Posts Tagged ‘Sport’

The Olympics lift the spirits of a nation, but they can also crush the spirit of an individual.  There comes a point in everyone’s life, I suspect, when they must accept that they will never mount the podium and have a piece of metal handed to them by some Francophone bureaucrat from the IOC.  That is dismaying in itself.  But you have the additional indignity of watching an array of prodigious cherubs winning gold all around them to really compound your sense of loss.  There is nothing quite like seeing a Chinese teenager winning gold in the 4 x 100 Artistic Clean-and Jerk Greco-Roman Bantamweight Road Race Medley to make you feel like your best years are behind you.  Because compared to that Chinese child, they certainly are.

Despite my quadrennial loss of self-esteem, I decided to embrace the Olympic spirit.  And so I remedied another cultural oversight on my part, which is to watch a film I’d never seen, namely Chariots of Fire.  Or, in the spirit of the IOC, Les Chariots de Feu. As a seasoned runner myself, my not having seen it is a shocking oversight.  Even my Present Husband was aghast, and you’d think there’d be precious left for him to be aghast about after all these years.  Just shows you that being married to a cultural neophyte brings endless novelty to a relationship.

Chariots of Fire really is a trip back to a simpler era characterised largely by tweed and religious fervour. You could use words like exhort and splendid and no-one would snort derisively.  And the sporting standards of the day bear no resemblance to our modern industry.  Motivational aids? Gilbert and Sullivan coupled with brisk anti-Semitism.  Your backroom team?  And old Italian guy.  High tech equipment?  A bit of chalk to draw a starting line. A trowel to dig the holes at the starting line where you feet go (a silver trowel, of course). A pocket watch.  The team transport?  A train followed by a rickety ferry.  A crisis of conscience about running on the Sabbath?  A team-mate, content with his silver, gives up his place in his heat on a Thursday just to see you run.  Performance enhancing drugs? Tobacco.

Happy days.

Nonetheless, the spirit of Chariots of Fire has changed very little.  Athletes today face many similar challenges – maintaining a gruelling training schedule, combining that training with work and so on.  (Well, Eric Liddell seemed to be holding down a job.  Certainly persuading his disapproving sister to take on the mission in China in his stead was a full-time occupation in itself.)  And something else that is true of sport to this day would be the clash of commitments and values that it can  set off.  Of course, few athletes today are bothered by the prospect of running on the Sabbath.  A runner today is more likely to struggle with his endorsement of Nike forbidding him from racing in an event sponsored by Adidas.

Chariots of Fire is an inspiring film.  Makes me want to get out running myself.  Except I too am experiencing a clash of commitments and values.  Between wanting to go out and run and wanting to stay here and drink a lovely bottle of sauvignon blanc.  The remarkable Lord Lindsey, athlete and bon viveur of Chariots of Fire, could reconcile the two.  Sadly for international athletics, I cannot.  And that, as much as anything else, is why the Chinese teenagers get the medals and I do not.


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… was the last day I wasn’t a parent.  I remember very little of that day.  I presume I whooshed around the house frantically doing the kind of insane jobs that are called ‘nesting’ when you are pregnant but when you are not pregnant are just called insane jobs.  A lot passes for normal when there is an overdue guest refusing to leave your body and you have become a human Hotel California.

One thing I remember with crystal clarity is that night I watched again one of my favourite movies.  Spinal Tap.  Oh how I laughed.  Little did I realise how much of the wisdom of that film I would come to appreciate as the years rolled by.  And then, the following day, in the hospital an anaesthetist told me that if I had to have a c-section they would give me … yes, you’re way ahead of me … a spinal tap.  I laughed even more.  He didn’t see what was funny about this important and delicate medical intervention.  And doubtless had I watched, say, The Shawshank Redemption the night before I would have agreed.  I had to tell him about the film.  He’d never heard of it.  Imagine – an anaesthetist who had never seen Spinal Tap.  I laughed uproariously at that too.  He didn’t get the humour in that either.  Then I was filled with pity and dismay at the poverty of his existence.  I think he may have had similar feelings about me.  It’s true what David St Hubbins says  – there is a fine line between stupid and clever.

So here I find myself at my significant and yet ritual-less anniversary.  The last day I was not a parent.  There isn’t a card for this event or a stone or a flower or a gift.  Not even an acceptable price point.  And yet it’s a very significant milestone.  Certainly if I had grasped the significance of that day nine years ago I would have spent it very differently.  Mostly sleeping.  Definitely.  And rejoicing at the vision of myself not covered in vomit.  My own or anyone else’s, because if we’ve learned anything from Derek Smalls it’s that you can’t always tell.  And doing spontaneous things like going for a sudden coffee.  With nothing in my bag except cash.  To a militantly family unfriendly restaurant with nary a high chair or a kiddies meal in sight.   On my own.

I would have spent some of the day slapping people silly for saying things like “oh, get all the sleep you can now.”  Really?  Is sleeping like putting money in the bank?  When I am suffering sleep deprivation of South American prison proportions, can I go and withdraw that lovely night’s sleep I had back in 1997?  No.  It’s just one of those things people who’ve had kids use to torment pregnant women.

I would have taken my vast reserves of wealth and bought shares in Britax, Calpol, Sudocrem, Mattel, Huggies, Tommee Tippee, Smyths, Clarks – I do, after all, happen to know who is the patron saint of quality footwear – Boots, the Early Learning Centre and Disney and all those other people who I have kept going as part of my early prototype of Obama’s stimulus package.  I’ve no idea what it’s like to laugh all the way to the bank, but I’d say it’s a hoot and I’d love to give it a go.  As Bobbi Flekman told us, money talks and bullshit walks.  I have walked a lot in the last near decade.

But, no, this is not a day for regrets and recriminations.  This day, like all others, is a day for thankfulness and rejoicing.  I have learned so much from my little pension plans, oops, did I say that? Freudian slip, I of course meant children.  It’s the anniversary of the last day that I was mummy to no-one.   The last day my Present Husband and I were just two people living for ourselves.  A life-changing day.  An anniversary to celebrate.  And I will celebrate every year to come on this date.  Especially two years from now.  Because on that day it will go all the way to eleven!

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