A Bit Of Bad Weather
Hello everyone, sorry I’ve been away for so long – I’ve been a very busy bee! From Friday last week until Monday evening, I was working at a small folky festival in Towersey in the vegetarian burger van (actually, I was working in a huge marquee this time which was effectively a giant wind tunnel which meant we stood there shivering for hours on end). When I work for this company, we all have to camp as it’s too far to travel in each day. This time, instead of being in an actual camp site, we just put up the tents behind the marquee. There wasn’t a lot of space and I drew the short straw, having to pitch my tent right next to the waste water disposal unit. In case you didn’t know, this is where all the greasy used water goes – And. It. Stinks. I wasn’t particularly happy about having to work, and this didn’t make it any better but it was a very small festival so it wasn’t too much hard work. Most of my time was spent huddled over the griddle for extra warmth while waiting for customers.
It was so quiet, in fact, that we all got an afternoon or morning off and I knew exactly what I was going to do with mine. When I’d parked my car in the traders’ car park to unload some things, I saw that there was a sports pavilion there with signs for showers that we could use, and that’s exactly where I headed when I got my afternoon off. Only, when I got there I saw another sign that said, ‘Communal Unisex Showers’. Oh, great. But I wasn’t going to go five days without having a shower (I was meant to finish on Tuesday at that point), so I soldiered on in. The showers were the ones the footballers used after matches there – completely open and in full view of the door. Thankfully, I noticed another door inside that shower block with a sign saying, ‘Referee’s Room’. I peeked inside and there were a few more open showers – not much better, but at least there was a proper door that closed properly between me and any other people that dared to shower. I made sure the door was really firmly shut, put my things on the lone chair that was in there and tested the shower. It was freezing cold. Even sticking my hand in the water made me shiver, but I’d come this far and I wasn’t about to give up now. I ended up stood to the side of the shower with my head tilted over so only my hair was getting wet. I tried to shower as quickly as possible to minimise the chance of anyone coming in, but even so, just as I was shampoo-ing my hair I heard the outside door click open and footsteps coming toward my little Referee Room shower block. The handle started to move down, at which point I was very grateful that I’d been careful to shut it properly as this gave me the crucial few seconds it took for me to turn the shower on and make a pointed cough. The person obviously got the message and went away. I finished showering at double speed and then headed back to my tent feeling as though I’d just run a marathon, but glad to be slightly cleaner than I was before.
I thought one shower in five days was quite enough after that! I’m glad I took the job though, as the money’s good and I’ve finally topped up the money in my account to the amount I had before I started uni.
Once I got back from working, I had one day to catch up on some sleep before I had to head over to the canoe club and run a mini canoeing camp for the guide group I help out with. They’ve come before in past years just for little taster sessions, but this year they wanted a full on two day event where they camped at the clubhouse. This was my first time organising an event like this and lets just say, it could have gone a lot better. It wasn’t so much that the organisation could have been better, but the weather chose these two days to switch from mild and sunny to howling winds and torrential rain. The plan for the first day was to do a 2 and a half mile paddle, have a picnic lunch, and then paddle back. Within the first 10 minutes, everyone was soaked to the skin and by the time we stopped to eat lunch, I’m sure several of them had the first signs of hypothermia. I handed out all the spare cags and gloves that I had (which turned out to be one each, thank God!) which seemed to prevent the wind from doing so much damage. I thought we could sit under the big motorway bridge close to where we’d stopped to eat our picnic, but the wind was howling through it. Thankfully Patch, who I’d dragged along with me, had the idea of turning one of the big open canoes on its side to act as a wind shelter. So there we were, perched in front of it, trying to eat our soggy sandwiches with shivering hands. It was miserable. You could tell they weren’t enjoying it, I was questioning my choice in going ahead with the paddle at all and we still had to get all the way back in more wind and rain.
I think we got back in about half the time it took us to get to the turn around point, just because everyone was so desperate to get back to the warm clubhouse. About half way back, I handed out hand warmers that we’d bought with us and everyone warmed up their hands for a while before putting them under their cags so they could continue paddling. You could feel the relief of everyone as they stepped into the clubhouse and huddled around the radiators in the changing rooms.
Hot drinks in hands, we all sat round a table and cracked out the cards and the board games. As soon as a few rounds of chase the ace had been played, the day’s paddle was long forgotten and spirits were much higher. I left them to camp inside the clubhouse (the grass where they were going to pitch the tents had flooded in the rain) and headed home to bed.
When I arrived the next day, it was clear it had been raining and there were huge grey clouds in the sky, but it was dry enough to do a few warm up games on the bank. The aim for this day was to stay close to the club and play lots of games on the water in a last ditch attempt to show them that canoeing can be fun. We played a simplified version of canoe polo, ran short races and did a kind of dodgeball game that involved us throwing soft floating balls at their boats while they tried to get away. The whole day went much more smoothly and there was only a short shower. At the end of the session, we played a few more daring games where they all held on to each other’s boats, making a raft, and took it in turns to stand up. It was the last girl’s turn and me and the guide leader shared a knowing look. Every time the guides had come canoeing before, this girl had fallen in. It’s not that she was unstable, just that she tends to get distracted rather easily. As she stood up, she lost her balance slightly and in her panic, grabbed the head of the girl in the boat next to her. Reaching up to try and free her hair from the grasp, the other girl stopped holding the boat and sure enough, it went straight over and she plopped right into the freezing water. It was inevitable really, and I’m just glad it happened right outside the club at the end of the session.
The guides obviously enjoyed themselves more on the second day, but even so I think it might be a while before I try and organise anything like this again. Taking on something where lots of people could enjoy themselves may seem great, but with it comes a whole load of responsibility. Still, it was an experience that I’ve learnt a lot of lessons from and hopefully the next time I run something like this, I’ll be a bit more prepared for if things start to go wrong. Even if that is only just because of a bit of bad weather.