London 2012

I probably watched more TV in the summer of 2005 than at any time before or since – my daughter was breastfeeding for about 25 hours a day at the time – and on 6th July I tuned in to watch the IOC decide where to hold the 2012 Olympic games. It came down to a choice between Paris and London, and I remember being pretty certain, in a very British “we’re no good at anything” way, that the votes would go to Paris. And then I was ecstatic when London won the games.

The first Olympics I remember were the 1984 Los Angeles games. I was 12 and my dad had videoed the opening ceremony while I was at Guide Camp. I watched it over and over. I mostly remember being glued to the gymnastics, watching the Zola Budd/Mary Dekker debacle and Daley Thompson winning gold. I don’t remember much of the 1988 games, middle of the night stuff in the UK. Then in 1992 the games were in Europe but I was in America, without a TV. In 1996 the games were in America but I was in the UK, without a TV. All this time Britain were, it seemed, getting worse at sport, winning less medals. In 2000, I was back in America, the games had gone to Australia, and though I did have a TV I had long since lost the habit of watching it. I was shocked when I saw that an American could win a gold medal in Sydney and barely get a mention in their national media – Britain had only come home from Atlanta with one gold medal and Steve Redgrave was a national hero for winning it.

Roll on 2004, and the Olympics were in Athens, on more or less the same time zone as me. I was pregnant, tired, not sleeping well and spent hours in front of the telly, knitting, and watching all kinds of different sports, and really enjoying it. And really pleased when Britain won a creditable nine gold medals.

Which brings us back to how pleased I was when London was awarded the 2012 games and I was sitting with my four month old and realising she would be seven years old when the games came to London and plenty old enough to take. And then there was that awful day afterwards, 7th July 2005, when a group of men, three of them from Yorkshire, travelled to London to detonate bombs on the tube (and one ended up on a bus). It seemed like London had been torn apart and the idea of it having glittering future as an Olympic city was hard to comprehend.

“I’m glad Miranda doesn’t comprehend what’s been going on in one of my favourite cities today. Despite the fact that she’s been listening to BBC News 24 all day just as we have.”

London, of course, mourned, recovered, remembered and went on.

The Beijing Olympics of 2008 arrived. This time I managed to watch plenty of them despite the time difference. Team GB had a stonking time, tons of medals, it felt almost like they had peaked too early. The next four years felt like a storm of financial trouble, crashes, worries that London was never going to manage to deliver the games. I was still excited but it was hard not to believe all the doomsayers were going to be right. The ticket application process was a jumble, I didn’t get the opening ceremony tickets I’d wanted (since 1984 really). We didn’t get stadium tickets for the athletics. Nor for the Aquatics centre. Nor for the velodrome. The Olympics got tangled up in an “everyone is fed up of the Jubilympics” thing (I avoided the Jubil* bit as much as I could; I like Britain, I’m not so fond of its constitutional monarchy).

At the last minute I’d thrown some tickets to the table tennis into the basket, my dad used to play and I thought it would be a nice event to take my parents to. The table tennis tickets ended up being the only ones I got. I was disappointed at the time, especially as the event wasn’t being held at the Olympic Park. Then I realised how many other people hadn’t got any tickets at all and made my peace with the application process. We were going to the Olympics!

In the weeks before the games potential problems with the games kept popping up, major security staffing problems, the transport network wasn’t going to hold up, it still felt like it could all go badly wrong. Besides, it had been raining for months.

Then the opening ceremony began. Would it be good?

Short version: Yes. It was fabulous. The opening ceremony defined Britain and Britishness and had us all screaming, nodding and declaring it the best thing ever. Who knows what the rest of the world made of it, but it was a perfect expression of where Britain came from, and where it is today, and gave us hope for the future. The medals starting coming and didn’t stop.

The Olympics and Paralympics both gave us a fabulous summer that we’re not going to forget in a hurry.

(I had intended to write more, but this post is suffering from ‘never quite getting round to it’ syndrome. I may write Part II at a later date. In summary: Yes, worth the seven year wait.)

My Project Wardrobe

I can’t locate the quote I came across recently that claimed that buying clothes was not like buying a sofa. The gist was that you want clothes to look fabulous once, and then discard them, whereas you want a sofa to last for years. The quote brought into focus something that I’ve thought for a long time and that I am obviously way out of sync with most women on. I want my clothes to be like a sofa! I have finally learnt to buy (or make) good quality ones but I still wear them out. I like clothes and shoes but don’t have any need for loads of them. Since then I keep coming across posts about wardrobes that make me giggle.

The latest was via web-goddess this morning. I’m not quite sure if the point is that seven pairs of shoes for a man is considered to be loads or hardly any. I have seven pairs of shoes, and I know that is more than I have ever owned in my life before. I spent years with only my everyday boots and possibly a pair of posh shoes so this collection feels pretty extravagant to me:

  • Lightweight hiking boots. Wear everyday in winter with jeans and in bad weather in the summer.
  • Canvas trainers. Converse All-Stars at the mo. Wear with jeans in good weather in the summer generally.
  • Black boots. Wear with skirts & tights in the winter.
  • Brown boots. Almost the same as the black ones but brown for clothes co-ordination reasons.
  • Flip flops. Everyday summer wear with skirts. The last pair of good quality Reef ones lasted five years so I replaced them with the same brand again.
  • Sandals. My posh summer skirt wearing shoes, actually also flip flops usually.
  • I can only make the collection up to seven by including my heavy weight hiking boots as well.

They all fulfil different needs. I would buy more if I found I needed something for a different purpose.

In the same vein I came across Project 333 just before starting on a wardrobe clearout recently. The idea is to simplify your life by choosing only 33 items of clothing (not including underwear, pyjamas etc) to rotate for 3 months and put everything else away. On going through my wardrobe it became clear I wasn’t the audience for this one either. Though there are more than 33 items in my wardrobe I thought I could easily survive on less. All the project would do would be to force me to choose which of the ‘posh’ items to add to my everyday clothes.

Instead I decided to track what I actually wore. So far I am a month into this project and have actually worn 18 items of clothing in 38 outfits (that’s 2 outfits a day some days):

  • six tops (mostly long sleeve t-shirts)
  • one dress
  • two pairs of jeans
  • two denim skirts
  • one other posh-ish skirt
  • four items of footwear (converse, sandals, flip-flops and lightweight boots)
  • one cardy
  • one sweatshirt

There are a few more items I would like to add. It’s basically rained for the whole month, in the next two months (weather permitting) I expect to add more dresses and short sleeve tops.

Overhaul Time!

I’m having a mini-overhaul of my website. I’m not going to pretend it’s the start of regular posting but it will hopefully result in some of the things I do/say/notice elsewhere on the web ending up here more often so I don’t feel anything I post is a huge breaking of the silence!

  • My books I’ve read are once again updating in posts of their own, pulled in from my goodreads account. I was never happy with the goodreads auto-posting format. A few scripts and a lot of fiddling later I think I have a solution.
  • My tumblr blog is a neat and easy way to make small posts and they are being pulled into this site too again now.
  • Anything I star on either googlereader or twitter – both good sources of interesting and/or timewasting links – should also appear as a mini post here as well.

I have some other ideas – mostly for auto-updates from other sources, but I’m happy with what I’ve done so far, I feel like my little corner of the web is back in order again.

New Places To Find Me

My books database on this site has barely been keeping up with me lately. I decided to move all my reading records over to one of the book catalogue/reading social network sites. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to find one that met my needs… so I now have two external sites full of book info!

You can find me at goodreads, and also at LibraryThing. Goodreads keeps track of the “number of books read” type of statistics that I want. But LibraryThing has a great recommendations engine. No matter what I tried to do with LibraryThing I couldn’t get it to import my “date read” of each book, and it’s also lost the majority of my ~1000 book writeups. Whereas Goodreads has just randomly missed books out when I’ve imported books to it….. Neither is perfect for my needs so I’m combining both and ironing out the flaws as I go.

LibraryThing is turning into a list of “every book I’ve ever read” – it’s definitely not just my “home library”. Goodreads is more of a tracking thing. So far.

In time I hope to get the “books read” lists on this sites back in sync with what I’ve actually read. One day.

Another new place to find me in on pinterest, which is some kind of communal pinboard for pretty things. I’m neither quite sure what it is or what it’s for, I’m just enjoying it as I find it!

Fruit Picking

I took Miranda up to our local pick your own fruit farm this morning. Local-ish, we live in hilly livestock farming country, not rolling crop farming country. I mostly wanted to make a batch of strawberry jam. It’s been a couple of years since I made any jam – last year was a rainy summer where I didn’t manage to find a dry spell that coincided with the freedom to pop up to the PYO.

So we went and picked strawberries. The strawberries were lovely – planted up on tables under poly tunnels – no back breaking leaning down to ground level and loads of just ripe fruit.

Strawberry Picking

Then we went and got a few raspberries. I’m not such a fan of raspberry jam so these were intended for  breakfast with yoghurt.

And then my five year old fruit fiend wanted to know what other fruit we could pick. So we ended up picking a portion of gooseberries and some blackcurrants too. We got mildly confused because the currently yielding crop was red gooseberries. I rather expected Miranda to turn her nose up at the gooseberries as I wasn’t at all sure I liked them myself, but she turned out to love them, as indeed did I. Maybe this variety weren’t as tart as I remembered them.

We arrived home with our haul.

PYO Haul

I’d already earmarked the unexpectedly nice gooseberries for gooseberry fool – with only a vague idea of how to make a fool. [I more or less followed this recipe, you just fold together whipped cream, cold custard & gooseberry puree.] I wondered what to do with the blackcurrants. I googled for a recipe for blackcurrant jelly… and got sidetracked by a recipe for cassis….

I know people make flavoured vodkas with soft fruits – I’ve mostly heard of it as a way of using up a glut of hedgerow blackberries – but I’d never tried it myself or realised you could use any old spirit and/or turn these into liqueurs at  a later date. Plus I think I had it in the same box as home brewing and winemaking – which I like but can’t currently be bothered with the ins and outs of.

A quick flick through numerous recipes led me to believe that there was no right or wrong way to go about making liqueurs. The basic recipe seems to be

  • a) cover fruit in a spirit,
  • b) agitate over several months decreasing frequency with time,
  • c) decant liquid (you can stop at this point and drink the flavoured spirit)
  • d) stick in a saucepan, add sugar and reduce down to sticky liqueur consistency,
  • e) drink, on it’s own, over ice, with wine, champagne, sparkling water, whatever!

The recipes I found were all over the shop with regard to quantities, but the only major variations seemed to be whether you included the sugar in step a) or waited until step d).

I played it by ear and made up some blackcurrant vodka, some raspberry vodka, and then acting on random internet post decided to try half white rum & half vodka with the strawberries. I’m already thinking blackberry brandy might be a good future addition.

The plan is to leave the bottles until sometime before Christmas and then see about carrying on at step c), probably following d) for some of the produce and certainly partaking of step e).

I’m very pleased with the results of my (and Miranda’s) labour and am planning on going back for more fruit now!

Fruits of Labour I