman’s son, probably aged about 11, disowned the whole messy ensemble and disappeared to the other side of the room.

I moved on, hoping the attendant would win the day. In Room 9 I suddenly encountered them again, the woman’s penetrating voice again unmissable. Things had obviously taken a new turn as I heard the luckless attendant reporting through his intercom: “A complaint is being made against me.”

People turned from the paintings and stared, their concentration shattered, their choreography now all out of step.

Oh, how sad, I thought. How utterly unnecessary, and what a dismal, horrible experience for those children, who were probably there under sufferance anyway.

Their mother should have not just a lesson in how to be reasonable but a bird’s eye view to appreciate how a minor incident can affect crowd behaviour.

It must have been four months ago that Geoff asked me what I thought about going to Bristol to see a musical.

“Are you completely and utterly mad?” I asked, not really needing an answer since I knew it. “We don’t go to musicals. We’ve never been to a musical. What’s put this into your head?”

He explained he’d been reading reviews of Guys and Dolls, which was about to tour the provinces after a triumphant run in London. The reviews were sensational. They’d enthused him and caused a radical thought to take root in his head. “What do you think?”

I could only think what a lot of good it would do both of us to step off our straight lines and experience something for the first time that so many others were enthusiastically recommending. We’d be mad not to, and anyway it was months away so we didn’t need to think about it now.

“Let’s do it,” I said, so together we booked the seats – after hours of indecision over which would give us a good view – and then promptly forgot all about it.

Suddenly our chosen date popped up on the calendar and we headed to Bristol’s lovely old Hippodrome last week.

Many years ago, Geoff had lived and worked in Bristol and so he was sure he could remember how to get us there and was even confident of finding his way around the city.

I should have known. Yes, he got us there, but only with the help of Susie Satnav, and as for the finer detail of reaching the theatre from where we’d parked, we might just as well have been virgin explorers on the Moon.

Every time we turned left we should have turned right, every hopeful glimpse of the quayside somehow morphed into a dead-end behind an old warehouse, and when we finally, mercifully, spotted the Hippodrome across a very crowded street, we almost became swept away on a tide of humanity heading in the opposite direction for a festival.

Against the odds, therefore, we made it to the theatre and settled into our seats to enjoy that lovely buzz of anticipation pre-curtain up. “You can blame me if it’s awful and you don’t enjoy it,” Geoff said generously, filling me with confidence.

I assured him I wouldn’t let him forget it was his idea but said again how good it was for us to be out of our comfort zone. A musical! Us!

Of course it was absolutely wonderful and we were both completely transported. Sure, your brain doesn’t feel taxed by having to follow the nuances of a complicated plot of, say Shakespeare on stage, but your soul feels buffed and burnished into a happy glow after being exposed to all the exciting elements of a musical.

This was pure escapism, heady and happy and hugely infectious with its energy and wit, its songs – some familiar, some not – and its dance routines lifting the whole audience into a place of the purest delight.

Four months ago, when we’d hurled away all our silly prejudices and booked, we could hardly have known just how much we would appreciate the opportunity Guys and Dolls gave us to escape the world around us.

For almost three blessed hours nothing else mattered, no Brexit fallout, no bickering politicians, no global horrors. Only the niggling concern about where on earth we’d left the car.

This is the oddest of times. Whether you’ve been for In, Out or even Shake It All About, there’s no escaping we’re in the midst of a seismic period.

Waiting for the dust to settle is interesting, to say the least, and I’ve had my nose firmly in the news trough, lapping it all up. Digesting the situation before it morphs into the next instalment – I hesitate to say crisis – has been, and continues to be, challenging, but it really is fascinating to be living through such a momentous period.

It’s the sort of nation-rocking that features in history books and you wonder what it must have been like to be there at the time. Well, here’s the thing: we are right there, now.

Perhaps it was this instability, perhaps it was just a family weakness for slightly losing the plot from time to time, but whatever the reason, we’ve had a notable week that could best be filed under Take It or Leave It.

In the Take It section we have the normally super-organised Geoff checking out of a hotel and, hours later and many miles away, finding the room key in his pocket.

Two things prompted me to take over at this point: relief mixed with a smidgen of schadenfreude that it had had nothing to do with me and, for once, I was entirely blameless, and the certain knowledge that as Geoff does not do queues, and certainly not steamy, malodorous Post Office queues, it would be down to me anyway to ensure the key was dispatched back to its proper home.

I packed up the key and I stood in the queue and ensured the key went merrily on its way.

I could not know that only a few days later I’d be back in the Post Office, back in the queue (an even longer one this time), but now with the task of posting an iPad to my daughter-in-law.

She’d left it behind after a family get-together on Sunday. With our son and two grand-daughters, she headed home and various text messages and calls while they were en route made it clear how vital a part the electronic gadget plays in family life, not least for the contentment of deft-fingered little Poppy on long car journeys.

So I did some more packing up, some more queueing, and for about the cost of a couple of gallons of petrol, sent off the iPad fully insured and guaranteed to arrive within less than 24 hours.

It was all good stuff on the mother-in-law points chart, I felt.

What I hope was the final Leave It situation of the week involved a nappy bag, which somehow materialised in our car boot after the family gathering. You can imagine Geoff’s horrified reaction when the discovery was made. He held it out at arm’s length as if it contained something that was about to go off.

Little did he know, something had gone distinctly off a little earlier, but it had been dealt with. Wipes and disposable nappies wielded by deft hands are good at that.

Since no-one knew how the bag had ended up in our car, we agreed it must have been dropped by a passing unicorn. Things like that are always happening.

We managed to deliver the bag to a convenient point where the baby whose bottom would benefit could instruct her parents to collect it.

After so much Take It and Leave It, I’m braced now for a bit of Shake It All About.


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