Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: Week 52

2012: Week 52 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 52, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
Date: Christmas morning
Time: Just after finishing opening all the presents
Place: Next to the Christmas Tree and in front of the TV
Watching What: The 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony on DVD
Why: Because he got it as a present

For my final picture of 2012, I could have chosen the classy nighttime shot of the Greenwich Christmas lights in front of St. Alfege's, which we saw on 27 December when we walked the Advent Windows with our friends. Very classy. But no. I went with this one because I love it.

Yes, that's Christmas wrapping paper on the floor that really should have been thrown away. Yes, there are new presents strewn about, seemingly forgotten about just minutes after opening them.

I love this picture because here is Thing Two cuddling his Christmas present from Thing One while watching (again) the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Thing One found the present at Hamleys in September and knew then that he wanted to get it for Thing Two for his Christmas present. I told him we should wait, because he might find something that would be better by December. But December rolled around, and he still wanted to get it. We dutifully went to Hamleys, but alas, the Tiger head puppet he wanted to get was no longer available. But I did some Internet sluething and found the manufacturer and ordered direct. Did Thing Two love his present? Did he ever. He's named him Caesar. Nothing like a brother to know the perfect present for his brother.

I also love this picture because of what we're watching: The Olympics. We loved every minute of it. August truly was the best of times and the worst of times for our family. But the Olympics were an experience of a lifetime.

And thus ends my 2012 52 weeks experiment. I'm thrilled I kept it up and was able to complete it. My 2012 photo time capsule is really something I will treasure.

2012: Week 51

2012: Week 51 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 51, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
For the penultimate week of 2012, I went with a Christmas picture of my whirlygig (I'm sure that's the technical name), next to the Christmas cake that our son won at his school's Christmas Fair.

For many years we've hoped to win the gingerbread house or Christmas cake at the Christmas fair, but walked away empty handed. But not this year. My No. 1 Kitchen assistant had to guess how much the cake weighed and he nearly got it bang on (it was 2.44 kilos, he said it was 2.5). Well done to him.

The funny thing about the cake is that we were sure it was a fruit cake. It looked beautiful, to be sure, but we thought the shape of the cake meant we were destined to be awarded something we didn't like. For one week, the cake then sat on the sideboard to be admired, but not eaten.

Finally, on 22 December, we decided to have a Cake Reveal Ceremony. We lit the whirlygig. We put Christmas carols on the CD. We all held our breath as I cut it. We were all thrilled to discover that it wasn't fruit cake at all, but delicious chocolate. Yum.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Greenwich Advent Windows 2012

Every year, Greenwich hosts an Advent Window project for Christmas. Homes and businesses adopt dates and become an "Advent Window" for that date.

This is one of the houses that is participating this year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012: Week 50

2012: Week 50 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 50, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
12.12.12 at 12:12 (EST)

For the 50th Week of 2012, I decided to go with the 12.12.12 at 12:12 shot. Those of you with an acute knowledge of times of days will notice that I say it was taken at 12:12, which here in London would mean the middle of the day, not nighttime. As it happens, i was sitting at my computer at 12:12 GMT, so I went with the 12:12 EST time instead, when I happened to be on a train that was passing Big Ben. I think it's a far better shot than a screen shot, which is what a lot of people were posting for 12.12.12 at 12:12. Can I just say: Yawn.

Maddingly, the time stamp above says that it was taken on 13.12.12. Let me assure that isn't the case. It got that time stamp because that's when I went to the Over App to add the above text for clarification. Believe me at 17:11 (GMT) or 12:11 (EST), my nine-year-old and I were staring at the screen, waiting for the change to 12.12.12.

After 12 years of repetitive dates, that's it. The party is over. I'm glad I was able to go out with a bang, even if I had to fiddle with time zones in order to do it. Surely it still counts though, right?

Monday, December 10, 2012

2012: Week 49

2012: Week 49 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 49, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
Every year for Christmas in Greenwich, where we live, they have an annual "Advent Windows" project. It is yet another way to celebrate the festive season.

Twenty-four houses and businesses create windows that are unveiled every day through Advent. Some families (including ours) now include "walking the windows" as part of their Christmas traditions.

For this house, they not only decorated their windows with doves of peace, but hung some doves of peace in their trees too. Beautiful (if I do say so myself).

For more information about the project or to get a map if you'd like to walk the windows yourself, go to

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

2012: Week 48

2012: Week 48 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 48, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
If there's anything we can can say about Week 48, it is that the Christmas season has well and truly begun. Advent calendars were started, the wreaths were hung on front doors and the decorations in the West End were admired (pictured here).

This beautiful light display is near Seven Dials in Covent Garden. The beautiful full moon, which cooperated by being in the frame, was an extra bonus.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

2012: Week 47

2012: Week 47 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 47, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
My life philosophy, on a plate. The fact that the plate is holding my favourite pie of salted caramel apple pie is a bonus.

Apologies for the shaky focusing, but it was taken at the end of our Thanksgiving feast, which we celebrated on Saturday. We don't do it on Thursday since everyone has to work. Though our Thanksgiving feast was more low-key this year than in past years, we still managed to drink 1.5 bottles of wine per adult.

We love Thanksgiving. All you have to do is get together the people you love and then eat, drink and give thanks all day. Perfection.

Monday, November 19, 2012

2012: Week 46

2012: Week 46 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 46, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
We've started a new family tradition, which involves a walk through Greenwich Park every Sunday morning. As it's a new tradition, I don't know if it'll stick, but I hope so.

This past Sunday was an absolutely glorious morning: Perfect blue sky, bright sunshine, glorious autumnal colour. It was so nice that our 13-year-old was bummed that he didn't get to go on the walk too.

I was glad to capture the beautiful colours still in the park, because I don't know how long they'll last and it's been an epic autumn.

2012: Week 45

2012: Week 45 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 45, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
A photo of the Missing Man Formation that flew over Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. for my brother, Col. Michael Stapleton on 9 November 2012. This formation is quite special because it features the two jets that my brother flew during his life: the F-15 and the F-22. As one of his fellow pilots said afterward, "It took a lot of paperwork to do that." I bet.

I think this photo also is a good example of what the 52 weeks project is all about. While I would love for every week to be happy-- with Olympic celebrations and bunting and sunshine and cake-- it's just a fact of life that that's impossible. So Week 45 was sad week for me, as it was for many others who loved my brother.

Please note: For reasons completely unfathomable to me, it says this photo was taken on 19 November, which is when I uploaded it to Flickr. I couldn't change it, but rest assured, it was taken on 9 November.

Monday, November 05, 2012

2012: Week 44

2012: Week 44 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 44, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
It looks as though the clouds are going to invade London. Or the Dementors are on their way.

I took this shot on Friday, on our way to taking our son to his very first James Bond cinema experience. I may have also had Harry Potter on the brain, given that we'd been on the Studios Tour last week and have been watching the films incessantly ever since, and this looked like some sort of Dementor cloud.

As it was Halloween week, I thought for sure that I would pick a Halloween picture. But I didn't like any of them as nearly as much as I liked this one, as it reminds me very much of Magritte's "The Dominion of Light", where it is night in the lower half of the picture and day in the top half of the picture.

Monday, October 29, 2012

2012: Week 43

2012: Week 43 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 43, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
This week in London started off very foggy. So foggy that the fog didn't lift FOR DAYS. When even the London locals are talking about the fog, you know it's something.

But that didn't deter my 13-year-old and I as we embarked on climbing over The Dome (or the O2, if you want to be all Corporate Sponsorship about it). We couldn't even see Canary Wharf, just over the river. As you can see, we only got half the view. Alas, we did not get half-price tickets due to conditions.

It was awesome, though. We highly recommend the experience.

Monday, October 22, 2012

2012: Week 42

2012: Week 42 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 42, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
One of the things I've really enjoyed about the 52 weeks project is how I've been able to capture moments big and small during the course of the year.

We've been American expats living in London for nearly 14 years so I can't decide if voting in the US Presidential election is a big moment or a small one. But this shot dovetails nicely with my shot from week 18, when I voted for the London mayor in my first election as a British citizen. (See it here:

I don't know which way the election is going to go, but we've done our part. Also, it's always nice to check in with the mothership and remind ourselves that we are American too.

Monday, October 15, 2012

2012: Week 41

2012: Week 41 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 41, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
We picked up my cool new purple glasses (colour hard to discern here) on a day with beautiful blue skies.

It definitely was time to replace the old pair. Bought in 2003, the frames were selected by the then 4-year-old (now 13) while the baby (now 9) slept in the buggy. They were purple too, so I'm seeing a pattern here.

Monday, October 08, 2012

2012: Week 40

2012: Week 40 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 40, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
Photo trickery!

I really have loved the 52 Weeks project. Some weeks, like this one, I really struggle with picking my one photo to mark the week. This beat out two other pictures for Week 40. I captured this snap while taking a photography course with my son, who got a new camera for his 13th birthday. We both loved it.

This picture is also Exhibit A as to why you should never delete photos while out and about. I completely missed how this looked while I was taking it-- at the time, I felt I had missed the shot I really wanted. But I looked again at home on the view finder and actually turned the camera upside down because I thought I had taken it the wrong way around. Now, after downloading, I also noticed the arrow sign that seems to be pointing at the reflection and saying, "Hey! Look at this!"

Only 12 more weeks to go!

Monday, October 01, 2012

2012: Week 39

2012: Week 39 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 39, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
One of our greatest family traditions is having cake for breakfast on our birthdays. So we did again on Saturday. And it was good.

Monday, September 24, 2012

2012: Week 38

2012: Week 38 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 38, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
My 9-year-old son picked the photo for Week 38, as it was the highlight of the week. My uncle and cousin were visiting from the States, so we took them around The Big Smoke to see the sights. As it happens, my son had a random inset day so he was able to tag along too. After a very full day of sightseeing, a river cruise and a trip around the London Eye, he said what he *really* wanted to do was go on the Starflyer.

The Starflyer, for those who don't know, is a swing ride on steroids. It reaches half the height of the London Eye and then you swing around. It's a miracle that (a) I got a photo that was in focus (b) I managed to capture Big Ben and (c) I didn't drop my camera. This is when a point and shoot really shows its muscle.

In any case, we survived. I found that the important thing was to Not Look Down. Ever. The 9-year-old? He loved it. And he thinks he found the most fun way to conquer his fear of heights. It's not how I would do it, but hey, whatever works.

Monday, September 10, 2012

2012: Week 37

2012: Week 37 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 37, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
The 2012 Olympics are well and truly over, but it was blast while it lasted. On Monday in week 37, the Olympians and Paralympians had their victory parade through the streets of London. They estimated about 1 million people lined the streets to cheer them on.

Where I stood, at the corner of Canon Street and Queen Victoria Street, in front of the Mansion House tube station, it felt like every office worker in the area had taken their lunch break and decided to go. I could not believe the crowd. You can just see the athletes behind the Tube sign. When I got home, my family asked me, "Who did you see?" I replied, "I have no idea."

Spare a thought for the poor teachers I saw who took their classes to the parade. I can't imagine the stress of keeping them together in such a crowd.

But even worse, this poor guy had to retrieve his bike and then carry it above his head through the masses watching the parade. I submit that this is its own Olympic effort and deserves a gold medal all its own.

HOORAY! This photo got picked by The Guardian in its weekly roundup of photos for the week. You can see the others that they picked by clicking through this hyperlink sentence (now that is a sentence with SKILLZ.)

Friday, September 07, 2012

2012: Week 36

2012: Week 36 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 36, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.

Sunset over the Thames, HMS Ocean & London. #nofilter #ilovelondon
The HMS Ocean has been with us in Greenwich all summer, as part of the security forces that were staffing the Olympics and Paralympics. I've gotten so used to it being there that I don't even notice it any more. But it's leaving this week, and we will miss it.
Also, i would like to say that I was able to capture both the sun and the moon in the same frame, but alas, I checked the moon cycle and that dot appears to be just a spot on my camera. Sigh.
I chose this for my picture of the week because in a week of such epic sunsets, I was glad I captured this one. I love a sunset picture, but so did my grandpa. He took one in the same spot on the same beach in Florida for years (he had multiple photo albums filled with sunset pictures), so I know that somewhere he is smiling.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012: Week 35

2012: Week 34 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 34, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
Getting engulfed by the waves on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. What a day.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

2012: Week 34

2012: Week 34 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 34, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
The thing about the 52 Weeks project is that it is designed to capture your life in 2012, both happy and sad. Week 34 was definitely sad for me, as this was the week of my brother's funeral. He fought hard to beat cancer, but cancer is a Son Of A Bitch and it won.

I didn't think I would have any picture of Week 34 given that it felt (and feels) like there's a big hole in my body where my heart used to be. But lo and behold something strange happened that I wanted to capture on film to remember the week.

File under strange but true: on the night of my brother's funeral, we were gathered in the hotel for an Irish wake. On the bookshelf of the hotel in Virginia, hundreds of miles away from where we grew up, I found this book about Boonton, our TINY hometown in NJ. Its population is only 8,500, so it is utterly amazing to me that this book appeared on the shelf. Like I said, file it under strange but true.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

2012: Week 33

2012: Week 32 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 32, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
Making some light music at the Tate Modern in the new "Vaults" underneath.

I also love this picture because it reminds me of an unexpectedly fantastic day with the boys. As we walked along the Thames on this day, Thing One turned to me and said, "I'm so just happy today." I wish I had said, "So am I." But I probably said, "Oh, that's nice" In retrospect, I wish I had said the former.

Monday, August 06, 2012

OLYMPIC DAY: Part VI, Subsection (a) - Men's Basketball at the Olympic Park

First of all, the posts for Monday are being divided into subsections as we had spent 13.5 hours in the Olympic park. We won a gold medal for endurance and fun. It's easier for me to divide it up, so I shall.

Men's basketball - I love it. I earned the love through the university I attended, which can feature in the NCAA Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness. When I told people we had Olympic basketball tickets, the very first thing they inevitably asked was, "Will you see the US team?"

No. We did not see The Dream Team, the sequel. Actually, I wasn't bothered that we didn't get to see them, given that all of their victories have been so lopsided. Better to see other teams, where the games will be closer, which is exactly what we got.
Australia is in yellow and green. Russia is in red. Russia, incidentally, wins hands down for the ugliest uniforms in these Olympics. They are hideous.

The first game was Australia playing Russia. Naturally we rooted for Australia. First, because our friends Clint and Gaynor live there. Second, as children living in the US in the 1970s and 1980s, it is nigh-on-impossible to root for the Russians. It's just impossible for us to do it, no matter how friendly (NOT!) Vladimir Putin may seem to be.

The atmosphere seemed much like any other basketball game I've been to in recent years. There was the Mexican wave, the Kiss Cam (I couldn't believe the Brits would go for this, but maybe they found some Americans in the audience), dance contests and cheerleaders.

We had great seats in the lower section, which enabled us to fly our "Go Bam Bam" flag and also for my mom to find us in the US via live streaming. We were all pretty psyched that she could watch us watching the game after I sent her an e-mail describing where we were. Yet again, another gold medal goes to the wonders of the Interweb.

Here's the men in my life, watching the game under our Olympic flag. We were about 10 rows up from the floor. Result.

Australia beat Russia at the buzzer, which could not have been more exciting. Hooray for them! It was great basketball and a great show of athleticism.

The next game we saw was Lithuania versus Tunisia. Again, we have friends from Lithuania, so that's who we chose to root for. That was a good thing, too, because it seemed that the arena was filled with Lithuanian fans. By the end of the game, we were even chanting in Lithuanian. I can assure you that's never happened to me at either an NCAA game or an NBA game.

Yet another gratuitous shot of the boys at an Olympic venue. This one has been our favourite so far.

In the end, Lithuania pulled out a win, but they were losing for most of the game. But all in all, it was an unforgettable morning.

OLYMPIC DAY: Part VI, Subsection (b) - Getting my brother Mike on to the Today Show at the Olympic Park

Flush from the success of my mom being able to watch us watch the Lithuanian basketball game, we headed next door to the area where they were filming The Today Show. I thought this could be our chance for fame and fortune.

The Script, an Irish band, was warming up. Hilariously, the people around me were more excited to see The Script than they were to see The Today Show. More than one person asked me, "What is this?" I'm guessing the show runners put all of the excited Americans in the front row.

More than wanting to get myself on TV, I wanted to get my brother Mike's photo on the television. He is currently fighting leukemia in the U.S. I thought if I could get him on the Today show, that might cheer him up. I've just learned from my parents that he did see it and it did make him smile. Mission accomplished.

Thing One worked his way up to the front row. Meanwhile, I sent out a Facebook status message telling my friends that we were going to be on the show and to look for us behind the Script. I'm glad I did because my friend Susan not only managed to find Thing One, but got this awesome screen grab off her TV. (Even better than the one I just tried to get.) This is all the more impressive because at first she didn't know quite where we were standing, and also because she's never even MET IN PERSON Thing One, only seen pictures. In this instance, Susan wins the gold medal for friendship.

A gold star also has to go to Thing One, who worked his way up to the front of the crowd, but also made sure that Uncle Mike got on TV. Not only that, but he had him moving along to the music.

I also intermittently held up our Go Bam Bam Olympic flag. Here's another screen grab from Susan:

Meanwhile, my cousin Taylor in California was watching the Today show. Not seeing my Facebook status, she saw the picture of Mike and then saw Thing One holding him. "Holy crap!" she said. "They're on TV." Holy crap indeed. She said it made her happy seeing her cousin on TV, halfway around the world. It made me happy that she got to see it by chance. Once again, another gold medal is awarded to the wonders of the Interweb.

If you're wondering why Thing Two wasn't there, the reason is this: he was too tired and wanted to eat his lunch. So that's where he and Mr. MarathonMum are, off screen, sitting on a bench. I'm trying to figure out where I failed as a mother.

You may also be wondering how it is that I happened to have a large picture of my brother's face mounted on a ruler. As a matter of fact, it was one of the first things I always packed when I put together my Olympic event supplies. The reason is I've been taking pictures of "Flat Bam Bam" doing all sorts of Olympic things and putting it in a blog. You can see the blog, "Flat Bam Bam (Like Flat Stanley only way, way cooler)" for yourself here.

Another thing that would cheer up my brother to no end is to register as a bone marrow donor. You can do it in the United Kingdom through either the NHS Give Blood site or the Anthony Nolan Trust. You can register in the U.S. through National Marrow Donor Program. Please register. You could save a life.

If you'd like to see the whole performance for yourself, here's the video. I don't know how long NBC will be keeping it up, so enjoy it while you can. I feel obliged to say that I don't think it's the best use of The Script's talents to have Danny rapping. They are, after all, a band of nice Irish blokes and rapping isn't playing to their strengths. But some of their other songs aren't bad.

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Sunday, August 05, 2012

2012: Week 31

...Where we attempt to recreate the Sistine Chapel using foam fingers.

Given the rules of the 52 weeks projects regarding any Olympic trademarked things or locations, this is the best picture I could use for Week 1 of the Olympics. They were giving these out free during the dressage portion of the equestrian events of the Olympics. I can faithfully report that the foam fingers also soaked up the rain quite well.

We love a foam finger. We love a foam finger even more when we can use it to recreate the creation narrative from the Sistine Chapel. I'm sure Michelangelo would have approved.

This is actually the photo I liked better, but I couldn't post it to the Guardian group, given the Olympics rules.

Where we recreate the Sistine Chapel with foam fingers....

2012: Week 31

2012: Week 31 by MAStapleton
2012: Week 31, a photo by MAStapleton on Flickr.
The Cutty Sark, as viewed through a port hole of a tall ship sailing the Thames.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

OLYMPIC DAY: Part V - Men's Football and Wembley Stadium

After a morning cycling at the track-- Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins didn't get their gold medals just for showing up-- we headed to north London and Wembley Stadium to see some men's football. We got to see Mexico play Senegal.

Originally, I thought I'd like to see Mexico win. I considered my own special NAFTA agreement to root for North American teams when Team USA or Team GB are unavailable. But as I sat there, I thought that Senegal probably doesn't have much going for it, so I switched my allegiances. I'm fickle that way.

We suspected that going to an Olympic football match at Wembley wouldn't be much different than any other football match at Wembley. We were partially right. During regular football matches, I'm certain that you wouldn't see hundreds of people gathered around the televisions waiting to see if Andy Murray and Laura Robson won their mixed singles match. There was also a great deal of London 2012 branding going on throughout the stadium, so you could never forget what was happening. And don't forget the flags. Just like in every other venue, there were loads of them.

I'm a sucker for a bunch of flags and the Olympic rings. Love 'em.

Once the action got started, it did feel like a regular football game. We got to see a fantastic game though. It went into extra time and looked as though it might even go into penalties, but Mexico got their act together before that happened and won the game.
Here's Mexico celebrating one of their goals. 

Here's Thing One and Thing Two posing for a picture. Is Thing Two wearing a rain poncho? Indeed he is, making us 4-for4 for rain during our outdoor Olympic events.

Finally, it was time to head home. If you're wondering how 81,000 leave Wembley at the same time, I'm here to tell you that they do so in an orderly fashion. Again, this is Great Britian. If there's anything that my fellow countrymen know how to do, it's form an orderly queue and leave in an orderly fashion. The police had to stop the crowd every so often as the Wembley Stadium tube station became full.  But people stopped when they were told to and didn't complain about it. It was impressive. I have to say.

Would you like to see what 80,000 people leaving at the same time looks like? Of course you do. Here it is, with bonus Mexican hats AND stormy skies!

Friday, August 03, 2012

OLYMPIC DAY: Park IV - Beach Volleyball at Horse Guards Parade

The Olympics have done an utterly fab job at using iconic London settings. Here in Greenwich, we really moaned about them taking over the park, but it definitely paid off because the venue looks beautiful. The same might also be said of Horse Guards Parade, right behind Downing Street. I don't know if the bureaucrats complained about the beach volleyball being there, but it looked great when we were there.

Here's the band warming up the crowd before the party-- I mean athletic contest-- began.

Beach volleyball has proven to be one of the most popular events at these Olympic games. It's not hard to figure out why-- athletic women wearing bikinis and jumping around. As we scanned the crowd, we saw A LOT of gentlemen who were enjoying the action before they headed off to the office. At least, that's what we deduced since so many of them were wearing suits. 

Here's a funny fact for the day: for each session, they have both a women's and a men's game, because they were worried that the men's games wouldn't sell but they knew the women's would. As a feminist, I can't quite figure out if this is progress or not.

Olympic beach volleyball proved to be one of the more unusual athletic contests I've been to, and as one who once started the Alaskan Pig Racing Contest, that's saying something. It felt more like a party than an Olympic competition. Along with the Mexican wave and popular music, which are linchpins of nearly all (not Equestrian!) the venues, beach volleyball also had a conga line, the Big Brother announcer and dancers in bikinis. (I'm wondering how the dancers will list this experience on their CV. Olympic dancer? I'd love to have that on my CV.)

Here's a snap of the women's game we saw. It was Germany (red) versus Germany (blue). We weren't sure if Germany would win, but they pulled through in the end. This is not unlike the Gold Medal Game, which will see the USA play the USA. Good luck USA!

It was quite a day. Even better, my friend Ellie and I saw two different sets of friends while we were waiting to see the game. See? London really is like one big village? (Not really.) But it added to the fun that we saw friends there. 

Finally, here's another panoramic picture of the venue. I took this after all the fun was over, unfortunately. But you still get a sense of how beautiful it was there.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

OLYMPIC DAY: Part III - Equestrian Dressage at Greenwich Park

This was one we were looking forward to, especially since we've given up our beautiful Greenwich Park bit by bit since April. I also liked it from a logistical point of view, because it was only going to take us five minutes from our front door to get to an Olympic venue. Result.

We decided to go with our Team USA t-shirts today. It wasn't a political decision to support Ann Romney's horse, but rather, it was because they were the only Olympic shirts that were clean. A big bonus of this venue is that they were giving out foam fingers for free. RESULT. Apparently, the nice American woman explained to me, Stephen Colbert has been having a go at dressage and they wanted to prove to him that dressage was cool. Hey, any time they're giving away foam fingers, I'm in. So of course we had to recreate our now iconic foam finger picture:

On to the dressage, of which we knew nothing. Luckily, we were literally surrounded by subscribers to "Horse and Hound" who proved to be very helpful. They also shushed us for cheering on the British rider when he first appeared, but I now understand that shouts of support are not good at the beginning of dressage because it could spook the horse. The things I've learned in this Olympics.

The stadium, which was VERY controversial in SE10, proved to be as beautiful as they said it would be. The people around me kept saying what a great venue it was, and I couldn't help feeling very proud that it was our local park that they were talking about. I also made sure to point out that our school's sports day was usually held where the stadium was, which the people around me seemed impressed by.

Here's a panoramic of the arena:

I have to say (whisper it) that it all got a bit boring. But I tweeted throughout, which at least kept me awake. Much like diving, it only got interesting when it all went wrong.

Surprise, surprise, we got rained on on Olympic Day, Part III. This made us three-for-three on rain and the Olympics. Want to see another threatening cloud picture? Sure you do.

Oh my goodness did it rain. The heavens opened and it came bucketing down. We all got SOAKED, even with our wet-weather gear. Now there was some progress on the wet weather gear front for us, because while we did remember our jackets, we left our rain ponchos at home. EPIC FAIL.

Another good thing about an Olympic venue being so close to home was that when it was all over, we could defy the foam fingers by taking a back way and getting out of our soaked clothes pretty quickly.

We finished the day off in dry clothes on the comfort of our sofa eating Pringles while watching action in the Pringle. Needless to say, it was another great Olympic Day.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

OLYMPIC DAY: Part II - Fencing at the ExCel Centre

Olympic Day, Part II, involved going to what I dubbed "The Land of Marginal Sports," the ExCel Centre. I know that seems harsh, but the sports they have there are fencing, weightlifting, boxing, judo, table tennis, wrestling and taekwondo. See what I mean?

The day got off to a fine start with Olympic foam fingers. There's nothing like a foam finger to show that you're taking the sport seriously. As we walked to the bus stop, the volunteers with their Pink Foam Fingers of Authority (as I like to call them) kept giving the boys Foam Finger High Fives. Classic.

As we waited for the boys, we recreated the "Creation" portion of the Sistine Chapel with our foam fingers. As you do.
(I wanted to include this picture in my 52 Weeks photo project for the Guardian, but I couldn't because we're not allowed to submit anything with the Olympic rings, the British lion or Team GB. Bummer.)

I totally scored with these tickets. They were another set I got only about two weeks before the games, and they were only £20 each. Bargain. Sure, we were in the last row and my legs fell asleep pretty quickly given how tight the space was, but who cares. The Olympics for 20 quid! You can't beat that bargain.

Fencing itself was interesting, even though we didn't know much about the sport. The man next to me (who also was pleased about his £20 tickets) and I tried to figure it all out together, with mixed success. I think the fencing might just win the gold medal for the most dramatic arena, though. Check this out:

During one of the breaks, the boys got the autographs of two Italian fencers. The one on the right is Andrea Baldini, who fought in the bronze medal match but lost. They were very nice, though. Sorry for the out-of-focus picture but I think I was so excited about (a) meeting actual Olympics and (b) who were lovely Italians, that I had shaky hand syndrome.

Here's a picture of the American fencer Race Imboden in action. He's the one on the left with his helmet off. Unfortunately, he lost. But he lost to the nice Italian Baldini, so we considered that a win-win. We tried to do our bit by waving our American flag for Race Imboden, but it wasn't enough.

Here's a shot of Thing 1 & 2 at the end of the day. We were all very hot and very tired. I think it was the bright lights.

Finally, we left the ExCel. But so did what felt like about a million other people from the other events too. Here's what it looked like as we all left the ExCel:
Those are all people, believe it or not. I'm starting to hyperventilate just seeing it again, but then again, they were being marshalled by polite British people, who were explaining how we do things over here. If you can say anything about the British people, it's that they know how to queue AND leave in an orderly fashion.

It was another brilliant day. Roll On, London Olympics!

Monday, July 30, 2012

OLYMPIC DAY: Part I - Water Polo in the Olympic Park

Here's one for the history books: Our first day at the London Olympics. It was brilliant, and even better than expected, which is saying something given that I could barely sleep the night before since I was so excited. We decided to call this "Olympic Day: Part I" because we're going to take full advantage of having the Olympics in our hometown of London, so we're going to see lots of things over the two weeks. Happy Olympics everyone!

Here we are, walking into the park. The aquatic centre is on the left, "The Orbit"-- the red swirly sculpture-- is next, and the Olympic stadium is behind the welcome/bienvenue sign.

While walking into the Olympic Park, we happened upon this security guard WHO WAS WEARING A NIKE HAT. We warned him that the LOCOG police would be tackling him to the ground at any moment and replacing that hat with an Official Sponsor Adidas one. You'll notice he was clever enough to turn his ID badge over when I took his pictures. Kudos, security guard man, kudos.

Water polo was a somewhat random ticket choice for us. I only bought them because (a) they were available in early July (b) it was on the third day of the Olympics and (c) because I thought it would be fun. I was right. It was fantastic to watch. Here's some water polo action, with bonus flags.

This is the Coatian team doing some sort of pre-game awesomeness. I know it looks like synchronized swimming, but they're probably giving each other wedgies under the water. Because that's how they roll in water polo.

During the match, my cousin in North Carolina tweeted me to say how cool it was that we were watching water polo. He said he got into it after seeing it at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. We agreed that it was an underappreciated sport. I mean, really, any sport that has to outlaw wedgies (though they happen all the time anyway), is pretty amazing. Also, I love how I was talking to my cousin in America via Twitter. Here's a gold medal to the wonders of the Interweb.

After the match, we had a wander around the Olympic Park. First of all, it's huge. It would take a good 30 minutes, or longer with crowds, to walk from one end to another. It also has some beautiful gardens. I mean, I know it's England's birthright to show everyone else how ace they are at gardening-- all the rain has to be put to good use, after all-- but they were breathtaking.

But then the clouds started to gather. The storm should have gotten a medal for appearance alone, belive me. We were caught out too. I know we should have known better, but drunk on sunshine in the morning, we left without any wet weather gear. We learned our lesson. Here's the gathering storm, though. It really was that dark.
Most of these people are probably thinking, "Oh shit. I forgot my umbrella." Or maybe that was just us.

We found shelter from the rain in an underpass, and eventually it stopped so we toured the rest of the park. Here's a sampling of the rest of our day:
With Wenlock, the Olympic mascot, in front of the Velodrome, otherwise known as the Pringle.

The temporary basketball arena, with the Athlete's Village behind it. Before you think, "Oh, how convenient for the men's USA Basketball Team," think again. They're staying at some fancy-pants hotel in the middle of London.

Another view of the stadium and the Orbit. And yes, it did start raining again. Thing One is wearing our picnic blanket for protection. Did he share the blanket with Thing Two? This is the Olympics, my friend. It's every man for himself.

Here we are, in front of one of the two of the Olympic Park's McDonald's. Originally, we tried to go there for lunch but thought better of the idea when they said it was going to be a TWO HOUR WAIT. So we ate our snacks and went back later when there was no queue. I though that an Olympic McDonald's would be really cool and different. But guess what? It was just like every other McDonald's we had ever been to, which I suppose is the point and the secret to McDonald's success.

It looked like it was going to rain again, so we bid farewell to the Olympic Park, knowing we'd be back there a week later. It was an epically good day.