I haven't worn a uniform since leaving school (mumble mumble) years ago except for one brief period, when I volunteered at the Special Olympics in 2003 in Dublin. The company I worked for at the time was the main sponsor and pledged to provide 1,000 volunteers for the event from its own workforce i.e. 1 in 17. Here in the UK we'd been getting pretty fed up of hearing about all the marvellous things people were doing in Ireland without us having even a whiff of the action. So we were mightily pleased when it was announced just before Christmas 2002 that the company would fully sponsor 10 volunteers from the UK (1 per subsidiary company or section) to go and work for 10 days at the main event itself.
There was a scarily long form to fill in - a bit like the one for The Apprentice, so I submitted mine and thought nothing more of it. In the new year I got the special phonecall from HR to say I'd bagged the Central Operations place - whoopee! The other winners were announced shortly afterwards and we had a few months of excited e-mailing amongst ourselves, particularly to voice our concerns over the lack of speed re our police criminal records check. We actually missed the deadline for clearance by a few days, but luckily we still got to go.
One of the criteria for volunteering was to 'Wear the Special Olympics uniform with pride'. We were provided with hat, raincoat, polo shirt, t-shirt and bum bag and had to provide our own fawn trousers to complete the assemblage. My uniform was the green of the 'jobbing volunteer', so was the colour worn by the majority. I got such a reaction wherever I went - from both fellow volunteers and Dubliners, finding the pride to go with the uniform was no problem.
We were asked to provide a volunteer diary each day. In the end I was the only one to do so. I didn't have access to a computer or e-mail, but luckily my host from the bank was the Managing Director's PA, so could take my hastily written scribblings and send them back to Bristol to go on the company's intranet. I suppose that was my first experience of blogging! We've been having a massive clearout at home lately and I came across my volunteer diary and various other materials from that time and had a lovely few hours reminiscing. As a result I've decided to start an occasional blog, to properly record this and other special experiences, travel diaries etc. My volunteer diary's there right now waiting for you to take a peek.
I still have the hat and the raincoat. However, the words TEAM 2003 emblazoned on the back of the coat in enormous white letters doesn't really make it suitable for everyday wear. So I keep it in my shed up at the allotment for rainy emergencies. It brings a smile to my face every time I have to use it, in spite of the rain.
ABC Wednesday is bought to you courtesy of Mrs Nesbitt and the letter U.