From Desk Till Dawn

My mainly music & nerd bird blog

Posts Tagged ‘Olympics

2012 Was…

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I do not have a decisive enough personality to make definitive lists so just off the top of my head this year…

Has been soundtracked by albums from Crybaby, The Maccabees, Friends, Wild Nothing, Mystery Jets, Mary Epworth, Beach House, Zulu Winter, Kindness, How To Dress Well, Hot Chip, Sharon Van Etten, Sleigh Bells, Polica, Toy, The Futureheads, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Grimes, Grizzly Bear, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Jessie Ware, Bat for Lashes and Perfume Genius. I wasn’t blown away by Alt-J (someone had to not be).

I can count the amount of times I went to the cinema on one hand but adored all the films. The Hobbit, Avengers Assemble, Moonrise Kingdom. Most of all I loved Beasts of the Southern Wild and Searching for Sugar Man.

It seems to be a year where I’ve mainly read David Sedaris. However, Anna Richardson’s Little Gods would be my book of the year. Stunning debut novel. After reading Virginia Woolf, A Room Of Ones Own I am determined to work my way through the rest of her books next year.

The exhibitions this year have been the strongest since I’ve lived in London. From Charles Dickens writing desk at the London Museum to Grayson Perry at The British Museum.

It’s been a year where I finally got to see Mystery Jets live, and at the Royal Festival Hall with someone who’s support has been unwavering this year. There’s been Gigs where I’ve been with my parents and created cherished memories, gigs of sitting in Hoxton basements and leaning over Heaven’s balcony. Drunk gigs, sober gigs, gigs that have moved me to tears or where I’ve come away with aching feet from dancing so much.

Above all these things it’s mainly been all about London 2012 for me. I hope I am forever changed by the Olympics and Paralympics. It made me kinder, motivated, deliriously happy and proud to be British. Actually, proud to just be a human being. This Public Enemy song will forever serve as a reminder.

It’s been a year of pesky Tinnitus, goodbyes and job changes. It’s been a year where friendships have sprang out of the unlikeliest of places and where I will never underestimate the kindness of strangers. At times you have overwhelmed me with your support and general brilliance (I know some of you read this blog, most of you will never even know you made a difference).

Of course there’s plenty of things I didn’t get round to in 2012. Like swimming round all of London Lido’s, having tea with Ian Hislop, learning how to ride a bike or shaking Robert Jay QC by the hand.

It’s been a year where I’ve decided bravery is one of the most important qualities you can possess. A year of remembering I can breathe underwater.

2012. In equal measures I’m glad to see it gone and reluctant to let it go.

Here’s to 2013. Happy New Year.

NB: Huge thanks to Pete at Flush The Fashion for putting up with my contributions for another year. To Pub Diaries for letting me waffle on in a Q&A. The ever energetic and tireless Dan Thompson for printing my pop up shop piece. To Darren Hayman for letting me talk about my love of swimming and to The Guardian for printing my ‘Six Songs Of Me‘. To Tim for having me on Resonance Radio. And to everyone who reads this. Cheers.

final collage

Sunday Swoon. September 23rd

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This week I need to talk to you about How To Dress Well and eating your five a day….

1. The second album from How To Dress Well was released this week and on first listen it was immediately cemented in my top albums this year.  It’s genius, excellent, I can’t heap enough praise on how intricate and clever it is. At times R&B smooth, at others arty and poetic. & It Was U is my standout track on the album. You can stream it on The Guardian’s site but then I insist you fall head over heels and trot out to buy a copy.

2. Sadly by the time you read this the Road to 2012 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery will no longer be. Slowly and surely the remnants of the Olympics and Paralympics are disappearing. I am clinging to them as much as I can, digging my nails in and silently screaming “nnoooooo, don’t leave me”. This featured photographic portraits everyone from Martin Creed to Katherine Grainger. As the exhibition started before the events the gallery had kindly stickered the medallists in corresponding colours. Lovely stuff.

Riverford Field Kitchen

3. Tucked away in Totnes, Devon is Riverford Field Kitchen and it’s without doubt one of my favourite places to eat. The vegetables come from their farm surrounding the restaurant and recipes ensure you overdose on essential vitamins. You’re served on long tables, generous sized bowls are placed on the table for you to heap onto your plate. Griddled leeks with French Beans, lemon and olive oil. Pointed cabbage with garlic and parmesan. Yes, that is a huge tray of Pork scratching in the photo above. To top it all off the (handsome) chef’s talk you through a choice of five puddings to make sure you leave stuffed. The quality is outstanding, absurdly good. If you ever find yourself down south book in advance.

4. I know very well people fell out of love with The Killers after Hot Fuss and granted nothing has quite lived up to the synths and indie glitz of their debut album but they’re still in my heart. Remember, I loathe musical snobbery so don’t come moaning to me about them as I shan’t be swayed. Battle Born was released this week. The brilliant fairsharemusic have it for just £5 and 50% of profits go to charity so it’s a cheaper, more wholesome alternative to iTunes.

Dirty Burger

5. Swimming makes me utterly ravenous and Dirty Burger was worth walking across Hampstead Heath shivering in the rain for. Tucked away on Highgate Road you enter what looks like a no thrills shack but it’s warm, cosy and playing some seriously good music. The chips were crispy, the milkshake fruity and thick and the burger amazing quality (the juice dripping onto my hands, a curious yellow tinge to it from the mustard smeared on the pattie). Go visit. Believe the hype.

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The Super Humans

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Each time I’ve sat down to write about the Paralympics I’ve struggled. Struggled to find the right words that convey the respect, admiration and awe I feel towards every person involved, from the competitors to volunteers. Impossible to sum up how inspired I feel. If the Olympics propelled me to start swimming and running then the Paralympics have rocketed me to show more commitment and push that little bit harder, and not just in the pool but in all areas of my life. It’s also made me feel more positive as a person, maybe I’m caught up in the hysteria of it all. I was lucky enough to get tickets for a few events, the support and roar in the venues is deafening. If I could replace the drone of my Tinnitus with it I’d be the most motivated person in the world. Still, none of these words seem like a fitting tribute to what London 2012 means to me.

Then I overheard a conversation on the train and I wanted to tell people about it.

Six typically teenage boys were on my carriage. All of them were clutching KFC bags, the grease seeping through the brown paper. All of them using words I am clueless about. All dressed as if they’d ran through JD Sports like an episode of Supermarket Sweep and finished the ensemble by taking a forward roll through New Era.

All of them discussing Oscar Pistorius and how fast he can run, all of them questioning whether Jonnie Peacock can beat him. Talking about the blades, whether the runners feel the impact on their limbs, if they feel sensation, if technology gives advantage. A conversation that is taking place only because of this great event and these super humans. A conversation that sparked debate and got them all wondering the hows, whys, whats.

During the opening ceremony for the Paralympics Stephen Hawking  told us to “be curious”. Conversations like this prove the message was received. Their questioning was done with respect and wide-eyed wonder.  This small moment during my Paralympics experience made me smile and warmed my cockles. 

Written by Anon PA

September 6, 2012 at 11:52 am

Lido Love No.6 Serpentine Lido

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I won’t lie. I had to psych myself up for the Serpentine. I had turned open air swimming (by that I mean in rivers and ponds) into a watery theatre full of creatures Neil Gaiman would write into his books. Water rats and eels… before the cockney’s jelly them. A friend convinced me that my overactive imagination wouldn’t reflect the reality, thankfully she is to be trusted. A few lazy birds lurked at the side and a duck skimmed my swimming cap as it started a low flight to the water. No creatures below.

It was freezing, the ramp down to the water is slippery and its very shallow. At all points I could plant my feet on firm soil. But there’s something about swimming in fresh water, even in the chill. Getting that inevitable mouthful of water doesn’t taste quite so foul, even if you narrowly avoid a feather or two. The view is stunning, you won’t beat it. When I was doing backstroke I looked up at the sky and it felt like it it was going on forever. Felt like I was suspended in that moment alone, no niggling worries or stresses on my mind.

Serpentine Lido

The heritage and history of the Serpentine Lido is something to feel connected to. George II created The Serpentine for Queen Caroline between 1727 – 1731. Only a few weeks ago I was sat in the stands during The Olympics to watch the women’s 10K marathon swim (so I’ve technically shared the same water as Olympians, how many people can say that?). Then of course there’s the Serpentine Swimming Club, formed around the 1830’s. What’s not to love about a swimming club that hold a Christmas day meet called the Peter Pan Cup.

The London swimmer Jenny advised me this was only suitable for a dip, and she’s right. But I still loved mentally shouting “I’m doing more exercise than you losers” at the people plodding past me in pedalos. Also, there was a woman swimming that looked exactly like Frida Kahlo in a neon orange swimming costume so I sort of love it for that reason, even if my thighs are still trying to convey their numbness to me three hours after getting out of the water.

Temperature: Freezed my tits off
People doing serious swimming: 4
Men grabbing their danglebobbins a lot: 0
Women swimming in sunglasses: 0
Kids doing classic “bombing”: 0
People dipping their toes with iPhones in hand: 0
Cost: £3.50


Lido Love No.3 Parliament Hill

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On my approach to Parliament Hill Lido this afternoon it felt as if Edgar Allan Poe had decided to narrate this outing to my third London Lido. Plump crows were cawing, the rumble of trains passed over my head and rain plopped down from a stormy sky. But with a renewed enthusiasm to exercise after the Olympics and a new swimming cap in my kit bag I skipped up and paid my £5.50, ignoring the air of doom.

First impressions were as bleak as my trot up to the steps. They’ve painted the changing cubicles in bright yellows and reds hoping to distract your eye from the grubby concrete (staff were fighting a losing battle with a hose and brushes). There is an absence of lockers but free baskets to store your kit bag. However when I walked out to the pool all negative impressions were wiped from memory. Similar to Brixton Beach the pool sits in a Grade II listed building, currently bordered with photography from the pool over the years. Refurbished in 2005 the pool is a whopping 60 metres long and steel lined (I believe the only one in the UK of its sort) so the water glimmers crystal clear. It is stunning place to swim.

There is something about swimming in the rain, it reminds me of drunken moonlight swims on Torre Abbey sands with my best friend. So to use a Devon word it’s Lush. It always feels warmer for some reason, and there’s something beautiful when your immediate view is droplets hitting the surface centimetres away from your nose.

Temperature: Toasty warm
People doing serious swimming: 4
Men grabbing their danglebobbins a lot: 1
Women swimming in sunglasses: 0
Kids doing classic “bombing”: 3
People dipping their toes with iPhones in hand: 0
Cost: £5.50


Written by Anon PA

August 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Leave A Legacy. London 2012

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I had a bit of a Ben Ainslie moment yesterday. As the day progressed, drawing closer to the end of what has been a successful and inspiring Olympic games I noticed the naysayers making more frequent appearances on my Twitter timeline. People suddenly branding all PE teachers as bullies and stating how forcing children to do sports in schools is cruel. I got angry. I went for a run to try to shake it off but no use, I am still fuming slightly.

I know PE was hell for a lot of people. I used to regularly dip out of Netball by insisting I had a (made up) dance exam to rehearse for and skip off to the school hall with a cassette of Dee-Lite in my back pocket. But I took PE as one of my options because I was bizarrely brilliant at the bleep test, a decent swimmer, could Fosbury flop a decent height and was willing to Abseil off a cliff with no prior experience. I wasn’t the schools most gifted athlete by any means, no way near. I’ve been knocked out by a hockey ball and my sister put the living fear of Tennis in me by being overly competitive with swing ball. But I embraced it.

One of Team GB’s Gold medal winners, Helen Glover, is herself a former PE teacher and now a glittering, brilliant role model. Labelling all PE teachers as bullies based on your own experiences is not going to Inspire A Generation folks. Imprinting your own negative experiences on kids that are now dreaming of being able to run faster than Usain Bolt is not cool. Mo Farah himself gave high praise and thanks to his own PE teacher, Mr Watkinson, for spotting his potential and nurturing his talent. That could be your son, daughter, niece, nephew, sibling at schools sports day catching the eye of their teacher, a future Olympian.  The Olympics will hopefully breed the next Jessica Ennis, Nicola Adams, Brownlee Brothers or Pete Chambers.  And if they’re utterly useless at sports, mad suggestion I know, but they may still get a lot of enjoyment out of it. 

It always seems to be sports that are the focus of this negativity. No one ever says the same about other subjects we learn at school. No one says it’s bad to make kids feel stupid about maths. I remember being crippled by my inability to grasp numbers at school, my brain would literally feel like it had clouded over. Whatever people are good at, be it chess, Bunsen burning stuff, throwing a huge stick, literature. I say let them love and enjoy it.

And let people be excited about what we have just witnessed during London 2012 before we shout it down. Let’s see if these games really can leave a legacy. 

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Written by Anon PA

August 13, 2012 at 11:18 am

Olympic Mixtape

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So this weeks mixtape has been compiled by friends, family and tweeters that were willing to humour me with the following question:

“What would be your Olympic sport and what song would accompany your montage of best of moments?”

Some people were remarkably quick at replying, making me think that people have been daydreaming of Olympic glory during London 2012. Some people sent me hysterical replies (I’m looking at you Jo). Out of all the sports it seems cycling is the most popular, surprised no one picked Kenny Loggins Danger Zone and asked for it to be changed to Highway to the Velodrome (groan, sorry, a hundred times sorry!). You can play this Olympic Mixtape on Spotify or YouTube, track list and contributors below. Out of all of them I am grinning the most over Thom’s choice but huge thanks to everyone that played along as I’ve not stopped smiling at all the suggestions. More photo’s from my Olympic experiences can be found on my Flickr. Oh, and to my friend Lizzie, “six packing” is not a recognised Olympic event….yet. 

  1. 13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me (Monkeypicks for the 400m)
  2. Hawkwind – Silver Machine (Lucy Track Cycling)
  3. Nina Simone – Feeling Good (Rehanon, first of a few for the Triathlon)
  4. Goldfrapp – Rocket (Burning_Lies, another for Cycling)
  5. Queen – Princes of the Universe (Thom Vincent picking fencing for a gloriously camp, extravagant event being held in Britain)
  6. Tori Amos – Professional Widow (Claire Loy, never worn a leotard but opts for Gymnastics Floor)
  7. Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run (My Dad running the Marathon)
  8. Spandau Ballet – Gold (thepubdiaries for the Kierin because it’s slightly mental)
  9. Elvis Presley – If I can Dream (Gareth choosing 1500m, on the song “you can fight a bear after hearing it, its that inspiring”)
  10. Hot Chip – Over and Over (Priyam for Table Tennis)
  11. F*ck Buttons – Olympians (Marc for the Triathlon, also dreams of winning gold in the 10k swim)
  12. Beyonce – Run The World (Natasha blasting the 100m)
  13. Anthrax – In My World (Phil also for the Keirin, the lyric “nothing touches me, I’m a walking razor blade” hits it for him)
  14. The Cinematic Orchestra – To Build A Home (Helen goes for Rowing)
  15. Gonna Fly Now (Rocky Balboa) – Bill Conti (Matt goes for Decathlon after his hero Daley Thompson)
  16. Radiohead – No Surprises (Jo opted for Synchronised Swimming, “Although I would like to imagine that the water would add an element of grace I lack on land, I think the actual effect would be more like Thom York’s slow drown in the video. You get to wear coordinating costumes and listen to music in that event”)
  17. Moloko – The Time Is Now (for me when I smash it at the Triathlon)

When I Grow Up I Want To Be Steve Redgrave

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The 2012 Olympics are frequently producing utterly inspiring images that I believe will be burned into my memory for the rest of my days. Gemma Gibbon’s mouthing “I love you Mum” to the skies as she defeated Audrey Tcheumeo to take her into the Judo final. Andy Murray’s leap in the air as he became the first “Brit” to win the Tennis singles gold in 104 years. Peter Wilson sinking to his knees as he wins the Double Trap, a long way to reach the ground given his 6ft 6″ stature. Katherine Copeland’s face of sheer disbelief as they won the lightweight double sculls, mouthing “We won the olympics” to partner Sophie Hosking. I could go on and on and on and on… Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, our wonderful gymnastics boys, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton, Big Ben. You get the point.

In amongst all these brilliant athletes that are making Britain so very, very Great again there is Sir Steve Redgrave, Patron Saint of Rowers. The enduring images of him being at the riverside, helping the emotionally and physically exhausted Alan Campbell, Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter from their boats, bearing the weighthave moved me as much as those competing for Team GB. These moments, this man who has lived and experienced what they have been through helps to shoulder the burden with a quiet kindness. Katherine Grainger being interviewed on Sunday spoke of how generous he is with his time and knowledge, how much he means to them all. He truly seems to be the nicest person in the universe.

Granted the closest I will ever get to climbing out of a boat is getting out of the bath, so the chances of this calm and strong man being there to gently encourage me and nudge me along in the right direction are non-existent. But that’s not to say he hasn’t inspired me. When I nearly bailed out halfway through a run on Saturday it was Steve Redgrave and all our rowers that popped into my head, that made me put one foot in front of the other.

The tagline of the games is, quite rightly, Inspire A Generation. I blogged last week mentioning all these golden role models the younger generation will gain from London 2012. But I have also found a voice to drown out the annoying swarm of bee’s sound of my Tinnitus. Without pausing for a breath this new voice tells me “Have you found a swimming club you want to join yet? Are you going for a run today? *Lets not drink for a whole month, see what a difference it makes!

Yes, a hundred million times yes to inspiring a generation. But don’t forget the difference it can make to us older farts too. 

*I haven’t quite agreed with the part abstaining from alcohol. In fact as I type this I have a bloody awful hangover, caused by some very boozy watermelons at Ruby’s pop up Chariots of Fire.

The Ready Brek Glow

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Friends, Londoners, Countrymen…

It has been a week since Danny Boyle sparked a Ready Brek glow in the pits of our stomachs.

Everyone, and I truly mean every single soul, that I have come into contact with over the past week seems to be holding onto this rare, unheard of level of loveliness. I haven’t once tutted, wagged my finger or rolled my eyes. Instead, I have laughed in the face of the well taught stranger danger and chatted away to people (especially those beloved purple and red volunteers that have popped up like very human wombles, laminated labels swung round their necks). I even had fun in the Post Office yesterday, that usual pit of hell we suffer. Staff and the usually mardy customers all chatting excitedly about Bradley Wiggins. And I can’t even ride a bike.

I know it’s exhausting, it’s not our natural state of being, especially as London dwellers. But my days, we are doing enthusiasm really bloody well. It’s almost like the Olympics have unlocked something dormant in us. At some point we all started grumbling and found it hard to snap out of it. We lost faith in this little Island of Cheddar Cheese, Real Ales, Mods, Rockers, Cockles soaked in vinegar, rain and Shakespeare.

Danny Boyle gave us an utterly bat shit and bonkers reminder of all that is Great about Britain. Our beloved NHS, Branagh as Brunel, our rich and diverse music history, the suffragettes, this green and pleasant land we have all been so cynical of. Then the games started, and these super human, brilliant sportsmen and women have fuelled that glow further than I ever anticipated. I am watching ALL the sports. I don’t know the rules and regulations, sometimes I am confused, but I am always proud and hugely excited to be part of this.

As I type this we have won fourteen medals in Cycling, Canoe Slalom, Shooting, Equestrian, Gymnastics, Rowing, Swimming and Judo. These superb new role models who are surely inspiring the young generation watching them. I have high hopes that children will put down the games consuls and want to swim like they have gills, row like there’s a pot of gold at the end, swing up onto bars like they were born a creature of the trees and cycle like they’re powering the national grid.

As for all of us. Keep it up, this loveliness. At the end of the Olympics, when your cheeks are aching from being pushed up to your eyes from the smiling, no one will begrudge you for slipping back to your old ways. I will probably revert back to taking down the number plates of people who run zebra crossings (and do absolutely nothing with the information). Or maybe we won’t.


Maybe things will just remain better than they were before.

**Follow me on Twitter @fromdesktildawn**

The Letter ‘K’ Mixtape.

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Usually I am far more involved in the mixtape element of this blog. I spend hours carefully choosing out the tracks, tracking down or creating a bit of artwork to add to the piece, revisiting the order of the music. But here is the thing, the revelation I was not expecting to make. I have become utterly obsessed with the Olympics. I am watching ALL the sports. 

Therefore, here is a hastily compiled letter K mixtape if any of you out there happen to be nonplussed with the sport fever that has taken our fair Island by storm. From Kelis to The Kinks, Kings of Leon to The Knife.

Listening to Hounds of Love reminds me of a young drunken phase Jo and I used to go through, where we would take off our shoes and launch them without caring to look where or what they’d potentially hit when the lyrics seemed to command it. If you have been clobbered by a passing ballet shoe during this song get in touch, we probably owe you a pint.

You can play my letter K mixtape on Spotify or YouTube. ♥

              1. Karen O & The Kids – All is Love                                       
              2. Kate Bush – Hounds of Love
              3. The Knife – Heartbeats
              4. Kelis – Young, Fresh ‘N’ New
              5. The Kills – Last Day of Magic
              6. Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – Going up the Country
              7. The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset
              8. Kathleen Edwards – Change the Sheets
              9. Kurt Vile – Runner Ups
              10. Kings of Leon – Red Morning Light

Written by Anon PA

August 1, 2012 at 12:37 pm