Birkenhead and Greenbelt

Roger and I enjoyed a gentle week in Birkenhead spending time with Roger’s Mum. We enjoyed some nice trips out with her, including a visit to Birkenhead for the shops, a visit to Lady Lever’s Gallery in Port Sunlight followed by a visit to the museum which was fascinating. Roger and I took a trip out to Red Rocks – so named due to the colour of the rocks, where we had a lovely wander climbing up the rocks with lots of children. We then had a trip to Liverpool where we went to the docks and visited the Tate Gallery. We also saw a tower in the main street set up so that people could abseil down the high street above the heads of the shoppers. Stunning but we didn’t have a go. We stayed till Saturday when we welcomed back Melinda, Jim and family before heading off to Eunoia for a couple of nights.

Monday saw us heading off to Boughton House in Kettering, the new site for the Greenbelt festival. This was our first year as volunteers so it was odd but very nice to be there before the crowds. We settled in on the site and met our good friends John, Caroline, Naomi and Abi whilst walking to the vibing meeting. Unfortunately we walked in the wrong direction, but after a quick call we were back in the right direction and found the rest of the team only slightly late. We had a briefing and then a tour around the site which was really beautiful before heading back to the camper. It was at this point that we decided that we’d move, so unpegged the awning and headed to our new chosen pitch, got set up and settled in for the night. 

Tuesday saw us up and working to vibe the site. We worked hard trying to understand and capture Saga’s vision to get the job done and became adept at climbing ladders, lugging bunting around and the mass use of cable ties of various sizes. Over the course of three and a half days the team that I was in managed to vibe 5 venues, including one that involved the separating, scoring, folding and individual attaching of 100’s of leaves. 


Pagoda stage


The Forge










Friday lunch time arrived which meant that our work was finished and we could go and see friends who had also arrived and most importantly our children whom we hadn’t seen for ages. 

After greeting everyone and having special hugs with Jack and Polly we helped to get kit from cars and then settled down with a cup of tea. In our absence Polly had celebrated a birthday and knowing that I wouldn’t be around to make a cake, I’d asked my good friend Sue if she could bake and bring a cake for her and for Abi who’d celebrated her 18th whilst in Kenya away from her family. Sue had subcontracted to her daughter Katherine who had made 30 beautiful cup cakes. Cake is such a good way to start off Greenbelt, so thank you Sue and Katherine. Very well done.

The festival started on Friday evening with a full programme of talks, music and a reception for Angels. All good stuff and a particular highlight for me was Brian McLaren’s talk The Bible 3.0. It was all good stuff and a great start. Roger had decided that he wanted to help out at the Christian Aid cafe and so went and volunteered his services washing up which was gladly accepted for 4 hours every day. 

Saturday arrived with good weather to another full day. I managed some interesting talks under the titles, The Crisis of Religion in the UK, Can we reimagine Marriage – where the lovely Vicky Beeching received a standing ovation when she arrived (she’d had a tough fortnight!) and A response to Violence Against Women. All very thought provoking. I enjoyed listening to Hope and Social but the highlight was a drama by Hannah Nicklen called A Conversation With My Father.  This was the story of Hannah and her father. Her father was a retired police officer and Hannah was a protester and the play examined working out what matters and standing up to protect it. I thought it was done really well and was an honest portrayal of the police side of things. 

Sunday started off with the communion which was again in beautiful sunshine.


I thought the service was lovely, but would have enjoyed a more upbeat hymn/song to end the service.

During the day I attended a really thought provoking talk about Migrants, which challenged some of my views, and enjoyed some poetry including Harry Baker. We’d heard that there was going to be Beer and Hymns in the Jesus Arms so went over to ensure that we got in. It was so worth getting there in time and whilst there was a delay it was brilliant. We sang, danced and praised with gusto whilst drinking beer. Fantastic and as ever, one of my highlights.

Beer and Hymns


The day finished with music from Grace Petrie, comedy from Jo Enright and finally Port and Stilton on the camp site with our friends. It was lovely to see all of our friends and chat over the day and the last 6 weeks that we’d been away. 

Monday brought the forecast rain which was hand work for putting tents down and clearing the campsite, and the ground within the festival began to break up in several places. The programme continued and I went to a really good discussion about Gypsies. I also went to the Mount for one of their Sermons on the Mount which was lovely and then spent the afternoon in the Canopy listening to music from the Jonny Walker Band, Marcus Hummon and Performance Poetry Showcase. A very entertaining afternoon with the highlight being Harry Baker doing his Falafal poem – very funny. In the evening we said goodbye to Jack, Polly and everyone else and settled in for a rainy night ready to take down the next morning.

Tuesday we were up bright and early and starting work at 8 taking down all the bunting, leaves, voile and other pretty things. Fortunately it stayed dry and so whilst it was messy under foot at least we didn’t get wetter whilst we worked. It seems the take down is complicated in not just taking things down but packing things up so that they can be reused next year by ensuring they’ll not be damaged whilst in storage and that they’re not damp when put away. All quite pain staking work. We were released at about 5 to go and pack the awning up, then came back to help out further leaving sometime after 6. Home was a welcome sight and thanks to Jack and Polly for having a hot meal ready for us on our return.

My reflection on Greenbelt and its new site is that the site was beautiful and made a lovely backdrop to the festival. The talk programme was great and I found lots to challenge me and make me think. The Main Stage headliners musically weren’t as high profile as normal and whilst I quite enjoyed Sinead O’Conner there was only one song that I recognised from her. It was a shame that the campers and caravans were pitched in a different area to the tents as this made for a disjointed event for groups but was manageable with a bit of effort from us. The new site was gorgeous but did suffer from the persistent rain on Monday. Not sure how it would have fared if the rain had come on the Saturday or Sunday – but thankfully we didn’t have to consider this. Another wonderful festival and loads to think about and consider. 





We arrived safely at Morton hall camp site and set ourselves up. A steep site, but very pleasantly situated. On Tuesday we caught the bus to Edinburgh which was really straight forward and headed to the Pleasance area as we had tickets to collect going via the Royal Mile. We were completely overwhelmed by the number of flyers that we were confronted with and didn’t really know how to decide what to go to. However as we had tickets to collect at The Pleasance we decided to start there. We decided on tickets for the Reduced Shakespeare Company performing the Complete history of Comedy. This was a fantastic hour with three actors who we’re running around manically covering from Stone Age up to modern time, taking in the pythons on the way.
IMG_0764.JPGWe then found our way to one of my personal favourites which was by Semi-Toned, a men’s accapella group from Exeter University. They were fantastic, singing a wide range of music of multiple styles. They were singing on the smallest stage imaginable but I thought they were fantastic.

We then went back to the Pleasance and caught Ian Smith a comedian who was witty and amusing.
The main event on the Tuesday was that we had tickets for Tim Vine. He was as you imagine, full of life with all of his one liners. Turns out that he likes a few odd songs as well which wasn’t my favourite part of the show, but good clean fun.
Wednesday we were back in to Edinburgh with particular intent to see our friend Katie with her performance with the Underground Clown Company. Fantastic poetry with a good handful of silliness. The poems were all written and performed by the company and they should be proud of their achievements at the fringe.

We then decided to go and see Durham Revue with their comedy show. This wasn’t entirely to my taste, but some of the sketches were amusing.
Thursday saw Roger and I head off to different shows. I wanted to see Sochi 2014, which was a piece of theatre that presented the LGBT human rights abuses in the run up to this years Olympics in a very provoking manner. It was very well done and very thought provoking and challenging. Certainly presented a contrast to all of the comedy we’d seen so far.
We then went to see Matt Forde, a political comedian who was very amusing and had some really good impressions of many of our notable politicians. Certainly amused me.
My comedy highlight was Paul Merton and his Improv Chums. They played to a sell out crowd and were fantastic. They played out suggestions from the crowd in a very amusing way together with a number of other games that they played. I was amazed at how quick they were and played off each other in their improv. I laughed so much that I cried several times, but it was very funny.
One of the items that we’d seen in the programme was a performance of Sunshine on Leith which has become one of our favourite films. We decided that Friday was the day for this and headed out, on several buses, to a school outside of the city. When we got there we were surprised that it was sold out, but decided to stay and see if we could sneak in. Fortunately we were lucky and did get in, and how pleased we were to do so. It was a fantastic production by Captivate Theatre and whilst we already knew the story it was brilliant. I have to admit to crying through much of the second half. Absolutely brill.
We got back into Edinburgh and caught a free show before our evening commitment. This was a musical comedian called Ben Champion. We were welcomed to a show with witty songs, all delivered with a personal twist to his audience and some strange behaviour from some audience members who seemed to be just passing through.
Friday night we found ourselves at The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This was one of Roger’s ambitions and off we went. The crowds were international and the evening made us feel very British. We saw marching bands from around the world, some with the expected pipes and drums, others with traditional concert bands and most surprisingly with steel drums. We were treated to dancers from around the world with a healthy dose of traditional Scottish dancing and sailors. It was all magnificent and finished off with beautiful fireworks.


The castle was illuminated beautifully in the background which made for a magnificent evening. It was particularly special to finish the evening singing Auld Lyne syne with the whole audience linking hands. Special.
On Saturday we decided to give the fringe a miss feeling that we’d experienced it and that we fancied a walk. It was a glorious day so we decided to climb Arthur’s Seat. We had a beautiful, but windy, walk up to the top where it was quite crowded. We spent a short time at the top before heading down to a more shaded spot for a sit down. It was beautiful.

Sunday was a rainy day so we decided on a lazy reading day. It was lovely and we didn’t leave the site. The weather got worse as the day and night progressed and after a very stormy night got up to a slightly damaged awning. We carried out a hasty de-camp and headed to the local garden centre for breakfast before heading down to Birkenhead to see Roger’s mum. A lovely week In Edinburgh finishing off our three and a half weeks in Scotland. It’s been great and I’ll miss it. The Scottish people have been fantastically friendly and it’s been such a great experience. Fantastic.


Commonwealth Games part 2

Well what a fantastic time we’ve had. Being a Clydesider has surpassed all my expectations and I would recommend volunteering at a major event to you all. The folk of Glasgow were wonderfully friendly as were all the tourists, athletes, workers and just about everyone that I spoke to. I’ve high fived people I don’t know and will probably never see again and have laughed loud and long with lovely people. Great.
The detail since I last blogged was that the shifts continued with me working at four sites, three of which housed the technical officials who were officiating at the sports across Glasgow, and one which was an athletes practice venue at Ravens Craig. This site allowed me to watch some of the gymnasts practising which was a rare treat and a real view of what goes on in the background.
After the opening ceremony the serious business of the games started and we managed to see quite a bit of it. I went with my friend Ebon to see the triathlon relay which was fantastic and really exciting. The English team were hot favourites and lived up to their rating winning by a good margin. We watched from the top of the loch and had a great view of the cycle part of the race and could see the running as well.
The Brownlee boys were excellent again and all very impressive.
Roger and I had tickets for the rugby 7’s which were again very exciting we saw 12 matches which we’re all fast and furious and great fun. Some mismatched teams saw some huge scores, but a fantastic atmosphere and great fun.
We managed to see three sessions of the athletics at Hampden Park which was a great venue. Over the three sessions we saw most of the decathlon, the high jump, the long jump heats, triple jump, hammer and lots of hurdles. All very impressive and exciting. I really loved the fact that the para sports were interspersed between the other sports which ensured that the para athletes enjoyed the same fantastic Hampden roar. It was great. I was particularly impressed win David Weir in the wheel chair racing. He was so impressive.


Whilst I was working with the technical officials I was struck by their enthusiasm for the squash doubles which they said were always unpredictable and great fun. Four people dashing around a small court always makes for potential disaster. I was persuaded that it would be a good evenings entertainment and managed to get last minute tickets. It was fantastic. The glass cube they played in was truly impressive and the games were huge. Great skill, speed and agility.

We also popped into the table tennis whilst we were there. Again hugely skilled.
We found time to re visit the fantastic Greek restaurant that we’d found last week, this time with our friends Ebun and Michael. We had a fantastic evening laughing and joking as though we’d known each other for years. Maybe something I can blog extensively about in the future!!
Roger and my shifts didn’t always align well so we both had time whilst the other was working. I used my time mostly in one of the festival sites and really enjoyed Merchant City and Glasgow green where there was lots to see and do. I loved the street theatre including this.

On Friday we had hoped to catch Ken Bruce recording his live show at the BBC quay but didn’t get in. We did however get a very comfy sofa next to the tent in which it was being recorded, from where we could see the big screen with Ken Bruce on one side and lawn bowls on the other. Bliss. Good sport whilst we were entertained with live music from Texas, Amy McDonald and The Overtones. the sofa was so comfy that we stayed there until after lunch when Roger had to go to his shift.
Sunday was our last full day in Glasgow and the weather wasn’t great. The rain was biblical at times which meant that viewing the men’s road cycling race was soggy. We did watch them on the road for a few spells before finding an inside big screen. I do admire the athletes, volunteers and officials that were out in the rain for the entire time to allow the race to happen and wasn’t it exciting.

On Sunday evening I headed off to my last shift to be offered a last minute ticket for the closing ceremony – and possibly two so Roger could come. What a bonus for Roger and I as we headed off to Hampden with the masses to enjoy a wonderful party. I loved the athletes getting into and out of the tents and their enthusiasm for the whole event. Kylie and Lulu we’re both great and the evening was a great celebration of the last 11 days and looking to the future for Gold Coast CWG 2018. What a fantastic way to finish off our experience as Clydesiders. It was simply fantastic.



Our Glasgow experience finished off with breakfast together with our fellow Clydesider volunteers who had been camping together at Hamilton rugby club. Thanks Nick. We managed to present Alan and Nick with a special present, although I’m not sure they thought an England flag was very special or that anyone else will get a photo of the two of them holding it. Thanks Alan and Nick you did a fab job.



Glasgow was great, being a Clydesider was great. The people we met were fantastic and I’m looking forward to my next volunteer experience. Anyone else fancy joining us in Gold Coast CWG 2018?
Until then we move on to Edinburgh to enjoy the delights of the fringe and the tattoo. To adopt a Glasgow phrase – Bring it on!