Amy Fox

Writer. Editor. Bad at blogging.


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On a changing world

When I walked into my office on Wednesday 9th November, 2016, I looked at my fellow writer, Alex, and I had nothing to say.

He looked at me. A pause.

“Our job is more important now, Amy,” he said.

*

When I had woken up that morning and rolled over and looked at my phone, I saw the same thing that shocked millions of people all around the world: despite all the evidence against him, despite every despicable thing he had said and done, despite multiple accusations of assault, Donald Trump had been elected President of America.

I didn’t feel the crushing horror that I felt at that same moment in June, when I realised Brexit was happening. A part of me knew that we would leave the EU then, and I was devastated to learn that I was right.

But in a million years, I never thought America would elect Trump. I was so sure. I kept telling people: it won’t happen. I’m sure it won’t happen. Looking at the news that day, I just felt numb.

I did the things I always do in the morning. I switched on Radio 4. I made myself a cup of tea. I ate breakfast. As I put on my makeup, I listened to Trump say that he would be a president “for all Americans” and I shuddered. I put down my lipstick. What’s the point? I picked it up again. (Lipstick makes me feel strong, and now more than ever, I needed to be strong.)

*

I stopped feeling numb, eventually. I felt desperately sad. Then I felt determined to do something. Then I felt scared. Then I felt hopeless. Then I felt tired.

I still feel tired.

But in the months since that day, my thoughts have become clearer. And there are three things that I’ve decided to believe in, in this new, angry, divisive world. They are obvious, and idealistic, and a bit schmaltzy. But all the same, I’m writing them here as a record, a reminder, and a plan.

1) Love. I keep thinking about this interview with Antoine Leiris, and his absolute refusal to have any room for hate in his life. There were tweets that Wednesday mournfully declaring that hate won, sexism won, racism won, homophobia won. It didn’t. I refuse to have any room for them. We’re all still here, our beliefs haven’t changed, and we have to keep looking after each other.

2) Truth. There’s been a lot of talk about “post-truth” politics in the last year. I do not agree with it. The truth still exists. Things still happen. Facts are still facts. And around the world, activists and journalists are working constantly and fearlessly to shine a light on them. Sometimes people don’t believe them, but that doesn’t change what is true. Sometimes they are horrible, but that should not mean that we look away. Alex’s words to me on that bleak Wednesday morning have stayed with me. We write, every day, for a news website that is read by thousands of teenagers. And our job is more important now. We have a responsibility to tell them the truth, as fairly as we can, without losing hope. And then they can make up their own minds.

3) Action. There’s a lot of work to do over the next few years. Things will need protesting, and things will need protecting. But we can all do small things, whether that’s donating money to causes that need it, making our voices heard at protests, contacting our local politicians, supporting the most vulnerable people, or being there for our friends when they need us.

I wish I had more concrete answers. But most change is incremental. It’s lots of small things building up over time to create something huge. That will be true of Trump’s time in power. It’s also true of how to stop him.

Be safe. Be well. Look after yourself.


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Last Friday

Two things happened on Friday last week. One of them, you probably already know about.

It feels somehow inappropriate to be blogging about the attacks on Paris. I feel a deep sense of sorrow and sympathy for the city, one that it’s impossible to really express. It’s awful whenever anywhere is attacked, but the symbolism resonates. This is a city of enlightenment, love, fashion, wine. But I wasn’t there, I’m not an expert – I’m not even French.

Yet I have written so much about Paris during my working day, listened to radio reports from the Place de la République as I applied my make up each morning, turned it over in my mind as I stirred pasta at dinnertime. It’s in my head. It’s in my heart.

I won’t feel done until I write about it for myself.

So. The other thing that happened on Friday, hours before the attacks began, is that I sat and read Carry On, the new teenage wizarding school fantasy novel with an LGBT twist by Rainbow Rowell.

(“Is this a trivial addition to a serious topic?” you might ask. I would argue not. But my postulations about the importance of teenage pop culture probably are, so I’ll leave them for another time.)

On the surface, Carry On is a self-aware, but still slightly awkward, re-hash of all the magical ‘chosen one’ stories ever written. But once you get past the opening chapters (“Oh, this must be the Hermione character… Look, now we’re at Hogwarts sort of”) there is a compelling love story, and an interesting take on corruption, power, us vs. them mentalities, and how to beat a shifting, terrifying enemy which is intent on destroying the very soul of your society.

Right at the end, a song is mentioned by name: Nick Cave’s ‘Into My Arms’.

I opened YouTube on my phone, and played it as I finished off the final few pages.

And although I’d heard it before, it had never gotten under my skin the way it did then. The deep, mournful vocals wrapped themselves around me, while the light piano promised some kind of hope.

I’ve been playing it almost on repeat ever since – whenever I get a moment alone, through headphones if I’m at work, at least twice as I go to bed.

I’m not religious. I haven’t been for a long time. But playing this song feels closer a prayer than anything I’ve felt in years.

Be safe, it says. Be loved. There is a path.

I’m not saying, obviously, that Nick Cave or Rainbow Rowell have the answer to Islamic State. But time and again at work this week, we’ve returned to the same questions as we cover the attacks:

Is there a way to win this that doesn’t involve hate?

If the enemy is calling you to come and fight them, if it craves a violent response above all else – do you have a duty to refuse to give it to them?

I don’t know.

But I believe in love.

And I’m not going to stop asking.


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The top five things I love about myself: why every woman deserves a list

Learning to get past your insecurities and love yourself is a long and difficult process, but the rewards when you succeed make it all worthwhile.

"Loving myself isn't arrogance or self-importance – it's the only way I know how to keep going." Photo: Amy Adams

“Loving myself isn’t arrogance or self-importance – it’s the only way I know how to keep going.” Photo: Amy Adams

“I don’t understand why I suddenly had a crisis about fancying women,” I was telling my housemate Ollie about a particularly weird night out. “I mean, fancying women is one of my top five things about myself.”

This – admittedly slightly outlandish – statement was met with confusion. “Top five things? Is that normal?” he asked.

“Yeah,” my other housemate Hattie chipped in. “Mine are like, four personality quirks, and then either my butt or my boobs, depending on the time of the month.”

“EXACTLY.”

It wasn’t always like this. I’ve only recently had a list, and I’ve only had the capacity to make a list for a little longer than that.

I was constantly told that I was a beautiful child, but like all women in the UK, by the time I was older I had been raised in a society which simultaneously told me I was too unimportant to speak, and too boring if I didn’t.

By 13, my nose had grown quicker than the rest of me, and one of the cool kids told me that if I sat on the back seat of a bus, I could drive it with my face.

It’s stupid – of COURSE it’s stupid – it’s a story I love to tell after a lot of wine when I’m laughing about how far I’ve come since school. But when I was sitting at that table at that age, I felt hurt and humiliated and I couldn’t tell anyone about it later because I knew the only normal reaction to such a ridiculous statement was more ridicule.

Those experiences continued, and when you’re young it’s hard to separate the idea that you’re ugly from the idea that the rest of you is worth nothing as a result. Our appearance is so tied up with our self-worth, that being a good person can feel pointless if you’re not beautiful too. It took years to unlearn the lesson that I was ugly and uncool and I didn’t matter. I had to move to university; I had to have my heart broken and survive stronger than before; I had to buy a killer red lipstick.

Loving myself isn’t arrogance or self-importance – or at least not entirely – it’s the only way I know how to keep going, and it didn’t come easily. The first time you look in the mirror and tell yourself you look hot, it seems like a joke. But you have to keep kidding yourself until it starts to feel true. Most people can find something they like about themselves, even if it’s just their favourite outfit, so there’s always somewhere to start.

And once your confidence is built up, other areas of your life might start to make sense too. When your own insecurities begin to fade, it’s harder to let people treat you badly, because you know you deserve better. It’s also easier to forgive and have sympathy for the mistakes of others, which are so often caused by insecurities. After all, you’ve been there. Now that you’ve got some distance from that mindset, you can fully appreciate how toxic it can be. And of course there’s no need to explain the difference that a little extra confidence can make in a job interview or on a first date.

“I know” has become my standard reply to a colleague saying how great my outfit is. But after a while, it became more than just self-affirmation. It became a mantra. I don’t just love myself, I love the idea of loving myself, and so should every other woman who’s ever been made to feel small. When I snapchat my face with the words “look how hot I am!” I’m not just showing off, I’m trying to set an example. I can never get annoyed by girls taking selfies because I just want to give them a standing ovation.

Women, wear that cute dress if it makes you feel great. After all, Christina said it best – you ARE beautiful. And the sooner you know it, the better.


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Coming out to my dad and the art that finally fixed things

On Father’s Day, Amy Adams explores how coming out to her dad first strained, and then strengthened their relationship.

"Any LGBTQ person will tell you that you don't just come out once - you do it over and over again"

“Any LGBTQ person will tell you that you don’t just come out once – you do it over and over again”

There is a picture in my father’s house of two dancers. The piece was at the centre of an installation by the art duo Faile, and presented by the New York City Ballet in 2013. It shows a tattooed blonde woman in a red dress kneeling on the floor, embracing the bare legs of a ballerina. It is a striking depiction of female love and lust, and it holds the central position in the hallway of my conservative Christian father’s home.

Any LGBTQ person will tell you that you don’t just come out once – you do it over and over again. Every time you open up to a new friend or family member it feels like jumping off a cliff. Even when it’s someone who you know will love you anyway, who already suspected, even if they are LGBTQ themselves. There’s a point you reach when the other person knows you’re about to say something important, when you know you can’t turn back but somehow you can’t let the words out either. There’s a liminal space where almost anything could happen. Then you jump.

And every time that person smiles, and nods, and comforts you, or squeals, and hugs you, and then gets mad that you didn’t tell them sooner, it feels like a parachute opening. You’re safe this time, you can enjoy the ride down – the view is breathtaking, why were you ever nervous in the first place?

When your feet are back on the ground, you remember why. Next time, there might not be another parachute.

Of course, it’s not always so dramatic. Sometimes they’re little jumps – switching the word “partner” for “girlfriend” when talking to a colleague, or holding hands in front of strangers in a restaurant.

For me, the biggest risk was telling my dad. We have a fantastic relationship, but we’re too similar for our own good. We both get to work half an hour before everyone else, because we’d rather wake up early than sit in traffic. We make the same bad jokes at the same inappropriate moments. And, critically, we’d rather do anything than tell each other about our feelings.

I came out to my stepmother a whole week before I could be honest with my dad. Living proof of the inaccuracy of fairy tales, she was nothing but excited for me. I had expected her to help me form a plan, but I could never have anticipated that she would be clapping her hands and bouncing in her seat.

My dad took it harder – I don’t blame him for that, he was raised in a strict religious and homophobic environment but he loves me enough not to let that get in the way. He couldn’t say that he was happy for me though, just that he would never want to lose me. That was enough, it’s more than a lot of people get, and life continued much as it always had from that point on.

A couple of months later, I opened the front door and was greeted by the picture – Les Ballets de Faile. The house has quite a lot of art, but this very beautiful, very queer canvas was given centre stage.

“Does Dad know it’s about lesbians?” I stage whispered to my brother later that evening.

“We’ve decided not to tell him.”

It became a bit of an inside joke. More comfortable now in my queerness, and out to almost everyone, I loved to tell the story of my dad’s slip up. If that comes across cruel, you should know that we’re talking about a man who was devastated when he accidentally rented A Single Man, believing it was a spy movie, and instead left pondering Colin Firth’s existential crisis as a grieving homosexual professor in cold war America. This picture perching brazenly atop the stairs was nothing short of hilarious.

Time passed. I graduated, I got a job, I moved house twice in nine months. And last Christmas I was visiting home when I brought the picture up again. It was a lazy joke by this point, but my brother looked at me with surprise.

“Didn’t I tell you? Dad knows exactly what it means.”

“He does?”

“It’s for you,” he said. “[Our stepmum] told me. He bought it because he wanted to let you know that he accepted, you know, who you are.”

And it all began to make sense. Of course my dad knew what he was doing – no one who collects contemporary art could miss the meanings behind them. If nothing else, he would have researched the piece before he bought it. I mean, come on – one of the women is literally looking up the other’s skirt.

Sometimes we have to find other ways of making the leap. Sometimes when you’re looking someone in the eye, the words you need to say just aren’t there, and that’s okay. There are other ways of telling someone how you feel. Offer them a cup of tea, let them take the biggest slice of cake, check their tyres before they drive long distance. Just don’t let your love go to waste.

Thank you, Dad, and happy father’s day.


NB. I sent this piece to my dad before publication, out of respect for his privacy. He came back with the following two notes:

“Firstly you should know that, while that picture is 99% a message to you, it’s in that exact position because it’s also a message to everyone who walks through the front door. Secondly, the joke’s on you because it was hilarious watching you all squirm.”


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Quick post: weekend in Wales

Well I wasn’t kidding about keeping up the blog, and I had a fantastic response to the last post, so thank you! Thank you especially To Adam Tinworth, who actually wrote a post about me writing a post about him. Blogception.

However, the next one I’m working on is proving slightly more time-consuming and complicated than I expected – and I am also graduating this week, so there my be an unexpected delay.

So here, instead, are some pretty pictures of Southerndown in South Wales, where I spent my weekend. It was pretty beautiful.

Southerndown

Southerndown

 

Sea

Sea

 

Barbecuing at sunset

Barbecuing at sunset

As a Midlands girl, I still get extremely excited about being on a beach, or near the sea at all. There’s something pretty breathtaking about reaching the very edge.

And, best of all, this particular beach is also the set of this heartbreaking scene (and, I am reliably informed, many others):

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and cry for the days when Doctor Who was still good. Cry like a sad, sad baby.


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A summer which I intend to spend blogging: round two

I am going to start blogging again.

These words are, of course, words that the internet – the poor, content-saturated internet, which must find the idea of sharing and reblogging utterly exhausting – has heard before.

But as I was scrolling through Twitter the other day, a conversation between journalists Mary Hamilton and Adam Tinworth about the importance of blogging started to make me feel guilty. The argument, in summary, was that it is undeniably important to keep writing on the web. It is important creatively, for people who work with words for a living; intellectually, for people who have a lot of ideas and opinions, and for whom writing is a way of refining these; and logically, in a digital world where declaring yourself a writer of any kind without easy-to-find evidence is a pretty avoidable mistake to make.

Also, for reasons I will get to in a minute, I am desperate to write about something that isn’t yarn.

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Find my Friends: magic Marauders Map, or sinister sci-fi?

“I brought you a present,” says my friend Ben, striding confidently into the office of UEA’s student newspaper, Concrete, and presenting me a bar of chocolate. In the middle of one of our fortnightly Sunday evening takeaways – a somewhat tragic, somewhat heartwarming tradition that emerged around halfway through last term – I was surprised and happy to see him. Then again, by 8pm on a Sunday of production weekends, I am surprised and happy to see anyone who has nothing to do with newspapers.

But how did he know I would be there? Not, although you’d be forgiven for thinking so, because that’s the only place I would ever be the day before an issue goes to print. No, he knew where I was because he had tracked me there with an app on his phone.

“Aren’t you glad that you got it?” he asked me a few days later. “I would have had to wait until I next saw you otherwise!”

Continue reading


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The Tube and the Tate: 5 things I learned in London

So after my initial coming-to-London post which, reading back, is laced with just a whiff of an oncoming breakdown, I realise I did not publish anything for two weeks. Probably looks a bit worrying, but I can confirm that I was not swallowed up by the hungry jaws of the city. I even got used to my breeze blocks and empty flat, although I never met the owner of the muller corners in the fridge. I can only assume that there actually was a yoghurt-loving ghost in the room next door.

In truth, I just got so caught up in the day-to-day process of going to work, meeting friends who lived or worked nearby, then going home and going to sleep, that blogging was put on a back burner.

Unlike the Olympics, empty seats are a blessing which you taunt you only by their absence.

However, I am back now, and there’s only a week before I’m back at uni in Norwich and things really do get busy. So here’s some things I learnt in London while I was there:

1. I can read pretty much anywhere.

At peak time in the centre of London, the tube is pretty full, and no one around you is happy about it. Sure, there are some tricks to ease the growing sense of claustrophobia (such as going to the end of the platform and getting on the oft-neglected final carriage). However, sometimes even they don’t prevent you from being squashed in with a bunch of strangers. But even in the smallest of spaces, I could still find room to turn the pages of the first book of my pre-reading for third year: Belinda by Maria Edgeworth (1801). It’s not too bad – it has lots of disease and unhappy marriages, and even some controversial mixed-race unions. (Racy stuff.) Plus, I can now confirm that the questionable decisions of our heroines Belinda and Lady Delacour were just as baffling and socially uncomfortable pressed up against a stranger’s back on a packed Piccadilly train than they were in my room on my own.

2. The Tate gallery is infinitely more fun whist playing spot-the-dick-symbolism.

Now, I’m not one of those people who regularly dismisses and mocks modern art for being “worse than my two-year-old’s”. For one thing, I don’t have a two-year-old. For another, that’s clearly balls, and I actually think a lot of it has the potential to be more emotional and interesting than more traditional stuff.

“Gothic Landscape” by Lee Krasner, painted after her husband Jackson Pollock died in a car crash, was probably my favourite.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s not even more fun to point out every phallic symbol you can find amongst all the other pretentious art critics.

3. Camden Market is as good as everybody says.

Slightly overwhelming when I first stepped into the market, I was soon swept up in the atmosphere and tempted to buy everything I laid my eyes on. Maybe it was the magic of the first time, but I would still rather find something there than Primark. My only complaint was that, for some reason, the legendary Goths who apparently spend all of their time there must have got tired of tourist season and found somewhere more hip to hang out. Sad face.

4. Even the booze is better.

Chando’s may sound like a cross between the two most unappetising words in the contemporary English language (“chunder” and “Nando’s”), but it is actually a pub just off Leicester Square, and it was a beauty. I always feel a little awkward at these fancy hipster pubs which sell a hundred different types of independent beers. I’m not exactly a connoisseur of these things, and the pressure of wanting to order something cool is only added to by the fact that, without my glasses, I can’t read the labels of most of the stuff they sell anyway. Am I supposed to ask the bar staff for recommendations? Make something up which so that they think I know about even more obscure and independent beverages than even they stock? Point at the nearest thing and yell “PINT OF THAT” in a sheer panic? I don’t even like beer anyway! In the end, I usually cave and order vodka and coke because I know that everybody in the world is going to stock it. Then I shuffle back to my table in the shame of my unoriginality. But at Chando’s, their independent hipster vodka and independent hipster coke made it completely worth it. No cheap Asda knockoff and 2-for-1 diet cola will be the same again.

5. If I could find a flatmate, a flat and a job to fund myself after graduation, I’d probably be happy.

Any takers?


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Breeze blocks and single beds: I must be back in halls

From the window I can see a bike rack and an air conditioning machine. I am surrounded by breeze blocks and sitting on a narrow bed. Down the hall, there is a stack of about five different ready meals with my name on them.

That’s right, I have fulfilled a life-long dream and moved to London. The capital city. The centre of the UK journalism and media and all the things I want to be a part of.

Except that it’s only for two weeks and I’m spending it in student halls which really make me appreciate how good I had it in my first year at UEA.

For one thing, I had an en suite then. Let’s not just gloss over that like it ain’t no thing.

For another, in my first year of university I met people who would become some of my closest friends living just down the hall. There appears to be evidence of another human being living here (two muller corners in the fridge and some toiletries in the bathroom) but I have yet to see them and it all feels a bit deserted. When I arrived, the man at the desk hadn’t even heard of me. I am sort of beginning to wonder whether this entire building isn’t actually haunted, a separate dimension, or a figment of my imagination.

Basically, if Matt Smith doesn’t show up in a TARDIS pretty soon, I might start getting worried.

It’s okay though – tomorrow I am starting Even More Work Experience, and this time it is in London, so I have my best first impression outfit waiting, a tube map in my bag, and I have Google street-viewed the walk to the office more times than I can count.

Okay, twice.

And now I have to go and do the washing up. Because no matter where you go, there are always things with food in which need to be clean again. Life lessons, people, life lessons.


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Amy goes to the Olympics: Part two

Where we left off: I missed my alarm, got on a tube, and saw a game of handball. It’s probably easiest if you just read part one.

11.08am Just watching people act so energetic had worn me out completely, so I go to buy more coffee in the break between games. Unfortunately, so does everybody else, and there is only one coffee machine, desperately trying to feed our caffeine addictions. This is probably the worst-planned part of the entire day.

11.49am At half time of the second game, Brazil are beating Angola, but it is extremely close once again. I have decided by this point that my favourite thing about watching live handball is the song selection. This was one of the great things about the Opening Ceremony, and apparently a theme across London 2012. They play the line “These girls fall like dominoes” whenever more than one person falls over at once; “I get knocked down but I get up again” when the dominoes stand up and continue to play; “under pressure” for the penalty shots; “we will rock you” seemingly for just anything else.

Pretty sure this is not what the Big Pink had in mind.

12.07pm My stepmum leans across and tells us that she has just realised that the Olympic logo makes the numbers “2012” out of shapes, which is basically why we all love her.

12.47pm Brazil win, but only just. In a typically British fashion, the crowds had adopted Angola as the underdogs about halfway through, and cheered them almost to victory, so that in the end Brazil only won by three goals. This time it was well over a goal a minute.

1.08pm After leaving the Copper Box, we go to World Square and get food. The Thai green curry is pretty good.

1.41pm So is the orbit.

It’s so GIANT.

1.53pm As another example of just how bizarre the experience could be, at this point the speakers – currently playing my beloved and completely mental Nicki Minaj – are drowned out by one of the volunteers busking. I don’t know if it is her break, or if she has been hired specifically to add more of a street feel, but she is singing a song of which the only lyrics are: “Kids are gonna get their feet wet. You’ll be fine, you’ll be dandy” over and over again.

2.05pm I’m not saying it is related to the singing, which was quite good considering it made absolutely no sense, but then there is a downpour and even our umbrellas are not enough to save us.

2.10pm My stepmum and I hide in the ladies toilets, which could have been a lot worse. I mean, they are in a temporary building which is basically a shack, but we’ve all been to festival toilets, so I can’t really complain.

2.34pm We watch Ben Ainslie win GB a gold in sailing on the large screens at “Park Live”. Park Live is basically two giant screens back to back, surrounded by grassy hills so that as many visitors to the park as possible can watch all the sports they don’t have tickets to. This would be weird later, when we watch the cycling with the velodrome in sight.

2.45pm What is more important? Inherent suspicion of almost all displays of nationalistic pride, or free face stickers?

I mean, which did you think it was going to be?

2.59pm  Once we’ve walked around the park a few times, we start running out of things to do. There’s only so long that you can look at cool buildings while knowing that cool things are happening inside that you can’t see. So we finally give in and look around the merchandise shop.

It’s weird.

3.04pm Other attractions include a weird BP-branded building which is set up like another attraction. I don’t know what is in there, but people are queuing for it. I can only assume it is some kind of building full of PR stunts desperately hoping to distract from the fact that they caused one of the biggest environmental disasters in living memory.

We do not go inside.

3.12pm Far more exciting is seeing the Olympic village from a distance. They have all hung their country’s flag from the windows! It looks so fun!

3.30pm ICE CREAM.

3.56pm As if ice cream isn’t enough, the next volunteer busker we see is doing an acoustic Call Me Maybe, which is naturally a highlight of the day.

4.15pm We camp out at Park Live long enough to see Murray win the tennis, and a bunch of cycling. There are a lot of people sitting on the grass doing the same thing. So many that every time you move position slightly you end up in someone’s way and there is a chorus of tutting. And every time someone moves position in front of you and obscures the only part of Murray’s forehead you can see anyway, you become that chorus.

Incredible views at the Park Live experience.

5.56pm We have a train to catch, and we’ve been up and walking around since 7(ish) so we decide to head home.

6.06pm Walking through the gates, there are hundreds of signs saying “Take the fastest route to the City Centre: West Ham!” We begin to follow the signs for West Ham.

6.20pm A sign tells us there is still a 20 minute walk until we reach West Ham. I am reasonably sure that it is only the “fastest route” because you walk half the distance first.

6.40pm We finally get on the tube. I cry inside. Olympic athlete I am not.

9.45pm There are a lot of boring train things, including me reading Oscar Wilde because I’m pretentious, but the most important thing is that we are back in time for Bolt’s race, with five minutes to spare.

9.50pm BOLT!

10.15pm There is a Doctor who trailer on the BBC. I freak out.

10.25pm I watch about a bazillion episodes of Parks and Recrecreation before falling asleep. I only have one series to go. I will probably finish by the end of the week. I need to go back to Uni soon.

It is just the best you guys.

Photos by Geoff Adams. Other that one of Parks and Rec, which is by THE INTERNET.