Well, the London 2012 Olympic Games have just finished (partly - Paralympics coming up in a few weeks of course!). For a nation who usually spend our time laughing at ourselves and complaining about anything and everything (we don't restrict ourselves to the weather, though it comes up a lot) we've surprised ourselves by really getting into the thing, and almost the entire country is high on a surge of unaccustomed national pride. And interest in sports that aren't football. I am actually wearing a Union Flag for the first time in my life.
We still can't take these things entirely seriously, though, as our Opening and Closing Ceremonies proved. Rio de Janeiro's contribution tonight as the flag was passed to them was fun, but it was essentially the sort of thing you usually see at these events, just with a Brazilian flavour - colourful costumes, dancing, mad props. Ours - well, it started with a double-decker bus in Beijing and just got crazier from there. At Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony, we had a giant puppet Voldemort, Mr Bean, random and slightly irritating teens texting, Tim Berners Lee and even, to my great delight, a tiny clip from A Matter of Life and Death. 'Bonkers' has been the word most commonly used to describe it, and bonkers it was - in a very good and very British way.
One thing that did disappoint me a bit about the Opening Ceremony, though, was that it seemed to think British history started somewhere around the eighteenth century. There was a bit of Shakespeare in there, but where was Henry VIII? Where was the Battle of Hastings? Most importantly, where were the Romans?!
Well, the Closing Ceremony put that right. It was, if possible, even madder than the Opening Ceremony. It was a bit up and down in places. The road scenes that looked like a tribute to the M25 were a bit weird, and while I enjoyed seeing Delboy and Rodders, dressed as Batman and Robin, burst out of an exploding Robin Reliant, I wonder how many international viewers got the reference to an 16-year-old Christmas special episode of a British sitcom. Mostly, though, the ceremony was more crazy goodness.
Python. Eric Idle (accompanied by the entire stadium) sang his biggest hit, 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.' I can only assume that the skating nuns were a reference to 'Every Sperm Is Sacred' from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, but the song, of course, is from their Life of Brian, a film set entirely in the Roman Empire. Well, except for that bit on the spaceship. Anyway, since crucifixion victims singing might not put across quite the right message of peace and love, instead we got dancing Romans. Doing the can-can. Because - because we're British and that's what we felt like doing!
There was also a rather lovely phoenix on display as the torch was extinguished at the end, which was about the only reference to the ancient Greek origin of the Games that I noticed, aside from some vaguely Greek costumes in the Opening Ceremony. Of course, there are all sorts of Olympic traditions designed to remind us all of their origin, from the Greek athletes parading first at the Opening to the Greek national anthem playing at the Closing, so I guess they don't really need special bits of the ceremonies as well - those are for the host nations.
Idle's number was one of the undoubted highlights of the Closing Ceremony, along with Take That singing 'Rule the World', one of my favourite songs (Gary Barlow proving he's a truly outstanding professional, as I don't think I could have performed like that in similar circumstances) and Freddie Mercury, leading the entire stadium in enthusiastic song 21 years after he passed away. That man is a true legend.
Oh dear, I'm getting all enthusiastic and emotional. How un-British of me. Time to stiffen that upper lip.
In the end, the Romans, who gave us the beginnings of our road network, the first central heating in the country, a lovely Bath spa and a wall to keep out Scotland*, sneaked their way into our national celebrations by being loosely associated with a comedy troupe known for silly walks and a dead parrot. That seems only fitting, when it was part of a celebration that proclaimed to the world that we're completely insane and we don't care who knows it. I'm very rarely given to nationalism of any kind, but I have to admit it, it does make me proud to be British.
Now I'd better go before I admit to knowing every single word to 'Wannabe'... oops...
* I am aware that keeping out Scotland would have lost us a large proportion of our medals. We love you, Scotland. Especially Andy Murray.