What’s Your Moment of 2012?

At the end of the year it’s customary to look back: and this year it’s easier than ever. Have you reviewed your Year On Twitter or Biggest Moments on Facebook yet? Last month I posted my 12 of 2012: one photo taken each month in my phone’s Photo Stream. It’s one way to review the year. That came from a conversation where I asked “what moment will you remember from 2012” and I ended up looking at pictures from the year.

Of course those 12 photographs don’t answer my own question. Normally, I would find answering that difficult but this year it’s easy. There’s one moment that really sticks in my mind from 2012: unlike most years I do not have to think or delve into my memory banks: it’s just there. One moment in – as the cast of Rent might say – “Five hundred twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes”.

Opening Ceremony RehersalIt’s Monday 23rd July 2012 and I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the Olympic Stadium rehearsal for the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. It was all very last minute but it was a glorious evening in London and I made my way across the city to Stratford and the Olympic Stadium. Entering the Olympic Park and seeing everything ready was a special moment but the best was still to come.

Sitting in the Olympic stadium awaiting the rehearsal we were all urged to #savethesurprise (and that was perhaps the cleverest Twitter hashtag of the year, allowing the audience to use social media and share the moment by using a reminder not to over share). The centre of the stadium had been converted into England’s green and pleasant land (there were 40 sheep, 12 horses, 3 cows, 2 goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, 9 geese and 3 sheep dogs are involved). Fluffy clouds were being walked around what, underneath the greenery, was the athletics track. It was tranquil, a little odd and most intriguing.

Scenes of the Olympic Stadium
Rehearsal For The opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games

There was a real sense of anticipation as the excited crowd both wondered what was about to happen and, most of all, if we were going to be able to do something that would live up to a nation’s expectations. We knew that most of the 7,500 taking part were volunteers and they’d been rehearsing for months but we’d no idea if London could pull off something memorable. The pastoral scenes in front of us, while fascinating and – perhaps – uniquely British, were not quite a spectacle.

Then about 10 minutes into the event Isambard Kingdom Brunel ushered in a celebration of the Industrial Revolution in a section entitled Pandemonium which lead to the casting of the Olympic rings and one of the iconic images of the games.

At the start of Pandemonium 965 drummers accompanied the non-stop beat on The Underworld soundtrack. Sitting in the audience, the drums began behind you as the musicians marched into the stadium. The television soundtrack doesn’t do the noise justice: the beat reverberated around the stadium and right through you; I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was the moment; an amazing moment – the crowd erupted and it was the point when we realised that London could and would deliver. It was the second the crowd knew that it would be an incredible year.

And it was.

My 2012 In Pictures

Back in 2004 cameras were not at all as commonplace on mobile phones as they are today. Back then, browsing through my phone’s images I realised I had a rather unexpected, somewhat candid, summary of the year in blurred low resolution photographs. I wrote about it, collated 100 of the pictures here and posted the pictures on Flickr. To me, the most interesting thing about that collection is that it’s made up of many of the small moments that I’d otherwise forget. Genuinely, my 2004 was reflected though the everyday. Of course, cameras on phones were of low quality and it’s likely that pictures of the most important events in my life that year were taken on a better camera. Happily, Flickr provides a way to see the year through all the photos I took but there remains something fascinating about the photos I chose to take on a mobile phone camera.

I recall creating a similar collection for 2005 but I can’t find it anywhere. I created a list of 50 images that summed up 2005 and curated another 100 mobile pictures on Flickr in 2006 (and a 36 for 06 collage), a reduced set in 2007 and, randomly, 176 in 2008 when the camera on my Nokia didn’t seem to be that much better than the 2004 Palm.

In 2009 I relied on a computer, dopiaza.org’s set manager and Flickr’s social features to automatically generate the most interesting 36 images for that year – mobile or not – and you can see them on Flickr. It’s a different way to look back on the year and – because it relies on other people’s selection – it’s inherently less personal. Looking back on them now, after 3 years has passed, you’d be forgiven for thinking the only thing to happen to me in 2009 was snow.

I don’t appear to have curated (or automated) collections for 2010 and 2011. I could set the machine to do it today but I think that moment has passed. I guess I was reviewing the year in other ways at that time.

Olympic Rings at Tower Bridge

Now, the cogs in the machine have been doing the same for 2012 and the 36 most interesting of this year’s pictures are collected on Flickr. Pictures surface to other users on Flickr for a wide variety of reasons and these collections change. The most popular of my 2012 photographs, as I post this on New Year’s Eve 2012, is a picture (not snapped on a mobile phone) taken at the end of June of the Olympic rings hoisted high on Tower Bridge. If you’re reading this at a later date that might not be the case.

Stumbling across that collection, as I did earlier, made me wonder what I would choose for 2012. This has been a memorable year and I wondered how my chosen pictures would differ form the machine’s collection. At first I considered using Instagram as a way to view the year yet, despite the recently-added ability to view the pictures on the web, there didn’t seem a way to collect a group for the year.

So, I went back to my phone and decided to quickly collate a set; for speed I opted for a simple rule: one photograph from each month that appeared in my phone’s Photo Stream from the year. So, I have “2012 Year In Review: The 12 of 2012“. As you would imagine, both sets feature the London 2012 Olympics often, and there are a couple of over-lapping pictures, but they are subtlety different. I imagine to an outside observer they may be remarkably similar but I can tell the different at a glance.

Both Twitter and Facebook have provided me with an alternative way to review my 2012 via my Year On Twitter and my 20 biggest moments according to Facebook but, somehow, the 12 photographs below work better (also on Flickr). Of course, the full London 2012 Olympics set on Flickr brings back a lot of memories but these 12 put the year into a little more context.

Lunch at Duck & Waffle

I have had the pleasure of eating at too many amazing places to remember. But, of the ones I do remember, it’s often a combination of fantastic food and an amazing dining experience that add-up to make it unforgettable: fresh Lobster on Hellshire Beach, Jamaica; dinner at Toronto’s CN Tower or Lightship Ten that used to be in St Katherine’s Dock; Steak at Palm West in New York; pallela in that bar in El Cotillo, Fuerteventura; or, of course, the half-day eating experience that is The Fat Duck.

Now, today’s lunch venue needs to be added to those experiences. Recently opened on the 40th floor of Heron Tower in the City, Duck & Waffle has fantastic views across East London looking out towards The Olympic Stadium and Canary Wharf and is close enough to give you the impression you are looking down onto The Swiss Re building (the Gherkin). It’s a stunning setting for lunch and, this afternoon, was not too busy so we got a prime table – looking right out East.  There aren’t really that many skyscrapers in London and even fewer restaurants with that kind of view: the only taller buildings are Canary Wharf and the Shard (and that’s not open yet).

Of course it’s not just the experience, the food has to be excellent too: and it was. The bbq-spiced crispy pig ears might not sound to your taste but were crispy, meaty and – for somebody who never adds salt to food – nicely salted. If you don’t like tomato, a plate of English-grown heritage tomatoes will make you rethink with a broad range of tastes, colours and flavours while scallop on apple with black truffle and lime was one of the most refreshing tastes I’ve ever eaten. The signature duck & waffle dish is a beautiful mixture of crispy duck and soft waffle.

It must have been good, I don’t think I’ve ever written about a restaurant here before. If you’re in London go before it becomes popular (in a couple of weeks they are about to open 24-hours) and, even if you’re not in the mood for food, try the house Manhattan, the bottled cinnamon smoke that’s a vital constituent is incredible, and you’ll need it: a stiff drink is required after the 30 second glass elevator ride up the outside of the tower.

I took a few pictures of the view (and the food) and they’re all over on Flickr (with a few on Facebook too).