Andrew games maker, Channel 4 Paralympics, Fenton House, Gunshot Glitter, Oscar Pistorius, Paralympic Games, Sebastian Coe closing speech, Tatyana McFadden, The Last Leg, Volvo V40, Yasmin Selena Butt
Hello you, the Paralympics is officially over. And I’m exhausted after a month of Gunshot Glittering. And it’s cloudy outside my window. Boo!! It’s like the clouds were polite enough to keep themselves at bay, while the Paralympians were breaking world records in London, but now it’s over they’re saying .. ‘Righto, that’s your lot!’
* But no fear if you read this blog you’ll get to enjoy some great wee video clips on You Tube so keep your eyes peeled*
The Paralympics closed last night with a spectacular Coldplay gig played against a backdrop of blinding, beautiful lights. It knocked the Olympic closing ceremony flying off its feet. Though if you hated Coldplay it must have been excruciating, but I’m fond of them, I would have loved to have been there, I don’t think I’ve ever had such ‘wish I was there’ envy ever! I would even have risked the ‘he’s going to poke my eye out at this rate’ Chris Martin, groin thrusting away behind his keyboards, but C4 thankfully only filmed him from the waist up when he was seated.
I was disappointed at how snotty some of the tweets were flying around my Twitter feed though. Coldplay are huge, world famous, that gig would have netted them a quid, they didn’t have to do it, it’s not like they need the publicity. They’re fantastic ambassadors for the UK.
But what I want to focus on is Lord Sebastian Coe’s closing speech. It electrified me. The man is a childhood hero of mine. He knocked me for six in 1984 at the Los Angeles Games when he came back from toxoplasmosis to get a silver and gold in the games when the media had written him off. The man has been on the receiving end of a lot of pot-shots since adopting the mantle to bring the games to London, but if you weren’t moved by his words here, then come over to the Castle so I can check you over for a pulse, please. This is what he said, read this:
“I was travelling on the tube when I met someone wearing the familiar purple uniform and a pass marked Medic. A Games maker. And the Games makers stand among the heroes of London 2012. We began talking.
His name was Andrew and he told me he was a doctor at St Mary’s hospital on his way to help out at boxing.
But when I tried to thank him, he wouldn’t let me. He said he was the one who wanted to do the thanking. And as we did a very British dance over who should thank who, he suddenly cut through all the politeness and said:
“I was on duty on 7/7, that awful day. For me this is closure. I wasn’t sure I should come or whether I could face it. I’m so glad I did. For I’ve seen the worst of mankind and now I’ve seen the best of mankind.”
Just a few days later I met Emily – a Games maker at the Paralympic Games. She talked of what the Games meant for her and what participating in wheelchair basketball means to her. “It has lifted the clouds of limitation”, she said.
So Andrew and Emily, I am going to have the last word. Thank you thank you to you and all the volunteers.
The Paralympic Games has set new records every day, sporting records, records for crowds, for television audiences, for unbridled spirit.
In this country we will never think of sport the same way and we will never think of disability the same way. So yes, the Paralympians have lifted the cloud of limitation.”
I loved it. I really hope that the words stick. I was very moved by them. I was very curious to see how people around me reacted to the Paralympics, if people would be watching it, or as supportive of them as they’d been of the Olympics. My personal Twitterfeed was pretty quiet though Daniel Honey was loving it & Juan was annoyed he couldn’t see it in the USA. I will be the first to confess that I was pretty ignorant of the Paralympics up until London 2012. I’d never seen any of the events, didn’t have a clue that they’d been taking place since the 1948, and except for South African sprinter, Oscar Pistorius, couldn’t name you a single athlete who’d be taking part in the Games.
Were you the same? It wasn’t a case of deliberately ignoring them. I’ve never seen them discussed or televised or promoted. I think Channel 4 did a great job with their teaser campaign, it got me genuinely hooked ‘ The Superhumans,’ angle.
And despite how infuriating I found the constant commercial breaks, though I loved the Volvo V40 advert with the aces riff from The Telekinesis song ‘Please ask for help’ which drove me spare until Liz and Charlotte put me out of my misery on Facebook by telling me who was behind it – I felt, as the games progressed, Claire Balding ( great poach from the BBC) and Ade Adepitan did a great job with the commentary and explaining the different classifications for competing. I once met the latter at an anti-racism gig – a very sweet, dapper dressed man.
And I absolutely loved the irreverent humour of C4’s post- Paralympic nightly event dissection ‘The Last Leg’ hosted by Adam Hills which was on at 10.30pm. It was brilliant, exactly what the disabled community needed. Just witty and wicked. If you missed it, I hope it’s on 4OD. The ‘Is It OK?’slot was thrown open to people to tweet in questions they’d been dying to ask about disability. There wasn’t a jot of mawkishness or political correctness in sight, just honesty, gleeful humour and a celebration of sport.
I don’t think you would’ve found that on the BBC, so despite my initial skepticism about the Games going to C4, not a channel I associate with sport, I was happy to be proven wrong.
And to be honest a LOT of the personal stories of the competing athletes knocked me for six, some of them had terrible starts in life such as the USA T54 (wheelchair) athlete Tatyana McFadden who’d been found abandoned with spina bifida in an orphanage in Russia by an American couple who adopted her and her sister. Other athletes had been injured in wars or terrorist attacks. The human interest angle was immense.
And I WENT TO THE GAMES! I got a ticket for the Athletics during the middle of the Olympics. My brother was going to some of the events and despite my aching, empty bank balance, I realised I would be a Class A buffoon to miss out because of that. This is after all a ‘once in a lifetime’ thing, the games being here in my capital. And I love athletics, my ticket was £20 and included a travel card, it was an utter bargain to be honest. I had a seriously lovely day, it was weird going into London on my own when recently all my days out have been enjoyed with friends, but I had a gently amazing day which I will summarise for your pleasure in bullet form:
- On the 607 bus I met a handsome young photographer/DJ called Solomon, who ate two bananas in a row, got talking to me about how cool his niece was and then said he’d only watched the ‘real’ Olympics, before laughing at himself for how un-PC that sounded. We talked about Gunshot Glitter. I made him say the novel title 5 x in a row for fun and later tested him, he called it ‘Gunshot Sparkly thing,’ which had me in hysterics, before then getting the name right and going off home to Holland Park for a kip.
- I went to Fenton House in Hampstead to chill-out in the gardens and mooch the property. This was the first time I’d been to a National Trust site on my own, I normally go with Steve, I wasn’t sure I could be trusted to behave myself; posh places bring out a slightly wicked streak in me and make me want to tamper with things, I think I did quite well all things considered. I met an American woman and her son in the garden, they were celebrating her birthday. They were deliriously happy. I helped them light the candles and took a few pix for them. They offered me a slice of cake – carrot or chocolate. ‘ Chocolate please!’ I said. I ate my slice surrounded my the rosiest of apples in the orchard. I also met this gorgeous mixed-race couple with their toddler. I was seated in a deck chair, sleepy and blissful, and saw them taking a photo of each other. And I called out ‘Let me take your photo as a family, but you’ll have to come to me, I’m too tired to move!’
- Paralympics!! **Excited**. Couldn’t stop smiling the whole time even when I was told by a volunteer that I was seated miles away and was in for quite a walk. I was going to get to go to the OLYMPIC STADIUM how could I not be smiling?
- I was cheesed off with myself for being 10mins late because I could hear the roar of the crowd as I approached Bridge E and I was worried about what I was missing. I was seated next to two Asian girls who were clad in Union Jack flags. They were from Stratford and just chuffed to be there as they couldn’t get tickets to the Olympics. Then the one sat next to me asked me what country I’d come from and seemed oddly taken aback when I said I was a Londoner, which bemused me a bit.
- Most dodgy but well-intentioned comment of the night. An Asian couple rocked up halfway through the sport and sat next to me. She turned to me during a wheelchair race, grabbed my arm and said ‘Look how fast they’re going, I can’t even go that fast and I’ve got feet!’
- Most electrifying moment of the night: ‘Blade Runner,’ Oscar Pistorius winning his 400m T44 heat by MILES, there is a reason that man is an icon and a star, despite the hoopla he caused by being critical of Brazil’s Alan Oliveira’s blades, when he was beaten into second place in the 200m T44 final, the man has charisma and style oozing out of him. The place was in uproar when he was racing.
- And all the Mexican waves during the 5000m were cool, how they start is a mystery to me, but I am glad they do ; )
- For me, a magical, huge moment was taking my seat to look up and find I was located in front of the home straight and finish line AND the Paralympic flame. I’ve been besotted with the cauldron, ever since seeing it form moved me to tears, during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. If I didn’t run the risk of singeing my eyebrows off, I would have given it a good cuddle. I’d never been in a proper big stadium before. I’m not sure Willesden stadium when I was 12 counts? I was sure the scale would intimidate me, but no, I could get on board with this, the stadium rocks ; )
My preciousssss.. (at end of day)
- One of my favourite moments of the night was Angola’s Jose Armando’s medal ceremony for the T11 ( visually impaired) 400m when he hoisted up his silver and bronze medalist runner ups, from Brazil and France, onto his podium and they had a proper little dance together. They really went for it. The crowd loved it.
Making Angola proud!
- The people around me who’d dressed in celebration of their day at the games and the young couple who danced up and down the steps in a world of their own. They were so sweet to watch and looked fantastic, after the athletics ended we were all really reluctant to leave, got chatting and looked out at the empty stadium and took pix of each other. This was ours. He insisted I wore his hat and she insisted I wave her flags, so I did.
- The party carried on outside the stadium with people milling about soaking up the atmosphere well past 10pm. Gamesmakers were singing, ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!’ and high-fiving passing peeps old and young. The floodlit stadium and structures looked stunning.
- I spotted a middle-aged gamesmaker lady trying to take a self-portrait and making a hash of it, I told her I’d take one for her. Taking photos were definitely my good deed today. She told me it was her last day and she’d volunteered at both the Olympics and the Paralympics and it had been the best time of her life. She got quite weepy talking about it and embarrassed at her own tears, so I gave her a big hug.
- As I was making my way towards Westfield Stratford all these people were peering over a ledge and I went over and said ‘What’s everyone looking at?’ This woman beckoned me to her spot and said ‘The water is spelling out words’. And she was right. There was a short cascade of water dropping periodically with a word running through them. It was so unexpected and like everyone there I was charmed by it. So I filmed it for a few seconds. Enjoy and watch this it is a must see : )
And my **bonus** memory of the night goes to the blonde, cute, tired, but happy London Underground worker with a loudhailer repeatedly saying, ‘Jubilee line on your left, Central on your right,’ outside Stratford station. I stopped by him to get my Travelcard out and burst out laughing when he got them mixed up. I said, ‘And you were doing so well until then!’ He said he was exhausted, but it was really nice to see people having so much fun. I told him he should do it in a Yoda voice to keep himself alert. He said maybe he’d try like Darth Vader, I insisted Yoda was cooler. I said he should say, ‘Central Line, right you must go’. He said he’d think about it. I went into the station and heard him do it! And then over the loud hailer I heard, ‘I DID it!’
And that, there, endeth my day at the Paralympics. Londoners who attended, supported, watched at home, good for you. But the rest of the world needs to catch up and recognise and respect the Paralympians for who they are – athletes who strive as hard and as determinedly as everyone else. I was really shocked to hear that the USA didn’t televise the games live. If they didn’t, I wonder how many other countries didn’t either? To me that’s a kick in the teeth to superb athletes like Tatyana McFadden. That her nation doesn’t deem her achievement worth televising until some strange late hour? The world needs to catch up with the Superhumans. They deserve the respect of their countries. How was the Paralympics for you? How did you feel about it all?
But, God, well done, Great Britain! Well done to our own amazing athletes like Ellie Simmonds, David Weir, Jessica-Jane Applegate and to Channel 4 for doing a great job of televising the games. I spotted a gold letterbox in Uxbridge the other day so we must have an Olympic champion in Hillingdon, but didn’t have my camera. I look forward to Paralympians getting theirs too the nation over.
When I blogged about the Olympics I said I didn’t know what kind of world I’d be looking at when these games arrived, but that Gunshot Glitter would definitely be out. If you read my blog you will know that I did it. That I beat the fear and published my debut novel. I am flattered and relieved at the enthusiastic reader response I’ve had so far.
The most unexpected have been comments from strangers who took a punt on me, who didn’t know me at all from Facebook or Twitter, or had been recommended by a friend. Promoting a novel by yourself is very hard work. If you’ve read it and enjoyed it, get yourself a dose of good karma by spreading the word. Please. It would mean a lot to me. I am working on organising a print edition. There’s been a pleasing demand for it and I want to do it properly.
Little news for you: I recently bought 100 ISBNs and have decided one day I will manage my own publishing brand … that should keep me out of mischief. Take care : ) xx