As the event draws closer, the days run into one another and we have almost arrived. Now is the moment, as the final countdown is measured in days and hours rather than weeks, when everything really does come together.
Road signage is being put out and checked – which reminds me to trial the new road route for the re-located Saturday Reserved Parking, this year overlooking the lake, on the other side of Lion Bridge. Hopefully, everyone will have registered the road directions provided in order to reach this new destination – huge efforts have been made to draw this to their attention, but a week today will tell. For those of you who have booked space and are reading this, please note again.
Right now there are the inevitable hiccups. Probably more than I am informed of…. but as the latest one is also inconveniencing me, I happen to know it is an accidently damaged network cable resulting from the over enthusiastic efforts of some of our team working in the Park and on the cross country course. There is so much, digging, mowing, strimming (and generally just ‘fixing everything’ type of work) and it does not take much to cut through a fibre optic cable. I can say this as nearer the time of the event, I can be pretty confident that none of the suspects will have time to read this (if ever) and would not wish them to feel at fault – they were only further manicuring the Park and cross country course!
The situation of course has to be rectified asap, as there is no connectivity between the computers on the showground and the server in our permanent office. This could not have been a worse time for Katherine, Sol and Fiona, who have already moved to the ‘temporary’ offices on the showground, to prepare everything for next week, and who are now left without communication. I also wonder how our IT guru will take this news… only recently, he was telling me how well his task had gone. Paul is much treasured. Like a quirky horse, he has his foibles (another one who I hope will not read this), but he can turn his hands to anything that has a computer involved – software, hardware, moving our networking on event, you name it, he does it. This extends to cleaning out the ducting which has been in place for many years and through which he runs his cabling annually. Sometimes at the conclusion of an event, the ‘caps’ do not get placed back over the open ends of the ducts. Consequently, the cleaning out process each August is indescribable. I will not further this, other than to say that apparently it went well – only now to have a problem ‘over ground’. Must add him to the list of people to catch up with – he needs to be on side!
This is the time of year when we greet our many contractors as if it were just yesterday we last saw them. Everyone is working at such a pace and there is little time to catch up on the previous year. Over the event week, as brief conversations unfold, we will catch up on families, life in general, house moves etc. but for the time being it is all hands to the pump. That said, I had time to ask Dave from Event Power if he could look at a standard light that I have stored in my office for a year, with the intention of asking our local electrician to repair it. He brought it back today asking why I had totally dismantled the switch, believing this to be the problem – embarrassingly, it was just a 3amp fuse – thank you, Dave!
Then there is Nick from Hanging Gardens, who arrived yesterday and undertakes most of our ‘floral’ for the event. This includes areas on the showground and the Members’ Enclosure. Today he was working on the cross country. Commenting on the hanging baskets adorning one of the fences (all colour co-ordinated to our specification), we both laughed at the level of detail in his brief and everyone being so particular about the dressing of the cross country fences, while our own gardens have been neglected for the season. Nick is a keen gardener, but for as long as I can remember spends the show season ‘on the road’ at events up and down the country – life is one big compromise for some.
Driving on yesterday, my mind turned to the aptly named ‘Watering Hole’ for our hospitality guests on the Saturday, located alongside the lake, adjacent to the new Reserved Parking. We had pondered long and hard over the exact siting of the marquee. Mark, the foreman from GL Events, has been with us for years and had patiently stood by, before we gave the ‘thumbs up’. All had been plotted on paper earlier in the season, but sometimes theory does not turn into practice. Thankfully, this time it was spot on and it now looks fabulous. As the event becomes imminent, a peculiar sense of humour abounds and you have to be careful whether conversations are for real or whether it is ‘wind-up time’. During the deliberation process yesterday, Scott, one of our cross country team, had commented that if the XC team took as long to plan a fence as we took to plan a tent, we would run the event once in a decade, if we were lucky. Bait swallowed, responses flowed as to all the factors that have to be taken into account and then realisation dawned, at which point he was roundly told to stick to his day job. He was part of London Eventing, as one of the course builders for the 2012 Olympic Games team, so is eminently experienced in his ‘day job’!
On returning to the office, I passed Chris Barnett, our Site Manager, who is well up to speed and was on his way to lend some support to the merry band of men laying out the caravan park for our trade exhibitors. Good decision made to give this a wide berth, as Nigel, Wayne and, last but not least, William, one of our organising committee, are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to having your leg pulled.
So…. back to the stables, where our Doctors’ Training Day is taking place in the marquee which next week will become the catering hub for competitors, grooms and owners. Little could they imagine that their restaurant was today transformed, with Alice – our intern – acting as a patient for one of their five workshops. She is presently strapped to a spinal board wrapped in all sorts of paraphernalia: splints, traction equipment and a head brace. Just hoping they will not decide to make it too realistic and cut off one of her boots.
Back to reality, there is an international equestrian event about to start. Anne and her assistant, Georgia, are juggling a number of tasks. Top of the list is finding kettles for the Doctors’ Training Day (probably because this type of task provides some light relief), taking delivery of tractors and electric buggies and, as quickly as they arrive, organising the allocation to the waiting site team. Paperwork is being collated for the Fence Judge briefing tomorrow and yet more signs being laminated. We have a good entry and stabling/tack box plans are being finalised. Two horses from the USA arrived in the early hours of Sunday, and the Stable Managers, Mick and his team, were there to welcome them. And, let us not forget the poor overworked photocopier – heaven knows what they are printing but it appears to have been working continuously since I called in first thing today and it is now mid-afternoon. It jogged my memory and I hardly dared ask – have we sorted the ‘girls’ who come every year to oversee the photocopying of the results sheets for our visitors. It’s a silly sort of thing that could (just) have got overlooked. I was greeted with a withering look and ‘what do you think….?’ This coincided with the news that connectivity is restored and I am reassured. I am working with quite the best crew in the world, and will bow out as it is definitely time I ‘stuck to my day job’.