A year ago, the prime minister despaired at the country's "moral collapse", as flames lit up the night sky amid riots in north and east London.
Twelve months on, David Cameron talks of an inspirational country that "makes people feel proud to be British", as the Olympic flame burns bright just a few miles from where the disturbances began.
It is a neat juxtaposition: from national soul-searching to national celebration in exactly 12 months; from Broken Britain to Team GB.
Those are the opening sentiments of an article by Mark Easton published on the BBC website a few days back. As well as his opening paragraphs, I also stole his title, and that's why you should probably read his piece when you've got a minute. Easton's point is that both summers show us extremes which aren't real life, but that hopefully the euphoria of this summer can lift us a little when the Olympics ends and we get back to the norm.
As a youth worker I tend to look at everything through a particular lens (it's kind of irritating when you're trying to relax!) and so I wonder what the two summers say to young people and what messages we should try to reinforce.
Perhaps what the two summers have in common, apart from their extreme natures, is that they show our country doing things we didn't think we were capable of before they happened. We probably didn't believe back in July 2011 that we had so many people with so little regard for society. Probably no more did we believe this July that we were really capable of laying on one of the greatest events the world has ever seen, and punching well above our weight in its competitions. Both offer messages that we can't ignore.
The cautionary messages of last summer have been done to death since then: Young people feel marginalised, they're not all bad, actions have consequences, communities coming together to clean up is a sign of great hope etc etc. I think we've done quite well with these messages over the last year, and I also think it's good that we haven't gone too far in the direction of seeing the rioters as victims and throwing resources at them. At the time, I predicted a huge injection of cash for youth services. I was wrong. The government shied away from designating the rioters as victims who needed treating, and instead chose to treat them as criminals who needed punishing. Almost 3,000 have been convicted already and,as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service reminded us last week, that number is still rising as the investigating officers make their way through the mountain of CCTV footage.
There were a lot of messages during the riots, but perhaps that's been the main message since the riots: that actions have consequences (something we've talked about before) and that, although we live in difficult times, you don't get to respond by making them even more difficult for others. Because we live in a society which matters, we will hold you to account if you damage it! An unusual expression of the Big Society ideal, perhaps, but an important one.
It's amazing what difference a year has made. Last year London was an object of global pity and scorn, or at least of superior intellectualising. This year, the world is looking at our capital and being impressed! Not only for the event we've put on, but for how the home team is performing.
As Brits, we've got used to being second rate in recent generations. When we look back to the Second World War we acknowledge that it was a great period, but we usually follow that with an admission that we couldn't achieve the same today. The mood seems to be that we are in decline and need to resign ourselves to being second best. Second best in sport, second best in the EU when it comes to getting things done, second best (or second tier) on the world stage, second best in manufacturing, the arts and in so much more.
When a Brit achieves something on the world stage these days we seem to celebrate it as an anomale, rather than as an expression of greatness!
But then, we look around at times like these and we realise that actually, we are still punching well above our weight. We couldn't still do what we did in WWII, but then those days were the last throws of Empire, and of a position we really had no right to be in in the first place. But we can still impress when we put our minds to it. We invented Concorde; our guy invented the World Wide Web; our guy first postulated the Higgs boson; we dominate much of European club football; we invented some of the most popular sports in the world; and, for a country whose film industry is very poorly funded, we get an incomprehensibly large amount of oscars.
When we look around, there are actually things we're still doing very well. And then, there is London 2012... Not only are we running the show rather well, we're also scooping up a lot of medals. The UK is third in the medals table at London 2012 behind only the US and China; a country with five times our population, and another country almost twenty-two times. But yet, both have barely 50% more medals. In fact, of all the countries in the top twenty, only Hungary have more Gold medals per head of the population!
If there's one negative thing about this summer for me, it was the mood in the run up to the Olympics. The fact is, we're a nation that likes to moan. The Aussies are dead right about that one! A year or so back I saw a TV show in which Seb Coe was fielding questions from East Londoners, and he did well to keep his cool. The phrase 'moan bloody moan' would be a good way to describe how it went. These people had the Olympic Games coming to their neighbourhood, and all they could think about was traffic restrictions and about pinning Lord C down on exactly how many new jobs the games would create and on whether those would last past the Olympics or not. It was nuts. They were treating one of the world's great spectacles as nothing more than an annoyance!
Even in the weeks immediately before the games, the stories were all about security, and the weather and immigration officers. Even when the focus did turn to the athletes, the major stories were about who was injured and expected not to perform well!
But then, the games actually opened. The torch was lit, James Bond collected the Queen, our athletes started winning and the mood dramatically changed.
It was the same with the 2010 Papal Visit. Beforehand, even the Catholic community were obsessed with the prospect of protests (which failed dramatically), the endless array of silly documentaries and talk of costs, but once BXVI landed and we saw that smile, something was set alight!
If we coud get British people to start seeing positives when things weren't already going well, then that really would be something, but then maybe that's when we hark back to last summer and remember the people who spontaneously organised those clean-up crews in the middle of the riots - proof that we can kick against the Daily Mail dampening without seeing Gold Medals and fireworks!
There's loads more I could say about this, but I won't. It's all pretty obvious. What I will say though is that there is a concrete message for young people - don't stop believing. Don't resign yourself to being second best. Don't let yourself believe that you can't do something. You can. It might take a heck of a lot of work, but you can. And when you do amazing things, it raises others too. It lights a fire.
And isn't it nicer to be giving young people that message than the one about actions having consequences!?