London 2012 Opening Ceremony

I, along with what I should imagine is most of the country (and a lot of the world), watched the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics last night. I don’t often do blog posts where I just write about what I think, but I was moved to today. I tweeted throughout the ceremony itself, but 140 characters is stifling sometimes.

I truly believe that social media is a great thing when it comes to nights like this. I was able to join in a global discussion (even if the US were silly enough not to stream the show live) about what was happening in front of us. Almost all the comments I saw were positive. I particularly enjoyed watching people who were clearly very cynical about the whole thing be won over as it became clear that Danny Boyle had written a crazy love letter to this country.

I’m not usually a great fan of opening ceremonies at sports events; I find that they can get a bit tedious and sometimes it isn’t entirely clear what is supposed to be going on. But last night was something special. Of course, I’m sure that has a lot to do with the fact that I am British (proudly so). I saw a tweet that said that they were glad that Danny Boyle was asked to put it together, rather than an anonymous person behind the scenes. My friend Katy said that you could see that a film-maker was responsible for it. It was almost perfect from start to finish. Here are a few of my favourite bits:

  • Sir Kenneth Branagh as Sir Isambard Kingdom Brunel, rocking some awesome sideburns and reading from The Tempest. “Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises…”
  • The emerging chimneys and the construction of the Olympic rings during the Industrial Revolution segment. Also the hand-jiving Brunels.
  • The inclusion of the EastEnders map and the doof-doofs.
  • Daniel Craig alone showing up was a highlight, but he strolls into Buckingham Palace, collects the Queen – the real Queen! – and hops aboard a helicopter with ‘her’? And they proceed to parachute out of said helicopter, with Union Flag chutes, into the stadium? Where she walks out in the same clothes? Simply genius. For everyone that complained that she looked miserable later in the evening, you all have short memories. She agreed to star in the initial video, have someone portray her jumping out of a helicopter, and she’s now basically a Bond Girl. She can do no wrong.
  • Mr Bean on keyboard with Sir Simon Rattle conducting. I don’t even like Mr Bean, but the reveal and the sketch made me laugh out loud. The music from Chariots of Fire has become synonymous with the Olympics and it was great to hear it played.
  • JK Rowling reading from Peter Pan, Mary Poppins swooping in to save the children from Lord Voldemort and other assorted baddies, and the genius decision to include a section on the NHS in the children’s literature section. Apparently the government were keen for this part to be missed out (I wonder why), but it was kept in.
  • Simon Berners-Lee (the inventor of the Internet, no less), live-tweeting from the stage. “This is for everyone.”
  • The whole section on the digital technology revolution, soundtracked by the best of British music.
  • The inclusion of the lesbian kiss from Brookside, which, I’ve just heard, was aired on Saudi Arabian television (marking a first), but may have been cut from the NBC coverage in the US. There are barely words for how I feel about that. I’ve seen a wee bit of criticism that there wasn’t a gay (male) kiss, it seems that there is still an air of taboo that clearly needs to be stamped out.
  • The tiny, almost missed sound of the TARDIS. Apparently there was supposed to be a bit that included the Doctor Who theme, but it got cut. A crying shame, but completely understandable.
  • David Beckham, looking incredibly attractive, speeding up the Thames on a boat, with the Olympic flame.
  • Michelle Obama being there and waving to Team USA as they walked in.
  • Team GB and NI entering the stadium. Yes, we had to sit through everyone else entering the stadium, and it took forever. “We’re only up to [insert letter here]” was spotted all over Twitter. But when Chris Hoy walked in holding the Union Flag aloft with tears in his eyes, that was a little bit special.
  • Jacques Rogge’s speech. He acknowledged the fact that for the first time ever, every competing country had a woman in their team (no small fact when you look at some of the competing countries), and also thanked the volunteers.
  • The Olympic flag being carried into the stadium by a group of extraordinary people, including Doreen Lawrence, Ban Ki-moon and Muhammed Ali.
  • The honour guard of some of the people who were responsible for building the Olympic stadium.
  • Sir Paul McCartney.

I know, that’s pretty much the entire ceremony. I can’t help it, I loved it so much there wasn’t much I didn’t want to include.

But I think we can all agree that the most special part of the evening was the lighting of the cauldron. There had been an awful lot of speculation about who would do it, with names such as Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Steve Redgrave, Tom Daley, David Beckham and Sir Roger Bannister being bandied around.

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In the end, it looked as though it would be Redgrave, as he collected it from David Beckham in the aforementioned speedboat. He ran into the stadium with it, and Twitter resounded with the sounds of “Ah, of course, he’s Britain’s greatest Olympian, it had to be him.” And then the classic bait and switch, as he passed the torch to seven young people. Redgrave, along with six other British Olympic champions, had nominated these young athletes for being outstanding in their events; they are considered huge prospects for the future, and the honour of lighting the cauldron was given to them. The motto of this Games is Inspire a Generation, and that sentiment was felt so keenly at this moment. This moment of massive significance was not given to a former Olympian, nor even to a current athlete, but to seven people who represent a future generation who are going to be beneficiaries of everything that has gone into this Olympic Games. The actual lighting of the cauldron was beautiful, the accompanying music was perfect, and it was, without a doubt the perfect way to start the Games. I hope that the legacy of this greatest show on earth is proven to inspire a generation.

There was a lot of talk about how this show would be received around the world. I honestly don’t think it really matters all that much (though the New Yorker seem to approve). What seems more important is that, for a couple of hours on a summer evening at least, we were reminded what is great about this little country of ours, past, present and future, and it had nothing to do with politicians.

Now, let the sports begin!

A Birthday Girl Goes to War (Or Olympia)

Hello all

As previously promised, I thought I’d tell you about my birthday surprise, arranged for me by my lovely friends! I went to London on my actual birthday, for the Lord Mayor’s Show, and all I knew about my Sunday activities was that I was going to London again! I wasn’t blindfolded or anything, but I didn’t get to find out what my surprise was until we were eating lunch in London. My good friend Vicky decided the best way to break the news of the surprise was to hum the Doctor Who theme tune. Needless to say that I got it straight away, because I’ve been hankering to go to the Doctor Who Experience in London since it opened, and more especially since I worked at Olympia a couple of times in the last few months, and saw dozens of little boys in tweed and bow ties (bow ties are cool), clutching Doctor Who carrier bags. So I was super excited for my birthday treat!

We went to Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Earls Court for lunch, and it was yummy! That was part of my surprise, I didn’t know we were going there, but I was glad we did! I haven’t actually even heard of Gourmet Burger Kitchen before, never mind eaten there. As the name suggests, they serve burgers, and there is such a wide range that even if you don’t like beef burgers, there is bound to be something else on the menu to enjoy. I had a cheeseburger, and shared some chips with Vicky, and because of the size of the burger, even half a portion of chips was too much for me to manage! I would definitely recommend it if you like that kind of thing!

Then, onto the main event of the day: Doctor Who! The first part of the experience is the ‘interactive part’, you watch a video of the Doctor in the Pandorica; he needs our help to escape! So you walk through various different rooms, starting with the library from Silence in the Library, where a node speaks to you about the various different artifacts in the room such as the Van Gogh painting from The Pandorica Opens. As you move through the rooms, you have to encounter the Daleks (genuinely quite scary), and then you end up in the TARDIS, where you have to help the Doctor fly it. The last part is a 3D bit, where various monsters, such as the Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels (also quite scary), reach out at you, before, shock horror, everything turns out OK, and you are safe to exit, and walk through the exhibition of costumes and props. It was very good, and, if slightly more geared towards children (pesky kids), doesn’t detract from the awesomeness of finding yourself in the TARDIS.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen – so tasty!

Me, the TARDIS and Eleven. It’s a truly terrible waxwork (or whatever it is) of him – he looks awful! Matt Smith is much, much more attractive than that!

Some of the costumes we saw. I definitely didn’t touch any of them, because you weren’t allowed. Shame really.

We had lots of fun with the Silence, including drawing tallies on hands.

The photos of me here are a bit rubbish, as they weren’t taken with my camera, but you can see what a loser I’m being.

Whatever you do, don’t blink!

As you can see, there was plenty of fun to be had, including speaking like a Dalek and walking like a Cyberman.

Take that, pesky kids, I got a carrier bag too! Obviously the gift shop is the best part of any day out, and I got a programme (as a present, part of my surprise), two badges, a TARDIS pen, and a poster of the Van Gogh painting (not pictured, from Richard as a present). I also pressed a penny; I try to do one whenever I see a machine, I have quite a collection now!

It was a great day, and I would definitely recommend the Doctor Who Experience to anyone who is a fan of the show! Thanks to my lovely friends for arranging it for me!

Turning 29

Hello all

As you may know, it was my birthday last Saturday, and I turned 29! Eeek! That exclamation has nothing to do with me thinking that I am getting old, and everything to do with wondering how on earth I got to be 29. I have no problem with turning thirty, and I am probably looking forward to it more than most people do. I am always more concerned with the fact that I am having a birthday than with the fact that I am adding a year onto my age.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been going to the Lord Mayor’s Show on my birthday weekend. It always coincides with my birthday weekend, because it’s always the second Saturday in November, and my birthday being the 12th of November always falls there or thereabouts. For those who don’t know what the Lord Mayor’s Show is (and frankly, that’s most people I have ever spoken to outside of my family), it’s a procession that makes its way through London to celebrate the appointment of the new Lord Mayor. It starts at Mansion House, the Lord Mayor’s official residence, and ends up at the Royal Courts of Justice, where the new Lord Mayor swears allegiance to the crown. It then makes its way back through the city, back to Mansion House, for the new Lord Mayor to begin his years work. (Although he probably has Saturday afternoon off. I would.) According to Wikipedia, the Lord Mayor’s Show is one of the oldest events in London, dating back to 1535. Some interesting facts include:

  • Until 1710, the Lord Mayor usually rode on horseback in the procession. Unfortunately, after Sir Gilbert Heathcote was knocked off his horse by a drunken flowergirl, it was decided that carriages were the safer option.
  • The Lord Mayor’s golden coach is pulled by six horses, which is only two less than the eight that pull the Queen’s Gold State Coach. It was built in 1757 at a cost of over £120,000 in today’s money.
  • The word ‘float’, which is widely used for vehicles in street processions, originated from the barges used when the procession took place with barges on the river. (All information taken from Wikipedia)

Isn’t that all very interesting? The show is aired live on the the BBC, and it has been for years, and yet people still have no idea what I am talking about when I say I am going to the Lord Mayor’s Show! If you live in or near London, you should make a point to go next year – it’s a nice day out and you can even stay around until five o’clock for a spectacular firework’s display over the river! And because I’m just that wonderful, I’m going to share some photographs of my day out with you!

Robbie, Kim and I, waiting for the clipper to travel up the Thames.

Kim and Tower Bridge. For some reason we acted like proper tourists on the boat, despite having seen these sights time and time again!
The view across the river as we waited for the procession to start.
Some shots of the show.
Kelly, Molly and Matthew enjoying the show – it was Molly’s first time at the Lord Mayor’s Show and she seemed to enjoy it, until she fell asleep!
Some more shots of the show.
Kim and I enjoying the procession.
Now it wasn’t the coldest Lord Mayor’s Show I’ve ever been to, but it was still November! How cold do you think the people on this float were?
Sometimes you get a minor celebrity in the procession. I’ve seen Alf and Audrey Roberts from Coronation Street (in character as Mayor and Lady Mayor of Wetherfield), Hunter from Gladiators and Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent. This year it was Tony Stamp from The Bill, aka Graham Cole.
Uncle Ben! If you get this reference, and you’re not related to me, congratulations! You win a prize!
Me coming over all patriotic and waving my flag!
As I said, we stayed for the fireworks (the first time I’ve ever done that, to the best of my knowledge), which were spectacular! Certainly a lot more professional than the ones at my fireworks party the week before (which I shall post about at a later date!).
I love London at night!
Special thanks to Matthew and Kelly, some of whose photos I have nabbed here! I’ll do a separate post about the birthday surprise that my friends organised for me, because there are already too many photographs in this post!
Until next time