Monday, April 28, 2008

We Can Call This Post, "Who Says Golf Isn't a Contact Sport" or "How Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining"

Finally, finally, finally it was warm enough after school to play outside in the garden. Thing One and his friend were playing around before the Cub Scouts had their annual St. George's Day Parade, as both were asked to fill the special role of flag bearers at the event. Unfortunately for Thing Two, the boys wanted to do their own thing and not include any siblings, as per tradition, so he and I were upstairs reading on the sofa when I heard a commotion downstairs.

"Quick! Get me some toilet roll or some paper towels!" I heard Thing One say. Intrigued by his request, and sensing something was amiss, I went downstairs to investigate. Upon arrival, I found blood pouring down Thing One's face, a wad of toilet paper smashed against his head and splatters of blood all over the kitchen floor. It was like a horror film, primary school style.

"What happened?" I asked.
"I got hit in the head with the golf club," Thing One said.
"One of the plastic ones?" I asked while my internal monologue was "Please. Please. Please. Let it be one of the plastic ones."
"No. One of the real ones," he replied, while I immediately thought, "That's a trip to the hospital, then."
Finally he showed me the wound. It wasn't long, but it was deep, and the blood kept on coming.

Thing One was so brave. He wanted to cry, I could tell, but he willed himself not to. His hands were shaking and he seemed a little dazed, though that's not surprising, given that it was a 9-iron.

When we got to the A&E (that's emergency room, for my American fans), I figured we were due for a return trip, since the last time we were there was two years ago. Thing One's last hospital visit was four years ago, when he had to get a 2.5" splinter removed from his foot. But that's a story for another time.

It didn't take Thing One long to realize there was an upside to the injury: A scar just like Harry Potter! (though unlike Harry, this scar will be right between the eyes.) The doctor at the A&E
didn't think he'll get a scar, but don't tell Thing One. He thinks it's the best thing that happened to him all year.

Like I said, every cloud has a sliver lining if you look for it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

London Marathon 2008: Another way to get a medal

In 2005, I earned a London Marathon medal by:
Training with Thing Two, then 18 months old;
Raising more than £4,000 for my charity, CAMFED; and
Running 26.2 miles on 17 April 2005.

In 2008, I earned a London Marathon medal by:
• Waking up at 6 a.m., walking up to the top of Greenwich Park, and collecting the bags of the runners. Oh, and Thing One, Thing Two and Mr. MarathonMum all got medals too (see above).

For obvious reasons, I LOVE Marathon Sunday. Since we live in Greenwich, we're at the start of it all. Thing One and I played a fun game on Saturday afternoon called "Spot the Runner." We'd look for the official London Marathon bags, and then pass along a "Good Luck" wish to the runner. By the time we were done with our short errand, we had seen about 10 runners and their families. Last night, we made "Good Luck" signs to hang in our windows, since many runners pass by the house on their way to the start. We were ready for the big day.

This morning we got up early to join the rest of the Cub Scouts at the TNT trucks to collect the bags. Thing Two really was too young to be any help, but when he heard that we would be going, and there would be Official Medals Involved, he cried so hard that I just had to ask if he could come along. (For obvious reasons, I think he feels a special connection to the London Marathon). To be fair, he pitched in as best he could and he wished all the runners he saw "Good Luck."

For me, I had very mixed emotions today. I was really happy and excited for all the runners, knowing how incredible the day is. I was thrilled to have already done it. But at the same time, I was a little sad that I'll never be able to do it again. But both Thing One and Thing Two said at least once today that they'll do the London Marathon when they get older (we'll see), so I'll be able to live vicariously through them.

It was a fantastic day: inspiring to see all the runners, heart-warming to see all of the supporters, and thrilling to see the finishers. Well done to everyone who finished, and well done to the 6,000 volunteers (like us) who helped along the way.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"My First Angry Mob!"

The Olympic Torch Relay ran through London Sunday, finishing at the Dome in Greenwich, and we were lucky enough to see it. But it wasn't quite the experience I thought it would be.

My only memory of an Olympic Torch Relay was in 1984, when the torch went across the continental U.S. before the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. It was a very happy event, and people were thrilled to see the torch. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case here.

Here in London, 24 years later, "Free Tibet" protesters lined the route and some tried to grab the torch, put out the torch, and otherwise disrupt the proceedings. I spent the morning and afternoon watching the afternoon with an increasing sense of dread: what if something really terrible happened at the end, where we would be? I told Mr. MarathonMum, "The Dome is either going to be the absolute worst place to be, or the safest."

As it happens, we were in an area outside of the Dome, and you had have a ticket to get in. I had won the tickets from Greenwich Council, which thrilled me to no end when I won them, but in retrospect, it wasn't that great of a prize. I foolishly thought there would be loads of other Olympic-type things to do before the concert and the torch arrival, like they did for Leap for London 2012, but they had nothing. So Thing One and I spent a lot of time (about two hours) waiting around on a VERY COLD day (it snowed earlier) for the torch to arrive.

The Sugababes (I know, Who?) were set to perform at the concert, but they cancelled. Apparently they were well enough to do the relay itself, but not the concert. Two very nice 20somethings next to me were VERY disappointed. I said to them, "Why can't they show up to lip-sync, which they undoubtedly would do?" So instead we were treated to three local bands we never heard of, and will probably never hear of again. So more waiting in the cold.

Finally, Ellen MacArther arrived on the boat with the torch. The people cheered, but I don't know if that was for Ellen, the torch, or that the waiting was over. They had all sorts of officials on the stage (Princess Anne, Sebastian Coe, Ken Livingston), and then the torch, now carried by Kelly Holmes, arrived.

A very smilely Chinese official, who I later learned was Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, made a speech. It was in Chinese, so I didn't know what he was saying. For all I know he was telling us, "And we will crush those who disagree with us on Tibet," all with a smile on his face.

Since our area was ticketed, there were no protesters nearby. Frankly, for me, that was a relief, since Thing One was with me and I was nervous enough as it was. Occasionally, we could hear chants on the other side of the stage, "Free Tibet! Free Tibet!". Another man behind us yelled, "Shame on you!" when Jiang Xiaoyu was speaking.

Then it was all over. All in all, it was very disappointing. The celebration was probably dampened by the ongoing protests throughout the day. At least the torch stayed lit through the day, unlike in Paris.

As we were leaving the ticketed area to get our bus home, we had to walk through about 100 Free Tibet protesters, who were chanting and waving signs. Thing One turned to me and said, "My first angry mob!"

One for the baby book, I suppose.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Opening Day in the Playground

As it was baseball's opening day this week, Thing Two thought* it only appropriate that he wear his baseball glove to school. 

*In actual fact, he found the glove in the bottom of the hat basket and said, "Wow. This is cool. What is it?" Such is the life of an American expat living abroad.

When he saw his best friend E he said, "Look at my baseball glove!"

E's mum tried to explain what it was. "Baseball is a lot like boxing."

"Well, no," I gently corrected her, and then explained to E, "It's more like cricket. Except there are no wickets. But they do use a bat, though its long and tapered, rather than long and flat."

I added, "The players wear baseball hats," knowing that E knew what a baseball hat was.

E's mum, who was still trying to be helpful added, "Yes, and the players wear big shoulder pads to protect themselves from the other players."

When I stopped laughing, I told her, "No. Wrong sport. That's American football. Why don't you leave the American explanations to the expert?"

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Best April Fools Stories

Here in the U.K., they take April Fools very seriously. To wit, all of the major newspapers have at least one April Fools story in today's edition. Here's a roundup of the best ones, with thanks to the Guardian, who compiled the list. (Links provided under the name of the guilty party.)

• French First Lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy being recruited as a style guru to Britain. (The Guardian)
• French President Nicolas Sarkozy to undergo new medical "stretching" technique that will add 5 inches to his height. (The Sun)
• A new BBC documentary, "Miracles of Evolution" shows that not only can penguins fly, but that they migrate to the Amazon rainforest. (Daily Telegraph and Daily Mirror)
• The RSPB announced its concern about migratory birds staying in Britain too long and threatening native species such as the sparrow. (Radio 4 at 7:46 a.m.). 
• Chef Gordon Ramsay, whose middle name should be f***, bans all swearing in his restaurants worldwide.  (The Independent)

Happy April Fool's Day.