I suppose it would be an understatement to say that London is the place to be at the moment. Like every other person on the planet, I was glued to my TV screen watching the Olympics opening ceremony, delighting in every zany British quirk of it.
I have rarely felt such a rush of affection and pride for my country.And I’ve remained glued there ever since, while ironically and uncharacteristically contemplating taking up a new sport, cheering on Team GB.
Here in Britain, we’re not generally a hugely patriotic people. We look at other countries such as France and the USA with mild amazement at their flag-waving, anthem-singing antics. We complain – about everything. I mean, the weather’s generally a bit miserable, the economy’s a lost cause, and there’s always someone just waiting to push in front of you in a queue or cut you up at a roundabout, usually on the way to work when you’re half-asleep and pretty grumpy anyway.
But this year is different. The weather, economy and queue-bargers have not changed, but something in the air has. There are flags everywhere, anthem-singing is common, London is being feted by the world.
And it’s not just sport; while the Olympics dominate East London, West London is hosting another event – the annual Proms season. In the architecturally stunning Royal Albert Hall, international world-class classical musicians have gathered for more than a month of concerts.
A star attraction of the Proms season has to be the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Barenboim. The orchestra, put together by Barenboim, is made up of Israeli and Palestinian musicians, as well as those from other Arab states, who are using music to try to forge understanding and harmony between troubled nations. They are also a supremely talented orchestra, who delighted us with Beethoven.
It was my first visit to the Royal Albert Hall and it came at the end of a wonderful day in West London. My mum and I picnicked in St. James’ Park before strolling past Buckingham Palace and arriving into Kensington. We wandered around Harrods and window-shopped at the designer boutiques, barely able to comprehend the rolex watches that cost more than a small house. We ended up in the sumptuous bar of a stylish hotel, eating tapas and drinking rose, before it was time for the concert.
The Royal Albert Hall must be one of the most beautiful concert venues anywhere on earth. After I had paused to admire the red and gold Victorian facade, we showed our tickets and went into the great domed hall. Then we were carried off on the wave of Beethoven’s Eroica, performed by musicians for whom the music is inseparable from international harmony.
It was, quite simply, a perfect day.
It was an added delight to see Barenboim again, on my TV screen, as he held up one edge of the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony, being honoured for his humanitarian work. As corny as it sounds, things like the proms and the Olympics really do bring people of all nationalities, beliefs and cultures together. Britain is not perfect, nor is anywhere, but there is a certain harmony right now, with a nation united for one reason.
Of course, when I go to the Olympics tomorrow to watch the basketball, I will scream like a banshee to will Team GB on, but that is all in good team spirit – and you can expect a full report on my Olympics experience!