I drive up the lane to the train station. It's lined with pretty banners draped down on every street light pole. Bunting and those windmills on sticks that you get at the seaside are decorating the pubs and buildings. Apt as it's called Windmill Lane.
A man in the car park is leaving and gives me his parking ticket to use so I don't have to buy one.
I hardly recognise the train station. Beginning in the car park are clear information signs and the whole area is groomed. The bright pink is cheery and everything looks new. In the ticket office I pay my fare as officials stand around in their bright jackets, chatting to the guy behind the counter. They smile and joke together. It's not busy today, the canoe and kayaking events don't launch till tomorrow.
There are flowers on the platforms, real not the plastic kind! The long fence is replaced and the new wood is pristine stretching away from me. There are flags and a bit of bunting on the other side. I'm amused by the sign that says 'Step Free Access' because I know it just means go out to the road and wheel yourself across the level crossing.
When I get into London it's the same. Everywhere is so nice! It's all been made new and pretty. Things are functioning and the trains are all running on time. People are smiling and nothing is busy.
I'm not going for the Olympics, I have a couple of quick pickups on a film I acted in, but my director and his partner were at Danny Boyle's opening ceremony last night so I'm looking forward to news of their experience. I watched on TV, and thought it was amazing. It was for us. I had squealed like a thrilled four year old and enjoyed every bit.
I stare about me on the streets, just dazed a little by how different London seems with this new attitude. A gang of men sail by on rented Boris bikes and they shout and wave happily to me as I wait at a crossing. Over dinner I get the gossip from Jason and Richard. Sound man, Chris is there and like me, he'd been very excited just watching on TV. We're happy. The people in the restaurant are happy.
London seems empty. Everything is relaxed. We go and shoot pickups and head on to the pub. On the way home, again I'm struck by the clear organisation and how spruced up everywhere is. It's busier now. A long line of people is coming out of the station from the line that leads to the Games. They are orderly and patient and smiling. The trains are running later than normal so that people can go out and still get home. The station is laid out differently and I have to go a roundabout route to my tube but there's no congestion. On the platform a man from Thailand is dressed up in national costume with a sash announcing where he's from. Flags of his nation and ours stick up out of his funky hat.
A bunch of people get on the tube, they have groovy orange socks and bright green outfits. They're European, they speak German. They're looking at the map on the wall and seem uncertain where they need to change so I offer them a tube map from a small bundle I'm carrying in my bag for just such confusion. Must do my bit to make the visitors welcome. I have spare water too. Not everyone is used to the tube system and it can get pretty unbearable. I passed out last year when I got caught up in the crowds from Gay Pride after a nearby film screening. It's not fun. The visitors chat excitedly about what they've seen but decline the map, they have one. I do like their socks.
I get off the tube, it's nearly midnight but even this late there are pink vested officials waiting, ready to help in the entryway between the tube and railway gates. I'm waiting for the train as one going in the opposite direction pulls in. It's a Stanstead Express bringing people from the airport. It looks brand new, modern and clean.
All day my mind has been telling me 'We could live this way if we wanted to, and wouldn't that be nice.' but I know at heart that the facade of things wears in over time, things get grubby and neglected, we forget to be house proud. Money and energy don't stretch to constant renewal. And of course there are places that haven't been spruced up. I'm pondering all this on the train when the announcement begins telling us where it's stopping before the doors shut and the train pulls out. On the other side of the isle is a very old man dressed casually and wearing a woolen hat.
"Well just fucking pull out and move the fucking train for fucks sake! Christ!" He projects aloud in a Scottish accent.
I laugh, and awake from my dream of Utopia. I'm not sure I'd been quite comfortable with it anyway.
Nice while it lasts though.