Yesterday started well. I went for a swim which, I don’t mean to boast, was worthy of a gold medal. I was on fire. It’s this new thing of putting my face under the water which has revolutionised everything. When I got out I was panting and my arms were a bit shaky and I felt amazing. Brazil 2016, you better watch out. Step aside Rebecca Adlington.
Then my friend and I went to the ExCel centre in East London to see the Paralympics. I was bursting with excitement. Woo woo! Bring on the Paralympics!
We arrived, picked up our tickets then made our way to the entrance. There were security checks first. Bags on conveyor belt, walk through metal detector thing. When my bag came out the other side, the security man said he needed to check it. I saw a list of stuff I wasn’t allowed to bring in and realised why they were searching my bag. You’re not allowed to take liquids in and I had all my swimming shampoo and face washes in my bag. I just always keep them in there so I’m ready to go swimming. The shampoo I have that’s specifically for washing chlorine out when you’ve been swimming was actually quite expensive. And they took my Body Shop Body Butter. If you know what one of these is, you’ll know that you do not come across them willy-nilly. They are amazingly good moisturisers which last forever and are quite pricey. I also have a men’s body wash and shampoo in my bag most of the time in case any male friends decide to join me last minute.
All these were taken. Not taken for safe keeping then you get them back when you leave. Just taken. Goodbye lovely toiletries of mine. It was a short but fruitful union. I hope life (the bin) treats you well.
This took me a while to get over and I could be heard loudly declaring, “I’ve broken friends with the Paralympics.”
Then my friend kind of got bored listening to me moan and reminded me that it’s just some soap. Yes, it is. But it hadn’t started well.
The first thing we went to was the table tennis.
There only seemed to be one or two games going on and I think we must have just been watching the end so we lingered a bit, to see who’d win the match we were watching, then left.
The next thing we found which was about to start was the Sitting Volleyball.
As we had missed the bit where the commentators explained the rules etc, we spent quite a lot of time trying to work out why exactly it was sitting. When they walked onto the pitch, some things were obvious, like some guys had the lower parts of a leg missing, some had those amazing metal spring things that they wear for running and some were walking a bit awkwardly, so I presumed they may have had a prosthetic limb. My eyes are pretty bad though so some of it was guesswork. I thought some might be deaf but then I found out about the Deaflympics, so I am presuming deaf people only compete in that and not also the Paralympics.
Anyway, once I’d figured out that my eyesight was too bad to know conclusively what disability each had, I just cheered for Rwanda (my friend cheered for Brazil as we had decided to support one team each) for the first round. It’s a very exciting game to watch. With things like Powerlifting, it’s great when they lift big weights and you admire their strength but there’s not so much activity. With the Sitting Volleyball, it’s really lively and the crowd really got involved. Lots of whooping and leaping out of seats and cheering.
We watched a few rounds and at the point where my team were getting a bit thrashed, Aran suggested we watch something else, all satisfied with his team’s win.
Next, we decided it was Cup Of Tea Time. There’s a point in every day where this time occurs and it’s no good denying it. You have to give in, exit your day for a little while and get well acquainted with a mug of tea. It’s essential for the continued success of your day and is scientifically proven to increase your mental abilities and the likelihood of you taking over the world.
So we rested our eyes, drank tea and accidentally ate a massive late lunch. Mine was a pea, mint and grilled courgette risotto.
Aran got a burger with a side of chips. These chips were the massivest (it’s a word, alright) chips I’ve ever seen. They were unbelievable. Here’s the photographic proof.
So once we were fed and tea’d, we headed back into the foray and made a beeline for the judo. We’d had our eye on this since the beginning. Aran has done judo as far as black belt and I was looking forward to having someone who could explain things to me.
It seems to be that to win, you have to throw the other person on their back. Sounds pretty violent but ok, I can roll with that. If you get the other person on their back but it’s only a half-throw, you can do another half-throw and it will make a full throw….. Pardon? This sounds like the ramblings of a madman. A half-throw? Or you can do a strangle…. A what? A strangle? Yeh, says Aran, non-plussed, like this. He proceeds to cross his arms over in front of his neck, grab the shoulders of his t-shirt and pull up, putting pressure on his neck.
O good, I thought, a sport where The Strangle is a well-used move. Anyway, I was probably being naive, I didn’t know anything about judo so it probably sounded worse than it was. But no, Aran assured me that there are lots of serious injuries when people do judo….
So I stopped asking questions and just watched and trusted no-one would break a limb.
It was quite good to watch actually. The men, I found, were a lot rougher. Lots of sudden jerks and people flying across the mat and slamming onto their backs. The woman seemed to have a lot more body contact. They’d have each other in a tight grip, to-ing and fro-ing here and there and the throws tended to be more of one person holding them tightly and going down with them, but trying to make sure their opponent was underneath and landing on their back. The men just threw their opponents clean away from themselves to the other side of the mat. Both were exciting to watch. We stayed there for quite a while and the crowd really got involved. Lots of Mexican waving and oohs and ahs and gasps and cheers. It was great.
Well… Apart from the group of teenage boys behind us who did not shut up for one second. A snippet of their conversation went as such:
“Look! Look at that position!”
“CAN I HAVE YOUR NUMBER?!”
“Phwoar! That Chinese girl!”
“Why didn’t your brother come with us?”
“He’s a loser.”
“Shall we move to the seats behind?”
“Haha! Yeh, come on guys.”
“I dare you to move to those two down there.”
“No, you move there.”
“Woah, did you see that? Look what they’re doing!”
On and on and on, it went. A mixture of inane nonsense and an over-excited enthusiasm for the fact that two women were grappling in front of them. After a while, I became irrationally furious with them and then remembered why I’m not a fan of big crowds.
En masse, great. I’m in there, I’m cheering, I’m Mexican waving. When you stay in one place long enough that you become familiar with the people immediately around you, and they are annoying, I lose faith in the crowd as a whole. I think it must be full of ridiculous teenage boys talking nonsense.
We made a hasty exit and went on the search for something we’d seen on the train in. I think it’s called the Sky Train but I forget things quickly so can’t be too sure. It goes across the Thames river and to the O2 centre, formerly known as the Millenium Dome. It was amazing to be so high up but the view wasn’t terribly exciting as it’s mainly a business area. Lots of tall buildings and construction sites. Not what one would call ‘beautiful’ but still quite cool.
We got off the other side near the O2…
….found the tube station and headed home. I don’t mind admitting that I fell asleep on the train.