Saturday, 28 July 2012

Lazing about in front of the TV

Olympic Opening Ceremony
The Olympic rings come together in the Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal

I stayed awake until the very last minute of the Opening Ceremony coverage last night.  At the dress rehearsal Cam and I went to on Wednesday, we were shown everything up to the start of the athletes' parade. However, two crucial elements had been hidden from us: the Queen's scene with James Bond, and the Mr Bean scene with Rowan Atkinson.  We knew that something big was planned at these points because the screens around the stadium went blank, and we were reminded to #savethesurprise.  The helicopter that the parachutists jumped from in the actual ceremony hovered low over the stadium for about a minute during the rehearsal, and then buzzed off.  Cam and I speculated for hours about what was going to happen at that point.  We didn't even come close to guessing right!

Olympic Opening Ceremony
Danny Boyle addresses the stadium, as a cloud floats by

Danny Boyle spoke to the stadium before the show, thanking all the volunteers for their immense hard work in putting the show together and asking us all to reveal nothing about the ceremony until after Friday evening.  It was a clever move, because the thrill of feeling like we were all in on a big secret was more appealing than telling everyone what to expect.

My favourite part of the whole show was the NHS section, which was just awesome.  All the children on the beds were doing incredible acrobatics, and the dancing was fantastic.  Cam and I had spent most of the show exclaiming, gasping and clutching at each other in excitement.

After staying up until well past 1am last night, I have been lolling on the sofa for most of the day today, watching the OIympic coverage on the TV.  It feels outrageously lazy to spend so much time watching TV, but I have been productive in my laziness.  I have discovered that when you're weaving in the ends on 40 crocheted granny squares you really need something exciting on TV to stop you from losing your mind.  The mens' road race did it for me today - I was willing team GB to speed up and get Mark Cavendish to the Mall at the front of the peloton, but it just didn't happen.

The ends are now weaved, and I am off to settle down in front of the TV again to seam all the squares together while I watch this evening's swimming finals.  All this lazing on the sofa is going to be very good for my knitting and crochet.

Weaving in ends on all the granny squares

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The London 2012 Olympics are here

Although there's another day to go until the London 2012 Olympics is officially declared open, for us and many others living so close to the Olympic Park it has already begun. 

Inside the Olympic Stadium
Inside the Olympic Stadium last night
  • Living in a big city, we are used to the Metropolitan Police helicopter hovering above us from time to time, but since last week there have been helicopters circling the skies each afternoon and evening.
  • The purple-and-orange clad volunteers for the Games can be seen everywhere - at bus stops, on the tube, in local shops, in the park and walking down the street.  There are tens of thousands of them - all volunteers and all enthusiastic about the Games.  It is heartwarming to see.
  • They know their stuff too - they've all been able to answer my questions so far.
  • Not that I'm testing them or anything.
  • For years there has been endless discussion and speculation locally about just how bad the traffic would be during the Games.
  • On Monday - the first day of restrictions - I drove five and a half miles to Tottenham, to buy a sack of hen feed, with no problems whatsoever.
  • Yesterday, emboldened by my success, I attempted to drive a mile and a half to Wanstead.
  • I made it 600 metres and then had to abandon my car in a residents' parking bay because the roads were gridlocked and we weren't going anywhere.
  • Luckily I was only 600 metres from home, so my own Olympic residents' parking permit was still valid.
  • I have learnt my lesson.  I shall not be taking the car out again until 9th September, when the Paralympics finishes.
  • A favourite local pub is opening a festival style Pop Up Pub in Leyton town hall for the duration of the summer.  Seeing as I can't drive, I reason that I might as well make the most of it.
  • Olivia and I are festooning the house with bunting and flags today.
  • Last night Cam and I went to the penultimate dress rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony.  It was utterly amazing and magical.  But I can't tell you any more than that because Danny Boyle swore us to secrecy.
  • When Danny Boyle came on stage, Cam piped up "Oh look! It's the really strict choreographer who kept us back late on our last rehearsal."
  • It turns out that Danny Boyle has been rehearsing the children for the Closing Ceremony in person.  I thought he would have delegated that job.  Cam and the other teenagers from his school just shrugged when I exclaimed "But he's not a 'strict choreographer', he's an iconic Oscar winning film director!".  There's nothing like a world-weary teenager for keeping it real.
  • They were all still very excited to be in the stadium and to get an idea of what the atmosphere will be like when they perform at the Closing Ceremony in just over two weeks' time.
  • Athletes and coaches from all over the world are here.  Yesterday I saw a pack of Australian coaches waiting at Leytonstone station, smiling and chatting in the sunshine.  Then today, on his run to work, Graham saw a flock of Kenyan runners enjoying a leisurely jog through Victoria Park at an eyewateringly fast pace.
  • The USA judo, volleyball and boxing teams are training at the Score sports complex next to Leyton Orient stadium, just around the corner from us.
  • I don't think you could live here and not be excited about all this.  East London feels like the centre of the world at the moment.

Waiting in Westfield for train platforms to clear at Stratford
Stuck in Westfield at Stratford for an hour last night, waiting for tube platofrms to clear.

Anish Kapoor's Orbit
Anish Kapoor's Orbit sculpture in the Olympic Park

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Endings and beginnings

Back in Marsh Baldon for Jack's funeral
A green and pleasant land

Yesterday I went back to Oxfordshire, to the village where I grew up, for the funeral of an amazing and much loved man.  Jack had lived a long and full life, teaching so much to everyone he met over the years, and the day had much laughter and reminiscing as well as tears and sadness that Jack was no longer with us.

I met childhood friends whom I'd not seen for decades, was hugged and kissed by people who'd known me since I was at primary school, and generally felt very loved all day.  It marked the end of an era, because Jack had just always been there.  He was a great age when he died and we all knew that the day would come when he was no longer with us, but it was still hard to take in yesterday.  He had been at the centre of the village and the community for as long as anyone could remember. 

But endings always come with beginnings and yesterday also marked a very important beginning for me.  I found out, just a few hours before I drove to Oxfordshire, that I have a place at University for this September.  I will be going to City University, in central London, to train as a nurse.  After three years at home with the children, and many more years before that working as an accountant in the City, this is a completely new beginning for me, and one that I am incredibly excited about.

New beginnings
It's official

I have recently started a voluntary job at my local hospital as a helper on the wards - I serve lunch, chat to patients and help them with small tasks such as fetching them books to read from the hospital library, pouring them drinks, chopping up food and propping them up with pillows.  I am based, at the moment, on a general ward for elderly women, and some of them are very frail indeed.

After the funeral yesterday I chatted with some of the people who had helped to look after Jack in his last few weeks.  They told me what I have seen for myself at my local hospital - gentle kindness from nurses means so much to people who are at the end of their life, and to their families too.  The best nurses are the ones who remember that little gestures can have a big impact.

I will try to remember that as I return to the whirl of study, travel, work and childcare juggling in September; Jack's still going to be teaching me things.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Imposing order

Patterns from nature at Kew

When it feels as though life is starting to spiral out of control, and everything is choatic and stressful, I take pleasure in ordered things.

Patterns from nature at Kew

At Kew Gardens on Monday I saw order and patterns everywhere I went.

Patterns from nature at Kew

Patterns from nature at Kew

Patterns from nature at Kew

Patterns from nature at Kew

The other thing that I like at times like this, is having nice stationery and using it to write lists on.  After I'd cleared my head with a long walk and a long chat, around Kew, I came home and wrote absolutely everything I could think of on a list.

The daily 'to do' lists start with a collection of bossy verbs at the moment.  I must pay, wash, check, phone, collect, speak, email and change all kinds of things.  Writing them down, and crossing them off, takes away their power to overwhelm.  All I must do is work my way down the list each day.

To-do list - an assortment of verbs

There are also lists of things which are overwhelming in different ways, but which I must accept:
  • lists of issues which cannot be resolved yet, and so I must not fret about,
  • lists of good things coming up in the school holidays, which I should look forward to
  • lists of things I might sew when I have some more time,
  • lists of possible solutions to potential problems.

These too seem much more manageable when I write them down.  For these stress lists I have some new sticky notes, which cheer me up just looking at them.

New sticky notes

New sticky notes

I bought them in Paperchase, and I'm using them to impose order on my life.  The house is bristling with them at the moment.