Saturday, 12 July 2014

Eminem at Wembley Stadium: Review

Eminem: 5/5 stars... Sound system: 1/5 stars...

I'm not the biggest fan of rap music, but went along to see Eminem with an open mind and high expectations, considering the almost mythical-like musical status that someone at Eminem's level of success can demand.

The two opening acts, Danny Brown and Odd Future, were awful. I didn't know who they were before the show and won't bother to remember them. Watching them was painful and most people subjected to it seemed slightly confused and bemused. I was pleased when they finished.

Then came the moment that everyone was waiting for, Eminem. Entering behind a big white curtain and motoring through hit song after hit song, even the most cynical music fan must admit his back-catalogue is incredibly impressive - a steady stream of multi-million selling worldwide Number 1 singles.

The show moved quickly, with Eminem performing shorter versions of songs to try and fit in as many as possible - with a set-list of (very impressively) over thirty songs it was the biggest set of any concert I'd ever been to.

No breaks or costume changes ensured the crowd of more than 80,000 were kept busy and engaged with the performance. A brief video to open the show worked well and provided a good introduction to the opening song.

Eminem performed well and clearly gave everything he had to put on a show - the crowd feeding off his energy and responding with equal enthusiasm, he is a superb performer.

The issue with the show was that we couldn't hear it, which is somewhat problematic for a concert. Vocals appeared muffled and non-singing moments when Eminem was addressing the crowd were virtually inaudible from where we were. All we could hear from the speakers was a low, continuous, deep rumble of bass and echo. Of all the shows I've ever been to, this was the worst sound system I've ever experienced.

Occasionally, one of Eminem's team would encourage the crowd. Although as we were unable to understand anything, something that sounded faintly like 'London make some noise!' came across as 'mmmmmmmmmm Londooon mmmmmmm' and that was about as much as we could grasp from the speakers.

The crowd were excellent. Continuously singing and chanting along - although I think many people played their own concert in their head, relying on those who could hear slightly more to give their own out-of-tune sung musical directions as to what was occurring on stage. Some songs I only recognised from the crowd singing them and not from the stage.

Dr Dre, who I'm aware of but not too familiar with other than his production of those hugely over-sized and over-priced headphones, made a special guest appearance. It was hard to hear anything he said, but the crowd seemed to enjoy it. I felt Dre looked a little rusty in comparison to boundless energy of Eminem.

The staging was slightly unimaginative. Few special effects and no props ensured that the set was rather less than you would expect to see from a stage show for artists such as Beyonce or Robbie Williams for example. Perhaps a little more imagination would've worked well here, a few fireworks, more sparks and set changes would have made it a little more visual.

A screen at the back of the stage provided for some animations which helped the atmosphere of the performances. The band were good and played well (from what we could hear). Two screens either side of the stage were pointless, one was switching on and off for much of the show and the other had a delay of a few seconds, which is a seriously long time for a concert.

I could hear people and see messages complaining about the sound and sent a message myself to Wembley Stadium during the performance. They acknowledged there was an issue and the sound did improve towards the end of the concert. Still, considering the ticket price and build-up that the concert was given, an issue like this for half the show is unforgivable and totally unacceptable. It should have been picked up in rehearsals or sound-check.

I enjoyed the second half of the show more, with Eminem wheeling out hits such as 'Love The Way You Lie', 'Stan', 'Without Me', 'The Real Slim Shady' and a truly memorable rendition of 'Lose Yourself'. Despite the rumours, there was no appearance from Dido or Rihanna.

The atmosphere was superb, although certain members of the crowd were somewhat unfortunate. Many people were extremely drunk, I couldn't understand why they would go to a concert and spend a fortune on tickets only to be too drunk to remember anything the next day.

I also disliked how much was thrown. Cups of beer, water, peanuts, food, clothing. Why anyone would think it was remotely useful to throw a cup of beer (bought for a ridiculously inflated price from the stadium bars) on to other people is completely beyond me. Many people were smoking, which wasn't pleasant.

The audience was mainly made up of young men, with a surprising amount of older middle-aged people attending who were aged forty-plus. Attendees of all ages gazed up at Eminem like the symbol of their teenage years, a beacon of their adolescence, ready to do whatever he commanded of them.

It was a good night, good atmosphere and good experience, despite being spoilt by disgracefully bad planning when it came to sound and a few unsettling attendees around us. A few more effects would have been nice and a somewhat more sober audience would've meant more people would have awoken this morning actually remembering what they saw last night. Eminem was excellent, a truly great performer who deserves the plaudits and success he receives.

Eminem: 5/5
Atmosphere: 5/5
Stage and Set: 3/5
Warm-up: 1/5
Sound: 1/5

Thursday, 10 October 2013

J.K.Rowling, 'The Casual Vacancy': Review

(This review contains no spoilers!)

The Casual Vacancy is the first post-Potter offering from the pen of arguably the most famous living author in the World, J.K. Rowling.

The novel centres on a small town called Pagford, where a position becomes available on the local council. The plot revolves around a cast of characters rather than a single protagonist, in a town which initially seems like a classic 'British' town, although it quickly becomes embroiled in scandal, backstabbing and catastrophe.

The novel itself is the complete opposite to Harry Potter. It couldn't be more different. The main themes include: drug abuse, politics, self-harm, domestic violence and OCD. At points it almost feels like Rowling has saved seven Potter books worth of obscenities and piled them in to this one book.

Rowling is famous for her descriptive writing style, pouring more and more details on characters and settings in to her writing, like a fat child who piles more and more strawberry sauce on to their ice cream. This is again the case with this book, with much emphasis being placed on character development and great emphasis on the use of Pagford as a setting.

There is a rather large cast of characters. Young, middle-aged and old, Rowling develops a wide-range of different personalities and makes it increasingly obvious as the plot progresses that each character is in some way intertwined with one another. Part of the novel I enjoyed most was the way that characters from across the town intersperse with each individual plot line. Although, at points, the pace in which the story switches between characters can leave you a little confused as to which character the focus has now fallen upon.

For some reason, the setting of Pagford kept reminding me of the village from the film 'Hot Fuzz', which isn't a bad thing in my opinion, as Hot Fuzz is a brilliant movie.

For those who have read 'The Cuckoo's Calling', which Rowling wrote under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, you can definitely spot the similarities with 'The Casual Vacancy'. The stories are greatly different, but the writing style has Rowling written all over it (literally), whilst the structure of both books is extremely similar (as both are divided in to several parts).

I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. I read the first book whilst at primary school and followed the series religiously until the end of both the written and film franchises. I still love anything Potter-related, so for me this book was met with excitement (as I enjoy Rowling as an author) and sadness (due to it not being a Potter book). I was also quite intrigued, something different to the series that made Rowling her fortune was a dip in to the unknown and unexplored depths of the literary ocean. I would hate to think of the literary pressure on the shoulders of Rowling, drowning in a sea of expectation to match the success of the Potter series.

I enjoyed 'The Casual Vacancy'. It wasn't as good as Harry Potter for me, although maybe that is simply due to my bias for all things Hogwarts. This is a well written book, with Rowling again showing her brilliance as a storyteller and providing the reader with a book which can be greatly enjoyed - a novel that I would give three out of five stars. I wouldn't say it is capable of 'classic' status, but it is certainly a very interesting read and one I would recommend.

4/5 stars...

Friday, 16 August 2013

Choosing what degree to do is hard...

Choosing your university and what degree you wish to study is something that every A Level student finds daunting and very scary.

The decision you make now will affect the rest of your life. The subject you choose to study will impact on your career and where you choose to study will mean that factors like friendships will be changed forever.

The concern of many is understandable and any current student will sympathise as we were once in that same position. Many students still don't know what they want to do after graduating, even once they have begun slaving away for their degree.

The biggest issue with choosing a course is the 'I don't know what I want to do when I grow up' syndrome, that infiltrates and slowly chews away at the ambition of every young person in further education. The simple answer to it is that nobody knows what you will end up doing, not even yourself. Unless you have some freaky and unusual mind skills where you can predict the future.

When I chose my degree I spent ages (literally weeks) looking through information packs, looking at league tables, employment rates and ask my family and my friends. I still wonder if I made the right choice and still don't know if I did or not - this isn't unusual, as most people I know think the same about their degree choices.

So, step one - make a list of subjects you may be interested in sacrificing four years of your life to studying. Step two, make a list of universities you might be interested in spending four years of your life mingling around in. Once you've established the (possible) unis and courses go to as many open days as possible and interrogate people with every question you could possibly think of. This will give you a chance to see what the places are like and what the courses teach.

Now comes the maths part - grab every possible league table you can and analyse and scrutinise it better than anything you have ever analysed in your life. Work out what uni and course would give you the best chances for your future career and life.

Once you have done this, have some time to think about it and let your brain pick out your five UCAS options like you would pick out your favourite chocolate from a tin of Celebrations or Cadbury Roses.

Ultimately, you shouldn't worry about the degree choice and fear that your life may be over if you have chosen the wrong degree. Many people complete their degrees and go on to do something that has absolutely nothing to do with what they have paid educational blood, sweat and tears for.

Yes the choice of degree is important - especially something that you believe you will do well in and enjoy - but do not think that the choice you make now will confine you to that one career path for the rest of your life. Whatever happens, it is more important to choose to have the degree than the subject it is in. You can always change career path.

Besides, university is much more than just a degree and the educational part of it is equal to the life experiences you will get from it.

The most obvious point I would make for those about to click the 'Select your degree discipline' box on their applications would be to choose something that you think you will enjoy. Most people don't know if they made the right decision or not, so don't worry. As you sit in front of your computer, sweat running down your face and your hand trembling to such an extent that you can just about keep hold of the mouse, follow your gut instinct. Click on the subject you think is right.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Can those who commit crimes also be described as victims?

Recently, the suggestion was put to me that someone who commits a crime may also be a victim. The example gently floated in my direction was that of a drug addict who knowingly takes an illegal drug (therefore has committed an illegal act and is a criminal) although as they take the drug due to their addiction issues, they are are in fact "victims".

Can someone who is a criminal also be labelled a victim? Is it possible for those who commit offences to be considered victims of a crime they themselves have committed?

I'm sure many people within society would run to the hills in horror at the suggestion that someone who breaches the laws of the land should in some way be considered a victim of their own poor behaviour. Although, if someone commits a crime unwillingly due to necessity, should they somehow be able to vindicate their behaviour?

A person is generally considered liable for an offence regardless of their knowledge of it. To an extent I agree with this, I see no reason why the "I didn't know it would be illegal" statement should hold any strength. Maybe having studied and worked in law I have a slight bias here, but I do genuinely believe that if you commit an offence you should be held liable for it.

If you were desperately hungry, had no food, needed to feed yourself and then stole a loaf of bread you would be committing an offence. Although anyone in that unfortunate position would probably consider the need for food to outweigh the need to be a law-abiding citizen, there is a deep moral debate here about the moral standing of the legal system.

Going back to the drug example, the theory described to me was that someone who had drug related issues should be treated as a victim of their crimes rather than a criminal, due to their drug addition. I can see some argument in this, the fact that someone commits a crime due to their own issues and desperation rather than any particular will to play cat and mouse with the long (metaphorical) arm of the law.

Although, this suggestion does not sit comfortably with me in amongst my many large, heavy and expensive statute books that adorn the shelves of my bookcase. I can see the argument that a crime committed by someone who could be deemed to be a "victim" is somehow vindicated, although in my opinion, they are still criminally liable for it.

Perhaps this highlights a gap within our legal system, where the pendulum between "criminal" and "victim" for some defendants has stopped swinging and is instead hanging still and silent in the middle between the two.

I have always held the opinion that if you commit a criminal offence then you are a criminal and not a victim. The victim is the person who "lost" as it where, as a result of the defendants actions. 

I accept that some will commit offences due to their own personal needs (the theft of the bread described above being an example) although I believe that any offence should be recognised rather than forgotten, in favour of a genuine judicial outcome. Although, what I would say is the nature of our legal system allows judges to exercise great flexibility when it comes to rulings.

It may seem harsh, but it would undermine the legal system and the just application of the rules bestowed upon us by Parliament should we start claiming that criminals are actually victims of their own crimes. How could lawyers expect clients to have confidence within the framework of the legal system if those who commit crimes are given cuddles rather than custodial sentences?

Yes the odd case will be seen as unfair, but allowing one defendant to get away with a crime would open the floodgates to other defendants - claiming that their "victim" status somehow vindicates their trampling upon the rules of society. 

Although judges will exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis, as is the correct way to go about things, preference should always be given to punishment.

I accept a flaw in this argument is that some people will be harshly treated, and I agree that some may criticise such a harsh stance, although the needs of society as a whole outweigh the needs of an individual. The rules and regulations created by ourselves and the ghosts of our legal and political ancestors far outweigh any need for an individual to be comforted for a crime than rather criticised for instigating the offence.

It is obviously deeply unfortunate and inconvenient should you be spotted committing an offence and then be dragged kicking and screaming through the various levels of the legal system, however, ultimately you must accept responsibility for your own actions. You committed the crime, so should accept the consequences. Anyone would consider a criminal record more of a burden than a benefit, although if you break the law you cannot complain about your record being tarnished by the ink of a judge's pen.

Can those who commit a crime also be described as victims? No. They committed the crime, the label of "victim" is not appropriate nor relevant to them. They committed an offence, regardless of what that offence may be, and therefore must face the consequences.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Beware the University Hidden Course Costs

It was Rudyard Kipling who wrote one of my favourite lines in one of my favourite poems - 'Beware the Jabawock my son'. In this case, I'll adapt that line to 'Beware the hidden university course costs Freshers'. For, what many fail to realise, there are many, many expensive additions to your educational future.

Hidden course costs are extra costs added to the total of your university experience, excluding the tuition fees. These are often over-looked, not considered or forgotten about by many Freshers.

When I started university, I was aware that there would be extra costs, but I was shocked about the extent and amount. I didn't realise initially that university was so expensive!

Tuition fees are the most obvious form of cost. People know they will have to pay them back after graduating and also know that they will total more than £3,000 a year (for my cohort) or now £9,000 a year for future Freshers. £9,000 with no solid guarantee of a job? Daylight educational robbery! I'm just happy/very lucky I made it in before the fee rise!

My accommodation costs more than £4,000 a year. Ironically, this means that my accommodation costs more than my actual degree course. This is again covered by Student Finance (which is handy) but also means that - just like tuition fees - you have to pay it back (which isn't so handy). Including accommodation, my total fees pass £7,000 a year.

Then comes the cost of studying. You need paper, pens, books (I've had to spend over £150 this year on several very dull textbooks that our tutors hardly ever reference or use, all of which they conveniently happen to have written themselves) and all sorts of little extras - I'm thinking of highlighters, staplers, folders etc. All these seem like little things but they do add up over the course of a four year degree.

To add insult to injury, you've been charged an extortionate amount for rent, and then have to pay for all the extra costs on top. Council tax (depending on the borough you live in - we don't have to pay it), TV licence, food, gas, electricity - all this is an addition to your accommodation costs. If you don't want to run the risk of buying the 'Value' stuff (for fear of suspiciously horse-looking spaghetti bolognese) then the 'nicer' food will cost you more.

Some university's offer a placement year, where you go away from campus and work for a year to get experience of the big, scary 'real world'. Many of these placements are unpaid. Additionally, you have to pay a set fee to the university, cover your own lunch and travel expenses and (if you live away from home) cover the cost of accommodation. Doing a placement year should be carefully considered, it will add costs to your course if you choose to commit to it.

How about the social side of things? Clubs and societies are free to join, but being part of them will cost you (albeit mostly small amounts). Nightclubs, cinemas and other activities are also not free - however much all of us students love free stuff, sadly there just isn't enough free stuff going around. Sad times.

When I was at college we had a session where we went through hidden costs and were each given a table we could use to estimate how much extra we would spend. This was not just an awesome idea; it helped me to plan my spending and also partly scared me to economic-related death.

Growing up you are always taught that debt is bad. 'You shouldn't have debt', 'Pay back what you owe' etc - the average student graduating in 2011 owed £27,000, after the fee rise that could potentially be as much as £56,000. I was never told at any open day I attended at any university about extra costs - I guess as they don't want to put future applicants off (very sneaky of them, but remember to your uni you will be a walking bag of money) - make sure you ask about costs you are likely to face.

So, what's my advice to you future Fresher? Did deep in to your pockets, dust off your wallet, go down to your bank with a wheelbarrow, tell your parents that if they loved you they'd give you an unlimited access to the 'Bank of Parents', and spend your student loan wisely. Don't waste it, and remember that it's better (for your bank account and your stomach) to buy nicer horse-free food than booze.

MOST importantly, beware the university hidden course costs!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

London 2012: Life as a Games Maker

All my life I'd watched and wanted to go to an Olympic games. As soon as London won the bid in 2005, I knew I wanted to be part of it. After all the training and preparation, it was time for me to begin my job. This is a little snippet of what I got up to whilst at the Games...

Before I'd began at the Games, I'd told people that I would be involved as a Games Maker. Many were sceptical and asked why I'd bothered and if there was a point to it if I wasn't being paid. One thing I noticed was that as the Games got closer people became increasingly enthusiastic and began to tell me about how it sounded great to be involved and they were annoyed with themselves for not applying.

I began my journey by going to see the Olympic torch as part of the torch relay; little did I know I'd be holding a torch outside the Olympic Stadium soon after I'd watched someone carrying it down my road! Although I wasn't working or in my uniform, it was great to see so much support and enthusiasm from the public who cheered like crazy whilst the flame manoeuvred its way down my road and away in to the sunset of Olympic history.

The Olympic Park was amazing. Truly an incredible, incredible place to get to work. I was so happy when I was placed there as I knew I wanted to be right in the heart of the Games. The atmosphere was like nothing I've ever experienced - walking through the gates and seeing the 'Welcome to London 2012' sign each morning gave you the most amazing buzz and everyone in the Park seemed so happy. The excitement was contagious and athletes always ventured out of the village to walk around and take everything in - often stopping for autographs and pictures with excited fans and Games Makers. Every athlete I met was friendly and many gave me pins from their countries and high-fives. The various arenas and stadiums were breath-taking, if you walked through the park you'd hear roars delight pouring in to your ears from all angles as various events went on simultaneously around the Park. The Stadium and the Aquatics Centre were the two venues I found especially impressive.

One of the most rewarding parts of the job was the appreciation and attention from complete strangers. People would talk to me on the train, a few came up to me in the street and thanked me. One evening, a lady tapped me on the shoulder on the train and said 'Thank you, all you guys are doing an amazing job'. Tourists were eager to have pictures with you and commuters were hanging on your every word as you described what you'd done that day. People actually talked to each other on the train!

I was lucky enough to experience many venues both inside and outside of the Park, including: Wembley Stadium, the Olympic Stadium, the Aquatics Centre and Earl's Court. Each venue was completely covered in London 2012 logos and was always packed with fans. The noise was amazing, especially for Team GB - the noise became deafening when any British athlete was competing. That's the part of the venues I'll remember most - the noise. Especially walking out in to the Stadium - a wall of sound hit you and made every bone in your body vibrate with excitement and the sheer level of noise.

Across both the Olympics and Paralympics I was lucky enough to get to watch several sports, including: football, volleyball, swimming, cycling and athletics. It was inspiring to get to see some of the greatest athletes in the World compete before my eyes. My favourite sporting moment that I'd witnessed was watching Oscar Pistorius win gold in the last event on the last night of the athletics during the Paralympics. Everything about the race was special, something I'll remember for a long time.

I also got to experience the opening ceremony of the Olympics and the closing ceremony of the Paralympics. Knowing an audience of one billion people were watching at home felt surreal, but seeing the staging and feeling the absolute electric atmosphere was something I'll never forget. The opening of the Olympics was nothing short of outstanding - Danny Boyle spoke before the show and encouraged the crowds to enjoy it, give it everything and keep it secret to not spoil the surprise for people watching it live after the rehearsal. My favourite moment was seeing the Olympic rings form and the sparks falling down on the the set - something I'll never forget. The closing ceremony of the Paralympics was also spectacular and I was lucky enough to be with the athletes - speaking to many of them who all seemed to appreciate the show and be impressed by what they were witnessing. Two special moments stick in my mind from the closing ceremony - Coldplay singing 'Yellow' and the whole stadium turning yellow and standing outside the stadium with the athletes (as we began to get them back to the village) and watching the spectacular fireworks at the end of the ceremony. I felt a great sense of pride an achievement as I watched those fireworks shoot off the roof of the Stadium! I was there at the beginning for the Olympics opening and there at the end for the Paralympics closing - a nice touch I felt, as I'd gone full circle.

My uniform was very nice. I'd had some reservations, but the trainers were comfy, the trousers weren't too stuffy on hot days and the shirt was also very comfy. Although in the early morning or evenings it would get quite cold and the jacket provided little protection or warmth against the chill. The bags were small, yet you could fit a surprisingly large amount in them. I didn't like the bag straps though - they were a bit uncomfortable after much bag carrying. The watch was snazzy, although the 'tick' was incredibly annoying! We'd also been given an Oyster card to get to work and back for free - this was a great idea and really appreciated by many volunteers. Our accreditation was slightly annoying due to the size of it - if it was windy it would blow around like it was in some way possessed - but you learnt to put up with it!

My fellow volunteers were brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. There was a real sense of pride, excitement and eagerness that spread through everyone. I made friends, got on with everyone and had a laugh whilst working with them. Everyone was really nice and chatty. There was a real sense of togetherness and community that could warm the heart of everyone involved. I learnt some valuable team work lessons whilst working with them - I'd meet people all the time who I didn't know, yet we respected each other and worked together instantly as if we'd been a team for a long time.

Speaking of life skills, I've learnt many. Not just to do with the team work, but coping with being in several different environments (i.e. stadiums) as we were moved around the Park to a different area for each day. I learnt to cope with crowds (crowd management etc), dealing with the (rare) slightly angry spectator, how to treat VIPs (athletes, dignitaries etc), some few tips on broadcasting from various camera crews and journalists I met and - most importantly - how important the Olympics and Paralympics is to society. The Games changed society.

I was pleased with the things that we were given. Yes, we got endless amounts of Nature Valley bars, bottles of Coke and other sponsor-owned things, but we did get some really nice stuff too! As well as being able to keep our uniforms, I was happy to collect my certificates and my silver relay baton (which was a really lovely touch) and it was a very pleasant surprise to see a letter from the Prime Minister drop though my letter box! I really hope that LOCOG continues to recognise the volunteers and that, just maybe, we could be offered volunteer opportunities (such as a World Cup) in future - it would be sad to just let the 70,000 of us slip away in to the midst of volunteering-time.

I know the phrase 'once in a lifetime' is often attached to an event like the one we have seen this summer, but this for me personally really was a once in a lifetime experience. Everything I experienced was truly amazing and I'll carry it with me for the rest of my life. I'm so pleased I went for it, and so thankful that I was lucky enough to get to do it.

London 2012. Simply amazing.

(Although I loved my time as a Games Maker, I just want to add that I have no connections with London 2012 or with any of the partners of the Games. All views expressed here are my own).

London 2012: The Games Maker Journey

As soon as London was announced as the host city for the 2012 Games I instantly knew I wanted to be involved. This is a little snippet of the beginning of my Games Maker journey and what we had to do before the Games began...

In 2010 I saw the advert for volunteers and answered it without even thinking about it - I just knew I wanted to do it.

The application form was slightly tedious - lots of questions - but it certainly wasn't the worst form I've had to fill out. I knew it was for something as big as the Olympics which made it a little more exciting. But the thought did cross my mind 'I bet loads of people apply for this - I'll never get an offer'. I put my application in anyway.

Days, weeks and months past and I heard nothing - so I assumed I'd been unlucky and hadn't got anything. By the time it got to October 2011 and it had been a full year since I put my application in, I had completely forgotten about it.

Then, I got an e-mail with an offer of an interview - which was exciting (Plus it reminded me that I'd applied in the first place!)

I dragged myself out of bed early one Saturday morning (I had the dreaded early morning slot) and - a train journey later - with a day old newspaper I'd found on the train in hand and a slightly tired expression, I emerged and wandered in to the building.

What immediately struck me was how 'modern' it looked. A purpose built 'set' had been constructed with London 2012 logos covering just about every inch of wall space. Bright colours were all around you and pictures of those involved in the bid (Beckham, Coe etc) stared back at you from each wall.

I registered and went through to a waiting area where LOCOG had created a mini 'museum' for us with a room full of displays. Each corner of the room covered a different topic, ranging from the history of the Olympics to when London won the bid and finally a bit about how they thought the whole Games-time operation would run.

I had a bit of a brainwave and noticed that certain emotive words (i.e. 'Inspiring') were scrawled across the walls of the room. I thought that it would be good to remember these words and then casually drop in to the interview like I had planned to say them. This proved effective as I used all the 'key words' I'd learnt from the walls - I later suggested to others I knew who had interviews to do the same.

After this we had a brief chat with a lady who claimed she was from our 'team'. She briefed us on the very basics of our roles and what we would have to do.

We were taken in to a tiny cinema with about twenty seats, but no popcorn or premier seating! Eddie Izzard appeared on a screen and began to talk about the very basics of the 'Olympic Dream'. He continuously congratulated us for being offered an interview and seemed to chat to us like we were best mates who'd known each other for years.

Then came the interview itself, or the interrogation. Although, it wasn't really much of an interrogation - any fears of dark rooms with a single lamp were quickly dispelled by a friendly smile and an offer of water. We sat in small 'pods' with a tiny table and two chairs - on the wall was a time line showing the process of the run-up to the Games.

We were asked quite a few questions in an interview that lasted about twenty minutes. All the ones you would expect were there - 'Why do you want to be a Games Maker?', 'What skills do you have?' The one that slightly threw me (due to it being so random) was 'When was the last time you helped someone?'

It was a friendly chat, with the occasional laugh (it was a nice laugh, not an awkward one after a rubbish joke). After we said our farewells and I was greeted by a large wall covered in virtually ineligible scribbles. We were encouraged to draw on the wall and sign it, so I scanned over it with my eyes hunting like some wild creature, searching for a small patch of white to fill with my own name and a somewhat cheesy sentence.

That was it. The interview process was over. I surpassed an urge to waste money in a strategically placed gift shop full of tat before wandering out the door and going home.

A couple of weeks after the interview I got an email with an offer. This was quite exciting and my phone was going mental for several hours after whilst I decided to spread my happy news.

I looked at the portal website and went carefully through my job once again; I also looked at all the details about training. After hardly any consideration, I decided to go for it.

I did it. I pressed the 'Accept' button. I was pleased with myself.

I got (yet another) e-mail from LOCOG explaining what would happen next and telling me that I had to wait for further information about training.

A couple of weeks later I got an e-mail offering some training dates. It suggested we'd have a range of dates to choose, yet helpfully only gave me one.

I'd not mentioned to many people that I'd applied, in case I wasn't offered a role.

So, I'd made it through the application process and accepted my offer, now it was time to prepare for training.

The training was split in to three parts: Orientation, Role Specific and Venue.

First up was Orientation, at the iconic Wembley Arena. I remember going to shows there when I was little, so for me it was quite weird to be there 'working'. It was nice to say 'Training for the Olympics at Wembley Arena' when people asked what I was doing that weekend though!

Orientation was essentially an introduction to the whole project, presenting was BBC Sport presenter John Inverdale. We were shown the key things to do, how to speak to people and what our uniforms would be like. An interval featuring karaoke was followed with more training. Some of the top people from LOCOG were there to speak to us about subjects ranging from a day in the life of a Games Maker to security.

The second training day was role specific training. This was similar to orientation but consisted of us being told the specific details of our role. We were shown more videos about dealing with people and told more about exactly what we needed to do and what the place we would be working in looked like. After much free biscuit eating and free tea drinking we went through what our security passes looked like and how they worked. We had a little quiz and then left. The biggest thing I noticed from the day was how amazingly friendly everybody was and how excited each volunteer seemed to be about the impending London 2012 adventure.

Our final training session was Venue specific. This would involve us training inside the venue(s) we would be based at for the Games. Essentially, it was a run-through of the exact details we needed to know about for where we had been placed. It was also my first taste of the Olympic Park, which was very exciting. We had a tour of the Park to get a feel for what it was like there, everyone was extremely friendly and excited!

The final stage involved us collecting our uniforms. I battled my way through the tourists and made it to the distribution centre, trying on various different sizes of uniform like you would in the changing room at any clothes shop. I also collected my security pass and various other 2012-themed bits, like a watch, bag, umbrella, water bottle and pocket guide with a map. What was annoying was that I had to go all the way to the distribution centre to collect it on a day different to my training; it would have made it much easier to train and then collect our uniforms on the same day.

After completing all my training we were given our timetables, which had to be changed several times as the start and end times for shifts were when no trains were operating. One week before the Games I was transferred to a different role, meaning I started without any new training - although I didn't mind as other than the Venue training it was the same training for each role. We were also left in the dark over whether we'd be accepted for a role - I'd not known until just a few weeks before whether I'd actually have a confirmed place or not, my section of the Games Maker portal just forever showed 'Under Review'. 

So, almost two years after my initial application I was ready to go - everything was in place and the real Games Maker journey began...

Click here to read the second London 2012 blog about what I got up to during the Games!

(Although I loved my time as a Games Maker, I just want to add that I have no connections with London 2012 or with any of the partners of the Games. All views expressed here are my own).