After my Southwark Walk on Good Friday, my Hyde Park walk on Saturday, and a wonderfully lazy Easter Sunday, I finished off the long weekend on Easter Monday (17th April) with a stroll around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, which is very local to me. I actually went there with a friend last year, but we only covered a very tiny area as we didn’t spend a lot of time there. So I wanted to have a more extensive walk around, and that’s what I did on this occasion. And even then I know there are bits I missed, it’s so huge.
If you’ve seen my School Days video, you’ll know I used to be a member of a local sports club for disabled people when I was a kid. So, as well as doing sports at school, I would also take part in lots of swimming galas around England, from Darlington in the north, to Plymouth in the south, and lots of other places in between.
There were people with lots of different disabilities at those events, so to try and make things as equal as possible, they would either try and group people with similar conditions together in each event, or the competitors in each race would start at different times (from slowest first, to fastest last), based on their personal best times. The theory being that the finish of each race would be quite close, although often that never really held true.
In any case, I won a lot of medals and a few trophies over those years. And it got to a point where I was offered the chance to train for the national disabled swimming team. But I decided not to take it any further. I wasn’t sufficiently interested or motivated to take it to a more professional level, instead having my sights on things like my exams, university and my career beyond that.
I didn’t even know about the Paralympics back then. If I had been aware of it, and if it had been as widely covered as it is now, and if the right support, coaching and funding had been available, maybe I’d have thought differently, who knows? But at the time, I was more interested in other things. And I don’t regret my decision at all, I’ve been very successful on the route I did take through life. But when you watch the kind of performances that we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, it’s impossible not to wonder how things could have been, potentially, with the right drive and determination.
This past week I spent a couple of days in London with a friend. Just a brief visit, but we had a lovely time. It was my first time in the city for a few years – I used to go up there two or three times a year when I was a kid, because we had relatives there, but over the past 5-10 years the visits have been much more sporadic. Hopefully I’ll actually be living there soon (crosses fingers), so this was also a preliminary visit to re-familiarise myself with the area and see what it was like getting around the place.