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.

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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.

The worst winter I ever suffered was summer in Britain.

As a society, we hold summer as this wonderful, much fabled, blissful time. A time when we sit on sun loungers, read literary classics that we’ve previously only bent the spines of (so as to appear well-thumbed to the discerning passer-by), get a glorious, yet natural sun tan and basically live the good life. How many of us think of summer as a time when we can invite the world round for a barbeque, where everyone will reminisce about times gone by and laugh whilst sipping at their Pimms?

Of course, we must be realistic and remember that we live in the United Kingdom. We all fail to remember how just bringing the BBQ out of the shed will hit the automatic rain switch. Despite the many, many government adverts, we also forget that cooking chicken on a barbeque is an instant no no as everyone will peel open the meat and start searching, beady eyed, for a spot of pink to panic about. Another bone of contention is the idea of giving a group of people alcohol; there will be no witty or entertaining discussion, just tension as the group driver attempts to play UN peacekeeper between the ranks. Everyone dresses hopelessly optimistically in shorts, skirts, flip flops and other holiday paraphernalia completely forgetting that by day, they will be covered in insect bites and by night, they will freeze.

Being British, the humble barbeque isn’t the only excuse we use to have a good drink, and let’s face it, summer drinking is so much nicer than winter drinking. In the winter, we hibernate in the dark corners of pubs whereas in the summer, we can sit in the garden drinking Pimms, which is practically healthy. Afterall, it provides at least three of your five fruit and vegetables a day. Another great love of the summertime is the festival. Despite going to university in Reading, I have managed to reach the age of 23 without having been to a proper festival. However, I have horses and often spend weekends away competing, so I understand the concept. In the months leading up to the event, you are filled with that dreamy romanticism of sitting outside your tent/lorry drinking Magners and watching the sun go down after a day of music/competition. In reality, it always rains and you hide inside your tent, which is by the way far wetter on the inside, swigging from a tin of Strongbow. Life is never quite what you plan.

This year, I will be going to the V Festival for my first experience. I have no preconceptions about it; I know it’ll rain and we’ll be wet, but I think I’m quite hardened to that. Shamefully I’m not a really musical person; I love listening to it, but I am so incredibly tone deaf and tone dumb that I can’t possibly understand it. Regardless of that, the lineup is full of bands that I like and I’m sure it will be a lovely relaxing weekend with great company.

It strikes me as odd that everyone thinks that summer is so wonderful. It’s not like spring, which is alive with the buds and flowers shooting up (please, no drug jokes) or autumn where everything turns a wonderful golden, auburn colour and the leaves crunch underfoot. It’s not as though people look forward to the weather; if it’s too hot, they complain they can’t work in that heat and it’s not as though the British ever holiday in their own country. We would much rather fly three hours to sit on a beach surrounded by other British people, all trying to turn ourselves golden and ending up redder than that light you got caught driving through the other day. Our summers are very dry, so the grass turns yellow and dies, I don’t understand why people get sad in the winter and yet they are happy about the summer.

I am not particularly affected by any of the seasons, I consider that I am fairly happy in all of them. However, my lifestyle changes dramatically depending on them. In the summer, I base my weekends around my horses. I love being outside as much as possible and I enjoy competing them. I am not as competitive as I was as a child, but I love going out and seeing my friends and sharing the show banter. In my current job, I have to work relatively long days (8.30 to 5.30), which isn’t a problem in the summer as I can still ride after work, but in the winter, I haven’t got a chance of riding more than two or three days a week. That takes the notion of competing out of the equation, so I have adapted my winter accordingly and spend time with another love of mine. Comedy. What better thing is there to do of a dark, wet winter’s evening than find yourself some comedy? Whether it’s a big well known comedian in a large theatre or a several unknown open spots in a tiny pub, it’s can be the best way to spend an evening.

I still find time to go and see comedy in the summer, but it plays second string to competitions, whereas in the winter, it is the focus of the weekend. Like everyone in the world, I work to earn the money to do the things I desire and as such I live for the weekends. I always have something to do whether it is writing, watching new programmes, going to gigs or spending time with my horses it doesn’t matter what season it is. Summer tends to be so over-rated. The minute the clocks change, everyone expects the world to dramatically turn into summer. Well here I am, in the supposed summer time bunged up with cold, feeling terrible and spring cleaning my room. I could just as easily be doing that in the winter. Life is what you make it. You can’t let the weather and the seasons dictate your mood; it is up to you to find your happy medium.