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 !!