Thursday, November 4, 2010

Vancouver Olympic Experience

Hubby and I were lucky enough to get quite a lot of Olympic tickets in the public ballot.. but this was far and away the most exciting event we attended.. The free dance of the Olympic Ice dance competition.
I wanted to try and convey just how exciting it was.. here goes

So... on Monday evening February 22nd 2010.. I had one of THE most fantastic evenings of my life... and I got to share it with my lovely hubby.
I never got to see Torvill and Dean compete.. I was a bit young really to do the kind of travelling required or to afford it for that matter.

Do I really need to tell you who this is ??
 But on Monday Jan 22nd I watched the best ice dancers since T and D skate to the Gold Medal at the Winter Olympics.
We had THE most amazing seats just 14 rows from the ice, at the same end as the 'kiss and cry'.... the atmosphere was as charged as a Mountie's taser... and the judging panel was NOT skewed to favour the Russians... it was the perfect storm.
There was a very young British couple in the first group. They pulled a season's best and managed to jump 2 or 3 places up the order, which was a lovely start.
Bill and I got chatting to two Canadian ladies sitting next to us and we spent the next couple of hours laughing at some frankly ludicrous costumes, discussing the 'to Quad or not to Quad' debate [NOT!! we all decided] and trying to decide whether blacking your face, wearing a red loin cloth for a costume, and claiming that your Original Dance was designed to be an homage to Aboriginal culture was; crass.. tasteless.. or just plain stupid. [We decided it was all three.. in case you're wondering]
But really we were just waiting for 'The Main Event'.
Sinead and John Kerr skated.. superbly I might add.. to a track by Linkin' Park.

Sinead & John Kerr

God it was a refreshing change from all the classical "music to slash your wrists to" we'd had to put up with upto that point, and when SHE lifted HIM off the ground at the programme's climax.. the audience went WILD...
The stage was set..
At 9.17pm, two kids from London Ontario skated out onto the ice.. and for 4 mins and 5 seconds I don't think I took a breath.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir began ice dancing together when she was 7 and he was 9. Even now they're only 20 and 22.
They were World Junior champs in 2006 and in 2008 [only their second Senior World Championships] the exquisite 'Umbrellas of Cherbourg' won them the silver medal... utterly unprecedented in the "deadman's shoes" world of ice dance.

Original Dance TANGO !!
 But later that year Tessa Virtue was told she had to have surgery on BOTH her legs or give up skating forever.. of course she took the surgery.. but they lost almost a YEAR of training.
What they have achieved in the year since that huge set back is quite remarkable.. and utterly beautiful...
But what's really gratifying is that they didn't win because it was Vancouver and they had home ice advantage or because their competition under performed.. because they DIDN'T..
They won because they skated the best Original Dance/Free Dance combination since The Paso-Doble and Bolero.. two routines first performed before these two were even born.
They are NOT the same as Torvill and Dean... Ice Dance has changed too much.
The rules, the scoring system, the required elements.. there are so many more lifts and spins, most of their skating they do on one leg and then there are the dreaded twizzels of course..
But what's really captivaing about Virtue and Moir is that JUST like T and D.. they actually DANCE !! with each other.

Final spin

Not for these two a whilrwind of flailing arms, legs and extraneous fabric.
Not for these two a mish mash of angst ridden fumbling about, to a dour piece of classical music, with a volcanic death drop at the end.
They haven't had to follow the pack and do the same old same old, because JUST like T and D they simply aren't like other people..
They have stardust sprinkled on them.. and on Monday night at 9.17 they sprinkled a little of that stardust on me.
I knew I was excited.. and tense.. [Davis and White had set a seasons best and were in the lead...] but I hadn't realised how emotional I was..
Just before they were about to skate, whilst the previous couple [the Italians] were waiting for their marks, Virtue and Moir were out on the ice just waiting their turn and skating round which they do separately incidentally.
While Tessa Virtue went off to the side to blow her nose and have a gulp of water, Scott Moir skated.. well floated really from one end of the rink to the other. As he did so he stretched out his arms, tilted back his head and closed his eyes..
It was as if he was drinking the electricity into his body.. this boy wanted to win so bad he could taste it... and so could we... and the realisation of how important this was to him brought tears to my eyes..
I remember thinking..'Oh God don't cry you silly won't be able to see them skating'. So I had a big ugly sniff and wiped my eyes.
The cacophony suddenly died away and when the music started you could have heard a pin drop.. and a Nation.. me included.. held its breath.
I won't even try to describe how they skated.. I couldn't even begin to do it justice, besides.. you'll be able to watch it on You Tube soon anyway..

The Goose

But I will say... that the lift they themselves call 'The Goose"...  where she balances on one leg on his back and then spins off into his arms brought the crowd to its feet...  and that when they finished their twizzels the room erupted in a collective sigh of relief because they knew it was done...
This must have been what it felt like to see Sale and Pelletier in Salt Lake City.. more Stardust.
But memories of that day and the judging scandal that followed weren't far away.. it was a very long moment, waiting for the marks to appear.

I hear the Russians have said the North Americans don't actually dance.. and I say..
"Who the fuck died and made you Grace Kelly" ??
Christopher Dean defined Ice Dance 30 years ago... and no Russian alive or dead has done anything even remotely innovative since.. you've all been skating variations on a theme of Bolero for 26 years.. get over yourselves, and move on...
It's a new world. !!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Securing your financial future..

Last Friday I was watching quite possibly my favourite television show Location, Location, Location with Phil Spencer [bit of a personal hero] and the quaint & kooky Kirstie Allsopp. Kirstie was bemoaning the seeming lack of ambition and drive [specifically towards buying a house] of her clients.
She commented that unlike her clients, who were both in their late 20's or early 30's and had done neither.. she had passed her driving test at 18 and bought her first property at 21.
Which is exactly what I did.. well I was 17 when I passed my test, but now I'm just splitting hairs.
Also.. to be fair.. I wasn't the daughter of Baron and Lady Hindlip which MUST have helped Kirstie with the home buying thing... but I digress.
The reason I mention all this is because the show sparked a conversation between me and hubby dearest about property & money and about how our upbringing and subsequent experiences with them had framed our lives.
My husband's Dad was in the military and they moved a LOT.. he is in the military and moved a LOT. 
In his world order buying a house was something you did when you retired.
I on the other hand had a very different experience.
Although my Mum and Dad started life with pretty much nothing.. by the time I, the last of 4 came along, they were set up financially.
We only moved once when I was a kid... from a very nice suburban house in Brighton, to a bloody gorgeous house on the seafront in Worthing. .. albeit one that needed a LOT of work.
My mum knew inately how to make a home and she knew how to make money out of property. I was too young to understand that at the time, but although we only moved once, I do remember being dragged round just about every house that ever came on the market in Mum's price range for over 10 years.
She didn't like brand new ones.. I remember that.
I have a very vivid memory of an agent explaining that a new house we were looking at on Longlands Avenue had a built in vacuum, and that they were.. 'the very latest thing'.. I was about 9.
My brother had bought a flat straight out of university.. he had a really well paid job in the city mind you.
My sister Sue had bought very young too.. and had already moved up to a better place.
It was the 1980's.. Mrs Thatcher wanted us all to buy a house... home owners being historically, more inclined to vote Conservative.
That may have been a factor I suppose.
Now I tell you all this by way of a bit of background. Maybe it will give some incite into why I knew at the age of 21 that buying a property was not just the right thing to do.. but the ONLY thing to do.
When you understand that.. maybe you could explain it to me, because I sure as hell don't know.
My own parents didn't OWN a house until they were 39 & 48... but I was so sure that I bought mine when I had been in my FIRST full time job after university for only SIX weeks.
I hadn't even finished my probationary period.
I didn't have a deposit.. so I had to get a 100% mortgage.
I wasn't even earning enough money..
My annual salary at the time was £5000... I needed £7000 to get the mortgage.. so I went to my boss and asked him to fib for the mortgage company.
Just think about that for a second... I had worked for him for SIX weeks and I was asking him to lie for me.
Another very vivid memory.. he sat me down in his office one lunchtime and said to me. 'Can you actually afford this mortgage.. I mean REALLY.. you've done all the maths ?'..
I said 'Yes'.. which was a lie really because I had no idea what my actual outgoings were going to be.and he said.. 'OK, if you promise me that you can really afford it.. then OK'
I moved in 6 weeks later.
I'm not sure that I ever thanked him to the extent that I should have for what he did for me back then.
I say..'to the extent that I should have' because without Danny I would never have got that flat.. and that flat was the springboard that secured my entire financial future.
I sold it 2 years later for more than double what I paid.. and after a huge crash in the late 80's early 90's [which I survived] I sold my next flat for double what I paid for it.
With that money I bought my current home, which is worth almost double what I paid.
So Thank You Danny.. you have no idea how your help affected my life... and I will be forever grateful... because without you I might not have this.

As it turned out.. when I had paid all my bills at the end of the month.. I had only £14 left over... and that was BEFORE I did any grocery shopping. But my Mum fed me for the first 12 months, and did my washing too.. so I managed.
She often told me that I had to get my prorities straight...
HAD to pay my mortgage.. I didn't have to EAT !  
How right she was.
Thanks Mum !!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Techno Revolution.. and why it's NOT a good thing..

Today a blogger I follow Yvonne Eijkenduijn wrote a piece about her attitudes to technology in general, but to Twitter and Face Book in particular.. you can read what she said at the link above.
But it got me thinking... and this is my venue for what I think... so here goes.

Firstly Twitter..
To my mind.. Twitter is an utterly pointless waste of time for anything other than a professional purpose.
If you are a business person and you twitter to inform customers about a new product or a sale, or to tell all your clients at once about you being somewhere at a certain time then I can see the use...
Otherwise, it's like walking into a room full of toddlers who are all DEMANDING your attention at once...
Never was a product so aptly named.. 
Definition of the word twitter = incessant chirruping of birds.
Synonyms.. chatter, prattle, babble, blather.
Who cares if Demi and Ashton are watching tv and discussing the meaning of life.. and if you do care you're an idiot !!  
It's impossible to keep up. And why would you want to.

Mobile phones and PDA's are a slightly different matter.. I did have one when I lived in the UK, but apart from a short spell when my sister bought me one for Christmas have not used one here in Canada.
Here they are a total rip off... In the UK you can buy a 'pay as you go' phone and get a £50 phone card and that £50 is yours to spend for as long as it takes you to spend it. If it takes 3 years so what..
Here every phone card has an expiry date.. usually 30 days... so if you don't use the credit it's gone. How the hell is that right.. !!
Plus the whole texting thing is out of control... I've seen people send texts to others who are in the room with them.. it's destroying personal conectivity and relationship building skills. It's BAD.

Now Face Book..
I do use Facebook but then I am 6000 miles away from all of my longtime friends and family, so I can't just have them pop round for tea... and so for those people in my situation, I can see the benefit. 
But I have only 27 'friends' and apart from two, [who are recently made friends who then moved 2000 miles away] I have known everyone on my list for 10 years or more... and I only have people I really really want. !  I think it's vital for your safety and security to keep your list to a VERY tight knit community.
The bitchy girls from school days get ignored.. that's one good thing about it, if you are contacted by someone you HATED .. you can tap a key and they are GONE. :o)
At least half my family is NOT there.. some because they don't DO facebook and some because for me 6000 miles is about the right distance away.
My husband is also NOT on my friends list.. since he's sitting in the room with me we actually TALK to each other..
People with hundreds and hundreds of 'friends' aren't paying actual attention to anyone.. they can't be. Even with only 27 friends if I don't check my page for 24 hours I can come back and find 200 communications. Multiply that by 20 and your talking about 4000 communications a day.. Who's going to bother to read all that.. the truth is they don't.
So if you're on a list of 'friends' in the 200+ range.. that person doesn't care what you say OR what you are doing. They are NOT your friend... and you are just talking to yourself.
One final thing.. NEVER allow any of the applications.. since you have absolutely NO idea where or to whom your information is going.

That having been said I think to describe Facebook and the like as 'social networks' is ludicrous...
Social engineering maybe..
Yvonne is exactly right when she says it creates a personal distance..
I had this very conversation with my step daughter on the phone the other day. She was talking about the new movie about FB and the name of it, 'The Social Network' sparked an discussion on the topic.
Her position was that technology makes people more social.. you can keep in touch and pass on information and so on.
I used holiday snaps as my counter argument...
Remember when we were young and went on holiday ?.. the first thing we did when we got back was to get our photos developed, and then excitedly spend hours with all our friends, explaining the story behind the snap, laughing at the funny ones, probably drinking wine.. The process involves smiling, laughing, storytelling.. the very definition of socialising. 
She [my step-daughter] has just been to a wedding in the Carribbean, and all her photos are already posted on facebook... some before she even got back.
She took 139, with 15 or 20 tags, and yet there are about 10 comments in total on them. I looked at them myself.. they are lovely photos, but I felt utterly indifferent... and I would argue that the lack of comments means other people feel the same. 
So tell me.. which of those methods of sharing is actually socialising ??  Don't bother.. I know the answer.
Jo xx

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just practising...

I wanted to see if I could make a link read like the name of the site it was going to instead of just the URL..
So here goes..
This is a favourite design blog of mine. The author is Alicia Murphy.. well actually by now she might well be Alicia something else, since she is on her honeymoon.
Her site is called.. and here's the link  A Typical Type A
She has done some great makeovers on her modest house in Adelaide and I really like her style..
So hopefully once this is posted the link will work.. wish me luck
Jo x

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First in a long time..

I haven't been updating this blog at all over the last few weeks.. having been quite carried away by the other blog I'm doing about making over the house, which I'm enjoying some success with.
However now I'm feeling a bit more comfortable with the whole posting process so I'm going to try to put an idea or two here weekly at least.. although the best laid plans and all that..

The sheer scale of the blogasphere is truly overwhelming I confess... it seems everyone has one.
I suppose its no more unusual than everyone keeping a diary.. it's just that diaries are personal..
How many indignant teenagers and disgruntled girlfriends have cried..'but that's my diary.. how dare you read it, it's private'..!!!?
Now it seems there is NO privacy..
But what I find surprising is that for most is seems to have been a CHOICE.. not a reluctant loss. Every Tom Dick and Harry [including me evidently ;o)] writes a blog it seems... many writing stuff so personal that's it's uncomfortable to read..
I have a sister who seems to think its OK.. desirable even to share very private information about herself with anybody who will listen.
Waiters in restaurants.. friends of friends she has never met before, taxi drivers.. everyone. To my sensibilities this tendency is utterly inappropriate.. and I [and my other siblings] have long joked that if she didn't look like a female version of my dad, we would swear that she was adopted.
But perhaps she is the one ahead of the curve..
She spouts drivel she's heard on Oprah and other shows like it. She admires celebrities and aspires to mix in their circles.. and her children, well two of them, are the same...
And, I now discover, so are millions of bloggers.
Now.. since I KNOW that none of this comes from our upbringing.. it begs the question "why".??
I'm not naive I know that inside all of us is a desire to have our opinion count.. and to get the respect of those around us.. and strangers too.. that's fair enough.
But this isn't that.. she's not discussing current events, or art, or philosophising on the meaning of life or even imparting information that would be of some use to somebody. She's wittering on.. to people who don't care.. with really very personal details about her health and personal life.
I confess I don't get it...
Even as I sit here writing I understand the irony that it appears I'm doing the exact same thing.. and I am indeed passing an opinion. But I'm am NOT divulging intimate details.. I'm interested in starting a conversation, and that's what's different.
I don't pretend know why this trend to expose oneself to the world has evolved so suddenly.. of course international access to the views of others via the internet has played a huge part. But just because we CAN tell anyone and everyone who will listen the most intimate details of our private life.. Should We ?..
Personally I don't think so..  but I suppose it's a matter of personal opinion.
I will tell you now though...  that I won't be.
Jo x

Monday, August 16, 2010

Success at last.. well just a little one.

So I have had some luck now at least with formatting and backgrounds. I think its just a matter of slogging through the trail and error process. It's daunting but I've found a couple of web sites that have helped..
In the days to come when I've sorted the wheat from the chaff  I'll post some links so anyone else trying to do what I've done will have a place to start.
At this rate it looks like 'The world according to me' is going to be rather dull.. we'll have to do something about that.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Night

So I'm trying to personlise this blog a bit and have been investigating different backgrounds and so on and frankly it's like swimming in spaghetti sauce. I've noticed that every other blog on here has a style of its own and that's what I want too.. but I can't get it to work in this format. It's bloody frustrating.
I've found a blogging course I would like to have a go at ...  but she only takes people who've been blogging for 3 months.. which seems a bit arse uppards.
If you can blog.. why would you take a course to teach you to blog !!??
I guess I'll keep trying.. tomorrow I want to figure out how to download a photo.. I could probably do it now but all the photos are on the pc.. and I'm on the laptop..
Another dull post then.. arghhh !!