Saturday, 29 September 2012

Out and About: Third anniversary at Duck and Waffle

As reported for Florence Finds, Mr G and I went to Duck and Waffle for our third anniversary. How time flies, eh?

Duck and Waffle is situated on level 40 of the Heron Tower on Bishopsgate, above the London Branch of Sushi Samba. I visited the latter for work reasons and insisted that Mr G take me back for a special dinner at some point. The problem? He doesn't eat fish. Hmm. Sushi becomes slightly less fun if you can't eat it. I researched the venue a little bit more and then discovered Duck and Waffle's menu was much more appealing for a non-fish eater, and so we set the date for our 3rd wedding anniversary, last week.

On arrival we had to ring a door bell at the big glass entrance at floor level at which point a burly, surly doorman came out and asked questions as if we were under CIA interrogation before even allowing us past the rope, let alone through the door. We gritted our teeth and stuck with it as I knew that the meet-and-greet and serving staff in the actual venue are much more polite, welcoming and humble, and the views and setting were worth it. After little bit of queuing (despite having made reservations and confirmed them, twice), being asked to "stand over there" (apparently a VIP queue or something) and being jostled slightly by other perturbed street-queuers, we were in and waiting for the lift. From this point onwards our experience got much better. In hindsight I understand that in the building with such controlled and limited access there needs to be a strict entry system, but I do feel that there are nicer ways to go about implementing and enforcing it.

The high-speed, glass, exterior lift is not for the faint hearted but you get some great views of the City on the way up so do try to open your eyes, even for just a few seconds. On arrival at level forty we were met by the welcome staff and seated in the "open" bar and talked through the "concept". Rather than a traditional bar area (i.e. a counter, mixologists standing behind it, servers taking orders or you standing at the bar to order a drink) the bar is more of a central work station around which the bar tenders stand to mix up your concoctions to order. There is a short, but sweet, cocktail menu available, but the idea is that you are able to interact with the bar tenders so they can make your drink to your specifications. Essentially you are involved in, and close to, the process. Well, this is how I see it anyway. I asked for a "Cosmopolitan (obviously) with an update". It came back with a, and I quote "smooth peach undertone and a dry, apple aftertaste". Basically, it was gooooood.

Sunset over London

On being seated at a table (less than 20 cm from one of the floor to ceiling windows – again not for the faint hearted) we were talked through the concept of the menu. Everything is intended to be shared and eaten all together, a bit like tapas. So we got stuck in and ordered our little hearts out! We started with mini battered sausages with mustard and pea and mint arancini, followed by duck rillette with sourdough bread, beer chutney and pistachios and the foie gras "all day breakfast". Next up were the lamb cutlets accompanied by smoked aubergine and the dish from which the restaurant obviously takes its name, the Duck and Waffle (crispy leg confit, fried duck egg, mustard maple syrup on a big fluffy waffle).

With all that on the table our attention was diverted away the views out over the east London and back towards the sun setting over the west end and toward the task at hand – consuming all that rich food. Thankfully, although there was a lot on the table, the actual portions aren't massive which means that you can order more than you would normally, so you can try as many dishes as possible, but you don't feel like you've over indulged – well not too much! We finished off with a shared dessert – gooey, appley, mapley, ice creamy, yummness in a pan – a possible rival to the tipsy pudding at Dinner and a glass of home-grown Sussex bubbly.
Considering how much we ordered and the unusual setting I was surprised at the bill. I thought it would have been much more. To clarify, it's not a cheap and cheerful dining option, but all factors considered I felt that it was more than reasonable. So, seeing as they now have 24 hour dining in place, and it's not too outlandishly priced – this perhaps isn't just a restaurant for special occasions as I once thought, but also somewhere to hole up in the cold winter months when you miss your last train and you need some food and alcohol to see you through until morning. Or maybe that's just me...

Overall, if you can get past the rude door staff and the uncivilised queuing system, it's worth it for some great views, some unusual food and some great cocktails on the highest roof terrace in Europe.
Click here for the website  and to book, and here for their Facebook page which contains some cool photos.

My only warning: beware of the Sushi Samba bar area clientele on traditional city drinking nights (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) – city suits and wannabe TOWIE cast made it rather unpleasant on my first visit. Thankfully these types tended to steer clear of the dining areas and stuck to the bars and are non-existent on weekends!

Looking at Sushi Samba from Duck and Waffle's private room

Friday, 21 September 2012

Obsessed with H&M

I've been in love with both H&M and Lana del Rey for some time.

H&M has been very close to the top of my list of fave high street shops for years now, with the designer collaborations only enhancing my love collection by collection. Where other stores choose celebs to design their ranges (yes DP I'm looking at you – Kartrashians? Really?), I love that H&M has designers and fashion industry professionals on their collaborations resume. I realise that LDR isn't a designer though, but for this season I'll make an exception!

Lana Del Rey's album has been on constant replay on my earphones, in my car and at home since the day it was released. I love her music, her voice and (although contrived) her persona. I've devoured all the press coverage around the various controversies related to her record label and performances from day one, all of which does not dampen my love for the music, I hasten to add.

Anyway, this little video just tuned my love of both in to an obsession. I love the collection, the styling, the staging, the music (it reminds me of my Granddad) and the humour.

See the Lana Del Rey Blue Velvet H&M advert here.

To add fuel to the obsession, how cool is this little micro-site for the Anna Dello Russo accessories line? So clever! I am super sad, though, that none of her wacky headpieces were replicated in the line. Hmph.

In my humble opinion H&M is on FIRE this season.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Missing: One Husband

Missing: One Husband

Last seen: At the altar, exactly three years ago.

Appearance: Once looked like a combination of all of WestlifeGary Barlow and a BBC newsreader. Now expected to have a weary look, considerable eye bags and (non-designer) stubble.

Answers to: Griff, Gruff, Officer Nick, PC Griff, PC Gruff, Mr G, Number One Son, Golden Child.

Suspected location: Clues as to his whereabouts could include a trail of dirty socks, loose change and Mars bar wrappers.

Key suspects: We believe he is being held captive by the MPS until a ransom of One Soul is received.

If found: Will likely be asleep, shake vigorously and please return to me asap. He owes me an eternity ring!

Happy 3rd Anniversary Mr G!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Out and about: Quirky Cocktail masterclass at Harvey Nichols

Last Sunday, at 9.25am, after a night bopping at Lady Gaga you would be forgiven for thinking that you’d find me snuggled up in bed. In actual fact you would have found me loitering outside the staff entrance of the Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor Bar with my lovely Disney Princesses waiting for our cocktail masterclass, a birthday present/experience for Claire from Katy and me.

Our homemade voucher for Claire
  Because the restaurant opens a bit later on a Sunday we couldn’t walk through the store (probably a good thing!) so we were ushered through the staff entrance by the guy that turned out to be our masterclass tutor, Stani, up to the Fifth Floor and in to the rather lovely bar area. Hot pink and lime green is now my favourite colour combination. We had it entirely to ourselves for a few minutes and it felt like we were behind the scenes on a TV show or backstage at the theatre so I’m not going to lie, we got a bit over excited we took advantage and posed like idiots all over the chaise lounges and bar stools. Not cool. Was fun.

Eventually we all settled down, helped ourselves to the pastries, ordered some teas and coffees from the waiter that, embarrassingly, appeared from nowhere and waited for the other participants to arrive.

Once we were all assembled we discovered that the rest of the group consisted of four couples on dates – what is it with my mates and I choosing activities that others choose to do with their significant others?  Awkward!

Anyway, Stani commenced his briefing, including caveats such as “if I get too much for you, you must tell me to stop” and it became clear that we were in for a fun-filled morning. Even before the alcohol he had us sniggering like naughty school girls and crying with laughter in our breakfast booth. Just what you want on a special Sunday morning date – three giggly drunk girls heckling the tutor!
We then made our way to the bar (diamante studs, white leather and pink neon lights – sounds hideous, looks amazing) to our lecture stations, complete with name plates, note paper, recipe lists and pens, and Stani talked us through some cocktail making essentials, namely picking high-quality spirits, working with the best tools, selecting superior fruit juices and mixers and understanding the right methods for preparing the drink.

Cocktail Kings!
A few demonstrations of equipment usage, a sniff of this that and the other, a quick taste test or four and then we were in to our first of the Quirky Cocktails on the list: the Pink Chelsea. I won’t spill the story as to how and why this got its name, but I will tell you that with all the lovely ingredients I knew it was going to be a good one, but it’s very probably my new favourite cocktail. Definitely one I’ll be making at home.

Pink Chelsea. Super yum!
Before we had a chance to finish it the second cocktail demonstration was well underway.  The Rocker Margarita was an intriguing take on the classic margarita flavours with the addition of rocket leaves. Sounds weird, tastes YUM!

The third item on our cocktail menu was another interesting one, entitled the Limousine. If the Pink Chelsea was a refreshing appetizer, and the rocker margarita was a sweet and savoury salad-y drink (weird but wonderful), this was definitely pudding! A creamy cocktail with a palate-cleansing shot of bubbly on the side was a great way to end.

After the three demonstrations we then had the opportunity to get behind the bar one or two at a time and make like Tom Cruise. After a quick safety briefing (i.e. don’t shake like a nutter and knock over our VERY expensive bottles!) and a few hilarious stories about some minor behind-the-bar disasters, Stani and his lovely assistant Chris asked us individually about our favourite drinks, what kind of things we had in our cupboards and what kinds of flavours we liked and then we went on to make a variety of different cocktails. Some of us went for classics, some made bespoke drinks and some of us were inspired by the bar’s own cocktail menu.

Mixing it up!
We all know how I love a Cosmopolitan but I also wanted to try something different, so in the end we went for a Cosmo with a twist: a little dash of egg white to give it a creamy finish, which was a nice change. Everyone made something different so we had great fun wandering the bar (because now, after five or so cocktails we were all besties!) sampling each other’s concoctions.

A short de-brief and a quick re-group where we swapped recipes and we were showed through to the restaurant for a quick, light lunch.

It was a two course set menu which started with a seriously tasty tomato soup, and was followed by a creamy chicken and sweetcorn risotto. Which, was perfect for sobering us up slightly!

Stani presented us with our personalised certificates once we were finished at which point the course came to a close.

Obviously we took ourselves back to the bar to sample a few more delights from the cocktail list and then by about 3.00pm we were ready to leave for some serious sofa surfing.

At about 10pm that night my hangover kicked in.

Click here for more details and to book. I recommend that you do!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Born this Way Ball

Whether you are a fan or not, you have to give credit where it's due. She's a damn good performer. Christina, Jessie and Mariah get out there and rock the vocals. Britney (back in the day) and innumerable girl groups  get out there and bust the moves, but there's no denying that Gaga gets out there and smashes them both... at the same time. LIVE! The only other female pop performer (leaving musical theatre artists aside) I've seen with those kind of skills is Beyonce, and, oh, look, they paired up. Twice!

I think you either love Gaga or hate her. I don't think you can be ambivalent about her, but correct me if I'm wrong? I for that matter love her. I love her music, her outfit creations and her fragility. I love her "brand", oddity and crazy. But most of all I love her message. This whole tour was called the Born This Way Ball, following on from The Monster Ball tour a few years back (Wikipedia has a short synopsis here). Where The Monster Ball was a story about the long journey of striving for fame and fortune and, unfortunately, all the crazy that goes with it when you arrive at your destination, this was a spectacle in tribute to individuality, diversity and acceptance.

Listen to the words of Born This Way, Hair and Bad Kids and they're all about being proud of who you are, what you do and why you do it. I felt like this was the message. I feel like Gaga always has a message! I feel like everything she says/does/tweets/wears/inks on her arm is deliberate and controlled. I feel like that is a good thing. I like it.

The show was set in with a futuristic tone, narrated by a Holly-esque hologram (a reference lost on you if you weren't a Red Dwarf fan) called Mother G.O.A.T and was full to the brim of political and societal references (a song in tribute to Princess Diana? Hmmm) . I chose to ignore those and listen to the points she made about self affirmation and pride, so let's not get in to it! I'm no music, politics or arts critic, I'm just a Gaga fan, so I can't give you any critical review on the content , I can just tell you that I loved it for just being Lady Gaga's own personal brand of Bonkers (yes that's a capital B). Outrageously, comically, heart-warmingly Bonkers. Her outfits. Her choreography. Her random commentary. The staging. The dancers. The star-struck fans that she pulled up on stage. The fact that she was born from an inflatable zipped-up vagina (that looked suspiciously like a giant Christmas turkey) and morphed in to a motorbike. The fact that she rifled through the debris that her super-die-hard fans threw on to the stage, found a t-shirt and wore it, but found a Barbie and drop-kicked it to the side (I too hate Barbie!)! The tributes she made to other great artists. The fact that she ran around like a crazy person waving a Union Flag. The fact that she thanked us profusely and repeatedly for coming to see her show. The fact that she continues to show her nay-sayers that they were wrong to put her down and tell her she would never succeed. So ner... basically!

After a summer of feeling happy, full of pride and beans and being surrounded by positivity and optimism with sporting role models from the Olympics and Paralympics all over the media, seeing Lady Gaga back on a stage re-affirming that positivity, self-worth, equality, diversity and love is worth fighting for and screaming out loud for, I felt even more energised. I wish they'd helicoptered her across London (she was performing at Twickenham) after her Sunday night show to the Olympic stadium to round off the closing ceremony instead of Rihanna. But that's a whole other issue.  

Very excited for Art Pop to arrive and her promotional activities (a.k.a. controversy and outrage in the Daily Mail most days!) to kick off.... is it too soon for countdown sleeps?

Long Live Lady Gaga! Long live crazy.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Out (Up) and about: Up at the O2

A few weeks ago I thought it would be clever to book tickets for Up at the O2. It didn't occur to me that being scared of heights it might be a bad idea. Or that I'm physical activity-averse and it might require some hefty physical input. Nope. I ploughed straight in, roped in my friend Kim (a fellow Wharf-dweller) and booked us up for the 8pm slot last Wednesday. People asked us why. We said "why not?"

It wasn't until the day before when we got a reminder email that we also asked ourselves "uh, why are we doing this?"

It turned out we needn't have worried! We turned up at Base Camp at the required 15 minutes before departure and were issued with clipboards, pens, "if you fall off you can't sue us" forms to sign and the obligatory information about filming and photography so as to flog it to you at the end. Our guide came in introduced himself, talked us through the forms and the whereabouts of the loos, cracked a few jokes about being scared of heights and falling off and then hit play on their safety instruction video which was a tongue-in-cheek take on a video diary from an arctic explorer at Everest Base Camp. This made me feel much, much better. If they weren't taking it too seriously then I shouldn’t be too worried about the heights and safety.

Climbing gear

After the safety video we were furnished with jumpsuits (with inbuilt camera and phone pockets), harnesses, caribiners and a locker for our belongings. Everyone swiftly put it all on. And then swiftly took it all back off again when the instructor told us to start again and showing everyone individually how to don the harness properly. Ah, so they ARE paying attention to safety after all!

We then lined up and had a quick demonstration about how to lock on and off of the safety wire with our harness and how to move the clip correctly and then we were off!

The start is incredibly steep and requires a bit of effort to get up it and then it levels off slightly and is actually quite fun.

The Ascent
We took it slow as there was a big group and we had to travel at the same pace (even though Kim and I were leading the group - err, obvs!) so there was a lot of time to take in the view and the surroundings.
The walkway itself is bouncy and deliberately so, to replicate how the material of the O2 canopy might feel. Clever! We got told off for bouncing on it. Not clever. We also earned some other clever little factlets we were told we're about the construction. As it was originally created for the millennium it's a tribute to time: there are twelve posts that hold the canopy aloft to replicate the twelve numbers on a clock, the circumference is exactly 365 metres to represent the days of the year and the highest point of the dome is 52 metres to represent the weeks of the year. And we all thought it was just a big tent!
On reaching the "summit" or the viewing platform, you are disconnected from the safety wire and free to wander. At this point Kim and I noticed that everyone else was in a couple or on a date. Who'd have thought the top of the O2 was a place for romance?
on the hoome straight...
I suppose the lovely views over part of the city and across the river to Canary Wharf in all it's luminescent glory (including the nightly light show on the Pan Peninsula buildings) is a great setting for a romantic stroll! We could also see the Orbit structure over in the Olympic park glowing red and firey in the distance. I'd like to head back during daylight or at sunset to catch a different perspective of the city.
After a little while at the top, and a few photos (I forgot my camera so my iPhone pics are all I have unfortunately, so please excuse the quality) and we were locked back on to the wire and ready to begin our steep descent.
On reaching the end our lockers had magically arrived so we disrobed, handed back our equipment, visited the gift shop (obvs) to check out our videos (I looked ridiculous, and so didn't purchase), said our goodbyes to our guide Gary (he was a bit of a dude!) and we were on our way home to bed!
From start to finish I think the whole experience took less than two hours, was really well organised and was very reasonably priced. For more information and to book please click here.
If you're looking for something fun, different or, apparently , romantic to do this autumn I would definitely recommend it.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Smells like trouble

Recently I've had a bit of an Obsession (ooo, clever!) with perfume adverts. Adverts in print, on the TV, in store, on billboards. I'm not interested in buying the stuff, I have plenty to be getting on with, but all of a sudden I've taken a keen interest in the branding, the message, the "face", the bottle, the composition... I wonder why.

Maybe all this living in a cross between a squat and a building site is leaving me in need of some glamour and glitz? Maybe because I feel rough as old boots right now and I feel like I need a radical make over show to come round and sort me out! Who knows.

My current faves in the advertising stakes? Well, they're also two of my top three fave smell-nices right now as well: Coco Mademoiselle (which I chose to wear for my wedding) and Miss Dior Cherie (just for the record the other is Viktor and Rolf FlowerBomb).

I can't decide which of the two I like more, they're both so similar, not just the names, bottles and actual aromas but also the adverts. The soft lighting, focus and colours. A beautiful cityscape and a stunning apartment. Soft curls, luscious (bare) skin, sultry vocals, a rather lovely co-star, crisp white sheets... they're both so girly girly girly. But do I prefer Natalie Portman and the LBD, the bow tie, the shades, the bath and the roses or Keira Knightley and the jumpsuit and matching helmet, bike and boots with that amazing bob?

If I had to call it, if I really really had to, I think it has to be Chanel.

Always Chanel!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


Following on from my last two posts about the Olympics and optimism in general it seems only fitting that I post something about the Paralympics. But what to say? I'm not sure I have the words in me.

I didn’t really want to do a “highlights” post, as I didn’t want it to be a comparison to the Olympics in my mind. I mean, really, what could compare to those amazing days? Well, I think I was wrong, the full eleven days of the Paralympics was just one big positivity trip. The whole event was just full of elation, triumph over adversity, personal achievements and national pride, but all in all a massive tribute to positive mental attitude. Everyone is writing about how the Paralympics changed society’s attitude toward those with disabilities, has created a whole new world of role models and raised awareness about a number of worthy causes. Of course I recognise that, but for me, it goes even deeper and perhaps that’s what I should write about?

Honestly, I think the Olympics changed Britain and the British forever. They made it ok to be proud of London and the UK, made it ok to be patriotic, made it ok to be happy. The Paralympics cemented those feelings, and then built a great big skyscraper on top of the Olympic foundations. It’s not just ok to be proud of Britain, it’s ok to celebrate Britain, what and who we are, and what we’ve done (let’s not forget, we conceived the Paralympics). It’s ok to scream our patriotic love from the rooftops of London. It’s ok to radiate happiness and positivity and ignore the weather. It’s ok to speak to strangers on the Tube. Crumbs.

If the Olympics was about the general feeling around the event as a whole, for me, the Paralympics was about the Paralympians as individuals, regardless of the team colours they were wearing. Basically, where the Olympics was about the 'macro' and affecting society, the Paralympics was about the 'micro' and changing people one by one.

I like to think I’m generally a positive person and at the very least, even on my darkest days, I’m a pragmatist so I didn’t need a happiness hit, especially after the great year we’ve had, but I think the Paralympics was like the BCG jab we all had at school (a strange analogy, but stick with it!). We’d heard rumours and rumblings about it, but we didn’t know we needed it until one day there was a memo, we queued up to get it, it made some of us cry, we had it once, we’re protected against TB for life, we talked about it for an age afterwards about how it affected each one of us differently (mine went straight down, with no trouble and i have a tiny scar. Boring. No dramas). The Paralympics is a shot of Pure Positivity - we didn’t know we wanted it but we got it, one day we all hustled for tickets to the unknown (Murder Ball? Wow!), we queued up and we watched in wonder, it made a nation pay attention, hold their breath, whoop, scream, punch the air and cry, and now? Now we’re protected against maudlin thoughts, cynicism, ingratitude, bad attitudes and self-pity forever. We will talk about it for a lifetime and how it changed us.
To put it simply, we are inspired, or in fact #inspired :-)

These athletes just took my breath away, and have very probably changed my life. I’m well known for my usage of the phrases (often spoken to myself, out loud!) “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “There’s always someone worse off than you, so stop whinging and be grateful!” but these people live these phrases, without someone telling them to.
Legs blown off on the front line of duty? Come home and weep? No! Come home, get well, get fit, compete on the world stage. Be amazing.

Injured, and almost died, in the 7/7 bombings by a turn of fate one morning? Sit down and let it consume you? No! Get up, find a focus, find a new purpose, compete on the world stage. Be amazing.
Sporting career ruined by an unfortunate accident? Sink in to depression about your loss, give up and let the world pass you by? No! Re-train, find a new sport, compete on the world stage. Be amazing.

Born with a body that doesn’t work in the same way, or look the same way as the rest of the kids in your class? Hide, watch from the side lines, accept your weaknesses? NO! Make dreams a reality. Ignore what other people tell you is a weakness and find your own strength. Become a sporting icon. Break boundaries, and then world records. Be amazing.

Be a superhuman. Be a real life super hero. Be amazing.

Every single person that competed in the Olympics worked hard to be what and where they are and for what they achieved. Respect. Every single person that competed in the Paralympics worked longer and harder to break down barriers so they can be what and where they are and for what they achieved. I witnessed those achievements on Channel 4, in the news and with my own eyes at the stadium and they were indescribably inspirational not to mention overwhelmingly emotional. So I suppose the only thing for it is that I do do a list of my highlights from the last 11 days. and here they are...
Seeing it live: I finally got to the stadium on the penultimate day of athletics and… I GOT TO SING THE ANTHEM! Yay! Great work Josie!

I was there!

The opening ceremony: Scientific narrative set to dance music. Shakespeare in floating umbrella-boats upon a sea of people. 62,000 people crunching on apples simultaneously. Gandalf/Magneto (see what they did there?) brandishing a human rights placard. A theoretical physicist saying words that make me weep (and not because they confuse and baffle me!) rather than yawn. A stadium full of flying, dancing, singing, partying, grinning Superhumans. Being A.Mazing.
The Belgian dog hitching a lift: The. Cutest. Thing. Ever.

The umbrella bearers: Those outfits, umbrellas and the whole concept ROCKED!

We got to belt out the anthem!
The chairman of the Paralympic committee: sitting next to the queen during the opening ceremony and head bopping to the music, delivering some rousing speeches to the world and doing so without a plummy accent. What a dude.
The polite request: As is customary, for those that are able, please stand. Of course.

Rocking our ParalympicsGB scarves!
Superhumans, jaw-dropping SUPER-humans:swimmers with no arms, rugby players in chairs, footballers that can’t see, sprinters with no legs, high jumpers with only one leg, and many more besides. Human bodies are amazing. It’s a fact. We are all in agreement. Humans that defy the odds to compete on a global platform despite severe disabilities and physical impairment? There are, literally, no words… but thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thanking the crowd!

ParalympicsGB: Amongst so many others, David Weir - what a ledge! Sarah Storey - great work! Jonnie Peacock – wow! Ellie Simmonds – GOOD. LORD!

Thiller Thursday: That is all.

Job done!

Sportsmanship and teamwork: the Germany v GB table tennis final? I can’t write it without crying, so I’ll let you look it up for yourselves! Morris and Darke attempting to share bronze in the cycling so neither lost out on the bronze after years of training together. Pistorius grabbing Jonnie Peacock after the T44 100m final and genuinely congratulating him on the win. The Marcel Hug and David Weir Bromance, (H)hugs and fist pumps for luck despite competing against each other. The way all the swimmers seemed like besties after every race, regardless of where the medals went. Heartwarming!
In fact, all the camaraderie: the athletes all seem to be the best of friends, seemed to know each other very well and respected each other enormously. They all competed with the utmost sportsmanship, they got out there and went hard for gold, but once across the line they were best friends again. Human spirit? Superhuman spirit.

The emotion: Matthew Walker’s tribute to his late father. The Brazilian 100m girls and their guides on the podium. Oscar Pistorius’ outburst and subsequent, heartfelt, apology. Ellie Simmonds every time she was in front of a camera. It was all too much. I gave up on mascara after about three days.

The stories: there are so many inspirational stories but the one that stuck with me was Martine Wright who lost both her legs in the 7/7 bombings, the day after it was announced that we’d won the Olympic bid. What a tragedy role model. When she retires from her sporting pursuits can someone convince her to set up a one-woman tour of motivational speaking appointments. I will attend them all.

Jonnie Peacock and the “shhhhhhh”: an entire stadium silenced. Breathtaking. They should hire him out for school assemblies.

Oscar Pistorius: There was fame, there was expectation, there was groundbreaking participation in the Olympics, there was that controversial interview, there was his official “apology but not retraction” statement, there was his utterly adorable actual apology interview, there was the interview after Jonnie Peacock won the gold in the 100m - exuding genuine happiness, then there was his final race and his long awaited gold. What. A. Guy! (He is also WAY hot!)
Li Duang (a blind long jumper from China): the best pre-event prep I’ve ever seen, ripping off his trousers to raucous applause. Brilliant.

Richard Brown, the sprinter, on the 100m podium: have you ever seen anyone happier? Happy happy happy!  I want him and Nicola Adams to wake me up every morning with those big bouncy smiles.
Diversity: aside from physical disabilities, what also struck me was the age range of our athletes, specifically how young some of them were. How can we still be talking about "bored young people" when talking about town facilities? Now London2012 is (sadly) over, can we send TeamGB and ParalympicsGB on a roadtrip under the banner “Aspire to be something, then you'll have something to do" (I can say that, I'm 30 now. That means I'm a ‘grown up’ and can be bossy to ‘young people’). I wish I'd seen something this inspiring when I was growing up. When I was that age I was worrying about saving up my dinner money to buy nail varnish. These kids are Paralympians… highly decorated, world famous Paralympians.
The Last Leg: Channel 4’s saving grace. Just.

The closing ceremony speeches: “Made in Britain”, Pirates as Paralympians, “Kids just get it”, Legacy. Some great, great words that we should cherish forever.
Group Mo-Bot
The Victory Parade: hours and hours standing in Trafalgar Square so I could witness Our Greatest Team (and Our Greatest Presenter, Claire Balding) drive past on trucks for 13 minutes while we screamed, waved our flags and did the Mo-Bot, en masse, a zillion times. Worth every single second.

The Montages: Jesus, Channel 4... what are you trying to do to me?!
Best. Speech. Ever
BoJo’s speech at the Victory Parade: BAFTA-worthy. Period.

The Message: a quote in the voice over of the final montage before the closing ceremony“Paralympians don’t do self pity”. What a line. What a message. No, no they don’t, and so neither should the rest of us.
And finally: My homeland is the birthplace of the Paralympic games. Inspired. Proud. Amazed.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


I’ve spent the past few weeks formulating a post about positivity, optimism and gratitude, mainly inspired by the flush of Olympic and Paralympic fever I’m feeling, and also because of numerous life changes occurring right now. However I just couldn’t find the right slant, words or message.

I wrote about five or six drafts and, where I normally I just write from the heart, check back through then hit ‘upload’, this post kept getting stuck in blog limbo. The words came out, they just didn’t sit right on the page. The thoughts were there, I just couldn’t get them in order. So I let it go, to re-visit at another time.

And then this letter turned up in my Dad’s office building…

And it says it all.

5th August 2012

Hello, enclosed is one lottery ticket.
I am a student at University and a YouTuber who has recently started receiving daily messages of hate (specifically homophobic) including some telling me ‘to die’.

These comments have been hurtful and I will admit they got to me. I don’t believe in responding to hate with more hate so instead I chose a different approach because the smallest things can make or break someone’s day.
This address was chosen at random, no record of it will be kept. This is one of ten letters I will send.

I hope this brings you some hope and helps to restore some faith in humanity. Most of all I hope it has brightened your day.
Good luck for Wednesday Saturday :)

So you see now, why I just couldn’t find the words…

Because, really, there are none.