Saturday, 19 November 2011


Once again, this blog has been neglected. At least this time I have a reasonable excuse: I've now got a job.

I'm working at the AA in Basingstoke, in the internal communications department. I have a desk and everything, and even a little label printer, which has led to almost everything being labelled, including the label machine itself.

Fanum House, the AA HQ. I live on the 8th floor, with a view of fields where there seem to be more border collies than people.

The job itself has so far turned out to be pretty good. I never thought I'd actually look forward to going to work, but it's happened! Among many other things, I'm currently editing the staff magazine. While it's quite a lot of work, it's great fun. Each day I'm writing and editing articles on various things happening across the company, whether it's a new business acquisition, a charity event in Newcastle or a look back at the history of the company.

The only downside to the job is the commute to Basingstoke each morning, as I have to leave the house at 07:30 every morning to get there for 09:00. First Great Western have conveniently timed the trains so that even if I leave work on time, I still don't get home until 18:30. And that's if the trains are on time, which is a rare occasion.

In a bid to keep this blog updated more regularly, I've downloaded a 'blogger' app on my phone which allows me to post. However, this may well lead to my pocket having regular input, so apologies in advance for the next post, which will probably be gibberish.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Hats and Baths

It seems I've neglected this blog once again. Sorry, blog. I'm back now.

One reason for my lack of writing is that since finishing my exams, I've been grappling with 'real-life', and attempting to work out what to do with it. In between application forms and scouring the Internet for jobs, I've been filling my time with a number of things:

I am in there somewhere, although you can mainly see my chin.

As you probably guessed from the photo, I graduated. I donned my cape and silly-hat, and collected my certificate from the Vice Chancellor of The University of Reading. And that was that. Four years of my life gone, almost £30,000 spent, and all for a certificate and an envelope. It was still a good day, and it was nice celebrating the day with everyone from the last four years. In a nice little circular loop, I graduated next to Michael, who I met on the first night in Windsor Hall on 30th October 2007, when we realised we had both foolishly signed up for French and Politics.

Michael and I, survivors of many lectures together.

On another note, for the past couple of weeks, I've been teaching in an English-language summer school, run by an organisation called 'EJO'. We've taken over a wing of The Abbey School in Reading, and have filled it with a variety of children from a variety of countries. In the last week I've been teaching Omanis, Italians, Spaniards and Russians. Their time in England is a mix of English lessons, excursions and activities, all of which I seem to play a rather active role in. So far, they've been on trips to Bath, Bristol, Winchester, London, Oxford, and they'll go to Stonehenge, Salisbury, and London again in the next week.

A Roman Bath. Could do with a clean.
The Royal Crescent. Terraced housing for rich people.

My lessons so far have been fairly similar to those from my year abroad. I've done adverts, newspapers, debates, tongue-twisters and grammar, and even plucked up the courage to lead 15 Russian children in a rousing rendition of 'Let It Be', accompanied by my fumbled strumming on a guitar.

I'm sure there's been much more going on than just graduating and teaching, but that'll do for now. I'll try to keep more up-to-date in future.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The day Obama came to visit.

Over the past couple of days, President Obama has been in London. In his time here, he met the Queen, Prince Philip, Tom Hanks, David Beckham, Kate Middleton, Colin Firth and J.K. Rowling. A notable name missing from that list is my own, so I decided to pop to London yesterday to say 'hello'.

I went with a couple of friends from university - Michael and Mary. We got on the train with little idea of Obama's schedule for the day, as it didn't seem to be overly-publicised, probably for security reasons. The initial plan was to go on the Tube straight to Westminster, and watch the day unfold there. However, we were on the Underground when it emerged that Michael, being a Northerner, had never seen Buckingham Palace. We decided to get off at Green(e) Park, and walk across to the Palace. Coincidentally, our route across the park took us right behind Lancaster House, where there was a huge police presence, and helicopters overhead. Little did we know that we'd just stumbled upon the place where Cameron and Obama were holding their press conference. We peered through the fence for a minute, before a couple of horses shouted at us to move away.

The horses that told us to move.

We rounded the corner, and saw the Presidential motorcade on The Mall, complete with motorbikes zooming around, armoured Jeeps blocking the road, and the all-important 'Beast', Obama's car, somewhere in the middle.

The motorcade entering Lancaster House.

We decided to hang around outside the Palace for the press conference to end, so we'd be able to catch Obama when he left. We wandered around for a bit, and noticed George Alagiah doing an interview for the BBC. The obvious thing to to was to stand around in the background, phoning anyone who was near a TV to tell them we were famous. However, upon phoning my brother, Ross, it turned out the BBC News Channel was focusing on the press conference in Lancaster House. Logical, I suppose.

George Alagiah himself. Highlight of the day.

Eventually, Obama and Cameron stopped talking, and the motorcade left Lancaster House, and turned onto The Mall. We got a good view of the car going past, and saw Barack waving in the back. He must get really bored or having to wave whenever he drives anywhere.

The motorcade approaching Buckingham Palace.

We then wandered through St. James' Park, past the numerous pelicans and tourists, to Horseguards Parade, then cut trough to Whitehall, and walked past Downing Street to get to Parliament Square. We knew that Obama was giving a speech in Westminster Palace at 3pm, so we wanted to get a good spot to see his car. Apparently, twice simply wasn't enough.

Security was tight, and the police were armed... with binoculars. (Mary's photo. She has a better camera than me.)
We were originally standing by the normal entrance to Parliament, when the police moved us out of the way to let Peter Mandleson through. It was then that we realised we were at the wrong gate - there was no way they were going to make Obama follow in Mandleson's tracks.

The bulk of the press photographers and film crew were standing opposite the Sovereign's Entrance, so we took a position amid them, and awaited our third sighting of the President and his entourage. As before, the police bikes sped past, stopping traffic, then the motorcade drew up and turned into the gate to Westminster Palace. We hadn't expected Obama to get out of the car, but one of the Secret Service agents opened the foot-thick door of his car and out stepped the President.

'The Beast' arriving at Westminister Palace. You can see his head in back of the car.

Barack Obama getting out of the car.

Adjusting his presidential suit.

Checking to see if I had turned up.

The press photographers went into paparazzi-mode, shouting at everyone and everything, jostling people with their lenses, their shutters clattering away behind us. We weren't allowed to get too close, and my camera's not particularly good, but it was nice nonetheless to get a couple of photographs.

Overall, it was a good day out. Alagiah and Obama in one day has satisfied the celebrity-spotter in me for at least a couple of weeks.

Friday, 20 May 2011

End of Education.

I had my last exam today. Or, as I like to call it, my final final. It was odd leaving the exam hall, knowing that if all goes well, the next time I'm there I'll be wearing a gown and a mortarboard. Now seems to be a good time to look back at my education so far, so apologies for the reminiscent nature of this post!

I still remember my first day at Holbrook Primary School. I was is Ms. Sowery's class, and as a class we all sat in a circle and said our names, and then held hands and waved our arms up and down. As you do.

Holbrook School. A photo from the olden days.
It must have been in the first couple of weeks or term that wewere told to write a poem. Being a scared little four-year old, I was writing a poem about Ms. Sowery, when I realised that I didn't know a single word that rhymed with 'Sowery'. She came over, taught me the word 'boughery' and explained that it's a word for when there's lots of branches over the road. I think it's the first thing I remember consciously learning.

I'm 22 now. In my time in education, I've sat through countless exams. Year Two SATs, Year Six SATs, end-of year exams in Year 7 and 8, more SATs in Year 9, then numerous GCSE modules in Year 10 and 11. AS levels and A levels in college, then end-of-year exams in the first two years at university, before my finals this year.

Not once, in one single exam or class in the last eighteen years, since Ms. Sowery's reception class, have I ever had the chance to use the word 'boughery'. Pity.

A boughery. Not a useful word. (from Etrusia's Flickr)

Monday, 9 May 2011

Exams, sheds and beds.

As I write this, I should probably be revising for exams. But never mind.

I had my final French-language exam this morning - a 'TP' exam ('travaux pratiques', for long), which is a strange mix of comprehension, creative writing and paraphrasing. I sat in Reading University's deceptively-titled 'Great Hall' for three hours, determining the rest of my life via a few ill-chosen and badly-conjugated verbs. It dawned on me as I left the exam that I'm under no obligation to ever speak French again in my entire life. (I'll let you know how long I last.)

The Great Hall. Which is too exam-y to be 'great'.
After the exam I walked into town to get my hair cut. I thought that after a difficult morning of work, it'd be nice to do something non-academic for a couple of hours. I sat down in the chair and began the idle hairdresser-chatting: Me "No, it's not my day off, I'm a student", Ever-so-witty hairdresser: "Oh, every day's a day off then!".

I then discovered, much to my annoyance, that I'd somehow managed to find the only French hairdresser in the whole of Reading. He then proceeded to chat away in French about his planned trips to Disneyland Paris, throwing in all kinds of subjunctive, indicative, imperative and infinitive, and confirming my suspicions that I definitely can't speak French, and most-likely didn't pass the exam. Ah well, c'est la vie! (I lasted two paragraphs)

My next exams are on Wednesday, when I have a three-hour exam at 9am, a break of two hours, then another three-hour exam at 2pm. Excellent timetabling there, Politics Department.


On a completely unrelated, but fairly interesting note, I saw this item on the news today, and found it worryingly relevant to my living arrangements last year. I think I might've been conned. Compare the following:

BBC News article on 'sheds with beds'.
My 2010 blog entry on my very own 'shed with a bed'.

At least mine had a swimming pool included.