Yes, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? A whole summer has come and gone and with it a mêlée of happy times, sad times, Olympic madness and, of course, the everlasting presence of men running; always running.
I intended to report on the Olympics before now but never got round to it. However, perhaps it’s better, now it’s just finished, to be able to look back on it as a whole and write down a few highlights.
First, in summary, I have to say that it was without doubt a privilege to be in London this summer. I didn’t really know what to expect in the run up to the event: we were warned to steer clear of public transport and anywhere central because millions of extra people were going to be putting pressure on the network and it was going to be packed. Security would be a worry, getting to work would take an extra hour, it would rain, Team GB would achieve nothing and the Opening Ceremony would a madcap affair involving sheep.
Well, some of these concerns bothered me and others didn’t. Months ago I swore that I’d have to be out of the capital altogether by the time the Games landed, but of course life disagreed and I found myself very much still here in July. I was not as cynical as some, but still feared the congestion and queues and pictured myself having to walk the 6 miles or so into work every day.
How wrong we all were. It was dream-like. The sun shone, the tubes ran beautifully, Danny Boyle was declared the greatest genius of our times and we did rather well at the sports too, especially anything that involved sitting down. I have never seen Central London so quiet (everyone was in Stratford, apparently) and I got used to not even having to check to see if the Victoria Line was running a good service: it just was.
I first got swept up in the thing in the few days before the Opening Ceremony as the torch reached London. I was dubious about seeing it as I was picturing the horrific crowds of the Jubilee procession and thinking I’d rather steer clear. However, I learnt that on nearly its last day of its tour the torch would be chasing me round the city: in Islington in the morning and in the West End by evening. In fact, the PR people of Chariots leapt on the opportunity and arranged for Vangelis to appear on a podium as the flame was carried past the theatre, with his famous theme tune blasting out down Shaftesbury Avenue. This was something we couldn’t miss; plus I figured that if the crowds outside were too much we could always retreat inside the Gielgud to watch from a window.
That day I woke and was lazily browsing the net when I came across the news that Patsy and Eddie of Ab Fab fame would be torch bearing that afternoon on the King’s Road in Chelsea. Too tempting! So off I flew west, in the hope I could catch them. It was a glorious day, blazing hot with beautiful blue skies. The atmosphere there was fantastic. Yes, there were thousands of people lining the streets and yes it was crazy but everyone was so happy and excited it didn’t matter. Plus, I got a great spot and saw the ladies carry the flame down the street which was just brilliant.
Afterwards, I made the most of the sunshine by walking from Chelsea to the West End and paid my respects to the Olympic countdown clock, winding its way to its end.
I then lazed about in a park for a while with a cold drink before meeting up with some work people at the theatre. There they had built a platform outside the front doors and had set up huge speakers. We caught them sound checking and the music could be heard all the way down the street. As the crowds gathered, a carnival atmosphere developed. It was great as nearly everyone who worked in the theatre was there: front of house, management, backstage crew and cast. Even our old supervisor, who had left in the dark period for Cornwall, turned up to join us.
The moment the torch went by was quite magical. I may be sick of that music now, but it definitely still holds a power, and hearing it blast out majestically as its composer and our two principals were elevated into view was something quite unforgettable. And all of a sudden, all cynicism remaining in me was lost and I could not wait for the Olympics to start.
(I then had to go inside to work, doing security duty in the foyer. This was unusual as Vangelis was inside with Jack and James doing interviews and then waiting to be collected, so I felt a little like his security guard for a while. Still, I am happy to have provided him a service since receiving a personalised signed CD of the soundtrack from him – he did one for all of us as a thank you from the producers for our help with press night. Quite a special little memento, I feel).
The following day was the Opening Ceremony. Our show was moved to a matinee slot, giving us the evening free to go and watch it. I headed over to Victoria Park in east London to see it on a big screen with Sophie and some of her work friends. Once I’d battled and cheated the huge queues to get in, I found them at an excellent spot very close to the screen. The event was tainted by endless queues, one short sharp shower of rain and a two hour long journey home, but once the ceremony started those things couldn’t have mattered less. Being there was incredible: the ceremony was amazing; the crowd was fantastic and we were close enough to the stadium to see the helicopters overhead and the fireworks above the trees. Everyone there clapped, cheered, sang and danced all the way through and was so multi-cultural that during the athletes’ parade at least one person jumped up and screamed for so many of the countries represented.
And so I was hooked and loved the whole Games. Athletics is surprisingly addictive to watch and a few times I found myself wondering at my own behaviour when I realised I was staying up late to watch the conclusion of a volleyball match between Canada and Ukraine or something similar. It was with good reason though, as London was alive: people were happy; the sunshine remained and our show was busier than ever.
The last little final surprise of the Olympics came just the other day. Just as I thought the whole affair was gone and buried into the history books, a whole plethora of Team GB athletes were invited in to see Chariots of Fire and the medal winners amongst them were invited onto stage at the curtain call to meet the cast and to pose for photos. I happened to be ushering on stage so was posted in the wings waiting for the meeting and greeting to end so we could clear the level. However, who could resist when faced with all that bling? When we deemed it safe, those of us on stage edged in and joined in the mingling. The athletes were very happy to meet us all and show off their medals and so I got to hold a real gold (Etienne Stott’s) and have a photo taken with it round my neck. How amazing! One last sweet kiss goodbye from the Olympic Games.
Other highlights of the summer include an escape to Dartmoor with Ollie: fed up with never seeing each other we at the last minute decided to pack our tent, pick up a hire car and drive to Devon. It was beautiful and such an idyllic weekend, hiking in the hills with just wild ponies and heather for company. There was also little Joseph’s first birthday party and I was a very proud godmummy watching him toddle around the house I did a lot of my own growing up in. I met up with a lot of old friends, and a new one in the shape of freshly immigrated Viv; we have been living out lots of old dreams. There was a nice few days at home to celebrate mum’s birthday and a fun day in London with Emily.
And then September hit. And, with a jolt, I realised that means I have practically been in London for a whole year. A whole year. This blog is nearly a year old; I’ve been working at Gielgud for nearly a year. Every time that the weather feels a bit autumnal or I see a flurry of brown leaves on the ground I’m reminded of the cycle of life and think back to last autumn and how everything then was so fresh and wonderful. I look back at my previous entries here and think fondly of crisp walks in Hyde Park, the wonder of approaching Christmas in the city and the lazy sunny October in Shepherd’s Bush.
The truth is that this, coupled with sadly increasing negative feelings about work and the lack of time spent with my boyfriend means that I know it needs to be time to move on. I feel restless and underachieving and frustrated. I am job hunting with increased fervour but with no luck so far. I don’t know what I want to do but will give anything a try that’s different and more challenging. I’m stagnating at the theatre. I’m sick of a show that’s just been extended all the way into the new year and very aware that selling ice creams was only meant to be a temporary thing. The lack of decent pay and job prospects didn’t matter before, not when I was loving it so very very much. But now I don’t love it quite so much, those things do matter more and I need to move on. So watch this space. I don’t have a clue what is next, but trust that fate so far has worked out things pretty well and hope that will continue in the next chapter.