London 2012: Sacrilege at Greenwich Peninsular

Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege – a massive bouncy pop-up Stonehenge for adults and kids – is part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. It’s playful, inclusive and deceptively exhaustive. It was inflated and heavily used nearby the 02 in Central Park on Greenwich Peninsula this weekend.

It’s a thought-provoking thing too.

I’ve long resented children who get excited about a bouncy castle. It shouldn’t be just for them. I’m still a kid. I’d still like to have fun. Little wonder I found it difficult to resist.

Sacrilege at Greenwich

If I was a parent I suspect I’d probably find them stressful affairs. The kids would want to go on them. I’d have to fork out. Then I’d have to watch as they leap around excitedly and then knock into another child. And then the tears would come. Where is the joy in a bouncy castle?

Sacrilege confronts that parental anxiety (and non-parent resentment) by allowing both child and adult to participate. As participants remove their shoes and prepare for their first leap, they unwittingly abandon their inhibitions. Adults reconnect with their childhood, children look on in utter disbelief.

A lovely, lovely thing.

London 2012 Goodie Bag: A Cup of Tea

cup of tea

There’s no debate about this. If you’re going to give visitors to London something of a welcoming treat – a reference to our culture – then a cup of tea is a no-brainer. Serving up a cup of tea in a goodie bag would be a little messy come the time to hand them out. So, I’m advocating a packet of tea bags (yes, tea bags), a teapot, a cup and saucer and a set of instructions.

I don’t claim to offer the ultimate set of directions for the perfect cup of tea. Instead, something instructional about how I like mine. If anything, it provides an excellent resource for anyone offers to make me a cup and asks me in future ‘How do you like it?’ Who knows, I might even use it when I’m staying in hotels abroad.

London 2012 Goodie Bag: The Wombles

A Womble

One of my ‘hopes’ for 2012 was that I would in some way engage with the Olympics this year.

I live in London, I should surely feel excitedly proud about the prospect of them being here.

The truth is that I would probably be more excited about the Eurovision being hosted here – in London. I don’t anticipate that happening any time soon. (And in case you’re wondering I’ve absolutely no insider knowledge and will be as surprised as the next man if the unthinkable happens and we end up winning the event this year.)

But because it will be difficult to ignore the London Olympics this year, it feels weak and feeble to not do anything but jump on the bandwagon. Hence this rather long and drawn out introduction to what I hope will be a series of posts loosely connected to the thing I’m not really that interested in (but can’t afford not to be.)

Here’s my thinking. This country – and the place where I live – will welcome god knows how many people across the world for a two (for some longer) week period in the summer.

If you were playing host to some foreign visitors what would you offer them in their welcome pack? What would you encourage them to go see or do? What would you feel proud of? What would you feel ashamed of? What would be the lasting image you’d want them to take away with them when they headed off home? What sights? Where in the countryside would you take them for a break from the ridiculousness of the Games? And what about the catering?

Here’s my amuse-bouche. The opening sequence of a children’s programme from the 1970s – The Wombles. Yeah, OK. The reference to London – Wimbledon Common – makes this a little obvious. For me, it’s the simple heartfelt tune that stirs. It makes me feel warm and accommodating. And it raises a wry smile too.

The Wombles. The first of my personally selected ambassadors for London 2012.

London: London Overground

London Overground

The London Overground gleams in the sunlight. The interior of it’s air-conditioned carriages are free of the usual signs of prolonged commuter use. The tracks it travels along are fresh–underpinned by sack-fresh gravel. The walls which line the occasional cuttings look like they’ve only just been carved out of the rock.

That brand new joy won’t last. By the time the Olympics starts the line will have been bedded in, it will no longer be referred to accidentally as the East London Line or indeed the ‘old-East London Line’. It will have settled into its vital role, linking up the south of the London to the north, bypassing the choked centre of the city.

But before 2012, it and Londoners perception of it will have to change. They’ll become accustomed to – perhaps even grow to love – its hybrid identity. Is it a train? Is it part of the Underground rolling stock the dirtier trains from below ground sneer upon? Is it more the grown up sibling of the cuter, perkier Docklands Light Railway. Will the seemingly strange inclusion of departure and arrival times on display boards become nothing more than ‘London Overground’s way’?

Most important of all, will air conditioned carriages on commuter trains come as standard by 2012?