Monday 25 August 2008


Despite my initial doubts about these Olympics, as recorded in an earlier blog, (the human rights issues, Tibet, the smog, the cynicism about drug cheats etc), I am not too proud to say that I got it wrong.

The Beijing Olympics were, in my opinion, absolutely fantastic and I'm very sad that they have drawn to a close but extremely excited that London will be hosting the next Olympics in 2012.

So, what changed my mind? How was I so seduced into singing lyrical about it all now?

Well, firstly that opening ceremony. How could anyone not have been overawed by the sheer sumptuousness of the colours, the costumes, the choreography, the inventiveness of the movement that ebbed and flowed, creating tableau representing aspects of China's history?

And then, when the Games started for real, suddenly, dramatically and wonderfully, it shifted from being all about China and completely about the athletes and their events...

And on the second day, Team GB (sorry, Northern Ireland - it should, of course, be Team from The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland and sorry, also, to the Isle of Man etc. It would seem that giving an all-inclusive name for the team has not, as yet, been devised) got its first gold medal in the cycling road race, in the rain, which bodes well for 2012. Good idea for athletes to expect and cope with rain in Beijing because they'll get LOTS of it in 2012!

And then the medals just kept on coming at an alarming rate and I, like the majority of people, was gob smacked at just how well the GB team were doing and it wasn't just all the medals: so many athletes were in finals, sometimes coming fourth, which is pretty bloody good, performing personal bests or having a valuable taste of the Olympics, like Tom Daley, in preparation for 2012, or just being selected in the first place.

We are so used in Britain to thinking that when it comes to such things as world sport, we're very much the poor relations and losing, often badly, has become second nature to us. I'm thinking here particularly of the English football team. My heart sinks when I know that they're playing because I know what's going to happen and then I'll shake my head and wonder how so many talented footballers can hardly kick a football accurately on a football field, never mind win. Are they too pampered, too rich, or too wagged out to give a damn?

Try as I may not to be partisan, just wanting the best athlete to win, whatever country they represent, there's nothing quite like watching your own countryman/woman winning a medal, particularly a gold. I guess it's that primitive tribal instinct we all have of wanting our 'tribe' to win. And far better that countries compete like this instead of fighting each other. (I thought it was really sneaky of Russia to invade Georgia at the beginning of the games when the world's attention was elsewhere: it reminds me so much of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 when the Turkish army took advantage of an internal situation to cause utter devastation.)

But back to the Games. Because of the time difference, I didn't see too much of the action live but I did see most of the rowing because that was when I was having breakfast and it was wonderful to watch these races with the bows going forwards and backwards in a relentlessly challenging rhythm and how vital it was to get the timing right. Shouted myself hoarse, of course. My favourite image was when one of the GB coxless four pulled off his hat at the end of the race, when they had just grabbed gold, his long bleach-white hair cascading around his face in slow motion.

I also saw live the disputed Taekeedo (is that how you spell it?) match where the GB girl should have won her quarter-final because of her kick to her opponent's face (charming) but wasn't initially given the 2 marks for such a move, enabling her to win. The commentators were getting really excited about the prospect of controversy (so important in journalism these days) and the Chinese crowd were obviously getting agitated, thinking that their girl had won. It was really good that the decision was reversed but hardly surprising that the GB girl lost in the semi-final amidst a chorus of booing. However, she did win a bronze in the play off bout which was something of an achievement.

Another memory that stays with me is the amazing way that Usain Bolt sauntered past the finishing line in the 100 metres, striking his chest with pride. Now that really is a cool way to win. One thing that puzzled me, though, was where were all the bulky black American guys in the sprint races because they usually dominate. I must admit to wondering whether improved drugs testing has had a beneficial result in putting off the cheats. I don't know enough about the science of such tests and no doubt performance enhancing drugs are being/are already developed which are difficult to detect but I hope the technology to detect them is also being developed. There were only about 6 athletes who tested positive for drugs this Olympics, which has to be on the low side compared with previous Games, and it does give us some hope because when you suspect that cheats are winning, it devalues the Games. And I also think that drugs cheats should be banned for life, particularly given new evidence that the enhancing effects of such drugs remain long after a 2 year ban has been completed.

And now to the closing ceremony!

I was so determined to watch this ceremony, particularly the 8 minute GB slot, that I not only missed church but also my usual daily swim and John had to take Archie for his walk all by himself whilst I had a total Olympics fest.

I have to firstly mention Boris Johnson, because I was so chuffed that he was representing London and, for me, his eccentric, casual, slightly buffoonish manner was so refreshing to witness. "We're bringing pin-pong home!" he declared triumphantly, adding some humour into what was essentially a humourless Games. And this is where one of London's strengths lies: we're not going to get our faces so up our arses that we can't laugh at ourselves!

Having seen Boris Johnson on 'Have I got news for you' on a number of occasions, I've always had a sneaking suspicion that there was a steeliness to him that sometimes emerged briefly through all the buffoonery. I know he's made a few very public gaffs but at least the guy says it as he sees it, which is almost unheard of in a politician, so I hope he makes a good show as mayor of London.

And then we had the 8 minutes slot.

I already knew about the bus and David Beckham but I had no idea how it would all materialize, wondering how on earth it was going to match the grandeur (like an extravagant 1930's Hollywood movie) of the Chinese displays. Would there be hundreds of dancers in fancy costumes performing a ritualised dance routine, perhaps?

Of course not.

What we had was a pacy video reflecting aspects of London life, featuring a red double decker bus which appeared, as if by magic, in the stadium and a small group of dancers acting out the process of waiting for a bus by a zebra crossing. Perhaps it's because I'm British and it was all so familiar to me, but I absolutely adored it. It was low-key, very 'street theatre' (which we do so well) and it was immediately recognizable as reflecting ordinary life in Britain. So the pitch for the 2012 London Olympics was sending out an important message: the 2012 Olympics are going to be fun and we're not even going to try to present ourselves as something that we're not. For all the 'wow' factor of the Chinese routines in the opening and closing ceremonies, I doubt if anyone thought, for one minute, that what we were seeing was a reflection of typical Chinese life.

I'm not particularly a fan of the type of music that she sings, but Leona Lewis, dressed in a fantastic gold costume that so reminded me of Bodicea, and singing so beautifully was, to me, just breathtaking. Love them or hate them, reality shows are very popular in Britain so, again, the involvement of the X-Factor winner again reflected the country. And, of course, when Jimmy Page started to play his guitar with all the trademark Led Zepplin sound, with Leona Lewis belting out the vocals, I was ecstatic. We really do have a fantastic music tradition, second to none, and it was great to experience world class rock and roll in Beijing, promoting our own country.

The little girl stepping out of the bus and into the dance sequence again reflected our hope for the Games that the young will be inspired, and there was none of this 'we need a token child who can't actually sing but looks good' nonsense.

And, yes, David Beckham did look like a wooden top, albeit it very handsomely, and he's way past his best in terms of football, but the reaction from the crowd was wonderful because he's such a well loved and recognizable figure. And when he kicked the ball into the athlete's section and a Chinese athlete caught the ball, you could see on his face that he was absolutely delighted: a personal memory that will stay with him forever.

I then watched the beginning of the concert in London, after the Games had officially closed and that strikingly extravagant flame had been extinguished, and they would have to start with Queen's 'We will rock you' and 'We are the champions' because I love Queen's music and that sealed it for me: the Olympics now belong to us. Thank you and goodbye Beijing - we've got the Games now and we're going to show the world just what we can do well (and possibly badly!)

If you detect a hint of patriotism in this blog, then you are right. We have been so ground down with the negatives of this country, and I'm thinking here of the calamitous recent foreign policy that has severely affected Iraq and Afganistan and the foul behaviour of some of our young people abroad, on holiday, that it's a real joy to think positively, at long last. We have something to look forward to in the 2012 Olympics. It's a great responsibility but also a great privilege and an opportunity for our young to be inspired in a positive way and, hopefully, to become fitter.

I must add a word of caution here because I remember only too well what happened on July 8th, just a day after we were given the 2012 Games. I was so happy that I put my Union Jack flag on my car and enjoyed hearing the swish as I drove along, on that Thursday, to my Bible Study group. We had just started when one of our members received a mobile phone call from her daughter, who lives in London. London was under terrorist attack, bombs had been exploded and it was a national emergency.

We immediately put the television on and saw, with our own eyes, the chaotic scenes at the the underground and the area where the bus was destroyed. At this time, we had no idea how extensive the attacks were and we were all horrified. Lou lives in London and I had to really suppress my desire to worry about her.

It's times like this that I'm so grateful that I am a Christian and can draw upon a supernatural strength. I firmly believe that when your time on this earth is up, then there's nothing you can do about it. (You might ask why a loving God allows such things to happen but I am in no doubt that the terrible things that happen in this world are meant to be a wake up call for those of us still alive: to see that there are more important things than life itself and to examine ourselves and consider that maybe we humans can't do everything for ourselves. Life on earth for Jesus was pretty tough so why should we imagine that it won't be for us? This isn't heaven, after all.)

So, my main concern for the 2012 Olympics is the threat of terrorist attacks but I will not allow it to dominate my thoughts. Probably the concern that the venues won't be ready on time is another issue but if the Greeks could manage it (and I've lived in Cyprus so I know how slowly things are usually done in Mediterranean countries) then I'm sure we can. And perhaps the government might see fit to encourage an expansion of the school curriculum to include training in the practical skills that not only will be necessary for a successful 2012 Games e.g. carpentry, construction work, engineering, professionalism in the service industries (a good waiter is worth his/her weight in gold as is a friendly, efficient hotel receptionist, top class chefs - the list is endless) but also for life before and after the Games.

Yeah, and pigs might fly!

By the way, I took the flag off my car before returning home on that awful Thursday and a phone call to Lou confirmed that she was okay. How many times have I said this in my blogs? - that each day is precious because you don't know what the next day will bring. 'Seize the day' and all that. Sometimes it's hard work but it's the best way to live.

Of course, now we have the big debate, which I'm enjoying immensely, about whether the London 8 minute slot was a success or a failure and whether having the Games is a scandalous waste of money: people like Arthur Smith and Peter Hitchens banging on about how awful it all is. Luckily, we live in a democracy so we can have such debates but, for myself, I think that the feel-good-factor that has accompanied the Beijing Games and the excitement and anticipation of 2012 is invaluable to a country that has had very little to smile about otherwise.

And finally, one of the things that struck me with Beijing was how little cultural diversity there appeared to be - everyone looked distinctly Chinese - in sharp contrast to the cultural diversity reflected in the London 8 minute slot. So I think that it's about time that we stopped criticizing the mix of cultures in Britain and celebrate it instead.

And now to my suggestions for the London 2012 Games!

1. London and all the other venues should be cleaned up and the careless habit of littering addressed. We already have the legal powers to do so so let's use them.

2. Public transport should become first-class. (Can't help but laugh at this suggestion.)

3. Knife crime and gang culture in London should also be targeted and these 'sink estates' revitalized. Let's give disaffected youngsters positive things to do.

4. It goes without saying that security should be tight, tight, tight

5. Opening and closing ceremonies should be very different from Beijing. I hear that Tracy Kelly is in charge and after hearing a programme about her on Radio 4, she seems to be an exciting choice, keen to involve communities. In fact, I did hear that it's under consideration that the ceremonies will not be restricted to the main auditorium and I think that that's an excellent idea.

6. In this spirit of far more audience participation, why not have Elton John in the middle of the stadium with his enormous white piano and large screens with the words displayed so that there could be an enormous sing-along? (This idea has been received with mixed reactions but I stick to it.)

7. Also, those gorgeous Scottish soldiers in kilts playing bagpipes would surely be spectacular, plus 'River Dance' dancing. In fact, traditional entertainment from all corners of the British Isles etc so everyone feels that they are being represented and the diversity of these small islands celebrated.

8. I hope that Paula Radcliffe has another baby and then concentrates on training for the London Olympics - it could be third time lucky for her: she certainly deserves it.

9. Finally, no more pictures of Myra Hindley, thank you very much, and PLEASE keep Jade Goody out of it. I hope she recovers from the cancer that she has been diagnosed with but the revelation of her illness on reality TV and the subsequent numerous 'exclusive' interviews in the trash mags is, in my opinion, tacky. Come on, folks, we all know that there are some aspects of our culture that should not get the oxygen of publicity. It's not a question of trying to hide things - rather an emphasis on what is positive, which is so often neglected by our media. Bad news travels fast but good news lifts the spirit.

If you disagree with any of this, which is, after all, only my opinion, then leave a comment and we can have a good old barny about it!


Thursday 21 August 2008

Sunday 17 August 2008



We've had such a lovely few days that I wanted to write about them:-


Picked Lou up from the station and we went to THE BLACK BOY PUB, which is my favourite pub in Winchester (serves v good food) and sat outside under the canopy and had coffee. It was chucking it down so we stayed put and had even more coffee. Archie (dog!) was with us and being an absolute pain so we bribed him with a stream of omega biscuits just so we could chat in peace.

(THE BLACK BOY pub, by the way, is utterly unique- no noisy apparatus like gambling machines, loud music etc - it's a warren of interesting rooms splattered with settees, pictures, posters, books and memorabilia, including a stuffed donkey and a stuffed baboon and two live dogs, and the outside L-shaped area is great for us smokers. It also has, I have to tell you with relish, an old-fashioned chocolate minstrels machine and for 20 pence you can get about 5 minstrels (which obviously isn't enough - but the bar staff will happily give you plenty of change) and I have been know to put as much as 80 pence in this wonderful machine!)

The rain stopped and we took Archie for a walk along THE RIVER ITCHEN. It's absolutely beautiful down there: all part of Winchester College grounds and they maintain it really well (they are dredging the river at the moment - essential to get rid of the silt and so avoid too much of a build up of water and prevent the kind of flooding that we now see regularly in the UK).

There are usually swans and ducks on that part of the river but even they dislike the present murky water. But all around are trees and water meadows and a wildlife area (where deer live) and it's so peaceful and soothing to the nerves apart from the steady distant hum from the M3 (thank you government planners - a tunnel would have been far more appropriate.) There's St Catherine's Hill beyond and the Cathedral and St Cross Hospice on the other side of the river, plus very attractive homes along and near to the river.

It's our favourite walk and if we win the National Lottery, I'd like to live there.

(A few weeks ago, Archie and I were walking past the large Edwardian/Victorian house at the end of the private road just before the tennis courts, and there was a party in full swing outside (probably an end of A level exams celebration) and Bob Marley's 'No woman, no pain' was blaring out. John and I had just returned from the Essaouira Gnawa and World Music Festival and had seen one of Bob Marley's sons - Ky-mani - wow the audience and I was tempted to go along and say: 'Hey you guys, I've just seen Ky-Mani Marley perform live, including the track you've been playing.' But time was pressing on and I didn't but note to self: next time I take Archie round there, I'll give them a daftnotstupid card so they can check out John's recording of Ky-mani. Why have blogs and You Tube sites and not promote them!)


Such a busy day having fun: shopping, coffees, manicures, pedicures etc etc. We were all ready for an early night: John had flown in from America in the morning and Lou and I were pretty shattered but we had been invited to the official opening of LOOMINELLIE'S at the end of Stockbridge Road so we thought we'd pop along there, say 'hi' to Ellie, grab a take away from Shaad (Indian takeaway) on Stockbridge Road, watch The Tudors on BBC2 and have an early night. Oh,'the best laid plans of mice and men!' The three of us staggered home, clutching take away bag, well after 10 0'clock, having met friends along the way and generally behaving like tipsy teenagers. It was brilliant! Never had Stockbridge Road as 'the place' to be, but it was on Friday night.

LOOMINELLIE is a small textile company, owned and run by a friend of ours, Ellie Gosse, whose family home is just a few houses down from us. Having studied textiles in London, Ellie set up her own business after graduation designing and producing exquisite scarves, pashmenas, cushions and wall hangings, originally working from her boy-friend's house and then her parents. But she has now set up shop in a workshop behind the row of shops on Stockbridge Road and Friday Night's opening was a celebration of this.

If you like beautiful textiles which are a dream to touch, wear, clutch, look at, all handmade and original and not costing the earth, then Ellie's the designer for you.

Check out her website at: Loominellie - Bespoke handmade textiles

You won't be disappointed but do it soon before she becomes mega-popular! We've got in quick: I bought a beautiful purple scarf which looks totally different on the other side so I have two scarves in one; Lou bought a purple/light green lavender cushion which smells divine; and John is going to order a scarf when he 'gets round to it'.

Anyway, the evening was a great success. How lucky we all were - Friday was the only day that week that it didn't rain so we were able to be outside in the large courtyard, which filled up pretty quickly. We never got round to the barbecue because we were too busy drinking the continual glasses of champagne and wine that seem to appear in our hands, as if by magic, on a regular basis.

And when we started to chatting to Simon and Juliette, who are neighbours of Ellie, we found that we had so much in common and so much to chat about, that we forgot all about our originals plans. And, of course, when they expressed an interest in the Essaouira Festival, caution, time, decorum and 'polite conversation' was thrown to the wind. I have a sneaking suspicion that I was slightly drunk, but what the heck - it doesn't happen often in my austere, controlled life (!!!)

The row of shops on that section of Stockbridge Road is actually very useful. It consists of:-

*NFU Mutual

*Cartridge Plus

*Joanne's Florist (I get a lot of plants and vases from here.)

*The Heather Mitchell Beauty Clinic

*Five Star Cleaning

*Pickards/Patel's Newsagents

*Hair Nouveau

*An empty shop propped up by scaffolding (because the owner, a building company, owns this plus many of the other buildings with a view to knocking the whole lot down to build flats!!!)

*Ripples Bathroom Shop

*Shaad (Indian take-away - superb)

*Jade Garden Chinese take-away

*Rapport hairdressers

*Direct Denture Care (luckily, don't need this shop yet and I hope I never do!)


I can't remember the last time I felt as bad as this after an evening out (or in). Could hardly talk, standing upright was difficult and everyone seemed to be shouting. Revived briefly to cheer the GB rowing teams to either victory or near victory (what an exciting sport to watch - it would seem that race strategy is as important as fitness and I found myself swaying in time with the movement of the prows)and then sank back into self-pity and self-admonition.

This was hardly the day to see MAMMA MIA at the cinema but I'd already booked the tickets and so off Lou and I went in the afternoon. 'It's going to be LOUD!' I complained, but she managed to chivvy me along.

As it was, the film was an absolute hoot and I laughed and sang and swayed and tapped my feet and generally smiled happily throughout. I'm not ashamed to admit that I've always liked Abba's music - it has a unique style and it seems to hit the 'feel good factor' spot and boy do we all need that! And the film is such good fun - worth at least another watch. I reckon it's the kind of film that you want to watch whenever you need cheering up, so the DVD sales will be phenomenal. And who would have thought that such serious actors like Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosman and Colin Firth would be game for such a film and carry it off brilliantly. And the very best part?...probably Pierce Brosman taking off his shirt...or am I being terribly sexist?


A day of recovery!!! I wish someone could invent an alcoholic drink that doesn't leave you with a hangover. What's that I hear you say? 'Don't drink so much next time.' Very good advice.

And, finally, happy birthday to all of you with a birthday on this day - apparently it's very lucky to be born on August 17th.

Sunday 3 August 2008


There are some crimes which stick in the gullet, and the murder of the two young honeymooners in Antigua is one of them. How could anyone do that to them? It beggars belief. Heaven knows what their family and friends are feeling at the moment. In religious terms, it shows yet again what a fallen world we live in, but that doesn't make the heart ache any easier to bare. My prayers go out to them. It's the only thing I can do. And yet again, I am reminded that we need to live each day as fully as we can because we never know know what's just round the corner for each of us.


Last week, I found a lovely little shot's glass in the Peter Symonds playing field (walking Archie). I tried to take it to the office but no-one was there (probably because it's the summer holidays) so I've brought it home to keep it safely here.

It has an inscription on it:-


(heart picture)


15 juillet 2006

If it belongs to you or anyone you know, please let me know so I can send it home to its rightful owner.

HELP !!! Lost blogs !!!

I can hardly believe this. Two of my favourite blogs are missing:-




My apologies if you've come to this blog from one of the daftnotstupid sites for either of these blogs. I shall have to ask the daftnotstupid technical expert to try to locate them. And while he does so, I shall go into the field opposite and SCREAM!!!

Also, not all of the translations are working. So, it'll mean a very long scream!!!

Perhaps Bill Gates would like to tell me, personally, why his software sometimes/often doesn't work despite the fact that he's made mega-bucks selling it to people like me.


The daftnotstupid technician has sorted it all out.

1. My blog had run out of space so earlier blogs weren't visible. My technician
has created more space so that's rectified now.

2. XMAS NIGHT LILA is actually on the daftnotstupid blog.

3.The translations are working (they look really impressive!). The problem was that I was trying to skip from one translation to another.

4. Apparently, Google and my Apple computer are nothing to do with Bill Gates so I shouldn't really blame him! However, Microsoft Words can still be tricky on my computer, so the criticism still stands. He's big enough, powerful enough and rich enough to accommodate such criticism and, anyway, I guess he'll never read this blog (!!!) but if he did (!!!) he can leave a comment!!!

Friday 1 August 2008


* Watched a very silly but highly entertaining movie on Saturday night - EUROTRIP - a teen comedy about four High School students who cause mayhem in Europe searching for an attractive German e-mail pal of one of the kids. But the star performance and what makes me want to see this film again was Matt Damon playing a skin-head heavy rocker guitarist/lead singer. Worth watching the whole film for this performance. Boy can that guy act/sing.

* And on Wednesday night watched FREAKY FRIDAY, with Jamie lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan and I laughed so much I was almost howling. Brilliant idea to temporarily have the uptight mum in the body of the bolshy teenager and vice versa. But also very touching as each comes to understand how the other ticks.

Both actors were brilliant but the real surprise to me was Lindsay Lohan. All I knew about her before I watched this film was that she was a wild party girl who gets into lots of trouble. Pity if that's true because the girl can act and has a real screen presence. I hope we see more of her on the screen rather than in Heat magazine etc. Which reminds me - I still haven't watched any of this years Big Brother. I'm truly proud of myself.

* Was mesmerised by the first episode of HOUSE OF SADDAM on BBC 2 on Wednesday: fascinating to have such a drama and although it's fiction I'm sure the 'essence' of Saddam's character is there (incredible performance by Igal Naor - who, ironically, is actually an Israeli actor) and it's not only interesting but also educational to see events from another perspective, including the political realities and the strong role of family in Iraq, and Sadam's hatred of Iran.

As I watched, I was struck by how this drama reminded me of a Shakespearean tragedy in not just the brutal consequences for so many of those involved but also the knock-on effect for Iraq, Iran and rest of the world.

Not that I see Saddam Hussein as a Shakespearean tragic hero. Shakespeare's heroes were men who were in some way brilliant (in a positive way) but had a flaw that proved to be fatal. Saddam is more like a Shakespearean villain, oozing with evil thoughts and deeds but with brief hints of humanity and that came over most effectively in this drama.

* Have just finished watching the DVD box set of DAMAGES, staring Glen Close as a very tough lawyer, not frightened to resort to violence if necessary, who pursues a wealthy business man for damages for his ex-employees. They had lost everything because of his shady dealings and she is determined to squeeze as much money out of him as possible. It does not present the legal system in a flattering light (oh, what a surprise!) and as a drama it works very well, with lots of flashbacks and twists and turns. You really have no idea how things will turn out until the very end. I'm hoping that they make a second series.