24 July 2012

Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games!

I was luckily enough to have a ticket for last night's technical rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Games!  So, what can I tell you? Danny Boyle, the amazingly talented film director of Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting and 127 hours who is running the show, pleaded with us to Save The Surprise with twitter hashtags on big screens all round the stadium. So, what to do? Do what the man says of course....

Precious ticket

However, I was in the Olympic Park and in the Olympic Stadium on a brilliantly sunny afternoon so let me show you what it's like and give you just a few hints about the show, along with a couple of top tips if you are going to visit over the next few weeks. 

I took the tube to Stratford following the signs, the crowds and the instructions from the many folk on duty at the station and very soon we reached the entrance. There was a bit of a queue before the gates opened but the excitement was high so we Brits just got on with it. Once the gates pulled back however, it was very smooth and we sailed through the security which was airport style. Then we were in and the buzz was amazing.
Excitable queues
Contrary to reports, there is plenty of non McDonalds food of a very British style - fish and chips, Indian and pies along with sandwiches and roasts and a bar of course. . Strangely McDonalds was shut yesterday! My top tip is to take or buy water as the water fountains advertised are few and far between and had the biggest queues of all. In fact queues for food and drinks were big. There are benches to sit on tho' I'm not sure how much fun it would be in the rain......

Non McDonalds food

Olympic park seating - great in the sunshine

The stadium looks wonderful and Orbit, love or hate it, is really impressive close up. We could wander around much of the Olympic site but the northern section was still closed to visitors. 
Olympic Stadium


Inside, the stadium is huge but views are good from where ever you are. It's on what they call Stadium Island, past a second ticket check, where there is more catering along the same lines as outside. The one place there were no queues at all were the toilets which was a welcome surprise. I can't show any photos of the inside of the stadium as it was all dressed for the first section.....  But here it is on the way home, looking amazing at night: 

On my way home....

Then the show began and although it was not the full line up yet as several videos and some of the performances were not in last night, nor was the parade of athletes naturally, it was wonderful - strange in parts and absolutely brilliant in others. The movement of huge numbers of performers, the incredible scene changes, the fabulous music, the imagination - wow! You'll have to watch it on Friday to learn more as my lips are sealed - save the surprise....

It's nearly time for the Olympics to start and you can feel the excitement and tension rising in London. It's getting really busy and a few things are not working yet but the sun has finally come out. Are you ready? I am!

Bye for now,

18 July 2012

What are all these strange, arty phone boxes around London?

London loves having quirky public art all around the place in aid of good charitable causes. We've had the Elephant Parade, the Gorillas on the South Bank and now ArtBoxes!

What's this one all about? There seem to be far fewer famous British red phone boxes around since we all have mobile phones but in the last few weeks hundreds of wonderfully decorated phone boxes have appeared all round the centre of London.  One of our great charities is called Childline and is a confidential helpline for children to contact when they are in distress and now it is also a website. This year they celebrate 25 years of good work and have joined up with BT for this great project. We get to enjoy the boxes and an auction of each box will raise funds for Childline so you could buy your very own box!

The original red phone box was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to commemorate another big jubilee, King George V's Silver Jubilee, back in the 1936. Scott is also famous for his design of Battersea Power Station and Waterloo Bridge and his grandfather designed St Pancras Hotel and the Albert Memorial - what a family!

Here is my photo gallery of Artboxes and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Olympic tribute in the West End

St Pancras Station by Eurostar

For singers in Covent Garden

Accessorize the shop, Covent Garden

Moody one in Covent Garden

Shiny gold from Ted Baker, Covent Garden

'Cell Phone'

Theatrical, Covent Garden

Butterflies, Covent Garden

Peek a boo, Covent Garden

Fashion, Royal Opera House

Atlas? Covent Garden

This one is knitted! Trafalgar Square

Big Ben on Trafalgar Square

Love Life on the South Bank

It's full steam ahead to the Olympics London 2012 so stand by for more about the fun and madness in London.
Bye for now,

9 July 2012

One amazing day at Wimbledon!

How do we get tickets for Wimbledon? That's a question I am often asked and the answer is either to get there very, very early in the morning to queue or to put in for the public ballot the year before you want to go. I was lucky enough to win 2 tickets in the ballot for Court 1 for last Friday so excitement levels were high!

We took the tube to Southfields  where you are immediately plunged into the tennis spirit as the platform is decorated as a tennis court - such a great touch. 
Southfields tube station in tennis mode

As ticket holders you just walk straight in which is such a treat after my visit last year when I had  to queue for 4 hours. However, the rain came down as we entered so we found a dry spot and got ready for a long wait as this summer has not been the best for outdoor events. We were very jealous of the even luckier people who had Centre Court tickets as with its wonderful roof, play is guaranteed now. This photo shows what we could see!
Sad sight early last Friday
Then the rain lifted, the clouds moved off and the sun came out so we headed off to our seats on Court 1 to enjoy the Women's Doubles Semi Final featuring the awesome Williams sisters.  We were treated to 3 sets of high quality tennis with a great view of the court from our excellent seats. 
Court 1 at Wimbledon

The Williams sisters - a winning combo

By now Andy Murray was on Centre Court and we could hear the crowd getting very excited so we headed off to the Hill - still called Henman Hill after Tim Henman.  There's a big screen and always a massive crowd of very loud tennis fans. The tension watching Andy Murray was hard to bear but the outpouring of relief when he beat Tsonga was brilliant to be part of. I really like Tsonga but he was up against a Brit bidding to be into the final for the first time since 1936. Sadly he came up against the genius of Roger Federer on Sunday but on Friday it was still all optimism and hope. The view from the Hill is great, giving you a great feel of the whole of Wimbledon and as you can see the evening was glorious. 

The match from Henman Hill

Views over Wimbledon

Come on Andy!

The Wimbledon ballot opens in August and all the information is on their website, so have a look and perhaps you could be there next year! 

Bye for now,

5 July 2012

For the love of the River Thames - London's brilliant new children's tapestry

This week saw the unveiling of an amazing new art work in St Paul's Cathedral, bringing a splash of colour and fun to these classic surroundings. The Thames Heritage Tapestry is a school arts project celebrating the River Thames and has involved schools all along the Thames to produce a heart warming and beautiful work.

Each school has contributed one metre square and they have used their imagination to depict an historical and/or up to date representation of their home area and how the Thames influences where they live. The schools are from all along the river so you can trace its full length in tapestry squares from the source in Gloucestershire, along the panels to the estuary at Southend. 

We were lucky enough to have some of the children there to explain their work, as well as the Bishop and organisers of the tapestry who knew the story behind every square. It is an inclusive event with Special Needs Schools represented and I especially liked the Pearly Kings square from the East London Independent School. 

You can see bridges, rowers, famous monuments, boats and of course plenty of blue water but what struck me most was the riot of colours and the almost Hockney-esque beauty of the tapestries. Most of all, the wonderful imagination and hard work from all the kids involved. Do go and see it if you can, it's in St Paul's until 27th September and is another good excuse to see St Paul's - read my recent blog if need any more reasons to visit! 

The biggest problem was how to chose which children's squares to put in the blog so here's a small selection but if you want to see more click here. 

One of the four panels tracing the length of the Thmes

The Bishop enjoys the Pearly Kings

'We made this'!

Mid Thames secton

Around Teddington

Tales of the Riverbank!

Rowing at Henley
Houses of Parliament

The proud creators of the bottom square

A local hero

Colourful Kew (I think!)

Just like a Hockney!

Love the sheep!

The sun shines brightly in this one

All the fun of the South Bank

I'll have to stop here but each of the 240 squares is worth a photo and stopping to hear the story behind children's choice of images woven, stitched or stuck onto their own square.

Bye for now,