We had three holidays this year. First, we spent Easter in London. This was an interesting experience of the city as tourists after having lived there for ten years. Then, taking advantage of the additional Bank Holiday for the Jubilee and Royal Wedding we spent a very varied week in Barcelona. Finally, as a surprise for my 40th birthday we spent a couple of weeks travelling around Denmark. I also had a nice long weekend walking in the Yorkshire Dales. Now we are looking forward to a week ski-ing in Italy. It’s not such a hard life!
And so, as another year draws to its end, here’s my round up of some of the highlights for me looking back.
London Olympics and Paralympics 2012
2012 has been a big year for sport with the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London and the European Football Championships. I think most people were surprised at how well the Olympics went and how enthusiastically they were received. Perhaps it is a peculiarly British thing but many commentators seemed resigned from the start to an expectation of shoddiness and disappointment from the competitors’ performances. However, a sign of how this was misguided came in the way the Olympic Torch Relay went and the large crowds around the country that watched its long procession through the land. This was a precursor to the incredible tally of medals achieved in both sets of Games which led to such an embarrassment of riches that someone like Mo Farah with two Gold medals could only manage to come fourth in the voting for Sports Personality of the Year – a contest which not so many years ago was won by Damon Hill for coming second in the Formula 1 championship.
The England football team’s performance in Poland and Ukraine was more true to form but ironically this was no bad thing. Normally the press become far too excited about the prospects of England in international tournaments with an expectation that anything short of victory is a major disappointment. That is peculiar when combined with the fatalism that infected many earlier in the year about the Olympics. So, going into Euro 2012 with low expectations after the unlamented departure of Fabio Capello and the controversy over John Terry and the charges he faced of hurling racist insults at Anton Ferdinand meant that the tournament was ultimately rather enjoyable and that losing to Italy in the Quarter Finals was not seen as the end of the world.
From a more personal angle, it has been an interesting year as a Brentford fan. The late and unexpected push to the League 1 play-offs in the 11-12 season ultimately didn’t quite materialise but at least it showed that the club was not too far short of what it needed to do to achieve promotion. After a slowish start to the current season the club has gone on a very good run to be sitting in second place in the table as I write ahead of the pre-Christmas home game against Stevenage which I hope will not be as disappointing as the last game against that team. I was lucky enough to have chosen to go to the 5-1 victory against Crewe and it seems that the free-flowing passing and attacking game that was displayed then has become a more consistent feature of the club’s performances since then. Hopefully that change in footballing philosophy which manager Uwe Rosler has worked so hard to instil over the past season and a half will be a permanent one leading to a first promotion to the Championship during my time supporting the club and its second season (and many more to come!) at that level since 1954.
I find it risible when politicians bang on about football in an attempt to appear down to earth and normal. If anything, for most it just highlights how rareified their lives actually are and how far from normal.
Nobody believes David Cameron is much of an Aston Villa fan. His vague support for them is likely to be not much more than that of someone who wasn’t very interested in football remembering the big team from when they were about 10. A year or two older and he could have said Nottingham Forest with equal conviction. Tony Blair’s support for Newcastle United was similarly lampooned even if the apocryphal story of him recalling being sat in the Gallowgate end at St James’ Park watching Jackie Milburn playing was something he never said. Ed Miliband also claims to be a Leeds United fan.
However, while neither Blair nor Cameron have done much more than give a dutiful nod in the direction of football, Miliband has built it into his back story. That might be understandable given his need to overcome some public perception of him as a bit weird and dorky. Only last week he mentioned Leeds United in a speech and he also included it in his speech on Britishness earlier in the year. However, it is perhaps telling that it is difficult to find any reference to his support for the club earlier than during his successful bid to lead the Labour Party in 2010.