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Olympic Opinions (number one billion and one)

London twenty twelve, the games, the longest sports day ever. No matter what you call it everyone is talking about the Olympics. 

Personally I’ve gone through phases with it. I was excited when we were given the privilege of holding it, fed up of it during the run up due to constant advertising and moaning but now I’m hooked. The only time my finger has touched the remote is to flick from BBC one to BBC two or three, occasionally hitting that red button. Usually when it comes to sport you’ll find me switching off, so what is it about the ‘lympics (as I like to call it) that has reeled me in?

To begin with it was that Danny Boyle directed opening ceremony. I watched it at a friends’ house and to be honest we’d only really decided to watch it for a laugh. Big ceremony’s and cheesy celebrations aren’t really our thing but you have to get involved in these big moments in history, if only just to follow what my entire twitter timeline were tweeting about! As soon as it started though we were drawn in and all cynicism disappeared. Why did we ever doubt Danny Boyle? That powerful industrial revolution scene with that brilliant Underworld song and all the drums, the fiery Olympic rings, the projections, the music and of course the sketch with The Queen and James Bond. Even the monotonous introduction of all the athletes was made fun by Fiji being introduced to the arena to the music of the Bee Gees. This prompted a rhyming game of bands/artists to countries. The lighting of the flame was a nice touch too, symbolising the coming together of nations. 

Paul Mcartney ruined it at the end with his predictable and out of tune rendition of Hey Jude but hey ho, lets keep things positive.

Cue the sports. I thought I might as well give it a go considering this is what the Olympics is actually about. Dipping in and out was my plan, a bit of cycling here, some diving there. But this was not the case. As I realised Team GB had a good chance of winning medals (slight glory hunting there I know) I watched events until the end, I picked up the rules and suddenly became an expert on all sports. Well, by my previous standards anyway. The fact I had sudden free range of Sky TV in the house added greatly to my new found obsession. With twenty four channels covering all the sports in full I found it very hard to drag myself away. When I was away I had to find other ways to keep up with everything. I followed Olympics related people on twitter, @TeamGB became invaluable, I had friends texting me whenever a medal was won and snuck glimpses at the action on any screens I walked past. In a way though, the more sports I watched the less about sports it became. I began to appreciate just how hard these individuals had worked to get here. I saw a nation getting behind them and I saw how much it meant to them. Interviews and profiles on the athletes proved them to be ordinary yet talented and inspiring people. I laughed, cried and got nervous for them all. “Inspire a generation” was the motto of London 2012 and it certainly seemed to. For two weeks at least the entire nation was supporting these people. At last, some icons young people can look up to rather than half naked, fake women or sex obsessed men. The closing ceremony seemed to undo this idea however, but as I said, let’s remain positive. 

The Olympics has inspired me to get back into sports. Currently this just means getting back into cycling but I’d also like to join a basketball team again and have another go at canoeing. This might all be very optimistic considering I seem to live on the “C” diet; chips, chicken, chocolate, cheese and (just to ruin the “ch” thing I had going on) carbs. But it hasn’t just inspired me to do sports, it’s pushed me to have more of that get up and go attitude. London 2012 has also reminded me that if you’re passionate, determined and work hard enough you can really get somewhere. Okay so not every ending will involve gold but try and you could surprise yourself. Ah, I’ve gotten all deep. I’m going to sign off now with an enthusiastic “Bring on the Paralympics!”

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I’m not a great sunbather, never have been. It’s a skill, a pretty selfish one but a skill nonetheless. I try to sunbathe but the thought of frying in your own sweat after covering yourself with a sticky, sandy substance which used to be known as suncream is not very appealing to me. I do like the idea of an all over tan but achieving this requires more sunbathing commitment than I am prepared to give. Don’t get me wrong I’m easily amused, put a good book in my hand and I’ll be amused for hours (well at least until I finish the book). However, to avoid looking like a patchy lobster one must forfeit being comfortable and rested for timed turning overs and reapplying sessions. Plus, no matter how hard I try I always end up with a face similar in colour to a tomato.

So when my friend suggested two weeks on the Perhentian Islands just off Malaysia during our travels I decided I’d give scuba diving a go. Wanting to do the diving thing properly I jumped straight into a PADI Open Water course. The word jump being used literally here as the first thing I had to do was jump off the jetty into the sea and prove my swimming ability. I knew things weren’t going to be as easy as I thought when I was greeted with pain as I hit the water. Well actually, that was the problem, I didn’t hit the water. I had in fact jumped onto a big, sharp rock. Despite the hole in my foot I swam on. I welcomed the treading water test which allowed me to catch my breath after the big swim out to sea. Next step was snorkelling with fins. Now, as someone who had never swam with fins on before and had a hole in her foot, putting the fins on in the water proved to be quite a kerfuffle. Alas, I didn’t transform into the gliding mermaid I thought I would post finned. I got used to the extra weight on my feet though and shortly afterwards I was getting rather good at skin diving with a snorkel. A skill I never actually used again to be honest.

With my swimming test passed it was time to learn how to put the kit together. Easy once you know how but to gain this know how my instructor made me put the kit together and take it apart ten times. I could probably do it now it my sleep. Good job really as putting the kit together correctly is essential to your survival underwater.

Theory stuff was next. 8am ’til 6pm stuck inside a room watching cheesy instructional videos and completing exams wasn’t my idea of a great day when I was on an island to be honest. In fact, i’d taken in so much information that day it made me more nervous about the diving. I hadn’t realised that there was so much I would need to know. I just wanted to explore the sea.

Bright and early the next day I got to experience breathing underwater for the first time. After putting on my gear and walking to the confined dive site of course. Well, I say walking, it was more of a crablike shuffle from me. I didn’t expect the air tank to be so heavy! Anyway, fins on and into the water we go. We being myself and my diving instructor (who is rather good looking which was distracting!). First thing’s first, get used to breathing underwater. It was such a strange experience. I was trying to save my breath for a while forgetting the number one rule of scuba diving: don’t hold your breath. I got used to it quite quickly, well at least I thought I did. I had some skills that I needed to do underwater and when Phil, my diving instructor, asked me to do a few of them one after the other it suddenly clicked that I had been underwater too long and shouldn’t be able to breathe. I began to think I couldn’t go ahead with the course. Cue an emergency pop up. (We had just been on our knees). I blamed it on a need to cough. Phil explained that you could cough, burp, sneeze or even be sick through the regulator mouthpiece which was a disgusting yet reassuring thought. Back under.  The thought of loosing £200 (the price for my PADI Open Water course) and the fact we saw a baby black tipped shark after being under the water for approximately ten minutes spurred me on.
When discussing what I had to do before entering the water the skills seemed quite challenging. In fact I began to fly, well swim, through the confined dives. There were 5 all together each containing skills more difficult than the last. Personally, I didn’t like taking my mask off. As the mask covers the nose it prevents you from using it to breathe. This is very useful as the air source is attached to the mouth so breathing through your nose won’t get you very far. As soon as my mask came off I immediately sucked up what felt like a quarter of the sea. Not a pleasant experience. Then you have to master the trick of clearing your mask of water whilst being surrounded by the stuff.
I also found, unsurprisingly, that I was rather rubbish at buoyancy which is all about control and balance. I’m quite clumsy on land, the graceful nature of the water just slows down my clumsiness and shows it in a more exaggerated fashion. Thankfully, I managed to get my head around the buoyancy stuff enough to avoid causing damage though.

Just the open water dives left to do now. Four of them to be precise. The prospect of being let loose into the vast ocean both excited and terrified me. After rolling backwards into the bottle clear water off the boat (and admittedly taking a while to equalise as we descended) we were off exploring. It was such an incredible feeling. I lost all sense of time as I emerged myself into the underwater world. I felt like I’d stepped into a David Attenborough documentary. Finding Nemo also proved to be useful…
I saw so many things down there, I found it hard to take it all in. My eyes were as wide as could be as Phil was pointing to things here, there and everywhere. Communication without speaking can be a beautiful yet hilarious thing. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to ever surface.

On my third open water dive I’d slipped whilst attempting to get onto the boat off the jetty (told you I can be clumsy). I was wearing my scuba gear so was worried about damage to the tank and had possibly fashioned a not so stylish rip into the wetsuit. Blood was dripping from my knee and elbow whilst my arm developed a swelling which has similarities to a snake’s body after swallowing it’s prey whole. Luckily no one could tell I was embarrassed as my face was still red with sunburn. I was still eager to go ahead with the dive. Less so when Phil informed me the dive site we were going to was full of sharks! My first thought was that the injured arm was the one I’d recently added a tattoo to. I hadn’t taken a picture of it yet so was a little saddened at the thought of only a handful of people ever seeing it. I did the dive and it turned out to be my favourite of the four open water dives as part of my course. Needless to say I survived, as did my left arm with the tattoo and new addition of a scar.

Each dive became easier though and I became more confident with the skills. I also felt myself becoming addicted! After surfacing from my fourth and final open water dive I felt a huge sense of pride. I couldn’t stop grinning. I am now qualified as a PADI Open Water diver and it is one of the best things I have ever done.

I learnt how to dive on the Perhentian Islands just off Malaysia with the Quiver Dive Team on Coral Bay. If you’re ever out in that direction you should check them out. Excellent dive sites, good prices and ace people!

Message from Planet Muse.

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Muse are back. Or at least they will be in September. Until then they’ve left us a snippet of their new album which is causing controversy as ever.

Personally, I’m quite enjoying this album trailer. Dramatic news woman aside, the music is interesting and exciting. Yes it sounds like something to accompany a film trailer and the dubstep section at the end was initially unexpected but if you forget who you’re listening to and pay more attention to what you’re listening too it’s actually quite good. Plus it has strings in it, strings (nearly) always win me over.

I actually used to be a huge fan of Muse. Like many Muse fans I didn’t like the last album and wasn’t really a fan of the one before that either. You can’t deny that whatever they’re playing they are an excellent live band though. Thinking about it that’s where the dubstep initially creeped in, so it’s not such an unexpected move after all.

It’s impossible to guess the outcome of the album from such a short snippet but it has certinally made me look forward to it.

Anyway, here’s the trailer so you can make your own mind up.

Organised Chaos

After months and months of working twelve-hour days in two customer service jobs I got agitated and am off travelling. The day after tomorrow in fact. Actual travelling this time. Backpack and all.

Now, if I had my way I’d be there right now. I would’ve jumped on a plane as soon as the mood took me (armed with a book, my iPod and a notepad and pen of course). Life demands us to be organised these days though. For a start I had to work extra hours to make sure I have money to take, delve deep into the wardrobe to dig out the summer clothes collections, then there’s the jabs you have to get and the ridiculously priced Malariya tablets! The more I talk to people about my travels the more I realise I have to do! It takes all the fun out of it.

Excitement levels are still high though and I imagine they will only continue to rise. Especially after the packing is done. I cannot wait to experience new things, be free from time constraints and stresses and get my creative mind back in working order.

Just thought I’d get another post up here (despite the shoddy outcome) to prompt myself to do so when my mind is back in working order.

Now, back to writing checklists…

Leeds Fest In An Orange Vest.

After a month in Spain my friend and I missed the rain. I know, it comes from being brought up in Manchester. Anyway, this lead us to wanting to go to a festival. Well, that and the need for more adventure. This late decision and lack of funds led us to volunteering for Oxfam at Leeds Festival. What a good decision it was too.

Volunteering for Oxfam meant a separate camping area, a guest wristband and free meals. The real treat was the shower cubicles though. The clean, warm water was like liquid gold after nights of mud and rain in a chilly tent. Armed with waterproofs (mine unfortunately minus the arms) we spent our first shift greeting the Thursday arrivals by scanning tickets and queue directing. This was actually a lot more fun than it sounds. The buzz of excitement was infectious and spread quickly. As the day progressed we found ourselves to become familiar yet increasingly blurry faces to the Leeds crowd. One incredibly funny drunken Welsh chap decided our job was far more fun than what he originally had planned (rebuilding a wooden bed for a friend to sleep on in his tent, it wasn’t going well) and stayed to provide us with comedy for at least an hour. Our shift finished mid afternoon leaving us to enjoy the festival.

Thursday night’s entertainment included an enjoyable set from The Young Knives, despite the fact their first album holds all the good songs. The good songs were worth sticking it out for though. As a fan of the film Oldboy I was pleased to discover that it was being shown with the Guillemots doing a live film score. I’ve been to a live film score before and it worked incredibly well, 65daysofstatic doing a live re-score of the film Silent Running, but this just didn’t seem right. The Guillemots and Oldboy seemed like an odd pairing what with the Guillemots always bringing to mind rose petals and love songs whereas one of the strong images that comes to mind in Oldboy is a man chopping his own tongue off! This odd pairing proved an uncomfortable watch with the music not matching the scenes in the film and not even pausing for talking, which I understand isn’t necessary as I don’t speak Korean but this did leave me unsure of whether to focus on the music or the film as they didn’t work combined so watching them together didn’t feel like an option. It was a nice thought though.

Friday started in a puddle filled tent and set the tone of the weather for the day. We escaped during a brief dry spell to catch Frank Turner on the main stage. He played a good set and looked like he was loving it up there. A leg aching walk through the thick mud took us to the Festival Republic Stage where Dutch Uncles were playing an energetic, fun set as always. The only let down was the lack of colour in Duncan’s clothing.

Our shift on Friday was a pretty jammy one. We were checking passes on the disabled ramp in the NME/Radio 1 tent. Although this meant we were getting splashed with mud a lot we had an excellent people watching spot. As you can imagine, the mud had opened up a whole new element of fun for the drunks at the festival. Sadly, the things going on outside the tent were far better than some of the bands on stage in the tent. I did enjoy 2manyDJs’ set though. Even abused the opportunity of an empty platform and had a bit of a dance which distracted me from the fact I was missing Muse. I did manage to see the fireworks, lights, lasers and even hear a bit of their set when the wind was blowing in the right direction.

We spent some time at the Alternative stage on Saturday. Caught most of Josh Widdicombe’s set and Seann Walsh. To tell you the truth I can really remember any of their material but I’m pretty sure I laughed more at Josh Widdicombe despite the fact something about him irritates me. Dead Cat Bounce were on next. Didn’t stay long. That says it all really. We headed back to the Alternative stage a bit later to see Tim Minchin. This turned out to be a harder task than we had hoped. The tent was packed out with people pushing to get inside from all angles, despite the wet dog aroma and unbreathable air. As it turned out it wasn’t really worth it. I’d seen him a few times before so already knew all the songs but couldn’t really listen properly for fear of being turned into mud pie and buried alive!

The third and final shift of the weekend was back on the disabled ramp at the NME/Radio 1 stage. This time with a much better line up. Metronomy were on when we got there. They played a tight set wearing big, flashing, light up badges that fascinated me more than they should have. Up next were The Vaccines who I’d heard a lot about but couldn’t place my finger on any songs that they’d done. Sign of my getting older I suppose! I really liked their set, as did the crowd who had almost doubled in size since they’d started playing. This made me extra grateful for my elevated spacious spot in the tent and definitely worth wearing a bright orange jacket for! Noah and the Whale followed, I wasn’t really too fussed by them so resumed my people watching post. Some of the excuses people gave to try and get up on the platform were tedious. Everything from a stubbed toe to brain cells damaged from the weekend. One woman claimed she’d got a wooden hip to try and use the disabled toilet and even went to the lengths of hobbling about until she thought she was out of my eye-line. Another perk to the job was the frequent visits from a certain area manager who was rather fit. Festivals are an ace place for brilliant beard spotting. This is all besides the point however. Back to the line up. White Lies now and I was pleasantly surprised. I expected a dark and dreary set but what unfolded was actually quite upbeat and smiley! For me White Lies were the headlines as the “band” that were on next really aren’t even worth a mention but I’m nice so here is their mention. Beady Eye were a shambles. The songs were repetitive and Liam droned on and on while doing his “look at me, I’m ace” manoeuvre. Their relatively short set felt like an age. From what I overheard in the crowd they weren’t too impressed either. All I could think about was a warm hot chocolate I’d be drinking after the shift in the prison like canteen tent.

Sunday was my best day at this festival and not only because my friend and I had the whole day off. Mark Watson was the first act of the day for us. Always loved him and his set reminded me why. A brilliant comedian with a quirky awkwardness that makes you warm to him. I’d also read his book Eleven over the summer which is a fantastic read, my copy is currently making it’s way around my friends. The fact that most of his set is still in my mind and makes me chuckle proves his talent. He was one of the highlights of my weekend. Caught a bit of Two Door Cinema Club. I like them but thought the Main Stage was a bit too big of an open space for them to really captivate the crowd like the could have done. We stayed to watch Madness partly because my mother constantly tells me of the time when she caught Sugg’s sweaty towel in her younger days. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I think I showed up about twenty years too late. I was nice that the rain had stopped though. Back to the main stage a bit later for The National who passed by in a bit of a blur apart from a couple of songs which I rather enjoyed. It didn’t help that the screens were down for a while. I was a bit fixated by watching people fix them. Up next, The Strokes. A lot of people had mentioned them as the band they were looking forward to the most. I’m not a fan of hype, it sets things up to be worse than expected. This was the case here. At the time I really did enjoy it, especially when I remembered how much I love some of their songs and had a good dance about. It wasn’t until Pulp came on that I realised how much better a live set can be. I feel sorry for Reading because The Strokes as a headliner would have been such a come down from Pulp. They didn’t really seem into it. From the second the P of Pulp flickered on we could sense we were in for a good hour and a half. We were right. Jarvis Cocker was on excellent form, finding the perfect balance of audience interaction yet keeping the set flowing. The energy he had on stage was infectious as he showcased his brilliant dancing skills. He had the crowd grinning from ear to ear while they were dancing away to these sometimes forgotten classics. A highlight has to be the brave way he performed This Is Hardcore. YouTube it. Pulp have been providing me with entertainment on my bus journey’s ever since. Definite highlight of the weekend.

To sum up, an ace weekend despite the rain and volunteering for Oxfam at festivals is a great way to go.

Blues, browns and greys

Ah the holiday blues. Not the best of feelings.

Myself and a friend have recently returned from a five week trip to Spain. We had an amazing time riding bikes everywhere, reading a lot, swimming and exploring to name but a few of the ways we spent our days there. Oh and I must mention Circo Aquatico which made my face ache with laughter. Although often the laughter was due to events happening off stage rather than on. Namely a Spanish woman who floored a whole row of the audience, including children, due to a fear of snakes. She was hysterical, as were we but in a different sense of the word.

All these things are but a memory now as we soared through the grey clouds and landed with a thud back into a cold, rainy reality known as Manchester. For a sentimental fool like me that takes a while to get my head around. No more waking up and reading on the balcony or watching the sun set over the mountains and staring at all the stars in the clear night sky. I am enjoying telling tales of my adventure though, if only to remind myself it wasn’t all just a dream! I also have the tan test to fall back on too, much to my friends’ collective annoyance. There are plus sides to being back though such as the lack of insects going places they shouldn’t, the fact I don’t have to constantly reapply suncream (which I didn’t actually do as much as I should have) and I’m back in touch with the world’s goings on with the powerful tool of the internet back at my fingertips without being timed!

There’s no time for blues though, there’s a whole world to see and things to be done. Exciting times ahead!

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