I was going to title this “Jaundice” or “Bilious” but I thought that might put you off reading. They are both, however, very good words to describe the colour of the t-shirt and cap I had to wear last night. I know they wanted the volunteers to stand out but was this really necessary? On the upside, at least absolutely none of us looked good in this colour!
Having walked the Moonwalk twice, I decided that as a couple of very good friends of mine were walking it this year I would volunteer. Of course, having walked it twice I got a bit above myself and put myself down for all three shifts.
It was only when I got the letter stating the shift start times (6pm, 11pm and 6am) that I realised that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. Judging by those timings, the last shift would end at 11am or later (depending on when the last walker came through) meaning that I would be on my feet for at least 17 hours.
I was on the clean and recycle crew which meant, well, cleaning and recycling. Our job was to go around the (huge) site picking up rubbish and making sure it got into bins. We were fairly quiet but constantly occupied until the walkers headed out between 11pm and midnight. Then we had to clear the main tent area of their discarded food trays, water bottles, space blankets/rain capes (yes, some had ditched them before setting off), temporary tattoo papers, discarded face paints, sundry miscellaneous decorations (sequins, stickers, bows etc) and feathers. My goodness, if I never see another feather from a feather boa again I will be a happy woman. They were absolutely everywhere and a blooming nightmare to pick up.
This is the main tent. The actual Moonwalk site was probably twice as big again, if not a bit bigger (I’m not good with estimating stuff like that).
We also had to dispose of at least 40 blow up cushions, 6 fold out camping chairs and 2 inflatable beds that people had brought with them for comfort and then abandoned. I thought it was a sad state of affairs that at a charity event which tries to reduce it’s carbon footprint and only serves organic vegetarian food, those perfectly usable items just got thrown away. If I could have brought them all home with me……
It took about two hours to clear the tent and site properly and then the worst part of the night followed. From 2am until about 4.30am there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. It was cold, dark and boring. A real “darkest before the dawn” situation. There were walkers (from the half distance event) coming in in dribs and drabs but they weren’t dropping much rubbish at that point!
At 4.30 things started to look up a bit. It was starting to get light for one thing, but even better I was asked to go and do some marshalling at a point near the end of the route. This meant getting off site and getting to encourage all the amazing women and men who where walking.
I remember getting close to the end of the Moonwalk both times that I walked it and feeling heartily sick of people in vile yellow t-shirts telling me that I was nearly finished. They started telling us at about mile 20 and frankly 6.2 miles to go is not nearly finished when you’re that tired, achy and in pain. But I also remember the people in yellow t-shirts, which strangely didn’t seem such a horrid shade, shouting out encouragement about what an amazing thing we were doing and how fab we looked. I remember looking at those people and thinking that they can’t have been there for very long as they looked so fresh but that they were so enthusiastic and cheerful that it really bucked me up.
I was at my marshall point today for 3.5 hours and I spent every minute of that being enthusiastic and cheerful. I bellowed good morning at the top of my voice and told them all that they looked great, that they were doing an amazing job and that I was proud of them. I cheered and applauded, clapped and shouted and went from feeling awkward and a bit silly to genuinely enjoying myself. Walkers who were pushing through, tired, heads down, just getting on with the job; looked up, smiled and said good morning back, told me I was doing a great job too. It was a really amazing experience, seeing my words and behaviour having an instant lifting effect on people. It was that part of the night that made me think that maybe I would volunteer again.
By 8.30am though, despite my outward enthusiasm, I was starting to feel pretty ropey – cold, tired, more cold and even more tired. Standing up for that long, even if you’re not walking, will take it out of you particularly if you’re doing it overnight. I called my new team leader, got some cover for that marshall point and went back to the volunteer area. I wasn’t too sad to hand back my interestingly coloured t-shirt and find my way to the train station.
The best part of my night volunteering? My husband and children meeting me at the station with huge hugs all round and waves from the walkers on the same train home. All of us tired but proud of what we’d achieved.