Thursday, 22 March 2012

Tourist for the afternoon

Last week I broke up for the Easter holidays, and the sun has been shining ever since. It had been a long term but it ended on a high. We had been working on a research project for Procter and Gamble which we pitched to them last week in the old library in Burlington House. Presenting there was an incredible experience in itself. It got better when my group won a prize for the best presentation. The work we had put in since December had paid off, and I had made some great friends and learnt a lot in the process.

Now spring has not only sprung, but jumped for joy in a blooming of daffodils and blue skies.

What better way to enjoy it than to be a tourist for the afternoon and head to Hyde Park?

Yesterday I did just that.

I was dressed like a walking rainbow. One of my favourite phrases is 'be the change you want to see in the world'. Well I think you should also be the colours you want to see in the world. It was a beautiful day, much too beautiful for black opaque tights or any shade of grey. So instead I wore my new trousers that are about as bright as trousers can get without requiring a health warning.

My friend recently bought a pair of crazy and colourful leggings which I love to bits. When she showed them to me she said "well I'm not going to be able to wear these when I'm 40 so I might as well enjoy them now." I loved her attitude and was inspired to buy my own 'I won't wear them when I'm 40' trousers. True, I do look borderline crazy when I wear them, but I also feel energised and can't help but walk around with a huge smile on my face.

So it was with a smile on my face that I headed to Hyde Park for the afternoon. I bought an ice cream and sat on a bench watching the sun tickling the surface of the Serpentine and rollerbladers weaving in and out of neon cones on the pathway.

I spend most of my time between Brixton (where I live) and Sheperd's Bush (where I study), so sometimes I forget that all of this exists. When I remember, I feel even more fortunate than ever to live in this city.

Never mind drugs, dressing in deliciously bright colours and wandering around Hyde Park in the sun is the best possible kind of high.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Team GB

Like most Londoners it seems, I do not have tickets to the Olympics. Unlike lots of Londoners, my ticketlessness isn't the fault of the oversubscribed ticketing system. I didn't apply for any.

I have a confession: I am only usually a half-hearted watcher of the Olympics on TV and the news that London would be hosting the 2012 games left me somewhat underwhelmed. Even after moving to London the prospect of the games touching down in my city seemed more inconvenient than exciting.

I am now, however, an Olympics convert. I am ordering my union jack flag and plan to wear it every day during the games, accessorised with a laurel wreath on my head and the Olympics rings hanging from my ears.

Although I may not have tickets to the actual games, recently I got the opportunity to visit the Olympic village to watch the finals of the swimming championships - the final round of qualifiers for the Great Britain Olympic swimming team.

Seeing the site (however incomplete) was brilliant and watching the swimmers racing made me feel a connection to them which I shall carry through to the July games.

There are many negatives to the Olympics, but seeing the talented young people take to the water reminded me of the positives that form the foundation of the games. The sport, and the support. The crowd was buzzing and when at the end of the races the entire Olympic swimming team made a procession around the pool, I felt incredibly proud. I didn't know any of the swimmers but it didn't matter - they were representing our country and swimming clubs, coaches and youngsters all over the country.

I always cry when I watch the marathon. There is something about seeing strangers cheering strangers on and willing them to do well that restores my faith in humanity. Watching the swimming I felt a similar pang of pride and awe at what people can achieve.

No doubt when the Olympics kick off I will encounter transport related frustrations like most Londoners. I also stick to the fact that there are politics surrounding the games that I don't agree with. But I don't want these to detract from what the Olympics should, and can be. All those swimmers and all their hours of training, all their families who drove them to training sessions and came along to competitions, the people working to make the games happen - from the builders to students who will be making costumes and my friend Lucy who will be dancing in the closing ceremony - people celebrating sporting achievement and our amazing city. That is what the Olympics will be about for me.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Let's go to the seaside

There is just something about the seaside that makes me feel five years old again. Pebbles and sand between my toes, salty skin, greasy fish and chips and the obligatory ice cream eaten on the beach (guarded carefully from the fat seagulls circling overhead).

Last weekend my friend and I took a spontaneous day trip to Brighton. We needed to get out of London, and we needed to see the sea.
As soon as we stepped off the train (after a breakfast picnic of flaky croissants, fruit, smoothie and gossip) we both sighed happily. Sky! Sea! We headed straight to the beach and despite being wrapped up in our winter warmers, we couldn't help running in for a quick paddle.

I love the British tradition of visiting the seaside. I love that there will always be one brave swimmer whatever the weather (last weekend he was a lone surfer braving the elements despite the lack of surf), I love that families will set up for the day with wind breakers, sandy sandwiches and buckets and spades and not leave until the sun sets and I love the overpriced trinkets flogged on the beach front. £5 for a jar of pebbles sold in front of a pebbly beach? Perfect.

British seaside towns and all their trimmings (pier, amusement arcade, gaudy plastic windmills) are tacky, but wonderfully so. They are optimistic. A British beach may be no match for the Mediterranean, but us Brits celebrate our shores as if Brighton were Biarritz. 'Love what you've got' is a good motto, and over the years we have come to love our fish and chips and goose-pimply beaches with a passion that makes me proud.

In the afternoon we headed off the beach and just had time to share a slice of carrot cake and a copy of Cosmo before catching our train home.

I think I shall have to come back soon. But next time I promise to go swimming - whatever the weather.