Category Archives: Television
I marked the occasion (it was yesterday – 19th September).
It was not my idea. It was not even the inaugural occasion. How? Why? I don’t know – it’s lost in the mists of time that swirl around the recesses of peri-menopausal minds. A collective term for women such as myself might be ‘a confusion’. We don’t get out much – except to drive children to wheresoever they need to be. Like those cuckoos who pop of out clocks every 15 minutes, much of our daily existence is pre-ordained, by the demands of others.
We don’t get out much because there is no time, no money, no energy. When we do? We shuffle in with messed up hair and outfits and we order spirits. We talk. We laugh. We cry. We are on the edge.
We work, we parent, we try grow things in the garden. Some of us paint, or make, or write, or sing. We all dance, sometimes.
Some of us are the World’s Expert on Listerine. Some of us can teach 40 under-fives in pink leotards ballet and keep our heads when someone pees on the floor. Some of us exhibit at home, and abroad. Some of us run school discos after a day’s teaching. Some of us stitch, or bake and wear customised leather jackets. Some of us would kill for a turquoise sombrero. Some of us can’t be there because life has tripped us up, but we know, the next time Derek Nimmo’s birthday comes around – there will be something that has been said and done that day by all of us that is worth celebrating.
My life as the Magic Roundabout – channelling Ermintrude with a fawn dog by my side.
At least she was never forced to drive through at a McDonalds…
This would hardly be a self-respecting blog if it didn’t follow a zillion other bloggers and write about Andy Murray’s scintillating and nail-biting victory at Wimbledon today. I’ll keep it brief – you know the pack drill.
I have only ever warmed to four Wimbledon champions – Boris Becker is much better for me as a commentator, apart from when he adopts that husky Teutonic tone which reminds me only of the legend about a broom cupboard at Nobu and makes me wince. The champions I refer to then are: Bjorn Borg, Pat Cash, Goran Ivanisevic and, now, Andy Murray. In my mind the Swede with the crossed-eye will always carry all before him – that’s because I was young, it was the seventies, he wore a head band and it fitted with the ABBA zeigeist. Not to mention that he had that gripping rivalry with the American brat John McEnroe, who is an amazing commentator – better than Boris and very mellow now as well. Then the Australian: the hair, the good looks, the guitar. The first one to clamber into the crowd. Nuff said. Ivanisevic, the ninety foot Croatian was a man with a vision – and many years after he first dreamed the dream of Wimbledon he defied the odds to win. I stuck his picture up in the kitchen at the time, to remind me never to give up on dreams.
And now we have Andy. I have never been a Murray-knocker, so I may allow myself a moment of quiet satisfaction now.
I made a comment earlier elsewhere on tinternet, in praise of the Scottish one, and I don’t think I can say better than that here, so I will just replicate it. I can only add, of course, that I am a tiny bit Scottish too (quite a lot in fact on days like these) and I am, therefore, biased. Today, as it does once a decade, the bias worked out well.
Well, what a match. And it is today, of all days, that those who have always had Andy’s back can feel a momentary frisson of, dare I say it, smugness. It has been a pleasure to watch him mature and it has been of equal pleasure to note that he has not entirely lost that hint of gawk that people so criticised when he was younger. It is what makes him, him. Along with all that steely determination, persistence, hard graft and also, belief.
I have not enjoyed a Wimbledon winner so much as when Goran Ivanisevic won. He was a man with a dimming dream. Andy reminds me more of a man who has got there through sheer cussed conviction that there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. Today, he has stepped into it. Long may it shine.
I have observed a worrying rising trend lately, which is people giving voice to opinions they might have previously kept to themselves. And, along with the opinion, comes the finger: the pointing finger. It is making my work, which includes not only promoting equality and diversity, but challenging those that discriminate, feel quite hardcore. On the other hand if people talk, we can create an understanding. This post is me talking.
A lot of the discrimination I come across is unthinking. Some of it is learned. Some of it comes from a well-meaning but frustrated place if you dig deep enough, but the ready and unabashed voicing of the harsh views is new. It is as if some half-formed opinions, fears even, have come bubbling up in the current climate. I know why too. It’s not just because it is harder out there. For many people it has never been easy. It is because the government have created a climate of them ‘the scroungers’ and us ‘the strivers’. Or perhaps it is them ‘the strivers’ and us ‘the scroungers’. It really is that arbitrary.
Whichever category you might put yourself in, the words themselves are ones that classify society and cause divisiveness. They become self-fulfilling prophecies. Remember Margaret Thatcher’s, ‘There is no such thing as Society’ statement. With that sentence she removed the handbrake on the rampant desire of the consumerist self. Forget, ‘Love thy neighbour’ it became all about keeping up with them instead. Now in their new incarnation of Not the Nasty Party Conservatives the Chancellor, Gideon Osborne, who coined the term ‘scrounger’ is a ‘striver’ presumably in his head anyway. Compare his life of money and privilege to be being born into a home where there is no money, no hope, no aspiration. Who is he to judge another so harshly, I wonder, even if he does have a deficit to balance.
In this language of them and us the Nastier than Ever party have created a climate where everyone finds someone to look down on, point the finger and blame. It is a dangerous route for humanity to go down. It is a hop, skip and a jump from blame to hate I am afraid. And hate gets us nowhere. Us. Whatever constructs and obstacles humanity may put in its own path to disprove the fact, there is only an us. Yes we are a diverse bunch, with different languages and cultures but however we try to classify and label one another, whether it is through race, or religion, or class, or if don’t open our curtains and watch daytime television, the fact remains that we are still one.
If you don’t believe me. Watch this. It is a profound and thought-provoking labour of love. It starts the conversation. It mixes up the labels and doesn’t so much open the conversation as blast it into your cosmic consciousness. You do have one – right?
I am not meant to be blogging this weekend. I am meant to be somewhere in Oxfordshire, sequestered from the real world and spending time meditating on the purpose, the power and the peace available to the human race. As it turned out, I got sick and had to postpone until the New Year. It’s ok, because sometimes you are needed in the real world.
I wrote a piece about Balotelli back in the summer during Euro 2012 and it gained a notable mention and has been published here at www.sportswriter.org.uk which is nice.
I was pleased to see Balotelli nullified City’s match against Dortmund earlier this week, with the papers remarking on his sangfroid. That’s a new and rather pleasing development in his demeanour. I wonder how long he will keep it up as the season wears on…
I cannot convey how bored I am with the sound of my own thoughts at the end of this week. The closest I can do for now is to reflect that the bowl of dust, masquerading as cornflakes, that passed for breakfast this morning pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter.
I was going to write about the Chief Rabbi’s, Jonathan Sacks, recent programme on BBC, about the science versus religion ‘gap’, wherein he debated his position with the scientists Baroness Susan Greenfield, theoretical physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili and the notorious atheist Professor Richard Dawkins. I found it compelling viewing, but did wonder, if in his summation, Lord Sacks had wrapped Dawkins views up a bit neatly onto the side of those with religious faith.
I also observed that Lord Sacks seemed more interested in finding the common ground than the scientists did, Al-Khalili seemed a little bemused for instance. Still, it was the Rabbi’s programme, so perhaps it’s not so surprising he was doing the legwork… Now I am going to have to listen to the subsequent encounter between Sacks and Dawkins on Start the Week before making any more observations.
I was left though, with the impression that two of the scientists would have, if not for politeness and being filmed, pointed out that religious faith is mainly based on *one big book and that perhaps people should not believe all they read.
I have a book by Ogden Nash and I enjoy his poetry, when I am in the mood. I don’t always agree with him though. For me making a living is a saving grace. Without out it and the structure it imposes on me, I have no doubt I would quickly disappear up my own arse. Some might say I am halfway there already. They might be right.
Introspective Reflection by Ogden Nash
I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance
Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.
*which book depends on your faith
I wanted to say something about Andy Murray. About how he has not been generally liked. About how he has grown up in front of us from a callow and moody teen, to something approaching a net monster hulking over his opponent, when he is in the zone.
I wanted to say that he is, by his own admission, still beset with doubt about his ability, and that that, even last night at Flushing Meadow, rears its ugly head often enough to affect his game. But, not as much as before.
And I wondered why that was. Is it to do with his new coach, Ivan Lendl, someone whose disposition on court was not dissimilar to Murray’s. Someone who was not much of a favourite with the crowds, again like Murray over the years. Or is it something to do with Murray’s new maturity, both physically and mentally. There is no doubt that Andy Murray, a survivor of the Dunblane massacre as a primary school boy, has the mental toughness of a mahogany tree, but he is human and it is not inviolable. I like Murray for that, it makes him human.
I also wondered about Team GB. Did being part of something bigger than himself in the Olympics allow Murray the freedom to play without the incredible pressure that always comes around at Wimbledon. I can only think that it had a positive effect. Once the public monkey was off his back, it being too busy with track medal obsessions, Murray was able to start pushing his own, very stubborn clinging monkey off as well, and that was the breakthrough. It is the breakthrough we all need when we are struggling to get where we want to be. I am glad Murray has had his, finally. I think this is just the start for him.
It’s funny: the combination of his own dour Scottishness, a stony-faced former Czech player, and being part of a team that some Scots might long to be free from, Team GB, all of these things have acted as catalysts for Murray to finally achieve a dream that seems to have taken nearly forever. For the British public it is 76 years since our last Grand Slam winner, for Murray, well, who knows, but most of his 25 years one suspects. I hope he enjoys it. Something hard won is probably worth a little more to the person who suffered long and hard for it. I suspect the British public can identify with that too.
See Murray sharing something of how it has felt here.
This was the description Paralympian sprinter Jerome Singleton used to compare the current arrangements for races between single amputees, like himself, and double amputees like Oscar Pistorius and Alan Oliveira, the man who beat Pistorius earlier this week.
Jerome Singleton is not only an elite athlete who competes in the T44 100m final tomorrow night, he is also a NASA scientist, so I tend to think he knows what he is talking about. He is not the only athlete to think that the rules need tightening up.
Whole article can be read here
Several of the runners said Wednesday that while Pistorius’s comments were ill-timed, they supported his point that the IPC needs to re-evaluate and tighten the formula in the interest of fairness.
Singleton, a single leg amputee, even suggested that IPC should perhaps run races for two classes, the T44s like himself, and the T43s like Pistorius, Oliveira and Leeper. Of the 20 athletes that raced the heats, only five were double-leg amputees and three of them qualified for the final.
“The classes need to be split,” said Singleton, who upset Pistorius in the 100 metres at the 2011 world championships. “It’s not apples to apples, it’s like apples to pineapples right now. If they want to keep us together, they need to re-evaluate that formula.”
“We need to have an idea of the exact height for an athlete to run in, and maybe have a variation of like one centimetre, so you know you’re racing the same athlete in all competitions. Single-leg amputees, we don’t have too much maneouvring when it comes to height.”
“As time changes, science changes, so we have to make sure it’s fair to all competitors.”
Single-leg amputee Alister McQueen of Calgary, who ran a disappointing 12.02 and failed to qualify for the final, agreed with Singleton that the formula needs to be changed.
“With the formula they use, they’re just not proportional,” he said. “Every person running here is not breaking any rules, they’re not doing anything wrong. It’s just that the rules leave such a wide vary of what they can do with their prosthetics. If they do tighten it up to where it makes more sense, I don’t think they’ll need to split up the classes.
“It’s one of the most exciting races in the Paralympics and we don’t want to get away from that. We just want to even up the field.”
Leaving the apples and pineapples debate aside, the T44 100m final tomorrow evening is going to be huge. Going into it, the British contender Jonnie Peacock is the faster qualifier; running a time today of 11.08 seconds that equalled the existing Paralympic record. That time is a shade short of his own world record of 10.85, set earlier this summer and this evening he was running into a strong headwind…
Tomorrow’s final has all the right ingredients for an unmissable race. A strong start is going to be key and that may be to Peacock’s advantage. We’ll see.
Unbelievably, I have read there is no mainstream coverage of the event in the USA? Is this really the case? A real missed opportunity if it is and one that should be rectified for the future.
In case you’ve been on Mars for the last 24 hours, #Bladegate refers to the T44 category 200m final at the Paralympics last night, where Pistorius was narrowly beaten into second place by the Brazilian athlete Alan Oliveira.
Pistorius was not expecting to be beaten. Once into the home straight he was in splendid isolation with only the wind for company… until the last 10 metres. Oliveira came roaring up the outside to take the gold medal on the line.
Pistorius then complained during his immediate post-race interview that Oliveira’s blades were too long, giving him an unfair advantage. Then all hell broke loose: #Bladegate.
There are so many layers to unpick in this affair that it is fascinating. Firstly though, I think that it is important to note that Pistorius has had to fight his way in the world to get where he is and when someone is in that mindset any emotional reaction is likely to initially present as anger. This has led to the accusation that Pistorius is a ‘bad loser’. I don’t think that’s entirely fair. In the tv interview he clearly spoke from a heart that had just been more than a little bit broken, and our hearts are not always rational. If a ‘good loser’ constitutes someone who can smile while inside they are dying, plus feeling strongly that something is unfair, I would wonder about the honesty and integrity of that.
Still, Pistorius’s remarks were clearly mistimed and made in the heat of the moment; by this morning his head was in back in charge and he made a more measured statement. He still maintained his concern about the fairness of the blades used by his conqueror in the race in his conclusion, saying:
I do believe that there is an issue here and I welcome the opportunity to discuss with the IPC but I accept that raising these concerns immediately as I stepped off the track was wrong. I am a proud Paralympian and believe in the fairness of sport. I am happy to work with the IPC who obviously share these aims.
The International Paralympic Committee, who govern the Paralympic Games have just issued their own statement saying that they will not only meet with Pistorius, but that the immediate aftermath of the Paralympics is as good a time as any to revisit the rule book…
I have read some absolutely fantastic analysis of both sides of the argument. Here Channel 4 News FactCheck examine the evidence and their verdict is that Pistorious shouldn’t complain. Then I looked at *whispers* *hides face* this Daily Mail piece who point out that Oliveira did decide to change his blades to longer ones in the last 3 weeks, and that while these remain legal under the existing rules, last night he ran under 22 seconds (21.45 sec) for the first time competitively, on these new blades that boost his racing height by 5 cm. Coincidence?
The longer blades do cause athletes to have a slower start, Oliveira was left standing when the gun went off last night and was racing well in arrears, but down the straight the longer blades store more elastic energy allowing the athlete to maintain speed whilst using less energy than someone on shorter ones, like Pistorius. This is basically what we saw last night, but we also saw an optical illusion which someone who watches horse racing regularly will recognise – that of an athlete (or horse), out front, coming back to the field. In high class races, where everyone is performing to their optimum ability, this slight slowing in front is entirely imperceptible, you can only see the others appearing to accelerate. In these instances, only fractional times can tell the whole story. There aren’t many fractional times for a 200m sprint, but it is reported that Pistorius ran a much quicker first 100m than the second 100m. For Oliveira, with the slow start, it was the reverse.
This is probably because the longer blades do give you an advantage in the straight, but this offset by running more slowly at the start and whilst runnning the bend. It’s down to the athlete which tactics they want to employ. Oliveira and his team, by switching to the longer blades only three weeks ago, took a gamble. It paid off, just. Pistorius’s gamble was running a very fast half of the race, he then paid for attacking the first 100m by having to slow down a bit in the closing stages. His gamble did not pay off, but again, it was so close. This would have only made it worse from his point of view.
Pistorius raced on the blades he ran on in the Olympics. Under the rule book he too could go for longer blades – his maximum permitted height on racing blades, as things stand, would take him to 193 cm tall. His current blades means he stands 184 cm. He could add an extra 9 cm to his height and this would mean if Oliveira stuck with his current prostheses at 181 cm, Pistorius could gain a 12 cm height advantage over his rival. Of course, it is not standing taller that necessarily gives the advantage, it is the longer blade being used, and that advantage has to be traded off against the slower start.
I can’t help wondering, in the battle of the double-bladed runners like Pistorius, Oliveira and Richard Whitehead, where this leaves those athletes with one of their own legs and one blade. Is the leg the limiting factor to their performance? Still, I can see where Pistorius was coming from. Basically, his rival gained 5cm more of blade runner and considerably improved his performance. This might have happened anyway. I think it is fair enough for him to request that a cause and effect scenario be ruled out.
The current rules also seem to allow for a huge differential in blade lengths – after all Pistorius could legally add up to 9 cm to his racing blades. He might regret not switching to longer blades in the Paralympics now, but as an athlete who has battled so hard to prove that his blades do not give him a mechanical advantage over a non-Paralympic athlete you can see why he stuck with his Olympic-approved ones.
I suppose what will happen now is that we will thankfully continue to be astounded by the performances of all the Paralympians and this controversy will die down. The IPC will then meet behind closed doors and I’d take a short price about them severely reducing the range of centimetres you can add to your blades prior to a competition. I’m not a physicist, but it is probably possible to work out a set of equations for the energy stored in each millimetre of blade, depending on the materials used in its manufacture and the allowances for weight and speed etc. The trouble is that the science on the ‘blade runners’ so far is ‘inconclusive’ and for these athletes, who train to their physical limits and spend years preparing for events like this, that simply won’t do.
I constantly spelled Oscar Pistorius as ‘Pistorious’ in the drafts. I hope I’ve got rid of all the misspelling, apologies if not. I think it is because, in my mind, it should follow the -ious suffix rule e.g. imperious, notorious…
and the small matter of some very good horses in their own right.
Best price is 1/7 on, still makes my stomach turn somersaults though. An unbeaten record is always a worry in racing; each race becoming not so much, will he win? rather, what if he loses?
On the possibility of the mighty Frankel being found out over the 2 extra furlongs, judges will say, it’s highly unlikely and, on all known form, it is. My own observation is that he’s never looked like stopping over the mile, so fingers crossed.
I wanted a horse more than anything in the whole world when I was a girl, life dictated that instead I should have a roaring allergy to the real thing, so the nearest I got was when the fair came to town.
If C4’s advertising in the run-up to the event is anything to go by, the London Paralympics 2012 is going to be worth this bit of waiting for.
The BBC’s drama The Best of Men, about the inception of the Paralympics at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, puts the event in a historical context. It’s thought provoking to see how far the world has come in a relatively short time.