Saturday, 16 August 2008

Olympics: Dual Nationality Dilemma

Earlier this month, I became a New Zealand citizen. As I do not have to renounce my British citizenship (I wouldn't), I now have dual nationality. The ceremony was very welcoming and focused on the spirit of inclusion. The Minister of Internal Affairs (Hon Rick Barker) writes, 'Your new citizenship does not mean that you will forget your country of birth, which will always be important to you. I hope that you will continue to share your traditions and your culture with all of us - they are an important part of the shared wealth of our country.'

This is great, and it gives me two countries to support in the Olympics (which is just as well, because if I'd been relying solely on New Zealand, I wouldn't have any medals to be proud of as yet). The problem arises when the countries compete against each other. Most of the time, my loyalties will still lie with Britain. I was born there and spent more than two-thirds of my life there, including the most formative years. So I am thrilled for our cyclists, canoeists, swimmers, and horse-riders who are competing and collecting their medals.

We (and 'we' will always mean Britain, Liverpool, or me and him outdoors) are competing in ten rowing events this weekend along with other cycling, sailing, and athletics events. In nearly all of these events I want Britain to win, and New Zealand to come second in any of the events they ar
e also contesting, but I must admit to a couple of dilemmas in the cycling and rowing.

Is it to be Bradley Wiggins or Hayden Roulston (who are both hard-working riders in the Tour de France)?

Alan Cambell or Mahe Drysdale (who train together and are great mates)?

To keep things fair, I want the Evers-Swindell twins (NZ) to win the women's double scull from Elise Laverick and Anna Bebington (GB), and Matt Wells and Stephen Rowbotham (could there be a more appropriate name?) (GB) to win the men's double scull from Rob Waddell and Nathan Cohen (NZ). Whichever way you look at it, this is a weekend to be glued to the television.

It seems that Britian and New Zealand share many things, and the latest is the barrage of sledging from Australia. John Coates, head of the Australian Olympic Committee, greeted the news that Rebecca Adlington had won gold and Joanne Jackson bronze in the 400m freestyle, as 'not bad for a country that has no swimming pools and very little soap.'

Apparently Britain's sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe has rashly wagered that Britain will finish higher on the Olympic medal table than Australia. His Aussie counterpart, Kate Ellis has countered that green really isn't his colour and that the Brits are serial chokers. There has been a further comment that Britain are only good at sports at which they can sit down. Everyone appears to be getting into a lather, but I suppose all is fair in love and sport.

Meanwhile, huge congratulations to Rebecca Adlington for her latest gold medal and wolrd record. And to Michael Phelps for more of the same - just one more to go now!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Criticising the critic

Last weekend I went to see a play at Bats Theatre called Winter. I didn't like it very much as I thought it was awkward and pretentious. The dialogue was strained, stilted and completely unrealistic. It was the sort of thing that people write at drama school when they imagine that everyone else has the same over-earnest conversations they conduct in their own head.

I wrote a
review for the Lumiere website, in which I presented my opinions. Immediately I am accused of not having a sense of humour, having ADD and having problems relating to people. I find this is the sort of vituperative diatribe that meets many reviewers in this town who say they don't like a play, which is usually written by a local and so their friends defend them.

Fair enough. We all have different opinions - otherwise those CSI programmes would cease to exist - but I find it frustrating when people assume that because you don't like something, you 'don't get it.' Yes, I got it; I just didn't like it. It's like when you don't laugh at someone's joke and they accuse you of not having a sense of humour - yes, I got it; I just didn't think it was funny!

This seems to me to be a very immature attidue; the sort of thing you thought when you were a teenager, but hopefully grew out of. Do we only appreciate reviews when they agree with our view? In which case, what is the point of a review?

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Olympics: water and horses

As I have previously mentioned, one of the things I like about the Olympic Games is getting to watch sports that I never normally see - slalom canoeing anyone? This event was quite spectacular; the way those guys throw their hips around and ride those waves is amazing. I find it hard enough to keep the boat the right way up when I get hit by a tiny wave, let alone one of those man-made monsters.

The event had all the excitement and drama of glamorous competition: speed was not necessarily of the essence with time penalities and aquatic agility taken into account. There were world champions, unknowns - go Togo! - and a Brit, who powered and thrashed his way to a silver medal. Wow! David Florence is a new superhero. That was worth watching!

I love the swimming events and was thrilled to see 'our girls' Rebecca Adlington and Jo Jackson swim to a gold and bronze medal in the 400m freestyle. I'm also fascinated by their GB swimming caps which look like they are wearing targets on their head.

And Michael Phelps is still on track to achieve what he set out to accomplish. Five gold medals; five world records. I thought Ian Thorpe was astounding (and still do), but Phelps is incredible, though I would hesitate to use the term - heard on Kiwi commentary - 'a freak in the water'.

It seems Britain is good with boats and horses, remaining competitive in the rowing, sailing and equestrian events - two bronze medals for the equestrian team hauls Britain into the top 10 on the medals table at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, the poor New Zealanders struggle in their football games - being drawn against Brazil for the mens and USA for the womens. I would feel more for them if they didn't give their teams such ridiculous names. The All Blacks I can cope with, but the Oly Whites? Come on; how old are you? What's wrong with 'New Zealand' - it's nothing to be ashamed of, and there's no need to give the teams diminutive monikers involving black, white, silver, and ferns. The height of humiliation should have come when they tried to name their badminton team the black cocks. Just stop it, will you?

And apparently the 'oh-so-cute' kid who sang at the opening ceremony (singing children - don't get me started...) was lip-synching. Apparently the real kid who sang the song simply wasn't cute enough. So China puts on a false face to fool the world, and people are suprised by this? Did they learn nothing from Mao Tse-Tung?

Monday, 11 August 2008

Olympics: Negative advertising

I don't usually watch TV One news and sport - I find their presenters smug and ill-informed. But they have got the Olympics, and so I have to watch it. I have SKY, which I am happy to pay for and I would far rather the Olympics were on that as well, and then I could have the choice which version to watch - and it wouldn't be One's.

Yesterday I watched as commentators stumbled through sports they knew nothing about - I can forgive that. One of the great things about the Olympics is the fact that every four years you get to watch sports you know nothing about - and won't watch again for another four years. I was intrigued by the fencing, in which the outfits looked like something left over from the Dr. Who costume department.

What I can't forgive is the amount of advertising displayed throughout the sports. I know that advertisers have paid for them to afford the rights (although, as I said, I would have preferred to watch it on SKY) but must they put adverts on every ten minutes - I timed them. They came on during football matches and the crucial parts of the women's road-cycling race. Events were missed or shortened as they were busy prostituting the ethics of The Games.

In cricket, adverts are put on at the end of overs; in tennis at the chage of ends; but in football, it seemed appropriate to just throw them in at random. Why could they not have waited for a goal kick, or after a goal was scored (there were a handy five against New Zealand when they played Brazil). So I idled away the down time between sports by making a list of the products I won't be buying. I know who they are, but I won't give them extra publicity here.

Even more infuriating were the adverts for TV One scattered throughout - I'm already watching your station! I shan't again unless I absolutely have to, especially not Fair Go - is it fair that I am trying to watch the road racing and your mug keeps popping up with annoying regularity? And as for that advert that tells me to 'watch sporting history being made in high definition', I can't bloody watch it anything with all these sodding adverts!

In the rare breaks between rampant commercialism I saw Britain's first gold medal, as Nicole Cooke ploughed through the teaming rain to win the road cycling race and then rushed to embrace her teammates. It was a fantastically gutsy performance and I forgot my gripes as she celebrated her well-deserved victory,. Congratulations Nicole!

I'm also keen to see Michael Phelps storm through the waters in the pool. I wish him all the best in his quest for eight gold medals. That would be a truely phenomenal achievement and a story worthy of the Olympic Games. If he 'only' wins a few, I shall not think he has failed, or feel smug that he didn't achieve his goals. I am impressed by the fact that he can and he thinks he can. I hope he does.

My Newest Favourite Thing: Jewellery

A couple of months ago I went to the National Jewellery Showcase in Wellington. I took my mother – it’s always good to take your mum to these places. She actually bought me an exquisite necklace of green glass and ornate wire shapes, but I promise I hadn’t been hinting at anything!

It was such a joy to look at these pieces and to imagine wearing them – I could put together an entire outfit around their colours and inherent suggestions of style and mood. We were drawn to cases where things caught our eye. We have different tastes but we both appreciate fine things. And there were some very fine things indeed on display.

Juerg P Muff - this man made my wedding ring so I was delighted to see him here and to have the opportunity to introduce him to my mother. The picture he was using to advertise his wares is the wedding ring of a friend of mine. His works of timeless elegance or contemporary design is made to order, and he works gold, platinum and precious stones with the magic of a Swiss wizard.

Monique Therese (Creatif Design) makes fine and intricate pieces incorporating traditional and contemporary styles, emeralds, gold and diamonds.

Tony Williams displayed a scorpion brooch with a hinged tail ending in a diamond sting - a beautiful piece with more than a hint of menace. You would certainly make a statement with his jewellery. Apparently he endeavours to fulfill Ruskin's maxim that 'fine art is that in which the hand, the head and the heart work together.'

Chris Idour also has fantastical pieces, working in a mixed media of precious metals and stones. From butterflies and dragonflies to teddy bears, his work has a 'middle earth, medieval and Nordic feel, which is quite fitting with Chris's Norwegian ancestry.'

Henderson Jewellery stood out with spider and cross motifs - these are works of art with messages of a darker side and deep emotions. Iain Henderson claims, 'I have no boundaries and don't care what others think of my jewellery', which might be just as well. All of the pieces have names, and this necklace - 'A Question of Faith' - can be worn without or without the hanging spider.

The settings of Christine Hafermalz-Wheeler were striking and bold. They are distinctive and individual - you can imagine forming a personal attachment with these creations. She says, 'My preference is for warm, organic forms that drape the body like well cut cloth; subtle combinations of materials often carry stroies that extend meaning beyond immediate visual impact.' She won the award for fine jewellery and believes that every day is an occasion and that people should wear special jewellery whenever they want.

I really liked Gold Ore Silver Mine, based right here in Cuba Mall. These New Zealand handmade designs of gold and silver, greenstone, paua and other gemstones are exquisitely simple and immensly classy.

Hey Jo's Silver combines stones and silver in bold designs, and often pictures tell stories reflected in the jade, tiger's eye and amenonite.

Another favourite was Emily Lake's Flame Art Jewellery. It felt slightly out of place here as it was glass - beads and pendants and gorgeous paperweights full of flowers or seahorses. She lives and works in Picton and runs workshops where she takes two people and teaches them her techniques - what fun it would be to take a ferry over and spend a few days there, blowing glass and tasting wine! I took her card.

The halls were thronged with people exclaiming and enjoying, touching and trying on. So many beautiful things were brought together under one roof and everyone seemed to be enjoying the art and design. This is a really fun way to spend a girls' day out. Take in a film and a meal with a few glasses of wine and the day is complete!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Individual Olympics

The Olympics have begun, with an opening ceremony that him indoors described as, ‘Thousands of people doing synchronized running around. It’s not my sort of thing at all, but they’re very good at it.’ They also wafted about on aerial hoists and let off numerous fireworks, which must have done wonders for the smog situation in Beijing.

I’m not particularly fussed for the opening ceremony – it’s a fantastic waste of money as far as I can see (although I love the fireworks and think it is weird how the athletes all come out with their camcorders filming the crowd as though they were the celebrities), but now the games begin properly and the sporting types are out in earnest.

Certain things have always blighted the Olympics, and I’m not even going to touch upon the politics. There is no way that politics can be kept out of sport and anyone who suggests they should be (the ‘keepoos’ – KEEP Politics Out Of Sport – as Tim Shadboldt calls them) is evidently deluded.

My qualms centre on what sports are included and which are overlooked. Whether I like synchronized swimming, BMX jumping or rhythm gymnastics or not (I don’t) is not the point. Beach volleyball is also besides the point as it is simply ridiculous and not a real sport – any discipline that has regulations about how skimpy your clothing must be makes a mockery of the athleticism of the games.

I don’t think team sports should be included. I don’t believe football (which only America and New Zealand insist on calling soccer) should be included. This is not just because it would be the only time we play this game under the guise of Great Britain. Similarly, hockey, basketball, handball and waterpolo should be ousted from the tournament.

The Olympics are about the strength, speed and skill of the individual. Team games are fantastic to watch and have an entirely different dynamic from individual sporting endeavours, but they do not embody the principles of faster, higher, stronger which the Olympic Games represent.

Because I am completely arbitrary and this is my opinion, I will allow relay teams in running and swimming, and teams in cycling (pursuit and madison) and rowing (pairs, fours and eights, coxless or otherwise). I’m not entirely sure why, but these things seem right whereas baseball and softball don’t. Actually, softball never seems right (you might as well have underarm cricket), but that is another issue

I have heard the argument that no sport should be included if it has another and greater sporting stage – such as tennis or road race cycling. Does anyone who has just watched Wimbledon or the Tour de France really care who wins the medals for these competitions? I agree with this, but it is not the issue under discussion here.

I feel that these team sports remove the gloss and the prestige from the real medal winners – I mean, in a team sport you can have a stinker of a game and your team still wins. Do you deserve an Olympic Gold medal? I think not. If there is any doubt, ask Lay Down Sally.