Faster, Higher, Stronger… We’re Going To The Olympics!!

We said we wouldn’t go. That it was too expensive. That the lottery mechanics for tickets was absolute nonsense. That it was obvious we wouldn’t get anything. But things turned out differently as somehow we got caught in the excitement. So inevitably, on April 26th 2011 at 23h44, we lost it to the curiosity of knowing where our taxes go the marketing pressure (“the event of the century”, “a unique occasion”, “an unforgettable moment” etc) and we applied for tickets. Lots of talks, calendar pages being turned and finally we click on “Send”. Athletics (twice, as we really wanted to see the stadium), Beach Volleyball, Gymnastics, Handball and Swimming. £916 if we get it all… Shame on me as I work in Marketing and really should have seen the trick.

Eventually, after a long silence from the organisers, a fair amount of controversy (all these people who, a bit like us actually, got carried away and might not have enough funds to cover the cost of all the tickets they applied for; the lottery that takes your money and only tells you a month later what you actually got; the stories about cheap tickets being sold in Germany…) and last-minute savings, we got the confirmation: we have tickets for Handball and Beach Volleyball. No Athletics, which is a shame, but with two events out of the six we applied for, we really can’t complain! Especially as the probability of being disappointed was really high, with around 6.6 million tickets available and 20 million tickets applied for!

And finally a few weeks ago, we receive our tickets. Everything’s been such a whirlwind since last Summer that we had pretty much forgotten we were going, and it’s a miracle we haven’t accepted a wedding/dog birthday/bbq/fruit-picking/other invite on those dates! It’s now just a week before our first event, Beach Volleyball. Hmmmm, fit guys in shorts exerting themselves in the sand… Sounds good to me! Well, apart from the other game in that session, with fit ladies wearing the tiniest square-centimeterage of fabric, jumping up and down for Darling Chéri’s enjoyment… Oh, how I hate compromise! And then we’ll have the Men’s Handball quarter finals, I’m hoping to be lucky enough to see the French team (but then, they are the current champions so it’s likely they’ll fold under the pressure and go out at the group stages in the true French style).

Strangely I have to admit that despite all the themed adverts, media reports, torch relay broadcast, Boris messages on the Tube etc, my excitement for the event isn’t quite what I was hoping it’d be at this stage, although I’m pretty sure it will all get into gear tonight with the Opening Ceremony (and a few beers). And on the plus side it means I have resisted buying any of the countless Olympics-branded key rings, mascot plush toys, t-shirts, caps, towels, drawstring bags, wallets, Monopoly games, commemorative coins, jigsaw puzzles, toy London cabs and routemasters, cufflinks, snow globes and the inevitable rubber ducks that have invaded shops recently (actually, the list goes on but I think you get the gist – someone got a bit carried away with the branding plan!).

Oh! Who am I kidding? I am so getting that little rowing duck with its cool shades! And it will sit nicely next to my Wills & Kate biscuit tin and Silver Jubilee mug! (and yes, I still work in Marketing so I should know better.)

How about you? Are you excited / not bothered / annoyed about the Olympics?

Close Your Eyes, You Are In Provence…

At the week-end a couple of my friends came for lunch. It was the first time they visited since we’ve moved house so we had a customary tour of the place (loose lining paper, picture rails hanging off walls and areas covered in “protective” newspaper, what a sight!) and then settled in the kitchen to enjoy the aperitif while I was finishing to cook lunch. It was a lovely day so I decided to mirror the blue sky with some sunshine in our plates, looking at Provence for some inspiration. I will post the lunch recipe later (mustard and feta crusted lamb with roasted vegetables) but I completely forgot to take a picture! So we started with a typical southern drink – and no, it wasn’t pastis! – le vin d’orange, orange wine. It is something my mother and her friends and family would usually prepare in April/May, ready to open in June (in the South of France Summer does not wait until mid-July to show up).

For 2.25L
Prep: 15 minutes, 6-8 weeks in advance

Ingredients:

3 bottles of rosé wine. No need to go expensive, you will add flavour to it!
0.45L vodka (or white fruit alcohol)
350g white sugar
4 oranges
1 vanilla pod
1 cinnamon stick
3 tbsp lemon juice
4 cloves

Method:

– In a large airtight container, mix the wine, vodka, sugar and spices.
– Cut the oranges in quarters and add them to the mix.
– Add the lemon juice, mix well and close the container.
– Let it macerate for 6 to 8 weeks in a cool dark place. Every week check on the container and mix gently to ensure the sugar dissolves properly.
– After about 6 to 8 weeks, carefully filter the wine, ideally through a muslin (or a coffee filter, although that takes longer), and bottle.

Serve chilled for a very summery aperitif!