Category Archives: Commonwealth Games

The Games

The Games – as a Clydesider!

glasgow-2014-logoBefore even considering retirement, I joined Ian in applying to be a volunteer at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Having applied for a variety of roles, I was interviewed for, and was successful in becoming a driver. Not a bus driver explained the organisers; more a VIP limo -type service. Not exactly my choice of role but sounded quite fun. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations!

We undertook two days of training. Lots of information given out about just about everything a driver might need to know. This was done very efficiently, putting large numbers of potential drivers through their training. Then out on the roads in the three cars we would be using for the Games to get used to them and to get familiar with the likely routes we would be using during the games!

The uniform - I did not wear the hat!

The uniform – I did not wear the hat!

Collected my uniform and that was me all ready for the Games!

The cars being used were all Ford. They all had varying amounts of technology which I thoroughly enjoyed. The C-max was the smallest. A kinda estate car with three rows of seats. Got 6 Africans in that on one occasion. Three in the back – meant to take two – two in the middle where there are three seat belts and one in the front next to me. Then there was the Galaxy which we had most of the time. A bigger car, with great technology. Also took 6 plus driver but tended to be run with the back seats collapsed for luggage. And the big Torneo which had a large space for luggage. Almost a mini bus and I had to grab onto something to get in it. And it was not particularly easy to park.

On that subject we became very proficient at reversing into a tight parking space. To fit all the cars in at the depot we had to be very close to each other. Just room to get out. On the passenger side a couple of times. We all appreciated the comment on Facebook by one driver, that his team were getting that good there was room for an extra car in their line at completion of shift!

A few weeks before the Games began we got our shifts. We had been asked for a minimum of 8 days. I got 17! ten hour! shifts, approximately 6.30-4.30pm, 3.30-1.30am …. And 2x 9pm-7am. I eventually cancelled the two nights after hearing from the other drivers that they did nothing during these shifts. Or almost nothing. I did hear of one guy sent to Barry Buddon in Carnoustie to pick up people for the airport at 3 in the morning. I decided I was too old for nights! Takes me too long to get over them nowadays. The latest I got home was 3.15am after a shift that finished at 2.30 and went right to the wire because of a couple of extra trips unofficially requested at the village. I enjoyed the trips that were not really allowed more than those that were ‘official’.

So the day arrived for my first shift. The first three were during the ten days before the Games began. Kinda wondered why but now realise that whatever the reason, these were useful for familiarising ourselves with the whole process, cars etc. Getting used to the radios took some practice! Earpieces with constant traffic from the other drivers can be quite……distracting. Add to that the ordinary radio and trying to drive along the approved Games Route Network (GRN), maybe using the sat nav….. Multitasking with a vengeance.

I might add that by the end of the Games we were getting quite fond of that earpiece – even using the radio to speak to other drivers on occasion. Control, control this is Bravo 194 over!!

So basically we just spent these three ten hour shifts hanging about at the airport and being sent out to practise the routes. Forty cars lined up on the roof of car park 2 on one occasion! We had a break out space in the airport where there was good coffee, tea, the occasional snack and wifi.

Nikki and me with a Galaxy

Nikki and me with a Galaxy

(Met my pal Nikki there – and learnt to AirDrop).

However    Not      One    Customer!!!! Novel for the first shift, boring for second shift, totally disillusioned by the third!! However the Games were about to start so it would all kick off!!

It didn’t. Had times of busyness, times of mucking about, but many hours of total nothingness. Began to take my crochet, Kindle and chores to do via phone. Ran out of data at one point!!

My strongest emotion during the whole experience was envy. We all had radios to keep in contact with HQ (control), and on days of boredom, I could not shake off feeling envious of those cars who were sent to busy venues like the Athletes Village and the Hilton/Marriott. I don’t do sitting around very well! My worst day was Opening Ceremony day sitting around at the Emirates in 28 degrees with no shelter except the cars and a fight to get water. Totally disorganised! Deserted! I am going to say no more. Suffice to say I took the next day off to rehydrate and recover….

However I did have some busy times. My favourite shifts of all were at the Village. Had one whole and two half shifts there. Facilities were good with toilets and a comfy little hut with coffee and a TV. It was well organised also with a system which sent us all out in turn. Even did a couple of unofficial runs from there including staying on after the rest of the team had left. The other good place was the Games Family Hotels. Once organised, this was fun. With fairly constant work. And quite exciting wondering where we would be off to next. Got to know Glasgow well and only got lost once. Quickly managed to envisage best routes and when it was best using the sat nav. Used it sparingly as it did not know about the GRN!

ClydeFacilities for drivers varied hugely between venues. As already mentioned, the Village had everything easily accessible. The Games Family Hotels also had these, so one could actually have a proper break. Breaks were not factored into the shifts. Needed to organise that ourselves and be quite firm about it if one was in a busy venue, or else one could feel obliged to keep going without food or toilet breaks! Other break out areas were to be found within the venues which meant going through security. This was OK, but there were limited passes for this and you couldn’t really stay in the area when there were only two passes between 20 plus drivers! At some these were quite distant. The SECC was a long walk for coffee although a local hotel allowed toilet access. I snuck into the Marriott on one occasion before returning to the SECCfrom a trip – just to get a coffee! I get jittery after four hours if I don’t get a coffee.

Having decent facilities for the drivers, like the Village, made for a much better atmosphere within the team. Gold Coast please note!

So who were the VIPs I transported? Well, that is a good question. Some drivers got people like Seb Coe, Dame Kelly Holmes, David Beckham!!! I didn’t. Did I get anybody famous? Good question. Asked frequently by my children. Not knowingly was the standard reply! Had Usain Bolt got in the car I would not have known it was him. Unless you managed to read their accreditation passes, there was no way to know. And I have no idea who anybody is in the world of sport. Might recognise the odd cricketer but they were not playing here….

The Black team with our Torneo

The Black team with our Torneo

But every one of my passengers was interesting. I transported people from various African countries – Rwanda, Uganda (a VVIP), Kenya etc, from St Helena, and Tuvalu, from Barbardos, St Kitts, Jamaica ( including a gold medal winner) and athletes from Trinidad and Tobago. The latter are meant to catch a bus but there was a monsoon so I told them to jump in. From Australia, New Zealand and Norfolk Island – interesting chat about its origins. And a mixture of home nations and other odds and sods such as journalists, sponsors and a UNICEF ambassador, Scottish hockey players and NI boxers who missed the bus.

The two that stand out the most were a Lord and Lady from …….who were delightful. Spent some time doing what we are not meant to do i.e. taking them places and waiting for them. Not local and kept asking me to do things like double park in the middle of Glasgow and Lady…. really did not like having to wear her seat belt!

The other was an official from a European country who questioned me about rheumatism in this damp climate and then gave me, me!! A lecture on the importance of a good diet and avoiding fast food……and promptly asked me where he might get fish and chips from before catching his train!

Overall then it was a great experience. Bombing around the city, going to places others were not allowed access to. Meeting other cheery Clydesiders doing their bit for Glasgow. Being a part of the best Commonwealth Games yet! I feel very much part of the Glasgow/Scotland scene.

Hampden and the athletics - the day it did not pour!

Hampden and the athletics – the day it did not pour!

Ibrox and the Rugby 7s

Ibrox and the Rugby 7s

I did get to see some of the sports by paying for them. I suppose a part of me imagined we might get into the venues as part of our role, but that was maybe naive. It could be a problem if all 15,000 volunteers got access to everything. Okay so there were down times. A degree of … interesting…. management decisions. But the positives far outweigh the negatives.

I would do it again.


A Commonwealfie!!

A Commonwealfie!!

The Queen’s Garden Party!

Several months ago I received word from the Uni that the Principal had put me forward for the Queen’s Garden Party at Holyrood in recognition of my work at UWS. Specifically my promotion of social media. Today we travel to that Garden Party!

It’s been an interesting few months getting organised. The Garden Party falls right in the middle of a weeks holiday in Norfolk, the reason for going being my Aunt’s 90th birthday. So after travelling south last Friday, picking up Mum and travelling to Norfolk on Saturday, we have had some family time before deserting them all for a two day trip up north.

The other issue of course is what to wear. Unlike last month at the Red Cross garden party at Buckingham Palace, the invitation stipulates a hat. I don’t do hats! So a fascinator maybe? But at Ascot, in the Royal enclosure, apparently, the fascinator used instead of a hat has to have a four inch base. Mine does not. To buy or not to buy? Disinclined to buy for a one off occasion, being a poor pensioner! 😉 But I had a brain wave! My cousin Jill worked this amazing fascinator a couple of years ago at her son’s wedding and I thought it might be the right pink. So, a quick text and she brought it along for a look see. Will I be the bees knees in that!

So we are sitting again in First Class travelling from Norwich to Edinburgh for a three hour gig!

Next day
Only standard class on the train today. Ian did pass comment enquiring how much more first class would be. It was a lot. We are fine though. Nice table seat in the quiet zone. Just have to pay for our own food! Heading back to Norfolk to celebrate Molly’s birthday with her.

Yesterday was great. The weather was perfect. Lots of sunshine but not the 26 degrees in London. Although it was still nice to get in the shade.

We arrived in Edinburgh with plenty of time so we changed my original plans to change in the station and took the bus up to our B&B. Quick freshen up, glad rags on, dumped all unnecessary gear and took a taxi through amazingly busy Edinburgh. Eventually dropped off in stationary traffic as close as possible and went to join a long queue til a policeman informed us there was a shorter one round the back. There was! Only five minutes til we got through security check and we were in. Along with 8000 other guests, we heard later.

The dresses were beautiful. Well. Most of them. We walked past the tea tents to see what there is to see. Not a lot. A pipe band performing and a brass band at rest. But we did join the throng waiting for her majesty to join the party. She came via steps at the rear of the Palace so everybody could see her. What an amazing lady. Two hours she spent, much of it walking down a corridor lined with HRM Royal Co of Archers speaking to various people who had been chosen to be presented. Beautiful cream dress and hat etc. And the Duke tall, regal, in morning suit and top hat. (There were a few of those in the crowd too!) The Duke wandered along a separate corridor speaking to people and occasionally dipping into the crowd as well and those awaiting presentation. He looked really fit and carried one of those walking cane type of things that look like they contain a sword. A proper gentleman he was! We did not hang about to watch all this. Being vertically challenged I have no chance seeing much so lost HRM once she descended the steps. We went for tea instead and spent time people watching. Same kinda tea as Buck House, but the fruit cake was not as nice!

So the afternoon passed….. We listened to the music, I kept an eye out for two people in the 8000. Never saw either of them.

Over heard an … Interesting conversation. A woman was trying to glimpse the Queen. Her husband was teasing her. You’ve seen her before on the ten pence piece. I’ve one of her pics in my pocket cozily tucked up next to my……!!

Walked round the gardens which are not very big. Visited Holyrood Abbey, a ruin. Snuck in some photos, after we saw others doing the same. Then returned to the ceremonial square to say bye, bye to HRH. A nice man allowed me and my rather intrusive fascinator to stand in front of him and I got a good view. The Bow men were then stood down and dismissed.

These are interesting guys who have been the king/queens body guard in Scotland since the time of Scott. He designed their uniforms. Anyone can be one but you have to be nominated and get through the vetting process. The one we had a long conversation with earlier has been one for 20 odd years and his father and grandfather before him!

So the end of a second garden party! Unbelievable that the weather was so good at both. I spoke to people who had friends who had had three hours of rain, with little shelter, and ruined fascinators!

We wandered out, chattered to some Czech tourists who wanted to know all about the occasion, then walked up the Royal Mile to find dinner. We went to the Royal Mile pub. Can you imagine the sight? Usual bar folk and me in fascinator and posh frock. I did enjoy the stares! Food was lovely too. Then back to B&B by free bus pass, lol, to rest my feet and let Ian watch the footie. In peace!

A week of firsts, part two

So….no internet and no tv. But no time for either really. Tuesday saw a trip back to Paisley to invigilate at the exams. This time I was overseeing students in the computer labs. Just two in each session, requiring more time and a computer in order to complete the exam paper. We really do try to support those requiring extra help with writing!

But the other really interesting first time experience of the week, was my Role Specific Training as a Commonwealth Games volunteer. A Clydesider!!

Off to Glasgow for an 8 am start and a ten hour day. And it was a busy ten hours. I was late – trouble parking but we are assured parking will be easier at the time as local businesses are on holiday. I will try harder next time.

I am a T2 driver! They describe this as providing a superior VIP limousine service. So the first few sessions covered our role, how it fits in with the rest of the teams and we were then divided into groups to go over – using the radios – great fun! Control, control this is bravo 321 over, the sat nav which we are to ignore generally as we have to follow the prescribed Games Road Network, etiquette and politeness and how to drive safely! This took the entire morning. A quick lunch, beautifully organised and with choices that would suit all. Then out in the cars.

I thought we would go out with the many experienced people in attendance. But no. Divided into threes and handed the keys and paperwork and a route between the various venues in use during the Games. I happened to be sitting next to a colleague from GTCS so he and I were accompanied by another guy to take turns driving, navigating and being the radio op.

What fun! Thought I knew Glasgow. No way! And following the approved route when the sat nav said otherwise was…..challenging! We had about three hours on the road before being recalled to base. This on a busy Friday afternoon in Glasgow compounded by a fire in the city centre which turned out to be The Art School. But it was fun. On our return, a debriefing, a reassurance that we would get more practice on our next day of training and our own A-Z specially overlaid with Commonwealth Games and we were sent on our way. I have 17 shifts over the games starting at various times from early morning to mid afternoon to late evening. There will be a lot of hanging about by the sound of it. Need to take my knitting with me.

So home. But actually not home! Off to babysit with Becky. Lovely evening. Need I say more. Home very late.

The Olympics

Handed the remote over to Ian for the past fortnight as he loves all sports. Envisaged two weeks of iplayer and other distractions but have surprised myself by watching much of the Olympics with him. Even went to Hampden to see women’s football live and loved the atmosphere. What I would really like is a dried version of the bouquets given to winners. Simple but stylish. So many clever touches. So impressed with the whole occasion.

MAMA conference

Inspiring conference in my own home town. Meeting lots of wonderful midwives both known and unknown. Offered my two spare rooms for the conference and have Skye, a midwife from Australia staying, Claire a student midwife and Jan a midwife from the Isle of Man