Saturday, 28 April 2012

Gamesmaker uniform

Well this is it - your first view of what the volunteers will be wearing during the London Olympics. If you happen to be in London during July, August or Sept you will see thousands of us looking like this (well maybe not, as lots of the volunteers are much younger!)

Friday, 27 April 2012


Whitehall is the name of the road which goes from Trafalgar Square to the Houses of Parliament. The name comes from The palace of White Hall which burned down in 1698  Whitehall is home to many iconic London landmarks. Downing street which is home to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the exchequer is a road off Whitehall. Great Scotland Yard used to be the home to the Metropolitan police for many years is also off Whitehall.

There is also the entrance to Horseguards Parade guarded by soldiers on horse back noted for their non-comittal faces as thousands of tourists stand beside them for a photo opportunity.

There are many statues and monuments on Whitehall as well as the Cenotaph  where the Queen lays the first wreath each year on Remembrance Sunday.

But my favourite place on Whitehall has to be the Banqueting Hall which is just across the road from the Horseguards. Although preceeded by another building it was James I of England and VI of Scotland (1602-25) who decided to replace it with a permanent building. Built of brick and stone and completed in 1609, the new banqueting house had a large hall above  a ground floor basement. It was built to provide a setting for a new and elaborate type of court entertainment - the masque.
From the outside the Banqueting Hall doesn't look that special but once you enter the large hall and look up  you will see the most magnificent ceiling painted by Peter Paul Rubens in about 1636.
Beneath the great hall is the Undercroft used by James 1 as a drinking den.

On 30 January 1649, Charles I was executed just outside the Banqueting House, on a scaffold especially erected in Whitehall.  He had lost the Civil War, and his enemies decided that he must be executed.
It is said that on the day of his execution it was bitterly cold.  He wore a second shirt, so as not to shiver from the cold, in case it was thought that he was trembling from fear. He was also persuaded to drink a glass of wine so that he would not faint before he reached the block. 
Charles I was composed on the scaffold.  He died with great dignity.

In later years it was used as a chapel but nowadays it is used for concerts and the occasional banquet.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

(London Museum #6) Charles Dickens Museum

Charles Dickens lived in this victorian, terraced house in the heart of Bloomsbury, London  for just 2 years from 1837-39. But it was here that he wrote two of his most famous works - Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby.

The house opened as a museum in 1925 and they have tried to furnish the house as it would have been when Dickens lived there. Much of the furniture is his original furniture.
This is the lounge where the family would entertain. Dickens was well known within London society at that time and his company would have been in demand.
A typical victorian scullery where the servants would have done the washing and ironing. I doubt Dickens would have ever set foot in this part of the house. 
Walking round the house and browsing through the rooms you get a feel for life during the Victorian era. There are many rare editions and manuscripts to view. I found it informative and enjoyable to just wander in his footsteps. 
The Museum is closing at the end of this week for refurbishment. I just hope they do a sensitive update so none of the essence of this dickensian building is lost

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Olympic Park

Yesterday on a very cold and dreary day in London, I went to visit the new shopping centre, Westfield, which has been built at Stratford next to the Olympic Park. Whilst browsing in John Lewis I noticed what a fantastic view they had of the Park. It was such a pity the weather didn't do the view justice.

The Olympic stadium
The aquatics centre with the hospitality tents in the foreground. To the right is the observation tower designed by Anish Kapoor

Sunday, 22 April 2012

London Marathon 2012

Today was the London Marathon. Almost 36,000 people took part from the world's greatest marathon runners to ones who seemed to be struggling from the word go. It is a great spectacle to watch. A few years ago I ran it myself. It was an amazing achievement and the incredible crowd really help to get you round. Now I have done it I feel happy to stand back and watch the runners go by.  

These photos were taken at the 8 mile point. These runners have been running for about 45mins so are doing really well.

As time goes on we see more and more of the fun runners who raise an amazing amount for their chosen charities.

Even rhinos run the marathon!

This runner is trying to get the world record for running a marathon whilst carrying the highest structure. I believe iit is 24ft high

This shows the full height of the tower he is carrying. It is based on the Blackpool Tower.

Friday, 20 April 2012

London Police stations

This is supposed to be the world's smallest police station. I don't know if that is true but it is only big enough for one policeman. It is on the corner of Trafalgar Square in London and was put there so that police could keep an eye on demonstrations in the Square during the 1930s depression. It had a direct phone link to Scotland Yard Police station which was then just a few hundred metres away.
It is no longer in use as a police station but is said to contain cleaning equipment.

This is another small police station which is on Bird Cage walk next to St James's Park. This station is still in use by the Royal Parks Constabulary. You can just see above the station the traditional blue lamp.

Paralympic opening ceremony update

As I said in my previous blog I have been offered a role in the paralympic opening ceremony. I was really surprised by the offer as I felt I hadn't done myself justice as I messed up the final dance routine.  Apparently they took into account my previous 2 auditions and I have been lucky enough to be offered a place. I am not at liberty to say any more about the place I have been offered as this is confidential but don't for one minute think I have been offered any kind of starring role. Anyone taking part (no matter how minor a role undertaken) is being asked not to discuss their part in the ceremony.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Olympics - 100 days to go

Last month I went to a party at the Copper Box (handball stadium) in the Olympic Park as a thank-you for working as a volunteer interviewer. It was great to meet up with the other volunteers. We had completed almost  80,000 interviews for Gamesmakers who will be working at all the different venues during the Games.
There have been some amazing pictures taken of London today as we prepare for the Olympics. am really excited as I have just accepted an offer to take part in the opening ceremony of the paralympic games. I didn't think my audition had gone very well but I must have done something right!

Monday, 16 April 2012


This weekend I went to visit friends who live in Uckfield. The name was derived from the river Uck which passes through the village. Until the 1850s it was quite a small place but with the coming of the railways the village expanded into the small town that it is today.

There are some beautiful walks around the area and a nature walk has been developed alongside the river from the town out to Hempstead Mill. Unfortunately the walk cannot follow the river all the way as permission has not been granted from one of the landowners for access across his field. In fact a new sign has appeared warning people to 'Beware of the bull'! We did look around but we saw no bull.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Kensington Palace

There are a number of palaces in and around London. Kensington has never been a particular favourite of mine. I don't find the architecture inspiring nor the inside when I visited a few years ago. Since then it has undergone a refurbishment so off I went to see how it has changed.

Many well known Royals have lived at the Palace including Queen Victoria, Princess Margaret (the present Queen's sister) and of course Princess Diana. The palace is still home to a number of lesser known members of the Royal family but soon it will be the London home of Prince William and his new bride Kate.

Surrounding the Palace is a wrought iron fence with these golden gates providing an entrance. When Diana died the fence and gates were covered with flowers so much so you could not see the Gardens as they were covered by tens of thousands of floral tributes. It became a place of homage to the young princess.

The gardens now are looking beautiful with the display of Spring flowers

Inside the palace I was less impressed. I found the new furnishing far too theatrical and tacky. History has many exciting stories to tell and I didn't think it needed cut out figures and flags placed everywhere! I felt as though I needed to be on a school trip with a worksheet for me to complete as I found the anwers to the clues left around.

Not for me this one! Now Buckingham Palace - that is one to visit 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Emmetts Garden

Emmetts garden is located on top of the Weald of Kent. It is known for the spectacular bluebells which flower in Spring. I went along this morning as the sun was shining and  a walk was needed after the wet weather we have experienced over Easter.

The bluebells were just beginning to bloom which meant there was a beautiful blue haze surrounding the trees through the woodland walk.

I was surprised that the rhodedendrons had also begun to flower and were showing off their spring colours.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

End of the Faberge egg hunt

The egg hunt ended this weekend as all the eggs from around London were brought to Covent Garden for one final viewing before they are all auctioned for charity. I couldn't resist one last look at the ones I had failed to find. Here are my favourites:

Mayoral egg


The prep egg

Sao Paulo Skyline
Union Jack

Where's Wally

There was even a hospital to mend all the broken eggs!

This one was a particular favourite of mine: Eggsquisit London
I was tempted to bid for one of them until I saw how much they were going for. Remember the Egg letter box in my previous blog on Eggs well that raised £42,000! Humpty Dumpty raised £51,000! But at least I have the photos as reminders of a fabulous egg-hunt.
Happy Easter everyone

Friday, 6 April 2012

Victoria Tower Gardens

Next to the Houses of Parliament is a small triangular park which runs alongside the River Thames. It is known as Victoria Tower Gardens. It is named after the Victoria Tower(which you can see in this photo)  where the parliamentary archives are kept. Quite often Members of Parliament can be seen being interviewed by the media in the park.

Although very small it is interesting to go and visit as there are three monuments/statues of historical note.
The Buxton Memorial
This was erected to commemorate the emancipation of slaves following the 1883 Abolition of slavery act. It was donated by Charles Buxton MP in memory of his father and others who worked together in the struggle for the abolition of slavery in the British Colonies. The memorial was originally in Parliament square but was moved in 1957 on the 150th anniversary of the 1807 act abolishing Trans Atlantic Slave trade.

The Burghers of Calais by Rodin
This statue represents 6 citizens of Calais who offered themselves as hostages to King Edward 111 during the 100yr war between England and France. The King ordered them to be beheaded but they were saved by the English Queen Philippa. The statue dates from 1895 and can be found in cities throughout the world including Paris, Venice, Washington, Seoul, New York and Canberra.

Emmeline (Emily) Pankhurst (1858-1928)
This statue was erected as a tribute to the courageous leadership of Emily as she led the movement to win the right for women to vote.
If you look at the statue you can see her right hand is pointing towards the Houses of Parliament

Sunday, 1 April 2012

My brother

Memories of a curly haired boy hiding behind his mother       Painfully shy with adults

As the years went by the shyness fell away and he became the leader of the gang.
I would follow him endlessly
Five years his junior I would do anything he asked

My brother - my hero

As we grew older we drifted further apart.
Years of not seeing him as he travelled the world
We rarely spoke as our lives moved along different paths
My brother - Peter

As we aged the distance between began to lessen.
Once more he became that unassuming, gentle person I knew
The last decade he devoted his time to caring for Mum.

Our now regular meetings left me wanting to spend more time with him.
To listen to his stories,
The cheeky smile taking over his face,
His humour, compassion and humility now engulfed him.

My brother - Peter

Last month for the first time in 20 years he came to visit,
We had not spent so much joyous time together since my childhood.
Did he know his time was limited? I don't know
But thank-you for those few precious days.
My brother - Peter.