Olympic hopes in a day trip

There are 2 sides to every coin, heads and tails, this can be likened to the places where we live – some places are on the up and make you feel good while others are on a downward spiral and make you feel rather depressed. But what is heartening for our future society is a third type of place to live – a place that is aspirational and open to all to join the ride. This is a place that used to be down and out but that didn’t stop the people living there from taking pride in where they lived, they just needed some help. I am talking about urban regeneration, where people from all sections of society are given the opportunity to enjoy where they live thanks to a better landscape, town planning, business, education, jobs and services. The right to have opportunities, to be respected for your differences and for those to be celebrated. Unlike the areas reserved for the upper middle class and upper class, these are areas that are socially inclusive and offer an insight to what lies ahead for future generations.

The best example of this is East London and the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Park. I had the pleasure of taking my children to this park today and we walked from the velodrome, to the Olympic stadium and swimming pool. Along the route both children had acres of beautiful landscaped grounds to cycle and run around in, insightful and dynamic play areas that made use of nature to entertain the children (such as pumps of water, a movable dam play system, climbing walls and running tracks). The opportunity to have a go n the velodrome or the swimming pool and take part in activities and events. For adults and OAPs, the chance to relax in beautiful surroundings and enjoy green space and sky while sipping tea, coffee at one of the many cafés housed in wooden contemporary architecture built in sympathy of the surrounding environment.

As you walked around you got a sense of optimism for the future and could see how the area will continue to flourish as the newly planted borders, shrubs and trees have done in the year or so since the Olympics. There was also a trust respected by the visiting public and upheld by the local community that the area would be safeguarded from anything that would threaten to devalue it. I saw no evidence of vandalism , littering or mindless damage. I also saw no signs saying ‘don’t touch’ or ‘keep off the grass’ or ‘no dogs’ or ‘no ball games’. Its as if in giving people freedom to enjoy such a space they in turn are doing their best to look after it. I just hope that in 10 years time it will continue to have the feel good factor and show promising progress for the future and that all sections of society continue to take pleasure from it.

Because it is a blueprint for what is possible when society works together and wouldn’t it be great if this could be replicated in other cities too?

I am blogging every day to raise money for UNICEF – support the campaign here.

Thanks for reading.

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Can children in care go on to become Olympians?

I was reading an article today on Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds. Her achievements are an inspiration and the article features quotes from her family and her teachers detailing her strength of character, her competitiveness and her determination. Her mother said that she was always like this from very young and her teacher said that she is the same with her schoolwork.

Paralympians overcome physical scars to achieve their goals. What about people who have deep-seated emotional scars from a childhood that was far from perfect? Children who were forced to be independent and lead their own lives in order to survive from a very young age. Children in care have inconsistent emotional support and most of them have attachment disorders (they are incapable of forming bonds with parental figures because of abuse suffered earlier in life). If you were born determined and competitive does this stay with you despite a crap mum and dad who can barely feed you, let alone support your personal ambitions?

I read a column by Guardian journalist Lucy Mangan the other weekend that touched on the inequality in standards of education. More specifically, the percentage of privately educated children that go on to Oxbridge and Russell group universities. She quite rightly argued that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to educational inequality. There are children born into a world of domestic violence and abuse. Many just don’t have their most basic needs met, such as a bed to sleep on, a meal every day, a book read and are left to fend for themselves until social services are called in. Having gone through the first four years of life existing in this way can you imagine what these children must go through when they start school for the first time? As Lucy put in her column, these children are exhausted before their education has just begun because they have been too busy trying to survive the hell that they have been born into. That is the real inequality. They haven’t even got a chance in the first place.

The Olympics and Paralympics aims to inspire a generation and I wonder about the generation growing up in the care system  who have been watching the games? They may have been battered by their circumstances but do they have the strength to pull through and realise their ambitions? I would be interested to know of any athletes who have made it despite their childhood experiences growing up in care. Can you be born determined and still achieve despite suffering from attachment disorder? Adoption UK has a really good online animation – The Wall – that explains how abuse and neglect in a child’s early years can cause attachment disorder and other psychological conditions. Strength of mind overcomes physical barriers but does it work vice versa?

I hope you enjoyed this blog. If so please donate £1 to Unicef – the whole reason for my daily blog to combat child poverty and neglect worldwide. I am still hunting my first donation – so if you do donate you will be the first and I will thank you in my next blog. (the money raised so far is through the fee I pay to Unicef for missed blog days).

Thanx for reading.

Are the Paralympics better than the Olympics?

Sorry for my blackout yesterday – another pound in the pot. But, unlike the American media, I was present at the Paralympics.

I bought the tickets after failing to get tickets to the Olympics. But I am glad I failed. The experience in the stadium was mind-blowing.

As many others have reported the transport, signage, support from volunteers and efficiency in getting you in and out of the park was all faultless. As we snaked our way through the park to the outer ring of the stadium and started to ascend the steps to our seats, the view as we mounted the final step into the stadium itself was spectacular. Made all the more special after seeing it so many times on telly during the Olympics. I was trying to transpose the images in my mind from the opening ceremony and the athletes victory parades on TV and place it in the stadium before my eyes. I couldn’t. It was both familiar and surreal all at the same time.

Once we had settled into our seats, nothing had prepared us for the awesome display of achievement by professional athletes who stretched their physical abilities to the max and then gave even more because the crowd wanted them too. Tears were in our eyes as Houssein Omar Hassan, the only competitor from African country Djibouti, fought against the pain in his achilles tendon to continue jogging his 1500 metre race long after the race had finished for the other competitors. We willed the lone man on the track as he completed each lap and every one in the stadium gave him a standing ovation as he crossed the finish line. The roar of the crowd was deafening – so was the raw of emotion as we could all see what a challenge the race was for Hassan but his determination to finish was awe-inspiring.Houssein Omar Hassan

 

As the first of the women athletes lined up for the start of the 100metre heat we were stunned to realise that they each had a guide because they were blind. As the starting gun went each athlete sprang from the starting blocks hand-in hand with their guides who had to keep up with the stunningly quick pace but be careful to cross the line after, not before, their athlete. In the 200 metres the women just gently leaned into their guides as they rounded the bend before the straight and it struck as all at the courage these athletes had to run as fast as they could possibly go with only the noise of the crowd to will them on and the reassuring feel of their guide’s presence. We couldn’t begin to imagine what that must feel like. If the guides weren’t there they would have no looked no different to the female 100 metre and 200 metre olympic athletes.

Finally there was Richard Whitehead who came from nowhere out of the bend in the track to cross the line like an intercity train and claim gold. His blades aren’t designed to bend round corners. So, at first, there was a slightly disappointed hush as the race started and Richard was way behind going round the bend. But as the track straightened Richard’s speed rocketed as his marathon-like stamina and athletic power came into force. As he went from 0-60 in lightning quick time so did the noise from the crowd as they realised he was blitzing the competition for Team GB. The noise reached such a cacophony that my ears began to ring as if I was standing too close to a giant speaker. It was spine-tingling, hair standing on end stuff.

Why do I believe the Paralympics is better than the Olympics? The athletes are no different in their approach to their careers, their determination to succeed and their level of competitiveness. They are not there because of their disabilities they are there because of their talent and their ability. But to pursue your talent regardless of the fact that you can’t see the track you are running on, or that you can only use one leg, or only your upper body because your lower body just does not function or that your muscles spasm randomly or that you can’t hear the world around you ……….that can only come from strength of mind and something else that isn’t tangible or understood but can be best described as superhuman.

Yesterday we watched superhumans in action in the glorious setting of the Olympic Stadium at London 2012.

I’m so glad that my 6 year old saw that there are no limits to human ambition and determination – I think she realised that anything really can be achieved if you want it bad enough. My 9 month old was there too and I was also very proud of him as he was waving the union jack flag all by himself.

I hope you enjoyed my review of the Paralympic experience. If so please could you donate £1 to Unicef – the whole reason why I am blogging daily for the rest of my life.

I don’t think I will ever use a train loo again – why?

Sorry got back yesterday waaay too late so missed my day’s posting – another pound in the pot.

So, we won tickets to the BT London Live event at Hyde Park courtesy of Cadburys. We jumped on the train to Waterloo and half way through the journey I needed to go to the loo – wish I hadn’t. The train loos have these bizarre electronic doors that are very large and not discreet at all. You press the open button and the door retracts to display the whole loo to you and everyone in that end of the carriage – nice! So I go in press the close button and stupidly assumed that it automatically locked. Didn’t see the giant handle that resembled something off a pump that said ‘turn to lock’. I lifted the lid to find a number of previous deposits from god knows how many previous passengers – lots of poo floating in lots of wee – delightful. The flush clearly wasn’t working but that didn’t stop me answering nature’s call – when a girl’s got to go and all that. So I decide to hover over the most disgusting loo somewhere between the home counties and the metropolis. It is not an easy feat to piss directly into the middle of a toilet bowl while swaying from side to side and avoiding any nasty splashback (sorry) …..it could be an olympic sport as it required fairly strong thighs. I was busily focusing on my aim when I heard a hissing sound and looked up to see a young boy and his father staring at me slightly mystified and possibly disgusted. Behind the boy and the father was the rest of the carriage. Now, as I explained earlier, this door is massive and opens slowly and will not stop until it reaches its full extent (a bit like theatre curtains). I was miles away from the button and due to my compromising position did not want to get up to touch the button for fear of exposing yet more of myself. So I relied on the boy’s father to push the close button, which he was frantically doing. This door was rather stubborn and would not close until it had opened completely so there was a rather awkward moment when we had to wait while the bloody door decided to close only once it had revealed the complete picture – a bit like revealing a scene on stage with a train window, basin, bin and loo with a semi-naked woman hovering over a toilet full of shit. It then took what seemed like 30 minutes to close. So I carried on hovering while one by one the passengers, the boy and the father gradually disappeared from my view again. Thank God this happened to me now as opposed to my teens – I think I would rather have jumped out of the window than come out to face all the people on the train again had I been younger. Thankfully as the years have gone by so has my sense of shame and after 2 children I have been poked and prodded by so many NHS health professionals that I feel every bit of me is public property now. Therefore, once finished, I opened the door for the 2nd time and felt the need to explain to the boy’s father and the rest of the carriage that the flush had well and truly failed and the poo in the bowl was not mine – I don’t know why that made things any better……….

Anyway enjoyed the Cadburys VIP experience at Hyde Park and watched the Olympic show-jumping on big screen. Once that was over though we got a bit bored of sitting on wood-chip and staring at a zillion different food outlets that left you in no doubt as to why England has obesity issues. So we took off, jumped on the tube to Covent garden, had dinner and then finished off the evening at the top secret comedy club – which was brilliant fun  – laughed loads and wished we could have stayed longer (we watched the first 2 acts Dane Baptiste and Prince Abdi who were excellent) but had to grab the last train home 😦

Loved being in the city during the Olympics you really felt the general buzz and vibe – transport system is very well organised – all the staff who spend ages pointing people in the right direction and ensuring everyone crosses the road safely and gets on the right train deserve gold medals too.

I’m off on holiday from tomorrow so this is my last post for a week so Unicef will benefit from my time-out contributions but hope you all enjoy the rest of the Olympics and I am already looking forward to the Paralympics – particularly as we have tickets to see the athletics in a couple of week’s time.

I hope you enjoyed my post and the embarrassing situations I sometimes find myself in – if so please donate £1 or $1 to Unicef – the whole reason why I do this blog.

Thank you.

Why aren’t the BBC wetting their pants like me? Disappointed with coverage of SJ Gold

I can hardly contain my excitement!! However I was bitterly disappointed that the BBC chose to leave out the absolute headline of the day in their summing up which was that the Show-jumping team won gold – their first medal since the 50’s. What twat at the BBC decided to leave the showjumping out of the summary of the day. It is the holidays so I am out all day with my children and do not have the luxury of watching it on TV during the day. Once they are in bed (try to aim for 8pm) I can then relax switch on the box and check out what has happened. I am relying on the Beeb to keep me informed when I watch the Olympic highlights each evening but clearly they don’t give a shit about equestrianism.

Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles

National newspapers seem to be better clued up on what the real Olympic headlines are as the Show-jumping team were emblazoned across every single tabloid and broadsheet on the news-stands today. WAKE UP BBC!!!!!!!

Thankfully BBC online is a bit more organised so I found out this morning that we had won gold and after a few determined searches was able to watch the highlights. Much to the amusement of my 6 year old and 8 month old as they watched me dance around the house in my nightie as I watched clear round after clear round (I was acting as if I was watching it live as I felt like I had missed out considerably).

Anyway enough Beeb bashing. This gold medal is just what British Show-jumping needed it is the answer to the sport’s prayers as it has been in the doldrums with dwindling TV coverage and sponsors for quite a few years now. Eventing has been centre stage for too long and it is time for Show-jumping to once again take the limelight and wow it is so well deserved – Nick Skelton and the team are an inspiration to all aspiring riders out there.

The dressage result is also fantastic – proof that we can be as precise and technically perfect as the Germans and the Dutch and that we know how to produce good gee gees.

Carl Hester

This Olympics just could not get any better…..or could it……could we really get individual Gold in the show-jumping too? I’m just getting greedy now aren’t I? Anyway I am off to watch it on the big screen at London Live in Hyde Park tomorrow thanks to Cadburys who gave us tickets following a competition and the chance to enjoy a tasting experience. I shall not eat all day tomorrow and just stuff my face with chocolate and ogle at the show-jumping (Mum is looking after the kids) i will be in heaven!!

Hope you enjoyed this post – if so it would be great if you could donate £1 or $1 to Unicef – the whole reason I am blogging.

Thanks.

Competitive mother syndrome is common ….. but in a Go-Kart?

I wonder if Lewis Hamilton was inspired by his mother putting pedal to the metal on a kart-track while he sat white-knuckled in the passenger seat. Was he a powerless witness to carnage as his mother took advantage of a kart bumping pile-up to overtake a teenage boy and a bewildered dad to take the lead? No….. I’m sure he had other more sophisticated and esteemed inspirations but that was certainly my six year old daughter’s experience today at a theme park.

I promised her, after convincing her that it would be fun to try out the kart-ride, that I would go slowly so as not to scare her and she just had to let me know and I would stop. As we were queuing up to be let in some teenage boys jumped in ahead of us so the only kart left was last on the grid. Once we were sat down and buckled in I grabbed the wheel looked at all the brake lights of the karts in front of me and that was it. When the guy said GO! I stamped my right foot down hard and we were off. All my promises to my daughter were waved goodbye as I tried to weave through all the slower kart traffic to overtake those bloody boys. When I got to the first one I sat on his bumper until he made a mistake and bumped into a father and daughter in front who were then pushed sideways. His kart was caught in the collision so I did what every responsible thirty-something mother would do –   put my foot down, claimed the outside line  and slightly bumped both of them out the way in the process. My daughter wasn’t screaming out of fright or jubilation so I figured she was OK so set my sights on the teenage boy in the lead. My sixty-something mother was filming the whole thing and I was determined to claim the lead so I sat on the boy’s tail until he made a mistake and I went up the inside to first place at which point my mother punched the air as she filmed the whole lot. When I got to the finish line and parked up I looked at my daughter who was quote pale and she promptly broke into tears – not quite the real Oh My God this is a disaster kind of meltdown but enough to make me feel guilty and a lot less cocky.

My mother on the other hand was saying well done you’ve still got it in you – meaning what exactly I don’t know but whatever ‘it’ is it came from deep down in the primeval depths of my soul where there is a little bit more competitive instinct than there is maternal. You never know my daughter may later be so inspired by my performance she may become the first successful Formula One driver – or maybe not……..

Think the competitive spirit of the Olympics has inspired me a little bit too much. I was tamer on the drive home though .. I came out of the fast lane twice.

Hope you enjoyed this post – if so it would be great if yo could donate £1 or $1 to Unicef – the whole reason why I am blogging every day for the rest of my life.

 

 

Thank you

Head games – getting in the right frame of mind for sport – but also for life

Becky Adlington’s Bronze in the 800m swim was brilliant. Her head however, wanted Gold, like the British audience. It was her head that let her down as she blamed the pressure from the British to win gold and that can only be a psychological issue. Isn’t it amazing how what we are thinking in our minds dictates our physical effectiveness? In Becky’s case it affected her technique so much so that she was way off her previous record. I feel really bad for her and can sympathise as we all know what it is like when you are there physically but not mentally. Not just in competitions and in situations when we are required to perform. It can affect us any time – like when you feel you didn’t get out the right side of the bed in the morning and it stays with you for the rest of the day.

I often find on days that I anticipate to be fun/ exciting/ good happy they turn out to be crap and vice versa – why is that? I went out last night with my husband. We were both knackered and didn’t really feel like going out but Mum was coming over to babysit so we had to grab our chance while we could although we just felt like nodding off. I thought ‘great we are so tired, we are just going to be irritable and snappy with each other and have a shit time’. On the contrary I just drove til I felt like stopping, saw a cool looking restaurant at the side of the road and we agreed to check it out and had a brilliant night. I bet you that if we had pre-booked a table somewhere amazing and anticipated a great evening it would have been shit.

With that in mind I try to assume that every day is going to be crap unless proved otherwise – and most of the time this kind of reverse psychology tactic works. If you don’t expect much then you might just surprise yourself and have a good time. Its got to the point that If I am dreading something I know that 80% of the time it will turn out well because I started off dreading it.

In sport it seems that emptying your head of all expectation and just enjoying the task ahead is key to winning over the psyche game. Charlotte Dujardin the GBR dressage rider performed an amazing test because she said she just went in the ring to enjoy herself and not ‘think’ herself out of the test by focusing too hard on each element of it. Being on top of your thoughts and feelings as a rider is particularly important because horses are hyper sensitive to changes in the rider’s temperament and this can make them play up and cock up too.

The fact that we have a team psychologist in Team GBR is proof of how powerful the mind is in winning medals. It is also true of how we enjoy life in general. I firmly believe that there are no limitations except those we create ourselves. Go Team GB!

I typed this while watching the women’s 400 metre final hence the olympic/sport angle and Christine Ohuruogou just won Silver – whoop whoop!

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