I've been in London this week, watching the World Badminton Championships at Wembley. Inside the Arena, there's nothing but badminton. It's as if the riots and vandalism in the rest of the country were in another world. But on the bus to and from Lola II's house, I pass burnt out buildings, boarded up shops, police cordons, broken windows.
On Monday evening, Lola II was coming back from dinner with a friend in central London, and I was on my way back from Wembley when our tube and bus drivers announced that there was trouble at our destination and the journey would be disrupted. The bus that I was on did an huge detour and I ended up where I needed to be without much trouble. Lola II was kicked out of the tube quite a long way from home. Luckily, Mr M and I were able to drive out to where she was and pick her up.
As I say, while I'm watching the badminton, there's nothing else that intrudes. Outside of those times, what's going on in this country is shameful. It's particularly hard to deal with because there's nothing I can do or say to fix anything. All I have is a single vote every now and then. Spending any time considering the future either of the world economy or our society in general is supremely depressing, so I will spend another day at the badminton and forget about it all for a little while longer.
There aren't the huge crowds that might accompany events for a more mainstream sport. In fact, the arena was half empty on Monday, and yesterday there were still significant numbers of empty seats. The players and games are outstanding though, and it's the same venue and the same players as for the Olympics in a year's time, except that nobody I know has 'won' any tickets of any sort for the Olympics, and these cost me less than a tenner a day. Monday's ticket was free - given away by Badminton England to encourage attendance.
The sport is particularly popular and well-supported in the East: top players are from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, Thailand and Japan. In Europe, the only players that are in the running for top prizes come from Denmark. Some of the early games are spectacularly mismatched, in size and shape as well as ability and competitiveness. The tiny, ginger Scots kids against the hulking, blonde Austrians was one; the Irish pair looked positively grey in comparison with the other competitors. The east Asians are generally tiny, but they make up for it in fitness and springiness, bouncing high in the air for the smash. The French are most definitely the best turned out.
So now it's stopped raining and I'll get on down to the bus stop for another day of enthralling entertainment. Watch the final rounds on Sky TV, or better skill, get out there and play. It's truly the best sport there is.