Sights and Sports

I couldn’t have imagined it happening, but just over a week into my new job and I have another memory to throw into our red box. I’ve also seen a few sights I’ve not seen before, and overheard a conversation that enlightened me about the expressions of young love. As far as first weeks at work go, this one’s been pretty good, thank you.

A tiger in a tree in south east London

I can’t get enough of the fact that I work so close to the River Thames. Any opportunity I get, I take myself down to the water and walk and walk and watch and enthuse. Last Monday lunchtime we launched our walking club from the office: we walked down to the river, walked over the London Millennium Footbridge towards St Paul’s Cathedral, and then walked along the far side of the river as far as Blackfriars Bridge and back to our office.

Bright blue sky and weak sunshine provided a perfect backdrop for the walk. I couldn’t stop looking all around me, soaking in everything that makes London such an amazing place to be. City workers in dark suits sat dotted on benches all along the edge of the river; some eating sandwiches, some reading newspapers, some just sitting and thinking. Runners paced past us in both directions, and tourists were everywhere with cameras in hand capturing the London-ness of the day.

Seated on one of the benches was a musician playing a didgeridoo. I so wished I’d had my camera with me to document such a unique sight – I’ve seen a didgeridoo player in a tube station before, but never out in the waterside sunshine. I was riveted.

Another day I walked the other way along the river, and sat in front of The Globe (Shakespeare theatre) to eat my lunch. I was surrounded by tourists, office workers and schoolchildren all out to enjoy an outing in the chilly sunshine. I walked past a group of primary schoolchildren seated on the riverside wall, with pencils and sketch pads in hand, and they were all drawing pictures of the Globe Theatre. I then walked past a headless statue that was attracting much photographic attention, and many foreign students gathering together to visit the Tate Modern art gallery.

I wrote last week about the conversation I overheard on the bus, and I continue to hear funny things said on the buses almost every day. I enjoy the commute as I have not only a stunning walk to my bus stop, but the ride gives me an opportunity to read, although when I hear something that fascinates me I find it hard to concentrate on my literature. I have just finished Bridget Jones’ Diary, so my eavesdropping has occasionally taken a back seat!

On Thursday, I volunteered at a big fundraising event organised by the charity I work for. They run a calendar full of such fundraising events, and this was their inaugural Sports Quiz evening held at world-famous cricket ground, Lord’s. It was a black tie event, and the draw card for the evening was the presence of a number of British sports celebrities, including cricketers, rugby players, athletes, swimmers, a famous sports broadcaster and a certain Scottish manager of one of the most successful premier league football sides in Europe.

My colleagues were surprised that I had volunteered to help at an event in my first week! Perhaps they don’t know that I suffer from a hereditary condition known as FOMO (fear of missing out) and I am mad about sports. Put those two together, and you literally couldn’t keep me away from Thursday night’s event!

It was such fun and it so didn’t feel like work; the hardest part was running around in a little black dress and high heels. The former England rugby player who hosted the evening and ran the auction was brilliant – so funny and entertaining, it was like being at a comedy show; his banter with fellow sportsmen was fabulous and so well received.

I listened and laughed and watched and took in as much as I could as I ran in and out of the function room and did what I was told to do. I loved every minute of the evening, and was glad to share a cab ride home just after midnight. My aching feet were relieved of another walk to the tube station.

So, seeing a tiger in a tree on our walk to church this morning was nothing too out of the ordinary. We’ve come to expect the unexpected in London; it’s constantly filled with surprises and as for this week, it was good. Really good.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Happy Feet

Next to laughter, dance is the best therapy. Every week I spend an hour dancing my troubles away. For that hour my stresses and disappointments and fears and anxieties disappear in the sweat and the swirl of the salsa and the cumbia and the bachata. The Zumba instructor tells us what to do. We just move.

I couldn’t wait for last night’s dance class. I got to the gym early in anticipation of the therapy session ahead. I wasn’t disappointed.

Our instructor taught us some new dances and used some new music. One song made my heart sing and the tears fly out from my eyes. In the stomping and shimmying, I heard the roar of the crowds, I felt the joy of victory and the sweet warmth of sunshine on my shoulder, the colour of the world in flags and smiles and hope and expectation and togetherness and the healing of a nation united. As I twirled I breathed in the excitement of the game and the despair of hopes dashed. And as my hips swayed to a familiar drumbeat, my heart leapt with imagining what it was like to be in my home country during the FIFA Soccer World Cup 2010.

We danced to this:

“Dancing faces you towards Heaven, whichever direction you turn.”
Terri Guillemets

Sunshine signing off for today!

On The Carpet

It’s red carpet season in London. Celebrities, also known as movie stars, dress designerly and walk along the red carpet to answer endless and inane questions about their movies and their co-stars and their spouses and partners and directors and friends and why they think their movies should win awards and what their movies mean and if they seek enlightenment through the art form they support and who dressed them.

Film premieres take place all year round in London, and this week has also seen a swathe of awards ceremonies in the capital. On Sunday night, London played host to the Bafta Awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and last night the music awards ceremony, the Brit Awards 2011, took place at the O2 Arena in North Greenwich.

As was expected, The King’s Speech garnered most of the big Bafta awards, including best actor, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best film and best original screenplay. It was nominated for 14 awards and won seven. The darling Colin Firth, who won the best actor award for the second year in a row (in 2010 he won one for A Single Man), said “I like coming here.”

The director, producer and screenwriter describe the film as “a little film”, one they never thought would attract the worldwide attention it has. David Seidler, writer of the original screenplay for The King’s Speech, won a Bafta for his screenplay. As a child, Seidler battled with a stammer and, listening to King George VI speak on radio, he thought that if the King could overcome a stammer, there was hope for him too. I like stories like that.

Last night’s Brit Awards 2011 honoured many young and not so young members of the music industry. A young south London rapper, known as Tinie Tempah, won two Brits, while Take That – recently rejoined by Robbie Williams – collected their first Brit Award for Best British Group. Robbie walked away with his 17th.

A young fringe-flicking Canadian received a Brit Award for International Breakthrough Act of the Year. He declined to show off his Michael Jackson skills in the pre-show interview, claiming that he couldn’t moonwalk “on the carpet”.  The moves had to be seen to bieber-lieved.

Canadian band, Arcade Fire, also walked away with two Brit Awards for Best International Group and Best International Album.

We’ve stood by the red carpet for film premieres a few times since we’ve been in London. The first time we were lucky enough to be penned in, up close and personal, with uninterrupted views of this:

The less glamorous view of the red carpet

Imagine being close enough to see the red carpet being fitted? Kind of takes the glamour out of the event. A couple standing near us asked if they could have the carpet off-cuts. Seriously?

Knee pads are clearly a health and safety requirement

But this is really why we stood and watched the red carpet being set up:

The man of the moment. Or as I like to call him "The Georgeous"

I think the guy standing behind the star of “The Fantastic Mr Fox” was thinking, “OMG! I can’t believe I’m standing this close to George Clooney!”

We also saw Sir Ben Kingsley:

Ever the elegant and serene professional. He pretended not to hear the guy next to me call him a "sexy beast".

And Bill Murray:

Henna'd hands reach out for his autograph but Mr Murray was only there to shake hands.

As we speak, London is ordering miles more red carpet to welcome the sporting elite and the spectating elite (you clearly have to be elite to afford the ticket prices I’m reading about) to the London Olympics in 2012. 527 days to go and counting. Danny Boyle, director of movies such as Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, Sunshine (I don’t know that movie but I love the title!) and 127 Days, will be directing the opening ceremony. Will we see a field full of brightly coloured anoraks doing Bollywood moves and avoiding the chasm? I can hardly wait.

Sunshine signing off for today!

New Balls, Please

Yesterday Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open Men’s Tennis Final. In grand style. His opponent, Andy Murray, was Britain’s great hope and the nation stood anxiously by as he lost yet another Grand Slam final. Commentators said Djokovic won the match as much as Murray lost it. And lose it he did, in more ways than one.

I am not a huge fan of the Scotsman, Andy Murray, I have to confess. His tennis is great, constantly getting better and he works hard at it. However, I find his on-court behaviour and monosyllabic, monotone demeanour tedious and frustrating to watch. His post-match interviews tend to be the same whether he’s won or lost. I heard a comedian say that Andy Murray made Gordon Brown (the then British prime minister) look charismatic. I think you get the point.

So yesterday, in deference to my husband’s Scottishness, and as a temporary resident of Great Britain, I chose to support Andy Murray in the Australian Open final. After about ten minutes I wished my allegiance lay with the balletic, crazy athletic skills and calm demeanour of Novak Djokovic, who was so much easier to support. I found the childish, pouting tantrums that have come to characterise Andy Murray’s game, really difficult to watch.

He yelled at his “team”, he told them to relax and calm down, he told them to “shut up” and he swore like a trooper at almost every error in his game. He kept his eye, worryingly, on his team’s box after every shot, as though he was going to get into trouble for playing badly. His head hung low through most of the match. He threw his racket on the ground, he smashed the ball back across the court when he made yet another unforced error, and he ranted and raved. His mental attitude clearly didn’t serve him well.

In the post-match award ceremony, Andy Murray conceded that his friend, Novak’s, game had been unbelievable and he deserved to win. He then went on to say thank you to all the right people: his team, the tournament organisers, the volunteers, the court-side staff and all his fans.

Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, thanked his team and said he wouldn’t be where he was without them. He said that although tennis is an individual sport, he could not continue without the hard work that happens, for him, behind the scenes.

“I love you, guys,” he called out to his team. They, in turn, applauded as they took photos of their man of the moment, and shouted back, “We love you too”.

He thanked his family, mentioning his brothers in particular. He thanked the Australian Open team, he acknowledged the suffering of those who’d lost loved ones or homes in the devastating floods in Queensland, and he dedicated his newly-won trophy to his troubled home country, Serbia.

How differently this would this have played out had the final result been different, I cannot be sure. But based on yesterday’s performance, this is how I see it:

Two superb athletes? For sure. Two international sporting icons? Without doubt. Two true sportsmen? I’m not convinced. Let’s see what happens next.

Sunshine signing off for today!