Friday, August 24, 2012

A Tale Of Two Cities

What a difference a month makes. Visiting London during the opening days of the Olympics, there was a palpable vibrancy in the air. All the grumbling and low expectations were giving way to a sense of moment, a gradual awareness that something quite special was unfolding in the capital. And this was before Team GB had won a single medal.

A month later, I'm back again to find that London has returned to normal: the Underground is packed, and packed with the visibly grumpy and the notably impolite.

Summer holidays have obviously expired, and even with the guarantee of a rain-sodden long Bank Holiday weekend, Londoners, at least, are re-engaging the rat race with a somewhat tepid embrace.

So what was different a month ago? Did Boris and his doom-laden 'nuclear attack' announcements on the Tube simply scare the perpetually irascible London commuter away for the summer?

Is that why central London, one month ago, seemed to be populated exclusively by flag-waving families out on day trips to the swimming heats, the show jumping and the cycle races?

Were Londoners and their guests on an Olympic high? Did the capital succumb to an urge to recreate that hippy-dippy advert from the 1970s for Coca-Cola (suspiciously, a 2012 Olympic sponsor...) in which the world was invited to hold hands and collectively drink its teeth into decay?

Questions, questions, questions. Whatever it was, though, it has now worn off. Much like the sun tans sported by many on the Tube this morning from St. Pancras.

London is back and already squashed into its Northern Line misery. Heads are, once more, buried in crumpled copies of Metro, with the paper being used like one of those flimsy canvas beach windbreaks to shut out impertinent stares and the curry breath.

London was, for 17 days, the happiest city on the planet. Today it's back being London again.

Roll on Christmas.

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