Sunday, 19 August 2012

London 2012 Olympics

I have to admit building up to the Olympics, I was getting sick and tired of hearing about it, but as soon as it began I was hooked! I firmly feel that London did indeed deliver and Team GB did so too.

I found the opening ceremony a bit random in parts, I’m not sure I understood it entirely never mind the rest of the world. I do love the entrance of all of the participating countries and hearing about places you never knew existed. Since there was no athletics until the second week of the games, I found myself engrossed in the swimming, rowing and cycling, sports I never usually care for.

On Friday 3 August the athletics started and my family and I were lucky enough to have tickets for the morning action. We were completely the opposite side to the 100m straight, but placed quite nicely by the high jump and to the right of the 400m start/finish. We saw the likes of Jess ennis, Dai Green and Christine Ohuruogu who all received amazing receptions when introduced to the crowd. Some people may not find heats interesting to watch, but I think I could have lived there every single day, as the atmosphere and action was just epic.

Come the closing ceremony it was quite sad it all came to an end so fast, although the one off appearance by the Spice Girls was pretty special, a real hair brush moment!

65 medals for Team GB, third in the medal table, amazing! There were so many memorable moments, I would be here all day writing, so I won’t bother this time.

Run faster, jump higher, be stronger!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Harry Potter Studios

Like so many people in the world, I am a massive Harry Potter fan. I began reading the books in my early teens and made sure I mastered Braille in time for the release of the final book after my sight deteriorated for the worst. I remember it took me about three months to read that final book and avoiding spoilers was a tough task, but somehow I managed it. I have also seen all of the films, the first couple I had some vision to appreciate the special effects and picture for real my favourite books come to life. So, when I heard about Warner Bros offering fans an opportunity to visit the Harry Potter Studios in Watford, I made sure I booked my tickets the day they went on sale!

My family and I went to the studios on my 24th birthday (on 20th July, argh I’m getting old). As we went into the entrance, there were hand imprints from the three main stars, Daniele, Emma and Rupert. I pretty much have the exact same hand size as Emma. This tactile introduction seemed promising for the rest of the tour.

We were ushered into a holding room where there were lots of posters from the films around the world and a short video from the film makers. We were then moved into a cinema area to watch another short film about the studios. Finally, you then get to go into the Great Hall and to my disappointment, the props were behind barriers. This is where my stretch Armstrong skills began, as I reached to touch the goblets and seating area. I knew it was going to be a long day!

It is really quite astonishing how many props and sets there were under a single roof, I only wish I had the opportunity to check them all out for myself instead of hearing about what I knew already existed. I thought riding a broomstick would be a nice interactive challenge, but in fact a lot of acting is required to make the experience worth its while! Halfway around you get to go outside and I was eager to taste butter beer. It was nothing how I expected it to be, but I did quite enjoy the taste unlike most who seemed to have a sip and leave it! Outside was better for me in general, as I climbed upon Tom Riddles grave stone (I don’t think you’re supposed to health and safety and all that), sat in the Weasley’s car, touched the giant chess pieces, climbed aboard the Knight bus, sat on the Potter’s wall and Calvin had a busy on Privet Drive (we were only supposed to be taking a photo by the sign)!

Back indoors feeling a bit more cheery and stretching once more to feel the goblin masks, one of the staff members finally took pity and let me go beyond the barriers. So I had a better opportunity to feel the goblin masks, spent far too long examining Robert Patterson’s life cast (he has a very appealing face to the touch and I’m sure to the eye) and felt some of Griphook’s costume.

Next we walked up Diagon Alley; the cobbles reminded me of Coronation Street, not that I’ve walked up there! Finally you get to the shop and I spent ages feeling each characters’ wand, which you could buy and they had showcased behind a glass cabinet in the tour. I would have liked to buy a souvenir, most likely the elder wand, only the prices were beyond silly. Poor parents were telling their kids perhaps they would like a postcard!

I’m glad I visited the studios even though 80% of it is visual. I should have known better.

You fail to recognise that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be (Albus Dumbledore)

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Centre Parks

It does seem like an age since I updated this blog and have a long list of things I want to post about. Truth be told I haven’t been on the computer much lately, not needing to be on it for my uni work and with the sun peeking its head out for a few days, oh and of course there was the Olympics, I’ve just not felt the need to be online.

Anyway, shortly after Team GB was selected for the Paralympics, I went to Centre Parks with some visually impaired friends. The perfect retreat to take my mind off of things and to take a break from training. However, I was a little apprehensive about going, as I had never been to Centre Parks before and was concerned that the staff wouldn’t be very helpful, as more often than not people freak out when they see you have a disability!

I was definitely pleasantly surprised. On the Friday we went swimming and bowling. Swimming is one of very few activities that is free at Centre Parks. They have a wave machine, lazy river, which I think is more like a crazy river, hot tub style pool and several slides. I dared to go down a couple of the kids slides, but that tends to be my limit, I always manage to near drown myself with these things for some reason.

Saturday morning was rock climbing, which I have done several times before and really enjoy, as it’s one of few activities that I am a natural talent at! If rock climbing was a Paralympic sport, I’m fairly sure I would be the champion. The outside wall was quite tricky, but I managed to get up it no less than five times and not to sound boastful or competitive because that’s totally not in my nature obviously, but none of my friends managed to get to the top! That afternoon I had a full body mud treatment, which was different, yet my skin felt great afterwards and that evening we stuffed our faces with Bella Italia.

On Sunday we began with the zip wire and there was something quite petrifying about being told, ok now jump! I bet everyone gets that flash of seeing themselves plummet to the floor. The staff were really good about explaining about, which rope to throw away, unclip etc. After the zip wire, two of us did abseiling, which I was completely pathetic at! I personally put it down to being left handed and the only way to control the rope which lowered you down was with your right hand that apparently doesn’t know how to grip, so I kept sliding really fast. Feeling absolutely exhausted by this point since it’s around a half hour walk to each activity that afternoon I did the gladiator challenge, which took the meaning of challenge to a whole new level! It was split into two sections. The first side I went up was a simple ladder, only it swung, so it felt like I was climbing up upside down. I thought I was strong, I definitely didn’t feel it! The other side also swung, but not as dramatically and was a combination of beams, tyres, cargo nets and polls. The instructor was really good regarding explaining what was above me each time and eventually I got to the top and stood on the beam, I think it was a blessing that I couldn’t see how high up I was, as it felt pretty damn high!

Sunday evening was spent relaxing in the spa, which was a combination of aroma steam rooms, foot spas, hydrotherapy pool with sprays and sun loungers. Whilst there we got a free facial and did an Italian ritual, which resulted in covering yourself with ice, warming yourself back up in the sorna, more ice including a bucket being poured down my back, more heat, plunge pool where the instructor kindly pulled the rope to release the freezing cold water and then we finished with more heat. I can’t remember what it was supposed to be good for!

All in all it was a good trip, but unless I win the lottery won’t be rushing back anytime soon. The activities are quite expensive; I could have had a week abroad all inclusive for the same price! The staff are welcoming to disabled guests though and have an access bus to help get around the place if needed.

What you can’t see, can’t hurt you!