It’s not usually at the start of the year that I make resolutions; it’s when I’m on holiday.
Away from the pressures of work and everyday worries, it’s possible to rediscover a sense of the person you could be; the thing I’ve hated most about work over the years is that it’s often brought out the worst in me and turned me into someone I wish I wasn’t.
A holiday gives you a chance to take a breath, to take stock and to realise who you could still be if you made changes and stuck to them.
I’ve made all sorts of resolutions during breaks away: to read more; to exercise more; to scrape the rust off my languages; to react more calmly to stress; to appreciate what I have; to be more considerate. In short, to be a better person.
The whole country seems to be feeling like this at the moment. The Olympics have reminded us of the best of ourselves, of what really matters, of what we can be.
Because the Games have been a fantastic holiday.
A holiday from the untrustworthiness of politicians, the unscrupulousness of bankers and tax avoiders, and the unimproving economic situation. (When a close-up of David Cameron appeared on the big screen at the Olympic stadium the night I was there, there were loud boos – not just from those politically opposed to him, I’d suggest, but because his appearance was akin to receiving an unwelcome email from work when you’re relaxing on the beach.)
A holiday from cynicism and negativity. Before the Games, I thought that if they were going to inspire a generation, it would be to encourage kids to sit on the sofa for hours on end watching sport on the telly.
Not an entirely negative thought, since it would at least have provided me with some company – but entirely wrong if early indications are reliable. Our two offspring have already shown greatly renewed enthusiasm for swimming, cycling and kicking each other in the head.
A holiday from sullen silence on the Tube.
A holiday from incompetence, the failures of G4S and the mistake with the North Korean flag notwithstanding. (And even the latter wasn’t as embarrassing as the playing of the wrong Kazakhstan anthem at a medal ceremony in Kuwait back in March.)
A holiday from unlikeable, arrogant individuals representing the country in a sporting arena. From British sportspeople crumbling under the weight of expectation. And from inarticulate participants who are unable or unwilling to offer any intelligent insight or honesty in post-match interviews.
To my surprise, even the British rowers turned out to be a likeable lot; the rowers I encountered at Cambridge were such a bunch of a*ses that I took to supporting Oxford in the Boat Race on the basis that they’d never annoyed me.
A holiday from hostility, or at least from aggressive rivalry, in the crowd. I have to admit that I enjoy a bit of needle at football matches; the atmosphere at the Wolves-City play-off semi-final second leg in 2002 remains one of the most thrilling I’ve ever experienced. But the sporting nature of the crowds at these Olympics was truly heart-warming.
Towards the end of the long jump final (yes, I was lucky enough to be in the stadium on that evening), the American athlete who was the only one in a position to prevent Greg Rutherford from winning gold exhorted the crowd to clap before he started his last run-up.
And the whole stadium obliged. That said, there was a huge roar when it was clear that he hadn’t jumped further – but the spectators had taken fair play to a level I’ve never seen in a football stadium.
Nor did the lack of edge in the crowd make for a flat, anaemic atmosphere. The noise level and celebrations in the stands when Mo Farah won gold in the 10,000m were on a par with those which greeted Simeon Jackson’s late winner against Derby. (Maybe even louder, if it isn’t blasphemous to say so.)
But the thing about holidays is that they can’t last for ever, unless you live in Suffolk and have just had a sizeable win on Euromillions. We’re away on holiday at the moment, and just this morning our son turned to me at the top of the aquapark water slide and asked, ‘Dad, why can’t we live here all the time?’
It’s hard to explain to a five-year-old that you have to go back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now, yeah – especially when he has no idea who Soul II Soul were – but it’s a fact that we all have to get used to.
Sure, you can try to make the holiday spirit last. But the longest I ever managed to maintain my good mood and good intentions when I worked in an ad agency was about 11am on the first Monday back. It doesn’t take long for the everyday to erode them.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I don’t expect the Olympics to have a long-term effect on football.
I don’t hold out much hope that certain players (not ours, you understand) will have learned anything from the Olympians on how to conduct themselves. And it seems unlikely that the fans will embrace a new spirit of friendliness and generosity.
If we score a blinding goal at Fulham on Saturday, will the home fans applaud? Or vice versa? I don’t think so.
At least, I don’t think I will. Which is perhaps a bit sad, but it’s the truth.
Old habits die very hard indeed.
If I have one tiny niggle about the organisation at the Olympics, it would be the unremitting blasts of music throughout the two volleyball matches I watched. People may moan about Samba de Janeiro being played at Carrow Road when City score, but at the volleyball we were deafened after every single point.
And at the session I attended there were 254 of them.
Even the Olympic stadium overdid it with the music – though it did seem that the songs there were being selected by someone with a mischievous sense of humour.
When the finalists for the women’s discus marched out to be introduced to the crowd – a line-up whose appearances fitted the stereotype, shall we say – it was to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’.