The London Marathon. Sunday. The hottest on record. 40,000 runners, 100,000 spectators. Team Support Ellie, all members of her wider family, split into manageable units to chase from place to place all over the Marathon route to spot her and cheer her along. Malcolm and I, as the oldest supporters joined up with two year old William and his mum, as Team Slow.
We all had the Tracker App. All the runners had a device on their shoe to report where they were, and how fast they were going in real time. 100,000 users in London, and thousands more beyond ensured the poor overworked app was often on strike, so we often guessed at her whereabouts as we zipped about over London trying to get to a vantage point before she did. WhatsApp messages kept us all in the loop.
We didn’t spot her at the start……
…. but we did spot these rhinos, who amazingly, all completed the circuit.
‘We didn’t manage to spot her at the start.’
‘ We missed her at Greenwich.’
‘Couldn’t see her at Cutty Sark’
‘Never saw her at the Isle of Dogs.’
‘Where was she on the Mall?’
Which was all a bit disappointing for us, and more so for Ellie, who having trained in sleet and frost wasn’t looking forward to running in the temperatures of high summer and must have thought we’d all pushed off to the pub.
But Tom and Alex reported spotting her at the Tower of London, and sent a picture to prove it. Team by team we reported our successes – Team Slow finally saw her only yards before she finished.
She did it. She got her medal. And thanks to many many friends – and quite a few of you – she’s smashed her fundraising target to raise over £6000 towards oesophageal cancer research. She says she’s done her first -and last – marathon.
My Spanish teacher Javi wanted to know what life was like without TV. It wasn’t a burning question for him. All he really wanted me to do was practice using pretérito imperfecto and pretérito indefinido, which definitely made the conversation more difficult.
All the same. He was quite interested. He discovered that I had first seen the television only a few hundred metres from his little flat in Sandhutton, because that is where I too used to live. My mother was the village schoolmistress, and we, together with about a dozen other chosen ones, had been invited to watch the Queen’s coronation on the one television in the village, newly bought for the occasion by a more prosperous farmer. (Note to self: remember Elizabeth’s called Isabella in Spanish.)
We all crowded into his sitting room, and peered at the screen, very likely a 9” screen, as fuzzy images of the Queen in her carriage, the Queen in Westminster Abbey paraded before our eyes.
And that was that for me and television in my childhood, as my parents were fiercely opposed to having one of those contraptions in the house, especially when there was so much entertainment to be had from the radio – I mean wireless : so long as you remembered to turn it on some two minutes before your programme was due to start, so it could warm up.
There was the Home Service (pretty much Radio 4 in dinner jackets), the Light Programme (Radio 2), and the Third Programme (Radio 3). And that was it. Except for me, and teenagers everywhere, Sunday evenings on Radio Luxembourg with its diet of pop music was required listening, under cover of pretending to be in my bedroom doing my homework.
At friends’ houses when I was little, I occasionally saw shows like ‘Andy Pandy’, or the distinctly odd ‘Muffin the Mule’ in which a wooden puppet clopped about on the top of a grand piano at the behest of his mistress Annette Mills.
Later, as a teenager, I’d escape on Saturdays and watch the hugely popular satirical show ‘That Was The Week That Was’. My parents watched it too when they got the chance. But they still didn’t buy a television, and I could have no part in the constant school chatter about what had happened in last night’s ‘Emergency – Ward 10‘. The advent of colour television in the early 1960s passed me by.
What you don’t have, you don’t miss, and television didn’t form part of my life till the 1970s. It’s not hugely important now.
As to Javi. I don’t know why he asked. He hasn’t got a TV. There’s always i-player and his laptop.
My son Tom, born in 1977, was part of an early generation of children to be brought up on top-notch picture books. Puffin Picture Books, at £1.25 each, were an affordable treat for all of us. We didn’t tire of reading him ‘The elephant and the bad baby’, or ‘Not now, Bernard’, or anything illustrated by Quentin Blake or Allan Ahlberg.
The books we all loved were passed on to Elinor, then ten years later, to Emily.
Then they were carefully packed away for years. Elinor (aka Fanny the Champion of the World) married and had twins. Out came the boxes of books for Alex and Ben to enjoy.
Then these books, some almost as old as Tom himself, came full circle. His son William is enjoying them as much as his dad ever did.
Last night, this is what William picked to have read to him. Though there’s no need really. He knows everything off by heart.
Many of you ask me how my daughter’s getting on. Well, her treatment is over, and her hair is growing apace. She’s decided to prove how well she’s doing by training to do the London Marathon next year, to raise money for Worldwide Cancer Research, and help fund further research into oesophageal cancer.
A few weeks ago, I did a deal with my son. My angry, grieving, difficult son. It wasn’t a deal I wanted to do, and – in many ways – it felt like a pact with the devil. I told him that if he would engage with a course of counselling, then I’d do what he’d been asking for, and start to look for a new partner.
I knew that it would take several weeks to sort out my son’s head, and, through counselling, he’d probably realise that his problems were not going to be easily solved by my acquiring a substitute for his dad. I wasn’t ready for a relationship, and was otherwise muddling along as a double – not single – parent, but at my wits’ end.
Both boys have been desperate to see me happy again – and that, they believe, means for me to be married…