As some of you know, I write another blog besides this one. Honest Speaks has been going since 2009 and it’s where I keep some of my more creative writing exercises. The ‘strapline’ (if you will) is ‘Writing. People. Poetry.’ This pretty much sums up what interests me. Some time ago, I did a series of interviews over at Honest Speaks, called Ordinary People (Read my interview with extra-ordinary poet and playwright Inua Ellams). I have been thinking about resurrecting these interviews – I still might – and these thoughts led me back here.
I started this blog both as a record of Mushroom’s milestones and to share my experience of parenting. I have already made many friends through this blog and something I’ve noticed many of us don’t talk much about what we do besides being a parent. So, as I am
nosy curious about people, I have decided to start a series of Mummy Plus interviews. I think all of us are Mummy plus something. For example, apart from my other family relationships (sister, wife, friend etc.) I am also a Creative Writer, Internal Communications Professional (these first two are obviously not mutually exclusive!) and NLP Master Practitioner/Life Coach. The purpose of these interviews is to speak to a wide range of parents, and find out who we are when we’re not being ‘Mummy.’
For my first interview, I spoke to my friend and neighbour, Helen. As well as being Mum to 18 month old Kieran, Helen also teaches English to foreign students and is currently working on a biography of Robert Boyle, an early British scientist usually remembered for
Boyle’s law (it’s ok, I had to look it up too!) but who deserves credit for so much more… So as you can imagine, Helen is rather busy. Despite this, she managed to find an extra 50+ hours to work as one of the 70,000 Games Makers who volunteered to work for free during the London Olympics.
How did you end up working as a Games Maker for London 2012?
I applied ages ago when I was in the middle of my pregnancy with Kieran. I was of course able to work out how old he would be by the time of the Games (even though I didn’t even know that he was a he at that stage!). However, I had no idea what I’d be doing work wise or in terms of childcare, having decided to leave the TV researcher job that I had back then because it just wasn’t compatible with family life. Despite the uncertainty, I knew that I really wanted to be involved with the London Olympics if I possibly could. After all it was going to be on my doorstep and opportunities like that really are once in a lifetime, it’s a cliché but it’s also true. Luckily I had a few willing babysitters up my sleeve who pushed me to go for it so I decided that I could figure out the details later… After a long but strangely enjoyable interview when Kieran was very small (one of the first times I left him on his own with Daddy), I found out that I was going to be a Games Maker in the Press Operations Team.
Did you have to do a lot of training?
The training consisted of three sessions. The first was with thousands of other Games Makers at Wembley Arena and was more like going to a concert than a training session. I think the idea was to get us motivated and excited about our role in the Games and it certainly worked, everyone was buzzing by the end. After that I had two more sessions; one to train us in the specific role we’d been allocated – in my case this was looking after press photographers during the events – and one to introduce us to the particular venue that we’d be working in. Here I felt I’d been really lucky as I was going to work in the Photo Team at the main stadium. The training day at the stadium was rather daunting to be honest, it was just so huge and I had fears about having to direct photographers and others around a place that was so new to me – my sense of direction has always been a weakness!
What kind of things did you do during the Games?
Assisting the photographers as much as possible and also making sure they behaved themselves, not letting them stand in certain no go areas and that kind of thing. In the stadium we had Photo Team vests so that it was obvious what we were there for but walking across the Olympic park in just the Games Maker uniform meant that we were stopped by members of the public with all sorts of questions, some of which I’m afraid I had no clue about… Luckily there were always loads more Games Makers on hand to help with lots of info for the spectators so it all worked out.
What was your favourite part about being a Games Maker?
Simply that it allowed me to be involved with the Olympics in a practical way, that’s something I’ll never forget. There were lots of memorable moments in terms of the athletics that I was lucky enough to see for free as well. The best of these was definitely watching Mo Farah getting his second gold – the atmosphere was electric and I was right by the finish line – amazing!
…and your least favourite..?
We were told that we weren’t allowed to clap or show support for Team GB, we were there to do a job and be professional – fair enough – but it was extremely hard at times…
How did you manage childcare during the week?
He basically got passed around between Grandparents and Daddy, which was probably good for him – he tends to spend too much time with me as it is. He certainly didn’t seem to mind and by the end I think he understood that the funny purple and red t-shirt meant Mummy was off to work and he cheerfully waved me off each time.
You were at the closing ceremony. What was that like?
Fantastic. What can I say? I had a great spot at the front, close to the action. We did have to work, telling the photographers to sit down and keep the aisles clear etc., it wasn’t too tough though, really.
Now that it’s all over, how do you feel?
I felt extremely emotional when Seb Coe gave his speech at the closing ceremony and the flame went out. I couldn’t believe it was all over so soon but I was so pleased to have played my tiny part in such a monumental event. I think the UK should feel proud of what happened here. It’s easy to be cynical but I just think the hard work of so many should be recognised – London 2012 was surely a success by anyone’s standards.
Do you know whether any of the volunteers will be continuing to work during the Paralympic Games?
Yep. A number of the Games Makers in my team are back for more this weekend and I have to admit I’m really jealous of them. I decided against it because it’s not really just about me – I have to rely on lots of other people to make it work – but I’ll definitely be watching as much as I can and this time no one will stop me clapping!
If you enjoyed this interview and have any further questions for Helen, let me know by leaving a comment below and I’ll pass them on.
If you would like to take part in a Mummy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter, and complete the following sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy plus…’ If you’re a bit shy, but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.
I am also interested in doing some Daddy Plus interviews, but please note the person being interviewed must be responsible for at least half of the childcare responsibilities in order to take part. I am particularly interested in interviewing stay at home Dads.