Wednesday, 25 July 2012

London 2012

In just two days, the opening ceremony for the olympics takes place and billions of pairs of eyes will be on London 2012. Its a very exciting time for London and for Britain - a chance to show the world what we can do. Fingers crossed that there's no big palarva!

I was lucky enough to be given a ticket to see the Technical Rehearsal of the opening ceremony on Monday night and I was so surprised - it was just fantastic! The opening ceremony is really going to be a feast for the eyes and ears; a real spectacle and an explosion excitement. I really hope all the athletes, for whom the opening ceremony really is for, enjoy it as much as I did (I have to say we didn't see everything - some parts have been saved for Friday night!)

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

I have this strange sensation every time I hear a plane passing in the distance, overhead. Its that odd sort of stringy, engine sound, which must be hundreds of miles up above you in the air. The sensible part of you knows full well that, if it were closer, the sound would be a completely different type of sound. For a start, the engine would certainly be deafening. An angry sound. From a distance though, it sounds poetic, almost musical. For some reason it always reminds me of the opening few seconds of this track: Isn't it odd to imagine these huge, massive engines of planes can create such a peaceful, melancholy sound, which someone can hear, hundreds of miles away....

Sunday, 15 April 2012

from a recent visit to the other side of the world.....

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Columbia Road

I really enjoy going to Columbia Road Flower market on a Sunday morning - its so lovely; packed with all types of flowers and plants and flower sellers calling out their prices. Great for a Sunday stroll - a good place to visit if you don't mind crowds..

London Olympics 2012

On New Year's Day this year, I had a really positive feeling about the year ahead. I think this was partly due to the date itself - its a nice number visually: 2012 (much better than 2011, or 2004 for example) and there are so many things happening this year to make it an exciting time - for me but also for everyone, whoever you are - there's a lot to look forward to. One of these events is the Olympics. I can guess what you might be thinking - "the Olympics? but I applied for tickets and didn't get a single one" or "it's costing so much!" or "so many tourists - London is going to be in chaos throughout the summer - so many tourists!" I'll be honest and admit that those thoughts did also cross my mind, but despite this I'm now really looking forward to it - I think we'll have somewhat of a party atmosphere in London; we're welcoming millions of visitors - athletes and tourists - to our capital city, where we can really show the rest of the world what London, and indeed the UK, is all about.
I'm going to be a London Ambassador for 5 days of the Olympics, and I'm really looking forward to it. I applied back in February 2011, had my selection event in the summer of 2011, and then found out I'd been selected at the end of 2011 - I was really pleased to have this opportunity to be involved in what is going to be such an historical event. Apparently 34,000 people applied and about 8,000 were taken on.
On Thursday I went along to the first of three training days, which was held in Camden. I met about 50 other London Ambassadors - the day began by getting our photos taken for ID badges, and then we each had to introduce ourselves to the group - why had we decided to become London Ambassadors; what were we looking forward to? There was definitely a common theme to everyone's introduction - a love of London and its vibrant, cosmopolitan way of life, and a chance to show London off to the hundreds of tourists that will come to London over the summer, many possibly for the first time. Everyone seemed to have a genuinely positive outlook and people sounded keen to meet and greet tourists and give a practical, helping hand to the influx of visitors.
This is really what being a London Ambassador is going to be about - being the face of London (that's how Boris phrased it in his welcome video we watched on the first training morning!) - being the people that speak to people on the ground; giving people advice, directions and practical help. I'm going to be part of the 'Flying Squad' which means that I'm going to part of a team who works in different locations over the 5 days carrying out the role of Ambassadors, but also speaking to members of the public and interviewing them on their time in London over the Olympics - we're going to films these interviews and these will then be made into a DVD about the London Ambassador programme. I'm really excited to be part of the 'Flying Squad', although unfortunately no-ones been able to confirm that any planes will be involved.. I can but hope..
The majority of the training day was about working in teams, discussing situations that might arise, questions people - both Londoners and tourists - might ask and working out how to deal with potentially tricky or even dangerous situations. It was a great chance to meet other Ambassadors - and everyone was so friendly - there was a real mix of ages, backgrounds but I genuinely felt I could easily go and chat to anyone there - this was such a welcome atmosphere to be involved in.
We were also shown our uniforms - a t-shirt, trousers or skirt, hat (baseball cap or trilby), raincoat, fleece, bag and waterbottle - all in a purple and pink design; it looked better than it sounds, and I think it will mean all Ambassadors will stand out to tourists as someone to approach for advice.
I have two more training sessions coming up - one in a couple of months, and one just before the Games - and then my volunteering days start in August; I'm really looking forward to taking part in these Olympics and 'doing my bit' as well as doing something I can tell my grandchildren about.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

August Riots

Riots, looting, arson, protests. For the past 3 nights now, various parts of London have been attacked by gangs of rioters, looters and arsonists. There have been terrible scenes, dreadful stories and appalling news everywhere you look. Places such as Tottenham, Brixton, Hackney, Ealing, Clapham Junction have been attacked by thoughtless, mindless thugs and criminals. Shops have been looted: large chain stores (H&M, JD Sports..) and small, innocent, independent shops damaged or destroyed. This mindless violence seems to have no cause - looters have been interviewed and explained they want to 'get the rich' and its the 'fault of the Conservatives'. Why this means they need to set light to a small florist, for instance, is beyond me. 

Tonight its Wednesday evening and I've just heard on the BBC news that there are (as there were last night) 16,000 police officers on the streets of London. Last night was relatively calm apparently.. although certainly in my area, shops were shut and locked up by 6:30pm - even the Salisbury's Local was shut up. The high street was like a ghost town, eerily awaiting its doom. Thankfully, nothing happened in that particular area of London. But does it take 16,000 police officers to achieve peace? Apparently so.

Some good things have surfaced from all this - the various clean up operations where Londoners have joined force to clean up the affected areas the next morning have shown the solidarity of real Londoners for one; but the whole thing has just been dreadful, shocking, appalling, sickening. 

I've been reading the various news reports and opinions quite a lot and I found a couple of interesting pieces, which begin to question how this has happened, why this has happened. Here are a couple:

The insightful Camilla Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kinds Company:

An excellent blog, raising interesting points (I hope the blogger doesn't mind me mentioning it here, but it is an excellent piece):

And another insightful piece:

I'm going to continue reading from various sources and try to begin to grasp the full extent of the situation: what does this all mean for London, for society, for our future? What is really happening here?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The London Underground

I once had an idea for a blog about the on-goings of the tube (also known as London Underground, of course). I take the tube to and from work at the other diagonal corner of London to where I live, and have done so for a year or two, and so the tube is somewhat nothing particularly new for me. Some people would suggest this is mad and silly, imagine having to commute across London for work, twice a day. I find it comforting; I can flee work of an evening and board the magically tubular device which takes me (according to a fab website I've just discovered) about 5.7 miles away from work. This feeling is one of particular euphoria on a Friday evening, with the weekend ahead of me.

Alas I sidetrack ('scuse the pun). So, everyday I travel about 5.7 miles to and from work on the tube - that's 10 miles a day, 50 miles in the average working week and 2500+ miles a year. Not that I'm one for statistics or milleage per se, but this is a lot of time to be spending in the company (if being tightly squeezed into a small, metallic, moving device with hundreds of perfect strangers has anything to do with being in company). Which brings me to my main point of all of this.. just like with most events, gatherings, public or private celebrations, so much about the tube is about the people and the characters. And how there are some..

But before I get onto all that, check out this superb website! Its one of those ideas I've always had on the tip of my tongue, but its never quite materialised: If you chose to walk rather than, err 'tube', you can check out the best walking route here. There's also all sorts of stats and numbers (for those of you who like that sort of thing) and tube NEWS. I can feel my inner tube geek getting ever so excited... Ah. I've just read the tag line which makes the whole thing make a lot more sense: "Between June and August 2008 I walked the entire Tube network, station to station and line by line, and this is the story of that walk". And I just enjoyed it for its pure randomness. Love it.

I'll be back onto those characters soon...