Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ollllllllympics!!! The Opening Ceremony :D

I love the Olympics. So many amazing people trying so hard, making their countries proud, flags and anthems and surprise victors coming from behind. And this time around I'm right in the middle of it all!

We had a table booked at a bar near London Bridge with a huge projection screen to watch the opening ceremony, so I turned up there at 6pm to find that one of our party had managed to scrounge a ticket to the actual ceremony. So we all complained about that for a while but decided that we'd probably get a better view, what with the cameras showing it all in close detail. I found a drink on the menu called a Pan-galactic Gargle-blaster, which was chocolate rather than lemon-flavoured and tasted like someone had shaved dark chocolate into it, though it looked like white wine. The bar also had a really good vegetarian platter with mozzarella and olives and sundried tomatoes and risotto balls which were absolutely delicious.

The place began to pack out and we fiercely defended the space in front of our chairs when people tried to block our view. At last the countdown started.... Fifty, forty-nine, forty-eight... We were very impressed by the visuals for each of the numbers, and the air was tingling as everyone shouted the countdown along with the screen. There were at least two hundred people inside, and more outside. You could hardly hear the commentators for the noise.

And then it was happening! I loved the dance moves from the men in top hats, and the huge chimneys rising out of the idyllic farms, and all the cameos from famous Britons. When Daniel Craig arrived at Buckingham Palace everyone was muttering 'please let it be the actual queen, please let it be the actual queen' and a huge cheer went up when it was. We sang along to the songs, clapped when Mary Poppins vanquished Voldemort and oohed at the fireworks.

And then came the teams!

There are an awful lot of teams. I love the opening ceremony procession, because everyone looks so proud to be representing their country, so happy to be actually at the Olympics after working so hard for so long, and so hopeful - everything is still to come, and anything could happen. I decided quite quickly that New Zealand should legally change its name to Aotearoa (see? Then we'd be almost first) but finally there was Nick Willis with the flag, and everyone behind him marching into the stadium to the roar of the crowd. Then we still had to wait for the other half of the world until Great Britain's entrance, which was pretty deafening in the middle of a crowd of English people.

It was awesome. I quite liked the fact that they said everything in French first, because I could understand most of it and I knew what was happening before everyone else did (heehee). I also liked the oaths from the representatives, some of whom looked extremely nervous as they did it and so relieved and proud afterwards. The lighting of the cauldron was beautiful. Hey Jude was the perfect song for the end, because everyone can sing along even if they've never heard it before and don't know the language (though I did think there were about four too many hey Judes...).

The whole thing finished at about one o'clock, which is usually too late to catch the tube home (stupid tubes finish at 12.45) but THEY ARE EXTENDING THE TUBE HOURS FOR THE OLYMPICS. This is amazing. They should do it every weekend. I'm also enjoying being able to grocery shop on Sunday evenings, which is usually impossible because everywhere shuts at 4 - but not during the Olympics!

It's the small things.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Margaret Mahy, the Olympic Torch and Horsies

This will be a double-topic post, catching up from the one I meant to do in the weekend but never really got around to.

I was very sad to hear of Margaret Mahy's death earlier in the week. My copy of A Lion in the Meadow has a very good picture of a lion drawn in by the lady herself, and I remember standing before the Wellington Library steps as a small child, entranced by her rainbow wig as she read aloud. I loved her picture books, especially Seventeen Kings and Forty-Two Elephants, and her books for older readers of which my favourite is Alchemy.

I keep hearing about how much people love The Changeover, and wondering whether I've read it or not - I thought I had, but maybe not. I must investigate further. I think I might have to have a go at reading all her books... And watching Maddigan's Quest and Kaitangata Twitch, which I never managed to catch for some reason. She will be missed! If you've never read any Margaret Mahy, go and find some now. It should be pretty easy in New Zealand, but you might have to search a bit elsewhere. She was incredibly prolific, so there should be something for everyone :)

Last Saturday saw the Olympic Torch relay come near me, so I woke up early and stared at the live video of the torch making its way through Greenwich, aghast at all the people who'd got up before seven on a Saturday to see it go past. Their commitment inspired me in the end and I dragged myself out of bed and out the door.

I wasn't quite sure where to go to see the torch, so I just ended up walking until I found the route and then walking a bit further until it seemed like I had a good spot. There weren't too many people at first, but there were quite a few kids waving torches they'd made themselves and lots of police stationed or coming past. My spot was right outside the entrance to the Royal Artillery Barracks, and I didn't realise how good this was until the horses appeared.

Horses! A huge procession of them, pulling carts with guns on them! Horsies with guns! And soldiers all dressed up in red uniforms! The procession strung out along the yard and the horses stamped and fidgeted a bit as we waited in the early morning sun for the torch.

First past were the sponsors, singing and dancing and giving out free drums and the smallest coke bottles I've ever seen (250mL). That was amusing, and I tried to decide how I feel about sponsorship. On the one hand, I think it's slightly evil that these huge conglomerates get to brainwash people all along the way, but on the other hand, they're running a business and they are making the Olympics happen, and I appreciate that. After the sponsors came the traffic jam of normal people who were just trying to get around on a Saturday morning. After that was a bit more security, and then the runner with the flame and his bodyguards!

Everyone cheered and waved flags and snapped away with cameras, and then ran to follow as he went past. There was a changeover right outside the Royal Artillery gates, with lots of good photo opportunities while they passed the flame from one torch to the next. The torches are very sparkly.

The next runner set off, and the Horsies with guns followed dutifully behind, along with about half the people who'd been watching (including me). It was a great atmosphere, and I can't wait for the opening ceremony which I'm sure will be even better.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gridlock London, Spider-man and Comic Books

I know, I know, I haven't done a blog post in a while now. I have been trying to figure out the best way to get to work when they close half of a major tunnel for the Olympics and it backs up the traffic so that my bus takes twice as long to get to the tube station. The transport for London people were kind of helpful - they've supplied us with walking maps of the area - but even with the traffic I think walking would take longer than the bus. I could take the train and change to the tube at London Bridge, but London Bridge is pretty much my most hated train station and they've made it even worse at the moment by closing off the direct route from train to tube. Now you have to go out onto the street, around, and back into the station if you want to get on the Underground.

Ha. Rant over.

Another reason I may not have posted recently is that I have been watching Spider-man. I really like this movie. I have seen it in 3D, 3D-moving seats, and er, twice in 2D. It's free, okay?

I get like this with some things. You may remember my Merlin posts from last year. So I've been trying to figure out what I like about it. Secret identity? Check. Good acting? Check. Minimal plot holes? I think I've found them all now, and they don't bother me too much. I prefer the oh-we-can't-be-together ending in this version much more than the Tobey Maguire ending, which I thought was a bit unbelievable and faintly annoying (oh, I love you so much I'm going to stay away from you out of the amazing moral awesomeness of my heart. Come on. It's cliché). I also liked that Peter Parker wasn't that stereotypical geeky guy who always gets picked on - the character development was great. You can really see that pre-spider bite Peter could become Spider-man.

My slight obsession with the movie got me thinking about comic books, and why I love comic-book style stories but not comic books. Or manga or graphic novels. I feel I should like them. I like art, and I like stories. Graphic novels have both. So why can't I get into them?

Maybe it's because I feel I have to study the pictures in depth and really appreciate them and so I never get into the flow of things. Maybe I miss the description of books, and my brain isn't satisfied with pictures (though I did love the Hugo Cabret book, which is half in words and half in pictures). Whatever the reason, my brain just doesn't click with them. It's the same with video games. I like driving games and the flying bits in Spyro and Harry Potter, but anything else and I get bored.

I guess lots of people can't get into books the same way I can't get into graphic novels.

Oh, and by the way, if you can get to watch Spider-man with moving seats, do it. It's awesome. I thought it would be a bit distracting, but I missed it when I watched it again without the seats. I kept expecting to feel the explosions or rock back when Spider-man's swinging, and was disappointed when it didn't happen.

Is there a particular medium you get bored with?


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Countdown to that big sports tournament thingy

It is becoming more and more apparent that the Olympics will be on in London in less than a month. All important tube stations have pink signs up advising which way to Olympic venues, which is very helpful in a vague sort of way, considering I am much more likely to be trying to get to work or home than Horse Guards Parade for the beach volleyball. I found out this morning that Bank Tube station has changed the direction of some of their escalators so that they ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE. This means I am less likely to get stuck in Bank Station for months wandering round and round, every so often catching sight of signs saying 'Way Out' but never quite getting there.
The Great Olympic Fence of St James's Park

Piccadilly Circus tube station was announcing everything in Italian the other day, which was rather jarring, and an enthusiastic young policeman tried to force an oyster card holder on me as I came through the barriers. Hmm. I wonder if it was a special Olympics one. maybe I'll take one next time.

I was on the Underground at 6.30 this evening, later than normal, but it was still completely packed, so much so that sometimes people couldn't get on. You also hear lots of foreign accents and languages.the tourist and athlete and support staff influx is beginning...

I received my Olympic ticket in the mail this morning from a very cheery postman. It includes my ticket, an all-day travel card (very handy... Now I have to figure out how to time it so I don't pay for my oyster card on that day), some cardboard punchy-outy things and information about taekwondo, the sport I'm going to see. It makes it seem a lot more real and close.

Not long now...