Friday 27 January 2023

Driver 308’s Commonwealth Games Adventure - Day 15

July 18th  2022

Sarah and my planning the night before had determined that we could leave about 11am, drive to the Holiday Inn Telford, have a bar snack lunch and return to Shrewsbury by 15:00 for our  BB duties.

So after a leisurely breakfast I hopped onto the Crew Support minibus; a Ford Tourneo driven by Bryan, who took me back to the police compound to collect the shuttlebus. I gave the passenger compartment a quick sweep (using the small brush I’d bought in B&Q Plymouth), cleaned all the squashed insects off the windscreen and drove back to the Adelphi Hotel unmade car park. The Citroen was still displaying the emissions light and a message to say ‘Top up Ad Blue’ . When I popped into TSO I discovered that a 10 litre container of Ad Blue had been bought and it was in the back of a Range Rover parked in the multi storey next door. Armed with the keys I went in search of the Range Rover. Normally a Range Rover sticks out like a sore thumb in a car park, but when the QBR has a fleet of 15 assorted Range Rovers and Discoveries all with the same colourful graphics on  not so easy. After wandering around two floors I found it. As I didn’t fancy carrying a 10 kgs of Ad Blue down 4 flights of stairs in the car park and then over ½ mile to the car park I decided to driver the Range Rover to the car park. Of course there was a one way system I had to negotiate, followed by roadworks and diversions but I still got there quicker than if I’d walked! Ad Blue topped up and also splashed over my uniform trousers (clean on this morning) I returned the Range Rover to the front of the Holiday Inn as its driver was looking for it!.

After leaving my luggage bag in the TSO, handing in my room key at reception I hardly got settled onto one of the trendy unholstered ‘benches’ in reception when Sarah appeared. So we made our way to the Adelphi ‘insecure’ car park to head off. There are two tunnels under the River Mersey that charge a toll for all vehicles that go through them. We had been instructed to inform Stu of the date, time and vehicle reg so he could pay the toll online. The Sat Nav took us to the nearest tunnel, ‘The Birkenhead’ which had toll booths and the toll charge was £2 which had to be paid by credit card. The other tunnel had ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) and could be paid online.

It was another hot sunny day not a cloud in the sky and was the start of a three day heat wave which culminated in the highest temperature, 40C, ever recorded in the UK. Sarah updated me with all the latest news from the relay. The previous Friday was the half way point of the Relay, so there was a party to celebrate that important milestone! This was held in the Gretna Hall Hotel over the border in Scotland because there was no hotel with the capacity to accommodate the QBR in Carlisle, although the hosts were actually in the overspill hotel in that town!  By all accounts I missed a very good party, with its fair share of moments – some unforgettable, others best forgotten, and perhaps some umentionable!

After we had been travelling for an hour or so the Citroen finally acknowledged that the Ad Blue had been topped up and the emissions warning light went out.

We arrived at the Telford Holiday Inn in time to have a very tasty burger and chips, while the luggage was unloaded, the TSO was being set up and the room allocations sorted out.  I was allocated room 25, a wheelchair accessible room on the ground floor a very short walk from reception. It was contained a large well equipped wet room, which, when I took a shower later that evening, didn’t quite drain correctly and the water flowed under the door into the carpet rather than down the drain in the wet room floor!

After collecting our luggage and leaving it in our rooms it was time to get back on the road again and head to the Sports Village at Shrewsbury.  We arrived in the car park well before we needed to the Advance team were busy with preparations for the landing of the helicopter that would deliver the Baton, crowds were beginning to assemble to watch even though it was barely 3pm and the helicopter was not due until 5pm!   It was a very hot afternoon, the first day of what turned out to be some of the hottest 3 days on record.

Evenetually it was time for the BBs to get on the shuttlebus and for us to leave the Sports Village for Shrewsbury town centre. As we approached the centre of the town and the area around the castle we had to enter the closed off roads. We parked at the side of the road just past the castle to await the arrival of the Pilot. As it was a very hot day the BBs got out to stand in the shade of the buildings, When the Pilot and their motorcycle escort suddenly arrived followed immediately by the Relay convoy it was a mad scramble to get everyone back on board the shuttlebus. There we set off following pilot around the beautiful buildings in the  shopping centre of Shrewsbury. At one point the police motor cycles at the head of the Relay convoy where coming towards the Pilot vehicle, which was parked waiting for them to take a right turn into the side street ahead of us that would bring them around behind us, but they kept coming. Luckily our motorcyclists managed to stop them before the bulk of the convoy arrived and they managed go up the side street. If the convoy goes the wrong way its quite difficult to get 15 vehicles to reverse or turn around.

We then followed the convoy down to the celebration event in the riverside park to be pick up shuttle, there was noboby needing a ride back to the Sports Village so we were free to return to Telford for the Crew evening meal, which if memory serves included apple crumble and custard!

Friday 20 January 2023

Driver 308’s Commonwealth Games Adventure-Day 9

July 12th to 17th  2022

I was up fairly early as I had the keys to GZN that John would be driving today with Ally. I knew they had an early start for a busy day today as Ally and I had already done the planning and it required a 7:30 start. Ally came to collect the keys at 7:15am.

Stu (Transport Operations Manager) contacted me to say he’d be picking me up around mid-day, drive me to Leeds to pick up a rental car that I could then drive myself home. At 11am I had to check out of the Hotel and because I had Covid I had to remain outside. Luckily there was somewhere to sit out of the way and protected from the light rain that was falling.

Stu arrived just after noon, with Bob (who had also tested positive) he was driving back to Glasgow, a much longer and tougher journey than mine to MK.

I had a Peugeot 308 estate, quite appropriate as it matched my crew number.

Covid was a new experience for me, both Julia and I had avoided catching it so far, we weren’t sure how the next few days would pan out. Luckily I wasn’t really ill. We decided that we’d eat separately as we had to share the kitchen. After tea I watered all the hanging baskets, pots and tubs.

After a good nights sleep in my own bed I awoke the next morning fine, after breakfast I pottered about in the garden until it got too hot. When it got too hot I came indoors and worked on editing the hours of dashcam video I’d recorded so far, in the evenings when it was cooler I’d go outside to water the plants. This became the pattern of my Covid quarantine and I came to realise that the  main affect of Covid, for me, seemed to be intolerance of the hot weather. This was confirmed the week after I recovered when the UK had record temperatures of over 39C and it had no effect on me at all.

To be able to return to the QBR I had to quarantine for 5 days, with negative test results  on Day 5 and Day 6. A Covid test on Friday 15th was still faintly positive, so I was confident I’d be OK by Day  6 which was Sunday 17th July. Late on Saturday I got a negative result and this was confirmed on Sunday morning. I therefore booked a ticket on the 12:04 Avanta West Coast train from MK to Liverpool Lime Street. This was a direct train which made for a quick and simple journey. Julia dropped me at MK Station, the train was running 20 minutes late as a result of the high temperatures there were speed restrictions in force across the rain network.

On arrival at Liverpool Lime Street the Holiday Inn was just across the road, as this photo taken from the Hotel shows.

The first place I had to go on my return was TSO (Tour Services Office).

The TSO was a permanent feature of the QBR and was set up in each hotel that we stayed in. It was occupied by 3 or 4 staff; Stu the Transport Operations Manager, Kiri-Jade (KJ) the Accommodation Manager, Craig the IT person and Emma KJ’s assistant. I reported to KJ to get the key for my hotel room. The TSO was the administrative hub of the QBR, anything we needed we came to the TSO, as a consequence it was always very busy…….

Gradually the QBR crew started to return, it was great to see my fellow crew members again, especially Bob who’d also managed to return to the QBR. I was really pleased to see Deanna who I’d met in Scotland with the Glasgow 2014 QBR when she was one of the Shuttle Hosts. This bought the total of ex QBR 2014 team to 8 (Bob, Trevor, John, Dave, myself, Deanna, Paige and Donna).

I had one small driving task to do before the evening meal. Relocate the shuttlebus from the unmade car park 200 yards from the Holiday Inn to a more secure location – which was a Police vehicle compound about 1 mile away.

The crew meal that evening was very good and it was just like I’d never been away.

I was still in Team C Ally, but tomorrow Monday 18th was her R&R day so once again I was with Sarah.

Friday 13 January 2023

Community Assembly

These are some photographs  of residents and staff having a community assembly at the Chrysalis Theatre in Camphill Milton Keynes. We usually have these assemblies every month in the community so that we can discuss issues and bring up news about events happening in the community.

Alex Fox

Friday 6 January 2023

Driver 308’s Commonwealth Games Adventure-Day 8 July 11th 2022

Today was yet another fine bright sunny day, we have been really lucky with the weather so far on the Relay. Apart from a short shower on the way to Plymouth and  10 minute shower on Monday as we drove down to Weymouth it has been warm and sunny.

Ally and I are Team C, and Team C wasn’t scheduled to do anything until 4oclock today in Bakewell. Bakewell in is the Peak District and we decided to leave at 9am for Bakewell and spend our free time exploring Bakewell rather than sit in the hotel all morning. We were joined by two other shuttle hosts, Shannon and Sophie, who were on R&R and wanted to look around the Peak district. I was suffering with what I thought was a summer cold (runny nose and slight cough)

The route from Grantham to Bakewell soon gets into the Peak district and then the landscape changes and its very pretty. We saw signs for Chatsworth House and contemplated a visit but the £33 each entrance fee was deemed excessive for what would be a 2 hour visit.

I dropped Ally, Shannon and Sophie at the far end of Bakewell, to explore, found a suitable place to park up that was very close to where we needed to be at 4pm and then retired to ‘The Manners’ pub and restaurant.

I sent a photo to Ally so she’d know where to find me and the shuttle bus. We all had lunch at The Manners, sausages & mash in onion gravy for three of us and fish and Chips for Ally, followed by Morvenpick ice cream, which was delicious.

It seemed to be a very hot afternoon, even though it was gone 4pm, I was feeling very hot and trying to stay in the shade and not be out in the sun. I even asked the Relay medic if she thought it might be Covid, I didn’t have any of the symptoms she mentioned and I felt alright apart from being hot so concluded it was probably the weather and I’d take an LFT test when we got to the Hotel in Barnsley.

The BBs boarded the shuttlebus, we slotted in behind the Pilot and police motorcyclist as they drove through the centre of Bakewell and dropped the BBs off at each pink numbered sticker. Then it was a police escorted convoy to Buxton. Very scenic drive to Buxton where no-one needed taking back to their starting point, so we were free to make our way to Barnsley IBIS Styles.

My Sat nav chose a very direct route through the Peak District National Park, which I messed up slightly by missing a turning and thereafter the route became rather interesting. As the following video shows.

When we arrived at the Barnsley Hotel I did a LFT which came out positive. I would have to quarantine in my hotel room, so before I left for the Best Western at Wakefield I was given; cartons of juice, bags of crisps, flapjack bars and bananas to keep me going while a solution was worked out.

Wednesday 4 January 2023

The Knife Angel

In 2014, the 'Save A Life, Surrender Your Knife' campaign was born when the Chairman of the British Ironwork Centre in Shropshire, Clive Knowles, was struck by the large amount of  violent knife crimes being reported within the media. Known for his passion and commitment to tackling social issues through his dedication to art, Clive felt immediately compelled to find a way to make a real difference by highlighting this devastating national issue.

The Ironworks began to reach out to families, communities and cities affected by these horrific acts of violence and the response was tremendous with many mothers, families and loved ones already working tirelessy to help raise better awareness surrounding these heinous asts. Inspired by their desperation and unrelenting vigour, the campaign truly began. Alongside artist Alfie Bradley, the Ironworks designed a sculpture that would be powerful whilst simultaneously carrying the voices of victims and familles in a sensitive light. Working alongside the Home Office, the Ironworks sought permission to approach and work in collaboration with all 43 police constabularies across the UK. The Ironworks offered to fund and provide all knife banks, only asking that each constabulary commited to holding an amnesty or a surrender campaign to raise awareness and better educate their communities about knife crime.

Through these knife banks, thousands of weapons were collected, cleaned and blunted, ready to form an integral part of the final Knife Angel sculpture. Those Families who had experienced knife crime first-hand were invited to come into the Centre to engrave their message onto the blade, many taking the opportunity to share their stories. These blades were then all strategically placed to form the Knife Angel itself, giving life to what is now known as the National Monument Against Violenve and Aggression.

Since its conception, the Knife Angel's purpose was always to evoke emotion, raise better awareness and to above all else, make an all-important change. Through tne Ironwork's Agreement of Conscience, every hosting location is fully commited to conducting 28-days of intensive educational workshops and programmes for their community youth.

Believing that appropriate education is at the heart of this national issue, it is very important that every hosting city utilises the Angel as a point of tuition to educate its youth and regional school children about how knife crime, and all types of violent behaviour, negatively affects our lives within every community.

It is also important that each city establishes a permanent educational programme surrounding anti-violence so that their efforts continue to reverse the tide on this behaviour long after the Angel has moved on. Through this, all hosting locations are also asked to submit a post-appraisal detailing their future educational initiatives and plans, as well as how they have brought about educational awareness during their tenancy of the monument for the benefit of their communities and children.

Alex Fox