Making Music at Royal Holloway

So, as you all know, I am now at university. The whole thought of this still freaks me out a bit, and I cannot believe that I am actually old enough to be here! But, anyway, I wanted to write a little bit on doing musical things here.

Firstly, I am not a music student, I play music for leisure not for work. However, this does not mean that I don’t enjoy it, and I was very excited to not only get into the Symphony Orchestra but also the Chamber Orchestra. Even more excitingly, I made it into the first violins in Chamber, and this is the ensemble I am to focus on in this post.

Anyway, over the weekend we had an intensive rehearsal schedule to prepare for the upcoming Chamber Orchestra concert. It was 13 hours across three days, and after it was all finished, my back was very unhappy! Despite this, it was actually a really fun weekend and I enjoyed playing so much. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy playing in the orchestras back at home, but something about Chamber Orchestra made me enjoy it more. Maybe it was being in first violins or because the music was particularly good (and I can play it) or because I was playing alongside some amazing people who do music as a degree. I definitely recommended getting involved in orchestras at university – I didn’t believe I would get in but I did and really love playing each week in Symphony and intensively in Chamber.

I will finish this post with a BIG plug for the Chamber Orchestra concert on Wednesday (tomorrow!) – it’s at 7:30 in the Boiler House Auditorium and free for students at Royal Holloway. See you all there (although I understand that most of my readership are probably not students or in the area)! Oh, and my back is recovering slowly from all that playing!

Come to the Chamber Orchestra concert tomorrow!!

Come to the Chamber Orchestra concert tomorrow!!


Starting University: My tips for the first week

I’ve been planning to write this post for so long (at least 2 weeks) but as I made progress on it in the past few days, WordPress has decided to delete all evidence, so here’s me, starting again!

I moved to Royal Holloway (in Egham but part of the University of London) on 20th September 2014, and am living in a flat with 7 others. And so as not to bore you, here I present: My tips for Freshers/Welcome Week!

1. Don’t worry about how you introduce yourself: I introduced myself to my flatmate Elodie (after exchanging names) by saying “That will be confusing” (initially because we both have El… names, but also because I also have a friend called EloISE). She remembers that. I also got flustered when George asked if I could cook (answer is yes, at least compared to what he cooks)

2. Take the free stuff: There is so much free food on campus, so just take as much as possible – the first night included a free meal at which you got two pots of pasta/Chinese/curry/stir fry; I took both pots because I could have some cold, someone else took the carton of juice. There’s lots of free chocolate and pens at Freshers Fayre too…

3. Go to Freshers Fair: Firstly, there was a voucher for free Dominos. Secondly, there’s bound to be something you want to sign up to, and even if there isn’t, then there’s the fun of signing up for things and then getting emails all year for something you only signed up to for the free pen/chocolate/peer pressure.

4. Don’t get (too) drunk: I can’t say don’t get drunk, because people do, although personally I haven’t. Yes, drinking can create great stories (my next door neighbour was so out of it that he couldn’t unlock his door!) but it also creates mess, sickness and possibly missing important lectures/induction.

5. Go out with people similar to yourself: I went out once during Freshers Week, supposedly to see Scouting for Girls. Basically there was a long wait to get into the main hall, then a fire alarm, then over an hour’s wait before they even started (11:30pm). Me and Beanie decided that we would just go home, as drinking is not our thing. Also, don’t walk home alone in the dark.

6. Talk to people: I went to the supermarket on the second day just because there were people going. I didn’t even buy anything, but we tried to guess things about each other (surprisingly accurate about me, not so much about the others…) Talk to people in your induction lectures and stuff too – it’s nice to see a familiar face when work starts.

7. Enjoy not having work: The idea of Freshers is to ease you into university life. You have no work or commitments. Make the most of it. I now have reading and notes to do. And I am enjoying it, but I don’t have the same chance to do absolutely nothing as I did in the first week.

8. (Optional) Change your name: At university almost everyone calls me Beth. No-one called me Beth before but I like it. It’s also much easier when you’re doing mixers at subject socials, as it’s so much easier to say Beth than Elizabeth (not that I don’t like Elizabeth). However, it can get confusing when interacting with people from home.

OK, so that’s my Welcome Week post finally done! Hooray!! It’s been through drafts and redrafts, but here’s some form of account of my first days at university! And only two weeks late! Stay tuned for more insights on university life!! Oh, also do comment if you want any specifics, especially as I haven’t posted anything about the emotional/anxiety side of the whole move to university.


Why Give Blood?

I promise that I will post about starting university soon, but today I want to write briefly on the issue of giving blood. I personally cannot give blood, and should I have been able to, I cannot tell you whether I would have the courage to actually give blood, due to Trypanophobia. However, I would hope that the reasons I will outline below would persuade me to face my fears!

OK, so you probably won’t know that I received 2 blood transfusions at just a few days old. They were only about one tablespoon each but it still meant that 2 separate people potentially saved my  life. As a premature baby I could not produce my own blood, so my transfusions were there to replace the blood that they had taken from me to check I was OK. Despite this maybe not being a life threatening reason for me receiving blood, it was enough to make my oxygen levels increase and improve my general overall health. For my mum, a blood transfusion was literally life saving. She, I believe, received 11 units of blood, meaning that 11 people gave blood to save her life. For context, the human body contains 10 pints of blood, so my mum received more than a whole body’s worth of blood.

In addition to this, blood banks mean that operations like mine can be more safely undertaken – if there hadn’t been stocks of blood for me, they probably wouldn’t have operated unless it was life threatening.

The local newspaper did two features on blood donation, and I am featured in these, so the links are below:



BASICALLY GIVING BLOOD SAVES ORDINARY LIVES LIKE ME. So if you’re on campus today, go to the SU, give blood, and also get some free food!!


26th September 2014

Today is the 26th September 2014, I am two years post-op, and am finally up to date with this blog! A lot has changed in the last two years – I have moved out for one thing, and am now at university (more on that at a later point!). Today I have been round the Welcome Fayre, signing up to societies, had my first lecture, and am now generally chilling and writing this blog. In contrast, this time two years ago I was drugged up, lying in a bed in pain, and generally having a rubbish time!

I have come so far since that ghastly day – I am now completely back to normal, although my back is slightly tender after sleeping in a new bed at the moment. I have won a writing competition, played some very long orchestra concerts, been to a number of comedy shows, overcome anxiety, volunteered, had a job and done so much more – you can read about it all in my previous posts.

Don’t fear, this blog will still continue, but it will be updated as and when things happen, and have more of the focus on my life rather than my back – for a start it’s all normal, and I’m not defined by my operation! I will type again soon with some insights into university, and check my previous post for information on my first job!


August/September 2014: Volunteering (Library, Dig Whitehawk), Results Day and work

So, I have reached August, which means I am nearly up to date with this blog. I spent the first couple of days in August still at Bredon, and then I came home full of encouragement and Bredon blues. Anyway, before I went I had an induction at the library, ready to volunteer with the Summer Reading Challenge. This is a national scheme for primary school children, where they read 6 books over the summer and receive prizes for doing so – including a medal, a maze and a DVD voucher. It was really fun to volunteer, and I did about 25 hours over the whole summer. I particularly enjoyed seeing the children complete the challenge and talk about all their books. As part of this I planned and ran a Writing Workshop – which I write about in the following posts:



I continued my volunteering at Books Alive, but also spent a week on an archaeological dig at Whitehawk. This was quite interesting, but really not a future career for me, or very exciting. It was a great opportunity, but not enjoyable really – the people were nice, but most much older than me, and the work was really tiring. I did learn a few skills, particularly excavation and section drawing. The latter was probably my favourite part, and I was fairly good at it. I’m sure that archaeology is fun for some people, but I won’t be doing it again.

Midway through the archaeological dig it was results day, and I did really well. I got into Royal Holloway to do History, and my friends got what they wanted too. We had an ice cream afterwards, at a place where I had last gone the weekend before my operation, and also had a meal in the evening. The following day I met up with my orchestra friends to watch Miranda.

Apart from meeting up with friends, the remainder of August consisted of chilling and work – my first real job at Varndean College, doing start of year admin. This was a great job, and really enjoyable. For three days I sat at a desk taking ID and various forms from the students, welcoming them and taking photos. The other four days were spent doing data entry with contact details and exam results being put onto the system – I did about 75 files of exam results on one of the days! The people I worked with were all really nice, and all had a link to the college through a parent/husband (or being friends with some who did).

Once done with work, life was full of university preparations! And therefore my next post will be on moving to university – putting aside a very special post on the 2nd anniversary of my operation date!


Bredon 2014: Why be an M&M?

So, in the last week of July 2014, I spent my time at Bredon, as usual. However, I was there in a different capacity this year – I was an M&M! This is an assistant leader for anyone unaware of Bredon terminology. It was a nerve racking change in some ways, because I have been so used to being a member and now suddenly I was in the same environment but with a different role. However, I suffered no more than the usual start of camp jitters, and was really welcomed. So, I now present my list of reasons to come to camp as an M&M:

1. There’s much more Bible study – Not only do we have the morning and evening meetings, but we also have a longer early morning bible study, an in depth ‘wordsearch’ (seminar), and our own talk.

2. We look at a whole book in a week – This year we studied Philippians (through the M&M talk and bible studies), and it was really useful and encouraging to read and study a book all at once – especially seeing the links between passages and themes that run through.

3. You lead your own Bible study – It sounds daunting at first, but it’s a great experience to look at a passage and work out the meaning and how to explain this to other members of the group. We were in bible study groups of about 6 people and a leader, so during preparation we were able to get help and feedback from someone who knew more about what’s going on.

4. There are amazing leaders – All the Bredon leaders are great, but being an M&M means that you get to know the M&M leaders really well, and they are so encouraging. It’s a different dynamic to being in a dorm, but you still get the opportunities to chat through things, and build relationships with twice as many leaders.

5. The other M&Ms are some of the best people (and the craziest) – One benefit is actually being allowed to stay up late, and after busy days it’s nice to get to know everyone in the M&M lounge, often preparing for the next morning or playing games. That said, the introduction of early night Wednesday was very welcome, as 3am is not a sensible time for people to stay up until (not myself, I must add). It was great to get to know new people and build old friendships as well.

6. You get to serve a brilliant camp – As a member it’s hard to see sometimes what is done behind the scenes to allow camp to run. Decorating the site is a big part, and then once members arrive we do drinks, tidy up and clean the members’ areas and set up for games. That said, it’s definitely not as much work as it can seem – there’s so many of us to do it so it doesn’t take long and everyone helps out.

Before I end, I should probably explain the requirements for being an M&M: over 18, DBS checked (you can have one done when you fill in the new leader form, but get it in early otherwise you can’t come), and respectful towards Christianity (you don’t have to be a Christian, but it is a Christian environment). I’m sure if any leaders are reading, they will comment with anything I’ve missed.

Bredon was, once again, the greatest week of my year, and I look forward to returning to serve again next year. I’ll leave you with this year’s video, in which you can see the M&Ms singing:

If you’re interested, do get in touch and I will pass you onto the relevant people when the time comes!


July 2014: Hope, BYO and Bournemouth

So, July 2014 brought with it a lot of freedom, especially compared to the revision of the previous months. However, from 2nd to 5th July I decided to give up some of my new found time to help with Hope 2014, a mission run by Holland Road Baptist Church. This isn’t my church, but a friend invited me to come along and take part and so I decided to go for it. Entering the church on the Wednesday morning was pretty nerve racking but people made me welcome and my nerves settled. My first day was spent at Davidgor and Somerhill Schools – laminating and cutting signs for their new classroom followed by gardening. It was pretty tiring, and my back ached, but it was great to give back to the community. The second day was gardening at Davigdor and Somerhill (but in different areas), and my third was more laminating and cutting at Davigdor (with lunch in nearby St Ann’s Well Gardens). This was hard on my knees, but I met a lovely woman (I cannot remember a name, sorry!) with a daughter called Ruby who had suspected scoliosis, so it was really nice to chat about my operation and give some reassurance (and also advice that the consultant I saw at Brighton was rubbish!). My fourth and final day was at Carden School, doing yet more gardening! My back hurt, but I didn’t mind as it was for a good cause. Jonny from Holland Road does a much better job than me of explaining Hope 2014 here: http://hrbc.org.uk/magazine/hope-2014/ (I am in the middle of the photo wearing the fetching purple cagoule)

The following Friday was the final BYO concert of the year, actually the post-tour concert (I didn’t go on tour because of busyness and coach sickness issues). My friends got me a lovely keyring and dish to put my keys in as well as a card to say goodbye because of leaving to go to university, which was really amazing. The concert was good too, especially Lord of the Dance, which is my new favourite piece! And at the end I got a rose for being a leaver, and also bought a sticker to go on my violin case to remind me of the orchestra.

The rest of the month consisted of my final violin lesson (actually during Hope), meeting up with friends and volunteering, as well as two trips away. I went to Bournemouth with my parents, which was great and really relaxing. We had some lovely food, good shopping and a chance to chill, as well as me joining the National Trust – we visited Brownsea Island and Kingston Lacy too. The other holiday was Bredon, where I was an assistant leader (M&M as we call them), and this was far too busy for me to write about here, so will have its own separate post.

Therefore, while you’re waiting for said post, I will leave you with Lord of the Dance: