Commonwealth Games Glasgow 2014

I enjoyed the London 2012 Olympics so much, and I don’t think a month has gone by since then that I haven’t thought “I miss the Olympics.” So when the tickets for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games went on sale, I was keen to see as much as I could get tickets for (within what I could afford, which wasn’t as much as I would have liked).

The Big G

Sadly for me, I couldn’t get tickets for the diving, which is a) my favourite and b) being held less than a ten-minute walk away from where I live. We couldn’t get track cycling either, but we did get one session of badminton, one session of athletics and one session of netball. Then one of my cousins who lives a couple of hundred miles away let me know they had decided not to attend, and she sent me all her tickets to dispose of. I used one set of athletics tickets, sold another set (and gave the money to my cousin) and I still have a pair of badminton tickets for Friday, if anyone wants them.

On Saturday we went to the badminton at the Emirates Arena. Before it started we amused ourselves by trying to name the countries represented by all the flags around the venue; we did better once we realised they were in alphabetical order.

Badminton Commonwealth Nations Flags

I’ve never played or watched badminton, and know next to nothing about it, but I enjoyed every minute of it. There were four courts active during the session, and it’s pretty difficult to concentrate on four matches at once. We were a bit too far away to comfortably watch the Scotland games, so I concentrated on watching the country of my birth.

Badminton, 26/07/14

Badminton, 26/07/14

We were watching a mixed team session. Each country had to win the best of five games, made up of a mixed doubles game, a solo men’s game, a solo women’s game, a men’s doubles game and a women’s doubles games. As soon as a team has won three of the five games, their session is over, so if a country won its first three games, it wouldn’t have to play the other two, or it might go to four or the full five games. Singapore got through, and although Scotland put up a very strong fight, they weren’t good enough to beat eventual champions Malaysia.

Malaysia v Scotland

Badminton played at this level is incredibly fast, and the players are astonishingly agile and athletic. It was a great evening.

Monday was a long day. We had our own athletics tickets for the morning session, and my cousin’s tickets for the evening session. We spent the time in between eating a somewhat pathetic picnic scraped together from what was left in the big ASDA at Hampden, and sunbathing. (Dear ASDA, if you are the only supermarket near to a venue which is hosting major sporting events all day, please order a lot more sandwiches than you usually do, and keep restocking them through the day. Kthnxbye).

Our seats for both sessions were more or less behind the hammer-throwing cage so we had an excellent view of the hammer and discus events. I must admit, if I was watching athletics on the telly and hammer throwing came on, I’d probably stop paying attention, but watching it live was compelling. One of the nicest things about the Commonwealth Games is that the para sport is on at the same time as the mainstream sport. I know people think that it would be too difficult to do for the Olympics because it would just be too big, but for the Commonwealth Games, it works really well.

One of the things I most enjoyed on Monday was a men’s para discus final. I think it was T42-44 – it was for athletes with lower limb amputations. Most of the competitors wore prosthetic legs but Richard Okigbazi managed to balance on one leg and still get enough oomph to win bronze. I don’t want to sound like one of those “oh, the para athletes are so inspiring” wankers, but seeing someone manage to throw a discus on one leg was one of the most incredible sporting things I’ve ever seen.

Richard OkigbaziRichard Okigbazi throwing for bronzeOne of the nicest things was how generous and appreciative the crowd were. Obviously the UK nations got the most support, but the whole crowd were genuinely cheering for other nations too – not in that “we’re clapping politely because we have to” sort of way, but with genuine pleasure at seeing people do well. The decathlon was going on throughout the day, at the other end of the stadium from where we were, and the crowd was cheering for everyone who managed to get over the bar in the high jump. There was a real sense of joy and delight at seeing athletes doing well and achieving new – er, achievements. Biggest cheer of the day was for Scot Libby Clegg who got gold in women’s para 100m, but pretty much everything was greeted with huge applause, and standing ovations for every gold winner’s lap of honour, as well as for the silver/bronze medal winners who walked around the track, and, really, for any athlete who had completed their event and walked around the edge of the stadium. Lots of the athletes stopped to high-five kids and give autographs, and not just the winners, the losing competitors too. Monday was a very long day – we left the flat just before 8am and didn’t get back until just before 1am on Tuesday. Of course, that didn’t stop the cat waking us up and demanding food at 6am. Even though there was food in his bowl.

Yesterday we went to the SECC to watch the netball. I hated all sport at school but once I left school and started 6th form I played netball for a local league. We weren’t great but we enjoyed it. I was thinking about getting back into it until I knackered my hip – it’d be too high impact for me now. I’ve only ever played at a very basic level, and I was even struggling to remember all the rules. Watching it played at this level was an education in what sport can be like when people are really really good at it. We saw South Africa v Wales (Wales got gubbed)

South Africa v Walesand Malawi v Scotland (Scotland got gubbed).

Malawi v ScotlandI really enjoyed watching people play with competence and some idea what they were doing. I could see clearly how the Malawi (in particular) were able to anticipate, and position themselves so as to make space and create opportunities. Netball at this level is fast and skilful, and deserves more respect than it usually gets. The Malawi goal shooter, I think her name is Mwayi Kumwenda, was particularly good.

Unfortunately, that was the last of our Commonwealth Games trips. I feel quite sad we won’t be there to see any more, though to be honest I’m knackered and glad of a few lazy days before I go back to work next week.

From what I’ve seen, the Games are very well organised. They’ve clearly thought hard and put a lot of work into the public transport arrangements, and it worked very smoothly for the three venues we attended. Security checks were quick and thorough – airport-style screening machines, but the armed forces personnel doing the screening were much friendlier and pleasanter than any airport security staff I’ve ever dealt with. All of the volunteers we saw or spoke to were friendly, polite and eager to help, as were the train and station staff. My one gripe, and it’s a pretty big one, was the venue food. At the Emirates, I bought a cheese ploughman’s sandwich, nothing special, just a triangular packet of cheese sandwich with pickle and a bit of tomato, for £4, and a ham and cheese for £4.50, plus a bottle of water, a bottle of Irn Bru, two muffins and two caramel logs. Total? £19.40. That was the last vegetarian sandwich they had, so if we’d been any later, I’d have been going hungry. At Hampden, there was a choice of fried food, fried food, extortionately-priced anaemic falafel wraps, £1 pieces of fruit, £2 bars of chocolate, pies or fried food. We gave up at the SECC and took sandwiches. Scotland has a huge problem with dietary related ill-health, and lack of exercise ill-health. If they’re hoping that the legacy of the Games will be better health in Scotland they could at least have tried to set an example with cheaper, healthier food. The pricey, unhealthy food is the one thing I think they’ve really got wrong with this Games (well, that and the embarrassing opening ceremony). Even the lowest-achieving athlete here would baulk at a meal of potato wedges and a £2 giant Twix washed down with fizzy mango juice – why should spectators be fobbed off with that? They could have put a bit of thought into it and showcased cheap, tasty, healthy food from all the Commonwealth countries – it would have been much more inspirational than pies and burgers, even if they did have haggis in them.

On the whole though, we had an amazing 3 days at the Games. If I had more money I’d have loved to have gone to more sessions of any number of different sports. As it is, I’ll be spending the rest of the week glued to the telly to watch the diving! Well done Glasgow – and if any of the volunteers/transport staff/police etc see this post, thank you so much for the hard work you have put into the Games – we really do appreciate it.

Rewards and punishment for hiring those unlike oneself

Originally posted on Feminist Philosophers:

When women advocated for other women, they were seen as colder, and when people of color advocated for people like them, they were seen as less competent. “People are perceived as selfish when they advocate for someone who looks like them, unless they’re a white man,” said David Hekman, one of the study’s authors.

For more, go here.

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A Tale of Three Overtakes

Originally posted on Helen Blackman:

I’m very fortunate with my current commute. It’s short, it’s on fairly quiet country roads and there’s so little congestion that there are no traffic lights. However, as any reasonably experienced person who travels by bike will know, there will always be flashpoints. The main two to watch for are risky overtaking and junctions (and that lovely overlapping set, risky overtaking at junctions).

Overtaking seems to spark vociferous debate as there is a clash between cyclists’ need to remain safe versus drivers’ need to get somewhere in a hurry. You would hope that, for the sake of basic humanity, safety would win but generally it doesn’t. As justification for their impatience, many non-cycling drivers just resort to a “why are you on the road” attitude as justification for their own, at best reckless, behaviour. But the other morning I encountered, in quick succession, three different types of overtaking behaviour that…

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Dinner with No Voters or “What I wanted to say before the Pudding hit the fan”

Originally posted on :

10325374_842844915744161_1747748988925750116_nThis from Peter Arnott works as a part response to this conflict-averse piece by Madeleine Bunting (check the weird ethnic civic framing).

One thing that almost all of my friends who tell me they intend to vote No in September have in common is that they wish that this referendum campaign had never happened. They don’t see the need for it. They think it is needlessly sowing doubt, division and uncertainty at a time when nobody really wanted the debate to happen. They wish the whole damn thing would go away and be forgotten.

I have a certain amount of sympathy with that. I am sure Alex Salmond does too. After all, he didn’t expect the Labour Party in Great Britain and in Scotland to collapse quite so comprehensively as they did in 2010 and 2011, and thus make possible the election of a majority SNP administration at Holyrood that…

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The Smell of Bullshit, part 56: further alternatives to Lush

See previous posts here, here and here for other alternatives I have tried.

Mainly I’m still looking for an alternative hand cream, as my hands are the part of me most prone to eczema. In The Smell of Bullshit part 54 I had started to try Arbonne. I didn’t get on too well with them. The nappy cream was way too heavy and made my hands sweaty and then itchy, but for other people with very dry but not too sensitive hands, I can see it would work well. It smelled nice too, if I remember correctly. The shea butter hand and body lotion was lovely – rich but not too thick or greasy texture, and a lovely rich scent. I would have liked this more if the scent wasn’t so powerful. It’s not a body lotion that you can use with another perfume; the scents would compete, but you could use it as a scented body lotion á la Future Primitive if you wanted. The smell was too rich for me for a hand cream, but it did work well. I didn’t find the FC5 ultra-hydrating hand cream to be hydrating at all for me – my hands were still as dry as paper after use. So, not great results for me for Arbonne but those of you whose skin is less particular, or is equally particular but in a different way might get on very well with it. If you’re in the Lothians area and you’d like to try Arbonne, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with my pal who sells it. I am getting on very well with their chocolate-flavoured protein shake though and bought a big bag of it the other week.

The other stuff I’ve tried recently and had poor results with is Niki’s Balms. I bought the smallest sizes of the Original Balm and the Lavender and Camomile Balms. I don’t like them. The Original Balm has a lovely light fresh scent; the Lavender and Camomile doesn’t smell of anything much. Both balms somehow manage to leave my hands oily but still completely unmoisturised and dry, and the Original makes them really itchy too. They’ll do for moisturising my shins when I get out of the shower or out of the pool, but that’s about it.

This month’s success has been Our Tiny Bees. By the way, have you read The Bees by Laline Paull? I love it. Buy it now! Our Tiny Bees make their products from beeswax, so not suitable for vegans. I have tried the Lavender hand balm, which smells lovely and lavendery, and the Uber Balm for sensitive skin which smells very neutral. Neither of these products are as actively healing for my eczematous hands as Dream Cream, but they’re the next best thing I’ve found. Both of them work well, soothing and moisturising without causing further irritation, although when my hands are going through a period of heat making them worse, the Uber Balm is a bit heavy and stifling for them. But yes, I really like these and at present they’re the front-runners to be my permanent Dream Cream replacement. The lip balm is nice too.

 

The end of Andy Murray’s Wimbledon is not the end of his world

When England won the men’s football world cup in 1966, they can’t possibly have imagined that the press would still be going on about it nearly 60 years later as if they had an unalienable right to win it every four years forever more, and that subsequent failures to do so would be treated as some great galactic injustice rather than with acceptance of the fact they just weren’t good enough.

So when Andy Murray became the first British man to win the Wimbledon singles title last year, it was obvious that the press would struggle with the thought that he might not win again last year – he’s won it once therefore he should automatically win it again until he decides he’s had enough. He played very well in the first week and didn’t lose a set. Then yesterday he played badly and lost badly, and Wimbledon 2014 is over for him.

The press seem to be taking it as a personal affront. How could this happen? WHY DID YOU LOSE ANDY TELL US WHY DID YOU LOSE HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO US WHY DID YOU LOSE? There must be, according to the assorted British press (and by British, I mean based in England), some sinister reason for his poor form and defeat. Accepting that he had a bad day, played badly and was beaten by the better player seems to be beyond them.

And now the doom merchants are trying to suggest that his career is over – he’s lost a tournament and it’s the beginning of the end. Because of course when someone raises our expectations and sense of entitlement by winning something, if they later go on to lose, it must be because they’ve somehow become intrinsically rubbish.It’s not just they played badly, or someone else played better.

Dear England-based British sports media – Andy Murray is a great tennis player. He played really well last week, played badly yesterday, and will probably play really well again in the future and sometimes he might play badly. It’s not the end of the world, or his career. OK?

(and don’t even get me started on the “it’s because his coach is a woman” brigade. Seriously, just don’t).

Grebbies and Eech

The Commie Pool is now closed until mid-August because of the Commonwealth Games, so today I went to Warrender. Warrender is a Victorian, 25 yard pool, with the tiles shaped to make sloping surfaces where the walls meet the floor. I know I’m very lucky to have an Olympic-standard pool less than a ten minute walk from my flat, but after swimming at the Commie, Warrender is like swimming in a big dirty bath.  Maybe the Commie is that dirty too and I just can’t see because the bottom is so much further away.

The floor of Warrender pool is on a gradient to make a steady transition from the 6ft deep end to the shallow end, unlike the Commie which is set at either 2 metres or 1.25 metres deep. This is going to sound bonkers, but I found swimming towards the shallow end much easier and swimming towards the deep end much harder – like swimming downhill and uphill!

Also, there was a woman doing head-out-of-the-water, very slow old lady breaststroke – with her eyes tightly screwed shut! I think she might do better if she treats herself to goggles.

Stroke development class is finished until the end of August. I’ll miss it. It’s defnitely helping me improve my technique and fitness and become a better swimmer. The other week we tried butterfly again, and I found I can do a 25m length of almost competent butterfly kick, as long as I’m wearing pool fins and have a float under each arm. :-D For our final lesson of the term, we spent some time doing porpoising. I hadn’t done it before – it’s when you sort of duck dive to the bottom of the pool and put your hands down on the bottom and then bring your head and your top half down and through and then push off from your feet up and into another dive. It’s ace fun, and I was so good that teacher asked me to demonstrate to the rest of the class. :-D #teachers’pet #waterupthenose I think teacher missed the bit where I got so carried away I forgot to breathe, turned purple and thought I was going to die. It’s such good fun I want to do it again, but you can’t really do it in a lane for public swimming!

The 40-minute round trip to Warrender is going to be a pain compared to the 15-minute round trip to the Commie, and I’m slightly concerned that 2 months of a 25 yard pool will decondition me for a 50 metre pool. As much as I’m looking forward to the Commonwealth Games, I’ll be glad when the Commie opens again.