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It should never happen to a parking attendent! – 19 November 2013

W10 parking, laughing after the event! Baz reports.
 

Looking resplendent in tabards – Baz, Ali, Paul and Dave. Robin is a spectator!

When I first got the email from Jeff, I thought his computer must have had a virus, he wanted us at the QE car park at 07.45 hrs.  I was not aware that Sunday had two 7.45s, the one I was happy with contained Countryfile, but the existence of another one, surely not. A brief conversation on Thursday evening proved definitive, there were two and Ali and I were to be at the car park several hours before Matt Baker and John Craven were milking cows on the telly!

I am not sure that Jeff fully understood what he was asking, working back from 07.45 hrs, means that travel time, Alison's morning regime, breakfast, dog walking, live stock feeding, emergency toilet breaks, packing, wardrobe manoeuvres (x 2, cold), weather testing, TV pre-recording and last minute thingies, eventually culminating in the alarm going off just after Match of the Day on Saturday evening.  Bring it on!!

We arrived in the car park at exactly 0740 hrs, Mark and Dave were there with a large array of signs, arrows and stuff that were ready to be deployed. We walked across the car park to where they were stood and it was immediately apparent that we (Ali and I ) were not ready for the task, we were deficient in one crucial area. We jumped back into the car and sped down to Pamphill, as we turned the corner and drove at speed up the finishing straight, we had one thing in mind, we must find Jeff.

As luck would have it, he was at the finish area, and trying to act as calm as I could, I hit the window button and called out ‘Jeff we have a problem!’

You see when we arrived at the car park it was apparent in seconds that Ali and I were not prepared, because, we, I am afraid to admit, did not have  - a florescent tabard - and as any runner knows, a  person in a tabard on the course means power and authority, without a tabard you are a spectator.

Jeff, without prompting ran to his car and returned with two florescent ceremonial robes (admittedly in size large which Alison turned an eye at), but nonetheless, there they were not only were they florescent (and large) but there on the label was the inscription of power written in script (and water-proof pen) the ultimate symbol of power - W10, we were official.

Alison had her's on in seconds, and no it did not make it look big (?). We drove back to the QE car park at great speed, no one would dare to stop us because we were now official, I pulled into the car park at speed pulled a handbrake turn and did a 180 degrees into the parking lot, finishing just perfectly between the lines (it is at this stage that I must admit that some of this may just be made up  - a little).  We got out of the car, strode across to David and Mark absorbing the power of the tabard and the knowing looks - welcome to the family.

David being David was non-plussed by our florescent glow, apparently you see a lot of them in Parkruns. With no time to spare we set off putting up signs for the runner to follow to the start, because let's face it as we found out last Thursday on the run to to Brook Road, runners will follow anything, including the group going for a general run and not the one going to the start of the interval session!

Signs up, we re-grouped in the car park, we had been pre-warned that QE had a dance competition going on that morning, and ten spaces were allocated to them. I had brought a set of walkie-talkies (who doesn't love a gadget) and we moved into location. Ali was put on the entrance, a small pep talk - don't forget you are the first face that represent the Wimborne 10 (and no it does not look large in that tabard) so smile, whatever happens smile.  David, Mark and myself took our places and braced ourselves.

 It started slowly, the odd car coming in, they were dispatched with, a quick flick of the wrist and hey presto - car parked, what a doddle. At about 09.30, things had started to quicken up, the top car park was filling up, but we had the bottom one as an ace up our sleeves this year. We began to recognise the occupants of the cars before they got close, the runners would be stuffing a last minute Granola bar into themselves whilst washing it down with a drinks bottle they had collected 10 years ago at a race, and they would be dressed in a finishing t-shirt from a race five years ago that no one can remember. The first question they would ask was never, ‘How far to the start?’ or, ‘Is it hilly?’ No, it was always, ‘Where is the nearest toilet that flushes’!

The dancers were even easier to spot, as the car window came down, the smell of false tan, hairspray, and the dazzle of spray-on glitter jumped out of the car like Doctor Who regenerating, and that was just the mums doing the driving! We soon realised that more than ten cars of dancers had arrived. Mark was now having to jog up and down the top car park looking for dancers to move on and question, David had moved subject from Parkruns on to heart rate monitors, but we were still in control.

The radio message from Mark came in, we were full at the top car park, so we will have to open the bottom one, he had now broken into a run as he fartleked from one car park to the next. David moved to position No. 2 (time spent in rehearsal is time well spent) and now we were double tabard traffic directors  A few runners wanted to turn left and take their chances in the now full top car park, but we were having none of it, a firm point in David's direction and then a flick of his wrist sent the hapless runners into the bottom slots, we were cooking on gas!

It was then that the world dropped out of our parking universe, the car slowing down in front of me and pulling down the window did not contain an energy gel eating runner, or a car full of Darcey Bussells, this was something new. A quick inspection of the passenger seat confirmed my worst fears, it contained a Thermos, a Tupperware container of sandwiches (meat paste), a skipole-type walking stick and a rucksack. There was no getting away from it we had walkers in the car park. ‘Hello’  she says, ‘I am the Secretary of the (************* removed for liable reasons) Walking and Rambling Club and we are meeting here today for a walk’.  Her car had so many dents that it looked like it was wrapped in a golfball skin. This was not going to end well. I explained that we had booked the car park with the school and that the cast of Wimborne's version of Strictly Come Dancing were turning up on mass. However, she was having none of it, ‘I will have a drive around and see who is already here’ she says, and with that she pulls away with a puff of tyre smoke, leaving behind a smell of Murraymints and biscuits!

We had now hit rush hour, Mark was now doing shuttle runs, David was moving into the mix and Wendy and Jess in their W10 tabards took over direction duties. ’Mark’, I said into the walkie-talkie, ‘How many places left’,  ‘Two’, came the reply with panting breath. A quick look over my shoulder saw a queue of at least 10 cars, the first window comes down and a man wearing a kagool with dandruff on the collar asked if I have seen his walking mates. Next was a Ford Transit with a trailer, the window comes down and the bloke driving it looks in apprehension, he is now faced with his worst nightmare, he is going to have to explain to a man in a tabard (you could see the envy in his eyes), that he was attending a dance competition with the two under-10s in the passenger seat, and where could he park. In this post-Savile era you could see the worry on his face – ‘No where’, I replied. Not surprisingly he seemed happy with this reply and drove off quickly in a manly manner. The next driver was astounded that they had car parking officials for the antique fare in the school hall, it was obviously going to be a large one, perhaps it might even be on Bargain Hunt.  He was told in no uncertain terms that the only antique he would find here today was a vintage running t-shirt from 1999. He soon left.

We were now at crisis point, Alison was stopping cars in the road, and leaning into the open windows in a scene reminiscent of Julie Roberts in Pretty Woman, Mark was in the car park, screaming into his walkie-talkie, ‘No more, we canna take any more’ (imagine Scotty in Star Trek) he had also forgotten my name and was calling me Barry, David was now joining Mark in what had turned into a sprint session around the car park. By now the ramblers had joined up in a car conga around the car parks appearing at every opening and junction, the traffic queue was now heading down to the traffic lights, and growing. There was only one course of action, send the ramblers to the leisure centre car park. I got on the walkie-talkie, ‘Mark use the leisure centre’,  It took a while to get through because Mark by now was in hiding under a car, trying to avoid angry parkers. Decision made, we put our plan into action. The message went down the line, but just as we executed ‘Operation ditch the ramblers’ a call came in on the walkie-talkie, ‘Hello Barry’ (this was not Mark), ‘This is the leisure centre do not, I repeat, do not send anybody to our car park’.  It would appear that they use walkie-talkies on the same waveband as ours and they had heard all our conversations, a plan is only as good as its first contact with the enemy and ours had failed! Obviously I assured them that we wouldn't do it.

‘How many places left’, I asked, ‘Two’, was the reply, how could this be.  Finally it was starting to slow down, the ramblers had driven off in convoy and in high dudgeon, meaning that spaces were appearing around the car parks like the gaps in Bruce Forsyth's toupee. Finally at 1015 hrs, the last few runners were busy parking on the verges, flowerbeds (a Poole Runner), double yellow lines, and disabled bays, -  but they were in, they (we) had made it.

David had managed to find Mark's hiding place and convinced him to come out.  They emerged from the car park at a trot, was it really over, had we managed to pull it off, what had caused the meltdown. It was then I noticed that Mark’s tabard was not the same as ours, there was no W10 on the label, no wonder he had lost it, he had brought his own that he had ‘borrowed’ from work - no further explanation was needed, the runners had scented this and turned on him. A spectator in a pretend tabard.

But this was not the end for the car park quartet, we were now to move to the finish line and act as runners for the officials. We moved down to Pamphill en masse and received our second brief of the day. We also noticed a change in the power dynamic, not only did the officials have a tabard, but they had the ultimate accoutrement of power - a clip board, things just got serious.

Our mission was to collect one numbered time sheet from Official A, collect the second corresponding sheet from Official B (the lady in the hat), and then run like the wind over to race HQ (the pavilion, (nice and warm with tea and coffee making facilities and not forgetting a flushing loo), where the results were to be collated.  As the runners started to arrive, led in by Callum, the moment was fast approaching, Mark who by now had already run 20 miles was first up. With a backward flip of his hand, whilst not bothering to look back at us, the official flipped the sheet over his shoulder waiting for it to be swooped upon by his minion. We stood there dumb-struck, it was obvious we were not going to get a please, so Mark ripped it from his grip and ran to the lady in the hat, she was waiving her sheet around like a trader on the stock exchange floor, with no words of command Mark plucked the sheet from her hand and he was off at speed, like a British holidaymaker on his way to an all-inclusive buffet.

We tracked his progress, but disaster struck he stumbled and dropped something, fortunately it was not the sheet but his Nicorette gum, he recovered and went on.  Safely delivered we were off and running.  David was next with no mishaps, and then it was me, the first official whipped the sheet over his shoulder, I teased it from his grasp and sprinted to the lady with the hat, but oh no, disaster struck, the sheet was there, all filled in and ready on the clipboard, but the runners were coming in thick and fast and the lady with the hat was busy writing numbers into the next sheet.  I had no training for this, dare I touch the clipboard, what was the protocol, at this rate Alison would be stood behind me with her sheet - and then what - a statistics drought. Just on the point of meltdown, my anguish was spared by the hat-wearing  ladies sidekick, he reached over, picked up the sheet and gave it to me. I know how Moses must have felt on that hill. With no prompting I was off like the wind. And so it went on, eventually Mark had reached marathon distance and we let him bow out before he collapsed. Things started to slow down and David had the honour of running the last sheet.

We moved to the refreshment tent for a well-earned brew and a cake, the other marshals were all homing in like bees coming back to the hive, the place was awash with fluorescent jackets, I am sure it could have been seen from space.

There was just one reluctant act to do- hand back the tabards, I guess, I know now, how Samson felt when he lost his hair.  Bring on next year.

Baz

 
 
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