A lot of people seem to have surprised themselves this summer by getting heavily involved in watching the Olympic Games. I am among this number, and ever since the hilariously bonkers Opening Ceremony was broadcast we have hardly turned the television off (apart from when the boxing or judo was on. I don't know why, but I just can't find it in myself to get excited about boxing and judo).
Team GB won 65 medals in total. Andy Murray beat Roger Federer and took the gold home. Tom Daley and Beth Tweddle became Olympic medallists for the first time. Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah provided a gripping hour of television on Super Saturday which I entirely missed because I was out for dinner with three university friends, and which Ben insisted I watched on catch-up TV immediately I arrived home despite the fact that it was almost midnight. It has been an amazing fortnight, and I'm so sorry it's over.
But since it is over, this seems a good moment to muse briefly upon a few post-Olympian thoughts. Clearly, I won't be saying anything here that hasn't already been said in a far more articulate and profound manner elsewhere, but not to worry. Press coverage in the UK has, since London's successful bid to host the Games all the way back in 2005, been a mixture of the wildly enthusiastic and the Eeyorishly cynical, so it doesn't hurt to add one more positive voice to the crowd, does it?
My boys have liked watching the Olympics, and have learned to applaud and cheer for their fellow Brits. Joshua was especially taken with the diving, announcing "Splash!" every time someone entered the water and providing a helpful running commentary regarding the colour of each participant's budgie smugglers (which, I'm not sorry to admit, is my new favourite phrase, replacing "colossal asshat" which was the previous postholder). This means he has been far more inclined to go swimming ("I go in the water!"), which we've decided to do every weekend from now on as a direct result of watching the Olympics. I expect many other people have responded in the same way. The athletes have been an inspiration to many, and for several reasons.
They're such great role models, aren't they? A poster has been doing the rounds on Facebook, asking the British media to refrain from upholding the usual collection of reality TV stars and WAGs and X-Factor contestants in favour of Team GB and their pleasingly healthy approach to body image, self-discipline and team spirit. I'd like my boys to look up to such people. I'd rather they took notice of this lot than the majority of English footballers, with their swearing and arguing and diving and all the rest. I want them to learn about the importance of taking part and working hard and behaving graciously whatever the outcome.
The hard work, in particular, is something which has stood out a mile during the past fortnight. Mo Farah, who won two gold medals for distance running, has described the unbelievable amount of training he's completed and put his achievements down to "grafting". As with everything in life, it can be very easy to look at these elite sportspeople and underestimate how much time and effort it's cost them to get to the Olympics in the first place. But their hard work is such an encouragement. Nothing worthwhile in life is easily or quickly achieved. I'm reminded of this every day when I try to push myself a bit further along in the business of writing, or continue with the uphill climb - albeit with beautifully spectacular views during the ascent - that constitutes so many aspects of childrearing, or wrestle with what it means to be a musician. All of these things demand a lot of private graft. A lot of sessions spent going round the track and over hurdles and off the diving board with no one watching or encouraging or supporting or cheering. That's everyday life, for Olympians as well as for everyone else.
It's also occurred to me that I'd like a slice of the energy that seems to overflow from each and every athlete as they race and row and fight their way to the finishing line. There's no room for lethargy in the Olympics. And I forget very easily that eating properly and doing a bit of exercise and not slobbing about in a pathetic manner makes a big difference to my energy levels, which are catastrophically low at present. And cake is a false friend, is it not, when kept as a constant companion? I do love muffins, but am less keen on the resultant muffin-top. Time to stop wallowing in fat and to get off my backside, and there's no better time than in these post-Olympic days. Although let's not get carried away here; there are two packets of Chocolate Fingers in the fridge, nestling alongside some Chocolate Digestives and three bags of Chocolate Buttons which I am virtuously pretending are For The Children but which are Clearly Also For Me.
Instead, I shall distract myself with other treats, namely Boris Johnson, Bert le Clos and Her Majesty the Queen. Boris, the exuberant Mayor of London, has been a delight to behold since well before the Olympics but has surpassed his previous levels of entertainment during the past fortnight. He has got himself inadvertently stuck on a zip wire whilst waving a pair of Union Jack flags, danced along to the Spice Girls, performed the Mobot at a press conference and still found time to knock out a few newspaper columns praising everything Olympian: 20 Jolly Good Reasons To Feel Cheerful About The Games and More Reasons To Raise A Cheer ought to put a smile on anyone's face. Similarly Bert le Clos, father of South African swimming champion Chad who somehow managed to beat the mighty Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly, is a gentleman that everyone should get to know. He was interviewed by Clare Balding immediately after his son's victory and was such an immediate success that they asked him back a few days later. Unbelievable! What a guy. And can we just discuss the Queen, a Bond Girl at the age of 86, purring "Good evening, Mr Bond," before (okay, not really) parachuting casually from a helicopter into the Opening Ceremony? Sheer brilliance. She's a legend.
Clichéd and sentimental this may be, but the Olympics has made me prouder to be British than I was previously. I hope the buzz continues. It's been fantastic. And London 2012 isn't over - the Paralympics is about to begin. I've got a feeling that these athletes are going to showcase the very definition of the word inspirational, just as their peers have done over the past two weeks. Hasn't it been amazing? And if you're feeling a little bereft, as I am, and are resorting to catch-up TV in a bid to hold on to the memories for just a little longer, may I direct you to Activity Village, where you can download and print out free colouring sheets of Olympic heroes? Enjoy!