july london events

I’m coming across stuff to do in london this summer. Of course, I’m not going to the UK because the round-the-world ticket was too expensive. But it doesn’t stop me looking. There’s a sculpture exhibition at regent’s park until october; kerb’s guiltiest pleasure festival featuring dumplings on a pizza, fried chicken with blueberry pancake bun and strawberry milkshake filled donuts; and half a dozen beer festivals in july alone.

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An interesting tour, and educational too, found via the londonist, the old royal naval college in greenwich is offering tours to its painted hall to view the beautiful painted ceiling. The tour is 1hr and gives visitors the opportunity to climb 60 feet to view the ceiling up close and personal. The Painted Hall is called the sistine chapel of the UK and features baroque murals painted by Sir James Thornhill between 1707 and 1726.

Not bad, £10 for adults and free for children under 17. Tours end september.

london

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Terrorist attack at London Bridge and Borough Market on Saturday night.

White van crashed into pedestrians then a horrific stabbing spree. Seven dead, 48 injured. All over in 8 minutes. [Edit: 8 dead.]

It’s hard to comprehend. I’m not in London, but I could have been. Saturday night out at Borough Market, something that any Londoner could be doing.

It’s hard to have the right words, reaction, feeling.

We’ve been through this before. Too many times. Regent’s Park, Harrods, Victoria station, 7/7, Woolwich, Westminster.

Guardian journalist Owen Jones, Sunday morning on facebook (and this illustrates my point earlier about not able to link, embed or save worthwhile fb posts):

London has far more love than the terrorists have hatred. London is just as it always was today. It’s a Sunday so it’s quieter than usual. People are in cafes, restaurants, and pubs. Parents have taken their children out. People are laying in parks. Dogs are being walked. Box sets are lazily being watched at home. People who are standing on the left side of the escalator are being tutted at, as are tourists who suddenly stop in the middle of busy walkways and people who are listening to music on their headphones on public transport too loud.

That’s not because London isn’t angry at the terrorists, or not mourning the lives of those murdered by these twisted extremists. It’s because a city which has endured all sorts of horror and attack is not going to surrender to terror and fear, which is what the terrorists want.

Let’s remember those who died, let’s come together, let’s debate how we defeat extremists – and let’s also do what the terrorists don’t want: for us to get on with our lives without fear and hatred.

london planning

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I haven’t sorted out where we will stay in London; it’s been very difficult to find an airbnb that is in a convenient area, looks like it’s actually someone’s home (vs crappy short lets managed by rental companies) and within our budget. I’m not only looking at W9/NW6, I’ve gone all the way up the Northern and Bakerloo lines as well as west on the Central line. Forget about hotels, way too expensive.

My plans for London:

  • hawksmoor: it’s been way too long since I had a chateaubriand there; and sticky toffee pudding
  • dishoom: must take Mum to this Indian street food restaurant
  • this new £10 steak place i found on twitter, flat iron
  • franco manca pizza
  • pollen street social or wahaca
  • whatever new restaurants I come across
  • saveloy and chips
  • go to the supermarket and to get food to cook at ‘home’ especially lamb shoulder, veal chop, rainbow trout, asparagus (is it even in season?), samphire, savoy cabbage, kale, celeriac
  • go to the supermarket in general
  • borough market
  • matby street market: this is new for me, looks like lots of food
  • the new whisky exchange shop in covent garden
  • collect mail from my friend cc
  • see if any friends are free for a meal or drink
  • watch tv

Mum’s plans are similar, except her list of shops is longer: Waitrose, John Lewis, M&S, Primark, Body Shop, Holland & Barrett, Whole Foods, Hotel Chocolat and other chocolate places. Okay, I want to go to some of those too.

arthur’s café

Arthur’s café is in Dalston, it’s the sort of neighbourhood caff that everyone is nostalgic for. Arthur Woodham is in his 80s and still runs the place his father opened. Fresh, honest food. Daily specials that are set like clockwork: meat pie on Mondays; liver and bacon on Thursdays. Great recent review. A bit far for us to travel, but I’ll keep it on the list. Never know.

best burger london 2016

After the steak battle comes the burger battle. The final was between Honest Burger, originally from Brixton Market, now at over 10 locations; and Rox Burger, a small place reachable

just past Lidl as you head towards Lewisham.

Tee hee.

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Haven’t tried Rox Burger before but I have been to Honest Burger when they first started in Brixton, lining up 10mins before opening. For a burger.

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And the results: Rox Burger won. Their menu looks great. All fresh ingredients, interesting toppings inspired by the Brazilian chef-owner (jalapenos, chorizo). Nice to see local places run by enthusiastic chefs get recognition.

hawksmoor is 10, moving to nyc and bottles whisky

News from one of my most favourite restaurants, Hawksmoor.

They are 10 years old. From humble beginnings in

what was then quite a dodgy East London street when we noticed a FOR SALE sign above a boarded-up kebab shop

to 6 branches in London and another in Manchester is well impressive.

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Now they announce that they will be opening in New York in 2017, as the flagship restaurant at the new World Trade Center. So my US friends will be able to see why I rave on and on about them. Self-depracating as usual:

we’re aware that the track record of Brits stateside isn’t all Beatles and Bond. For every Posh & Becks there’s an M&S, for every Downton a Tesco, for every Cowell a Cole.

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And as if we can’t love them enough, they just bottled their own whisky! A 16 year cask from Craggenmore they are calling Clerk of the Works. Hee. Some bottles available for purchase at £80. Not sure if I’ll get a chance to buy, I’ll remember to try it at the bar next time I visit.

best steak restaurant london 2015

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@newopenings had a twitter competition to find the best steak restaurant in London. The finalists, to no one’s surprise, were: Goodman and Hawksmoor. Hawksmoor won by a small margin.

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My love for Hawksmoor is well known and well documented. I’ll take anyone and everyone there. If I can’t take them, I’ll recommend the place. Their steaks are from the ginger pig and chargrilled to perfection. Their sides are great, their bone marrow heavenly and their sticky toffee pudding…no words. Plus £5 corkage on mondays.

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I’ve also visited Goodman and their steak was excellent too. Personally I prefer the atmosphere at Hawksmoor, and I’m more used to it.

goodbye to the stockpot

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Anyone who was ever a student in London, rich or poor, would have eaten at The Stockpot. It’s an institution. I remember three: one around the corner from Harvey Nicks, one at Haymarket and one at Old Compton Street.

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The prices were affordable, especially for Central London. It was comfort food: spag bol, roasts, liver & onion, fish & chips. Plus puddings, ice cream, jelly and custard. Notice the spotted dick on the menu.

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A sign of the times, that the last time we were at a Stockpot, in 2011, we had grilled halloumi–gasp, so cosmopolitan. Luckily the staples were still around. I had roast beef, mm had sea bass and we both had apple crumble. They even gave us extra custard. The crumble was good. The roast beef was on the well done side of very well done. But hey, lots on the plate and swimming in gravy too.

I did notice when we were in London earlier this year that the one at Haymarket had gone. We had other dining options, so we didn’t go searching out for the others. Now I read that the last remaining one at Old Compton Street has closed, as its owners retire. I guess it was inevitable, I just mentioned that we had plenty other dining options in London. It belonged in a different era, that it was:

part of a tradition that went back to Lyon’s tea shops – restaurants where the cooking was not really that important. You went for the gossipy atmosphere or for sustenance or because you wanted to be back in the Soho of Lucien Freud and Sebastian Horsley and this was the nearest you were going to get.

The site at Old Compton Street will be taken over by yet another hipster, modern casual burger restaurant. Times change.

london by night HD @LaforetAIR

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via mashable, a set of truly stunning night photos of London by photographer Vincent Laforet as part of the AIR project:

AIR is a creative project that started with a series of spectacular photographs above New York City. Through unprecedented viral momentum, the project is expanding to other cities around the globe with the aim to:

Show the world that it is connected

Engage people from all around the world to connect with one another.

Previous cities included New York and Los Angeles. The London pics were shot around 12-13 May, the next scheduled project flights will include Barcelona, Berlin, Paris and Venice.

Very interestng write up and observations (and loads more pics) about the project shoot in London, from initial worries about getting through the bureaucracy for permission to fly, the lack of a grid system and the dreaded British weather to realisation about the distinctive architecture and colours. Interesting tidbit, when they were flying over Buckingham Palace:

Within a few minutes we were (unusually) politely asked by Air Traffic Control how long we planned on flying around that specific area. There was no suggestion of asking us to move – but the high level of politeness sent an even stronger message.

Watch the video again, look at the London gallery again. Look at the details, the light, the colours, the buildings, the streets, the bridges. I challenge anyone to not feel completely in awe of probably the greatest city in the world.

trip pics and writeup

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I finally got the trip pics sorted and uploaded. From 3267 I whittled them down to just over 2000 in 10 sets:
holland belgium: lily | almere, naarden, oostvaardersplassen, amsterdam | antwerp, brussels, mechelen
italy: florence | siena | assisi | rome
ireland, uk: dublin, cork, ring of kerry | london | cotswolds

 

If I had to pick just one image from each set. First in our friend’s house I’ll pick one of kaocao, her cat, who was instrumental in bringing us close together and a great little cat to boot:
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Holland will be Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve, it made me want to move to Holland to enjoy the wildlife and running paths:
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Belgium will be the strangely cosy café at Het Steen, especially after hearing the story of the tyrannical prince who lived there:
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Florence is difficult, we were there the longest of all stops. So many great memories. I’m going to pick two, the first is hanging out at the retreat house. It was so peaceful and calm that some days, we didn’t want to venture outside: flr061garden

The second is us walking all the way to oltrarno and up the hundreds of steps to piazza michangelo to take in the view of the city:
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In Siena it’s this strange, rather creepy statue of a semi-naked woman peeping out of a first floor window:

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In Assisi it’s watching the sunset from our room. There was so much to see and experience in Assisi, it was a blessing to return to our room every night and relax:
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Rome, hands down, seeing the Pope: rom126papa

After the spirituality that was Italy, my memory of Ireland is the breath-taking views in Kerry:
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In London it’s cooking at home:

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And not forgetting the picturesque Bibury:
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We were lucky that we had internet almost every day, so I was able to upload a few pics and post daily reports. Made the writeup so much easier, it was just a matter of grouping by location and fixing some typos. I also added a few more pics. Still came to 6 travel posts: holland belgium | florence siena | assisi | rome | ireland | uk

Quite an epic trip, and memorable too.

#73 new restaurant london: dishoom

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Tasks #69-73 of 101.1001 are to try 5 new restaurants in 5 different cities. This is #5 of 5.

Our friend invited us to dishoom behind king’s cross for lunch. Our first impression was how the area had completely changed. Where it used to be dangerous and derelict, it’s now modern and stylish full of office buildings and fancy restaurants.

Dishoom’s theme is Indian street food. The restaurant’s decoration is a mix of old school colonial train station, gentrified godown and steampunk. Great atmosphere. There were a large number of small plates to share. We ordered chilli cheese toast, okra fries, calamari, lamb boti kabab, greens with a fabulous chilli & lime dressing, daal, naan and roti. Everything was delicious, we ordered extra lamb. For drinks I had a bhang lassi, which had mint, ginger, candied fennel and coconut milk.

The small plates were less than £6, the lamb less than £10 so pretty good for London prices. Lots of flavour, and different flavours too, to the usual curries and biryanis. Indian food has been described as Britain’s national dish, and if all Indian food were like Dishoom’s, then it’s not a surprise. Definitely worth returning. Repeatedly.

europe day 31: london last full day

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Today is the last full day of our trip. Sad, sad, sad. In a way we are both happy to be going home; but we also don’t want the trip to end.

The plan today was to have not a lot of plan. For lunch I made the lamb shoulder we were going to cook yesterday but were too full. Plus roasted fennel and asparagus. There were salt, pepper and italian seasoning at the flat but the garlic on the shelf was too dry. I used bits of fennel and asparagus to add flavour to the lamb. It worked out very very good, may be needed 2 more minutes of cooking, but we like rare to medium rare. Served on this long wooden board, just like Jamie.

No plans, except to walk around. Walked down Kilburn High Road through Paddington Rec to Little Venice. My home grounds. I can’t help it, I gravitate towards Maida Vale whenever I can. It’s in my bones.

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We skipped the cafés at Warwick Avenue and the canal boat waterside café. It started to drizzle and get cold so we stopped at an aussie café along the canal for tea and cake. Afterwards we headed towards m&s—ended up buying a whole lot of stuff. Bus back towards Kilburn, bought more stuff for dinner and to bring back. We don’t have a huge baggage allowance and we’d been careful about what we packed and bought. There’s still space for important stuff like whisky, cereal, tea bags and even a couple of bags of kale.

europe day 30: london

After dropping off the rental car we ended up sitting at a pub drinking tea and coffee for 2 hours. Mostly I listened while mm talked. We compared our favourite highlights of the trip—I gave short descriptions and she mostly stuck with long speeches.

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Lunch was at comptoir libanais at St Christopher’s Place. A semi-chain (like Leon and Carlucci’s I suppose) of casual Lebanese food in a colourful and cheerful restaurant. We had grilled halloumi and hummous to start, followed by a lamb tagine and lamb fattet. Originally I wanted to go to (pun intended) Orignal Tagines behind Edgware Road but I found out that it’s closed. We liked this new discovery, yes the tagine wasn’t as original or flavoursome—the lamb was cooked separately then spooned onto couscous—the couscous was still good. It was the first time we tried fattet—a layered dish with minced lamb, pita bread, pomegranate seeds and tahini yogurt. Quite filling.

Walked around Oxford Street a little, mainly at John Lewis. Admired the new routemasters that had a door at the back. When there is a conductor they remained open like the old style, but with only the driver the doors closed like a regular bus.

Went to Borough Market for a stroll to discover the layout had changed. Seemed larger with more corridor and walking space. The real destination was whisky exchange to buy that bottle of Ardbeg Supernova I saw the other day. Apparently it’s a committee release which supposedly made it even more special. We also discovered that a bottle of Mortlach 16, which I bought for £45 in Edinburgh 3 years ago, is now retailing for £95. And I was thinking of opening my bottle. I’m now going to put in safely back on the shelves.

europe day 29: cotswolds, bicester

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Destination today was Bibury in the Cotswolds. We drove out to Cheltenham and Gloucester occasionally when we were living in London, and mm saw some pictures on fb about a village near Cheltenham called Bibury. Looked very idyllic and beautiful. Rented a car today from a slow and inefficient Hertz office and drove out on the A40 and M40—home turf.

Bibury was further than I thought, and it’s 8 miles off the A40 when I thought from google maps that it’s right on top. We parked at a quiet street and walked around the church and green. Had a picnic lunch of drumsticks, hard-boiled eggs and red peppers. Walked further to the picturesque part of the village. No wonder the Cotswolds attracts so many visitors. Definitely befitting the area being designated an area of outstanding beauty.

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There was a small river full of trout and ducks. A few bridges. And rows of houses made with Cotswold stone. We walked as far as the Swan Hotel, crossed the bridge and had a tea/coffee at the trout farm.

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The other side of the village, where the church is, is quieter. The church was pretty, with old tombstones in its graveyard. The village was extremely beautiful, yet it felt cold and the locals weren’t very friendly. Even for a weekday, there were quite a few tourists, including a couple of coachloads. Can imagine how busy and crowded it can get during weekends. There were quite a few houses for sale, but we weren’t tempted. Location is a bit in the middle of nowhere, there are virtually no shops and the place is crawling with tourists. Imagine dozens of people taking selfies in front of your garden or even at your windows. Sigh.

From Bibury it was a quick drive to Bicester Village. My sole purpose there was as a sidekick who nodded and helped pick out colours as mm did shopping. She bought a bag, a pair of shoes and a whole bag full of L’Occitane stuff. After the outlet village naturally we went to the Tesco next door. Bought veg, soup, crisps and a half shoulder of lamb for tomorrow—the plan is to return the car, walk around leisurely then come back to make dinner.

europe day 28: london meeting friends

eutrip069dishoom

A day of meeting friends in London. Lunch with our friend CC at dishoom behind King’s Cross. The area had definitely gone through a lot of changes, now full of trendy restaurants and shops. Dishoom is an Indian small street food place that is pretty authentic. A mix of modern and Indian railway/godown type decorations. We had a few shared small plates—lamb kebab, fried okra, calamari, daal, naan, roti and the like.

I left mm with our friend and went off to meet my own friends. Met my ex-intern SM at Waterloo and did a tour of the pubs around the Old Vic. He is still working at my ex-ex-ex company and also had some good news to share with me on the family and house front and we had a fantastic chat. It was as if time hadn’t passed.

Dinner was with my friends JE and TH, more great conversation. We shared a 1.1kg prime rib plus sides at Hawksmoor. It was absolutely lovely to see friends, share recent news, and talk about future plans. Hopefully I’ll get to see them in the near future.

europe day 27: london camden, whisky exchange

Today is the second sunday of easter, or the sunday of divine mercy and mm wanted to go to this church in Camden town. It’s a nice small parish church where most of the attendees seemed to know each other. Good mass.

Lunch was my pick and I opted for…Nando’s. Hmmm. Remember when mum and I went to Vancouver and we had Nando’s, it’s the same situation. We had a sharing platter with 4 pieces of chicken and 4 sides. Unlimited soft drinks so I broke my coke zero semi-fast and had many, many glasses.

Camden on a Sunday was crowded. We walked through a part of the market then headed towards the tube station, our destination was London Bridge for The Whisky Exchange. We got there after 3pm so Borough Market itself was closed.

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The nice people at TWE gave us samples from their bottle-your-own casks—craggenmore, ledaig, arras. Got talking to Duncan Ross, one of the assistant managers there and a fountain of knowledge. He gave us a small sampling of Karuizawa 30yr sherry cask. Wow, wow, wow!! I saw a bottle of Ardbeg Supernova on the shelf and was this close to snapping it up, without concern to how much my suitcase will weigh. Logic prevailed, we’ll see about our total weight first.

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Dinner back at the flat: tomato basil soup with added kale, fresh toscana bread from whole foods, proscuitto from Rome. Laundry and relaxation.

europe day 26: london

A day of errands. The most important task today, and one of the most important of the entire trip, was to renew our passports. Annoyingly, the process of passport renewals got moved back to the UK, so those of us who live overseas have to send our old passports through the mail and wait 6 weeks—some people report the wait is more like 10-12 weeks. Personally I simply don’t have a 12 week window this year that I won’t need my passport, so we take the opportunity of us being in the UK to go for the one day service. I hate, hate, hate having to pay 75% extra over the already extortionate passport fee. Don’t have much of a choice really.

There was also a palava about the passport photo. Again another price gouging exercise. Anyway, we got our application in the morning and our passports were ready for collection in the afternoon. One thing off our minds.

By lunchtime we were hungry. Had rough plans to go to tkts at Leicester Square to check out musicals, so lunch in the West End made sense. We debated between pub food, roast duck noodles or dim sum. When we got off the bus, my feet automatically made their way to Air Street where a dark wooden door had a simple sign above: Hawksmoor. Hahaha, our excuse was we couldn’t figure out where to eat in Central London so we had to find somewhere, anywhere.

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The Air Street branch opened after I left so this was my first time. Liking the first floor location, sunlight helps. The place is also bigger and the tables not so squeezed together. We both opted for the express menu. £24 for 2 courses. To start, potted beef with yorkshires and onion jam. Unusual combination, the potted beef was scrumptious and the yorkies puffed and huge. For mains we had rump steak with baked sweet potato and buttered greens. The steak was a little overcooked so wasn’t perfect. I looked at the wine list, cocktail list and decided on a Rittenhouse Rye. The first time I tried this was at Seven Dials and the bartender there recommended it to me.

Nothing interesting or discounted at tkts so we trekked back to Victoria to get our passports. Back to our airbnb home. It was like going home, in a way. I used to do a lot of grocery shopping at Kilburn High Road too. We hit the shops we needed to get everything we wanted: poundland, superdrug, sainsbury’s, m&s.

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Bought biscuits, chocolate, crisps, popcorn, cereal, yogurt, fruit, juice, tea bags, veg, chicken drumsticks, mini scotch eggs, soup, eggs and a bottle of wine. We went a little crazy, we’re only in London a week, wonder if we can finish everything. Dinner was tomato and bean soup with added kale plus a bagel. Great to have a kitchen. We’ve been trying to keep to this one meal out and one meal at our retreat house / hotel / airbnb throughout the trip. It was also very important that the flat had a washing machine as we were both in dire need to do laundry. We did some handwashing in Assisi and Rome but anything larger than a t-shirt hadn’t been washed since Florence. Did one load, will probably need 2 more loads before we leave.

london musicals apr-2015

Current musicals in London that I am interested in, and today’s availability at the “half-price” tkts booth at Leicester Square:

  • book of mormon at the prince of wales — not sold at tkts, there are more expensive seats available direct at the theatre
  • charlie and the chocolate factory at the theatre royal drury lane — £18.50-50.50 no discount
  • let it be at the garrick — £32.50 with discount
  • matilda at the cambridge — £36 no discount, I saw this in 2012, I definitely want to see it again and definitely think mm will like it
  • miss saigon at the prince edward — £28.50-38.50 no discount, saw it when it first came out (lea salonga!!), will be interesting to see it again
  • sweeney todd at the london coliseum — not at tkts, limited run closing on 12-apr; cheapest tickets are £86, I love Emma Thompson but…gulp
  • women on the verge of a nervous breakdown at the playhouse — £22.50-39.50 with discount

 
There are others playing I’m less interested in, like Beautiful, the Commitments, Gypsy, Jersey Boys, Lion King, Molly Wobbly, Once, Seven Brides; others I’ve seen already like Billy Elliot, Cats, Les Miz, Mamma Mia, Phantom, Wicked. The two I do want to see, Kinky Boots and Damon Albarn’s Wonder.land, are not on yet.

 

My personal preferences: the Book of Mormon, Matilda, Women on the Verge. The ticket booth doesn’t have tickets or offer discounts for the more popular musicals, not even on the day. Disappointing. I’ve always thought of the booth as a tourist attraction anyway, and now even more so with the new look booth and the twee phone box next to it. Seriously, apart from escort services, who uses phone boxes?.

Anyway, I think we’ll probably end up seeing Matilda, if we were to go to the West End. Which is more than fine with me.

 

lobster roll smackdown

I should have written this post last year, when I was still in London. Just as well, because I’m missing London a hell of a lot nowadays. So many things I should have done while I was there (bought a flat, for instance), so many things I could still do (buy a flat, for instance).

Anyway, last summer I tried out the famous lobster rolls at burger & lobster and hawksmoor.

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I went first to Burger & Lobster. The nearest tube to the mayfair branch is green park but I walked from bond street via grosvenor square. It’s in the posh part of town behind park lane. No reservation, so I purposely went after the lunch rush. The restaurant décor is of modern wood and served 3 things: burgers, grilled lobsters and lobster rolls. I picked a high table and ordered a lobster roll and a bull & bear cocktail which was woodford reserve, blackberries, raspberries, mure and zinfandel. The lobster roll was great, the melted butter enhanced the flavours and made it all very yummy. £20 was okay, considering it’s london and the location.

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Hawksmoor next. Oh, what can I say about the place. It’s no secret I’m totally in love with the restaurant. I went to my usual branch, seven dials, and found a perch at the bar. The lobster roll came with their triple cooked chips and homemade ketchup. I had a dark porter with it. Really, really nice. £25.

Which one won? I can’t decide. Both are great. I guess for value for money it’ll have to be burger & lobster. Hawksmoor for atmosphere. If I get a second chance, I’ll try the grilled lobster at burger & lobster and stick to my usual steaks at hawksmoor.

olympics pics

After almost a year, I finally got round to dealing with pics from August / September 2012. Olympics, Prague, Provence, Paris, London and Paralympics. There is also a folder of misc pics that I want to sort too.

Anyway, full Olympics set, 195 photos, 12 videos. Includes Olympic torch, screenshots from opening ceremony, beach volleyball, archery and both diving finals (3m and 10m). There’s still the Paralympics pics to sort.

tube 150

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The first Tube journey took place150 years ago today. We complain about it, of course. Crowded, old carriages, constant delays, stifling hot in the summer. But its importance is illustrated by the facts: over 1.1million passengers made 1.1billion journeys per year. And the Jubilee Line held up during the Olympics, phew.

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The iconic map was based on circuit diagrams, and designer Yuri Suzuki, as part of the Designers in Residence program at the Design Museum, made a working radio with circuits that look like the tube map. Very cool, very intricate.

i miss london

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Every year I do a top 10 best pic set, so I was sorting through my pics. Currently I have over 3,200 pics on flickr tagged with 2012, and that doesn’t include the Prague, Provence, Paris and Olympics pics which means I probably have close to 4,000 total. The sorting task will take a little while. Wow, I’ve done lots and been to lots of places in 2012. This was the first pic of 2012, taken at Hyde Park at the start of the Serpentine New Year’s Day 10k. Sigh. I miss London.

hawksmoor, fly out

hawksmoor filet tail

Flight tonight is at 8pm, so as long as I’m back at the room by 4pm I’m fine. I took the tube all the way out to Covent Garden and had lunch at Hawksmoor. Sigh. That wasn’t a surprise at all, right? Not a filet person, always finding it too bland. But I finally tried the filet tail they had on the board, plus bone marrow and a side of peas and lettuce. No dessert, moved to the bar for a Blanton’s though. And then got a free shot of Rittenhouse from the bartender when I told her that I was flying out. The end of an era, of sorts.

It’s a long way to go from Covent Garden to Heathrow, over an hour on the tube. There was enough time for a shower and final packing. Check-in was straightforward, at 21kg I wasn’t even overweight. I’m only bringing minimal clothes, the heaviest items in the suitcase are Prague sausages. I’m wearing my Highland Park t-shirt, and had a nice chat with the people at World of Whiskies. Flight looks to be full, I hope I can sleep.

shipment, cleaning, cafe rouge, yotel

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The movers did the final packing (bed, TV, other stuff) and started loading in the morning. They didn’t want to send the container to have it sit in a residential area for 2 days, so they transported the boxes to their depot in a couple trips — this was how they intended it, apparently, since the depot is in Park Royal, only a short hop on the A40. They were done and gone by lunchtime. Which meant I had the entire afternoon to clean. So I did, cleaned room by room. No vacuum cleaner, just a broom and pan from the pound shop, leftover swifter liquid, lime lite and lots of cloths. Looked pretty clean and spotless after I was done.

Booked a cab for 5pm, and so that was it. Saying goodbye to another home. For the next 24hrs I’m staying at the yotel at heathrow. I’d stayed there before, once before an early Chicago flight. They call themselves a cabin hotel, with small but functional capsules consisting of a bunk style bed, tv and small bathroom with monsoon shower. This time, the bed was on the upper level, so it involved a bit of climbing in and out. I did think about splurging and staying at a really nice hotel on Park Lane, or somewhere central near Paddington, but this was the best choice. Getting my luggage to heathrow means I don’t have to worry about it tomorrow, and can just get over to T3 after I’ve done whatever I want to do in London. Plus they don’t have check out times, booking is by the hour, so I can have a shower before I leave.

Settled for dinner at café rouge in T4. Good location at the departures level and good for relaxing and people spotting. Ordered moules marineres for starter and bavette et frites for main course. Confused the servers somewhat by not being in a hurry, I guess they’re mostly used to people on their way to catch a plane or meeting people or generally people with a timeframe.

Back to arrivals level and my little cabin for the night. Watched the Great British Bake Off (ah, I’ll miss this one) and Hell’s Kitchen USA. Caught the final ep of Hell’s Kitchen on youtube so I know the winner. I have most of the day tomorrow, have to decide where to have lunch.

And that, was my last full day in London.

london2012 withdrawal day 1

I missed the parade of heroes because the movers were here packing and I barricaded myself in a corner in the kitchen. They were done by mid-afternoon. The flat is now full of boxes ready to be loaded to the truck tomorrow. I’ve gone for groupage shipment so it won’t be the container that arrives in the morning. They will load my stuff into the next available container and I may have to share with other people.

The movers left the TV and bed. I looked at the schedule and there is nothing worth watching. No Clare Balding, no Lexi guide, no overly eager 5-min segments explaning the difference between the two types of rugby wheelchairs, no one running incredible races or swimming their hearts out or playing blindfolded ball games. And sob no Last Leg sob. #isitok to have gotten addicted to the most un-PC coverage of disabled sports?

another move

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I should be reflecting on the Paralympics closing ceremony and the end of a glorious summer of sports. Too many thoughts still, which need to be organised and mulled over.

The other thing on my mind is this is my last weekend in London. The shipment people are coming tomorrow, the parking space has already been blocked on the street outside. I’ve been trying to get rid of stuff, but ended up buying more. More food. More wine. I have the charity stuff in a corner, my luggage in another, and cleaning / stuff not going in yet another place. Deep breath. That’s it. Another move.

final games day at excel

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I woke up early and was out of the door by 8.30am. Ah, rush hour on the tube. Had to remind myself not to go to Stratford and get on the DLR for Excel instead. Excel was much, much quieter than the Olympic Park, the security and everything else was efficient.

The only event taking place was boccia. Amazing game. Very slow, very quiet. Similar to bowls, and played by athletes with obvious great disability. It’s quite entrancing actually. I stayed for about half an hour. Then headed to the opposite hall for team table tennis. Both men and women’s matches, standing and wheelchair. Quite a job to keep track of 4 matches at the same time. Both matches involving China had them surging on in front quickly, they would win them easily.

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It was only 11am, and time for sport #3. Wheelchair fencing was amazing. The fencers weren’t allowed to come out of their wheelchairs. Each bout was 3mins, and to be honest, it took way longer to get them ready beforehand. There were 8 fights at the same time, it was a women’s team match with 3 team members each team fighting every member of the other team. With 9 bouts in total, there was a lot of volunteers running around and fixing wheelchairs. Vocal support for Team GB, who got hammered by top seed #1. Strange tug of loyalties for me, teehee.

I didn’t need lunch, having packed a bagel and bought fruit at M&S. The stalls were a bit sad, more about that later. Watched a bit more boccia and the end of the table tennis matches before heading back to the fencing semi-finals. Got a better seat this time, to watch the GB team as well as the extremely close HK vs China semi-final. Then it was across the hall to sitting volleyball. Watched the first set of Morocco vs Rwanda, then headed home. Could have stayed, GB was up next, but it was more than an hour away.

That was the problem with Excel. Unlike Horseguards or Lord’s, which were single events, it was sort of like the Olympic Park but much less so. The best things were that it was indoors and the walking between venues was less. Not a lot of atmosphere though, it was like going to a business conference and going from room to room taking in the various ongoing events. The sports and athletes were the same level of amazing though, from the severely impaired boccia players to the athleticism of the single-armed table tennis players.

In a way, I’m glad Excel was my last Olympic and Paralympic experience. If it were at the Park, I’d be more emotional. As it was, I just wanted to get home. It had been an inspiring, humbling summer of sports. I’ll never get to experience this again, and words can’t describe my feelings are about all the sports and venues I’ve watched.

a day at the olympic park

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that all good plans never work out the way they were planned.

I got to the park around 10.30am to learn that there were no day pass seats left at the Riverbank for the 5-a-side football. So there went my well laid plans. A quick look at my schedule, and it was over to Eton Manor for the wheelchair tennis. OMG, it was a scorching day, we were all sitting right under the sun, and I’m sure I turned 3 shades darker. But what about the tennis? It was brilliant! All the rules of able-bodied tennis, except the ball is allowed to bounce twice. The skills and speed were great. I saw the #1 seed from France play the #3 seed from the Netherlands. The match was won by the French athlete.

By then I was desperate to get away from the sun. Over to the basketball arena to watch Australia vs Sweden in murderball. What a great match! Lots of banging, the wheelchairs really got a hammering. And lots of strategy too. Ryley Batt from Australia murdered the opposition (pun intended) and Australia won comfortably.

There was enough time to run back to the Riverbank to catch Brazil vs Argentina in the blindfolded 5-a-side football. Now I worry about Rio2016. I was sitting behind a Brazilian family and they had absolutely no discipline. In blindfolded football the crowd has to remain quiet so the players can hear the clinking of the ball, but this family kept talking, the kids whining and climbing all over the seats. The match was a 0-0 draw, and it went to penalties, which Brazil won. Very skillful playing, imagine dribbling and shooting in the dark. Huge admiration.

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It was by then 5.30pm, and I was pleased I’d seen 3 of the 4 sports on my list for today. Logically it’s over to the Copperbox to see goalball, but emotion won out. 7pm was the start of the murderball match between GB and France. It was very close, and the noise of the crowd stunning. Yes of course it’s home advantage, and we have used it, and will intend to use it, as much as we could.

I left at halftime. There was just enough time to go see goalball. More quietness. All I can say is, what a strange sport.

It was 8.45pm and time to head home. I still have Excel tomorrow so it’s not goodbye to the Paralympics. It is goodbye to the Olympic Park. I’d visited 4 times, walked miles and miles, from Orbit Circuit to Eton Manor. Sat at Park Live to watch the screen. Bought expensive beer and food. My lasting memory, I can’t pick on just one. It’s been amazing. Coming to see diving on that first day with mm was magical (and hot and bewildering). Watching the athletics on Tuesday was another piece of magic. The Paralympics was another highlight. I had a terrific time, a terrific day, have the utmost respect for all the athletes, feel so utterly proud to be British and privileged to have seen both Games in person.

paralympics day pass planning

I’ll be at the Paralympics for the next 2 days, the 2 day passes that were originally all I got. Olympic Park tomorrow and Excel on Friday. Access to sports other than athletics, swimming and cycling. I had thought that I should just go, walking around and see what’s available. But with visitors topping 1 million, some strategic planning is needed.

I don’t plan to be there too early, probably around 10-11am. At Olympic Park, the choices are 5-a-side football, goalball, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair rugby. Studing the schedule and what teams have been announced:

  • 11.00-12.15: 5-a-side football, China vs GB
  • 1.30-4.00: goalball
  • 4.00-6.00: wheelchair tennis
  • 7.00-end: wheelchair rugby, France vs GB and Japan vs USA

A little bit of football is enough for me. Goalball is supposed to be quiet and relaxing. Tennis goes on all day, so it was useful to schedule. The first wheelchair rugby, aka murderball match started today, and it looks very interesting.

Friday’s plan:

  • 11.00-12.15: fencing, including a HK vs GB match
  • 12.30-3.00: table tennis
  • 3.00-5.00: boccia
  • 7.00-end: sitting volleyball

Again, the intriguing and new sports is boccia, probably the exact opposite of murderball. That murderball might end up being my new love.

paralympics athletics

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It was impossible to resist, there were paralympics athletics tickets on sale last week. I’d never been to a track and field event before, and of course there is the opportunity of being inside the Olympic Stadium. My seat was in row 10, very close to the track, at the top end of the back straight where 200m races start. Would have liked to be on the other side, but it’s fine. Especially since I had an end seat overlooking one of the tunnels where athletes come out.

Field events took place all evening — 2 men’s shot put final (F35/38, I think and F40); men’s F20 long jump, which was nearby on my left and women’s F35/38 discus which took most of the field of play. Not a lot of attention from the announcers or screens, they went about their competition quietly. Well except the long jumpers, who got clapped on their approach run.

The track events got the bulk of the attention. There were final after final, in many different classes. There was a 100m, a couple of 200m and 400m but mostly 1500m. Every time a GB athlete competed, the noise of the crowd rose 1 million decibels. The most cheers were understandably for David Weir in the T54 1500m final, and when he raced to gold, it was pandemonium. So moving.

GB also won a silver and 2 bronzes on the night. The Russians did well, as did the Kenyans, Brazilians, and Assia El Hannouni of France, who won her third gold medal in T12 400m before retiring. Every so often there’d be a victory ceremony, a good opportunity to stand up and stretch our legs. The 2 Brazilians who won the 200m T11 race had the best celebration, I’d never seen anyone so happy at wnning medals. Lots of cheers for everyone, and they all deserved them.

great friends

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I met JE and T for dinner at Hawksmoor. It’s totally my fault for not being aggressive enough to arrange to meet up, leaving it till my last week in London. Silly me. I remember meeting them at PTown 3 years ago. I’m so happy that we caught up and had a fantastic evening of conversation and good food. We’ll keep in touch online of course, I hope we don’t need to wait another 3 years to see each other again. Didn’t get a picture, this is the crumble I made in 2009 that brings back good memories.

paralympics lexi

lexi

Ran 12k around Hyde Park, and spent the rest of the day watching the Paralympics. The standout moments today — medals in the velodrome for GB, wheelchair basketball (my new love), T11 athletes running with their guides, Aled Davies of Wales receiving his discus gold medal from the Duchess of Cambridge. And that class 7 table tennis final between GB’s Will Bayley and Germany’s Joachen Wollmert. Will Bayley had endeared the entire nation yesterday with his unabashed joy at winning his semi-final, running and jumping up to his coach. He was understandably distraught at losing the final. The great moment for me was Joachen Wollmert, almost twice Will’s age (47 vs 24), who coaxed the weeping Briton up from the floor and acknowledged him to the crowd. Terrific sportsmanship.

As the Games progress, I’m learning more about the classification system. For instance I can now tell the difference between T13 and F46 in athletics as well as the various S-classes in swimming. The guides from the various newspapers helped, and certainly the graphical lexi interface on Channel 4 has been useful. I’m slowly warming up to C4’s coverage, still not happy about the ad breaks and the presenters talking over each other, to give them credit they are trying very hard. And hey, Clare and Ade in the evening works for me.

paralympics super saturday

Watched quite a bit of Paralympics today. I only get one of the channels, and all Channel 4 seemed to be showing was swimming, cycling and athletics. Tiny bit of football and wheelchair basketball. A very emotional day, all the big stars performed — Oscar Pistorius set a world record in his first round 200m race, Ellie Simmond’s world record freestyle, Team GB cyclists and equastrian athletes.

Two images stayed with me today, on 2 extremes. I could only find the video for one though. The first, Omar Hassan from Djibouti finished his T46 1,500m race at over 11mins, 7mins behind the rest of the field, to a standing ovation. He is one of the single participant who got a wild card.

The second was Richard Whitehead’s gold medal in the T42 200m, how he simply powered through once he got going and round the bend. Visually, it was stunning, running through 2 other athletes. Tearjerking stuff.

matilda the musical

I never read Roald Dahl’s book, but I can guess at its quirkiness. I’ve been wanting to see Matilda the Musical for a while. It’s too popular to be in the special offer in May, and somehow mm and I couldn’t find the time for it when she was here. But nevertheless, I managed to get a ticket for myself. No, it’s not the same, watching a musical on my own, can’t be helped.

I had a good seat, upper circle second row aisle seat. Full house tonight, a good mix of adults and children. Worth the ticket price, doubled and tripled. Absolutely fantastic show — the kids were just naughty enough to be endearing, the adults despicable caricatures, the story moving without the emotional blackmail that goes with this sort of tale. And oh, Lara Wollington as Matilda tonight really shone. Like everyone in the house, I was entranced by her story of the acrobat and the escapologist (kudos to the sound and lighting effect, there was one scary bit when I was scared too). No big huge production number, all the songs were great. The highlights were Naughty and When I Grow Up.

It doesn’t matter that mm hasn’t seen this, it took me years to manage to show her Wicked, I’ll make sure she gets to see Matilda one of these days. It’s one show I won’t mind seeing over and over again. Highly recommended.

paralympics 2012

Watched the London 2012 Paralympics Games opening ceremony. It was on Channel 4, so there were differences between that coverage and the BBC’s for the Olympics. Some of the presenters were the same (Clare Balding, yay!) but overall it wasn’t as good, primarily because the commentary was poor and, ugh, there were ad breaks.

The theme of discovery and ideas was thoughtful and beautiful. Highlights for me were: Stephen Hawking’s words, Princess Anne waving her scarf and the countries represented by wild card athletes — the first country in the parade, Afghanistan and the single female athlete representing Syria. It’ll be a great next 10 days.

T minus 3 weeks

18boring

T minus 3 weeks and the start of errands. Today:

  • filed 2011-12 taxes (deadline Jan 2013, so scads ahead of time)
  • typed up address change letters for batch printing
  • sent off shipment forms (got email from shipment company that deposit was received)
  • wine xls for customs — brand name, type, year, % alcohol, volume, price
  • bagged up and labeled cable collection — ziploc bags are the best
  • bought laundry basket
  • bought 2 dinner plates + 2 dessert plates
  • bought more dried goods — couscous, quavers, chocolate turkish delight for AK
  • bought more rosé to try
  • continue working through each room to sort out stuff to keep, for charity, or to chuck away
  • checked at bank on money transfer process and cost

In other news, my amazon order arrived: Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake, Bones season 6 and a set of 3 baking trays with rack at a fantastic price. A prospective new tenant came to see the apartment. Did more cleaning. Getting there.

lunch at the ledbury, dinner at hawksmoor

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I took Mum to the ledbury for her birthday this year, and wanted to share the experience with mm. It’s her last full day in London.

Lunch again, it’s the best value. Amuse bouche, quail & fig salad, for mains we had brill with seafood, edible flowers, foam and beef and for dessert mille feuille and blackcurrant tart.

Borough market in the afternoon, plus vinopolis and the whisky exchange. To end a gastro day, dinner at Hawksmoor. I have a suspicion she prefers Hawksmoor, the food at the Ledbury probably too fancy and too high expectations after how I sang its praises.

olympics diving 10m

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I had 4 tickets for the women’s 10m diving final, so we met up with CC and M at Olympic Park. Our second visit, so we know the drill now. The seats were a little better, less obscured by the roof, important because this is the 10m platform. The diving, wow. Very close competition, and M was especially pleased the Malaysian competitor got bronze.<

olympic diving 3m

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The day has finally come. The tickets I originally won during the lottery process, that meant mm could come to London. Women’s 3m springboard final. Lots of anticipation. We rested at home, watching tv for most of the morning, then left around 3pm knowing that it will take us over 1hr on the tube, plus walking, security and walking around the Olympic Park. Our estimate was right, althought there was no delay going through security. We had plenty of time to explore around the Olympic Park. It was crowded, it being super sunday and all, we managed to go to the shops, took lots of pictures of the venues too.

The diving started at 7pm, we climbed the very long staircase to almost the top. It’s a short contest, compared with, say, football or even the archery I went to last week. 12 competitors each with 5 dives. By the end of the first 2 rounds it was obvious that the 2 Chinese divers are the ones to beat. By the 5th round it was a competition for bronze medal and at the end the Mexican diver won against the Italian diver. It was an very impressive competition, so much athleticism, precision and bravery in these divers.

We stayed for the medal ceremony, and was out of the stadium at after just around 1.5hrs. Tube home. Fantastic day out.

maze grill

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Woke up extremely early to pick up mm from heathrow. Dropped off her luggage, took a bit of a rest then headed out for lunch at Maze Grill, one of the restaurants in the Gordon Ramsay group. It’s a grill, so the speciality is steak. There’s a set lunch menu, 3 courses for £24, but we opted for the special steak — 25oz bone-in rib to share worked out to he £65. We had it medium rare, it came a little bit overdone. The flavour was really nice and we enjoyed it. Only shared a spinach side, didn’t have dessert. I had a glass of malbec. Walked it off the rest of the day, all the day to Covent Garden and back.

olympic archery

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I went to olympic archery competition at Lord’s yesterday. It’s nice to have an event so close to home. It normally takes me about 10mins to run there on my way to Regent’s Park, and walking it’s about 20mins. I was quite early so no delays with going through security and looking at the shops. There’s a small area where spectators could try out archery, and they just opened so no wait. My first 2 shots were inside the yellow zone, then I got distracted and my last 2 were outside in the red and blue zones.

My seat was very high up (3rd from top of stand) and right at the shooting line. It was wet and rainy and the seats were wet. It was a long session, with 10 matches in the first and second rounds. The course is 70m long and we could hear the shots, but like on TV had to rely on the screen to see where it hit the target. There were various competitors in both men’s and women’s competition from a great mix of countries including Norway, USA, India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia and 2 from Team GB. Interesting morning.

glorious greenwich

Canoeing, table tennis, weightlifting are the new sports I saw today. It’s also the cross country day of the equestrian event. Cross country is being held at Greenwich Park across the river from Olympic Park. Oh what a beautiful course, glorious.

first olympic weekend

Did some running in the morning in the showery weather, then settled for a day of Olympics on tv. So lucky that I have the BBC. Waking up on Saturday to comments that coverage of the opening ceremony in other countries weren’t as good was a bit shocking. NBC cutting the Abide with me segment was insulting and insensitive. I watched the whole ceremony live with no interruptions and sensible commentary.

On the BBC website, we’re supposed to be able to watch 24 channels of streaming coverage, although all it did was crash my flash plugin. I only have freeview so I have a limited of extra channels on my red button — during the day I have 3 channels in total, at night 4. Still, I’ve managed to catch 22 out of the 37 sports, which I think is wonderful. Some of them haven’t started, I’m hoping that I can at least watch a segment of every sport. The 22 so far:

  • archery
  • badminton
  • basketball
  • beach volleyball
  • boxing
  • canoe slalom
  • cycling – road
  • diving
  • equestrian
  • fencing
  • football
  • gymnastics
  • handball
  • hockey
  • judo
  • rowing
  • sailing
  • shooting
  • swimming
  • tennis
  • volleyball
  • water polo

Some of those were brief segments, most of the morning was watching Team GB lose in various sports. Again, it was cycling that got my attention, keen to not let yesterday’s men’s road race disappointment dwell. And wow, the women’s race was edge of seat stuff. Tactical attack, torrential rainfall and a sprint finish. In Beijing, the first British medal was by a female road cyclist and this time it’s no different, Lizzie Armitstead winning silver. So proud, so happy.

The evening turned better. Becky Adlington winning bronze, the men’s football team 3-1 against the UAE, news of preliminary successes for Ben Ainslie in sailing, the rowing team, boxing and eventing.

The biggest heartache is the news that Paula Radcliffe is out of the marathon through injury. She’s such a giant and role model that I’m truly distraught. I know she didn’t stand a chance, but she’s Paula, you know. Sigh.

The public row over empty seats continue, and I feel that the public should, and will, keep giving this issue the high attention it needs. Sounds like it’s not corporate sponsors but the Olympic “family” that are hogging all those seats, and without fail, they are the best seats. Someone need to be held accountable for this. Complete shambles.

olympic beach volleyball

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The plan was to watch all the Olympic games on TV, but the disappointment over the men’s road race took the steam out of that plan. I didn’t want to hear about how Cav didn’t get any medal all over the broadcast tonight. Idly, I clicked through the ticketing site half searching for returns and any games available. I wanted basketball, even though it’s too far away. Looked for events in this part of town — badminton at wembley, volleyball at earl’s court and beach volleyball at horse guards. It was 4pm, and there were tickets for beach volleyball at 8pm. They only give you 2mins to decide on whether to take the tickets, and it did take me the whole 2mins.

Horse Guard Parade is only 45mins away, but there wasn’t a lot of time. Had to get there early to physically collect the tickets and go through security. There was a lot of traffic too, so I didn’t get there till almost 6pm. The line for ticket collection took a whole hour! Security was fast though and I was inside, got some water and fish’n’chips and in my seat by the time the first game started.

The first game was men’s Brazil vs Norway. The stadium was quite full, except the usual sight of the best seats (Olympic “family” and sponsors) left empty. Disgusting really. My seat was behind one of the ends and not too high up.

The game was exciting, with the commentator drumming up the atmosphere, dancers coming on at intervals and lots of noise and music. Brazil is one of the favourites and won the game in 2 sets. The second game was women’s Switzerland vs Greece. Lots of vocal support for Greece, the game was won by Switzerland in 2 sets.

Game 3 was men’s USA vs South Africa. Great game, lots of athleticism and powerful spikes. A group of drunken dinosaurs were behind our seat and they were pretty loud. Didn’t matter, the whole stadium was loud. Game 4 was women’s USA vs Australia. It was already 11pm and pretty cold, I’d only brought my running jacket in case it rained and my teeth were chattering. The players also were feeling the cold, instead of the regular skimpy costumes, they were wearing warmer clothing. That was a thrilling match, obviously with the big names of Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor. Both USA teams won in 2 sets too.

The matches were finished at around 11.45pm. Got the bus home, by the time I’d showered it was 1am already. I’m glad I went, it was really interesting and exciting.

get ready

It’s Friday 27 July and the London 2012 Opening Ceremony will start in a few hours. The TV is decidedly tuned to BBC1, the Pimm’s is ready and the anticipation is building. Thinking back, I actually was in Singapore that day in July 2005 when the IOC announced that the 2012 Olympics will be held in London. It’s a bit surreal, that I can be here in person during this event. Yes, I complain about the various issues that have cropped up and am annoyed that my day-to-day life will be severely disrupted. But it’s hard not to get super, super excited. It’s such a huge event that the only reasonable thing to do is to get with the program and embrace the spirit. It will be something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Bring on London 2012. Go Team GB and best of luck to all athletes.

olympic torch relay

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I was thinking about whether to go, and the consensus from several people was to definitely go. It’s day 69 of the olympic torch relay, the last full day before it goes to the olympic park. It started today at Camden, moved east to Haringey, Islington, the City, south towards the south bank, Peckham, Lewisham, round Battersea Park, King’s Road, up towards Shepherd’s Bush, Westfield, Bayswater Road, Oxford Street, Regent’s Street, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and coming back to Hyde Park. A lot of those spots are so near me that there’s no excuse. Initially the plan was to go to Bayswater and the Hyde Park area, I ended up a bit further west at Holland Park. It was a good decision. The crowds weren’t that thick, there was plenty of shade and this was where the route doubled back.

I stood next to a nice lady who was there with her grandchildren. Her daughter had gotten men’s diving and canoeing, she was very excited. They were running late and the first we saw of the convoy was security and police started to congregate. At the head of the convoy were police motorcycles, followed by some runners and then the sponsor trucks. About 2-3mins later the actual torch convoy came by, police first, then a lone torchbearer surrounded by security, then a bunch of buses and cars following.

They headed towards Westfield, so we had about 45mins to wait till they came back. I walked around the shops and had half a pint of a very sharp and bitter beer. Other people congregated at an ice cream shop and inside Tesco’s.

I found another good, shady spot to wait for the return. The crowds were thin enough that I actually crossed over to the median and had a clear view. The group went by quickly and I, like a few others, ran after it. Each torchbearer ran for 300m, so I was able to catch a couple of changeovers. It was an easy bus trip home too, to catch the rest of the relay on tv. There’s a concert at Hyde Park tonight, but that’t not my cup of tea.

Most of the torchbearers are locals who contributed to the community through charity work, or soldiers, or emergency workers, or brave souls who battled illness or disablity. Some are celebrities or sportspeople. Kate Nesbitt who took the torch to Downing Street was the first woman to be awarded the Military Cross for her work in Afghanistan. I didn’t know who the ones were today, but I thought they were great. The whole event was impressive, moving and I’m so glad I went.

and so it begins

London 2012 kicked off…in Cardiff. Football starts before the opening ceremony, and since the games are played at grounds all over the country, the Millenium Stadium has the honour of hosting the first event. And it’s Team GB vs New Zealand women’s football. I hardly watch football, and I think it’s the first time I sat through an entire women’s game. It was a thrilling game, with many missed chances and lots of pressure. Team GB had the upper hand, and the goal that secured the 1-0 win was brilliant. Hoping this is a sign of more wins and medals for the team. I have nothing planned for the weekend, I’ll be glued to the TV with my cups of tea.