Tag Archives: London 2012

If Greenock Had Hosted The Olympics……….An Olympics Variorum No. 2!!

In the absence of much reading at the moment, because the Olympics has pretty much taken over our life(!) and with nothing to blog about on the book front I thought I’d write about Olympics instead. If you are wondering what the hell a variorum is, our what the hell the Olympics has got to do with Greenock – forget about it as it’s not that important really! However, if you are the persistent sort, who likes to get to the bottom of things (like the direction we seem to be travelling in on the Olympics Medal table at the moment!), then you can get the background on Greenock and variorums at my Olympics Variorum No 1 (though you really should have more to do with your time than that!)

Olympics Variorum 2 – Tuesday July 31st

Hats Off To The Men And Women In The Hard Hats!

We were lucky enough to have Olympic tickets and so we’ve been into the Olympic Park – and it’s magnificent! I thought one of the best touches at the Opening Ceremony was the guard of honour from a group of Olympics construction workers for Vanessa Redgrave’s Dad as he carried the Olympic Flame into the stadium.

We’ve watched the Park take shape over the last seven years as we make frequent trips through Stratford. But it’s not until you are in the Park and up close that you realise what a fantastic feat of design and engineering  the whole thing is. The buildings themselves are fantastic and the landscaping is brilliantly done – the flower filled banks and meadows are simply stunning! I had nothing to do with it in any way whatsover (apart from paying my taxes!!) but I felt incredibly proud of what’s been achieved – so god knows how it must feel for those who built it – I take my metaphorical hat off to each and every one of them!

Olympic Stadium

The Great Japanese Conspiracy Theory

After my daughter had watched and absolutely loved her first taste of the Olympics live, watching the GB Women’s Hockey team defeat Japan 4-0 on Sunday, she wouldn’t wash off her GB Hockey face tattoos and was full of chat suddenly about Alex Danson this and Alex Danson that!

However more than the result and deciding Alex Danson is the greatest thing since sliced bread, one thing has been on her mind most – the broken jaw suffered by the GB Captain Kate Walsh. And she’s developed a theory – it was deliberate!!! She explained to us she reckoned the Japanese Hockey team had decided to get their own back on the British team because they were losing – and her evidence – before Kate Walsh’s unfortunate and awful injury another Japanese player had hit the ball so hard it struck a GB player on the leg! We explained that getting struck by the ball happens a lot when you play hockey – that seemed to calm the conspiracy theory and cool the looks she was giving to anyone with a Japanese flag when we were in the Olympic Park the next day! International incident narrowly averted there!

………Mind you, wasn’t it the Japanese the team who protested to deprive the GB Gymnastics team of their original Silver Medal position………!?

Celebrity Spotting

We saw a few celebs in the Olympic Park on Monday – none Sunday – but that might also have been a Japanese conspiracy!

Anyway first up Monday on the way in to the Park, who comes striding across our path (not walking, striding) but ex-GB Olympian Roger Black! Think he must have been doing press work – though why I say that I’ve no idea other than he seemed to be wearing a sort of uniform and was carrying a briefcase! Don’t know about anybody else but when you see someone famous we often constructive a narrative to explain it – so there was Roger striding out because he was running late for his next broadcast with his script and notes in his briefcase!

Katherine Jenkins at London OlympicsSecond up, the beautiful Katherine Jenkins. We actually saw her twice! First time she was on the back of one of those courtesy cart things (I think she might have been with her mum – narrative construction time again!?!) and then we saw her sitting on a table being interviewed by someone. To be honest, I don’t know much about opera so I’ve no idea whether or not she’s any good as a singer – but she’s very pretty! She also wears a mean high heel shoe – she would give both my partner and Paloma Faith a run for their money!

Lastly – somewhere between a loll and a stroll we saw Chris Evans walking past – we’d just come from the basketball arena having failed to pick up any tickets on return. He was heading in that direction – he may well have been heading to see if he could pick up a ticket for the basketball on return himself – but somehow I doubt it!

Three Cheers For The Volunteers

One of the things that strike you when you go into the Olympics is how brilliantly organised it is. We went in on the first Monday expecting it to be a chaotic mix of Monday morning rush hour and Olympic traffic – but it was smooth and easy. And added to the organisation are the wonderful volunteers and helpers – they are genuinely welcoming, friendly and very helpful – they are also everywhere so you are never short of people to ask for advice, directions or assistance.

And Finally, If Greenock Had Held The Olympics……….

Judo at Olympics……….Very few people would have gone to watch the judo. It’s not the athlete’s fault, but having watched it on TV a few times recently there’s a lot of pushing and pulling at each other’s jackets but not much else – in Greenock we can see that every Saturday night on West Blackhall Street when the pubs close!

If Greenock Had Hosted The Olympics……….Olympics Variorum No.1

……….The Olympics has taken over a bit chez nous! We watch it on TV constantly at home, we listen to it on the radio when in the car and we are lucky enough to have tickets to go a couple of times! One effect of this is that I’m reading very little so I thought since the Olympics has taken over our lives I’d let it to the same to my blog – otherwise I’ll have sod all to write about really!

Greenock
The beautiful Lomond Hills in the distance – the not quite so beautiful Greenock in the foreground

One of the things that strikes me about the Games is the sheer scale and breadth of it – and that’s where my home town, Greenock in Scotland, comes in. For those of you who don’t know it, Greenock is on the west coast of Scotland about 20 something miles from Glasgow – originally an industrial town which grew up and existed for many years to serve shipbuilding. There are some things which I think characterise Greenock. Our Scottish accent is on the harsh side which makes it unintelligible to many other Scots and the rest of the world has no chance! It rains a lot – Greenock is frequently on the lists of the wettest places in the UK every year! We have a reputation to be…..em……well…….short-arsed! The two-week holiday in July, when most Greenock businesses and people traditionally took their holidays used to be referred to by other Scots going on holiday at the same time as going away during the “midget fortnight!” The views FROM Greenock across to the Lomond Hills are beautiful and spectacular – the views from the Lomond Hills back to Greenock are, well, not that nice really! I’ve always thought Greenock is one of those places best seen from a distance (the further the better if you ask my family!) than up close!

I think of my home city as Glasgow of course and yet Greenock was where I was born and grew up. And I always felt that Greenock existed for Glaswegians to have somewhere to look down on!!! (that’s when you know you’re one one of the lowest rungs of the social ladder!). At the time when Glasgow was European City of Culture in the mid-1980′s, the Glasgow Herald ran a spoof series of stories entitled “Greenock – European Burgh Of Culture!” sending up the fact that Greenock could be pretty much the most uncouth, uncultured place on the planet really! I lived in Spain then and my cousin used to cut them out and send them to me – they were hilarious! And lastly, by way of setting these posts up, I have to explain the “Variorum” – this was part of a news phenomenon in Greenock – we had a small local newspaper 6 nights a week, the Greenock Telegraph, which was bought and read by about 90% of the population. In it, there was a piece called the Variorum, a collection of varied and random pieces of information which were masquerading as news – it was frequently bizarre, constantly surreal and always daft  - or as one Greenockian described it on an internet forum “the Variorum – what hilarious pish was put in there!”

Here are some samples of what passed for news in Greenock!

A man was seen walking his dog in Coronation Park. (!)

A bus conductress wasn’t pleased today when a man handed her a £5 note to pay a fare of only 50p. (!!)

Largs had one of its busiest Glasgow Fair Mondays in years, with the main streets congested with traffic. The sea front car park had a ‘full’ notice until well on in the evening. (!!!)

Customers in a large supermarket in town last night were taken by surprise when it was announced that large loaves of French crusty bread were being given away free. Apparently the store had made too many, and had decided to treat their customers to a gift. (I think this might be an error actually – more likely they were robbing the store and the Telegraph was trying to avoid casting the town in a bad light!)

So, inspired by the Greenock Telegraph Variorum, I’ve decided to make my Olympic posts over the next couple of weeks nothing more than random ramblings – which, when  think about it, isn’t any different from what I write on here the rest of the time!

Olympic Variorum 1 – Saturday July 28th

“She’s gorgeous Andy! She’s ABSOLUTELY gorgeous!”

The Opening Ceremony was fantastic. In places it was spectacular, in others very ecletic and funny and throughout it was always entertaining and showed Britain off in a great light – mind you we might have been only showing it to ourselves in a great light as god knows what the rest of the world made of it! Most blogs and comments and newspaper reviews seem to have the same positive view though. I’ve read the odd negative comment from eejits like that Tory MP/tosser (delete as applicable!), but most people seem to have loved it.

I partly loved it because it didn’t have the usual stuff about Britain – no Beefeaters, or Red Arrows, or a million minor Royals we’ve never heard of – and how can you not love a ceremony with The Arctic Monkeys live! However I’ve not read anybody yet who agrees with me on the best part – it wasn’t the James Bond thing, or the Rowan Atkinson thing,Gregory's Girl or Kenneth Branagh or fireworks or any other of that stuff. It was the part, during the sequence about the love story “Frankie and June Say Thanks Tim!” where they played part of the film- and soundtrack, of Gregory’s Girl – the most wonderful film ever! I can amuse and entertain my family by remembering virtually the whole script and saying it out loud before the line is delivered as we watch it! (note: “entertain” and “amuse” are my words to describe this talent – their words are I think “bore” and “embarrass”!)

So thank you Danny Boyle (and if there is any justice, soon to be Sir Daniel of Boyle)  and well done – and above all thank you Gregory!

Yesterday Butter! Today The Olympics! Tomorrow The World!

The visual spectacle of the Opening Ceremony was matched if not surpassed for me by the music. Donkey’s years ago I bought Never Mind The Bollocks and it changed the music I listened to overnight really! While I never abandoned my rock roots altogether nor fully embraced the punk style (I tried it for a short time but while I could do the hair and clothes, I hated the idea of piercings – I had a great idea once as a compromise – wearing clip-on earrings – it didn’t work!). But I loved punk music. I saw The Ramones more years ago than I care to admit – it was chaotic, shambolic and utterly wonderful! But even I never thought we’d see The Sex Pistols at The Olympics – and not once but twice. First God Save The Queen in a little film during the ceremony and then in the stadium itself the chimes of Pretty Vacant! I liked it. First John Lydon advertises butter, then they promote the Olympics. Who’d have thought a bunch of eejits who could barely play and who couldn’t really sing, but who had a nice line in “Fuck Off!” and who had more front than Blackpool would have come to this?!

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now!

QueenI’ve read much of what a “great sport” The Queen was in doing the little sketch with Daniel Craig for the Ceremony. I liked it and it was very funny – and somehow very British – but from then on during the ceremony, every time the cameras captured her she looked pretty pissed off to me. After a bit she began to irritate me if I’m honest. I know Morrisey’s not exactly an ardent royalist, but she and he should get together and swop notes about looking miserable in public.

I admit I’m not a fan of the Royal Family at the best of times – but at least Anne and Charles and Harry and William look as if they enjoy these things!

Maybe the expectant “Sir Daniel Of Boyle” shouldn’t hire that m0rning suit just yet!

“I Didn’t See The Flame Or Nuffink Your Honour, But JT Didn’t Start That Fire!”

Like many others, while watching the athletes file in for the Opening Ceremony I was surprised (and not pleasantly) to see the-see-no-evil, hear-no-evil guru Ashley Cole himself carrying in one of the flags! Personally I’d like to blame G4S – as I blame them for most things these days – but EVEN THEY don’t deserve to get the blame for Ashley Cole!

Still – be grateful for small mercies – at least we didn’t have to look at a bloody John Terry look-alike as well!

And Finally, If The Olympics Had Been Held In Greenock…..

……….There’s no way all 200 odd of those copper pans for the Olympic Flame would have been there by the end – someone would have nicked most of them and sold them to a scrap dealer while the ceremony was going on!

Alf Tupper – Surely Britain’s Best Chance for Athletics Gold at London 2012 Olympics?……….

In the last couple of months, I’ve seen and read much talk about, and promotion of, British athletes and their preparation and chances of medals at the Olympics. In the wake of the unveiling of the Stella McCartney sportswear designs for the British team, I seem to be seeing, or hearing of, or reading about Britain’s Olympic hopefuls and other things Olympic connected almost every day! (Yesterday I drove down the M11 past one of the Olympic Logistics Centres – and had plenty of time to look at what there was to see thanks to yet another traffic jam! Last week I watched the terrific last gasp grab of a World Cycling Championship Gold Medal by Chris Hoy – brilliant stuff!)

But as the Olympics draws ever nearer and as the Olympic Park site nears completion  - and if you’ve not seen it yet it’s pretty spectacular already (from the great view I get of it as I pass through Stratford Station on the train), my thoughts have been turning to the athlete of my childhood and perhaps the greatest athlete of all time – Alf Tupper – aka The Tough Of The Track!

Now if anybody is reading this I’m probably about to lose most of you at this point – but if you were a child in the 50′s or the 60′s as I was, and if you enjoyed reading comics like the Victor, then you’re more likely to be thinking “I loved Alf Tupper too!” because I reckon anybody who read the Victor thought Alf was The Man!

Alf was a comic strip character who came from a pretty impoverished background but was a great athlete – mainly as I recall in the middle distance stuff between 400 metres and 1500 metres (though it may have been more about yards back then!). He was a welder and used to go straight from a day’s welding to the race – often arriving at the last-minute having got involved in helping some other poor soul with their problems on the way. Generally Alf’s races weren’t just a trial of speed but were often about overcoming adversity – either because of some skullduggery on the part of a rival or more often than not because he had to beat “the toffs!” and as a working class Glasgow boy that’s what I loved about Alf most – he didn’t just run for himself he ran for the working man against the middle classes and the toffs who had been born silver-spooned and with every conceivable advantage! (Sorry had to take deep breath here before chip on Scottish shoulder grew back there – was starting on a bit of a rant and a rave – phew!) His preparation for most races amounted to little more than running hell for leather to the athletics stadium to get there on time for his race and he lived on a diet of fish and chips washed down with a soft drink (being Scottish I naturally assumed Alf was drinking Irn Bru – what the hell else would make him unbeatable?!!!!)

I occasionally wonder what would happen to Alf’s chances in London 2012 – here’s my theory!!!

I imagine that initially Seb Coe (archetypal toff!) would use his influence with the Selection Committee to try to stop Alf being selected for the British team but Alf would make it, having won the trials immediately after running 6 marathons one after the other for Comic Relief in the company of John Bishop! On the day of the final Alf would sleep in, miss his train to Stratford, hitch a lift with a lorry along the A13, help the lorry driver change the tyre when he gets a puncture and then sprint among the spectators outside the stadium to reach the start line with seconds to spare – only to find that a scheming rival had hidden Alf’s kit forcing him to borrow a Union Jack, drape it around himself and run in borrowed and battered old training shoes. He’d struggle for a couple of laps and then, remembering who he was, he’d suddenly take off and start to run like a dervish. Everyone would think he’d left it too late but then, at the last moment, he’d sneak through on the inside with fractions of a second to spare to take gold for Britain!!!! YES!!!!! He’d then skip the medal ceremony and head to Stratford’s finest fish and chip shop, where he’d share his chips with a passing stray cat and end with a hearty thumbs up to the good wishes of British fans hailing him from their car windows as they pass him on their way home!

As you can tell(!), I loved the stories and loved the character – I even had the same haircut as Alf (though that was due to my mother’s faith in her home-made haircutting skills – which she didn’t actually possess! – rather than to a specific attempt to emulate Alf my hero!). However I thought I’d be pretty much alone in remembering about Alf Tupper, let alone thinking about him and what he’d do in the Olympics today! However a quick Google on the t’internet found sites and blog posts dedicated to Alf (good one is called The Tough Of The Track), tons of nostalgia and even “Alf Tupper” merchandising (which I think bears the wonderful slogan “You’ve had your chips now!”)

Anyway there is no point to this post other than to say I still think Alf is the greatest British athlete of all time and that I think the publishers of Alf Tupper (D.C. Thomson) should bring him back because I think there’s a market for new Alf stories! Alf Tupper nostalgia is alive and well!