OUTSTANDING ANDY

What an outstanding achievement. Not just to win his first Grand Slam but to beat Djokovic on a hard court with the man playing at his highest level. They played the most unflagging game of tennis I’ve seen in years. Twenty shot rallies were commonplace, a 54 shot rally the longest of the match. Djokovic was at his athletic best, returning everything as was Murray. There were so few aces in this match not because they weren’t serving with savage weight and accuracy, but because they are the greatest returners in the business. When the weight of expectation has been at its greatest our sporting heroes have stepped up to the plate and totally delivered on all fronts. But Andy Murray’s had that 79 year weight on his shoulders for the last 6 years and he’s dragged it around from semi-final to final each time shifting it to a more comfortable position. Now, finally, he’s shed it and he can embark on an era with a new lightness of being. I, for one, salute you Andy for such an exhilarating performance under the greatest of pressure.

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SCORPION STING

For those of you who live in places where you might suffer the same. A scorpion sting lasts just over 20 hours. The pain, which is agonizing, is pretty much constant throughout that time. Relief can be achieved by the application of a cold compress, but the efficacy of this treatment slacks off as time goes on so that it eventually becomes more painful after about 7 hours. It’s advisable to only take paracetamol, but this has no effect whatsoever on the pain. Curiously the pain does not abate gradually, but suddenly disappears. Jane was unable to sleep at 1.30 am, by 2.00 am she was out. This morning she is back to normal. It’s strange how the scorpion’s toxin works. It’s also odd that it should be so powerful. I mean a scorpion has to eat, but it lives on a diet of insects, other scorpions, the odd lizard and mice so why does it have a venom so potent it can floor a grown woman? All answers gratefully received.

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HOLS

No summer holidays for me this year. We’ve just had our friends from Seville to stay. I wrote in the mornings and afternoons and cooked in the evenings. Paella Valenciana the first night. Grilled boned leg of lamb (marinated for 12 hours) the second night. The third night we went out to a restaurant called The Twins because it’s run by Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee. An amusing couple of lads. The first night we went there, back in the autumn, there was a power cut and one of the twins shouted out over the dining room ‘Just to let you know I’m manning the door in case any of you try to get out without paying.’ We sat outside in the warm night and I had roast salt cod with browned garlic and olive oil, Jane and José had grilled fillet of pork with piri-piri and Mick had Bacalao à Bras, which is the best way to have salt cod for the uninitiated – shredded salt cod mixed with thinly chipped potatoes, eggs and parsley. The fourth night Jane cooked Borrego Assado, which is slow cooked lamb with paprika, white wine and onion and I provided chickpea purée, hot mint sauce and mushroom pilau. They left today and have been replaced by our Portuguese friend Alexandra and her daughter, Andrea, who writes a food blog. Tonight I will be doing Arroz de Tamboril, which is such a beautiful sounding name for what is Monk Fish Rice. I’ll let you know how it goes down.

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LONDON 2012 – SUPER SATURDAY

I was there last night for the Super Saturday evening session in the Olympic stadium when Team GB won three golds in an hour. It was without doubt the most intense crowd experience I’ve ever had in my life. Nothing prepares you for being part of an 80,000 home crowd at an Olympics. I was in unchartered territory. But what a night. What a night!

We arrived in the impressive stadium to see the flame which, if you’d seen the opening ceremony, was inspiring in a way that others haven’t been particularly. There were some empty seats – eight of them were next to us. Three were filled later by some accredited Brazilians. The only people on the finishing line are press and dignitaries. We were close to the track on the final bend.

The evening started quietly with the Men’s 400m hurdles heats where Dai Green under-performed but got through. Then the women’s 100m semis warmed us up a bit while a distant women’s discus competition took place. With no expectations on my part the long jump kicked off. The roar from the far side of the stadium told us something was happening there, but Rutherford’s first jump was a dud. The atmosphere kicked up a notch when the women heptathletes came out and, to a tumultuous roar, Rutherford put in jump of 8.21m.

The 19 year old heptathlete Johnson-Thompson stirred us all up by coming off the final bend for the 800 m and overtaking three women in front of her. The emotion was building in the crowd. Sometimes it was too much and I couldn’t get anything out, the lump was too big. Can you imagine what it’s like to run in front of a crowd like that?

We missed Rutherford’s 8.31m jump because we were caught up in the Jessica Ennis finale. We all went nuts when she came off that last bend and saw her decide that she wasn’t going to accept third place and take Schwarzkopf and Chernova on the final straight to win. It went beserk in our stand. Completely and utterly delerious. What a winner that woman is. What heart she showed. You cannot conceive of the pressure she was under as the poster girl for London 2012 and did she deliver? She gave us everything and more.

We’d only just recovered when Mo Farah came out for his 10,000 metres. This was different. There had been little or no expectation of Rutherford winning gold and Jessica Ennis was already comfortably in gold before her 800m, but Mo was coming there with huge expectations on his tiny shoulders in a race full of Kenyans and Ethiopians could he pull it off?

There was a hardly a point in the race when one of ten men couldn’t win it. When Mo went through the bell for the last lap the stadium was reverberating. As he hit that last bend the noise of our collective roar was so loud it spiked in my ears. We were screaming and leaping, hollering with fists raised, we were mad. GO MO! GO MO! GO MO! An insanity had gripped us. A euphoric lunacy. We blew him over that line.

It took a while to calm down for the Heptathlon medal ceremony. Only the non Brits left the stadium. We were all hanging on in there for Jessica. She’d done us proud. We were going to return it. Seb Coe knew he had to be there. He had to say his thank you to her for totally delivering at his games. He presented the flowers, which was a nice touch. Then we sang the national anthem for her. Blasted it out into the night. Sang our hearts out for the Sheffield girl who had made us proud to be British.

What a night. What an unbelievable night!

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