England v South Africa, Lord’s, Days Two and Three, August 17 & 18 2012

I recall very little about this two-day visit. Perhaps it was the excitement of the Olympic summer that made this match pale, because looking at the scorecard the match was an absolute cracker:

The Scorecard – click here.

I can’t even work out who joined me on the Friday; I think Janie came with me both days in the end. I can only find one e-mail, to Ian Theodoreson, quite late in the day, explaining that I had clean forgotten to sort out this match in all the excitement. He had to decline.

I recall arranging to meet Heinrich Groenewald and perhaps one or two others from his entourage during intervals, so I guess they had sorted themselves out with tickets way ahead. I know Janie was with me for those gatherings, which is one of the reasons I’m coming round to the idea that she joined me for both days that time.

I vaguely recall sitting in the Edrich Upper (or perhaps the Compton Upper) with Janie for this match. I think this might have been one of the occasions we had our ears bent by a pair of former Reuters journalists, who told us exactly the same old stories the second time as they had a couple of years earlier, without twigging that we had sat next to them and heard their stories before. But whether this match was the first time or the second time we endured that pair I cannot recall. I think the second time.

But what a match. Bitterly disappointing for England that they couldn’t quite turn things round and level the series, but on balance I think South Africa were the stronger side (just) at that time.

Yup, I blame the London 2012 Olympics for suppressing most of my memory of this one; unusually blank for me, this.

 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon adapted by Simon Stephens, Cottesloe Theatre, 11 August 2012

I don’t normally go for adaptations of my favourite novels, but something told me this would be well worth seeing and also that Janie would like it. I was right on both counts. It was probably down to the fact that Simon Stephens was adapting it and also the stellar-looking cast and creatives boasted.

It was a fabulous evening of theatre. This adaptation deserved the plaudits it received in the press and the many transfers and re-runs that have followed.

There is even a Wikipedia entry to document the play’s progress – click here.

…and so on.

From our point of view, this was a cracking night at the theatre. It was also darned close to the 20th anniversary of our very first date, in August 1992, which happened to be at the Cottesloe. There’s cute for you.

London 2012 Olympic Games, Women’s Hockey, Olympic Park, 6 August 2012

Strolling and snapping in the park before the hockey
Strolling and snapping in the park before the hockey

Janie and I were fortunate (or skilled) enough to get three sets of tickets in our Olympic Games application; badminton, tennis and hockey.  We were thrilled with that. Add to it a day at the Paralympic games a few weeks later and that makes four really memorable days.

Our day at the Olympic Park to see women’s hockey was our only opportunity to see the park itself, so we needed no further invitation than the suggestion in the spectator guide that we ensure we arrive at the park plenty early. We indeed wanted a good amount of time to take in the atmosphere and enjoy a whole day.

We timed our journey and arrival to be outside any rush hours (business or Olympic) but early enough for a good stroll around the park before our afternoon of hockey started (at lunchtime).

Security, the stewarding, the atmosphere around the park was all wonderful, as was widely reported at the time. We’d had great experiences at Wembley Arena (badminton) and Wimbledon (tennis) by then, so expected nothing less. But all of that character together with the sheer size and scale of the park was something to behold and remember.

We took lots of photos – this Flickr album contains the pictures from this day and those we took at the Paralympics also – click here to see more .

We still got to our seats in very good time and saw some players warming up:

8492950397_aa401d762a_m

The first game we saw was China v Japan.

I recall clearly that Japan won the match 1-0, thanks to a 54th minute goal by Komazawa…

…OK, I don’t remember a thing, apart from the fact that we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves and the crowd was getting well into it. All of the results of all of the matches, together with reports, can be found through the Wikipedia entry on the tournament – click here if you are that interested.

8492946037_0884c0356f_m

It was the second match, between South Korea and Belgium, that was especially memorable. Directly behind us, between the matches, had arrived a large contingent of Korean Buddhist monks. Had this been a cricket match in, say, the Eric Hollies Stand at Edgbaston, I would be talking about a bunch of beer-swilling Brummies in fancy dress, looking vaguely like monks.

But this was a sizeable posse of real Buddhist monks, with South Korean flags and prayer drums. As the game commenced they started to chant, “Dae Han Min Guk” very slowly and then beat out this phrase as five beats on their prayer drums.

Now there are several places where you can read about and see video of Korean soccer crowds making this chant rather rapidly – click here for but one (quite good) example – or alternatively try clicking here for a more percussive but less sporty outburst – but I cannot find examples anywhere of monks dispensing this chant and rhythm in a dignified, Buddhist stylee. So you’ll just have to take my word for it that the monks slow, profound version was an amazing, hypnotic sound.

I had in any case already decided to support South Korea for this match. After all, a South Korean publisher had ponied up some serious bucks for the rights to The Price of Fish – still available of course in the original Ameringlish (and now also available in all good South Korean bookshops and on-line – here). Whereas we still wait in vain for a Belgian publisher to do the right thing viz “Fish”.

So, naturally, Janie and I started joining in with the monks. Soon lots of people were joining in. Even children waving Belgian flags started joining in, only to meet reproach from their parents and then, in some cases, to ignore the reproach and continue to join in anyway. You get the idea.

I’ve no idea whether it was this extraordinary wall of sound or simply the comparative skill of the South Korean women, but our lasses won the game 3-1. The rather unfortunately named Kim Jong-eun (not to be confused with the Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-un) scored two of the goals.

We strolled a little more after the matches – we didn’t really want our day to end, but it was purposeful strolling really towards the best exit for our journey home. As was the way for just those few weeks of that summer, there was a friendly atmosphere amongst strangers on the tube home.

London 2012 Olympic Games, Tennis, Wimbledon, Centre Court, 2 August 2012

This was a really super day. When we were applying for tickets, Janie and I debated long and hard about which tennis slot to attempt. I favoured No. 1 Court, as I thought it would improve our chance of success. But Janie’s theory was that she was only interested in Centre Court, as it is the only covered court and she wanted to be assured of play if we did secure tickets.

Thus we applied for quarter finals day on centre court – thus we were successful in our application.

Janie took responsibility for the sumptuous picnic and I planned the journey. We set off good and early to avoid the worst of the crowds and take in some atmosphere on arrival. I guess it was a strange mix of regular Wimbledon and London 2012 atmosphere for this tournament – but that’s “strange in a good way”.

Chapter and verse for the whole tournament Wikipedia style can be found here.

We were treated to four quarter-finals; two women’s singles and two men’s singles:

It was a fabulous day of tennis.

A rather strange American man was sitting next to us, who kept saying “that’s amazing…that’s incredible” whenever one of the players won a point with a good shot or when there was a good rally…which really was quite often. It turned out that the man is a huge tennis fan and goes a lot, so he shouldn’t be quite so continuously astounded by good play in my view, but there you are.

Janie realised that she had a real taste for Wimbledon, so picked up instructions for applying for forms in the Wimbledon ballot, which she has done each year since 2012 with (at the time of writing, in 2016) remarkable success, getting good No. 1 Court tickets two years out of those four. A small but significant Olympic legacy for us.