Saturday evening was the 'Last Night of the Proms' on BBC TV - the Proms being an annual series of summer concerts in the Royal Albert Hall in London, presented by the BBC. Like most things British, it has over the years developed a whole host of somewhat eccentric customs that go with it, most of all on the last night. The second half of the closing programme always features a number of patriotic songs, including Rule Britannia, Jerusalem, Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No 1, to which 'Land of Hope and Glory' is sung and of course the National Anthem. It usually concludes with a spirited rendering of Auld Lang Syne - leavened with flags and fancy dress and much whistling, clapping and bouncing up and down (at least by those in the standing area on the floor of the Hall). All pretty harmless and jolly good fun.
I've watched it every year for most of my life and, in the same way that the Grand National horse race seems to signify for me the start of spring/summer, the Last Night of the Proms always seems to herald autumn, the end of 'play time' and a shift of mood. (No doubt because it also coincides with the start of a new school year, a key feature of much of one's formative life!)
This year it seems even more significant, since the summer has been one long festival on our small island - the Jubilympics, if you like. I hope we don't all feel a collective hangover now it's all over, though I suspect many people will feel a bit bereft. It has all been compelling viewing on TV and even more fun for those of us who have been able to join in some small part of the excitement. I think it's made us Brits feel quite a lot better about ourselves. There were plenty who thought we wouldn't be able to pull it off, but we did - and in some style, I feel. It's quite hard to encapsulate what it has meant, but one way and another we've seen the best of ourselves, with generous and smiling volunteers; inspirational athletes - both Olympians and Paralympians; tremendous, symbolic pageants during the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations and the Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies (and we do that kind of ceremonial very well). It has all felt wholesome and healthy, bringing people together in a very positive way. I so much hope that some of it sticks - in particular the breaking down of barriers between people and the respect for those who are different from ourselves (different backgrounds, different abilities). I think we've seen that humanity really is beautiful and that individually and collectively we can achieve so much.
Personally I'd be happy to see: more of us getting fit and enjoying sport; a continuing realisation that those with disabilities (of any kind) are no less 'able' and should not be rendered invisible in society; and a shift away from the instant gratification and fame of the 'celeb' culture, towards genuine validation of the power of effort, commitment and dedication to achieving goals over a sustained period of time. I shall start with myself.... this time of year always seems better than the New Year for making resolutions.
And for those who do feel bereft.... may I remind you that 'Strictly Come Dancing' and 'Downton Abbey' soon return to our TV screens. If you want sport there's plenty of footie - and Andy Murray in the final of the US Open today! And there's Saltaire's own Festival too.
(Photo taken from my TV screen - fuzzy but atmospheric!)