A former colleague of mine, let's just call him Phil, used to say that he was born in the town of Curmudgeonly, West Yorkshire, so practised was he in the Yorkshireman's talent of not being impressed by anything or anyone.
It comes to something when I, a cheerful, upbeat Lancastrian, receives an upbraiding from the other side of the Pennines for my gloomy outlook, but Phil thought that I had outdone even him in my crotchety response to Andy Murray. I am willing to believe this attitude owes more to age than geography but, to borrow from a fellow Mancunian, heaven knows I'm miserable now. When the Olympics was awarded to London, there was some resentment from other parts that the beneficial effects will be felt only in the south-east of England, already a relatively prosperous area.
This may well be true, but every coin has two sides and, as we get nearer to the opening ceremony, everyone who lives and works in the capital is only too aware that the Olympics is going to cause massive disruption. Those running businesses are fearful that the same dip in retail activity they suffered around the Jubilee will affect them again, but over a longer period.
But – and here's a sentence I didn't think I would write in this lifetime – it's the cabbies I feel sorry for. Every time I encounter black cab drivers, the lament is the same: "It's going to be impossible to do our job" and: "I'm going on holiday". The Olympic traffic lanes have been painted, effectively cutting some of the capital's busiest roads down by half or a third. Journey times will be slower than by horse and cart, and not only are taxis banned from using the Olympic lanes, they can't use them for *-turns or even turn right across them. "We're iconic, you know," a cabbie said to me. "But we are treated like the lowest form of transport." It seems it might be easier to find a black cab on the Costa del Sol than the Embankment in the last week of July.
Maybe it's because I'm a misery guts, but I see little evidence of excitement about the Games. In fact, I detect a degree of collective emotional overload. No wonder Andy Murray broke down on Centre Court: the unbearable weight of national expectation couldn't help but make him feel utterly wretched. We've had the swell of jingoistic pride over the Jubilee, hopes of English football success ignited and then dashed at the Euros and been put through the wringer by Murray.
Are we temperamentally equipped to go through it all again? And this time the stakes are raised. It's not just our athletes who are on trial, but also our ability to host a major international event – and the reputation of our capital city. I fear the worst, but that may be because I'm turning into a Yorkshireman. Taxi!Reuse content