Join Another Club, Bridge (pun intended)

This morning they broadcast one of those news stories that made me unsure whether to laugh or to fling my porridge at the stereo like a belligerent 95-year-old. It wasn’t about the refugee crisis or Donald Trump, which was a nice change – it was about a debate that’s raging about whether Bridge should be considered a sport by Sport England.

Bridge as in, cards.

Someone interviewed argued, quite rightly, that bridge is exercise for the mind. It keeps the human brain fit and healthy, and I should probably learn it so I can actually make it to 95. Thing is, though, it requires virtually no physical movement. So when I heard the bulletin, I thought ‘writing a book is brain exercise and it’s fucking hard, no one’s giving away Olympic medals for that’. I’ve given it some thought and here are things that do count as physical exercise:

  • Looking after a small child who has recently learnt to move independently
  • Looking after animals of various sizes who move about independently
  • Working in industries that require one to carry, move and/or shelve items, and to engage in physical exercise after which one is out of breath
  • Sex (assuming afterwards you’re out of breath, haha)
  • Actual Olympic sports

Here are physical activities that  count less as strenuous exercise and more as general movement, the engagement of which is of course important for your health:

  • Standing at one’s desk or a counter for a long time
  • Walking down the shops
  • Getting the door when it goes
  • Visiting the fridge
  • Dealing packs of cards and/or holding them

I mean, I could count typing and having a standing desk as my daily exercise, but it sure as shit isn’t going to make me as fit as professional gymnastics (bet the funding’s about the same though).  Plenty of people sit down for a length of time and use their muscles to hold pieces of paper. Writers, artists, teachers, admin assistants… no one’s campaigning for us to get into Sport England. But bridge is a big part of the lives of a lot of people and should be recognised as a healthy past time. So here is my suggestion:

Make a new Sport England and call it Thought England. Activities could include bridge, chess, battleships, noughts and crosses, origami, writing, puzzle assembling, watercolours, the crossword… all the cool stuff people start when they’re retired and should have started earlier to ward off dementia. That way the best thinkers in the country get to compete and show off their talents and the best athletes get to compete and show off their talents. Separately, because they’re two separate disciplines that just happen to both require discipline.

We could have world record holders for the first people to hold gold medals in long distance running and poker, or 10m diving and crochet. Think about it. I’m going to go read up on how to play bridge.


Olympics Post I: Transport, Toilets and the Villiage

Yesterday my family and I went to the London Olympics to watch athletics. I pretended to be a journalist and kept a diary throughout the trip… This is the first half of it – I wrote too much to include it al in one post. The second part will be online tomorrow!

Wednesday 7th August 2012, 12:45pm

We have boarded the train for Liverpool Street after a fit over clothing, a taxi ride and a mini-panic at the ticket office regarding Cheap Olympic Train Tickets if You Can Prove You Aren’t a Fraud, or something. The clothes panic involved a conundrum regarding the state of my wardrobe and the Great British Weather. I look more Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge than ‘Three Cheers for Team GB’, but at least my shoes are comfy.


We have stopped somewhere outside Romford because, according to the driver, the train in front has a problem and is at the station. The journey has been relatively uneventful, actually, with a surprising amount of empty seats and Dad pointing out that the Velodrome and its adjacent buildings look like the USS Enterprise.

He has a point. [In this fortnight’s issue of Private Eye it was pointed out that Sir Chris Hoy looks not unlike a certain James T. Kirk. A conspiracy?]


We are on the move again. I am pleasantly surprised that we didn’t need to get comfy for several hours. I approve, Network Rail.


We arrive at Stratford and at the command of a voice on the tannoy, hit a ‘subway’ (a tunnel) and some escalators. Everywhere is ‘WESTFIELD!’, ‘London 2012!’, pink! We emerge outside the park and are ushered down more walkways by volunteers alternating between Aerosmith and the reminder nor to take liquids through security.

  Our tickets get checked a few times before we go through a metal detector, presumably to sort out the riff-raff.

  My grandmother, whose pacemaker prevents her from going through the metal detector, trots off and we go through another detector while our bags go through an X-ray machine. The officials, who are a mix of volunteers, Army and Air Force, are far more helpful [I think I meant ‘friendly’ in retrospect] than airport security ever have been. Our tickets are checked once more – scanned this time – we collect my grandmother and make our way to onto a concourse.

By this time – since we stepped off the train, in fact – we are surrounded by every type of person from every type of country. Australians, Dutch, Americans, Spanish and the French are all identifiable by their outfits, and I spot a dwarf and a handicapped volunteer. There are wheelchairs, pushchairs, mobility scooters and giant golf buggies for people who, er, didn’t want to walk.


After programme buying, a trip to the toilets and a queue at the ladies (surprise! Although the facilities, by public-use standards, weren’t too bad), we go on Mission Find a Food Place. It isn’t difficult, with kiosk-type buildings offering Indian, a deli and a chippy, and the world’s largest McDonald’s. Since we are here celebrating my grandmother’s eightieth birthday and everyone wants to sit somewhere with seats, we go to a ‘seafood and champagne’ place.

  Considering it’s in a tent only slightly more insulated than the local garden show (okay, maybe not. There’s floors and doors.) and I don’t eat much because I’ve been ill, it’s pretty good. The staff are lovely and what I do eat (some sort of salad-y thing with an egg on top) is great.

So’s the fish wallpaper [My picture came out fuzzy, Google it.] and the people watching. A waitress at another table tells customers that they make fifty thousand quid here; every table is used, multiple times – so I’m assuming she means per day.

If that doesn’t start making a dent in the billions of pounds of debt the universe is in for building these Games, I don’t know what will.


We finish eating and Mum, Nana and I take another trip to the ladies. We are not as impressed with this block, as there are doors missing from frames, a lack of soap and, in my cubicle, a lack of sanitary towel bin. Trust me, that can make or break a lady’s experience of the Olympics.


We spend a happy half an hour in the gift shop. I saved money for here since we got the bid in 2005 and spent the lot (sixty quid. No mean feat for a nine-year-old). I am now the proud owner of a Team GB bracelet, a multi-flag flag, jogging bottoms and a 2012/13 diary. I am a bit miffed to discover that it only leads up to July next year, but it has old Olympic posters on it, so.

   The only disappointments have been the t-shirts with specific sports on and the crap music. I hate tennis, water polo, running, etc., and I heard an F word in a song! There are children about, jeez. In the same song, there was ‘nigger’. There are ex-Empire spectators present, jeez.

I know nothing about rap, so I’ll blame Kanye.


Maxim and Dad go to the Mini/BMW exhibition and Mum, Nana and I sit in a ‘garden’ – a bench near some grass and carefully cultivated wildflowers.

  A phone call from Dad sends us into the exhibition. We are issued with luminous bracelets (see above) and look at a larger-than-the-name-dictates Mini. We are nearly sent into a phone box by an attendant to record some cheering. We don’t fancy this, and since Dad and Maxim have disappeared into a cinema or to oggle more cars, we leave.


Strawberries and waffles time! The queue is tremendous and it turns out the sign for ‘cake and cookies’ is for the wrong kiosk. Mum is not impressed.

The weather has become rather nice. Quite warm, in fact…

A few overheard gems:

  • [Posh English accent] “It wasn’t like this at Wimbledon, was it?”
  • [Another posh English accent] “When I came last week for the equestrian…”
  • [Tannoy] “Ladies and gentlemen, Stratford station is currently very busy and we strongly recommend using the fastest way into central London via West Ham.”

It was too easy to assume the transport wouldn’t go wrong, wasn’t it.


Time to go to the Stadium!