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November/December 2013: Wicked and assorted Christmas events

Ok, so I spoke about most of November yesterday, but on the 30th I went on a very special outing to London. Six of us all went to the same primary school and then the same youth group and wanted to do something special to celebrate our 18th birthdays. Therefore, we all bought tickets for Wicked as presents to each other and planned a trip to the London shops, Wicked and a lovely meal afterwards. Annoyingly I did spend some time in the lead up to our trip rather nervous and worried about going, especially as it was my first ‘solo’ trip to the capital (as in no parental support). Once we were on the train I definitely calmed down and it was an amazing day out. We had a great time browsing the shops, especially with all the Christmas stock, and Wicked was so much better than I remembered (I had actually seen it a few years before with my parents, but this time we sat in the stalls right up close to the stage and I feel it was a better cast too!) After Wicked we ventured over to Leicester Square and Shaftesbury Avenue to the Bella Italia that we had booked a table for. There was an unfortunately long wait for our table because the people before us stuck around for an age, but the food was good. All too soon it was time to head home but it is something that I will remember for ages.

Outside the Apollo Victoria Theatre

Outside the Apollo Victoria Theatre

Into December, the first big event was my interview at Cambridge, but that’s a massive can of worms that I will open tomorrow! Actually before that, we had our school evening at celebration, and boy was I busy that night! I spent the entire first half in the orchestra pit playing for the Year 7 singers, then popped upstairs to join the other prize winners to receive some subject awards and the Arthur McKivett Caritas Award (I have no idea who McKivett was but the award was to do with being caring). Then I played in the string group/orchestra and rounded off the night with a rendition of songs from the upcoming school production of Oliver. My back was quite stiff and achey after all of that, especially spending the whole day in rehearsals. It was also very unfortunate timing as my Grandma had died the night before, but I think it took my mind off that.

Obviously the great event of the month is Christmas, so much of what happened to me was Christmas related. I went to two Christmas parties – one with EPIC, my youth group, which was great; and the other with the sixth form Student Union. Being on the student union I would have hoped that it might have been a bit more successful. I didn’t enjoy it. My close friends didn’t go, so although there were people I knew, I only really spoke to about three people. It wasn’t like you could carry a conversation anyway because of the music and general noise. It was not a place where I felt comfortable because of the closely packed people and me avoiding people touching my back and even bumping into it. Someone spilt beer on the floor and my shoes got soaked, and the DJ turned up and then refused to play because they didn’t have equipment, yet he still got paid! However, the person controlling the music was better than the DJ at prom and then some, plus everyone was too drunk to care (despite the majority being underage!).

The final December event (apart from Christmas) was the orchestral Christmas course, which was really fun but also very full on. I certainly went home each day aching, but it was worth it to play in such a respected orchestra with great friends, who I am going to miss so much!

Anyway, come back tomorrow to hear about my interview at Cambridge and then we’ll be into 2014!

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October/November 2013: Zine Project and Bournemouth

OK, so I’m back to October and thought I’d fill you in with what happened in the latter half of the month, particularly a project I took part in at Brighton Museum. Back in July 2013, I joined a group at the museum called the Museum Collective, which is a group for young people that runs and takes part in creative projects and also can be used as a youth panel to discuss changes to the museum that might affect us or aim to encourage youth engagement with the museum.

Anyway, for two days over half term, a number of us met to create a zine in response to the Subversive Design exhibition that was running at that point. If you don’t know what a zine is, it a basically a low cost, homemade magazine on a particular topic, often created by hand rather than printed from a computer. As part of this we got to see the exhibition for free and chose a few pieces to respond to creatively. We also had the privilege of working with artist Tristan Manco, who wrote briefly about the project here: http://www.tristanmanco.com/2014/01/13/subverzine-brighton-museum/. We did a lot of photocopying, especially from old copyright free books – old style cutting and pasting! We had various stencils and stampers and obviously there were also good old fashioned pens and paper to just draw on. It was a really fun project and the end result ‘Subverzine’ was even sold in the shop!

A few days after finishing the zine project I went away to Bournemouth, which was fast becoming our go to holiday destination for a quick break. As usual we did some swimming and some shopping and just general relaxation. My anxiety over eating was a lot better this time around (I may have actually glossed over that bit last time I wrote about it but oh well!), and we had a great trip to Mottisfont, a National Trust property, on the way there, and a trip to Lyndhurst on the way back.

The rest of November was pretty normal, although we did return to Sorted, which was great, especially meeting up with Imi from camp! In a departure from the normal pattern we didn’t stay in London for food but returned home because we had a baby with us and that also meant that my friend Lara could join us having been at work for the day. It was such an encouraging day as well, and something I would definitely recommend. There was also another special trip to London at the very end of November, but I am going to park that for today and leave you in suspense! All will be revealed tomorrow!

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September 2013: University visits and Church Weekend Away

So, this post was meant to have been published yesterday and I had written in all out on my phone last night. But then my phone decided to wipe the whole post! I was naturally very annoyed and also tired, so I am trying to recreate that beautiful post now.

Anyway, September 2013 brought more university visits and our first was to Southampton. We set out for the train fairly early and, although I was worried about the journey, we arrived safely and in good time. After a sizeable wait for the bus we arrived at the university and I received a free lanyard (promotional material attached). In the student life exhibition we also got a free water bottle but there was no obvious free bag! Anyway, we went to a few information talks, had a nice sandwich and saw some accommodation, but by far the best thing about the university was the Chaplaincy – they had their own house! However, in the end I decided against applying to Southampton because the history department was outside the main campus and the main accommodation was also relatively far away in the other direction and it just didn’t feel right.

The following weekend was our last open day at the University of Bristol. We drove up the night before, which was fine, and then we couldn’t find the Travelodge! We got there eventually though and got up bright and early in the morning to walk up to the campus (I say up literally because it was on a hill; I also can’t tell you what sort of breakfast we had). It was quite a nice walk though despite the steep incline. Anyway, we did the same as we did for every other open day – had a talk on how great the university is, sampled some chips in the cafeteria, saw the history department and saw some accommodation. The accommodation was actually a bus ride away up yet more hills, because the university is actually in the town centre (ish), but it was fairly nice. We finished off our day in the student life exhibition where I got a free bag with ‘I heart Bristol’ on it from the alumni stand. The CU seemed nice too. We went home with a lot to think about.

The rest of September involved starting year 13, which was much like year 12 but a bit more work and more frees. I finished my first draft of my EPQ (I’ll come back to that at a later date!) and we also went to see Nicola Benedetti live at the Brighton Dome. She is an amazing violinist, and I really like her album ‘The Silver Violin’ – it’s beautiful and well worth a listen.

I started my first and only year with the Brighton Youth Orchestra, almost at the back of the second violins, and the first rehearsal was the last Friday in September, just after my year post-op anniversary! That was quite exciting, but after the rehearsal my back really ached because I had been playing for such a long time. It probably wasn’t made better by the fact that I was worried about the following day, travelling over to the Isle of Wight for our church weekend away. In the end it was fine, but I was pretty annoyed about missing the first day and the fact that it was somewhere new rather than the Oast Houses that I know and love with its heated swimming pool and everything else – we’d missed out on going in 2012 because of my operation. The weekend was good anyway, but there wasn’t all that much to do in free time, so I ended up going for a long walk which was quite tiring. I guess I would have enjoyed it more had I been there from the Friday evening because I didn’t really get a chance to settle before we were off again.

OK, well I suppose that’s it for September, I think I may have squeezed two posts into one there! I was officially a year post-op and relatively back to normal!

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August 2013: Spain and Oxford

Basically, August 2013 contained quite little of note. We went on holiday to Spain, which took up quite a lot of the summer break, but that was pretty much the same as any other year. I was quite worried about the flight, especially with it being my first one since my operation. My back was fine though and we arrived safely and not too stiff. I was a bit self conscious with wearing my swimming costume with my scar, but I had bought one which pretty much covered it up. I also made sure it was covered from the sunlight, just in case. So, anyway, Spain was really relaxing, although I was sick before we got on the coach home because of the stress of the journey home.

The other trip we made in August 2013 was to visit Oxford, as we couldn’t make it to any of the university open days. We went up on the 9th and stayed in a Travelodge in the Oxford Peartree services, next door to the park and ride. We got there fairly early and headed up to St John’s College, where we met one of the Admissions Secretaries. She gave us a tour and talked to us about the college, and it was very nice and a beautiful place. We then went to St Peter’s College, which wasn’t as nice, quite a concrete jungle and more run down (partially because they have less money), but still a fairly nice place to live. We also visited Christ Church, which was full of tourists because of Harry Potter – we saw the staircase to the ‘Great Hall’ and the chapel and had a walk in the garden area and park next door, which was again very picturesque. At some point we also saw Corpus Christi, which was very cute and lovely.

The next day, my parents had arranged an Inspector Morse tour around Oxford. I wasn’t really a fan but I now actually like Endeavour, and it’s still nice to watch something and say ‘I’ve been there!’. The woman doing the tour was very knowledgeable on the city in general though, apart from the current university precedures, as she still thought if they like you, you’ll get an unconditional offer (no!). We also saw New College, which featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – the courtyard where Malfoy gets turned into a ferret! It’s also in Endeavour Series 2, in the episode entitled Sway. The Bodlian Library was great too, we saw an exhibition on magical books and there was a great gift shop!

Anyway, we had a great time in Oxford and took lots of beautiful photos of the colleges; my back survived my first flight post-op; and I will return tomorrow to fill you in on September 2013!

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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!