The news this week from America was electrifying.
After a titanic struggle, the young pretender had seen off the hot favourite. Now only destiny and history awaited.
The crucible of battle beckoned – a chance to banish the incumbent powers through destroying the old master.
And no, I’m not talking about the US Open tennis, even if for just for one moment in the second set it looked like Andy Murray might almost have the game to beat Roger Federer, just as he had swept away Rafael Nadal.
It was the American party conventions and the battle between Barack Obama and John McCain which intrigued. After glowing coverage of the Democratic bash in Denver, the Republican affair attracted little comment here initially.
Flicking the channels for a glimpse of Flushing Meadows last week, I came across a speech by Fred Thompson. The Senator’s deadpan style might almost have been compared by The Guardian to the dullest and most plodding rhetoric offered by our own Gordon Brown, but Thompson gave it a passable attempt.
The speech set out John McCain’s credentials, recalling his suffering and extraordinary courage during the Vietnam war. McCain was a principled and dignified statesman, he said, willing to stand up for what was right, and to fight the establishment machine. Willing to take risks in support of his beliefs.
China. America. Russia. The world order changed this August, as I’m sure you must have noticed.
I found myself in Greece for the Olympics, back where it all started. Four years late for Athens, and half a world from China.
Yet Beijing reached right around the globe this month. Strolling by the beach on a hot summer’s night, the first images I saw were on a gigantic screen installed inside a bar – a mesmerising, spellbinding sequence from the opening ceremony.
Throughout the next two weeks, the dramatic scale and serenity of the show grew and grew.
Each evening I would return to catch another glimpse of something fantastic, incredible, and Earth-changing – the opening up of China to the world, the swallowing of sport and the dawn of a new century on this planet.
And sometimes, I just watched the swimming.
It was the greatest shot I have ever seen, in any major championship.
In telling you that Padraig Harrington’s second to the seventeeth hole in the final round of this year’s British Open at Royal Birkdale eclipsed even Tiger Woods’ remarkable chip-in on the sixteenth at Augusta in 2005, I’m setting the bar high, but there’s no doubt in my mind.
A police car and a screaming siren
Pneumatic drill and ripped-up concrete
– The Jam: That’s Entertainment, 1981
Better stop dreaming of the quiet life
‘Cos it’s the one we’ll never know
– The Jam: A Town Called Malice, 1982
Gritty urban realism. Recession.
That’s how it was then, and this is how it sounded. The Jam captured the mood of Britain at the start of the eighties. The loss of hope and the mindlessly brutal banality of an existence with no glimpse of economic rescue or absolution.
The afternoon has flown me here, all across a summer sky of grey. The evening beckons now, and outside the window the narrow streets are empty, the shops all shut up for the night.
Scotland. June. Long hours of daylight reaching out ahead.
I stretch my legs along the main street, past red sandstone houses, cafés, bistros and grey tile roofs. It’s a dull old Monday, and the North Berwick weekend bustle, if there ever is one, is hidden far from sight.
The town runs out on me with just the links ahead, and so I try the steps down to the beach. The tide is low and the shore is softly rippled, quiet. No traffic noise. No planes. Just grey sky, grey water, and the lonesome cawing of a gull.
Summer drifts across these hills. And on warm June days, this is where you’ll find me, the lazy afternoon lagging heavily at my heels all along this steady climb to reach the Downs.
I leave the grey town streets along the old familiar path and follow its narrow cut between the houses. Up ahead, across the road, the first field opens up beside me, but there’s still some work to do.
“Tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and better day to America,” said Barack Obama in St Paul, Minnesota, earlier this week.
He had taken the stage for his Democratic nomination victory speech to the sounds of U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’.
It was a grateful message, for a domestic audience, at the end of a bruising and extended primary campaign. And this November, let’s hope for a better day, not just for America, but far beyond as well.