29 April 2012

Prejudice before the Pride

Sunday’s are made for the simple pleasures in life, like the morning read of the newspapers and lazy trawl through the blogs for hair inspiration and celebrity gossip. It’s for reflecting on the week past, scrutinizing the annoyances at work, the food you shouldn’t have eaten, the gym you should have attended more, but the fun you had with the girls on that rare night out. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged with any regularity and so much has happened. I have to start by updating you on news from home and my growing obsession with London’s effervescent fashion scene, the Olympics and modern architecture. Random you say, but alas on this reflective Sunday these were the highlights of my week.
I always thought that the expression of one’s national pride to be a bit peculiar – we’re not American and frankly all that flag waving and tearful singing of the star spangled banner is a bit melodramatic and very un- British. In modern Europe that kind of carry on is easily mistaken for nationalism – in the eugenics sense of the word. I’m not sure if it’s class snobbery (the only exception being in honour of the Royal family) or my immigrant heritage, but effusing a pride in being British, when I’m forever asked ‘where are you from?’ by the virtue of my skin colour, doesn’t bode well for national pride.

Even against the backdrop of a staunchly sporting household where football was the only dialogue that bonded us to our father, the notion of singing the national anthem as the boys lined up for a qualifying match (to this day the only line I know is ‘God save our Queen’), waving a flag from my window or generally purporting a value in being British was unimaginable.
Recently something has changed... Maybe it’s my appreciation of the refreshing dynamism of the UK, maybe it’s the fact that London is the host city for the biggest sporting event on earth (and there isn’t an advert on TV, selling toilet roll or life insurance, that doesn’t reference the Olympic Games and the greatness of the UK); maybe I’m less stuffy and don’t think a flag means you’re a right wing extremist, maybe it’s because when I look at the start line of an England football match, no-one asks the black boys (who form the majority of the team) where they are from? it’s emblazoned on their backs; or maybe it’s my age, but I feel so proud to be a Londoner.

During London’s Fashion Week when Anna Wintour effusively praised the dynamism and ingenuity of our first class designers, I thought I was going to implode. After two weeks in Dubai earlier this month where I experienced the worst in consumerism, capitalism and uniformity, it was refreshing to see the intrinsic creativity of Londoners recognised by fashions aficionado. Although my wallet can’t stretch to much, as Dame Vivienne would say, ‘it’s best to invest in one or two pieces that you’ll love, will last forever and become part of you, rather than become one of the indistinguishable masses.’ She’s right .... It’s always a little awkward when you find yourself in the same clothes as your teenage niece or the kids on the bus.
Then something else magical happened to invigorate my love for this city. I got to go inside the Aquatics Centre (Olympic speak for swimming pool), which in my opinion will be one of the gems in the London Games. The Park is ready and looking good, but before the big event kicks off in July they’re hosting test events, which I was lucky enough to get a ticket for. As fashionistas, I know you’ll appreciate all things beautiful, from fashion to fine design.... The Aquatics Centre is the brain child of Iraqi born, London embraced architect Zaha Hadid. Designed to look like a stingray/ or wave crashing against the shore (depends on your perspective), it is a spectacular feat of modern engineering and is phenomenally designed with the spectator in mind- so no columns impeding your view, in fact it just appears to float on its own axis. 

Then there is the imposingly rugged stadium in the background built by Sir Robert McAlpine. It’s not as spectacular as the Aquatics but it better reflects the industrial working class heritage of east London. And lastly in my sight line is the Turner winning artist, Anish Kapoor’s 150ft spiralling steel viewing tower, the Orbit (which has understandably been confused for an elaborate helter skelter); it puts modern art at the helm of our Olympics, indicative of this country’s love and appreciation of art and culture, even in the most unlikely of places - like an Olympic Park.

So here I stand, a fully fledged convert, ready to profess my pride to anyone who’ll listen. All it took was a pair of Vivienne Westwood heels and the whiff of Usain Bolt running on a track near me. Oh and my guilty pleasure will be scrutinizing what our future Queen, Kate our current Queen of style Victoria Beckham will wear to the opening ceremony. I know they’ll do us proud.  

Calamity Jane


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