The morning of day 3 shot round faster than the train that got me here. As always, my night’s sleep was comfortable and by far appreciated; a stark contrast to the harsh and bitter wake up alarm I set for 6am. As per usual, I reached for my phone and checked all my social media first, this time having a record-breaking 2 friend requests! If this wasn’t a symbolism for how my day was going to go, I don’t know what is (and yes, I know that’s a terrible symbolism to use.)
Our day was to be a busy one, both in accordance to the time-table given to us and the multiple verbal reaffirmation given the previous day. This certainly felt true with our 7:30am Challenge Day briefing before our 8am breakfast. The briefing itself was detailed and planned, regardless of how tired and dead an incredible amount of NCS leaders felt. Nonetheless, we took it all in and anticipated our action-filled day with excitement and passion.
Onto my favourite part; food. Specifically breakfast. This time, God himself had come down and provided it for me; hot baked beans, a decent egg, sausage, berry yoghurt (gotta have that dairy,) and of course, the one and only, the love of my life…the southern pure orange juice. I really couldn’t fault the breakfast for day 3, and it definitely showed, as it gave me the most energy yet. It also made me smile, so I guess that’s nice (more cringe for you.)
We were then swiftly taken to the train station to catch a train to London. As always, the inner tourist in me came out and armed with my camera, I set forth. Luckily I captured some amazing shots of graffiti and more ‘rural’ areas of London, juxtaposed to the modern, busy and partially industrialised mid-London scenery. My excitement also began to exponentially increase as the skyline of London slowly came to view.
Upon arrival, we set forth in completing our Challenge tasks, starting with one where we had to take a picture with a stranger. We made a B-line for the nearest station policeman and gathered around for the snapshot. Luckily he was a good sport and allowed it, so that set the ball rolling instantly for us. We then made our way out of the platform, and as we entered the street, my mouth must have smashed down to my feet. Everything was new, everything was beautiful and everything was massive. From where I’m from, the tallest building is only about 20 floors high. Here in London, they must shoot up hundreds. The buildings were all so interesting and ‘pure’ too, white and cream being the predominant colours.
My inner tourist shone like never before, taking photos of both the most amazing landmarks possible and the most stupid things possible. My self-motto was something along the lines of, “take all the photos, one is bound to be right.” This probably came true far too heavily, as in hindsight and reflection; I shot 1200 photos that day. Regardless of the crazily stupid amount taken, I’m both proud at the quality of many taken and in awe at all the sights I saw. As said before, this was my first time in London so I took everything in as perfection. I literally couldn’t name a fault!
After rushing to make a few more challenge completions, we made our way for our first of two workshops for the day. This first one was with one of the world’s most prestigious and widely used crowd-funding websites in the world, Just Giving. In this workshop, we discussed the importance of understanding a successful campaign, the difference between crowd funding and charity fund-raising, and finally how we would bring about changes. Personally I absolutely loved this part; online media is my forte so I absorbed in as much as I could, whilst leaving a cheeky little suggestion/ idea upon departure. We then headed up to the open plan platform outside – bear in mind this was on the eleventh floor. The view was to die for, being able to see the Shard, Canary Wharf, the London Eye, the Tower of London, Westminster Palace, Tower Bridge, the Razor and finally, the River Thames. What a mouthful for an image that really shocked me with its beauty. Someone in my group argued that It wasn’t a sight of beauty, but from where I’m from, anything remotely similar to this was surreal. It was also amazing to see such iconic images in person after a lifetime of seeing them in the media. It has to be noted that our first workshop will have to be one of my favourite moments so far in NCS Leaders week.
Following the successful completion of the workshop, we were supposed to continue with the challenge thing. However, we spent much longer than anticipated in the workshop, so we had to rush to our next workshop.
This one was ran by a PR and marketing team, who wanted to gauge our opinion on a number of factors, from what news outlets we use, what brands we like and dislike and our opinion on NCS Yes Live. As with the other workshop, I enjoyed this. I guess my previous experience with working in a PR company for a week helped me get used to the pace, the reasoning behind asking for our opinion and the type of work they would typically do. I also enjoyed it because they gave us loads of sweets, and the chocolate coin delivery right in front of where I was sat was the crème de la crème of the event. The only downside to that was the chairs, which were massive, heavy and awkward to move. Being the tall guy I am, it was borderline impossible to move around without having to either dive over them headfirst (which is apparently a health and wellbeing issue) or spending the better part of 5 minutes slowly shuffling the chair back. I prefer wheeled chairs, if that isn’t obvious.
This session was much shorter as we had to rush off to the Houses of Parliament; I never thought I’d be saying that! This was both evident from our team leader, Mark, who was sat nervously shaking and checking his phone every two minutes, then by his thunderous and sudden, “I’m really sorry but we really have to go,” with such a worried expression. Bless him.
As a result, we all rushed out of the building, minus one detour in the elevator when I pressed every button, starting at the top floor. Once we were outside, mark expressed how important it was that we “all stick together and don’t lose your buddy and don’t wander off and don’t stop and hurry up and blah blah,” To be honest, we all listened, but we were all laughing at how annoyed he was getting at certain little things; the disabled elevator not working, some ticket lady on the Tube, Roberto wandering off multiple times in the day and me and Delali being typical tourists and getting lost behind everyone else with our cameras glued to our eyes.
Once the mad dash through the streets and Tubes of London were finished, we were outside Parliament. Here we received a briefing from the gate security on how we can’t have any sharp objects on our person, followed by Roberto’s brilliantly bright statement out loud of, “So I’ll just leave my gun here then…” in which the police replied, “you wouldn’t say that at an airport so don’t say it here.” I crapped it a little when Roberto made that comment, not going to lie. On the walk down to the screening area, me and Delali were once again being tourist-y, taking countless photographs of the building up closer and ultimately being left at the back of the line (again!) We finally came to the screening area, where I had to put literally everything in the tray, including my heavy, metallic belt. That was a pain in the butt, considering it took me about 6 minutes to put everything back on.
We made our way into the dining reception area where a wave of people hit us; MPs, Parliamentarians and countless Leaders and NCS staff. It was noisy, but it was surreal. I was actually inside the Houses of Parliament! Everything was so intricately detailed; the roof, the teacups, the plates and the carpet. Literally everything! After a few minutes of awkward shuffling and repositioning, the speech began.
Starting with Michael Lynas, he spoke of how his vision came true for NCS, how it’s the fastest growing youth programme in Britain and how combined, we as NCSers have provided more than five million hours of community service. That is surreal figure to comprehend, as is the 200,000 current NCS graduates. We were then followed up by an Alumni who gave his inspirational story of how he started as an ordinary person and left a changed, better and proud one, eager to represent NCS in the very best light both close to his hometown and on such a national level. We then received a speech from a number of other people, including the Minister for Civil Society and his valuation of the service and a current NCS leader and her incredible story to share. Altogether, it was absolutely an inspirational, emotional and happy evening.
On leaving, I did do one ‘bad’ thing; I took a selfie in the middle reception, a ‘no photography’ zone. Seconds later, an angry-looking security guy boomed, “Don’t take any more pictures in here,” and glared me in the eyes. The picture was worth it, though!
With our Parliamentary fiasco behind us, we all made our way through the streets of London and the Tube once again to go to Nando’s. The Tube was insanely full, as I was told it was still rush hour (four hours after the previous time told) and we ended up having to wait for another because it was that full. We made it out alive, though! Once we finally arrived, I propped all the jackets on one seat and used that as my pillow/ back rest whilst scrolling through my phone. We received countless platters of chicken, chips and endless drink. Sadly they didn’t have my glorious orange juice, but I’m sure the morning will come bearing that gift. In conclusion, the day and nights events were truly unforgettable and above all else, memories that will undoubtedly stick with me.
The train ride home was certainly uneventful, maybe because of the fact that I was asleep all the way throughout it. Everyone found it funny when I woke up, though, because whenever I’m tired, my eyes go pure bloodshot. Enter the, “Benjamin, are you high?” comments. Yes, I’d definitely light up and hotbox inside a train whilst asleep…
Once we arrived at the bedrooms, I was exhausted. I only typed up 600 words, deviating from my previous ‘norm’ of 1500. It was worth it for the sleep though, which was much needed after such a busy and active day.