Roy was finding it harder to wake up. He had to lie in bed recovering from being asleep and rise slowly, testing mental aches and pains.
Nerys had responded to the photos. “He might have banged any these floozies,” she wrote. “You need to check some dates. Have you found the marriage certificate? Have you sent these to Brian?”
Downstairs, Roy sat on the living room carpet and looked around. The mess depressed him. He’d got nowhere. He selected a cardboard folder at random, looked inside, pulled out a prize: birth certificates, different vintages, different shapes. There was his, the original. There was Nerys’s. There was Don’s. There was Gwen’s. None for Brian. No marriage certificate either.
He went to his laptop and found the births, deaths and marriages web page of the London Borough of Lambeth. To trace things, you needed dates and places that he lacked. There was a service available for harder searches. Roy felt very tired.
He mowed the lawn, wondering if Lucy would get back to him, realising that he was seeking her attention as if he were a small child. He brooded about that, took a long bath, ate a lasagne, watched the clock, and soon it was time for the Olympics opening ceremony to start.
Wiggo came on in yellow and clanged a giant bell. Roy had read about live sheep being part of the show and there they were, penned in among the actors dressed as the rural peasants everyone used to be. At one end of the stadium there was a grassy knoll, and who should turn up there but Mike Oldfield playing the rustic reel from Tubular Bells, an album Roy, like everyone else, had once owned, although he’d never liked it enough to replace the vinyl original with a CD.
The fields gave way to chimneys and the haystacks to smokestacks, summoned magically from the ground. There was a pop culture house bursting with sitcoms and blasts of hit songs and Rowan Atkinson spoofing Chariots of Fire. The queen greeted James Bond at Buckingham Palace and a pretend queen leapt from a helicopter. In the stadium royal box, the real queen picked at a fingernail.
David Beckham conveyed the flame in a speedboat down the Thames. Paul McCartney sang Hey Jude, still youthful but his cheeks pouched by 70 years of being alive. Nurses and poorly children bounced on beds. Sebastian Coe, wearing a big pair of glasses, made a speech, welcoming everyone to London. “I have never been so proud to be British and be a part of the Olympic movement,” he said. “There is a truth to sport,” he declared. “A purity, a drama, an intensity.”
Seven young athletes, each carrying a torch, ran to a circle of copper petals on the ground. Each put their torch to a petal, each petal flared, and then they all flared, forming a wheel of burning points. The stems began to lever upright from the centre like flowers revived after a drought until they formed a column crested with fire. But by the time that stage was reached Roy’s thoughts had slipped back into the past again, to the men on the Palace terrace gathered round a single match, their cigarettes making a circle of lights.
On London strives to provide the best possible writing about the capital city. Become a supporter for £5 a month (or £50 a year) and receive an action-packed weekly newsletter and free entry to online events. Details here.