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Bredon 2013

I was looking for something nice to write about in a stressful free, and Bredon 2013 certainly stood out in my mind. Obviously you’ve already heard about Bredon 2012 – if not, look at my archive – so I will try and write different things this time round, but it is still an important part of my life.

Bredon 2013 took place from Thursday 25th July to Thursday 1st August, and as usual I got the train (did I talk about that before?). Anyway, I have a slight aversion to trains, mainly because they conjure up memories of going to the hospital in London, and also because of travel sickness and stuff. This train journey is almost 5 hours long, but it’s made bearable by being with friends. The other thing is that it changes direction twice, so you could choose a front facing seat and then end up going backwards half the time – at least we get reserved seats though, and it is a direct train.

I got over the train stress, but then I had the waiting stress. The problem with the direct train is that it gets in earlier than the leaders want us, and this year they had to wait for control of the minibus before they could pick us and our luggage up. It wasn’t a long wait, but the station was in the middle of nowhere and basically had two platforms and a car park. We ended up sitting on the floor playing concentration – not great for my back. The minibus came though, and we were ferried ‘home’ to Bredon by Alison, who is a great minibus driver as well as a lovely leader.

The first day always feels a little bit weird. We mill around on the grass for a while, meet some new faces, scream at and hug some old faces, and find out our dorms. This year they finally put the girls in the lovely big rooms (usually used for the boys because there are fewer toilets and showers), so we got a view of the swimming pool, the fountain and a neighbouring farm. Once we’ve dumped our stuff we have a game/tour, which this year involved piggy backs. It was one of those games where the leader shouts out different commands and then we do them, so everytime the piggy back command was shouted I was really worried someone would jump on my back – not advisable even at 10 months post-op. Luckily they didn’t.

I ended up feeling kind of weepy the first night, which in turn upset me, but part of that is anticipation and another is that it was the longest time I had spent away from home since my operation, and also without my parents. I think it’s not until the Crystal Daze (named Hollywood Boot Camp in 2012) that we really feel into the Bredon vibe. This is great dorm bonding time, usually involving making up silly songs and messy games. We only had two dorm leaders this year which was weird but actually in a way better because we got to know them a bit more.

Anyway, emotionally after this point camp is about the highest point that you can be on the emotional scale! We had a great fun chilled time at a coffee shop in Cheltenham for our dorm outing, I was once again in the green team for the wide game (we lost but mainly because of the last round). We had a great Hunt the Leader in Tewkesbury as well. Stress levels rose for me a bit when it was time for the whole camp outing as this involved outdoor activities. This year I made sure that I got first dibs on what I was doing due to not being able to abseil and similar, and ended up doing canoeing. Luckily we had been to the same place the year before so the journey didn’t stress me out too much and I was in a car. It turns out that about half the people in the canoeing group had health needs and one couldn’t swim, but one of the leaders was a doctor (although he fell out more than we did!). It was pretty fun in the end, although I spent one activity screaming that I didn’t want to move and risk falling in because they made everyone switch places – this meant I escaped swapping haha!! I also left my spare t-shirt at Bredon, but luckily I didn’t get wet so I just kept the original one on!

The rest of the week passed as it did the previous year and we had a great last night too, including a hilarious attempt at line dancing. The last night was also where we watched the amazing camp video, which is what I will leave you with now – enjoy! And please think about coming on camp because it is consistently the best week of my life. And if you haven’t already had enough, look out for my post on Bredon 2014, coming very soon!!

Bredon 2013 (1280 x 720) from Jason Roach on Vimeo.

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July 2013: Kent and Cambridge

So, now it’s time to discuss July 2013. I promise it will be short today, especially as the major event was Bredon, which will have its very own post tomorrow. Therefore, today I will be talking about two more university visits – Kent and Cambridge.

Now, my first visit was to Cambridge, on Thursday 4th July. As usual I took my parents along but this time instead of staying at a Travelodge, we went to see my aunt and uncle (and cousin) in Bishops Stortford. We didn’t end up seeing them that much because they were busy, but it was nice to see them all the same. It was my first time sleeping on an airbed since my operation, which was a bit uncomfortable but probably pretty much the same as it would’ve been.

On the day of the Cambridge Open Day we caught the train there and then walked down to the Sidgwick Site, where the History department and quite a lot of other arts subjects are based. After a few general talks about student life and the university in general, we headed off to visit some colleges. We started with Newnham, a women’s only college, which was my favourite and absolutely beautiful! The gardens were lovely (and you could walk all over them!) and they had an amazing library. Queen’s College was alright, but it was a bit rubbish accommodation wise and just didn’t feel as good! We also saw Selwyn, which was pretty nice too. Other parts of the day were the History talk and a sample lecture, which were both good, but a little bit specialist and out of the norm. Part of me really wanted to hate Cambridge and make my decision on applying there a lot easier, but I actually really liked it! Dilemmas aside, we ended the day with a meal out in Café Rouge and a stroll around the town before heading back to Bishops Stortford.

The following day was our trip to Kent and we left fairly early to drive over to the Canterbury campus. We were WAY too early, so ended up waiting for ages. To be honest a lot of these university visits merge into one, as I can barely remember half of what we did at Kent. We must have had some sort of Welcome talk and maybe student life (I mainly remember not having my notebook because I left in my free bag from Cambridge – I should’ve mentioned that each university we visited had free bags, which I gratefully took!). We skipped the accommodation talk, which was probably a mistake because Kent has a weird collegiate system that I still don’t understand. Anyway, they have a lovely building which has a side panel that moves in the wing, a whole row of shops including a bookshop, and a proper café in the library, where I had a chicken and bacon Panini (that actually didn’t have any mayo!!). We heard the history information talk and I saw my friend Becca from Bredon, which was amazing because we kept looking at each other trying to work out if we were who the other thought we were! We then set off home, with another two universities added to my shortlist.

Anyway, this post has seemed to get longer and longer so I will add just one more thing about my violin Grade 7 exam. I think I took this one or two weeks after those university visits and it was my first music practical exam since my op. The first rehearsal with my accompanist was really draining as it was about an hour of non-stop playing but the actual exam was OK and a few weeks later I found out that I got a merit, which is my best ever result!

So, I really will leave it there now and get on with important things like bible study and going to bed, but I will see you tomorrow for a revisit of Bredon fun!!

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June 2013: To the Future…!

So, here’s another monthly update, actually written around a year after the event! I’ll try to make it brief, especially as you’ve already had the account of my 9 month post-op appointment (note to self: write that post!).  

June 2013 was quite a chilled month – exams had finished in May and although we had to go back to college to start A2 work, we can’t learn too much because we’ll all just forget it! There was therefore much more focus on ‘the future’ and what we were going to do after A Levels. For me, this was university and it was open day season. I’d already attended a UCAS convention in March (not massively useful because it’s too busy, but there are a lot of free pens and bags) and I’d got a shortlist of universities consisting of about 10.  

As you know (unless I forgot to write about it!), I had gone to see Royal Holloway in March. I was not content with just seeing it once though, and on Tuesday 18th June I went back again for a University of London Taster Course. It was called New Perspectives on History and consisted of 4 lectures, a Q&A session and free tea and coffee. It was a great day and I learned a lot about some more obscure historical events. By the time I post this, the 2014 courses will have passed, but if you will be in Year 12 in the summer of 2015 I definitely recommend that you check out the website (http://www.london.ac.uk/tasters) and sign up for a course that interests you – did I mention it was free?! 

OK, my next university visit was to Warwick. This was one of the furthest away universities we visited, so we went up the night before and stayed in a Travelodge. After a good night’s sleep and a cooked breakfast (always check if your Travelodge does a proper breakfast!), we drove to the Park and Ride and then got on the bus to the campus. They were very welcoming and the campus was great: there was a theatre/cinema on site, massive bookshop, lots of eateries, a supermarket, the list could go on! Writing this makes me want to go there! Except the course was not what I wanted – it’s one of the only courses that just focuses on modern and early-modern history and after my taster course experience I wanted the opportunity to study a wider period of time. The journey home also massively put me off – we ended up in a long queue coming on to the M25 which delayed us so much that my parents missed the concert they had planned to go to, which was the reason we were coming home in the first place (we would otherwise have visited Birmingham the following day)! 

Our next trip to university was to Reading, which was the next day after Warwick. We drove up quite early and arrived in plenty of time – we toured the rather nice student union before going to our first talk on student life. Then it was on to more talks and tours, a nice bag with free chocolate and water as well as a free pen and pencil case, and a look round the accommodation, which was almost identical to Holloway! We also had a taster lecture on the Russian Revolution (would’ve been really useful a month earlier!) and a Panini in the café with Starbucks Coffee and overlooking the showcase Quidditch match.  

We had around a week’s respite from visits and then it was off to Nottingham, the furthest away option on my list. The journey up was relatively hassle free until it came to finding the Travelodge, which was on Riverside Retail Park, and at first we ended up in a lorry park but then we were on some sort of one way system. Anyway, we finally found the Travelodge, which was hidden behind a large hedge or something. The next morning we drove the mile to the University and parked up in a field. To be honest I can barely remember Nottingham, as although it was a lovely campus, it was too far away from home! The accommodation was a bit rubbish compared to the other places I’d visited too, However, I did have an interesting taster seminar on Prostitution in the Middle Ages and we had a nice Costa outside the bookshop (had a bit of a wait for it though!), as well as visiting the onsite Boots.  

So, I think that’s it for June 2013, so I will leave it for today and return tomorrow with something about July 2013! 

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Post-op 3: Tuesday 4th June 2013

The next event I wish to talk about is my third post-op, which took place on Tuesday 4th June 2013. It was the day of Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee Coronation celebration thing, but our appointment was late enough that we missed all the busyness around Westminster for that. I think we saw a fair number of hats, dresses and posh suits on our way there though.

Anyway, we arrived for the appointment and I wasn’t all that worried on the whole. We went through x-ray OK I think and were soon back to wait for the actual appointment. We were seen by Jonathan Lucas, i.e. the main man, which was good because we like seeing the highest authority. However, his news was not good and I will give you his words from the letter we were sent about the appointment:

“I reviewed Elizabeth who is, unfortunately I think is developing a junctional kyphosis between T9 and T10 at the end of her proximal metal work”. He later adds that he is worried about this, and states that the angle has gone from 12* to 18.3* (couldn’t find the degree sign). I was really worried because in no way did I want to go through another operation and the stress that goes with it. Of course in the moment I didn’t think about how in general in medicine they do give worst case scenario, and actually this incident shows how great it is that they can monitor you. So, if you’re not sure about having scoliosis, or indeed any other condition, then please see a doctor or try to get a referral to a specialist because once you are in the system they will be able to track your progress and see trends in changes.

Anyway, once all this was over with I had a cry and had a smidge of M&S Food and probably cried again and again and many more times before our next appointment in three months time. It was a massive shock to be thinking that everything was normal and then suddenly there was another problem rearing its head! But I managed to keep living and stuff and tried not to think about it too much.

So, I’ll leave it there for today and you can wait with bated breath for tomorrow’s post, filling you in on the rest of June!

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May 2013: Exams

So, I’ve reached May 2013, and a number of things happened in that month. Firstly there was Bible by the Beach, but as I have gone back again since then I won’t talk about that (memories have almost been replaced!). The main thing that happened in May was my exams, my first since my operation, so that’s the main subject of today’s post.

I was naturally very worried about doing my exams, even without the added worry about my back being able to cope with the stress and length of exams. I am incredibly surprised by how little I remember about the exam season! So I will be brief.

One memory that stands out is running late for my History exam, which was in the attic. It was up three flights of narrow stairs and so I arrived out of breath and pretty stressed. I was actually ten minutes early but for once there seemed to be really impatient invigilators. I managed the exam fine, despite being flustered.

The other exam memory I have is about my long sleeved top. “What?” I hear you ask. Well, there was an issue a few years ago about wearing hoodies in exams so, to ensure that there was no problem, I took a long sleeved top with me to keep warm. Now, being cold wasn’t actually a problem so instead I used it as a cushion for my back. I don’t know if it helped but it was a comfort.

The final exam worry I had was about my exam clash on the last day before half term. I was meant to have a 2 hour English exam at the same time as a 1 and a half hour Maths exam, which is obviously impossible. So I was put into isolation with the three boys who were in the same situation and we sat the English exam, had a break, then sat the Maths one. I didn’t think my back would survive but it did, probably because of the comfy chairs in the sixth form room we were in.

Anyway, exams finished and I was free for two weeks, during which we visited my godmother (I won’t go into details) and then at the beginning of June I had another post-op appointment, which I will discuss tomorrow!

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April 2013: Paris

So, April 2013 was an interesting month, mainly taken up by the Easter holidays. Part of these was taken up by the church holiday club, which was wild west themed, and I did some helping at that but mainly doing technical stuff rather than with children because I struggle to sit on the floor for any length of time! The other thing that we did was go on holiday to Paris, which is what I will talk about now!

To be honest I can’t remember much about it specifically so I’ll be brief. We got the Eurostar from Ashford, so we first got the train to Ashford (may even have been two trains via London). I was pretty worried about the train journeys and the comfort levels on Eurostar and actually remember having a dream about the Eurostar beforehand so that probably shows something! The journey was fine and we got into Paris Gare du Nord safely. We found our hotel (the Avalon) and had a chance to relax for a bit. We watched a bit of French TV probably and then headed out to explore Paris and find somewhere to eat.

Now I had already been to Paris on the French Exchange in Year 8, so I had some familiarity with the area where we went on that first evening. We headed round the corner from our hotel and up to the Sacre Coeur (not the building in my secondary school!), dodging the dodgy people trying to sell us stuff. We ended up eating in the square round the corner, I want to call it the Place de Tertre? Anyway, I had an interesting steak and chips with too much sauce and an apple juice. Apart from worrying about the food and stuff, it was all fine, and we went home fairly happy with how things had gone. The restaurant was called Cadet de Gascogne by the way.

The next day saw my first trip on the metro, which is in some ways a lot better than the tube, especially with the double decker trains! And a lot cheaper. Anyway, we went to the Louvre and saw the over-rated Mona Lisa (and stopped for the loo). We then found a McDonalds and ate it in some gardens nearby (I wouldn’t eat any of the weird French sandwich offerings in the non-fast food shops). We went on a boat trip, on which I was quite worried, and then had a very weird bread roll in the (I think floating) restaurant in the area where we caught the boat from. We went to Tour Montparnasse, which is just as good as the Eiffel Tower and warmer! We managed to get to Galerie Lafayette at some point too, as I bought a French quiz book for girls (to try and read!) and went to the Notre Dame. We walked down the Champs-Elysees and then we had dinner (steak for me) at Café du Metro, which was really lovely!

In the down time that we had, we were lucky enough to find Doctor Who on the TV one afternoon dubbed into French. This was perfect TV for me to watch as I knew the storylines and so could concentrate on understanding the French rather than following the show. One evening we watched the 2005 version of Fun with Dick and Jane, which was pretty confusing but we followed it a bit! The other evening there was nothing to watch but at least we tried to find some French to immerse ourselves in! I managed to curb my anxiety a bit, although didn’t really eat breakfast while we were there because I find French breakfasts fairly weird. However, before we caught our train home we found a corner shop that sold ‘This Water’ (now Juicy Water), so I could have a taste of home.

In terms of my back, the sightseeing was a bit tiring, and I had to lie down to watch TV as I couldn’t really sit on the edge of a bed. But all was well in the grand scheme of things, and it was only getting better!

So, yeah, that was my holiday to Paris, tomorrow it’s May 2013 and that means exams!