Sorry folks, this channel will resume normal programming now. Hope you can all handle waiting for the Olympics stuff? (By the way, we had a FANTASTIC time…)
Cast your mind back to a time before Opening and Closing Ceremonies, Before Oodles of Olympic sport and Other Stuff (things such as Synchronised Swimming, which is too awesome to really be called ‘sport’), to a time before Union Jacks were flown from car windows, Brits made fun of Australia on TV every night, and Boris Johnson got caught on a zipwire. Back further still, beyond RAF fly-overs and Thames River flotillas, to a time before Diamond Jubilees and street parties.
Yes. A lot has happened in London over the past few months. But we go back to a less-exciting time: to the beginning of May, a time of rain and cloud, a time when we returned to the drudgery of normal life after a lovely holiday in the south of France.
Not true – London might be a lot of things (busy, cloudy, and expensive being three), but it is never really a drudgery. There is always something going on, and we feel lucky to be able to explore these opportunities. So after returning from our overseas holiday we had two things to look forward to: the International Coffee Festival, and Grand Designs Live.
Early one Sunday morning in May, we made our way to the ExCel Centre, a huge exhibition and conference facility on the Royal Victoria Docks, not far over the river from us. What were we going to see? More accurately, WHO were we going to see? Kev!
Kevin McCloud is a designer who is most famous for his TV programme, Grand Designs, which has been following British people on their self-build homes since 1999. It is much less common over here (as well as being extremely difficult) to self-build, and the programme has had immense success as the projects are seen as something everyone dreams of doing. Unfortunately for Britons, most will be unable to ever build a house of their own due to a lack of opportunity as well as planning restrictions related to land usage, population, and heritage. Kevin McCloud is a very charismatic presenter, and has become somewhat of a cult hero because of his quick wit, friendly smile, and intelligent, off-the-cuff musings. (Can you tell I’m a fan?!) Kev is also known for being interested in sustainability and things like environmentally-friendly construction methods. (*sigh* Our hero!)
So the Grand Designs Expo is basically a large home show with exhibitions in areas such as kitchens, windows, modular homes, and large spa pools. A real hodgepodge. In some senses the exhibition grated, as there were sustainable, eco-friendly, ‘green’ homes and building materials at one end of the big centre, while the other end was full of luxury pools and Balinese spa huts. ‘Grand Designs’ is to some people a big, luxury build with space enough for each child to have its own bedroom (plus four guest rooms), a kitchen bigger than most modern apartments, and a total square footage of about twenty times that we had in Christchurch – whereas for others, a ‘Grand Design’ is about working with the land, with local materials, respecting the environment and minimising one’s impact on it. (Anyone else see the disparity between those ideas?)
All up, we did enjoy pottering around the exhibition, and I did find my dream kitchen (Although I’ll probably change my mind in a few months.). But best of all, we met the master! We shook hands with Kev himself, tried to have a chat to him, and learned that he had been in discussions with someone in Christchurch about designing social housing for the rebuild. What a man!
At the end of the day, it was great to see how many people are working towards ‘greener’ living, and to be inspired by some of the ideas out there. We also never dreamed that we would actually be able to meet Kevin McCloud – it was one of those ‘bucket list’ things that we hoped we might be able to do while over here, but never believed would actually happen!! London has been so good to us.