Rococo Garden…

Clarity in a season of rain. Contrasts, light, shadows and reflections.

A chance call to the Gardens on the day before their official season opening. I’m very glad I did. The first snow drops of the season appear which is something i’ve missed for the past 2 years! The beautiful red and brown beech leaves lying all over the ground.


Paralympics adventure…

After weeks of checking for tickets, a Twitter feed gave the alert about the new release of tickets and I was on the computer 1 minute later! No athletics tickets but swimming was available + access into the Olympic Park area.

So, up at 4 in the morning, a quick (and dark) cycle down to the bus station to get the coach at 5:15! It’s one thing being woken up in the night by the kids, then going back to sleep, but another thing entirely getting up at 4 then staying up! : )

Mr McK and I arrived at 8:20 at Victoria Coach Station and we were stood outside the Aquatics Centre within the Olympic Park at 9:45 (only just after the morning session had started). A 5 hour and 45 mins trip just to get there, but all worth it as it turned out.

A great atmosphere inside the Aquatics Centre and some incredible athletes competing. I found the whole thing a very humbling experience, particularly when the more seriously disabled swimmers were out there. I was taken aback by the efforts of the athletes and their obvious determination in the face of considerable adversity. That said a lot about the human spirit.

One thing I noticed was the different techniques used by the different swimmers, I would guess depending on their particular disability. The atmosphere was great and a lot of support shown by the crowd. Our seats were in the first tier and right in the middle of the pool’s 50m length, so a really good view. The roof of the building was the highlight in architectural terms, with its undulating form and cut out lighting sections. Very successful in many ways and certainly produced a great atmosphere.

One noticeable thing about the day was the scale of the place and and area of the park. No wonder it’s ended up costing so much – the area is vast! We got out of the Aquatics centre just before lunch then wondered up the park towards the Velodrome end.

A first look at the Olympic Village (athletes village) was less than impressive, with average success in the overall form and detailing. It was clear some effort had been made but there was not enough variation across the whole scheme to lift the quite blocky appearance. The accent colours used were also fairly drab, but obviously there had been serious budget restrictions.

But, and somewhat surprisingly, the Coke corporate stand was very good. An artistic combination of visuals and interactive sound. Touching the coloured large pads produced different sounds, with a dancing and music show inside the building once we had walked up the ramps then down inside.

After checking out the Velodrome and basketball venues, we made our way over to the BP corporate stand. While queuing, I found out about Liverpool loosing 2-0 to Arsenal at Anfield. With the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill in mind, we sat through 20 minutes of frankly corporate b*llshit. How BP is leading the way in responsible extraction, safety, environmental issues etc, after $20 Billion worth of environmental and business related damages! At the start the host had said if anyone is feeling sick during the show (there was a moving seating area), they should raise their hands and someone would get them out – I nearly put my hand up.

After recovering from that double set back, we made our way over to the fish & chips for some well-earned dinner and pint : )

Overall, the standard of the competition was excellent which we witnessed in the aquatics centre and I have huge respect for the athletes, maybe more so than the more able-bodied ones. All the transport for the whole day worked out really well. A very well organised event and a good atmosphere.