Of Rio, Television Sets, and Family Heirlooms

On Channel 4, whose news programme at seven in the evening is required watching chez IsobelandCat, they are starting to trail the Rio Paralympics. Can it really be four years since the blissful summer that was London 2012? Impossible. Yet maybe it’s not so bad as four years on I can still feel that thrill, that joy that marked the occasion. Seeing the footage again gives me a tingle of excitement about Rio.

Maybe this time round I’ll be able to watch the Olympics and the Paralympics from the comfort of the sofa. My postage stamp sized television is about to be supplanted by one I have inherited from Aunt. In 2012, when Jessica Ennis won gold I was up close and personal in front of the screen. It was the same when I watched David Weir, the *weirwolf*, net his three gold medals. And Hannah Cockcroft, Mo Farah and all those other amazing athletes.

It’s appropriate I have Aunt’s television as I bought her her previous one. I don’t remember ever buying shampoo for her, but that is a large part of what I have inherited too. She left all her money to the church, leaving some aside for the substantial refreshments and the cost of her funeral. While she was still alive, knowing that we would be the ones to clear her home, she said that Linda and I should take whatever we wanted or could use. Most stuff is going to a charity that works with homeless people but which also has a connection with a centre collecting things for refugees. Aunt’s clothes are going to keep women in the Calais *jungle* warm. Her fortified foods will hopefully help those suffering from malnutrition, and her stocks of gluten free food will mean some of her fellow sufferers of coeliac disease living in precarious circumstances may get the right diet. Continue reading

International Women’s Day

Last year on International Women’s day I said thank you to 101 women who have had a positive effect on my life and helped shape who I am. A lot of them have no idea I exist. It doesn’t matter.
I’m not going for another 101 today, but when I think back to last year there was a group of women who I left out. I am not sure a single sportswoman featured in my list. Then London 2012 happened. So today belatedly I want to say thank-you to all of the women athletes who made it such a memorable summer. For the British team, it was the women who kicked off the summer’s success, so I find it very sad and frustrating that just a few months on the sports sections of the national papers are dominated by men’s sports. In fact, we didn’t have to wait months. It happened almost immediately. Continue reading

We All Made the Games

We all made the Games. Yes, I know that was a slick advertising slogan by a certain fast food enterprise who I am loathe to endorse, but I find the photographs that line the walls of Knigs Cross underground intensely moving, and I think the statement is a true one. Also that you can reverse it and say with equal truth that the Games made us. And made an amazing, unforgettable summer of unity, pride, joy and hope.
A teenager said today that it was as though for six weeks we stopped fighting and hating, we came together and felt part of something that made us happy. Another said she had planned to get as far away from London as she could while the Games were on and pretend they were not happening, but had ended up glued to the television, on the edge of her seat, enthralled and mesmerised.
I wish we could bottle some of the atmosphere London has enjoyed, and take a sniff of it every now and then to bring back that sense of wonder, excitement and possibility; to lift us when we turn back to our old ways of national self-doubt and cynicism.
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Legacy

The Closing Ceremony has begun. The Games are over. David Weir blew our minds this morning when he won the wheelchair marathon. I have a host of new heroes after these last ten days, but David Weir is the one I admire the most. And tonight he is one of the flag-bearers of Paralympics GB with Sarah Storey. When I wrote about the opening ceremony, I said that I expected we would become as familiar with the Paralympians as we had the Olympians. So it has proved. Yes I knew about Oscar and Ellie, David and Sarah. I even had a passing acquaintance with Johnny and Hannah , but it wasn’t like it is now, where I feel as though I have been on an exhilarating and unforgettable journey where they have lead me to highs I never knew about. And I have a hero on the French wheelchair rugby team, Riadh Sallem who kept my attention riveted with his determination and competitiveness. He has star quality, by which I mean you have to watch him, he radiates such energy.

Sallem Makes a Break

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Closing Ceremony Ticket Scare

I am very glad that I have some Irish whiskey in the flat. I may need a large glass of it in a minute or two. I opened my emails and found a message from London 2012.
This is how it started:
Important update from London 2012

DearIsobel,
We are writing to let you know that the Olympic Park will close early on 9 September in preparation for the Closing Ceremony.

When arriving for your 7-a-side Football event on 9 September, bear in mind that Victoria Gate will be closed for entry from 2pm. You can find further details of gate closures on the London 2012 website

Due to the late finish of your 7-a-side Football event, we suggest you stay inside the Olympic Park after your event to wait for the Closing Ceremony – but please be aware that many of the facilities inside the Park will be closed as the final preparations are made. Follow the directions of staff to a designated area where you can wait to enter the Olympic Stadium.

Lovely, you might think. What’s wrong with that? Well, two things. I don’t have tickets for either 7-a-side Football or the Closing Ceremony. Later in the message, it mentions letting others in my party know. The only tickets available for the Closing Ceremony when I looked the other day started at £250. A message implying I had bought more than one, and tickets for another event, made my heart beat wildly with anxiety. Continue reading

Arena Love

I was feeling a bit low today realising that I had no more tickets for the Paralympics, so late afternoon I went online and managed to get a day pass for Friday. I shan’t be able to go there until afternoon, but I am hoping to get into things I haven’t seen so far and enjoy the atmosphere one last time.
I have heard some stuff said about Paralympians that has made me pause. You can’t watch these people and doubt that they are first class athletes. This isn’t some lesser hobbyist event.
I am able-bodied. I am not an athlete. Put me in a race or contest with anyone of these Paralympians and I would lose.
Anyway.
We were walking about yesterday, bumping into people we knew, chatting, shocked at the queues for the water fountains (there were none on Thursday), when there was a huge roar from the Aquatics Centre. Everyone looked at each other and started smiling. We knew Ellie Simmonds had just got gold. We celebrated with a beer £4.30 the bottle, so for a frugal person like me with boat bills to pay quite a statement.
We needed to get into the Arena. I fell in love with the Arena at the Opening Ceremony and when I saw it on Thursday inside the Park my heart beat a little faster.

Arena Love


Even grey skies couldn’t diminish my love. Actually, my heart started beating faster on the way to the Park. You know the expression about your heart swelling with pride? Well, I know what it means now.
I took various photos of it in daylight ad after night had fallen.

Arena and Wild Flowers


Arena at Night

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit

Libby Clegg Wins her Heat


You might wonder what is so free spirited about this picture. Libby Clegg is an athlete who is visually impaired, just as all the competitors are in this heat, the Women’s 100m T12. The guy on the right in orange is her guide, Mikail Huggins. Read more about how it works on her site.
The final is tonight. All four finalists run with guides. Don’t miss it. You’ll probably hear me cheering from my sofa.

For more challenge entries, click here.