What I really want to do is try and convey some of the funny moments, some of the humanity if you will.
On the way to Birmingham, Marygrace and I decided that while jeans were practical, several weeks at slimming world meant really we needed belts to keep them at a decent height. Going into Sainsbury’s to look for them was fruitless, and to cap it all Maygrace left her phone in the Ladies, and didn’t realise til we rocked up at the campsite to book in. I hopped out to find Kristina, she charged off… to find that some honest soul had handed the phone in.
While we were pitching our tent there were huge amounts of laughter aimed at tent poles left in Sheffield and (worse still) tents left in London. These situations were fixed, people helped people, phone calls and people who can spend a while driving to collect spares saved the day.
Then for Marygrace and I there was the issue of food. We are following Slimming World and we didn’t want to go off track. Taking our food along wasn’t too much of an issue, how to store it and more importantly prepare and cook it was. Cue Janet, who stored it and prepared each meal in time for us to collect it at the right time, and made sure our ice pack was frozen to keep breakfast cold in the tent overnight. Janet was a star for us.
In terms of practicalities, so many people pitched in to help for an hour, or a day or overnight and a stalwart few worked the whole time. The security team, who worked in shift round the clock, the tent team who took care of the tent in the same way. The caterers, some working at it all the way through the weekend, some coming into teams for half a day. People on cleaning teams, getting a grip on the Marigolds and the Anti-bac spray to keep the toilets and showers from being a health hazard (this was done by several teams and usually a team only did one day’s duty). The welcomers and stewards, checking people into the marquee and keeping things neat and tidy and safe for everyone else. The music group and the leaders of teams, villages, outdoors events, evening events, seminars. So many people contributed to make RAW the life changing event that it was. It would be impossible to name everyone who did something so I won’t attempt to, but if you were at RAW and you contributed in any of the ways mentioned above, please consider this my way of saying thanks!
I know who I’ve missed out, the Bus drivers. We had several rather silver haired Men who drove double decker busses to get the teams for RAW outdoors to their locations. They fairly obviously were not under 35 as the majority of RAW-ites were, but without their help we would have been pretty stuck!
Mornings were very funny. People could be heard squealing as they managed to mistakenly pick the one cold shower (i managed to find one that was warm enough to use to get properly clean even if I didn’t hang around!) Then, being a large group of girls, there was inevitably the few who could not survive without essentials such as hair straighteners, and there was also quite a bit of inventiveness regarding charging phones, from sharing chargers to standing on chairs to reach high up sockets.
Due to the rain which arrived with pretty decent regularity (and not always with regard for any event about to happen) the lights in the main marquee cut out several times. The sound, thankfully, carried on working, but several times the lights went out for a few minutes, met by cheering as they came back on again.
I was particularly pleased to see the determination of one young lady. She arrived in a wheelchair. She was determined to camp, and camp she did, albeit with a bit of help. A portaloo was moved down from where the rest of them were lined up so she didn’t have to go so far. A ramp was put together at high speed to get her up the slight bank at the side of the campsite, a couple of friends were always on hand to help get her everywhere she might possibly want to go, including downhill to the campfire on the second night, so she could join in the general consumption of marshmallows and toast her face. She did have quite a bit of help, but none of it would have been worth it if she hadn’t been determined to join in and make something of the weekend.
This was an event that had some leadership, all events need leadership and organisation, but it would have been a complete waste of time if the people arriving for the event hadn’t got stuck in. Practically everyone participated to a high degree, coming out of comfort zones in a big way. It was life changing for more than just me.
Life-changing? Yes, it was. You see, I’ve carried around a big issue for much of my life, something I couldn’t forgive and let go of, and it had turned into a resentful, bitter thing that kept letting me get depressed if that makes sense. Over the weekend as I kept making the concious decision to join in and let the life around me in, I found that I let it go, and it was as easy as breathing out, or putting down a too-heavy bag of shopping. Maybe it’s small, but it’s something I knew I needed to resolve. I didn’t know it would happen over the weekend, but I’m so glad it did.
In lots of ways I didn’t want RAW to end. I’ve seen much protest, people wanting to go back now the event is over. I think what is important now is making sure that what we learned is applied. For all the short nights and damp mornings and inconvenient rain, RAW was great, life-giving; but it doesn’t mean much if we can’t go home and apply what we absorbed. We might as well have simply gone on holiday, and to be brutally honest, I wouldn’t pick a Birmingham suburb as a holiday location!
Bless you all.