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Archive for August, 2012

Boat Blog: A breath of fresh air

Posted by indigodream on 29 August, 2012

Saturday 26th August

Limehouse Lock had a serious amount of traffic today – the duty lock-keepers wasted no time in getting us out so that the waiting narrowboat on the pontoon could come in while there was still water over the cill. I swear they opened the gates a few feet sooner than they normally would – always a scary sight!

I will be eternally grateful to George and Ann of nb So Comfeable, who got in touch via the blog a week or so ago, asking if we knew of anyone who’d like to take a trip down to the Thames Barrier with them. When they got in touch, I realised that I hadn’t been cruising since the Jubilee! Richard was a bit better off, he’d stayed on board during the Olympics and had joined the St Pancras Cruising Club convoy to Barking Creek at the beginning of August (we are behind with the blog!).

I’d actually forgotten how good it felt to be on the water – there’s no doubt that we would have spent the weekend cutting the lawn and ironing without George and Ann’s gentle nudging!

We were game for a cruise to the Thames Barrier (Lou’s health permitting) so we got in touch and made arrangements. One thing we’ve learnt from the St Pancras Cruising Club is that’s it’s always useful to know a little bit about your cruising companions and to have a plan for who’s doing what in the convoy. There followed some careful emailing to find our more about George and Ann, including their tideway experience and the river-worthiness of their boat! We also had time for a little briefing when we arrived at the boat on Saturday morning.

It transpired that George and Ann were charming cruising companions – they are tideway novices, but with a calm and careful attitude – this meant that they were well-prepared and able for the trip. We gave them altogether too many tideway tips and suggested that it was a great opportunity for them to practice their skill on the VHF (they are licensed). They were a little hesitant – I confess to being a bit daunted the first time I had to use the radio – but London VTS is very relaxed about it’s radio protocols so there’s no need to be scared of having a bollocking for using the radio badly (you can expect a bollocking for misusing the river!!!!). The plan went a little awry when their hand-held VHF didn’t quite have enough power to reach London VTS from the depths of Limehouse lock. This sorted, at long last, our internal debate about whether it’s better to have a hand-held or fixed radio – for the sheer amount of tideway cruising that we do, a fixed set is infinitely better.

The tide couldn’t have been more perfect – for the Barrier you leave Limehouse Lock around 2 hours before low tide then return four hours later as the tide is rising.We locked out of Limehouse at around 12 noon, giving us time for a great trip all the way down to Barking Creek mouth and back. There is plenty of interest along the way and no need to rush because coming back early means that there is not enough water to get over the cill at Limehouse, leading to an uncomfortable wait on the pontoons outside the lock. The lock was very busy with boats rushing to get into Limehouse before low tide – including old cruising pals nb Flora Dora, who gave us a cheery greeting.

All go on the tideway – it was busy when we set out but it settled down later…

We had an absolutely brilliant afternoon – the weather was much better than forecast (initially!) and the river was unusually calm – the most dramatic moments came as we left Limehouse lock – there was a sudden rush of commercial traffic – more boats than we were to see for the rest of the afternoon. It was a real ‘baptism of water’ for George and Ann, but they coped admirably and nb So Comfeable was notably stable in the water.

There was plenty to see – as you can gather from the photos!

We passed the beached narrowboat that had so dramatically sunk the day before. We had heard about it, but we were not deterred – it is much more the norm for narrowboats NOT to sink on the tideway, but it did highlight the importance of preparation and basic safety precautions, like life-jackets for all on board. In some ways, if you’re going to sink anywhere, the tideway is the place to do it because, although the river is very dangerous, there are lots of passing craft who can help out in an emergency. We were shadowed by various police ribs all the way down to the Barrier – they did not talk to us  but they did have a long chat with nb So Comfeable and possibly worrying told them that they knew who we were ….

Our plan had been to cruise as far as the Barrier then review the plan; it was such a fine day we decided to do the ‘dance of the Woolwich Ferries’ and go as far as the entrance to the Royal Docks – we’re glad we did – there was a slab of a cruise ship moored in the lock – it looked completely out of place!

We were going to turn there, but we had a hasty conference with nb So Comfeable and decided to press on to Barking Creek Mouth – just by Margaret Ness. Our decision was based on the fine weather, calm conditions and the fact that the tide was still ebbing. Obviously at low tide, the flood barrier at Barking Creek is surrounded by mud and the Thames is a lot narrower than the half-mile we’ve encountered there at high tide, but it is still an impressive sight.

The boat that sank – that’s a fearsome dent on the front – wonder how that got there??

The Thames is so very seductive here – it was such a fine day and cruising conditions so perfect, that we (the Indigo Dreamers that is!) were very tempted just to go on a little further. Maybe as far as the next bend – to check whether that was really Dagenham we could see; we wondered how far down would we need to go in order to catch a glimpse of the QE2 bridge carrying the M25 over the river! We forced ourselves to turn – just as well we had nb So Comfeable to keep us in check!

We had fine trip back, though we had a few prophetic showers as we rounded the Isle of Dogs. We had warned George and Ann to expect lumpy water round the Isle of Dogs, but it was flat calm – even during the showers. However it was obvious that there was bad weather on the way – lightning was stalking the city’s tall buildings and the daylight disappeared.

I was on the helm for the approach to Limehouse Lock – I had wondered whether to delegate it to Richard, who has the most experience of the lock entry and would be a superlative role model for nb So Comfeable, following on behind. But then I decided not be such a wimp and brought Indigo Dream into the lock myself – provided you take into the account the vectors involved (tide, wind, back eddies) then it should be straightforward and so it was! I surprised myself! Sadly there was no-one to admire my helming – nb So Comfeable did an exemplary lock entry behind me, and the lockkeepers were hiding in the lee of the buildings surrounding the lock. The storm had caught up with us as we approached the lock – there was a ridiculous amount of rain – the most apocalyptic I’ve ever experienced (while standing on the helm in my waterproofs); the lightning flashed all around, and the truly monumental thunder cracking overhead was amplified by the deep lock chamber (we were locking in at low tide). It was a sensory assault as overwhelming as the Olympic ceremonies, but provided by nature, and, like the ceremonies, went on for an hour longer than necessary 🙂

Ollie taking to boating as understood by most greyhounds!

We got back to our berth with the expectation that the storm would soon end, but it went on and on – much to poor Ty’s despair.

The rain finally stopped by around 5pm – George and Ann wandered across to thank us and give us a celebratory bottle of champagne – thanks! We managed to find Ann a bit of the sofa with Lou and Ollie – to our surprise, Ollie draped his head over Ann’s lap and lay there for the duration of their visit – what a tart! The rest of us found deckchairs and spent a happy hour re-living the trip. George and Ann seemed elated – I think they’d had an amazing time – I know that we did! Ollie stole the show a bit, and after we’d acquainted our visitors with the proper care of greyhounds, it was time to go….

George and Ann were due to travel from Limehouse to Teddington on Sunday morning (at 5.30am!) – they are on their way back to their home mooring in Aldermaston after an extended stay in London for the Olympics. We hope to stay in touch – it would be lovely to see them again, no least because we were rubbish hosts and failed to find out any important information – like why their boat is called “So Comfeable” and what make of toilet they have…..

Boat Note:

I put in a new 50-unit shore power card on 8th July, Richard put in another during the Olympics.

Lou Update:

Lou is finally (and slowly) recovering from the effects of the intensive cancer treatment; however she has had a strange skin eruption on her shoulder which has immediately become infected with MRSA – fortunately a strain which is sensitive to a cheap antibiotic! She still has no stamina and has her ups and down, but is cheerful enough in herself and is able to eat and sleep comfortably. The vet has suggested that we have a biopsy of her shoulder lesion and she needs to have her throat scoped to see if the giant ulcer has improved, but it’s looking marginally more positive at the moment – phew!


George and Ann – broad smiles, even though the local CRT volunteer had just told us about the narrowboat that sank!

Nb So Comfeable some of their photos with us – we think Indigo Dream looks mighty fine but we are a bit biased!

Happy at the helm..

Things look very different at low tide – we’re looking up at everything, to start with, and there’s so much more to see! We think this is the entrance to South Dock with a rather impressive cill.

We got ourselves a convoy!

Ollie practising the noble sport of “lookin'” – he’s taking over from old champion Lynx – he’s got no competition – Ty’s too scared to look and Lou can’t be bothered these days!

Couldn’t resist the juxtaposition of Cutty Sark’s masts onto the deck of the warship!

Looks like the seaside – how jolly!

The Cutty Sark, a warship, a Thames barge and us – the Thames is surely Shakespeare’s Cleopatra “….nor custom stale her infinite variety…” – love it

It’s behind you……

You can now pay to climb the O2 –

It’s a steep climb!

They wouldn’t need to lift that bridge for us today!

You have to watch out for shoals at low tide – this one is on the bend by the O2…

Me, officer?
Richard practising his ‘innocent’ look…

George’s ‘innocent’ look obviously wasn’t convincing enough 🙂

Whoo Hoo – nb So Comfeable passing through the barrier!

These guys gave us a rapturous greeting from the shore – thanks!
But who are you – are you narrowboaters? Have we met before? Apologies if we have – we only recognise boats and dogs, not the humans attached to them!!!! We waved back regardless!

There was only one ferry on duty today, making it easy to sneak past while it was unloading/loading!

What the lock into the Royal Docks was built for!

The flood barrier at Barking Creek Mouth – always an impressive sight..

Indigo Dream turning across the tideway at Barking Creek Mouth – see the tempting view of Dagenham downstream – one day maybe 😀

nb So Comfeable and the Barking Creek flood barrier…

The view downstream of Barking Creek Mouth – looks interesting eh?

I think that this fine Victorian ironwork is the remnants of the pier for Bazalgette’s original sewage treatment plant at Beckton – there are big plans for the upgrading of the sewage system –

There were lots of people on the high deck – we waved but they were too posh to wave back – or maybe they just didn’t see us – the narrowboats may have looked like bits of flotsam from up there!

Back through the barrier…

The rain before the storm – Richard thought he was wet at this point but little did he know what was to come!

I don’t like heights but we really must try the cable car one day…

We were surprised to see the Olympic ambulance centre was so far out but then we realised that it has to cover a range of venues, not just the park at Stratford – must still be awkward to get across the river to the southerly venues though!

We can’t remember seeing this ‘tunnel’ under this building before – low tide expose all sorts of things – I must try and find out more about its history…

Holy Trinity Hospital – the oldest building in Greenwich – it was more of a ‘retirement’ home than a hospital as we understand it today…
I love that these ancient building have survived the subsequent layers of riverside development…

There has been a pub on this site for centuries – the Trafalgar was built in 1837 and has a famous history –

At least this is in Limehouse Basin – I’m glad we got off the tideway before the storm really hit!

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Dog Blog: Ty’s doings….

Posted by indigodream on 26 August, 2012

Sunday 26th August

This is me bein’ a bit wurried….

Happy burfday to me!

I is seven today -I hopes that bein’ seven is better than bein’ six, coz I hads the wurstest day of my hole entire life yesterdie..

Mummy Sue and Richard gots out of bed qwite early on Saturdie – I woz reely happy coz this oosually meanz that they is going out and I gets to lie on their bed all day long. I woz just rearranging the pillows and scrapin’ the duvet into a proper heap when I heard the words “Ty come”.

“Uh oh” I forts, that means they wants me to come for a hadventure, I duzn’t like hadventures so I went and hids in me safe den in the spare bedroom….

But they hinsisted

“I duzn’t want to cum” I sed “I coulds just stay at home an’ anooze til you come back”

“Sorry Ty” sed mummy Sue “we’re going to be out for hours and hours, we can’t leave you by yourself that long – you just have to come”

Oh no, I hads to put my collar on and get into the boot of the car – I duzn’t like the car becoz it takes me places wot are scary – like everywhere wot isn’t home…

Wen the car stopped we woz in Lundun – I duzn’t like Lundun – it’s big an’ noisy’ an’ is full of people.

We wents to the dog park, wot has a big fence so we gets let off the lead – I likes bein’ off the lead coz I can run straight into the bushes to hide. Mummy Sue has to bend over double to get me out, an’ her hair gets stuck in the branches – har har har, serves her right, I TOLD her that I duzn’t like the dog park….

This is wen I woz reeely mis’rable…

Then, THEN, we goes on the boat – I duzn’t like the boat coz it takes us to scary places wot izn’t home – I snuck into me boat safe den and pushed me head under the sofa – I may haz to be on the boat,but I duzn’t have to look at stuff..

We woz on the boat for ages – it went ups and downs coz we woz on the river and the engine dun growlin’ – ooooooooooh – then, THEN, I sawed a bright flash….

“OH NO” I fort “the sky is fallin'”…

And then it did – there was a hooge CRASH right on top of me hed – it woz funder wot went on an’ on an’ on foreva. Mummy Sue shut us inside the boat in case we panicked and jumped in the water. Are you kiddin, mummy Sue, go out in that rain AND that funder? I may be fick but I ain’t stoopid! I pushed meself a bit more under the sofa and Ollie pushed himself up to me. Mummy Sue sed we woz such tremblin’ jellyboys that we made the whole boat shake….

Wen gots back to where the boat lives, I wonted to go bak to me proper home, but I couldn’ts move from under the sofa coz the sky woz still fallin’ – it woz fallin’ for ages – mummy Sue sed there woz a hawful lot of sky to fall……

An’ this is me wen the sky did do fallin’…

When the sky stopped fallin’ I fort we could go to proper home at last, but then some people came. I duzn’t like it wen people cumes to vist, unless they gives me a big fuss o’ course. But I didn’t gets any fuss at all – the peoples wouldn’t crawl under the sofa to rub my belly, oh no, they sat ON the sofa an’ Ollie sat on them – he gots all the fussings – is not fair, I deserves a fuss – I woz havin’ a ‘orrible day!

Eventooally the people left and I had to go to the dog park, again, and the car, again, (big Ty sigh) then finally we woz home – I runned straight up to me safe den and I didn’t come down ’til mummy Sue gave me some tuna fish for me tea then I runned back up to bed…

So, today is me burfday – mummy Sue sed “happy birthday, Ty, what would you like as a treat? Shall we have a trip to the beach? You’re the birthday boy so it’s your choice”

I gived her me biggest Ty sigh yet….

“I wants to stay at home and sleep on your bed all day long and I duzn’t wants to go anywhere, and I duzn’t want the sky to fall, or any flash bangs or peoples to call or anyfink”

“Ok” she sed “how about some special birthday food then”

I puts me sad pafetic face on an’ sed “well, I’s not sure if I can eats after the wurstest day of me life yesterdie, but maybe I coulds manage sum hot chikkin, or some beef stoo or maybe haggins like wot Lynx used to have for his burfday…”

“Ok” sed mummy Sue and went down to the shops to get me chikkin, haggis and meat for stoo….

I had the bestest day eva – I’s bin snoozin’ at home all day long and I’s had lots of treets – there wus no flash bangs at all tho’ we did have sum viziturs – they woz wurried becoz they founds a greyhound wanderin’ on the road and fort it was one of ours! But mummy Sue knew that we woz all safe inside, so that woz ok – the viziturs had a greyhound of their own so mummy Sue sed “Ty, come an’ say hello” – I done lookin’ at the viziturs round the front door – they woz givin’ Ollie a big fuss but I wozn’t sure, so I sed “Hi” and then runned inside…

After the scary viziturs had gone, mummy Sue sats down and rubbed me tummy – “You know, Ty” she sed “although you are the baby of the pack, now that you’re seven, which is the same age as me in dog years, maybe you could be a bit more grown up and not be quite such a big scaredy wuss jelly boy, what do you reckon?”

“Huh” I sed “mummy Sue, you is always sayin’ that just becoz you is middle aged it doesn’t mean that you have to grow up, so I duzn’t see why I should eifer……”

Ollie woz very brave an’ did ‘lympic lookin’ like wot Lynx used to do – until the sky started fallin’ – then he came to be a wussy jellyboy wif me….

Lou has forgotten how to lie on the sofa – oh no!!!

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Boat Blog: Thames Tideway Information

Posted by indigodream on 23 August, 2012

Best page to look at is here: and then click through to whatever you need.

This is now quite an old page and not really maintained.

Waterscape used to have a London page under “useful downloads” which contained tide tables, lock opening times and most importantly of all the series of Tideway Handbooks. Unfortunately with the change over to the CRT site this information went awol though some of has subsequently reappeared after a bit of prodding.
At the time of writing, information on tides and lock opening times was available here: – at present they are in the middle of the “notices” box. A kind CART-er gave me the link, it still works! I have managed to find this page from their home page but it is not obvious – click on the right local waterway, eg Regents Canal and then click on the noticeboard link.

I have been unable to find the Tideway Handbooks on the CRT site, so I have uploaded the most recent copies that I have and also found links to versions on the old Waterscape site – I suspect those links will stop working before long.  Do keep checking on the CRT site – more up to date copies may appear there in due course. It’s always wise to chat with Jeremy the lock-keeper at Limehouse before cruising the tideway – he may have more up-to-date links to the guides, as well as live up-to-the-minute information about the river….

In the meantime, in increasing order of fun lunacy (delete as appropriate):

Upstream Edition: tideway-handbook-upstream. Click HERE for a link which may work to the old Waterscape site.

Downstream Edition: tideway-handbook-downstream Click HERE for a link which may work to the old Waterscape site.

Estuary Edition: tideway-handbook-estuary Click HERE for a link which may work to the old Waterscape site.

There are lots of other places you should look:

The PLA web site has more detailed tide tables but be careful they are in real time ie Greenwich Mean Time, not British Summer Time. They have a great video of nb Madam going up the tideway at supersonic speed and they also have their Notices to Mariners – do check if any apply before you set out, don’t expect Limehouse, Teddington or Brentford Lockies to know them. The main site is here:, Notices to Mariners are here: and access to the video and their tide tables is from this page:

The IWA have a concise and very useful Thames Tideway Guide. It will cost you 30p and is available from here:

Wondering about anchors: Then this page is useful: The advice coming out from negotiations between the St Pancras Cruising Club and the PLA is that an anchor should have 15m of chain and 35m of nylon warp.

Finally and most importantly no page about the tidal Thames should fail to mention the St Pancras Cruising Club, they are the experts and they allow non-members to join their convoys on the strict condition that you attend a briefing and laugh at Andrew’s jokes. Their web site is here: In particular look at their events page, time your trip to London to coincide with one of their trips and also have a look at their tideway guide which is worth reading.

Please do leave a comment if any of these links don’t work.

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Odds Blog: Olympic Closing Ceremony Photoblog

Posted by indigodream on 23 August, 2012

Rewind to Sunday 12th August

Having had a very satisfying wander round the Olympic Park we moved towards the Olympic Stadium – the queues were minimal and we were soon on the island. Having Richard’s insider knowledge was invaluable – we were sure we went to the loo before we did the long climb to the upper tier!

The view from the top was both spectacular and intriguing – we were in so early that the stage was still being assembled; then at 7.30pm the pre-show started and we were coached in what to sing and when. I don’t know why they bothered – the crowd was so energised that we sang and cheered whether we were meant to or not!

The closing ceremony was a full-on experience – the pace was relentless – quite the most overwhelming experience I’ve ever had. I confess that, for me, it could have finished an hour earlier – our senses had been stimulated since 7.30pm – the televised bit didn’t start until 9pm so our sense had been assaulted for and extra 90 minutes! By the time we got to 11pm I was ready to go home – my throat was in tremendous pain – I hadn’t realised that I was brewing a throat infection and had just abused my vocal cords with hours of loud singing and cheering – I could hardly speak for the next 5 days but sometimes you just have to go for it!

The stage being assembled at 7.26pm – there was still a lot to be done at this stage…

Full stadium this side

There were lots of empty seats on this side though – I’m not entirely sure whether they were filled…

The building of Tower Bridge – this was at 7.32pm – the show opens at 9pm – wow, they did work hard to convert the bowl from stadium to showground…

I did work out this was a phoenix but I hadn’t realised how spectacular it would be later on…

Drums being hoisted into position on Battersea Power Station…

Richard was unimpressed by the stumbling around and lack of safety harnesses – that’s a big drop into the pit..

We’re not too sure of the role of those volunteers sitting in front of the stage – they looked mighty bored! They moved later on – just as well, or they’d have been incinerated by the pyrotechnics!

The first of the vehicles being moved into place – I really enjoyed these preparations – there was so much to see…

We were sure that this camper van was going to knock the traffic sign over – he just missed!

The leader of the totally brilliant Hackney Colliery Band bore an uncanny resemblance to Ken Dodd as he capered round the stage…

The LED panels were firmly tied into place tonight, but there were still plenty of other things for the audience to be doing…

The paper-wrapped vehicles created a real air of mystery – would that wrapped piano be played, and by whom?

Practising our synchronised waving – a new Olympic Sport 🙂

The London Symphony Orchestra – a change of pace after the manic efforts of the Hackney Colliery Band – and this is still the pre-show!!

It’s 12 minutes to the start of the show and they’re still abseiling around getting the set ready – I’m so glad I wasn’t in charge of these ‘just in time’ logistics 🙂

Richard had to stop himself from helping random strangers – he still felt like a Gamesmaker, even without his uniform…

4 minutes to go…

And we’re off – the start of a frenetic three hours of entertainment 🙂

Zoom in to see the drummers suspended on the London Eye – there were abseiling drummers on the other buildings too. I’ve been very impressed by both ceremonies’ use of percussion..

There were an awful lot of combustion engines taking part in the ceremony – I hope they included them in the “carbon neutral” calculations for the games 🙂

The lorries were full of colourful surprises!

This percussion/dance group were fantastic – they used a mix of staves and what looked like dustbins to drum their beat – the lights reflecting off the bin lids made a great show of their own…

The first ‘set’ was cleared away very quickly, leaving an intriguingly empty stage….

The flags and the athletes streaming in – I wonder what it was like down there – the atmosphere must have been great but I felt a bit sorry that they didn’t have any seats – but maybe top athletes don’t get tired!

Assembling the athletes must have been a logistical nightmare – no wonder they needed so many blue costumed ‘stewards’…

The mysterious white pyramid was built, then demolished, within minutes – it all seemed a bit arty to me but as it was accompanied by Kate Bush I didn’t complain 🙂

The assembling of John Lennon’s face just seemed weird, but I’m not a fan…

Naomi Campbell looking suitably aloof…

The light shows from the seat back LED’s was astounding..

I don’t know how this tightrope walker kept his balance with all the noise and flickering movement from the crowds and the big screens but he did!

The light show was spectacular but relentless…

I was a bit mystified as to why Fatboy Slim needed an inflatable octopus – I texted Cousin Denise, my oracle for modern culture post-1995, and she didn’t know either!

I’m not a fan of the Spice Girls but the stadium came to life when they came on stage….

Hot pyrotechnics for the Muse (Cousin Denise told me who they were!)..

These indoor fireworks were just a small taster of what was to come..

Boris waving the flag…

Rio comes to London – check out the fireworks rushing ‘into’ the bowl…

The upper tiers were quite smoky after the fireworks….

The opening of the petals was the start of a poignant sequence – we dreaded the flame going out…

The flower opened – not so long to go now…

The opened flower of the cauldron didn’t need to fireworks – it was beautiful enough as it was…

The phoenix moved me more than I would imagine..

The stadium, fireworks and the phoenix aflame…

The second phoenix carried ballerina D’Arcy Bussell to the stage…

The petals drooping to the earth – I was so very sad at this stage (and in some pain from my throat) – all too much really!

The petals are starting to lose their fire…

Just a few left to go…

Our last, most poignant photo – that flower cauldron was a thing of beauty….
There was a lot more ceremony to come afterwards, including a truly monumental firework display which much has rivalled the noise of Krakatoa exploding all those years ago! But the natural end for me was the dousing of the flame and the flight of the phoenix…

And we still have the Paralympics (but no tickets!)

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Odds Blog: Olympic Park Photoblog…

Posted by indigodream on 18 August, 2012

Rewind to Sunday 12th August

We were so excited to have tickets for the closing ceremony – they recommended arriving at 5.30pm so we did! We brought the car up as far as Star Lane in West Ham then took a short hop on the DLR to Stratford – this was super-efficient – there was hardly any traffic and it made for a very efficient journey home later.

We spent a glorious hour or so just wandering around the park – we seemed to have a little more time than when we came up for the opening ceremony rehearsal. We’d been fortunate to get cheap tickets (£20.12 each) for the closing ceremony – I reckoned I’d got my money’s worth before I even got into the stadium!

Royal row barge Gloriana – was last saw her at the jubilee pageant. That’s a very nice mooring pontoon – Indigo Dream would look mighty fine on there 🙂

Look closely to see the word- a curtain of water droplets falls at regular intervals and something cunning with lights means that different words are displayed – it’s all very quick and very hard to capture on camera!

The park is a lovely space to sit and enjoy – I hope it stays this pleasant after the games are gone…

The planting is wonderfully soft and a lovely contrast to the hard landscaping. I wonder how the banks will be maintained as part of the legacy? Some of the trees were already starting to droop after a largely dry week…

I loved the soft drift planting and the steel filigree of the Orbital sculpture – they work well together somehow….

That’s interesting…

Here’s one shot of the abundant flower meadows – it would be churlish not to admire their beauty – but they’ll need some upkeep if they’re not to be replaced by the usual towpath drift of nettles, brambles and himalayan balsam!

We think that these must be oxygenators- they’re spaced evenly along the Bow Back River – the water is much clearer that it used to be but it also seemed more sterile – mind you, the fish that used to be so abundant here may have just gone into hiding because of the crowds and noise from the stadium (or the horrible security gates they have put up at each end across the waterway).

This solitary duck was enjoying the bubbles,,,

We believe that this walkway is temporary – I do hope so because it’s blocking the navigation – we can’t wait for the Bow Back Rivers to reopen (sometime in 2013) – it used to be one of our favourite cruising mini-rings!

The airship buzzed over the park all evening – I’m not sure who was on board – cameramen, dignitaries or paying punters – they’d have had a great view regardless! The airship was quite close to the big fireworks that went off in the park later on – bet that gave them a fright!

Security, quick someone tell them they don’t have a licence – I think that we both hoped that our volunteer shifts would involve whizzing around in a rib – after all, we are qualified helms-persons! Alas….

No need for mowing when you’ve got thousands of bottoms flattening the grass every day 🙂

We believe that these are original bollards – there are a few along the towpath…

The park has a lot of somewhat surreal bits of ‘art’…

Here is a photo from 2010 showing part of the team from Allies & Morrisons responsible for these odd bits of art and funny paving scattered round the park, all to a very tight budget. They also did flashier things like master planning (true and well done) and will tell you they designed the bridges (Achitects like taking the credit for Engineers’ work). Like most who worked on the park they are not allowed to publicise what they did so give them a quick cheer.


’twas ever thus – dry storage under canal bridges is so very useful 🙂
Note how monumental the bridge beams/supports are…

Although the supports are monumental, the bridges themselves are quite attractive with their wooden decks.
We’re just approaching the stadium to get into place for the pre-show, which started at 7.30pm…

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Odds Blog: Richard’s Gamesmaker Shift No. 8 – the last shift :-(

Posted by indigodream on 16 August, 2012

Rewind to Thursday 9th August 2012
I am writing this a week late. I am still delighted to have been a Gamesmaker – I am finding it hard to come down.

Yes, I was fortunate that I was within the massive Events Services Team and, unlike Sue, I had something to do, was well looked after, well trained and well motivated.  I also enjoyed the role so much because the Athletes and the Public were fantastic – we just oiled the wheels a little. The Athletes are out there trying to their very best, they are not footballers worrying about the colour of their next Ferrari, they are incredibly hard working and very dedicated people. The Public come in, they are determined to have a good time, they give Athletes of all nationalities fantastic support, the Athletes respond with some amazing performances, the Public get excited cheering them on and so the day just gets better and better. More on that later.

Thursday’s start time was cruel, we had to check in at 5:45am. I was lucky having a boat to stay on,  a first train from Limehouse at 5:14am and a specially running DLR service which got me to the stadium 5 minutes early (2 shots of Kazaar, strength 12, this morning). Other Gamesmakers had to catch 3 night buses so heaven knows when they got up! Those coming from the camp site in Wanstead seemed to have had a tough journey. Our briefings were full of yawning people but were fortunately very concise – everybody knew the form by now, athletics were due to start an hour early at 9am and we had to get gates open by 7:30am.

My early check-in meant that I got assigned to ticket checking on bridge “B” – great, I liked that role. The day before I had got a little wound up by a ticketing/customer service issue. I had raised it with my team leader but took the opportunity to also briefly raise it between briefings with my area manager. We had a very quick chat but he had another briefing to give, I had to rush off to my team briefing so we did not have a satisfactory conversation. Gus said he would find me so we could finish the conversation, I thought “yeah right”, especially as I know he had to be elsewhere, but fair play he came and we had a good discussion.  There is very good management in the Stadium.

Bridge “B” was significantly busier today, the combination of an early start and a shorter period between gates opening and athletics starting meant that people seemed to come in at twice the rate that they had on Tuesday. For at least 45 minutes a queue of 2 – 8 people in front of you in each lane was the norm, so a bit less time to chat with people, less time to notice the outrageous earrings or fantastic face paint, but still plenty of time to notice eager, happy faces coming towards you and plenty of time to worship those who got last minute tickets.

My first break coincided with the Women’s High Jump heats, I knew where there would be an empty seat so off I went! The girls are all seriously tall, like all athletes they have fantastic posture and presence. When I have seen these girls (who I don’t recognise other then being able to quickly read their accreditation) I am sure I stand taller, as they all give the impression that they are taller than me, yet  I am over 6′ 4″.  I think they are generally around 6′ 2″, they manage to jump over a bar which is set above their heads. Look up and think about it.

Now here was a great example of crowd support. The last few jumpers were trying to qualify, they were down to their last attempt and the Commentator spotted that an athlete, I think from the Russian Federation, was looking a bit dejected. He pointed her out to the crowd and unbidden the crowd started a very slow and very controlled hand clap. As she started her run up they tried to keep pace but then basically went berserk clapping. This girl cleared the bar, from my angle she looked like she cleared it easily, I think she achieved a personal best but more importantly she got into the finals. She was so emotional afterwards, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd. The crowd supported her as an Athlete, I am certain they made the difference, she was certain they made the difference.

The difference was even more noticeable when the Men’s 4×400 relay was on. Ok, Team GB was competing so you would expect the noise level to be unbelievable. Baton changes were not smooth, but there was so much clapping and cheering which built and built. I think the guy that ran the third leg was called Jack Green (no idea who he is, sadly I don’t know enough about athletics),  he ran a scintillating leg, the crowd saw him reeling in his opponents and the noise level just grew and grew, I am sure he knew it was for him. I cannot describe the atmosphere in the stadium, I wish I could bottle it,  the guy ran fantastically and must have gained at least 20m on his opponents. I know that the individual 400m final was won by a Grenedan teenager running just under 44 seconds, I suspect Jack Green’s time in the relay backed by the crowd was not far off that. Amidst the euphoria there was also heart ache as the South Africans dropped out, I did not see what happened but I think it was a baton change problem, one of their guys looked inconsolable.

I have been honoured to have been a volunteer at the Olympics. Professionally the Olympics has been very good for us, we have done some fantastic work on and under the park though contractually there is little I can say about it. What will I remember when I am sitting on the back of a boat in 30 years time? I will remember my time as a volunteer, the fantastic atmosphere and those eager, smiley faces.

Ah but we still had the Closing Ceremony to come – we had tickets !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Odds Blog: Richard’s Gamesmaker Shift No. 7

Posted by indigodream on 14 August, 2012

Rewind to Wednesday 8th August 2012

Another early start, needing 2 shots of Indriya to get me going (Nespresso geeks will know what I mean!). I made the C2C train with 30 seconds to spare, but then missed a DLR train at West Ham so I checked in exactly on time at 6:15am which meant that I got assigned to a team with a bowl duty, “hurrah”, I thought, plenty of people to talk to and lots of sport to watch. Well almost …

When it comes to our final team briefing the Team Leader has a set of cards to give out detailing the team’s duties, these get handed out in priority order and I got a high priority duty: guarding the lift….

This is a silly lift – well, its main aim is to transport goods up from the bowels of the stadium – LOCOG and the catering people having finally worked out that using it to take trolley loads of supplies up to the concessions is far more efficient then supplying them with a box or two at a time. The lift does serve 7 rows of 19 public seats each in the upper tier, so a small number of people can be spared the walk; but under no circumstances are the public allowed to be in the lift by themselves. This means that there has to be a Gamesmaker stationed at the top and another at the bottom of the lift – our role was to ride up and down with a maximum of 4 people, swapping over every so often before the Gamesmaker at the bottom went gaga.

If you are at the top of the lift then that’s great, you get to see the action. Wednesday was fascinating as they were setting up the pole vault, the high jump and the discus. We did swap round later, and I also had a stint in the dreaded buggy store and in the lower tier. Here are my views from the top tier:

8:05am: Empty stadium, tech team setting up the long jump take-off board camera

8:30 Sand has been very carefully raked and now they give the area a good sweep. I have to say that Gamesmakers on the field of play are really diligent.

8:35am: By now all these people and all this gear had appeared.

8:40am: Serious number of people appearing. I can’t remember the correct name for the team dressed in blue but they do the measuring, recording etc. and I think they also are volunteers.

8:45am: Emergency reserve cement mixers being bought in

8:50am: Pole Vaulters appearing, looks like they have a tape to set out their little markers so that they know where to start their run from

Meanwhile on the discus field I think this guy is out there with an old fashioned tape to verify that the Total Station they use for measuring distance is set up correctly.

9:05am: Pole Vaulters warming up – it is quite scary how high they go! Look at the guy on the left and how he pushes himself even higher completely upside down off the top of a thin pole.

And up they go. The name that everybody knows is Sergey Bubka, now retired. The second most famous Pole Vaulter was Cornelius “Dutch” Warmerdam, he was still competing at the time of the last London games and famous for being the first man to clear 15′ or 4.57m in new money. He did not compete in the 1948 games – I don’t know why – and the gold medal was won by a jump of 4.2m, a mere 14′. In 2012, these guys are warming up way over that height, this year’s Olympic Record is at 5.97m or 16′ 4″ in old money

View under the upper tier as spectators arrive

They have a vertical rule that they use to check the height of the bar, you can see it as they raise the bar to the right height. The bar is what, perhaps 2/3rds of the way up but already it is 2½ times the height of the Gamesmaker with his vertical rule. Just to the left of the left hand track you can just make out a guy in white and blue – I think he was the eventual winner.

Moving back to the Long Jump: At the back of the take-off board there is an indicator board with what I thought were plasticine strips but I gather they use something more advanced nowadays which comes in strips. Here they are replacing it whilst someone else diligently rakes the sand.

And here is the guy replacing bits of the marker strips. This year, the long jump was won fantastically a few days earlier by Greg Rutherford from the Milton Keynes Athletics club with a jump of 8.31m. You have seen the photos of people jumping narrow locks? Well they are just over 7′ wide, 8.31m is almost 28′ so close to twice the width of the broad lock at Fenny Stratford. Now that’s a man who does not need walkways across locks!

I bet no one can identify the best building on the park …..

Another quiet day at the park ….

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Odds Blog: Richard’s Gamesmaker Shift No. 6

Posted by indigodream on 14 August, 2012

Rewind to Tuesday 7th August

I was working the early shift again at the Stadium which meant checking in at the stadium at 6:15am ready for the day’s briefings. A combination of the C2C service to West Ham then a DLR train to Stratford is a nice quick route and got me to check-in 5 minutes early.
Roles are given out in supposedly random order, but they do prioritise them. So, for example, they must have Gamesmakers on all bridges checking tickets so this is one of the roles that is given out early – today I got to be a ticket checker at Bridge B. I have to say this was a role that I was dreading, especially as at my role specific training, they had gone on about how much fun it is (translation: This is a terrible role but we will make you feel jolly about it).

I am sure everyone is aware that the Olympic Park is built on a series of islands formed between the Lee Navigation, the Bow Back Rivers and the River Lea. The Stadium is on its own island, formed from the Lee Navigation and the non-tidal bits of the Bow Back Rivers, which we have boated round on numerous occasions. Access to the stadium is across five bridges, bridges A through to E. Bridge E is mainly used by the people in the hospitality area (think up to £4500 for a ticket), bridge D is occasionally closed for athletes so the public tend to be directed in through bridges A to C. Bridge B is the bridge everyone sees first when they come over the Waterworks River from Stratford. You can access the stadium through any bridge so people often ignore the advice on their ticket and come through Bridge B. It must be one of the busiest places to work and is staffed almost entirely by volunteer Gamesmakers.

So there I am standing at Bridge B with 31 other games makers (the India 20 & India 30 teams), armed with a wireless scanner running a version of Windows (sigh) seeing this impressive crowd of people heading towards us. It is quite scary and exhilarating.

8:05am: Don’t those people have beds to stay in? It is a rare experience to stand there, armed simply with a ticket scanner, while a good-natured wall of people marches towards you….

There is a third games maker team (India 10) at the Stratford end of the bridge, their role is to act as a first welcome to people, direct them to the right place, soothe any nerves and, most importantly, look at how the queues are doing. When they ran test events, they found that people tended to queue at a few lanes, leaving other lanes empty.  So the India 10 team circulate at the far end of the bridge and gently guide people to a different part of the bridge where the lanes are less busy. I have not done it but I imagine it is very hard, you are the people’s first contact with the Stadium, they will be a bit anxious and the image you project can make or break their day.

Do we get busy? Not really!

With 32 lanes open I doubt if I ever had more than 8 people in a queue in front of me, and that’s only because most of them were a large group. The norm would be that someone would walk up and get their ticket scanned straight away. Groups would slow you a bit, your scanner deciding to update itself would sometimes lead to a few seconds delay, deciding whether a concession ticket was being carried by someone you could let in takes another second though the norm seemed to be that children had adult tickets, their parents had children’s tickets.

Was this a dreadful role? Not at all, it is fantastic……

People come down the lanes, the India 10 team had already got them into a good mood, their faces light up when you say “Good Morning”;  you ask how they are – most are so excited to be going to see the greatest show on earth that they virtually dance down the lane towards you, we even had people racing each other! We are meant to make people feel welcome, to set them up for a great day; but in fact, people are so ready for the day that all we need to do is give them a smile.

People of all nations are coming in, we even had one lady with an All-Blacks flag so I told the guys in that lane not to let her in as that has to be a prohibited item. Unfortunately they were clearly not rugby followers, so they still let her in (you can’t get the staff!). You see people draped in flags of all nations, face paint of all nations but mostly you see the Union Jack or a GB team logo on t-shirts, on funny hats, on enormous earrings, on scarves, on shoes and on all sorts of face paint. It is a riot of colour, it is somehow tasteful, it is a wonderful sight. You flirt and have a quick chat as they come in, one family recognised me as the person that advocated marsh mallow toasting, they had a £62 family ticket for two adults and two kids, they were great to talk to, explaining that they quite liked having their personal Gamesmaker welcoming them on their visits.

Tuesday was a 10am start with stadium gates opening at 8am, yes there is a small queue at 8am! By 10am most people are in so we close half the lanes and half the people go off for a break (i.e. find a good place to watch the action). As the last few stragglers come in we close all but a few lanes (more people off to watch the action) and take it in turns to see people out and let people in. The record is someone arriving with a £150 ticket five minutes before the session ended. We also get to see some top class athletes coming in via the accreditation lane!
Ah tickets, that is interesting. The lucky few have managed to get last-minute tickets, they were recognisable as having been printed at home. Some people got theirs at 6pm, some at 7:10pm, some at 2:30am, they all look rather pleased with themselves and so they should. They are mostly £150 tickets, which is actually mid-range, but the seats these guys get are fantastic. One couple had row 1 seats, a lot had seats in rows 31 to 33 – the first three rows on the upper tier, perfect seats. I congratulated two rather smug looking guys at getting such fantastic seats, they did not know, so I told them where the seats were (the very front row of the upper tier) – they were so elated after that. You cannot help but be in a good mood after dealing with these people.

Painful early start? So what!

Talking of people being elated, we have a role in getting people out. It is not a difficult job, we come back from our “break”, we clear the barriers, open up all the lanes, stop people coming back against the flow and direct people out. We gently move them on, the paid stewards (black trousers not stone) sometimes help, but they tend to be a bit heavy with people. We Gamesmakers have pockets stuffed with maps so we can direct people to their next event, we wish people a pleasant journey, a good day and occasionally ask have they had a good time. I don’t know why we bother asking the last question, they come out beaming – the comments they make are simply fantastic…. I cannot begin to describe the great mood of these lovely people as they leave the stadium. It is a great stadium – the atmosphere is electric, you are surrounded by nice people, you have these gods doing their stuff on the field of play, there is not a bad seat in the place, people are there to be impressed and enjoy themselves.

I am going to be so gutted if they don’t agree a decent legacy use for the Stadium. Personally I think the Olympics should be staged here every 4 years!

The Games have set me to musing about patriotism…….

At other events, I have seen the stereotypical football skinhead muppets with English flags; once we were asked to join the National Front in Cheshunt – they withdrew their invitation when Sue got them confused by saying she is Welsh and went very quiet when I explained that I am an immigrant’s son. Very often patriotism has come across as unpleasantly tribal, the extremists ( and, sadly, some perfectly ordinary people)  will try to say that “british” actually means “white english”…

The patriotism shown at the Olympics seems to me to be sincere, heart-warming and inclusive – it transcended any differences in race, religion or culture. Like a rugby crowd, the audience will applaud all – if someone clears an impressive height at the high jump,  the spectators will give them a big cheer, irrespective of where the competitor is from. Obviously the mainly British audience will save a special cheer for Team GB – the avalanche of noise at that point is stunning.

Philosophers and politicians may have complicated debates about what it means to be British; the wonderfully multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-faith crowd cut through the debate – wear the Union flag, smile and cheer your team – simples! After all, when your face is painted in the Union’s Red, White and Blue who cares about the the colour of the underlying skin…..

If the Olympics does nothing else then reclaim British Patriotism for all people of this green and pleasant land then that will be a stunning, and I have to say unexpected, achievement.

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Closing ceremony, Eric Idle

Posted by indigodream on 12 August, 2012

Now in the stadium this bit is loud with the whole crowd singing along to the bright side of life. I wonder if you can hear us? At the opening ceremony the audience really joined in with hey jude but all you could hear at home was paul singing

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Sensory Overload

Posted by indigodream on 12 August, 2012

We are having serious sensory overload – have never experienced anything like it – more relentless than the opening ceremony – great break from my normal quiet reality!

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