Monday, 13 August 2012

A Great British Send Off

Us Brits love a good moan. We complain about everything. People don't queue up properly, you'll get eyes rolled at you and hear a series of tuts along the line. If people are indeed queuing up properly by the line is too damn long, well shop assistants, expect eyes rolled at you and tuts from down the line. (We spend a hell of a lot of our time queuing over here. It's an art form). We complain about the weather: on sunny days, we moan it's too hot and uncomfortable and on rainy days we moan about it always being cold, rainy and miserable. There's never anything us Brits can't complain about. I've often wondered several times whether we should consider taking away the crown of 'national sport' from football and handing it to a bunch of Brits waiting at a train station. We'd win every prize going (you know, unlike with the football)

But something truly bizarre happened this month. For two whole weeks, barely a single person complained about anything (well, not in London at least). You see, for seven long years, Brits have been complaining non stop about the Olympics. "It's gonna cost us a bloody fortune", "won't be able to move for tourists", "great, yet more delays to the District Line", and my personal favourite "just give it to the French!" (NO! We give nothing to the French!). When the plans were announced for Danny Boyle's opening ceremony, the complaints rose and rose until they eventually reached a fever pitch and I'm pretty certain the majority of those complainers just complained so much that they spontaneously combusted because they were nowhere to be seen after July 27th.

The Opening Ceremony was truly magical. We had everything that made Britain so truly amazing. Yes, some of the things went completely over the heads of the foreign viewers (the NHS tribute, for example) but we had Voldemort, and sheep, and cricket, and Mr Bean and the Queen turning Bond Girl for a few minutes. It was almost as if a collective sigh of relief occurred on that night. Either that or Danny Boyle used a few tricks he learnt whilst making Trainspotting and just plain doped the entire country. Because for the first time in my living memory, everyone just shut up, got on with it and had a jolly good time of it.

We cheered our athletes home. We all felt like hugging Rebecca Adlington when she couldn't match her double gold from Beijing. We felt a huge bursting of pride when our male gymnasts accomplished the first British men's team gymnastics medal in 100 years. We screamed until we lost our voices when Mo Farrah ran his 10,000m race and we tears started forming when Jessica Ennis took the podium. We were amazed when Andy Murray actually sang the National Anthem (kudos to you, Mr Murray) and we were finally able to breathe on the tube because we weren't stuck underneath someone's sweaty armpit. Although, I did get squashed underneath one of our soldiers on a Central Line train heading to Bank. I didn't mind, I thanked him for doing the job G4S were too feckless to undertake.

They think it's all over...

I don't know a single person who didn't sit down to watch the Closing Ceremony. Rumours were flying everywhere - would The Who be there? Or perhaps Take That? One thing we knew for certain was that it would be the "greatest after party of all time" and that the SPICE GIRLS would be there. Seriously, I was a little girl in the 90s, the Spice Girls are my Gods (especially you, Victoria!). Twitter was buzzing, Facebook was buzzing, and I ended the night teary and without a voice.

The Closing Ceremony did have it's faults. One Direction mimed their way through a dismal set, and George Michael turned his originally-promising slot into an advert (would it have killed him to have done Club Tropicana or Careless Whisper?!). There was also the over-saturation of Jessie J who appeared to have lost the keys to her wardrobe as she proceeded to butcher We Will Rock You. But, never mind, it was still bloody amazing.

We had Timothy Spall (Battersea boy done good!) and the best of our British supermodels coming out to David Bowie's 'Fashion'. Take That came out to sing 'Rule The World' and I don't think there was a dry eye anywhere in the country; we all had so much respect and admiration for Gary Barlow who sadly had a stillborn daughter last week. Yes, we got bored when Seb Coe rambled on a bit like I do, but it was still a great night. Pele made an appearance for the Rio de Janeiro handover bit, and the wonderful Boris Johnson got down to Spice Up Your Life.

I commented on both Twitter and Facebook that it's not a British party until Wonderwall and Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life are played. Both came on, both were amazing. Although, my heart broke a little that Liam Gallagher insisted on being called Beady Eye whilst singing one of Oasis' two best songs (so wanted Noel to come out and trounce his brother with Don't Look Back In Anger, alas it was not to be). 

I felt myself swelling up with British pride at the end of our amazing send off. We've looked after the Olympics and they've been so good to us. London has been a magical place to live in over the past two weeks and I'm so glad I got to witness this spectacle in my home town. I'm so very sad to see it leave.

...It is now

The extinguishing of the flame was a sad sight to see. I'm sure everybody remembers the world's sympathies after the Beijing ceremonies, snidely remarking that London would never in a million years be able to top it. I'd like to think that they were incredibly wrong. I think London did an amazing job at creating two beautifully diverse ceremonies and I now feel some sympathy for Brazil, who now have to beat us. If last night reminded the world of anything it's this: there is no music on earth that matches the excellence this little island has to offer. From Lennon, to Mercury, via Madness, Pet Shop Boys, George Michael and Bowie, we've had it all. Thank you for sharing in a most special night with us.

As I sign off, I can't help but wonder if things could be done a little differently in future. The main Olympics is all done and dusted now and we have a few weeks to go until the Paralympics. Could the two not be run concurrently in future? Think of how epic the closing ceremonies would be then! Just a thought...

Friday, 10 August 2012

A Heartbreaking Moment of Reflection

It happens every so often. An impassioned Facebook posting, or a heartbreaking plea in the national newspapers that tells us every parent’s worst nightmare: a child has gone missing.

This past week has been a bizarre week for the UK. We’ve been flying dizzily high on the coattails of the Olympics, basking in the glory of our wonderful athletes and merrily sticking two fingers up to the rest of the world (but mostly the French) at how well we’ve done.

As I logged onto Facebook last week, I was confronted with not one, but two missing children. Two beautiful young girls who had seemingly vanished into thin air. The first, 14 year old Molly O’Donovan from Banbury, Oxfordshire, disappeared on her way home from school. I forwarded on an email to everyone I knew and struggled with my desire to head up to Banbury to help search for her.

In the midst of the search for Molly another plea launched onto the Facebook timeline. This one was much closer to home. Just a few miles from my home, 12 year old Tia Sharp had gone missing. The appeal stated that she had left her grandmother's house in New Addington to make the short journey to Croydon to buy a pair of shoes.

Devastatingly, the news came on Tuesday (7th August) that Molly’s body had been found in woodlands on the outskirts of Banbury. Such a beautiful young life extinguished for reasons that haven’t been made clear. Her heartbroken family have requested no public contact and we must respect their wishes. What they are going through is unimaginable.

Following the heartbreaking discovery of Molly’s body, fears began to grow for Tia. Just twelve years old, the reports surrounding her disappearance were conflicting at best, confusing at worst. Nobody really seemed able to confirm who was the last to see her, except the unanimous confirmation that Stuart Hazell, the partner of Tia's grandmother, was the last to see her. He stated during a television interview that he walked her to the local tram station, yet no CCTV footage of Tia on any trams or buses could be found. Eventually, he stated that he was not the last person to see her. Everyone who commented on the situation shared the same opinion: something doesn’t add up.

Police forces from Yorkshire were drafted in to assist the Metropolitan Police in their search for Tia. The Yorkshire police force have unfortunate experience in searching for a missing young girl in unusual circumstances, following the bizarre and sickening events surrounding the disappearance of Shannon Matthews.

At around 5pm today (10th August, I sat back to enjoy a relaxing evening following a long day of writing when my phone buzzed. A message from a friend of mine telling me to brace myself and switch on one of the news channels.

The announcement was made that a body was found in the house of Tia’s grandmother, confirming everyone’s worst fears. The police also announced that they were launching a manhunt for Stuart Hazell, the partner of Tia’s grandmother. The same man who sat on national television and delivered a heartfelt plea for Tia’s return that convinced just about nobody.

My first thoughts at hearing both pieces of devastating news was identical in each case. Those poor, poor, beautiful little girls. They will never experience the joys and awkwardness of teenage life that we all take for granted. They will never be able to giddily recount the first time they were asked for ID and could merrily produce it. They will never experience life. It is almost too difficult to think about.

At the time of publishing this post, the Metropolitan Police have requested that anyone who sees Stuart Hazell should not approach him and should instead call 999. Everyone I know – parents in particular – are united in their shock over the events of the past week. Even one missing child is too many, but for the world to lose two beautiful young girls before they had even begun to live their lives? It's just too cruel for words.

Twitter: @AmyWhitear

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Writer's Block

It was all going so well. Halfway through one novel, a quarter of the way through another, and planning finished for a third. Feelers put out there, envelopes and paper bought for the submissions. And then boom. Writer's block. I sat down this morning to continue another writing session and nothing happened. Fingers were poised, tea was brewing, but not a single word came out.

I've decided to stop for the rest of the week. I'll come back on Saturday (or Monday) hopefully with a fresh mind, hopefully with new ideas. Hopefully these damn novels will be finished soon. I certainly hope so.

In the meantime, I've started Cupcakes & Calamity which will eventually grow into a lifestyle blog of sorts, detailing bits and pieces and hopefully growing into a happy and healthy hobby. Take a look and let me know. New posts will be updated every Sunday.