Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Paralympics and surviving Clearing with all that social media

After all the upheaval, excitement and hype of the Olympics, I thought I would be pleased to see everything cranking up again for the Paralympics.  I was really looking forward to the Opening ceremony but although there were some really good bits i.e. great lighting, great props and interesting theme it all seemed a bit earnest and worthy. I would have liked some more humour. The days are getting shorter and there is a feel of Autumn in the air.  As the summer tourists leave, Londoners return from holidays, and kids get ready to start school our street is coming back to life. However getting out and about in Greenwich today with the sun shining and the equestrian events still in full swing, the atmosphere was lovely.  I couldn’t resist getting the camera out!

Pointing the way were our games makers, ever cheerful but a little shy at my request for them to pose.

Games makers:

The flags have been changed from featuring the Olympic symbol to those featuring the three crescents of the Paralympics.


Wandering a little further I met Grace and Oona, with their police riders. Grace the grey is an experienced horse who takes part in extra special events including royal pageants, while Oona is a newbie who is still learning the ropes, getting used to crowds and all the attention she attracts.  I learnt that each horse is given a name starting with the letter allocated to the year s/he joins the force which means that Oona joined eight years after Grace  - if I am doing my sums right. It’s a bit like car registrations!

Grace and Oona

Then it was off to Greenwich town where I met two of our cycling paramedics.  What a great way to get around and reassuring to have them on hand for any mishaps.


Meanwhile there have been strange bright pink happenings around the Cutty Sark as though she has been overtaken by a virulent form of seaweed. It is a wonderful sculpture that is reformed each day as people are invited to take bits of and rearrange them.

A smaller version of the Olympics big screen has been set up near the Cutty Sark and it was strange seeing people lounging in their folding chairs enjoying their refreshments while watching the action. It is lovely to see how the wildflower and grasses garden has blossomed – it was only a couple of months ago that the ground was all bare.


I have been working in our Clearing team all summer and now I feel ready for a holiday but first I have to find the energy to complete that last piece of work for my masters due in 1 October.  I had visions of working on it each weekend and on the occasional weekday after work but I have found Clearing work so all consuming and tiring that my piles of notes and books have been gathering dust, untouched and unloved for the last few weeks. I have missed my counselling work that I had to stop in late May realising that I would not have the energy to give to clients while working full time. I am sure that it has been the right choice for me and I look forward to organising more once I have handed in this last work. However, I am not the only one who has neglected the project over the summer. Emails are starting to flow between my fellow students asking questions about what is expected, looking for support and trying to stem the feelings of rising panic as the countdown to October 1st progresses.

My work this summer has been so different from the last two Clearings where I was in the midst of all the buzz of the Clearing room, taking call after call, working in a large team and having the latest updates called out to us. Working as part of the reception team on the Greenwich campus I have been the ‘buddy’ for my two ‘newbies’ Carita and Avneet.  Remembering how much help I needed during my first Clearing, I have tried to help them as much as I was helped and they have been great fun to work with.  Our supervisor is Tony who is based year round in Greenwich for appointments and drop-in queries. He is fun to work with and has finally learnt to make my builders’ tea with no sugar. However he is a horror about bringing in cakes for us.  He really just can’t believe that I really don’t want him to bring any more in for me because I will just eat them and I would prefer to eat fruit.

As well as talking to people face-to-face I have been doing Live chat – our new instant messaging service.  Sometimes we are asked the strangest questions and I am planning to gather together some of our more ‘interesting’ queries.  On Friday one person (I will call him/her Jo) was asking about the BSc (Hons) Business programme.  The conversation went something like this:

Jo:      Please explain what this means: “Students are assessed through examinations and in-course assessments, including presentations, problem solving activities, dragon's den project and computer-simulated exercises.”

 and what does problem solving activities mean exactly?

…and Dragon’s den project?

…and computer-simulated exercises?

…and how would I know how to do these things

Alice:  Problem solving activities are the setting up of various scenarios where you have to work out solutions to the problems that are presented
You come to study the course so that you learn how to do these sorts of things. You are not expected to know how to do it all before you start the course.
Jo:      Well I don’t think I would like to do that.  Why do they do those instead of just doing exams?
Alice:  Because it is meant to simulate situations that you may encounter in the work place and help prepare you for them.  That is the aim of the course.
Jo:      Well what other course will get me the same job but with just exams and what sort of jobs can I get?
Alice:  No course guarantees you a job.  You have to apply for them and it depends on where your interests lie.  I suggest you read up about the different courses in our online prospectus and see what interests you.  You are the only one who can make the final decision on the course best suited to you.
Jo:      Thank you.  That is very good advice.
Alice:  You’re welcome J

Sometimes I find all that training in the use of restraint and diplomacy so useful in counselling comes in very handy!  It is lovely to be able to sort out problems face to face with people who have been struggling to do it by phone or email and sometimes people I have been live chatting with come into see us.

I do find it difficult to deal with too many live chats at once.  Our system was set up at first so that you chatted with six at a time. That pretty much did me in as I imagined being Andy Murray with the tennis ball machine. I got mixed up with who was asking what and with having to look up websites etc people were giving up waiting and getting really annoyed. Luckily it was reset to four at a time but I find that two to three is about as many as I can manage at a time.

How I feel after dealing with too many live chats at once

However having to do Live chat my typing speed has increased but I was getting very distressed at the number of my typos.  I had to keep writing ‘Please excuse the above typo – I meant ---’ . You can only imagine my relief when I discovered that it was quite okay and all you do is put an asterisk with the correct spelling – text-speak.  Avneet thought my excitement over this discovery hilarious.  I had to sternly remind her of my aversion to facebook / twitter and my advanced age.

Pic credit; Tennis cartoon:

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