Don’t cry because it’s over, smile that it happened.

This time, two weeks ago, I was stood on an overcrowded London tube with an overweight backpack on, which had a tent, a sleeping bag and a pair of wellies dangling from it. I had two other bags with me, both containing crates of Strongbow. No, I wasn’t kicked out of home, I was on my way to V Festival. The half an hour spent on the tube was immensely hot, crowded and all in all, pretty unenjoyable. But once we got onto the train into rural Essex(!), we all started to relax, cracking open the first cans of cider. An hour further down the line, I was a considerable amount of cider and a welly lighter. The long walk to find somewhere to camp was painful and agonising, especially as we had to walk past everyone elses tantalising BBQs.
Travelling aside, V Festival was fantastic fun. The mood was set when Nic and Mary went in search of my lost/stolen welly and returned, not with mine, but another random welly. It looked nothing like mine, but quite perfectly it was the right size and the correct foot! How much more serendipity can one find in a field? Each day began (at the crack of lunch) with a nutritious breakfast bar and a cider. We would then meander into the arena and see some of the most appalling acts on offer. The one that springs to mind is Peter Andre. Yes, Peter Andre. Not only did he sing what seemed like a tissue load of drivel about Jordan, he made one of the most fantastically appalling pop faux pas when he dressed up as Michael Jackson and attempted the moonwalk.
As the day warmed up and the scent of stale cider lifted, the music got better and after a lovely nap listening to the Magic Numbers, we set about seeing some of the best bands across the weekend. I saw some bands that I hated, some that I expected to hate but really enjoyed and some of my favourites, but to be honest, it didn’t matter who we were watching because it was all great fun. I don’t know which was my favourite moment. Watching the man stripping and dancing in sick to Baggy Trousers? Singing to any old Scouting for Girls song in a ludicrously posh and tuneless way? Having someone snort something suspicious off my shoulder during Prodigy? Or perhaps it was meeting the lovely guys who got us all the way to the front of Kings of Leon? There were so many amazing moments and most of them were punctuated with one word; “Alan”. Alan was the catchphrase of the weekend. Why? No one knows and to be honest, it’s not worth explaining. But, if anyone says they went to Hylands Park V Festival, just shout Alan and they will smile knowingly.
Quite appropriately it rained like a dog all of Sunday night and my tiny tent wasn’t really big enough for two of us, which meant that we were very wet by Monday morning. Monday morning provided me with my first chance to wear my mismatched wellies in the muddy trudge back to the train station. It is one thing having manky hair and smelling of cider and beer at V Festival, where everyone else looks the same, but going on the tube across London and on the 4 hour train to Edinburgh was somrthing else.
Despite a liberal spraying of dry shampoo over my head and an even more liberal dose of deodorant, I still felt so sorry for the people sitting on the table with me on the train. Thankfully, the person next to me was even stranger; he had a thick Glaswegian accent and 6 IRN BRU lined up for the journey. He also insisted on filming his fellow passengers every ten or fifteen minutes. I tell you what. My first shower in Edinburgh was just lovely – it was bliss. My time at Edinburgh festival was a real whistle-stop tour, but we saw some brilliant shows; Kevin Eldon was as wonderful as his reviews made out. Joey Page was a freebie, but turned out to be really good, despite the fact that he made me wear a veil for the majority of the show. The Impro Chums were as sharp as ever and we really enjoyed the long sketch about Terry and Julian. I’m sure that 99% of the audience were lost, but I applaud the person who suggested that. Oh and how could I forget our evening with Jim Bowen watching Bullseye? That was a truly wonderful time, but I am still a little scared that someone suggested we were fangirls of Jim. Concerning.
The next leg of my journey took me a couple of hours north into the Scottish highlands. The people of Perthshire, or more specifically the villages of Killiecrankie, Blair and Pitlochry, seem to be posher than those who hail from Surrey. I was working at Blair Horse Trials and it was as much fun as V and Edinburgh. The week started off well when we had to chase DHL through the village to get them to drop our machines off. Quite surprisingly, I got my first ride in a police car whilst I was up there. Don’t worry, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, we just convinced them to give us a lift home after we had too much to drink. That is how the people of Scotland roll; they are so friendly and willing to help. I love them.
As always, we stayed at the delightful Killiecrankie House and the food was divine. Whilst I lived on a diet of surprisingly little food and a lot of drink for the first week, I think I must have put at least 6 pounds on whilst at Blair. I had a grapefruit for breakfast and a healthy lunch, but the dinner was too much to resist. Their sticky toffee pudding was immense. I even managed to ask for sticky toffee pudding and not stiffy cocky pudding.
So now I’m home. I’ve got tonnes of great memories and I’ve laughed more in the last fortnight than I have in ages. Now I just have to cling on to those memories and look forward to the next adventure.


The discovery of the real “you” does not lie within the journey, but in the packing.

Everyone talks about going travelling to broaden the mind or discovering the real “you”, but having spent an entire day packing for various different occasions, I have come to the conclusion that your inner self is hiding at the bottom of the rucksack.

Packing is, in itself, a journey. You begin, full of excitement for your forthcoming trip. You are resolute that you will pack lightly and not take unnecessary stuff with you. So you grab yourself a bag and begin to plan your days. Everything is going to plan, until one thing occurs to you: what happens if it rains? You have only packed for good weather! So then you grab a few jumpers and long-sleeved tops out. But a jumper doesn’t go with shorts, you’ll have to pack jeans as well.

So now, you’ve got more outfits than you have days and your empty suitcase is surrounded by piles of clothing. You’ve lost control, you start throwing all your favourites in, just in case. You’ve put a swimsuit in, not because you’ll have a chance to swim, but you don’t want to be caught without. Then you’ve got a coat, jumper and thick trousers, because you never know when the weather will turn. In the Med. You’ve got both pairs of flip flops, not so you can go out with solely flip flips or flop flops, but just so that you can decide on the day, which pair you will wear.

The excitement of going on holiday is starting to fade as you realise you have to decide what to take. Suddenly your bag seems woefully small and your clothes inadequately large. You sink down on the bed, bored of all of this, dreaming of it being finished and getting to your destination. You lose all will to pack and distract yourself by turning your out of office on, making sure your bank account is correct and all those really important, but unnecessary things.

In a moment of panic, you turn reluctantly back to your packing. Sensibly, you throw some stuff aside and then work out how to cram everything in. It is only when you’ve just managed to inch the zip closed, by lying across the case, that you realise you’ve forgotten underwear, a toothbrush and your toothpaste. The next mission, should you choose to accept it, is to start trying to poke things in through that gap in the zip.

I can talk about this so knowingly because last night I packed a bag for a 2 day stay in Edinburgh followed by a week in rural Scotland, working at Blair Horse Trials. Thankfully, for the main, this involved work clothes, which have been printed especially for the occasion. Easy; although, last year, it did rain like a dog, so I have packed a few extras to try to stop myself from drowning. Then I have thrown a few nice clothes in for Edinburgh and my GHDs for the trip. Where it starts to get difficult is that I will be at V Festival immediately before, so I have had to work out what I will need for both and which bits I can take where. It has been a logistical nightmare, and that is before I started packing ten boxes full of lab equipment and all of its accoutrements for the work side of it.

What have I discovered today? Every packing experience takes you on a journey of excitement, disillusionment and disappointment. Forget the holiday, I’ve travelled enough before I’ve even left.