A life less ordinary

I don’t know about you but I find it quite annoying when non celebrity folk are referred to as ordinary. I’m talking about you and me, who are not members of royalty or famous for being on film/TV for singing, acting or presenting etc.

For example when the Queen’s honours are announced it’s usually reported about celebrities who get honoured for simply doing their job or for the amount of charity work they do because of their high profile status. It’s much easier for them to make a huge impact in charitable causes because of their ability to mix with fellow influential and wealthy individuals.

Then the “ordinary” members of the public who have been honoured may get a mention in a small column in the paper or a foot note on a social media post. But these people have to work considerably harder and jump through many more hoops to achieve enough to be worthy of such an honour.

But in my view no one is ordinary. We all have personalities, skills, interests, professions and quirks that make us unique and stand out. We are all capable of doing extraordinary things on a daily basis and many of us do,  through our family life, work, hobbies, sports or voluntary activities.

Last week I had the honour of helping a group of old friends by helping with the dressing for the local Gang Show. The Bristol South Scout District produce a Gang Show every year and is written, organised and produced by 3 members: Dave Wall, Catherine Elkins and Sue Lewis who I have known since my scouting/guiding days in the 80’s. The show is made up of a cast of cubs/brownies, scouts/guides, explorers and leaders. There is also a small backstage army of ex scouts, leaders, family and friends who do the scenery, costume, props, dressing, sound and lighting.

Every year they put on a fabulously entertaining show that is fantastic value for money. Everyone gives their very best, works hard and support each other through each production. Working backstage as a dresser is very rewarding and just a little bit manic at times.

This is a big commitment , 4 evening performances and a matinee on Saturday, also 6 months of planning, writing and rehearsing. This is in addition to the time given up for running of the cub/brownie/scout groups alongside family and work commitments of the leaders.

Not so ordinary members of the public me thinks.

 

Going For gold…Again

Back in 2014 I was a volunteer first aider at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, it was such an amazing experience I decided that volunteering at the World Athletics Championships would definitely be a fabulous thing.

One of my goals when applying to do the Commonwealth Games was to rub Usain Bolt’s leg if he ever got injured or just to relieve a little cramp. But alas I didn’t achieve this as my shifts were at the opening ceremony and the rugby sevens. So this time I was determined to get just a little closer to the great man.

My plans were scuppered a bit by being posted to the first aid station by the media centre and the warm up area for the field athletes. But as the dedicated first aider that I am, I needed to patrol the whole area fully, which included the warm up track to get supplies for our station that we lovingly called the prison. Mission accomplished! …. well I didn’t actually lay my hands on him, but I did see him warming up on the track looking incredibly cool. On a daily basis we were told not to stand around taking photos of the athletes, as I rarely do as I’m told I got quite a few photos of Usain, including one of him coming out of the portaloo just before he ran the 100 metres semi final.

Also while on patrol with my fellow first aiders I saw Mo Farah win the 5000 metres and the 100 metres semi final and final, the atmosphere was electric.

As always I met the most amazing people and made some new friends. Looking after the athletes and spectators was a joy to do.

But the fabulous thing about volunteering this time was staying with my lovely cousin Amelia and her family in Reading. She very kindly put me up for 2 weeks and even ferried me to and from the train station at very unsocial hours. During my time off I caught up with my extended familam and get out and about in Berkshire.

All good things….

My last 2 shifts were early Saturday and Sunday at the Ibrox stadium for the Rugby Sevens. My lovely host Erika got up at the break of dawn to give me a lift into Glasgow.

Unfortunately I wasn’t one the lucky Clyde-siders who got to be on the side lines to attend to the wounded hunky rugby players, but it was a thrill to be there nonetheless.

This was my first experience of Rugby Sevens and I have to say it was fantastic, so exciting. Not only the games but the entertainment in between as well, good old Des clarke was on hand again to stir up the crowds with Kiss Cam, Air guitar Cam, Karaoke and Bongo Cam. The crowd got behind every single team especially the underdogs such as Uganda playing New Zealand, every try scored was cheered on, whichever team got the point.

To my knowledge there was no crowd trouble for either of the days. Luckily my partner Katie and I only had 3 incidents to attend to, so all in all it was a fantastic end to my Commonwealth Games experience.

I am so delighted that I made the effort to apply to become a volunteer back in May 2013. When I traveled to Scotland this time last year for my interview I had no idea how fabulous it would be. I have made some fantastic friends and had the most amazing time.

Now it’s all ended I feel I need to do more to challenge myself so I’m thinking of joining the British Red Cross, initially as a first aider for events, but maybe to volunteer abraod and use my nursing skills.

Watch this space.

 

Steve, carole and Katie at ibrox

Well earned rest

After the excitement of the opening ceremony I had 2 days off to relax and take in some Scottish sights.

On Thursday my hosts, Erika and George, took me on a day trip to the Trossachs National Park. Just north of Stirling this park is breathtakingly beautiful with lochs and mountains galore. We spent most of the day exploring various lochs stopping off for lunch and a cups of tea in the lovely sunshine.

trossachs2trossachslochs

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way home we stopped off at Aberfoyle, this village at the gateway of the Trossachs has a few claims to fame. Mary Queen of Scots spent some of her childhood there and during her short lived reign she used the Priory as a refuge to hide from her cousin Queen Elizabeth I. The village boasts a tree climbed by Rob Roy to hide from the law and Robert Kirk, the man who did the first Gaelic translation of the Book of Psalms, was minister of Aberfoyle Parish.

But it’s cutest claim to fame in my opinion was the lovely sheepdog, Bess, who herded a group of ducks around an assault course…..very entertaining.

The next day I really didn’t have any plans until a fellow Clyde-sider texted me in the morning. I met Christine in the centre of Glasgow so we could soak up the atmosphere that was electric everywhere, again the weather was glorious. We had a lovely afternoon mooching around, chatting to loads of people caught up in the excitement of the games and having one or two bevvies.

 

 

clyde and us

drinks in the square

The main event (23rd July)

I woke up super excited on Wednesday, the day of the opening ceremony. The excitement was palpable on the train as my fellow Clyde-siders and I made our way to Celtic Park and the weather was beautiful.

As field of play first aiders we needed to be able to get a cast member off the arena as quickly as possible without causing too much disruption to the performance, so during the afternoon we practiced this in the blazing sunshine.

I don’t need to describe the opening ceremony as I’m sure everyone watched it on the TV, I can only put into words the amazing experience I had that night. The atmosphere was electric way before the performance even started and was off the scale once Des Clarke had finished his warm up.

My partner Scott and I were well positioned at gate one, just to the left side of the big screen, which meant we had a fantastic view of the performance and of all the stars as they left the stage, Rod Stewart definitely blew a kiss at me when he walked off. It was so easy to get caught up in the spectacular sight and forget that I was there to do a job.

It was the first time in my life, and maybe the only time, that I got to sing the national anthem in the presence of the Queen and I felt so proud to be British.  The atmosphere hit the roof when the athletes came into the stadium, but the noise was so deafening when the home team arrived that the arena floor seemed to shake and at that moment I wished I was Scottish!

I have to say that night was probably one of the best in my life so far and even the hour long wait for the train couldn’t dampen the wonderful feeling inside I had after such a fantastic day.

opening ceremony

Time for tourism

For my first full day off I met fellow Clydesider, Chelsey,  for an afternoon of sightseeing in Glasgow.

But before we could do anything we needed to buy summer dresses because the unexpected glorious weather was way too hot for the jeans and t shirts we were dressed in.

So kitted out in our new outfits we boarded the sightseeing open top bus and Chelsey managed to get student fares for the both of us. The bus wound it’s way around the streets and all the major landmarks for nearly 2 hours with entertaining commentary by the tourist guide, she was hilarious and kept us laughing all the way round. It was good to see all the other venues for the Games without having to do the leg work.

We both needed to be back with our hosts for early evening dinner so there was just time for a cocktail before getting the train home.

Open top bus fun

 

Something bizarre happened that evening, after dinner we were talking about wildlife in the garden and the conversation turned to bats, George, my host, said that they hadn’t seen bats around for a while. I settled early and watched a film on my laptop, about half way through a bat started to fly around my bedroom. I have no idea how it got in as the window wasn’t fully open. It flew around madly for about 5 minutes desperately trying to sense a way out, it eventually found the open window I was holding for it.

Thank goodness I wasn’t asleep when it started flapping around my head, would have died of fright!

Keeps getting better (21st July)

My next shift was the second rehearsal for the opening ceremony and I was in the field of play team, which meant this time I was inside the arena and able to watch the action. The weather was glorious, most un-Scotland like, the sun was beating down and the arena looked fabulous.

After an afternoon of last minute training we were at our posts ready to keep an eye on the cast members while they performed. What a performance it was! even though it wasn’t the full show it was breathtaking and awe inspiring. It was so exciting to be part of the electric atmosphere and the stadium wasn’t even full. Luckily my partner and I had no incidents to attend to and the train times were extended so there was no mad dash to the station when we were released from our posts.

I fell into my bed at 1.30 am,  happily exhausted.

A team for rehearsal no 2

 

Last training

The day after my first shift I had an early start to do some venue training at Ibrox Stadium, home of the Rangers and the venue for the rugby sevens. All of the first aiders from the night before were there and we all looked as jaded as each other from the long shift and late night.

Fortunately the training didn’t go on for too long and we were set free at lunchtime, so I took the underground into the centre. The Clockwork Orange, as it is affectionately named by the locals, is a very efficient service that just has 2 lines, inner and outer, which makes it impossible to get lost on. It was first opened in 1896 making it the third oldest underground in the world, after London and Budapest.

After a much needed coffee I found a little street market just off Buchanan Street and even though it only had about 5 stalls I still managed to part with £20 on stuff that I really didn’t need.

I needed to crash out for an hour in the afternoon but after another delicious dinner Erika and George took me for a walk around the Dalzell Estate. This extensive estate boasts a 15th century tower house that was extended in the 17th and 19th centuries, it is now converted into private apartments that cost an arm and a leg to own. The tower house is said to be haunted by 3 ghosts; the Green lady who frequents the south wing, the White lady who  roams the whole house and the Grey lady who was a nurse in World War 1. The grounds are beautiful with woodland walks and an impressive arboretum which has the Covenants Oak, this tree is 900 years old and is the oldest living thing in Lanarkshire. It is named after the religious group, the Covenants, who were Scottish Presbyterians renounced by Charles II in 1662. The owner of the estate allowed them to conduct their services in safety.

The gardens are beautiful and in one if them is the family mausoleum and pet graveyard where the family dogs are buried. The Lord Gavin’s Temple was built as a summer house so that he could look down on his beloved wife’s grave.

I only saw a small part of the estate and wished I had more time to explore.

tower house

temple

 

And so it begins (19th July)

My first shift as a Clydesider, (the official name for Games volunteers), was the first rehearsal for the opening ceremony at Celtic Park. We were all given 2 tickets to watch one of the rehearsals to use or to give to friends and family. I gave mine to my hosts as I was working at both of the performances.

I must admit initially when I was walking to the train station I felt very conspicuous in my bright red uniform, but that uniform got me free travel throughout the Games so I wasn’t complaining. Once I was on the train though I saw many more Clydesiders and we were linked by a common purpose. Being involved in something like this meant that I was never without someone to talk to, be it another volunteer or a member of the public interested in what I was doing.

clydesider carole

Unfortunately the weather was dreadful, so it was a very soggy walk from the station to Celtic Park. After negotiating security I set off on the mammoth task of locating the rest of the first aid team in an enormous stadium. We did have a tour to orientate us but that just resulted in more confusion about our whereabouts at any given time.

Once all the briefing was done, the first aid equipment bum bags and radios were given out it was time to section off into teams and go to our locations. My team definitely drew the short straw as we were placed outside the arena in a first aid tent so we could attend to the spectators as they arrived and exited the stadium. The rain was relentless until just before the ceremony started, but it made the arena floor very slippery and I was surprised there weren’t any injuries in the cast.

First aid dream team

I had wonderful team mates in Chelsey, Christine and John and we really bonded well out there in the cold and wet.  Our only call that shift was a little old man with cramp in his leg as he was coming out of the stadium.

The extended train times weren’t in operation so once we were released from our post we had to power walk down to the station and got the train with just minutes to spare.

The day was exhausting but hugely enjoyable.

first shift done

My Temporary Abode

The way my shifts were arranged meant I needed to stay in Glasgow for 10 days. The prices for accommodation during the Games period were horrendously expensive so I decided to take advantage of the Homestay scheme whereby volunteers are placed into private homes.

My hosts were Erika and George and they met me at the station and took me to their beautiful home in Motherwell, about 20 minutes outside of Glasgow.

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George is a Scot and Erika comes the German town of Hameln of the Pied piper fame, (we call it Hamelin but that’s not correct). They got involved in the scheme through their church. Their house is just 5 minutes away from Strathclyde Park where the triathlon took place and the day I arrived I took a little walk around the park to work up an appetite for the delicious food that Erika rustled up.

My bedroom was very big and comfortable and I couldn’t have asked for better accommodation or better hosts.

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