Posts tagged ‘London’

August 14, 2012

London 2012:The Olympic Games

I’m sure half the bloggers in the country have written an Olympics post by now, I know I’ve read a few. Still, there’s room on the internet for my two penn’orth.

I fell in love with the London 2012 Olympic Games during the Opening Ceremony. I wasn’t one of the people who had spent hours online trying and in many cases failing to get tickets. I hadn’t been gripped by any kind of Olympic fever but neither was I against the Games. If I was asked about it, my response was little more than a shoulder shrug. I spent three weeks of July in my usual Tour de France mind-set, and watching the incredible Bradley Wiggins winning the yellow jersey. After his broken collarbone the year before, it was the most magnificent return to the Tour and instantly there was talk of what he might do at the Olympics. For the first time, my thoughts really turned to the Games.

So, on holiday, we watched the utterly incredible Opening Ceremony, and I did one of the three things that I have done constantly throughout the two weeks of the Olympics. I cried. For two weeks since watching that Ceremony, I have found myself either holding my breath, shouting at the telly, or in tears. That’s it. Just those things. I’ve cried about cyclists and boxers. I’ve cried about swimmers, rowers, runners, riders and in one case, over the most beautiful extended trot I’ve ever seen. The equestrian events are the ones I know the best and if you’d told me that we’d win medals in all three disciplines, and two golds in the dressage, I’d never have believed you. I’ve cried over women competing from all the involved nations. I’ve cried at the sheer goodwill and volume of noise coming from stadium after stadium. I’ve cried as I’ve watched athletes from all nationalities, in all events, try their absolute heart out. I’ve cried when we won and when we lost.

I’ve shouted too. I’ve shouted at Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton and many, many more. I’ve held my breath as I watched Tom Daley get his bronze, when watching the almost-perfect dressage, when our team gymnasts had to wait for the results of an enquiry before finding out their medal results.

When I’ve not been shouting, breath-holding or crying in front of the TV, I’ve been outside. I suspect I’m not the only one who has compensated for all those extra hours in front of the tv by doing more exercise too. The motto of the Games may well have been about inspiring the next generation, but I tell you, they’ve inspired this old 36 year old too. Even though that inspiration led me to do a rather misjudged cartwheel that nearly popped out my hip…

With my kids, I’ve been running, swimming and bike riding. Playing football. Teaching my daughter how to cartwheel (badly). My children are quite young, so they’re not really aware about negative body images in the media or about vacuous, talentless ‘celebrity’ culture, but my daughter in particular has been captivated by watching women compete in sports as diverse as athletics, football, gymnastics and rowing. When we went out for a walk at the weekend, both the children ran in front of us, and my daughter shouted “I’m at the front, that means I win GOOOOOLD!” and my heart sang.

Now the Games have ended and there is a bit of a hole in my life. All a bit over-dramatic, I know, especially when I wasn’t remotely bothered about them beforehand but at the moment it feels true. I’m anxiously waiting for the start of the Paralympics so I can recommence my shouting, breath-holding and crying routine but beyond that I want to remember that feeling of pride, positivity, athleticism. Of positive body-image for women of all sizes. Of my children getting excited about competing in sports.

Let me leave aside the bad bits; the corporate sponsorship and logo-banning all over the place, the seating fiascos, the jarring note (for me, anyway) of supermodels at the closing ceremony (and, actually, quite a lot of the closing ceremony) the farce of G4S, and just concentrate on the sport, the volunteers and the spectators.  It’s really shown the best of Great Britain, of who we can be and of what we can achieve. I make no apologies for my over-enthusiasm or for my tears. Or for starting to save up to go to Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. I don’t want to be just sitting in front of the tv when they arrive.

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October 29, 2011

Facing my fears in London.

There are many cities in this country that I know very little. I’ve visited them all, but it’s been for work, so I know the well-trodden route between train station and office, and not much else. Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle fall into this category, but the city that takes the crown is London.

I have to admit that I’ve been scared of London. I know that this makes me sounds like a provincial small town girl, but the sheer scale of the place, coupled with my deep mistrust of the Tube  has turned me into a nervous wreck every time I go there for work. I’ve been once as a tourist, in the summer of 2006 with one of my closest friends who did her best to help me overcome my fears, but the heat of June, my early pregnancy, and the number of people crammed into a Tube carriage because of political marches above ground did not really reduce my anxieties – although deciding to get on a boat to Greenwich was a wonderful solution.

Still, they say the best way to overcome a fear is to face it head on. I’d decided to spend a day alone in London as a tourist as part of my 35:35 Challenge, when I was given the opportunity this week to tag along on a trip there with a friend, who was going for a medical appointment prior to her emigration to the USA. She’s clearly far braver than I am, and will be heading out there soon to live with her equally lovely husband, who once sent me new socks all the way from the States because I was moaning so much about having only odd ones…

After a pleasant journey down, during which we caught up on the gossip in each others’ lives and ate Danish pastries, we got to Kings Cross Station. Apart from when I travel there for work, the only time I am in Kings Cross is when I am running in a blind panic between the train and St Pancras International to get the  Eurostar. It’s not a lie to say that every time I have had a connection to Paris, the first train has been delayed. There is no wonder the mere mention of London makes me anxious!

We spent a little time in St Pancras international. It is a stunningly beautiful station and full of lovely shops, including a branch of Paul, the wonderful French bakery where I stocked up on lunch (a sandwich and a palmier) before getting our first taxi of the day to the doctors.

After a successful medical appointment, we then set off for the touristy part of the day. Unfortunately, as it was half term week, the rest of the world had also decided to visit the Natural History Museum, and with a two hour wait in the rain looking likely, we sought refuge in the Victoria & Albert museum instead.

In the window of the V & A

Which, if you didn’t know (like me) – is just next door. First up, more food, in the form of tea and scones, then a tour around the Medieval tapestries, silver, stained glass, and the theatre and costume sections of the museum. We also had a look around the temporary exhibit, ‘The House of Annie Lennox‘, which contains, amongst other things, a selection of Annie Lennox’s video costumes, creatively curated in a space that I found reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.

Silver Lion

Finally we headed back to the station via Peyton and Byrne where I bought my fourth cake of the day (I know, I know, but I’ve eaten cabbage all week) a raspberry cupcake. I actually managed to save this one for the next day, so it doesn’t count anyway…

Raspberry cupcake heaven

What I’ve learnt from the day (apart from just how much cake I can consume and not feel sick) is that I am not scared of London. What has caused the fear is just getting the Tube (which I will really never like) from station to station and not really having any understanding of where anything is in relation to anything else. As well as not knowing that the V&A is next to the NHM, I didn’t know that the Wolseley café restaurant is next to the Ritz hotel, or that both of them are on the same street as Fortnum and Mason. I didn’t know where they were in relation to the theatre district. I didn’t know where Regent’s Park is in relation to Westminster. All of these things, I discovered in one day’s worth of taxi rides. Being above ground instead of under it means that every time you turn a corner, there is another landmark you recognise, another museum or store you want to visit or restaurant you want to eat in. It shrinks the city into something more manageable. And I’m not scared of it any more. I want to go back; to explore a corner of the city on my own. So to my lovely friend, thank you for helping me start my love affair with London. I am already making plans for my next visit!