Scribbler in Seville

Gold medals and green spaces



I’ve just had my longest blogging break ever. Not through choice, I hasten to add, but my time has been taken up by a) work, b) kids, and c) Olympics. Morning: work; afternoon and evening: kids; night: work, with Olympics popped in as and when possible, culminating in the day’s highlights with gorgeous Gaby and guests at 10.30pm on BBC1. No time for blogging, which used to occupy the night-time slot. Going out? As if.

It’s been quite a summer – we arrived in the UK month ago, and have since then have been glued to the Olympics, throwing pizza at the children on Opening and Closing Ceremony nights, in front of the TV; enjoyed several days of sunshine (yes, really); and visited various beautiful gardens around England while visiting friends. Can you tell I’m middle-aged?

I toyed with the idea of blogging about the Olympics, but my rule is that there’s no point blogging unless you’ve got something new and interesting to say. I didn’t go to any events, which I bitterly regret – the closest I got was looking at the Park from a train, and from the second floor of Westfield in Stratford.

But I watched, listened to, and read about the Games avidly. The way everyone was so grabbed by it, the atmosphere on the streets of London, the sense of national pride, and the appreciation of Team GB – made the whole Olympics experience unforgettable. So, you can’t write a blog post without mentioning the summer’s biggest event, and London’s most exciting and global happening in years – even if it has (sob) finished now.

So I’ll limit it to my high and low points. High points: forging the Olympic rings, Bond and the Queen, Mr Bean*, the big dance set-pieces, and that extraordinary Thomas Heatherwick cauldron, with its ingenious petals, in the Opening Ceremony; Russell Brand*, Eric Idle (until he took the piss out of the Indian dancers, which was cringe-worthy), and The Who, in the Closing Ceremony. Low points – all from the latter: One Direction (the exit, please); George Michael’s new song; Right Here, Right Now mimed badly by Fatboy Slim from inside a giant octopus; Spice Girls – come on, who didn’t want one of them to fall off their cab?

Oh and the sports – what moments of pure joy as Jess, Mo, Bradley, Chris and Victoria won their golds, and Tom jumped into the pool with his team when he won his bronze. Didn’t matter to him what kind of metal it was – no tears of shame or apology there. Quite right too. I caught much of the coverage on the radio – BBC 5 Live – with the over-excited Northern Irish bloke, who nearly wet his pants with excitement when Wiggy sailed into Hampton Court.

Also, the Adidas video of various Team GB medal winners singing along to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”.

With children, the best place to be is in a wide, open space with no cars, so houses with gardens, or parks, are always popular choices. We’ve visited a few this summer, including an annual favourite in Suffolk, called Kentwell Hall.

This is a medieval house in Long Melford with a rare breeds farm – we love the rastafarian donkeys, pigs, and wandering chickens and peacocks. It also has a beautiful garden with a moat, and pretty veg and splayed fruit trees, as well as some interesting topiary.

We’ve also checked out a walled garden near Grantham, called Easton – with a maze and sweet pea garden.

But my favourite has been Waddesdon, a bonkers French château in Buckinghamshire owned by the Rothschild family. We didn’t venture inside, but the exhibition of sculpture put on by Christie’s in the grounds was enough culture to offset the kids making dens and getting lost in the woods aspect.

*I would normally go out of my way to avoid these performers, but in the context they were surprisingly enjoyable, and Brand especially outdid many of the musicians performing in terms of entertainment value.

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