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Tales from a Sweaty Pub [Feb. 11th, 2013|09:54 pm]
I don’t go to enough gigs. I love music, and nothing quite beats the intimacy, volume and authenticity of a live performance.

I’ve been a big fan of Frank Turner for a number of years now, and when he recommends a band or takes them on tour as a support act; it is generally a good sign. One such recent band was Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun (JL&TSS).

They are in the middle of a UK headline tour, and they came to Bristol to play in a little pub called The Louisiana. It’s one of those places with a character you can’t buy or duplicate, i.e. it’s a bit dingy, has a unique smell and peeling paintwork.

I was very keen to go, but I couldn’t find anybody to go with, and I was resigned to staying home for the night. Then, in a moment of madness, I entertained the thought of going on my own. I consulted Twitter to see if this was a truly weird idea (sometimes I can’t tell) and quickly resolved ‘Fuck it, yes, they have some tickets on the door, I am going’.

I found this oddly liberating, only having myself to worry about, and I quickly made friends with some other random gig-goers. If you ever read this, hello Phil and Kayte!

The gig was amazing, and we found ourselves right at front of the tiny room, singing along to every song to the delight of the band and each other. Their recorded work has a certain rawness and emotive quality, but this took the whole thing to a new extreme, shouting became screaming and a heavy riff became a weapon that could make your ears bleed. They are a really excellent band, and I think they will be big, they have a sort of folky sound bit tinged with a punk sensibility; in their own words: ‘Country Music without the O’.

I’m really glad I went; I saw a brilliant gig with some very talented support acts* and now have some gig-buddies.
The moral of the story goes back to one of my own personal mottos which I had temporarily forgotten: ‘Just get on with it. If it’s good it’s good, if it’s not, it’s a lesson’.



*If you excellent guitar work and nice lyrics, look up Chris Webb. He’s a musician from Bristol and I really like him.
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The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things [Feb. 4th, 2013|01:29 pm]
My Boy is unfortunate in that his birthday falls on Christmas Eve. From his side it means he only gets one big bash per year, and from my side it means I have to come up with two thoughtful and brilliant gift ideas for consecutive days, which is a drain on both my brain and my wallet.

This being the case, I came up with an ideal solution; buy a thoughtful gift for one occasion and organise a thoughtful expedition for the other.

I doubt the blogging world is that interested in the gift, but they may be interested in the expedition. The essence of this was simple, get a hotel in London, have fun in London, then do dinner and a show. Now, anyone who has done any of these things will know that I had just opened myself up to an ocean of choice with populated with metaphorical sea monsters and pirates.

Fortunately, I had a compass. The Boy had never seen Cirque du Soleil, and fortunately for me, Koozå had finally landed in the UK and installed itself in the Royal Albert Hall for a few weeks. Perfect, this practically chose the hotel for me too, there are only so many hotels within walking distance of the Royal Albert Hall, and most of them are rather nice. The last two bits of the puzzle also solved themselves quite nicely too as The Boy has something of a train fixation, so the Transport Museum was an obvious choice for the itinerary, and this put us right next to China Town and a plethora of good restaurants. Plan: Sorted.

The Transport Museum was indeed full of trains and busses and very interesting information, but unfortunately it was presented in the same seizure inducing ADHD friendly manner as in The Riverside Museum. I want to see the exhibit, not a load of flashing lights and meaningless graphics. I’m being unfair here, it wasn’t nearly as bad The Riverside Museum, but I do wonder why museums feel the need to do this orgy of multimedia and sensory wanking. I think I’m too used to white box galleries, which are quiet places of contemplation with minimal distraction. Disappointingly, the exhibit of Thomas Heatherwick’s new Routemaster had been taken out, but by now we had filled our brains so it would have been a bit wasted.

Next up beer and a pretty good ‘all you can eat’ Chinese buffet. Good enough to visit again, and that’s saying something. I ate my bodyweight in tofu, and according to certain sectors of the Internet I now have enough oestrogen in my system to be technically female as well as gay.

Filled to the point of uncomfortable, we began to head back to the hotel, but then we spied something. A Heatherwick Routemaster! In the wild!

Boy: “There’s one! Lets get on it!”
Me: “Where’s it going?”
Boy: “Doesn’t matter, lets do it!”

By now my spidey senses were tingling, this could either be brilliant or disastrous and expensive.

Me: “Sod it, why not, it’s your day!”

Luckily for us it was going in broadly the right direction, and it is indeed a lovely bus. Everything feels considered, all the bits and bobs line up and it feels quite special, but in a utilitarian kind of way.

After a quick shower and a change of clothing we headed of to the show, and what a show it was! I’ve seen a few Cirque du Soleil shows, and this followed the general formula, but there were a few real moments of awe at things I hadn’t seen before.

As always, the production was exceptional, with exquisite costumes and sets to go with some truly jaw dropping performance. Highlights for me were a group of contortionists who didn’t seem to have any bones, a cast of performers dressed as skeletons on the Day of the Dead and a truly terrifying hamster wheel based contraption ominously called ‘The Wheel of Death’, in which two acrobats do very foolish and dangerous things to the amazement of the entire audience.

It’s still on, and I encourage you to go and see it, whether you’re an experienced Cirque’er or a virgin like my Boy was, it really is stunning stuff.

We ended the evening with a few more beers in a nearby pub before crawling back to the hotel to collapse in a exhausted heap.

I will round this post by directing you back to the journal title, the best things in life aren’t things, they are happenings and the keepsakes are the memories we have of them. Happy Christmas my love.


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Another trip around the Orb. [Jan. 19th, 2013|03:56 pm]
This journal will be divided up under 5 subheadings since continuous prose is beyond me and I can currently only communicate through bullet points neatly arranged under subheadings in passages no longer than about 140 characters. I think twitter and the manner of my note-taking in the office has destroyed my ability to write cohesively in large slabs*.

Or something.

Subheading 1: Christmas

Christmas was lovely. Quiet, subdued and just… pleasant. No huge drama, sickness or disaster, even the office party was quite tame compared to precedent.

I should explain that office parties have something of a reputation for ‘extra curricular activity’, ‘inappropriate behaviour’ and ‘formal verbal warnings’ the following January. I am pleased to report that this has never applied to me, although I was the subject of some gossip after a drunken snog a few years back…

Christmas itself revolved around food, telly, huddling around the log-burner, and adhering to a Festive Gantt Chart which ensured everything was timed correctly and nothing got burned or forgotten. Yes, we have a Christmas chart, what of it?

Subheading 2: New Year

I have spent many New Years in the company of Jools Holland and his Hootenanny, and it occurs to me that New Year can be the poor cousin to Christmas unless you make Something happen.

As such, I now make sure Something happens.

In this case, I spent New Year in Brighton with agrajag_fur, red_russell, chapcalledjules and a whole host of others. It could be described as a party, but I prefer to think of it as a gathering. ‘Party’ infers a certain degree of planning and orchestration, where this was a fairly low-maintenance affair: fill a room with people, add some booze, set iTunes to shuffle and then just let it roll. It was a great way to welcome the New Year, and thanks must go to agrajag_fur and red_russell for hosting it.

Subheading 3: Looking Back

2012 was a year of contrasts, extreme highs, extreme lows and a general gunky ennui in the gaps. I did a couple of conventions, Gay Pride in Chicago, a festival in a muddy field, a few gigs, a bit of Shakespeare and an absolute ton of exhibitions. Aside from that, it was gunk peppered with lows, like raisins of misery in a bowl of unbaked life dough.

I will look back with fondness, but 2012 was a bit of a ‘rut’ year, it was comfortable enough, but far for the madness I desire in life. Posts covering all of these things will be following as soon as I finish writing them.

Subheading 4: Looking Forward

Fatally, I have high expectations for 2013, and I have plans.
It will be a year of ends and beginnings. If all goes to plan I will finish my professionally training and qualify as an architect, reaching the end of a road I started down way back in 2003.

That’s the end.

The beginning is what I do after that; and it won’t be architecture.

I am going to keep this vague, partly because I want to be mysterious, and partly because I don’t know what it will be. The key thing is change and escape from the rut.

Subheading 5: Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are silly. New Year is a totally arbitrary point in time; I may as well make ‘Tuesday Resolutions’ for all it’s worth. Still, regardless of what they’re called and when they happen, resolutions are a Good Thing.
Bearing ‘3 day monk syndrome’ in mind, I am keeping my resolutions simple and brief, differentiating them as things I want to do rather than things I have to do or will happen anyway (See Subheading 4). A kind of karmic osmosis is involved; an active transfer of aspiration and desire has to take place for a resolution to happen.

My resolution is simple. Blog more.

I am an obsessive archivist and the archive for 2012 and, to a certain extent, 2011 is looking quite bare. I need to make time to blog things as they happen and to fill in the important blanks in preceding years before retroactive rose-tinting occurs and I remember the event but not the detail or the meaning of it.


Long post.

May it be the first of many.



*Slab is nice word, but not really appropriate here. Still, it’s a nice word. Slab.
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Mu mu mu ma ma mu ma ma mad madness… [Oct. 30th, 2012|10:19 pm]
I am quite a big fan of MUSE.

Ok, ok, I am a huge fan, I was hooked as soon as I heard Origin of Symmetry, I have bought every album they have produced since on the day of release and I have now seen them live 4 times, but only once in the pouring rain.


New album.

As expected, the sound has evolved again and that now ubiquitous wobbly bass is evident along with some seriously bombastic choral elements and the requisite falsetto wailing and guitar masturbation. I like it, but it had to grow on me for a while.

Now, being the hardcore fans that we are, my sister and I had already acquired tickets for their new tour long in advance of the album, trusting that the new material would be brilliant and knowing that Muse put on one hell of a show. We even managed to get hold of an extra one for chapcalledjules who had never been to a big scale rock n roll show.

We were not disappointed.

We were initially puzzled by the stage, as it seemed to be a 360 degree island type thing with lots of stairs and walkways around a sort of… dish… thing with a lot of overhead… gubbins.

When the show started however, it quickly became clear that almost every surface was a screen, and the curious rig above the stage was made from even more screens arranged on concentric square collars, which could be lowered to make a sort of flexible audio visual sculpture. This was coupled with a huge moving lighting rig and enough lasers to declare war on Mars. The visual effect of all this was stunning, and the technology was brilliantly employed to broadcast pre-recorded video, graphics and augmented live feeds.

Of course, all this counts for nothing without sound and showmanship, and I am pleased to report that this show had both of those things in spades. Musically there was a huge selection and a lot of material from the new album, and I was overjoyed to hear a very subtle, stripped down version of ‘Falling Down’, taken from ‘Showbiz’. This said, the crowd-stirring favourites were given a good airing, and the room nearly exploded when the first bar of ‘Plug in Baby’ screeched from the monitors.

It’s quite remarkable, there are only 3 people in this band, but they can own a stage and utterly possess an audience, taking them from something that’s only a few misplaced air-punches away from an all-out riot, right down to a something that has everyone silently navel-gazing.

I can’t wait for the next tour.

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The funny thing about funnyshapeism [Oct. 26th, 2012|11:02 pm]
This post is in preparation for a presentation I’m giving to the office about a building I visited over the summer. It will serve to get my thoughts in order and collect all the images and create some of the graphics I will need to explain myself. I do not aim to flatly condemn or praise the building, I just want to present some informed observations about its nature and my reaction to it. Hopefully it will spark some discussion.

Before we get to the building itself, and before I reveal it, there are two things that need to be understood to frame my discussion.

The first is the notion of 'funnyshapeism'. I define this architectural language as ‘form determined by parametric programming, symbolic metaphor, sculptural gesture or the realisation of theory’. There are many examples of this form of ‘poetic determinism’, and some examples work as buildings than others. However, I do not think it would not be unfair to say that generally they function well in spite of their form rather than because of it. There are of course exceptions to this rule, sometimes, wilful form-making is appropriate, and other times it is not.

Vitra Fire Station. Weil am Rhein. Zaha Hadid. 1994.

My first example of funnyshapeism is Zaha Hadid’s fire station at Vitra. After a huge fire crippled the Vitra factory in 1981, it was determined that a firefighting hub near to the factory was essential, as some parts of the complex fell outside the protection of the local districts. This building was Hadid’s first built work, and was envisaged as an extension of the linear landscape defined by buildings and existing context. It takes the form of a series of floating concrete shards between which the functional elements of the building are contained. To quote Hadid’s website, ‘The Vitra Fire Station defines rather than occupies space’.

I agree with this, and the defined spaces are very interesting ones. The building feels like a frozen explosion, all the planes shooting away in different directions, but captured in a moment of time.

This is all very poetic, and it's a great little building, but is it a good fire station? Personally, I think all the internal optical illusions, angled walls and weird internal geometry would drive the occupants mad, and I very much doubt that having flying shards all over the place is conducive to smooth operation!

House IV. Cornwall, Connecticut. Peter Eisenman. 1975.

This house in Cornwall, Connecticut never set out to be a functional house, intentionally ignoring the idea of form following function. It aimed to disorientate the occupants, disregarding the concept of the traditional home completely in the name of exploring the interface between building and a tweaked sculptural grid. The clients admired Eisenman’s work and engaged him despite his reputation as a ‘paper architect’, and gave him to opportunity to realise his theories in this house.

The design emerged from a process that began with a grid, manipulated so that the house was divided into four sections. This grid would permeate through the entire design so that the building itself could speak of the process from which it was derived. Design elements and structure are placed and revealed so that the construction and design process is evident, but not always understood. As such, some columns and beams play no structural role and are incorporated only to enhance the conceptual design. Beams meet but do not intersect, building planes slip through each other and generate slots in the walls and ceilings that represent the geometry of lost surfaces, further exaggerating the notional grid.

The result of all of this grid wrangling is a series of spaces that are quirky, well lit and rather difficult to live with. According to Eisenman, this was an intentional move so that the users would have to grow accustomed to the architecture and constantly be aware of it. This intentional disruption to life by architecture is a good example of a funnyshapeist building being made to work by the users despite its form rather than because of it. Function follows from, an inhabited sculpture.

Jewish Museum. Berlin. Daniel Daniel Libeskind. 2001.

This is my last example, and I include it because I think that it is one of the few times when funnyshapeist form-making is appropriate. This building has a function, but it is also a poetic sculptural memorial. This building is difficult, uncomfortable and awkward to use, but in this case I think it’s ok for it to be so. As a place to view exhibits it’s rubbish, but as a piece of artwork to be experienced, it works.

The tortured zigzag plan is created from a notional shattered Star of David, sliced through with void spaces and lit through a matrix of openings and slashes in the façade derived from the addresses of prominent pre-war Jews. Every designed part of this building has symbolic significance and the unease one experiences as you interact with these solid symbols is fitting.

We also need to consider the typology of the building in question, in this case a museum for exhibiting really big things. We aren’t talking about gemstones and portraits here; we are talking about fuck-off bits of engineering and reconstructions of entire streets. Big stuff. There are lots of examples of Museums of Big Things, and here are a few of my favourites.

London Transport Museum. Covent Garden. Designed as a dedicated flower market by William Rogers in 1871. Occupied by LTM in 1980.

The former market halls that make up the London Transport museum are perfect for the display of large vehicles. The main spaces have large spans, lots of natural light and a regular shape, allowing for the logical planning of exhibits and enough flexibility for more unconventional displays.

Natural History Museum. Kensington. Alfred Waterhouse. 1881.

Designed as a series of large galleries with a large central hall currently exhibiting a diplodocus skeleton. Unlike the London Transport Museum, this building was designed to house Big Things rather than being a reclaimed structure put to a new use. Once again, we find large vaulted volumes with a lot of natural light. The architecture is ornate, but ordered and while it does compete with the exhibits, it is all detail and decoration and does not affect the primary form.

V&A Cast Courts. Kensington. General Henry Scott. 1874.

Built to house the V&A’s growing collection of architectural casts, the Cast Courts are vast shed-like structures with an elevated viewing gallery separating the twin volumes. These spaces are part of a much larger museum, which, quite frankly, is a chaotic warren of galleries, which is almost impossible to navigate without a map. These spaces are not representative of the other exhibition spaces, but they are very good for the Big Things they house, namely a full cast of Trajan’s Column in two pieces.

A quick look at the examples I have just given revels that the general form is a big box or shed with ancillary functions, smaller rooms circulation spaces coming off the main space. It’s a logical layout and it works well, putting the Big Thing in the centre with all the enabling bits and bobs around it. Here’s a rough guide to typical shed forms, which I have derived.

Now, lets introduce some funnyshapeism to the mix. Take a classic shed form and add a sculptural wave referencing the contextual interface between the city and the water. Fair enough, logical bit of symbolism there.

Have you worked out what it is yet?


It’s Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum in Glasgow! It’s a museum full of trains, boats, busses, cars, bikes and one or two fibreglass horses.

The basic form of this building is a morphing swept profile of the classic shed shape, generating a big internal volume. The base profile is stretched, distorted and given a distinctly modern flavour, but the essence is there. The building is a twist on the classic big shed form, following the tried and tested model demonstrated by the other museums of Big Things. Given this, one would expect it to work in much the same way, and be a good museum space.

It isn’t.

This is the funny thing about funnyshapeism.

I spent a long time thinking about why this was and I have identified 5 things, which I think are wrong with this building. These comments are directed at this building, but some are transferable to other examples of funnyshapeism.

1. Articulation.

This building has an amazing roof and internal ceiling. It’s like the whole thing was squeezed from an enormous icing bag. The problem here is that only seagulls can appreciate the roof and you can’t really interact with the ceiling. You can look at it and think about how muck like whipped cream it looks, but you can’t get close and experience those sensual folds in an existential way, you can only look at them. Interestingly, most of the published sexy architectural photographs were of the ceiling or taken from helicopters, very few were of the actual space, mostly because it isn’t that interesting. The flat walls you can experience internally and externally are rather boring and quite oppressive in a funny sort of way, and they really don’t help enhance the strange spaces that surround the building.

2. Navigation.

The plan of the building is a swoosh, and it’s one big volume, so you’d think it would be easy to navigate and get from A to B and work out where you’ve come from and where you’re going. Since there isn’t a straight wall to be found, this is deceptively difficult. Even with a few big internal marker posts, it’s still difficult to avoid getting lost and finding yourself back where you started. More distressingly, I’m fairly sure I missed a few exhibits because they were lost in an unexplored fold or swoosh.

3. Clutter

Speaking of exhibitions, I pity the curator. Trying to rationalise the space and present the exhibitions in a logical manner was probably next to impossible, and trying to work with the space rather than against it was probably equally fraught. The result of this fight is a big wonky volume full of exhibits that feel like lost objects strew in room that doesn’t suit them; this is no mean feat when you’re exhibiting steam locomotives.

4. Whiz whiz bloop!

This is another one for the curator and one that is easily fixable, but is symptomatic of the building. In trying to work with a whacky building, the exhibit designer has tried to create whacky exhibits in an effort to compete with the shape of the room and shout louder than everything else. All the exhibits light up in bright colours and make odd noises when you pass them, encouraging you to interact with the little touch screen to trigger even more flashing lights and noises. Everything is screaming for attention, making you do things and ooh! Look at me! NO! Press my buttons! Wait! I’m cool Woop! Woop!

Just shut up.

Shouting louder doesn’t get my attention; keep your head when all about you are losing theirs. I want to think about what I’m looking at.

5. Green

This is the subtlest thing, and possibly the thing that bothered me most. All the internal spaces are painted light lime green. This doesn’t sound like a cardinal sin, but it casts everything and everyone in a slightly sickly hue, and your brain can’t quite adjust to the colour and tune it out. The other big shed examples have a lot of natural white light and where there is artificial light it is white and the walls are also white to reflect it. This allows you to experience the space and exhibits in a conventional way that doesn’t require additional effort to compensate for coloured light.

I walked out of the museum with a splitting headache into a world that looked oddly blue. It makes the inside space feel like some sort of alternate realm, distressingly divorced from the real world. I was sure I had experienced this before, and I spent a long time thinking about it before realising how I knew the effect. The Matrix. Inside the matrix everything is green, outside the matrix everything isn’t.

So, what exactly is the funny thing about funnyshapeism?

Good question, and one I hope my little seminar will answer.

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Molotov’s Bread Basket [Oct. 14th, 2012|08:47 pm]
So, The Boy was charged with going through his mum’s kitchen cupboards and disposing of anything out of date. While I wasn’t surprised by the concept if this, I was horrified when he sent me pictures of what was being thrown out. A lot of the food in question only has a date because it is a legal requirement.

When I informed The Boy of this, he said that I was welcome to save whatever I liked from the black bag.

Brilliant, free food! I’ll take anything that is out of date but still edible!

Turns out that The Boy didn’t know this, so he just brought everything.

Yesterday I became the proud owner of:

2 jars of honey
1 bottle of agave syrup
2 bottles of golden syrup
1 jar of Paprika
1 jar of Ground ginger
2 tins of chestnut puree
3 tins of coconut milk
3 packets of whole chestnuts
3 unopened bottles of Caesar dressing
2 unopened bottles of Thousand Island dressing
3 bottles of chilli sauce
2 packets of creamed coconut
1 pot of breadcrumbs
1 bottle of red wine vinegar
1 bottle of white wine vinegar
1 bottle of stir fry oil
1 bottle of Grapeseed oil
1 jar of plum sauce
1 bottle of sesame oil
2 sweet and sour jar sauce
1 bottle of olive oil
2 jars of pickled gherkins
1 jar of pickled capers
1 jar of olives
2 jars of Dijon mustard
1 jar of hollandaise
1 jar of mint sauce
1 jar of Ovaltine (Yuck)
1 jar of pickled ginger
A box of instant cappuccino sachets
1 jar of quince jelly
2 jars of pickled chillies (One of these has no date, I’m assuming its Neolithic)
1 bottle of bbq sauce
1 bag of flour
7 jars of misc. of spices
2 bottles of piri piri sauce
1 bottle of soy
1 bottle of sweet soy
1 bottle of Maggi Seasoning
4 jars of jam/marmalade
2 bags of dried wild mushrooms
1 jar of cranberry sauce
1 jar of garlic mayonnaise
1 pot of bouillon dust
1 pot of veggie stock
1 pot of ghee (Now lovingly referred to as ‘Dark Butter’ because of the density)
1 bottle of wasabi
1 tube of sundried tomato puree
1 bottle of hazelnut oil
1 bottle of mustard oil
3 tiny vials of expensive looking ‘dressing’
1 bottle of rice vinegar
1 bottle of Lingonberry vinegar (seriously)
1 pot of sliced Thai galangal (I have no idea what this is. It looks like dead skin)
1 bottle of chilli dipping oil
1 pot of chocolate frosting
1 box of instant minestrone soup
1 pot of peanuts
1 carrier bag full of food colouring and flavourings

That’s quite a list! You may notice that almost none of these things are actually food; most are things you put with food.

In other words I now have a kitchen full of expired condiments, which I will have to systematically sniff or taste to determine their fitness for eating.

If I die, tell the press that my last words were really witty. Something about salmon mousse would seem appropriate.

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XXL [Oct. 6th, 2012|11:46 am]
I went through my camera this morning and found this rather fun photo.

A group of us went down to XXL London last weekend for a big night out. It was quite drunken, very beary and a lot of fun. Things got a bit out of hand and we got home just as dawn was breaking. Rock and roll.

I was a bit fragile when I woke up.

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Playtime! [Sep. 25th, 2012|08:31 pm]

So, a bunch of us went to The Playgroup Festival last month.

Rather than writing a blog post with words as I normally would, I took loads of video footage and edited it together into this video blog. This saves on writing and gives me an excuse to re-learn my editing software.


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Team Gubb. [Sep. 6th, 2012|08:32 pm]
This post is a little late, but it has taken a bit of archive dredging to find the stunning image of me in Barcelona. Yes, that is me, and yes I do have spaniel ears. You may also observe that pulling silly poses in front of landmark buildings is something I have been doing for years. I do not apologise for this.

The journey to the Olympics for my sister and I started about 7 years ago, way back in 2005. We were on holiday in Barcelona and London had just won the 2012 games (we flew home on the day of the 7/7 bombings, which was terrifying). While in Barcelona we visited the Olympic Park, beautifully manicured ghost town, clearly designed to be very busy, and now conspicuously quite the opposite. We agreed there and then to get to the London Olympics, neither of us cared particularly about sport or athletics, but we felt it was important to go, if only to say that we were there.

2008 rolled around and I watched the Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony nervously, pint in hand. Sure, you have an almost totalitarian state with a huge budget, an army or workers and a point to make, but one would struggle to say that the games were anything other than pretty spectacular. How could London follow that?

Over the next 4 years a lot happened. The venue designs were published in the architectural press and everyone got excited about Nord’s black brick substation, the economy collapsed, two weird looking mascots beamed down from the planet Zog and the domestic press did it’s level best to convince the populace that the games were going to be an expensive, humiliating disaster.

When tickets finally went on sale there was a mad scramble and a lot of hand wringing over what to go for, what if we got none? What if we got loads? Why is this so expensive? Why is this system so weird? I forget quite how the decisions were made, but getting into the actual Olympic Park was a key driver. We ended up with the bronze medal play-off for handball, a game neither of us had heard of or knew the rules to. Not to worry, we had tickets and we were in.

Then it all went a bit quiet until the torch relay started, but we began to get excited as it made it’s way around the country and even passed right outside my front door.

As with Beijing, I found myself watching the opening ceremony with a pint in my hand, this time in an overpriced hotel bar in Inverness. The moment of truth had arrived, triumphant spectacle or embarrassing mess? Well, bit of both really, not embarrassing, certainly spectacular, but also bloody weird in places. I found Thomas Heatherwick’s cauldron to be very elegant and poetic, the graceful movement of the individual arms was just amazing to watch.

Our day at the Olympics came around and we were expecting transport chaos that simply wasn’t there to be found. Everything ran smoothly and quickly, a military operation without a queue in sight.

Once inside, the park was an amazing thing to experience. The venues were huge, but seated very nicely in a fantastic landscape of water, wetlands and wildflower meadows. I knew all to well that it was coiffed and brand new, but it felt established, as though it had been there for years. A very well considered environment that had a real festival feeling to it, if a very controlled measured one, no crazy naked people here. Many people were concerned about the level of corporate sponsorship, openly worrying about the level of branding that would be stuck all over everything. They needn’t have. Yes, there was branding and a number of corporate pavilions, but nothing intrusive or too shouty.

We had a good walk around, exploring all the hidden corners of the site, scoping out the best places to sit and get essentials like beer and nibbles, then we camped out on the grass to watch the big screen, less subtly sponsored by British Airways. The only thing screening at the time was freestyle wrestling, and despite watching over an hour of it I still have no conception of how the seemingly arbitrary rules work or how the hell the competitors become mobile mounds of muscle with crudely drawn faces on one side.

Eventually our event came around and we all filed into the big boxy… tent… thing. Once again, this was a smooth military operation. My sister and I had only a vague idea of the relevant rules to the game, although ‘use hands, get ball in net’ was all we really needed. I have to say, as someone who doesn’t really follow sport, its a very exciting game! Fast, lively and with 60 goals in 80 minutes, there’s never a dull moment. I wish it were more popular in the UK, as I think it’s a game I’d actually want to play.

After handball, we headed back to the lawns to watch the big screen for a while until it was time to catch a train home, and we were fortunate enough to see Mo Farah winning the 5000m gold medal, which caused the entire park to explode into cheering and applause, quite remarkable. Interestingly, there was a very slight delay between the screen and reality, so we heard the roar from the main stadium about a second before we knew why!

To sum up: fantastic. All the whinging and bitching was worth it, and yes, I’m sure there are people out there who never gave a shit and still don’t, but screw them. I was there and it was great.

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The Story of a Lost Bear. [Aug. 4th, 2012|07:36 pm]
Way back in the mists of time, I did a little pencil sketch in my notebook of a small, lost polar bear in a jacket. I christened him Nanook and envisaged him on a long journey home, somewhere a lot colder than Bristol.

I rather liked it, so I put some paint on it.

That would normally be the end of the story, but this turned out to be the beginning of something quite silly.

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