I have been asked me to write a little bit about the Olympics. I write from the helper’s point of view, you will no doubt hear other versions from the children themselves.
I always consider it a great privilege to accompany the children on this rite of passage. The Olympics is an extraordinary feat of organization. As a helper you get to experience the whole thing not just the icing on the cake, which is the last day.
My own daughter was in the first class that went to the Olympics from Michael House. Mrs. Stevenson -Jones was her teacher and Mr. and Mrs. Winter were the helpers. Then no parents were allowed to attend the event.
Our children returned tired and dirty but brimming with pride at what they had achieved.
Then we went and returned by train from Langley Mill. This was a major adventure in itself having to cross London by tube without losing any child or getting stuck in the ticket barriers. It was an old train to East Grinstead with separate compartments and the children sang all the way. We had very little in the way of equipment and I know Flossie is amazed at the amount we take now….in my day…..
I have also recently accompanied Mr. Ball’s class in the extreme heat and Mrs. Bryant’s class in extremely windy conditions.
This year we set off in the mini bus. Mr. Black, Michael Bearder and Christiana singing “June lovely June” before we even had got to Langley Mill. After numerous games of I-spy and lots more singing we arrived at Michael Hall…a haven of peace and tranquillity. We were greeted and welcomed by Michael hall parents with juice and cake.
Then we went through the fields to find our camp. Luckily the van had dropped everything in one big heap (last year because we arrived by coach we had to carry everything uphill through mud before even striking camp). Although we had the furthest to walk we had a beautiful view of the hall and the Olympic field.
Sam and William set to work right away digging the holes in the ground for the toilets, everyone else set up the tents and gazebos. Having finished digging holes Sam and William were sent to fetch water for cups of tea and for the cooking of pasta and sauce. The boys gathered firewood. We lit the campfire and then after supper the children went off exploring and then we all played catching the bean bag, piggy in the middle in the huge space of the big field. Then back to the fire to toast marshmallows before brushing of teeth and crawling into tents. I thought the children may have had trouble settling but we were visited by an old teacher from Michael House and his incessant chatter sent the children to sleep.
Sam awoke at 4.00am. Up with the birds! It had been a very cold night. Later in the day a Brazilian woman came round offering us blankets (she had gathered them from the class 5 parents of Michael Hall and was distributing them among the camps…a feat of organization…
apparently she does this all the time in her own country. It was a cold morning with the promise of sunshine later on and the children set off full of anticipation. Christiana went with them she had the honour of being asked to help with the relay.
Michael and I were left to tidy the camp and prepare fruit for a snack and collect more firewood and water. Then after the snack had been taken down to the already exhausted children it was back to the camp to prepare lunch.
The children arrived back for lunch but where was Mr Black? He has just run a marathon the children said and he is lying down under a tree!
In the afternoon Christiana and I walked down to the town in search of sausages which could be scarce in a town descended upon by 1,000 campers but luckily we found some they must have gone for the vegetarian option.
Always there is some anxiety…will the gas run out, will it rain before we have cooked our meal over the fire, will we have enough wood, are the children alright? Oh no we need some more water oh no Mr. Black doesn’t have an outfit yet for Saturday. At the moment it is only a bed sheet that needs sewing and he needs a twirly whirly to hold it together…would a guy rope do or could we fashion one out of bark Ray Mears style?
In the afternoon Michaels back was hurting the result of hauling water or firewood.
Mr Black thought some yoga may help. So in the middle of the camp he gave us all an impromptu yoga lesson, quite tricky on sloping ground but very beautiful in the open air.
The children were very hungry and ravenously ate all their sausages beans and charred potatoes. Christiana and I had the wonderful experience of a communal shower much appreciated after two hot smoke filled days.
The next day was damp, I thought they all might sleep in, but no, Sam was still up with the larks. However not Mary or Mr. Black who had to be woken much later.
Then it was the same routine of preparing fruit and lunch with Michael singing all the while punctuated by visits from other camp helpers. We made soup to warm the children after their cold wet experience on the field.
In the afternoon I walked down to the town in search of burgers while Christiana and Michael sewed the Mr. Black outfit. I think Christiana did the sewing and Michael did the singing.
On the way back walking through the trees I heard this loud booming voice reverberating round the field “William and Doreen leave those javelins alone please.”
I got back to the camp followed shortly afterwards by William and Doreen looking very sheepish. Apparently William had been pretending to pee on the javelins like a dog! Oh no will we ever be allowed back to Michael Hall!
After supper the children went off with new friends they had made or played hide and seek.
Then most of the class went over to sing with Kings Langley school while Sam stayed behind to wash his hair and I washed his shorts which somehow he had managed to get dirty before the big day.
We awoke at 5 to a cold morning but got cooking pancakes for a Kiwi breakfast in honour of Christiana, consisting of pancakes, bacon, bananas and maple syrup…would we get them all cooked in time? Would everyone be up and dressed and in their white kit before 7.00 when they were all half asleep, really tired now after two days of activities and fresh air? Cereal, pancakes, hair plaiting teeth brushing water bottles filled everything takes so long when the children are like zombies and you have to search for everything. Then Mr. Black presented their white tunics ‘Wear this with pride” he said in his magnificent voice and they were instantly transformed into athletes who would do their best.
There was just time to take photos of this transformation and then we gathered to say the verse before we set off for the field for the last time.
The sun came out and they did their best. I caught glimpses of them throughout the day as I packed up the tents. Sam running in the marathon and Frances… I never expected her to run so fast, she was up there ahead of all the other girls…and was that Doreen running like the wind in the relay..it must be her in the grey leggings.
The parents so proud of their children, tears in their eyes. The children had come a long way many had not camped before many had not left home before.
Then the beautiful closing ceremony flags fluttering .
And then the packing up the dismantling of the camp. Everything had to be carried down to the car park ….a marathon in itself. Luckily we had some strong fathers amongst the parents.
Then we had our own little thank you ceremony. Thanks for the thanks.
Then back home on the minibus crammed in with all the gear… to unpack again at Michael house at 10.00pm . Then home to our loved ones.
We had survived another year and lived to tell the tale.
Helper of many Olympic Games!
The Olympic was a inspirational as ever, all our Olympiads went away safely with helpers and teachers to support them through this challenging event. The beauty of the games cannot be expressed or felt by simply writing about it however those who have been before 2013 and those who will attend in the future will remember and look forward to the spiritual experience that it is. Class 5 , and two from class 6, came back to the community taller, wiser and confident, striding forwards in to their future with a strong sense of what can be achieved individually and in a team. At the medal ceremony the children are not only given a physical token of their stay at Michael Hall, their archons also give them the gift of being defined by their participation too, here’s a taste of one or two given to this year’s trip; Positive attitude to the games effected the whole city. A great teller of tales.Brave of heart.
No parent was left with dry eyes and the closing of the games was as deeply moving as the opening. We can all be very proud of our teacher, helpers and Olympiads from 2013 as they represented the school and community most excellently.
Class 5 Parent!