Neither a borrower nor a lender be, for loan oft loses both itself and friend.

Just over five years ago, I was heading off to university for the first time. If I’m being honest, I hadn’t given it that much thought. Some had been dreaming of going away to uni for years. Others had a job that they were desperate to do and they had to have the academic qualifications to get there. Me? I took everything one day at a time and hadn’t considered uni until I got to sixth form really. I applied (more because everyone was, rather than out of great want.) What was I to study? I wanted to study English, but fearing I wouldn’t be good enough, I applied to do Sociology, which had a much lower entrance grade.

I think to do English at Reading, I would have needed BBB, whereas for Sociology, I only needed BCC. Needless to say, I got the necessary grades to study English anyway. I studied English and Sociology in my first year and after my exams, I decided that English was the choice for me.

How did I chose what university to study at? Well, I knew I wanted to stay at home. This wasn’t because I was shy or scared  to leave home, but it was a selfish desire to have my metaphorical cake and eat it. I didn’t want to give my horses up for three years. If I lived away at university, then I couldn’t have afforded to do that and keep my horses. Simples as the meerkats say.

I wasn’t too sure whether university was the right option for me, so I planned to defer for a year to see how I felt. It was simply the threats about the hikes in tuition fees that sent me to uni so quickly. When we went, it cost £1050 a year. The year after us, paid around £3000. I couldn’t afford to pay £3000 a year, let alone the £9000 a year that is being threatened now. I left university with about £10,000 worth of debt. I had around half of that money sitting in an ISA, but as it was an interest free loan, I used it to buy a (nearly) brand new car. With pink flowers on.

It’s quite scary that I am 23 years old, have no house or anything of great ownership to speak of, but I have a £10k debt. Yet, one of the girls I work with, did not go to uni and at 21, she has bought her first house and is getting married in four months. I’m not saying that I should have done that, but I have achieved nothing compared to her, which is most unfair.

It’s difficult to say whether going to university has helped me in the world of work. I’m not sure I would have got the job I’ve got as my first job, without the aid of a degree, but I would have had three years of income to build up to it. Regardless of that, I loved my three years at uni and without it, I feel that I would be a very different person.

So where does my experience fit in with the current student protests? I don’t think the education I received was worthy of paying £9000 a year. For those not familiar with the university calendar; the year is made up of three ten week terms. Each term has one “reading week”, which has no lectures or seminars to allow you to complete your assigned essays. You rarely had lectures or seminars in the final week of term either. Then, the summer term was mainly made up of revision time and exams. So in my first year, I had a pretty full on schedule, with at least three or four hours of contact time a day. But by the second year, that had dropped to 3 lecture hours and 3 seminar hours a week. And by my final year, I had a couple of 2 hour seminars a week. Now I don’t want to sound fussy, but is 8 hours of contact time a term really worth £9000? That means that every hour long seminar in my final year was worth about £600. Absolutely absurd.

I find it deeply upsetting that the politicians that are bringing about these changes were all educated in the countries finest universities without paying a single penny. In fact, a lot of them were given grants to go. And now they are pulling up the rope ladder behind them. It’s disgusting. I have thought about this all week, trying to work out why it changed so much and I think I finally have the answer. The Labour Party has spent the last ten years encouraging absolutely everybody to go to university, which has not only devalued the degree but also means that the country can no longer afford to pay for all of the futures doctors, nurses and lawyers.

The problem I see with the huge hike in tuition fees is that you are just as likely to put off the future doctors and lawyers as you are those who are studying for the sake of studying. I don’t have a perfect solution and I don’t know what to do for the best, but I think you have to distinguish between those studying for a vocation and those not. We are always complaining that we are perilously low in teachers, doctors and other key skills. So why not make their fees lower? Or offer generous grants? After all, they are going to be contributing enormously to the economy.

Having said all this, the loan repayments are taken out of your pay before you even see it and you pay so little back each month, that you will never really notice it. In fact, in 18 months of full time employment, I think I have paid off about £750. Assuming that I will have paid off £1000 by the time I hit the 2 year mark, then I will have paid off my debt in another 18 years. Then if we assume that sometime during the next 18 years, I may get married and have children, I will pause paying it back for a year or so. So, now I’ll be in my mid fifties and paying it back. Scary.

Is it worth it? Who knows. I stand by my decision to go to university, but realistically, I’m not sure it’s worth all that money. It took me a good 9 months trying to get a job when I graduated. Even for the most basic job, I would get turned down because they had chosen to take on the graduate with the years experience already. There was no way to distinguish between people as everyone seems to have a degree. It’s not what it used to be. Perhaps the government need to work harder on introducing more vocational and training courses, without trying to get everyone to go through the university system. That way, prospective employers can begin to distinguish between candidates once more.

I’m not even going to start on the rent -a- mob and the violent protests that are going on. I respect what they are trying to achieve, but you won’t get your own way by throwing your toys out of the pram.

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The offspring of riches: Pride, vanity, ostentation, arrogance, tyranny.

I don’t normally blog so early in the week, but I’m so outraged by something I have just read in the local paper, I cannot help myself. No, it wasn’t the usual poor syntax, misspellings and atrocious metaphors; for once, the content made my blood boil.

Before we start, I feel I should give you all a little bit of context; I have lived in South Bucks all of my life and it was only when I went to university that I realised that our schooling system wasn’t the same as everyone elses. (I was a very sheltered child.) For a start, I was in the first intake of children to move to secondary school when we were eleven and not twelve, so moving to big school was all the more terrifying as we were much younger than they were used to. But for right or wrong, one of the selling points of Buckinghamshire is the educational system. Parents move into the area to go through our schooling; at eleven, we were made to take the eleven plus. Those who passed, went to a grammar school of their choosing. Those who failed were chucked at the nearest secondary modern.

I failed. Of course, the letter didn’t tell me I’d failed, it told me “you have been awarded a place at a secondary modern or upper school.” It doesn’t matter how much you dress up a turd (even with glitter and feathers), it’s still a shit. I knew what it meant. My mum told me that if we’d have taken it at twelve, I would have been ready and would have done better. She said we could appeal and because of my family situation, I would probably get special dispensation. But I really wasn’t bothered. I knew I’d failed, so I didn’t want to go somewhere where I would instantly be one of the worst people there. Besides, all of my mates were going to Wye Valley. So, I went with my friends to get their fancy uniforms with their blazers and a line skirts fitted, whilst my mum popped down to Marks to get me my regulation black trousers and we bought the school tie. This all sounds a bit ludicrous, but that’s how it was. I remember me and a friend showing each other our uniform; she was in a blue shirt made from what could have been my mum’s old j clothes, a grey skirt, grey tights, a blue woolly v neck and a blue blazer. I had normal black trousers, a white shirt, the school tie and a green school sweatshirt. It was very obvious that we were moving worlds apart.

We moved schools and very quickly fell out of touch. But it was not an unhappy falling out, I loved being at Wye Valley. For a start, there were lots of boys there. Non of my grammar school friends got to see boys, except at the bus stop. Although I’ve said that first, it wasn’t the important thing. Everyone was given confidence because they were allowed to do what they were good at. I was always made to feel like the teachers wanted to help and wanted you to do well, with the exception of maths where I would make a positive effort not to work.

Wye Valley was a sports college, but there was no pressure to do sports if you didn’t want to. However, if you showed an interest, they would do everything to help you. About twelve or thirteen of us decided we wanted an after school hockey club, so one of our teachers volunteered to run it, even though he didn’t know much about hockey. As he was no hockey expert, he got a mate in who was; Callum Giles, who played for team GB at the Sydney Olympics. We were very excited that we were getting a Olympiad coming to coach us and for no real reason other than a mate pulling a favour. We were never asked for any money for this – I presume the school paid Callum, but it was nothing to do with us. We got all that expert advice for nothing. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znMjn-CZHsA)

There were other advantages to going to Wye Valley; there weren’t enough teachers to go round, so for the first few years we would have a half day on a Monday. I don’t remember anyone’s parents being bothered in the least by this and we always had fabulous afternoons. I could talk until I’m blue in the face about this, but what I’m trying to say is that I always felt that everyone at Wye Valley tried their hardest for me. I remember Mrs Jarrett stopping the school bus down the road so I didn’t miss it because I was in floods of tears after threats of exclusion from my horrid maths teacher. I was in quite serious trouble, but they still tried their hardest. And they never asked for anything back.

Fast forward a couple of years and my mum convinces me that if I want to do A Levels, I must go somewhere equipped to teach their students to get decent grades. So as a back up plan, I applied to go to Berkshire College of Agriculture to do some kind of equine management course, which I would have done eyes closed, but I didn’t want to assume I’d get enough GCSEs to go to a grammar school. Thankfully after re-jigging my A Level subjects so they didn’t include history (thanks to the D in my GCSE), I was accepted into Beaconsfield High School.

My first day was really strange; I had never joined a school as one of the only new people before. All these people were so confident and had been pumped full of how important and wonderful they were. And there I was, getting a bit tearful because I had to find my form group in the science block, which was miles away and I didn’t know what the room numbers meant. Of course, it was fine. Everyone was lovely and really welcoming; they made me feel as though I’d been there the whole time and I enjoyed my time there. But I’ll never forget being given a letter on my first day for my parents; upon opening it, I discovered that they were asking them to either donate £450 for a new computer or set up a direct debit to fund the school. Now, that letter never got to my parents. I was not going to give them a begging letter. Not after they had just shelled out to pay for the coach to get me to school. We went on public buses to Wye Valley and it was free. Naturally, Beaconsfield High used private coaches, which were paid upfront by the term.

The grammar school seemed convinced that it was a private school; they took part in MUN (Model United Nations doncha know) and the only people who played on the sports teams were county players at least, if not being lined up for England. This was a far cry from Wye Valley where we cobbled enough players together for a hockey team. I didn’t do much during my time at Beaconsfield High; most of my frees were spent riding, having driving lessons or arsing about in the common room. But I sensibly buttered my form tutor up so he could write me a lovely personal statement; he claimed that it gave him a rare chance to do some creative writing, which he didn’t get as a science teacher.

So, I loved my time at Wye Valley. I felt like I looked at my time at Becky High with a cynical eye; I really didn’t like the way they seemed to be emulating private schools. I remember one week we had a series of speakers come in to talk to us. We got to talk to our local MP, who got no questions about politics or the country as a whole, just inundated with questions about how dare Tesco build a shop in Gerrards Cross. We then had a Q & A section with Sandi Toksvig, which excited me because I secretly loved Call my Bluff. If only I knew then, what I knew now, I could’ve asked her so many questions. (Possibly about whether she has ever dressed up as a nun in front of Steve Frost hiding behind a door…)

So imagine my disgust when I saw Beaconsfield High were on the front page of the local rag because they have asked every parent to set up a minimum standing order of £10 a week for the seven years their child will be at school. That’s only £3650 over seven years and nothing compared to a private school. BUT, why should they pay? They go to a state school. This is not meant to be a class based system, it is meant to divide people by intellect levels. (Yeah.) What if people can’t afford to pay that? How dare the school ask them? Oh right, I know why. That’ll be because they decided to build a whole new Sixth Form centre and ran out of money half way through. Bucks County Council bailed them out to the tune of £1.3 million and now they are trying to claw that cash back. Disgusted? Yes, I was. Surprised? Nope, it smacks of Becky High to me.

(Golden)Twit Twoo, Here’s Lookin’ at You

I think this blog needs a little warning; if you do not use Twitter, some of this may be lost on you, but it’s childs play. Read on and you’ll see, it’s dead simple.

It’s that time of year again; the central heating is cranked back on, you lay awake all night coughing and then when it is time to get up, it’s pitch black and chilly. Bed seems like a much nicer option and I find it increasingly hard to get up on a winters morning. But this morning it was all different; I dragged myself out of bed after cowering under my duvet for a good five minutes. With stiff ankles cracking and sleep blurring my vision, I stumbled over to my laptop. Through the blur, I could see that not only had I received a #followfriday at 5.49am, someone had nominated me for a GoldenTwit award.

Now, I don’t really subscribe to this #followfriday mullarkey; does anyone ever see it and actually follow me off the back of it? I’m not sure that they do, but it’s lovely to be recommended by people. Even if they are your friends and you would make their lives miserable if they did not. It’s just nice to have someone saying something nice about you.

Until this morning, I wasn’t aware of The GoldenTwit awards. I had no idea what they were, but I was delighted to find that I had been nominated for one. I don’t have thousands of followers, but I like to think that all 116 of them were in for the long haul and enjoyed my twerping. So I clicked on the link to explore the GoldenTwits and I was welcomed into a world that celebrates the little things people say. Some of the best things have been said in 140 characters; there is a reason that the likes of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain were so concise. Obviously not all of their best quotes fit into 140 characters, but that is why the likes of WordPress exist. Micro blogging and ordinary blogging go hand in hand; I couldn’t live my life in 140 characters, but it’s a great way to amuse and abuse your friends.

So it seems all the Twitter Greats have been nominated for the GoldenTwit awards; David Schneider, Mrs Stephen Fry and David Cameroon (@TheFuckingPM) are all there. I realise that I am not anywhere near their level of greatness, but I would be delighted if all my lovely friends voted for me regardless. (All is fair in love and twitter.)

When I went onto the GoldenTwit website, I discovered that I had to answer some questions, in order to win people’s votes. The questions were as follows:

Why do you deserve a Golden Twit award?

When tweeting, what are your objectives?

What have you achieved?

What’s your favourite Twitter application?

Why should people vote for you?

How would you describe twitter to non-tweeters?

Now it is all very well amusing people as a by-product of entertaining yourself and chatting to your friends, but this is a lot more scary. Answering these questions with just 140 characters is incredibly pressuring; suddenly I have to be funny on demand. Dance for me monkey! I like to think that my tweets entertain now and then, but I do not soley write them for that purpose. So I have spent my evening trying to work out the best thing to write? Do they expect me to be sincere or humerous? Did they want me to genuinely try and win people over?

I tried to answer the questions seriously, but in all honesty, I have not managed to achieve anything in my twitter life and I don’t really have any objectives for goodness sake. Twitter is a subconscious thing, it is like talking or thinking and not something I use for business. So, I decided to bluff over my obvious inadequacies with sarcasm and flippancy.

What did I write? Well, you’ll have to pop on over to http://www.goldentwits.com/user/SillyBry to have a gander. (Oh and if you don’t vote for me while you are there… well, I will be having words. Except that I probably will be too embarrassed, so I’ll just ignore it in that irritating British way. But I’ll think some pretty nasty things.)

“Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death”

The British public constantly complain that we are being watched; we worry that the country is a nanny state, which has to monitor everything we do to ensure we comply. As we drive down the street, we are constantly on the lookout for the bane of the highway; the dreaded speed camera, solely designed to ruin our fun, stop us getting home quickly and to make money off of us. Or so the Daily Mail would have us believe. Perhaps, just perhaps, they are put in place to ensure the safety of us, other drivers and pedestrians. After all, it is pretty important that you drive slowly around schools and village centres. Yes, I do think that they make a tidy penny out of it, but those who are caught speeding always say the same thing; “why don’t the police spend their time catching real criminals?” Well, like it or not. If you speed, you are breaking the law and if you break the law, you are a criminal. Everybody speeds at some point, but you are aware of the risks. If you speed, you can get slapped with a fine, or you could crash, hit another car and kill someone. I know how extreme that sounds, but that is why the law is there. If you speed and hit another car or a pedestrian, the outcome will be far greater than a couple of points on your license. We know why we shouldn’t do it, but on occasions we do. I’d just like to hope that we do it sensibly; I don’t drive fast in villages or near schools etc. Plus, I don’t go dangerously fast, I only ever nudge the limit.

We walk through a town centre and there are video cameras tracking our every movement; again, our Orwellian friends would have you believe it was so that the government’s all Seeing Eye was trying to track down your every move. To be honest, I don’t think they are unduly upset that you are going into Primark or that you have had a dirty rendezvous with someone you shouldn’t. It is much more likely that it is those with criminal intentions; if you are planning a jewellery heist, then yes it is something to complain about. But in the event of an attack, I’d much rather there was video footage to aid any possible prosecution. This seems an unusually optimistic outlook for me, but I can’t really think that the government is interested in the minute of lives and even if they are, they might catch a criminal off the back of it, which is a bonus.

The average Briton likes to complain about these things from time to time, but it isn’t something that hugely bothers the majority of us. Perhaps we have an inkling that life aint to bad in good ol’ Blighty; afterall, my dad lives in the Middle East (which isn’t necessarily a reason why Britain isn’t so bad!) Anyway, I digress. The UAE has had massive difficulties of late with the surge of technology and smartphones. Apparently a lot of people who used iPhones and other smartphones in the UAE complained that their battery life was appalling; yes, I know, we all have the same problem. But it seems that we don’t; the reason their phones would not even last a day was because they were not the only people using their mobile internet. Essentially, the all seeing eyes of the oligarchy (for that, it definitely is) have been checking out what the general public use their phones for.

This didn’t go down so well with RIM, the manufacturers of Blackberry, who would not conform to these rules and regulations. So when the UAE made a move to ban the blackberry, all the juicy details spilled out. The reason that Blackberry don’t conform is because they have Blackberry Messenger, which unlike text messages, phone calls and emails, it cannot be tracked as it is sourced through another country. Fear not, RIM are aware of how big a market Dubai and it’s little brothers are, so they are working out how they can conform. But why does Sheikh Mo and his family see it as necessary to track what everyone is saying and doing? How many times have you drunkenly googled something like “the film where the bloke has a baby with Arnie in it”? These things have no significance to you, but for some reason you really want to know after the second bottle of wine. (It was Junior, by the way.)

Dubai is currently suffering from crippling debt and is being bailed out by Abu Dhabi; so why the hell are they presumably paying hundreds of civil servants a frightening sum of money to sift through all this banal and useless rubbish? I cannot even see how this is being done to protect anybody; I understand speed cameras and CCTV in town centres, even if I am not dead keen on them, but this? It smacks of something fishy to me.

 

 

(If you don’t see me again, you’ll know the all seeing eye has caught up with me…)

How to cure a cyclist

This week’s blog takes the form of an instruction guide, full of handy hints and tips. I have done this because I know when I joined this strange and unknown world, I would have loved for someone to have been there before me, with the essential do’s and don’ts.

There are three very important things to remember when attempting to cure cyclists and I will outline them here.

The first, and perhaps most important point, is that you cannot cure a cyclist without his (or her) bike. The bike is an incredibly important part of the cyclist. Afterall, without their bicycle, they are just a person and people can get a little funny if you try to cure them without cause, rhyme or reason.

Secondly, whilst cyclists are not an aggressive breed, they may not take too kindly to you chasing them down the street with a butterfly net and a syringe filled with tranquiliser. Try and remember that they do consider themselves to be “human” and as such, you will need to be confident in explaining the key reasons why, as a cyclist, they need curing. Explain to them that everyone else on the road adheres to certain rules, such as red traffic lights and it is their lack of respect for these things, which get children knocked down. If they come back at you, telling you they are reducing their carbon footprint, then explain that they are the ones arriving in the office pink and sweaty. Then take a step back and say “ner, ner na ner ner.” It works a treat every time. It is also worth pointing out to them that strapping a flashing light, the size of the head of a matchstick to the front of their bike, does NOT mean it is safe for them to cycle in the dark. As a cyclist, you are very vulnerable on the road, so ride like it! Don’t just swing out in front of cars, or cycle in the pitch black along busy roads. (It is worth noting that it is more worthwhile curing a cyclist whilst they are still alive. Arriving at the accident scene with your butterfly net can be seen as both tasteless and ironic. Plus, you have the difficulty of deciding who should get the cyclist – after all, you aren’t allowed to pick up any roadkill that you hit.)

The third tip, which I wish someone had told me before I started out on my journey is this: add a spoonful of sugar to the salt cure and to get a really top flavour, consider a honey roast dressing. Cyclists are naturally very salty (from all that sweat), so you need to exercise a little caution about adding too much salt during the curing process. A dab of sugar just sorts the balance out.

I’m sure you all have tried and tested curing recipes, so I won’t patronise you and bore everyone with the details of that. But I have just a few do’s and don’ts for along the way.

Do use a good quality cut of thigh. There won’t be excess fat on a cyclists thigh and it cooks so very well.

Don’t try to knock them down on the road. Firstly, it’s seen as very unsporting to catch one when they are down. Secondly (as discussed earlier) you cannot claim any roadkill you have knocked down yourself.

Do make sure they are clear why you are doing this; as a driver, a cyclist is one of the most irritating of road hazards.

Don’t be tempted to use a tranquiliser dart from a distance when they are cycling; although the results are visually entertaining, it is not sporting.

Now, I think you are ready to enter the world of curing; good luck and most of all, enjoy!

Hunger is the best cook and food the best doctor.

Being English, I adore food. It is as simple as that. I am tempted to finish this week’s blog there as it needs no further explanation. However, I feel contractually obliged, so I must continue.

I don’t really mind what food as there is a meal for every occasion. There is nothing better than cheese and onion on toast when getting in from a cold, wet and dark winters day show jumping. In the same way, a summers evening is made by a simple steak, salad and a few wedges. I think it is something unique about the British, that we shape every event or occasion we have by food. Spending two or three days with our nearest and dearest at Christmas is just too much for the vast majority of us to take, so we fill our time eating a year’s supply of meat, potatoes and chocolates. By filling our time eating all that glorious food, we barely have time to argue with the family before falling asleep in front of the Eastenders Christmas special.

It is with this love of food that I sit in front of the television, eating any old ready meal, watching Masterchef with such excitement. But of late, the BBC has come up with a new creation, which is just awe-inspiring on so many levels. The Great British Bake Off is a throwback to years gone by, where the most quintessentially middle class people take baking as seriously as you or I would consider world peace or poverty. Now I adore bread, cakes and all manner of baked delights, but I could never take it as seriously as any of these contestants. This is the reality show for the yummy mummy to get excited about. It is not the cooking that you or I would manage; oh no, there is an invention test, which requires them to create something wacky and wonderful, such as violet petal macaroons or choux buns with popping candy in. The next test is perhaps the most terrifying; the contestants are given the ingredients for a classic recipe, but they do not have the actual recipe. Over the past few weeks, they have had to bake all sorts of wonders such as cottage loaves and Cornish pasties sans instruction. Despite this hindrance, there have been no catastrophic cock ups. Of course, there have been the nail biting moments where pastry is soft, scones haven’t browned or bread hasn’t risen, but they have always completed an acceptable finished product, which is more than I would manage.

The contestants have all been wonderfully varied considering the subject matter. I was quite shocked by the amount of men that started the competition; whilst men generally make excellent cooks, I know that it’s a stereotype, but I don’t imagine them on the baking side of things. Gordon Ramsey isn’t known for his delicate touch in pastry making! Right back at the beginning, we had a Welsh bus driver whose cakes were the talk of the depot and true to his Welsh heritage he was pretty emotional about leaving. Every contestant has had their own special little quirk, which makes them so interesting. The most amusing of these was Jas, who had the most amazing Black Country accent, which seemed to disappear and then come flooding back in waves across the sentence.

It is not just the glorious way the contestants get so het up about bread or pastries that makes this programme; it is the timely interjections from Mel and Sue. Hosted by Mel Giedroyc (yes, that’s easier to type than it is to say) and Sue Perkins, this programme brings the southern, female, humorous and entertaining equivalent of Ant and Dec back together on our screens once more. Obviously, they are not comparable to Ant and Dec; Mel and Sue made great lunchtime telly back in the nineties and this is such a hilarious place to see them. Mel gets almost as emotionally involved as the contestants themselves and she looks quite bleary eyed as she tells them who has been eliminated each week. Whilst they are cooking, Mel and Sue float around chatting to the contestants with seemingly little purpose, often accidentally eating their ingredients or asking to try it just as the contestant has discovered they haven’t actually put the 5 beautifully separated eggs into the scones.

Apparently this programme has split the baking society into those who WI and those who don’t. The WI (bakers extraordinaire) has been up in arms about some of Paul Hollywood’s comments and decisions. The lovely Mary Berry seems to have avoiding the controversies, which pleases me for two reasons. Firstly, her salad dressings are the best salad dressings in the entire world. Secondly, I used to serve her regularly at Tesco on a Wednesday evening and she was quite lovely.

But for a naive weekend baker, oblivious to this controversy, the Great British Bakeoff is such a delightful programme. It seems to hark back to a bygone era. Maybe I’m back in my dream world hoping that lovely Middle England could be so lovely once again, but it’s true. They have gone to some beautiful places around the country and baked all manner of goodies that I would love to try. What’s to dislike about that?
Now to the important part; who do I think will win? Ruth, hands down. She has been the strongest from the very beginning, with Edd and Miranda as strong competition. I would say that Edd could pull it out of the bag, but I’ve seen the teaser for next week’s final; he is bent over with a towel to his face having apparently stabbed himself, which I think might reduce his chances a little. Only time will tell, but next Tuesday I will be in the deepest, darkest depths of Devon so there is a chance I will not see the final until Thursday. As long as no one tells me who wins in the meantime, I will enjoy the final when I see it.

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.

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