Friday, August 31, 2012

Mobile Hedges

As one of our fellow tandemists (name hidden to protect the guilty) said, "If I were allowed to attach a small camera to the front of the bike during our performance then the footage may well have looked like this...":

There's also a nice selection of rehearsal pictures here, and a behind-the-scenes rehearsal video here.

Sorry about the failure to embed the videos properly. YouTube's being a bit silly at me tonight. I blame the daquiris.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Paralympics Opening Ceremony Backstage

Most people were pretty happy to let us wander around with cameras last night - performers would obligingly strike a pose and (if you were painted green and dressed as a Renaissance hedge, as I was) also ask if they could get a photo with you. The only time I was told somewhere was off-limits was the time I tried to get back from the loos to the room I was meant to be in, only to be told that I should be the other side of the stadium. Pointing out that there were 55 other people dressed just like me in that room eventually convinced the security guard that I might be allowed in.

Anyway, here's a selection of some of the more fun ones from last night.

The Cauldron, during a brief pre-show lap of the stadium (to check it was working and rideable, of course):

The flag bearers: those dresses looked hideously uncomfortable, the shoes were padded out with blister-plasters, the women couldn't sit down properly, but damn could they smile and throw a pose when a camera appeared!

The doggie (I think her name was Trixie, or something like that): also a knew how to work the camera:

This woman was part of the "Protest" scene, and had just seen her country's flag go on. She looked so happy:

The view from Vom 5 as the "Pods" came offstage and we prepared for the finale:

Tim, wearing a far better helmet (he had to let the policeman wear his hat as insurance):

Paralympic Opening Tandems

So yeah. The helmets.

There were people swinging from ropes, people swaying on ten-foot poles, people on roller-skates (who fell over in every single rehearsal!), soft squishy people all around us who were going to be seriously injured if we messed up, and people on frikkin’ fire spinning around a tiny high-up platform! But no, only the cyclists need helmets because OMFG BICYCLEZ!

We’re not sure why. We only found out that we definitely had to wear helmets during the final rehearsal. Until then, only two of the sixteen of us had felt the need during practices – unlike the skaters who wore full body armour and helmets for every rehearsal, but not during the show.

It certainly wasn’t for safety – the helmets were enormous, didn’t fit, and were wedged on with extra padding and hair to in an attempt to stop them slipping over our eyes. And as pointed out above, if it was a safety issue, there were people whose need was far greater than ours.

Someone said that perhaps it was because we had to “set an example”. Well, setting aside the people swinging from ropes and the person setting a cape on fire and spinning it around, we’re cycling full-tilt into a group of dancers and assuming they’ll just get out of our way. There are more pressing issues with the “example” the performance is setting, if that’s really what’s concerning you.

It certainly wasn’t for artistic reasons – the overworked, stressed, and generally wonderful costume department put a lot of effort into making us all look fantastic, and then at the last minute were told “make these helmets look a bit more subtle”. ‘Cos yeah, nothing says “ballroom elegance” like wearing an upturned bucket over one’s eyes. It wasn’t even the choice of the lovely Laura and Lizzie organising our set – the order came from On High (aka “Central Casting”) that “cyclists must wear helmets”, and so helmets had to be worn, even if they didn’t fit and were unsafe.

The only possible reason for making the cyclists wear helmets was to prevent media (if the Daily Mail and its siblings count as such) furore along the lines of “IRRESPONSIBLE CYCLISTS DON’T WEAR HELMETS AND KILL KITTENS”. And I can understand the organisers trying to pre-emptively stamp out negative publicity for the Paralympics, and appreciate that it’s a difficult job to do.

It’s just a real shame that you didn’t get to see us in the Dress Rehearsal without our helmets. We looked fabulous.

Anyway, helmets aside, it’s all been rather lovely, and a more full (and happy) blog will follow, once I’ve had some sleep and sorted through my photographs.

Addendum: Someone nicked Tim's helmet whilst it was briefly left unguarded backstage post-performance. The gits! We had planned SCIENCE involving an axe with it, and they have deprived us of one of our experiments.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Paralympic Park

An area of land in Stratford (the London, not the Shakespearean one) is undergoing a transformation from the Olympic Park to the Paralympic Park.

The Paralympic logo consists of three "Agitos", from the Latin "I move"

There's even a monument to the Hackney Fridge Mountain

Look who we found lurking on the river!
History - though we thought it prudent not to borrow the Gloriana and re-enact it.


Mandeville (the Paralympic Mascot)

It's really rather lovely - in addition to the wildlife I snapped, I saw a multitude of dragonflies, butterflies, a shag, bumble-bees, coots and ducks. And I had the wrong lens on each time...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Too darn hot!

Especially if one is clad in a fur coat, then it's far too hot to sleep in the usual pile of blankies and other ferrets.

Now I just need to persuade the cats that they don't need to be sitting on my lap on a day like this.

My Mandelbrot Set

I rather like the Olympic and Paralympic mascots. The Paralympic Mascot in particular is very cute, and clearly a cyclist with his padded gusset and aerodynamic vented head. Admittedly, I also think that the creature in Alien would have made a lovely pet if only someone had tapped it on the nose and said "no" firmly after it ate Brett and Dallas, and I have cuddly crocheted Cthulhus, so what do I know?

Anyway, when Tim discovered that the toy shop had all the Olympic and Paralympic paraphernalia heavily discounted, I was rather overjoyed to receive a giant Mandelbrot.*

I then decided that I needed more Mandelbrots, so that I could have a set of them (this makes me giggle far too much).

I have since realised that I missed a bad punning opportunity, and need to go shopping for more Olympic mascots, on order that I may have Much Wenlock, but in the meantime the Mandelbrot Set are fitting in well with the rest of the cuddly toy collection.

*OK, according to their labels, they're meant to be called Wenlock and Mandeville, but they'll always be Mandelbrot and Wensleydale to me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Tim took me for a walk this weekend. Up Snowdon. The pretty (steep) way.

I think I confused lots of people by lying on my stomach in the middle of the track to try and get a good snap of a beetle. "Is it rare?" I was asked several times. My response of "No idea what it is, but he's got pretty blue legs and a lovely smile" downgraded me in their estimation as a Serious Entomologist. I think next time I shall tell everyone that it is the Rare HwaffleBaffleBoffle Beetle, and unique at this altitude.

In fact, part-way up I developed a keen interest in the flora and fauna and anything else I could look at to give my legs a rest.

But I will accept, it was worth going up there, even if it took until Tuesday for my legs to recover.

Coal-Tax Posts

I live and work in Surrey. Near where I live, the landscape is dotted with old Coal-tax posts. They are usually tucked by the side of the road, or sometimes in the middle of woodland, overgrown and paint peeling. Even people who have lived here all their lives don't always know about them, and quite often I'll be cycling on a regular route that I've used for years, and I'll spot another one.

They existed to mark the point where taxes on coal were due to be paid to the Corporation of London (hence the crest on them). Basically, if you had a sack of coal in the back of your cart, and you went past one of these, You Owed Money. This Wikipedia article explains in greater detail. Pretty much every road, trail and path had one of these - there was no escaping the tax - which is why derelict ones lie around in woodland, on golf courses, and one (I believe) in the middle of Epsom Racecourse, right next to the track.

Oddly, although I live outside the boundary and commute to within, I don't think I pass one of these on any of the roads I cycle. The one in these photos is (I think) the closest, and I think I by-pass it on a road that was constructed more recently. Annoyingly, no-one has yet constructed an online map clearly showing all the extant posts, so I can't confirm.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Just Another Day of Searching

Before I was born, my parents were hugely into the whole Folk Rock scene. Y'know, Lindesfarne, The Dubliners, The Searchers, The Seekers, Fairport Convention, and Steeleye Span. Especially Steeleye
Span. Not only was my childhood easy-listening largely on the theme of Murder, Cuckoos (yeah, I know what that means now) and Elves, but I even had the Folk Rock Nursery Songs by Tim Hart (of Steeleye Span) And Friends. Whilst other kids were learning about Humpty Dumpty and the hazards of wall-climbing without adequate safety gear, I was singing along to the Three Jolly Rogues Of Lynn:

    In good King Arthur's day
    When we served under the King
    Lived a miller and a weaver and a little tailor
    Three jolly rogues of Lynn.

    Now the miller he stole corn
    And the weaver he stole yarn
    And the little tailor he stole broadcloth
    For to keep those three rogues warm

    Now the miller was drowned in his dam
    And the weaver was hanged in his yarn
    And the devil put his claw on the little tailor
    With the broadcloth under his arm

    Now the miller still drowns in his dam
    And the weaver still hangs in his yarn
    And the little tailor he skips through hell
    With the broadcloth under his arm

Of course, murderous rhymes for kiddies weren't all. This was the 1980s, when things like The Hunting Of The Snark were being made into musical concept albums. One of my favourite LPs as a child was The King of Elfland's Daughter - based on the rather cool book of the same name, written by Lord Dunsany. The book has a lovely whimsical sense of humour running throughout - there's one point where a troll (not that one) tries to convince a child to run away to Elfland. In the end the child refuses to go because "Mother made a jam roll this morning." Anyway, the musical version was the brain-child of Steeleye Span members Bob Johnson and Peter Knight, and featured a number of jaunty songs about killing, kidnap and elves. It also featured Christopher Lee as the King of Elfland (and the narrator), which I think was an early try-out for his role as Saruman. In the finest of Folk-rock concept album traditions it had a couple of songs one could hum along with, weird sound effects, solemn declaiming of lines, and some mediocre filler pieces.

I merely mention all this, because one of the wimpiest, most forgettable songs from TKoED was titled "Just another day of searching", and it would upset me to think that people might not get the terribly clever, delightfully obscure reference in the title of this blog post.

Anyway, according to the stats, the search-terms which most commonly bring people to this website (excluding the name of the blog, and its derivatives) are:

4: "All Things Pyrate"
3: "Defenestration Images"
2: "Duck soteltie" (which is interesting, because there is no duck soteltie on these pages)
...and in first place,
"Curse of Cain"