Saturday, 8 September 2012

Cork: Irish chill out time

My initial impressions of Cork are the people are very friendly and the drivers drive very fast.We stayed at the Clarion hotel, very near to the main shopping area and had a fairly chilled out time.  

Brilliant successes were Little E's new found love of swimming after daily dips in the pool.  A lovely Irish stew at the thriving English Market place as well as a sack of pink chocolate pigs bought at the fabulous chocolate stall which little E was delighted with.  A visit to the very peaceful wildlife park in Fota, with kangeroos, peacocks and mara's running free. The sun. The river. The glasses of pinot grigo by the river. Indulgent fat boy breakfasts, bookshop browsing, window shopping all the independant stores and the lovely park and grounds of Cork museum.
Less good was the picture of me in the pool looking like a eastern european shot putter circa 1980 not to mention the compulsory black swimming caps me and my sister had to wear and that aged us ten years. Heaving luggage, buggy and a small child on and off Ryanair and through the airport.  The difficulty booking a taxi with a child's car seat.  If I hear 'Just strap him in and I'll drive carefully' or any variation thereof I will scream.
I have visited Cork a couple of times before, once to give a presentation on a European project which teamed the Isle of Wight with Cork and once a fleeting visit when me and JJ cycled from Cork to Kerry for charity totally beautiful countryside and I still remember the huge tent full of cakes at the end of each 40 - 60 mile cycle each day. The tour of Ireland was on and Sean Kelly and the peleton flew past us.   It was simultaneously wet, sunny  and green and how you imagine Ireland to be. Now Pembrokeshire has teamed with Ireland on another economic project and I must admit it is hard to see the similarities.

All in all a lovely time with opportunities to chat and catch up with the family. I will certainly go back.


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Paralympics at Greenwich Park

So here we are back to post a little sooner than expected.  The equestrian paralympics at Greenwich Park was totally fab. Apparently there were 10,000 spectators and afterwards in a television interview it  was commented that this in itself was an adjustment for the horses and riders who are used to mainly being watched by the other teams.  Consequently some of the horses were a bit spooked.  This is all new to me, but the reason for bringing  a second horse into the arena is so the competing horse can see his buddy and feel reassured.  Which is a good thing as some of these were quite skittish when they came out.  Two riders were eliminated after failing to have control of their horses for more than 20 seconds.  This was heart breaking to see.  Witnessing it in person makes it even more poignant than seeing it on television.  So much hard work geared up to just five minutes in the arena. Gutting when it doesn't go to plan. I found myself welling up as Grace Bowman put her hands to her face and Antonella Cecilia briefly buried her face in her horses mane in distress.

Natasha Baker for Great Britain

When the horse above came out there was a ripple of laughter, compared to the other well manicured horses it did have the appearance of a cart horse with its big fluffy feet and tail.

We were lucky enough to see the session where Natasha Baker made her debut for GB and won gold.  So much flag waving and whooping went on, not to mention a stadium mexican wave. We went back to Pips in the afternoon and watched Lea Pearson on television get silver after winning nine gold medals at previous Olympics. His horse seemed to have been particularly affected by the crowds which is a huge shame for him and the only downside to seeing the paralympics so warmly supported.

Lea Pearson said in the papers this week: "I am just so proud of Britain, to get the crowds we have got at all of the venues and a sell out with the tickets is phenomenal." Having bronze busts made of him, and documentaries made about him was "all lovely and fluffy", but he added that the real victory of these Games was the increased visibility of disabled sports and athletes. "Public perception has changed and we are household names now,".

I would certainly agree with that.