There can be few things more pleasurable in life than floating gently down the Ardèche river on a hot August day. A whole group of us rented kayaks and spent the day negotiating tiny rapids as though we were negotiating Niagara Falls in barrels. Although the river was full of other boaters, there were several stretches where we were totally alone in the shadow of magnificent rock walls that towered above us. The last time I'd done this descent, it was a sunny September day in 2001 when we returned to our house after a long day on the river only to turn on the television and see the second plane hit the south tower of the World Trade Centre. I remember wondering just what kind of world had we brought our little daughter Parker into.
Eleven years on and we are back with a not-so-little girl and a son, and this time we returned to a house to watch something a little more comforting –the Olympic closing ceremony. This was definitely suitable family viewing. I think my favourite moment was the homage to the rush hour – a glorification of the great British traffic jam. The French people we were with could not understand why we would wish to highlight this. I told them that this was what made us British.
Some people clearly have connections in high places – Emeli Sandé was in the opening ceremony and then on twice in the closing. We do not know what incriminating photographs Annie Lennox possesses of the great and the good but they are obviously incredibly damaging as it appears to be illegal to have any national ceremony without her involvement. I would not be surprised if she turns up at the current Queen's funeral, belting out "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" to a subdued Westminster Abbey.
George Michael's turn was like that of an embarrassing gay uncle who has refused to acknowledge the passing of time. I think it was tremendously unfair of him not to invite Andrew Ridgeley to join him to mime on tambourine. The best performances of the night were on video – John Lennon's "Imagine" was rather wonderful and Freddy Mercury was also still wowing the crowds from the grave with his stadium shtick. It made the subsequent elongated Brian May guitar solo even more excruciating. My favourite was the Spice Girls. It was all about the body language between Posh, who has never seemed comfortable in a performing role that doesn't involve facing a wall of flashbulbs while contorting what is left of her body, and Old Spice, who was mugging like there was no tomorrow.
There was something terribly sad about Liam Gallagher and his "band" Beady Eye singing "Wonderwall". This was surely Noel's greatest triumph. Thankfully, Paul McCartney was banned from doing "Hey Jude", but the surviving members of The Who were wheeled out to sing "hope we die before we get really, really old".
Back in France, we came to the end of our Olympic marathon and headed off to bed. We all slept a lot better than that terrible night in 2001.