I know that this blog is primarily about our life in Hong Kong but holidays away from Hong Kong are part of what forms our life here so it would be wrong not to summarise our all-too-brief trip back to London. Plus, we had such a special time that I simply need to document it so memories that are clear now don’t slip in to a hazy past.
In a fairly last minute change to our schedule, the kids and I ended up returning to London on our own, 9 days earlier than orignally planned, due to Dan going on a business trip for a week to Chicago and us having nothing better to do in Hong Kong than twiddle our thumbs waiting for him to return, then wait another week until we were all meant to fly to London together. Summer camp had finished, most people we knew had all gone off on their summer breaks and the weather was stifling so when a friend suggested that the kids & I should just bring our flights forward and go home early, it seemed so simple and within hours the change was made!
We booked ourselves into Hotel My Parents, waved Dan off to Chicago a few days later and a few days after that, at 5.30am, Judy bundled me, the kids, a buggy, 3 suitcases and 4 pieces of hand luggage into a cab and waved us off. How the hell was I going to safely manoevre all these people and things 6000 miles to London on my own?? I just kept telling myself it couldn’t be that bad, plenty of people I know in HK fly on their own with their kids and it would all be worth it for 9 extra days in London. I was wrong. It could be that bad. Eden’s clothes were sodden before we even boarded the plane, she slept for 1 hour out of 13 and spent the rest of the time demanding drinks and snacks, filling her nappies quicker than I could change them, generally not keeping still and basically stressing me out for the whole flight! To top it off, Joshua ate something he wasn’t meant to halfway through the flight which resulted him throwing up at the exact moment of landing. I couldn’t even keep this incident private as he was sitting on the other side of the aisle to me so I had to reach across holding the sick bag as we landed (full marks to my steady hand!) and no one could help me as the cabin crew were all strapped in. Did one person near me offer me any reassurance? A tissue? Some water? An extra sick bag? They did not.
Anyway, the longest shift of my life was over, I fell into my mum’s arms at the airport, muttering “I did it” and could now hand the kids over to their doting grandparents and start my holiday! We weren’t even out of the Heathrow airport car park before I was delirious with happiness at the cool air I was breathing – I’d been craving this for months!
And so began an incredibly lovely, special and memorable 3 weeks. We may have pressed the ‘Pause’ button on our London life for a few years but we are just so lucky to have been able to press ‘Play’ again at a time when anyone fortunate enough to be in London at this time will have their own story to tell, pictures to post and memories to savour. I am of course talking about the Olympics. And for our Olympic story to be padded out with so many special times with family and friends in between, just makes the whole period even more magical.
I have loved the Olympics all my life. Every 4 years I’m hooked. I find getting deeply involved in sports that I don’t give a second thought to from one Olympics to the next but at the time I love it! The word ‘repercharge’ is a regularly used word in my vocabulary for 2 weeks and 2 weeks later I forget the word even exists! Rewind back 7 years to 6th July 2005, when Jacques Rogge said those unforgettable words, “… has been awarded to the city of …. London!” – somehow at 9 months pregnant, I lept off the sofa, danced around, burst into tears and promptly vowed to myself that no matter what, I would be taking my baby to the Olympics in 2012 when at about 7 years old, he/she would be the perfect age to love it, soak it up and hopefully remember it all for a lifetime. I registered for info and ticket details years in advance, applied and re-applied methodically and carefully from Spring 2011 and was rewarded with tickets for Hockey, Football and Athletics. For me it wasn’t about just getting tickets for the ‘good stuff’ and sports I cared about. I don’t know the first thing about Hockey, or care about it at all, but it was a ticket into the Olympic Village, our chance to be a part of it all. So what seemed like a random purchase at the time a year earlier was the reason I didn’t have to spend the whole Olympics pressing the ‘refresh’ button on my computer trying to get last minute tickets to anything that came up. I had the tickets in my hand and could finally relax and just enjoy it after 7 years of anticipation.
Knowing for years that his birthday would fall on this day, I felt it was destiny that we would get tickets for it. Sadly, Seb Coe and the gang didn’t agree and we settled for watching it in my parents TV room instead. In fact, after a birthday dinner of more sushi than you can imagine, Josh had gone to bed, my parents were watching in their room and I was on my own watching it, responding to emotional texts from Dan who was in Hong Kong watching as much as he could before getting on his flight to London! Whether it was the jet lag, general emotion about being back home again anyway, or seeing the whole thing finally starting (probably all these), but I just sat and blubbed my way through the whole thing! Seeing David Beckham hand the torch to Steve Redgrave and all the moments that followed was more than I could handle!
Dan arrived the next afternoon and don’t ask me how, but we successfully managed to fulfil all our social commitments for the next 2 weeks whilst sticking to a strict diet of ‘Olympic Breakfast’, ‘Olympics 2012’, ‘Olympics Today’ and filling in any gaps away from a TV with Radio 5 Live commentary. So we didn’t miss a second. In fact, we saw most seconds more than once!
Joshua & Dan enjoyed 2 visits to Wembley to see Olympic football. They saw Team GB play and saw a semi final. I was fortunate enough to go to the Olympic Village 3 times – firstly, thanks to my amazing brother-in-law I went to the dress rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony.
Then finally taking Josh to the Olympic village, showing him everything, seeing a thrilling GB v Australia Hockey game (3-0 down, ended 3-3) before watching Usain Bolt work his 100 metre magic on the ParkLive big screen, it was a day I, and hopefully Joshua will never forget.
And it was all topped off on our last night in London with Dan and I having tickets to watch the Athletics in the Olympic Stadium. We saw more magic from Usain Bolt in the 200 metre final plus his medal ceremony and an 800 metre world record from David Rudisha to name a few highlights from that night.
And then it was over. We flew back to Hong Kong the next day missing Tom Daley get his diving bronze, Mo Farah his 5000m gold, the Jamaican 4x100m relay team smashing the world record, amongst other things. The Closing Ceremony sounds amazing, I missed it all and haven’t tried to watch highlights. Quite frankly I don’t want to watch the flame be extinguished and the flag get handed over to Rio. I’ve finally settled down to read the Official Programme and all the Daily Programmes we bought and am successfully managing to drag my Olympics experience out for as long as possible! Maybe that’s why I’m prattling on for far too long about the whole thing but in years to come, I may have forgotten how excited and emotional I got about it all and just how damn proud I was to be a Londoner in London but this way I won’t forget.
Being in Hong Kong this past week has shown me that it’s not just the rose-tinted spectacles of the London media that have painted a picture of the unprecedented success of the London Olympics to the people of Britain. The newspapers here are still reporting every day about how it was the greatest Olympics ever, how Rio has large boots to fill, how Team GB are a force to be reckoned with etc etc.
All we’re left with now is a pile of ticket stubs, programmes, memories, stories to tell, memorabilia we picked up along the way and lots of photos. I never would have thought that one of the best holidays of my life would be just to go home and briefly pick up on the life we’ve left behind for a bit, to re-affirm friendships and have special family times – with a once in a lifetime London Olympics thrown in for good measure. But it was.