Archive | August, 2012

Issue 9: Bloody Olympics

4 Aug

Yes, folks, here we are on time and in budget for the Feminist Jumble Sale’s 9th edition and Olympic Special.  To celebrate London 2012 we take you on a pre-games site tour, visit an Olympic Host Borough swimming pool, and consider a very explosive Scottish take on the games.  As two of us have London postcodes beginning with E, we are also proud to present a gallery of photos, to bring you the look and feel of the games, wherever you live.  Offering an alternative to the women’s weightlifting and the men’s cycling – we hope you enjoy our efforts; we’ve been training hard for this one.

Issue 10 will be along in early October.  As ever, we want your contributions – on the theme of Bloody Holidays – by 28 September.


In Legacy – By Emily

London Fields 2012 – By Celia

The Olympic Flame – By Jim

The Bloody Olympics Photo Gallery – By Celia and Emily


IN LEGACY – By Emily

Well good morning ladies and gents, and welcome.  Welcome to your official London Olympic site tour on this rather cold and wet day – but don’t worry you will be warm and dry and well looked after on this bus, and you’re not allowed out of it anyway, so you should be fine!  Before we set off, I’d like to apologise for the delay this morning.  We had a few problems with security – someone managed to set off the metal detector alarm with their hip replacement; it’s a problem we often get when we have our older visitors.  Oh, was it you, madam, I do apologise.  And we had to wait while someone else’s three forms of identification were verified.  Unfortunately we had to leave her behind at the security centre – some problem with her benefits book , I think.  There’s always one! But never mind, we’re all here, and raring to goAren’t we?

I’m sure you enjoyed our inspirational film, yes?  Seb Coe is just such a beacon of all our sporting dreams, isn’t he,  and I couldn’t agree more that the Olympics coming to London will fulfil the hopes and dreams of a whole generation of young people and inspire them all to choose sport.

My name is Christine, and it’s my pleasure, no my honour, to show you all the highlights of the park, on behalf of the Olympic Delivery Authority today.  Before I give our driver the go ahead, we need to just go through some dos and don’ts.  Sir, I will be asking you to put your camera away, as photography or recording of any kind is not permitted.  Much obliged, sir. Please ensure all mobiles are turned off, in case you’re tempted to take a snap on your camera phone!  I’m sure you understand our need for security and confidentiality – we want your games to be safe and enjoyable and the rules, I’m afraid apply to everyone.  Madam, notebooks are also not allowed – that’s it, put your pen away too please.  It’s the rules, even if you are only doing creative writing. Yes?

So, here we are, 429 days before the big event opens and east London welcomes the world.  You will see as we go round there is still lots to do, but we are on time, and in budget with full confidence of delivery.  Yes, madam, I know the budget had to be increased, but there were good reasons for that, and you will see how very well worth it it will be – for East London, the whole of London, the country and the world!  The tour will take you on a loop of the park, so if no one has any questions, I think, driver, it’s time to set off on our magical mystery tour.  And off we go!

First stop, the Athletes Village, which In Legacy will provides hundreds of brand new, state of the art affordable homes for the people of East London.  The flats will overlook the park – what a view! – but even better, the lucky future residents will have the largest shopping centre,  in Europe right on their doorstep!  300 retail units to cater for your every need. If you look over there, you’ll see Straford’s Westfield under construction.  Who’d have thought Stratford would ever have a John Lewis!  A Waitrose! A flagship M & S! But yes, it’s coming, ladies and gents! Pardon, madam?  Yes, you’re right, the athlete’s apartments have been built without kitchens, but that’s because they won’t need them. Yes, of course the flats will need to be re-purposed with all mod cons before anyone can move in In Legacy.   No, I don’t think this was an initial cost-cutting exercise. You’re right too that many houses and a school were demolished to make way for the village, but Stratford will be welcoming a brand new academy, along with the fabulous new flats.

Moving on, we are now right outside the basketball arena.  When it’s finished it will be the world’s largest temporary building – it’s made of kind of steel springs covered in PVC, which In Legacy will all be recycled.   Looks a bit strange I know, but the main thing is it will be fit for purpose – and will even have extra-tall doors for all those extra-tall athletes to fit through! Amazing to think, they really will be walking through those doors in 429 days or thereabouts.

Who lives in East London? Oh, a few of you.  Where are you ladies from?  Ah, you used to live here and moved out to Essex – well lots of Eastenders did, didn’t they? And who could blame you!  East London has been a very poor area for the past 100 years, but times are changing, and the wealth of opportunities the Games will bring are going to be the biggest boost the area has seen. Looks a bit different now, eh, ladies? And sir, you’ve come all the way from west London this morning, have you? Gosh.  Oh, you actually lived where the site is now, did you madam? Well, I’m sure you’ll find it hard to recognise now!  And I’m sure you’ll agree it’s so much better now.  Well, it will be, when it’s finished.

So we’re coming up now to the Velodrome – can you see it?  Roof looks a bit like a Pringle? Yes, it’s one of the Olympic park’s most sustainable and environmentally friendly buildings, it even has loos flushed with rainwater!  Sustainability is a buzzword which has inspired every aspect of the planning and development here: we are proud to say it will be the greenest Games ever.  I know you’re all as proud of that as me.  So, to build this beacon of sustainability, first the old council estate had to be knocked down, then the toxic waste dump and landfill site it had been built on had to be purified – yes, all the soil literally washed.  Then several hundred metres of electric cables put underground, the 52 pylons which had dominated this area for 50 years taken down – all that before building could even begin!  This illustrates the challenges that the site presented us with, the challenges of run down, ex-industrial brownfield land, and of cheap, shoddy and low quality housing.  I think it’s truly inspiring to imagine all those super fast cyclists whizzing round and round, having no idea what used to be here! Oh, that was where you lived, was it madam.  I’m sure you’ll agree what a vast improvement this is?  No, I don’t know what happened to the residents or the people from the travellers site, but I’m sure wherever they are they are much, much better off wherever they are now.  You’ll have to check with Newham Council on that.

Now, we’re driving alongside part of the river, which has been dredged and cleaned up.  Anyone remember what the Lea  used to be like? Well by Gamestime, it will be a thriving wildlife resort.  Thousands of water plants have been put in, and all this area along the water is being landscaped, with hundreds of  trees, thousands of bulbs – a bit different from when it was all factories and freight terminals and toxic waste!  Over there will be a small arena – it’s half built –  anyone guess what it could be?  Clad in copper, it’s for handball! Did anyone know that handball is one of the world’s most popular sports.  Apart from in Britain, of course.  I know.

OK, ladies and gents, we’re now coming up to one of the park’s most iconic buildings – Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre.  In Legacy, this will provide state of the art swimming facilities for the people of East London, and no doubt the stunning building will inspire and attract everyone to give it a go.  And imagine, in Gamestime all those world class athletes will be dipping more than just their toes in its waters.

Over the river now and we’re nearing the end of our tour, but have saved the best until last for you this morning, ladies and gentlemen.  You have probably caught a few glimpses of it as we’ve gone round, but there, can you see it, through the rain?  Yes! It’s the main stadium.  In Gamestime it will seat 8000 and In Legacy will be reduced to provide amazing world-class sporting facilities for the people of East London.  No, I’m afraid I don’t know how West Ham’s bid is going, since Leyton Orient challenged them…we will have to see but never mind, I am sure it will be put to the best possible use, providing sporting chances, inspiration, world-class facilities for the people., for you. With its shopping centre, international transport links, this wonderful park, Stratford really will be the new jewel in London’s crown.  Who would have thought it, eh ladies?  I bet you wish you hadn’t moved out to Chelmsford now!

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, last but by no means least, we come to Turner Prize Winning Artist, Anish Kapoor’s iconic sculpture, the MittalAcerola Orbit, named after its kind and generous steel magnate sponsors.  The MittalAcerola Orbit is only half built now, but when complete will stand over 100 metres tall and be the Europe’s largest art structure.  Not only a work of art, though, it will have a viewing platform and restaurant – and In Legacy stand proudly on the new East London skyline as something for East Londoners to really connect with and feel proud of, yes?

So, are any of you planning to come to the games?  No? You might, sir – well I do encourage you to come and experience the dream, the experience of a lifetime.  Ladies? Oh I’m sure it won’t be terribly expensive – there will be options for affordability – after all, these are your Games!  And really, Team GB will need your support! The rest of you, hopefully you will come back In Legacy to experience the park, the finished buildings, the new homes – and maybe pop to John Lewis!



You join us poolside at the first heats of the season for what is likely to be an electrifying competition.

Already in the pool,  and representing Islington, we have Bernard. Weighing in at a positively gaunt 69kg and dressed in his team’s traditional wet suit, despite the pool being heated. At present, he is trying to lure his team mate and son, tiny boy Oliver, clad in tiny wetsuit, into the pool by promising ice cream as a treat afterwards. The boy is reluctant and has reportedly said to his Dad that the water is “too cold”. Bernard is splashing the boy with some of said water in order to “help him get used to it”. He has lined up his mascots, various floats and rubber rings, including dumbbells made of foam, at the side of the pool.

Representing Dalston, we have Tina and Amelia. Again making their characteristic slow start by dangling their feet into the shallow end. Displaying their matching ill-advised teenage tattoos of a pair of angel wings on each of their backs. Tina has reportedly told officials that she is concerned her new dye job, turquoise with violet fringe, may run or fade if it comes into contact with the chlorinated water. She is also slightly smug that her tattoo is just a bit more intricate that Amelia’s. That’s reportedly what you get for paying 30 quid more.

Representing Crouch End and current favourites, we have Claire, Rowena  and Marianne. These three are way ahead and have already completed: Claire 45 lengths, Rowena 78 lengths and Marianne 86 lengths; while their children played in their arm bands in the shallow end. All three are now drinking coffee and absentmindedly watching their collected and now dressed children run around the side of the pool and hang off the Union Jack bunting,  their wet ponytails dripping V- shapes down the backs of their T shirts.

Highbury’s entrants this year are a real power pair: Anthony and Denise. Anthony, of course, plagued by problems in training in recent months, visible to us from the two verrucca socks he is wearing. Dwarfed by his fiancee, she looks in better form with a six pack stomach and fleshy arms. Of course she has put the gender controversy of last month’s gala behind her, when Anthony’s cousin remarked that she was “a right bloke” after she downed a pint of cider at his barbeque.

And we might be witnessing the final summer for experienced contender Steve, representing Upper Clapton. Steve, there, topless, just wheeling his fixed gear bike into the large storage cupboard at the side of the pool which is really meant for staff members, but he’s down here so often, even the staff aren’t sure if he works here or not! So a great deal of speculation over Steve’s retirement. Steve’s team mate and best friend, Martin, of course having failed to even qualify this year after moving out to a two bedroom semi- detached house in Redbridge with his girlfriend Janine, who is expecting their first child. It might be the final season for Steve, his own wife making encouraging noises about babies and moving out to St Albans to be closer to her parents.

Representing Shoreditch we have Miranda. A late entrant today. Still yet to change and dressed in  long chiffon skirt and black ankle boots, she is attempting to cram six boutique shopping bags into a poolside locker and reply to her boss on her Blackberry at the same time.

Presiding over events today we have lifeguards Natasha and Leanne. Now earning extra money while completing BTEC Nationals in Health and Social Care (Leanne) and Sports Science and Personal Training (Natasha). In their smart uniforms of red polo shirt, pearl earrings, Ray Bans and white converse. They do a stirling, yet mind numbingly boring job. If they get to shout at a child for running today, that is likely to be a key point in proceedings. Of course, the competitors are in good hands, Leanne and Natasha both having completed their 15 hour life guard training course. Should someone be clawing desperately at the water with their head submerged, Natasha or perhaps even Leanne would be the first to throw off the Raybans and drag that individual up out of the water and towards oxygen and life.

I think you’ll agree, it’s a sterling line up for what is shaping up to be a hotly contended summer of sport. It’s all to play for.



Prompted by me, the hall committee had reluctantly agreed to an Olympic theme for our next Sunday teas, so union jack cupcakes, sponges with five rings on top, medal-like meringues, cream horns resembling flaming torches, wafers disguised as diving boards and chocolate-finger hurdles… you name it, I was going to bake it.  It might be a come-down baking for the Olympics when you could have been in the equestrian team, but it was more about maintaining our identity than anything else. This far north, where they don’t much consider themselves Scottish, never mind British, Olympic fever had been fairly easily quarantined at our house, so I was going to have to pull out all the stops to compensate for everyone else’s lack of interest.  I have long ago lost any embarrassment about being a gobby incomer.  Even non-native, single parent families like ours help to keep rural schools open and, when enthusiasm for committee membership and all the baking that goes with it sags amongst the locals, the anxiety of people like me to be part of the community can be worth its weight in marzipan.

Obviously I’m doing my best to minimise the effects of the divorce.  I want my children to be confident and good at sport and not completely consumed with their chat rooms and the internet games they play, for all I know being groomed by some monster all the while. My 14-year-old has recently adopted the ‘emo’ style of his virtual Japanese girlfriend.  She’s into lunchbox art and has been explaining the tenets of Zen Buddhism to him.  Apparently, one’s karma is like a flame that passes from one candle to another.

“Just like the Olympic torch relay, then?” I asked him.

“Well, sort of,” he conceded, doubtfully.

I especially don’t want them feeling embarrassed about their roots, or their accents, so whether it’s a royal occasion or a sporting event where England are represented and the Scots, as usual, are not, the flags and the bunting come out. And it may have been limited to our driveway, but we can proudly boast that this village’s jubilee street party was the most northerly in the British Isles.

“Donna-Marie has issues,” my ten-year-old was telling me, as I hurtled round at the last minute, literally pulling my Olympic baking session out of the fire.

“Oh yeah?”

“Her toys are all black and crispy like your cakes, because she thinks if she starts a fire her dad will have to come and rescue her.”

The aspersion about my baking was, of course, spot on, as stress levels in our kitchen could attest, but it was the insight into Donna-Marie’s mental state that was really hitting home, because she happened to be the daughter of the man I’d recently snared using an ironically similar pyromaniac ploy.

We’d only just moved in when my disastrously poor Rayburn skills resulted in a chimney fire.  Having no man, friends or even neighbours within running distance, I dialled 999, though I knew we were forty miles and two stretches of water from the nearest fire appliance.  I was initially surprised when Steve, the village postman, arrived with a bucket of sand, but it turned out he was not only the auxiliary firefighter for our area, but also the coastguard, carpenter, fencing contractor and undertaker. No sooner had he effortlessly brought the flue under control than I was plying him with my homemade merlot, and that’s when I started to find out all the other things my handsome saviour was good at.

I didn’t want to start an affair with a married man, but Steve hadn’t been living with Donna-Marie and her mum for some time by then.  He was officially in one of the chalets at the head of the voe, though everyone could soon see his car being parked at our place two or three nights a week. I made sure always to take the hill road above the chalets when exercising our gelding, in order to check his car was where it was supposed to be on all the other nights. Why would I worry?  Only because of the warning I had received from Rena, my confidante and moral guardian on the committee, about Steve’s history as the local stud.  I comforted myself that the definition of promiscuity in a place like this was probably quite draconian, but it was hard to know how much the whole affair was down to the post break-up horror of being alone on my side, and the aphrodisiac qualities of my wine on Steve’s (‘beer goggles’ I believe they’re called – every man should have them fitted as standard). Another reason this teas meant so much to me was that it was to be the first occasion at which he and I would be officially appearing together in public.

Leaving aside the psychological damage I was doing his, and my own, children, and the possibility of being burnt at the stake as a stuck-up English harridan, I gathered my Olympic cake collection in tupperware boxes.  Given past performance, it seemed barely credible that only a few of my cupcakes were blackened and not a single meringue had imploded, but I had clearly peaked at just the right moment.  I got the kids to help me string bunting along the eaves of the hall and hang the union jack above the door.  So used to seeing the local emblem everywhere, my daughter asked if we shouldn’t be raising the Shetland flag.

“On most occasions yes, darling, but Shetland isn’t in the Olympics. It’s part of Great Britain.”

By kick-off time, Rena had come up trumps with a massive supply of sandwiches and Wilhemina was ready at the electric urn. I was hoping Steve would be there promptly in order to do the tea and coffee top-ups, but after twenty minutes I was starting to wonder if anyone at all would appear.  That’s when we noticed smoke from outside and found Donna-Marie standing at the end of the building inspecting her handiwork – some charred bunting. I was about to congratulate myself on having at least had the good sense to buy fire-retardant decorations, when I realised the union jack was missing.

“Oh my God.”

I had followed Donna-Marie’s excited gaze to my car, where the burning flag was protruding from the fuel cap. I don’t remember the detonation that left me unconscious against the outside of the building.

Though I was just in for 24 hours as a standard precaution, Rena brought the children to see me in hospital.  My son consoled me that it was just as well we hadn’t sold a single Olympic cake, since the whole event would have constituted a massive breach of copyright.  Apparently, the Olympic committee were not prepared to countenance their logo appearing on the merest and most northerly scrap of even the most patriotic icing, so we could all have ended up in the dock – ‘every cloud’ and all that. Steve also popped in, though only long enough to tell me he was going back to Darlene.  The police had been to see them and there were going to be social workers and counsellors to help get Donna-Marie back on the straight and narrow.  Funnily, when Steve mentioned his other half’s name, a certain penny dropped.  All those wine-soaked nights when I thought he was whispering ‘darling’ to me in that quaint island accent, he had actually been slurring his wife’s name into my bosom.

My eyebrows have grown back now, there’s a new car in the drive and surprisingly little awkwardness when Steve delivers the mail. We’ve agreed our relationship was part of a desperate phase when we were neither of us in our right minds.   I have replaced the flag that proved such an effective touch paper and still intend to fly the new one now and again, though perhaps with more realistic expectations about how many others might be expected to rally round it.  One of a few early signs that there may even be turncoats in my own ranks was when my son went to a Scotland rugby game whilst on a trip south with friends. Unsurprisingly, they lost.

“Get used to it,” I warned him.

“It’s not always about winning, is it Mum?” he said.

“For Scotland, it hardly ever is,” I replied.   “And don’t tell me lunchbox art isn’t competitive.”

But my smile was not a mocking one, because I could sense that if anyone was going to have an identity crisis in our house it was most likely to be me, which was fine. As long as everyone else ends up sane, my karmic Olympic flame will be burning bright.