Olympic cheat

22 March 2011

I applied for 2012 Olympics tickets yesterday.

On the face of it, this was a “no-brainer”: a decision so logical that it doesn’t require explanation. Yet, it’s also a compromise or even a cop-out: a denial of deep held views.

The Olympics is no benign sporting movement. That much, I think most people accept. It’s 19th century, Corinthian, amateur ethos was lost somewhere in a succession of games used first for political ends, more recently to extend the global reach of less than benign multi-national corporations. Though I’m sure there is an argument that the Olympic ideal died before Baron de Coubertin’s modern version rekindled the flame in 1896.

2012 Olympics host announcement 6 July 2005

2012 Olympics host announcement 6 July 2005

On an overcast and less than seasonal day, like many thousands of Londoners I crowded into Trafalgar Square on 6 July 2005 around midday. The event: the announcement of the winner of the 2012 bid.

Looking back much has happened in London, in the world, in sport. Less than 24 hours later I was sitting in an office block overlooking Waterloo Bridge listening the wailing sirens, trying to comprehend the carnage across the city.

In Trafalgar Square I was expecting – as were a lot of “pundits” – to hear that Paris had been successful. The UK delegation had, by all accounts, put together a strong bid backed by a united local and national political front. Say what you will about him, but Seb Coe – who I’d never rated much when he was an MP – played a blinder.

Paris though was the strong favourite. I dearly wanted Paris to win.

That “strong bid” had many strands. It played upon Britain’s sporting heritage. The bid focused upon regeneration of East London and the promised legacy. London would be a green games. There were also words about improved transport links.

My view was and remains that no Olympic bid by any city will ever much the hype and propaganda.

There is plenty of evidence (pdf) that points out that building big sporting venues does not generate economic activity other than that directly involved in the construction of the venue. Sporting venues re-direct economic activity. The Olympics happen every four years. That economic activity will happen. The question is just where in the world the games take place.

I’d argue that the games should take place in Athens every four years. Greece spent billions building facilities for the 2004 games. Many of the facilities – baseball and hockey stadiums, for example – never to be used again.

The legacy issue (pdf) is not straightforward. As someone who used to walk the mean streets of Bow, believe me, the area needs improvement. It needs better housing, better transport and a sustainable economy (but then the same could be said of North Devon). However, the regeneration does not need a sporting event. Sure, the Olympics can act as a catalyst. But, regeneration needs investment and planning neither of which require pole vaulters or carbon fibre bikes. Of course, the construction boom in and around the area should be kicking off the economy, but those construction jobs are temporary and many of them not locals either.

The stadium legacy saga has been ludicrous. Tottenham Hotspur’s bid to remodel the Olympic stadium for football and renovate Crystal Palace athletics stadium made much more practical and economic sense. I’m glad the my club are not leaving their long time home. But, this crucial issue should have been hammered out before 6 July 2005.

I don’t know enough about the environmental credentials of these games. I’m sure that it’s about as sustainable as any other concrete laying exercise.

Yes, I have strong reservations about the 2012 games. And, I’ve not even mentioned:

  • security issues
  • forced displacement
  • bypassing the democratic planning process
  • the corporate swill trough

But, I still love sport, the thrill of walking into a vast sporting arena and the roar of the crowd. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I hope I get tickets. But, I hope we’re not paying for this beyond September 2012.


So, farewell Panasonic SD-253

21 March 2011
11 03 21_bread machine_0006

Extra large, crusty loaf

Our trusty breadmaker has given some 7 years service. Over that time, we’ve enjoyed white, wholemeal and mixed grain bread, spelt rolls, pizza dough, ciabatta and, more recently, pitta and naan.


Multi-grain bread

Sadly, the old dear’s paddle and pan have worn out under the strain of, I estimate, more than 800 loaves and 300 pizzas.


I am pizza dude

Replacing the breadmaker is only £15 to £20 more than the replacement parts.

Reluctantly I’ve agreed to retire the faithful servant. The new model, Panasonic SD-256, arrived this afternoon and has already mixed another batch of pittas.

11 03 21_bread machine_0007

Panasonic SD-253: best buy ever?

So long SD-253. Here’s to your lovingly kneaded dough and firm crusts.

…the foreshores of Bideford Bay…

20 March 2011
11 03 19_walk_0013

Sign at Bucks Mills


…so, we did:

  • enjoy the walk
  • use our rights freely
  • eat sandwiches
  • take artsy photos of rock and seaweed
11 03 19_walk_0021

Rocks and seaweed and enjoyment of rights hereto


So nice

13 March 2011

Technically it’s still winter. Blue sky, temperature nudging the teens and hardly a breathe of wind: more like mid-spring.

Great weather for both planting out and putting in a few hours of digging. In fact, right now is perfect for digging. There has been hardly any rain over the last three weeks so the ground is soft but not claggy.

11 03 13_broad_beans_0006

Broad bean protected from varmints


My replacement broad beans went in yesterday. Unfortunately, some little critter(s) had a nibble of the beans when they were hardening off in the greenhouse. With any luck they will recover and start to flourish in their nicely raked bed.

11 03 13_allotment_0008

Onion and garlic bed

Today, I finished planting a second set of brown onion sets – Sturon variety. Back in the Autumn I planted out Swift sets. Most of these have sprouted though the hard frosts, snows and other critters have taken a toll on numbers and progress.

As you can see, the sets have been covered to keep the birds off. I’ll leave them a few weeks to get a start before exposing fully to the elements.

The nice weather brought a few other allotment buddies. Everyone else seems to planted broad beans this weekend. Let’s see who harvests first.

Farewell then, Tony the bus

10 March 2011

Cuts hit hardest in rural areas. It’s not just the services that we’ll miss. It’s the people too.

Yesterday was one of my now infrequent journeys back on the village bus. The bus timetable is fine for college kids, but not for the 37-hour week so my journeys are increasing irregular.

I boarded and greeted Tony, our long serving driver. Come rain, shine, school holiday, Tony drives the bus. (He does get time off, but you get the picture.)

Everyone knows Tony. All the old dears, who rely on the bus for shopping trips to Morrisons in Bideford or an excursion to Barnstaple, know Tony. The college kids get to know Tony. They even have his mobile phone number so they can check if the bus will be running when the snows or ice come.

I know Tony. He knew who I was within days of me using the bus even though I never introduced myself.

Tony and his ilk keep rural Britain running, brightening up someone’s day or not if you’re a driver trying to sneak pass him on a narrow country lane.

Yesterday, Tony told me that it was his last day driving the bus: “you’ll need to break in a new driver tomorrow.”

As previously reported here, our bus faces a drastic pruning. In true cuts fashion, the original stark scenario has been altered. But, still the cuts come and will likely get worse later in the year when the route comes up for tender.

We’re losing the peak time service in school holidays and possibly both daily services over the summer.

The altered hours make Tony’s position untenable. He’s moving to a different route, one less vulnerable than ours.

He’ll no longer get goodie bags from dear Audrey – pasties and bread pudding. No more village gossip. No more sneaky detours on a Friday afternoon. No more free rides when he can’t be bothered to reboot his fare machine.

So long, Tony.

…and tomorrow I shall make falafel

4 March 2011

What a lovely week this has been.

Fine North Devon weather, work on the allotment, shooting the breeze with allotment colleagues, being at home, nice food, catching breath…

…an onion bed dug, weeds cleared and cabbages protected against the local wildlife.

11 03 04_clovelly_0001

South West coast path at Mouth Mill

Today, we walked in March sunshine from Brownsham to Clovelly and back: brilliant views across Bideford Bay, listening to bird song, enjoying rare peace and quiet in Clovelly, lunch at the harbour, getting slightly lost on the return route and a pint on the way home.

In a unique act, I’m going to exchange falafel on flat bread for lunchtime cheese sandwiches. Chick peas have soaked and been boiled. Any recipe tips?

Allotment: year 4 start

1 March 2011


Apropos of nothing, whilst pottering about this morning I noticed that Starlings had covered virtually every spot of telegraph wire visible.

birds on telephone lines

Teh Birds

I carried on in the knowledge that I was not in an Alfred Hitchcock film.

Year 4 start

(When did we move from describing days, weeks, years etc as cardinal instead of ordinal?)

March: planting season is nearly upon us. I’ve got seeds in the fridge and today was the start of preparation work.

The potato bed at the far end of the plot is currently under carpet, in a forlorn attempt to control weeds. Brambles, nettles and grass have a good hold down there.

First task (or task one), was to clear the brambles. I completed that successfully without getting any thorns embedded in my already ravaged hands. Sorry to say that the (organic) bramble killer needs to be brought out tomorrow to get at the roots. Otherwise, it will be a prickly potato bed.

I’m still undecided about the top end of the plot. Again, I’ve got weed control in force. At this stage, it’s a toss up between broccoli, sprouts or summer flowers. All will depend on how much soil preparation I can finish over the next six weeks or so. And that, dear reader, depends as much on the weather and how my aching limbs recover.

Aches or not, it was good day of fresh air and hard work. Great to feel the endorphins kick in.