Day #135 14.05.16

Eurovision party time where the gin and tonics come in a glass as big as your head. Much fun watching the Grape Escape’s live streaming of the year’s annual cheesepopfest (which every year reminds me of Rachel Crownshaw and the time as teenagers we watched it when her parents had gone away where we were screaming at the TV cheering on Katrina and the waves alongside ringing Rob Cooling at various points in the evening).

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Day #40 09.02.16

Party night tonight for Ruth’s birthday. Or a standard Tuesday night in Coventry, you decide. A ton load of mexican food, moustaches, sombreros, fake cigars and margaritas (I’m doing Dry February so this in the photo is not mine; I was on the hardcore pomegranate juice). Good times ūüôā

I have however realised that with a fake ‘bandit’ moustache that I look scarily like my Dad when he had¬†his porn star-style ‘tache in the 80’s.

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Day #39 08.02.16

Stayed over in Cov tonight at Ruth’s house as tomorrow is a really early start for work. My plan tonight was to go for a run after work and be all healthy and shit.

Nope.

Instead I ate doughnuts at work (Chinese new year event) and spent the night in my pyjamas blowing up inflatables and eating cake.

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Merry Christmas

It’s that time of year again. The¬†time that you can’t really miss, especially living in the Western world, where it’s rammed¬†down your throat by the fat-fisted¬†media and advertising pretty much constantly since September. I am of COURSE talking about¬†Christmas!

Hurrah!

Bah Humbug!

Which one are you? As we seem to be told we are one or the other. If you’re not skipping around filling your proverbial cup with festive joy then you¬†MUST be a humbug. And if you’re not grumbling about it, then you must be a buzzing-to-the-eyeballs Christmas fairy ready to shake¬†your tinsel wand at anyone who comes within 2 feet of you. Anyway, regardless of how you feel, there’s no escaping it,¬†it’s only just over a week away. 9 more sleeps*¬†until The Big Day. Not sure how Christmas Day has ended up with the same kudos as someone’s wedding day, but hearing what some people spend on food, presents and all the peripherals, it’s certainly going the same bank-breaking way.

*ah, while we’re here, who the fuck came up with this measure of time? What if I wake up and then go back to sleep? Is that 2 sleeps in one night? In which case it could be 18 more sleeps for me (I never sleep through the night, I’m like a bloody baby). Or more if I drink a cup of tea too late. Or watch a horror film just before going to bed. I have no idea when this became part of the English language, but on Heart (radio station) they even have a song about so many sleeps until Santa. Hmm.

What the chuff IS Christmas anyway? The whole point of where it came from is¬†some Christian story about the Son of God being born to a virgin (more likely Joseph persuaded Mary it wasn’t really ‘doing it’ if he didn’t put it all the way in) in a stable where they then got visitors who had an excellent early-model GPS system and good visitor etiquette to bring gifts for a new baby. Now, if you’re religious, then I’m guessing that’s what your Christmas is going to be centred around, and carols and stuff. All the nice ‘Christmassy’ stuff but if you’re not religious, might not sit well. So then, there’s the other things that have become popular. Trees covered in shiny pretty things, the giving and receiving of presents and spending time with family. Which, for some people will be the best thing ever. And for some, the worst thing ever. There’s something about Christmas that, like weddings, that bring out the worst in people. I’ve heard of tears, manipulation and just general festive craziness. And let’s not forget the parties, the food and the booze. Over indulgence and just general hibernation-inducing activities. Eat more food in one day than you’d eat in a month; all food that should come with a health warning and doesn’t grow on trees or in the ground, then roll around on the floor with a full groaning belly (maybe that’s just me) thinking you’re never going to eat anything ever again, not even a stick of celery.

It doesn’t really matter how you spend Christmas really, as long as you’re doing what YOU want to do. Because really, who needs an excuse to be in massively happy mood, spend time with people you love and drink and eat loads of nice stuff? Let’s just take a minute though, to remember people who won’t be spending time with people they love, for whatever reason. Maybe they’re away from home, or it’s people who are no longer with us, or people who don’t have anyone to spend Christmas with. It can be a hard time for them, so let’s not forget that. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the preparation and parties and stress (yep, all that Big Day good times, like a wedding, take a lot of Organising. People want it to be perfect, and so get stressed out.) that people can forget there are others for whom Christmas isn’t great, it’s actually a bit shit, and they want the whole thing to just be over. As quick as possible. If you know anyone where this might be the case, maybe just take a minute to check if they’re OK. See if they want to join in anything. Just say hello, it will mean something, trust me.

The other big thing about Christmas is Traditions. These are a big thing. For a lot of people, Christmas is Christmas because you do the same things every year. And every family has it’s own things. When you have lunch, or when you open presents, or what you do in the morning, or what you wear when opening presents, or where you open your presents. Or maybe what you leave out for Father Christmas. For me, I haven’t done the same thing each Christmas for years now, and so Christmas doesn’t really FEEL like Christmas any more. I could take or leave it in a way, although of course I love seeing friends and family and all the partying. But it’s not the same as years gone by. When I was little, I loved Christmas. I loved the whole Santa thing, but not necessarily for the presents, just because I loved the fact it was magic. Go to bed, leave a mince pie out and BOOM, stuff appeared in the house in the morning! In our house, me and my brother would always wake up really early and want to get up at about 4am, but we’d never know what time it was as we didn’t have any lights until my dad went to turn the generator on (we lived in the sticks and weren’t connected to mains electric until a few years after we moved in) so the parentals would always persuade us to go back to bed for a while until poor Dad was made to trudge outside across the yard in the cold to the Engine Shed to make electric happen. Then, that’s it, we were awake and no stopping us! Until the 8am slump when all presents were opened and we ran out of energy.

Then came another Papworth tradition which was my utter FAVOURITE. Dad’s infamous Treasure Hunt.¬†I later learnt as an adult this was a cunning plan to keep us kids occupied for a bit and out of the way¬†of¬†the kitchen, but as a kid I didn’t care. In fact, I loved them so much that every year since I’ve looked for the tell tale first clue in an envelope in the Christmas Tree and if I didn’t find one, I’d be disappointed. So much so that Dad actually did a couple about 5 years ago for me, as a late-twentysomething adult. There was much excitement from me then, skipping around the house and outside in all the sheds and my Nan’s house following the trail of clues. They were a bit harder to figure out that first year, Dad had to dumb them down the year after, hahaha! Well, Latin references Dad? COME ON, you know we’re not that clever!!

We used to have everyone over to our house as it was the biggest. Not that we had a massive family though, but more than just the 4 of us. Cousins, Uncle, Grandparents.¬†One year we had to eat around¬†a table tennis table in the junk room that had no carpet and bare plaster walls because there was a big group of us. One year, we had a full house for about a week, and I hated it when everyone went home. Because I loved having so¬†many people to talk to, and play games with. I’m a social, the more-the-merrier creature really.

We never played games¬†that much as a family outside of Christmas, unless I badgered them on a Saturday night sometimes. My dad was normally outside in his workshop working until late so I guess the last thing he wanted to do was play Connect 4 or Kerplunk with me after being on his feet making stuff out of wood all day. Although the board game playing could get out of control sometimes, so maybe I don’t blame him. Like the time we were all playing Monopoly and I got in a mardy and had a massive tantrum and threw the board (and everything on it) in the air/on the floor. And that was only last year. Ha! Joke, I was about 7. And Matthew was cheating. And I was probably on a massive sugar comedown and shattered from waking up at 4am. Mum tells me after I’d thrown the board I crawled behind the sofa and fell asleep and¬†was later taken to bed by Dad. I’m not competitive in the slightest any more.

This year is different again, I’m in a different place (Cheltenham) for the run up, but have kept up my tradition of filling December with¬†partying and drinking, which has been much fun up to now. Just one more weekend of drinking to get through, then I can relax and have a detox (never really drink on The Big Day, surprisingly), starting with my tradition of a Christmas morning run and a day with the family. And then Boxing Day I will spend the day with Best Friend Laura and her family, but instead of getting a bit drunk and being a bit bonkers and entertaining (according to Laura’s sister Holly), I will remain sober as later that night¬†I fly off to South Africa for 3 weeks. It will be different, but kind of the same. Or as they say in SE Asia, same same but different. Still, every year I remind myself just how lucky I am. I’m happy, healthy and have fab friends and family. That’s what matters.

And then, that’s it, Christmas will be over for another year. And then comes New Year. I hate the whole NYE thing (this year will be a quiet affair in a pub in a small South African town), but I do love thinking about what I’ve done this year, and what might be to come next year. That’s another blog post but it’s been a bit of a whirlwind interesting year, and I don’t doubt that next year will be more of the same. I can let one little thing slip though, the Photo A Day Project, made famous in 2012, will be making a reappearance in 2016!

So until then, I’m going to enjoy the rest of the run up in my lovely little flat in Cheltenham, which is probably the¬†cosiest, most ‘Christmassy’ (is that an actual word? Who cares.) place I’ve had. Easily my most favourite pad¬†I’ve lived in so far. Happy happy days.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, whatever you are doing and whoever you are spending it with. And sending big hugs if you are finding it difficult, for whatever reason.

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New Zealand road trip: part two.

Queenstown and Wanaka. Two¬†similar but wildly different places. Like they’d say in SE Asia, same same but different.

Legendary Queenstown. Home of everything adrenaline. Home to everything big. Big burgers, big mountains, big shots and big hangovers. In your face, busy and bustling.

Wanaka. Laid back, chilled and understated. A place to relax and enjoy and eat fresh cookies at the cinema.

In Queenstown I met up with Marsha again, who I’d first met in Christchurch through a mutual friend. What followed was a fuzzy week of friendship forming, non-stop alcohol, shots, hangovers, lots of laughter, hill climbing, grass sitting, food eating, film watching, sandwich cooking, men watching, life-sorting-out stuff. We met the delightful V from California too, who made us crack up laughing almost every minute with her crazy stories and theories.

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We made the rather fantastic¬†bar Cowboys our local. It’s like the Wild West. The bar stools are saddles, there’s other table stools that have sides (perfect for me), the pumps are guns, there’s a good supply of¬†cowboy hats to wear,¬†a full size grizzly bear to meet you at the door and even a mechanical bull. Yep, a mechanical bull. I didn’t ride it because of my rib, but I spent many a time watching all the other drunkards have a go (when I say have a go, I mean spend ages trying to get ON the thing, only to be promptly bucked off in half a second. Especially if the guys controlling it were feeling mischievous – that happened a lot to cocky blokes who thought they’d be the one to give a good show. Fail.). It also played the same music all the time, although I only clocked onto¬†this after a good few visits, when I realised there was only so many times I could watch Jessica Simpson strut around singing about boots made for walking and wondering what the relevance of her washing a car in a bikini was to the song.

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We drank a lot of shots and met a lot of people. Nearly every night in our¬†hostel someone was drinking, pre-drinking or going out. Most of the nights just started innocently with a drink or two. None of our nights out were planned. The best way. An average bedtime was around 3am, after a legendary Fergburger, which, after a night out, is the BEST THING EVER. I’m sure it’s good sober too, but I never really experienced that. My hangover food of choice was Noodle Canteen. ¬†They did wicked chicken fried rice in a little cardboard noodle takeaway box, great when eaten in the sun on the¬†grass near the lake, chatting about life, the world and the size of men’s appendages.

I rediscovered jager bombs and tequila slammers, mainly thanks to Damien who would always buy a round of shots quite early on. And well, from then on, you’re committed.*

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It was in Queenstown (well firstly in Wanaka but again in QT) where I also met Johnny, an¬†Irish guy I went on to travel with for a week. We all went out for a ‘few drinks’. Ended in a Big Night Out, lots of shots and not a lot of sleep. We all slept in hammocks in the garden in the sun the next day. He did the Nevis¬†bungy jump. Poor bloke.

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But Queenstown wasn’t all about the drinking or nightlife (although, that’s a huge part of it for all travellers, and it sucks you in). I couldn’t do any of the adrenaline stuff (and you can do pretty much anything here. Bungy jumping, jet boats, paragliding, skydives, etc, etc) but I could appreciate the natural¬†beauty of the place. It’s often described as one of the prettiest places to visit, and they’d be right. It’s in a great setting, on the edge of Lake Wakatipu with The Remarkables and other mountain ranges surrounding it and the Queenstown Gardens jut out in the middle, full of trees. In autumn, they are all a glorious mix of red, yellows and greens and well, my eyes had a treat every day I was here. As anywhere in New Zealand, there’s a few walks dotted about, and the views from the top of Queenstown Hill and Bob’s Peak are pretty special, and worth the walk/climb (also helps sweat out the alcohol and burger from the previous night).

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Queenstown was also the place where I used a hairdryer for the first time in months. This might not sound a lot but, oh my, this was a Big Deal. Such a treat! Smooth straight hair for once. It’s the little things in life you know.

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Marsha and I also hopped across to Wanaka for a few days (pretty nice drive in/over the Crown Ranges) to have a bit of¬†a chill out from the madness. Wanaka is like Queenstown’s more laid back cousin (and apparently is what QT was like 20 or so years ago). Just as pretty, just as many hills and mountains to climb but much less busy, less frenetic and much less drinking.

We both loved Wanaka. It was really nice and chilled and we spent a great few days walking, trundling around, eating, drinking $12 cider (Marsha), shopping (Marsha), being propositioned in the supermarket (Marsha) watching very random open mic/karaoke nights (Swedish/english rap anyone?) and visiting what is possibly the best cinema in the world (but possibly not the best film in the world – Pompeii). Cinema Paradiso is a small independent cinema, that has all kinds of seats. Couches, cinema seats, cars (yes, you can sit in a car), bus seats etc. They also sell homemade ice cream and bake cookies in the first half of the film, so at the intermission you can buy warm cookies (whose smell wafts into the cinema near to half time. Mmm freshly baked cookie smell.)¬†for that cookie-induced sugar coma for the second half of the film. Oh, and they’re also licensed so you can buy wine and beer to take in with you, although at nearly $10 a glass it;s not cheap. Lincolnshire people, it’s like the Kinema in the Woods¬†on steroids.

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If you’re visiting Wanaka and only do one walk, do Roy’s Peak. It’s 1578m, so just over 200m higher than Ben Nevis (1344m), the highest mountain in the British Isles. It’s a hard climb, very steep and tough, but, well, well worth it for the view. It’s just incredible. I did gasp when I saw THIS¬†in front of me:

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Definitely a “f**k me” moment.¬†It didn’t look real. The colours, the texture, the view. It was like a painting, stretched out in¬†a¬†technicolour 360 degree view.¬†It’s the¬†middle peak in this picture, by the way:

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We also walked to the Rob Roy Glacier (after a near miss with a cow on the way) and Mount Iron, as well as around the lake. Pretty active yet chilled out few days.

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Then of course we went back to Queenstown and hit it hard that night.

 

 

 

*Disclaimer/note to the parents, I was quite sensible and never got completely rip roaring drunk or put myself in dodgy situations. My rib is still intact and I didn’t fall over once. I think.

 

A love letter to Melbourne.

Dear Melbourne,

Thank you.

Thank you for a wonderful time. It’s gone far too quickly. There’s so much left unsaid, so much still to do. We’ve shared so much together; much laughter, wonder, amazement and so, so many good times.¬†What a wonderful love affair; how can we possibly be apart now?¬†

You’ve introduced me to some wonderful people, people that I’m glad to be able to call new friends. You’ve given me so many different places and ways to indulge my passion for running and cycling.¬†

You’ve got a vibe. A good vibe. An arty, quirky, makes-me-glad-I’m-alive vibe. That’s good. I like that. You’re full of adventure, mystery and promise. You make people work for it, but the rewards are worth it. Especially those rooftop bars, hidden down graffiti art splattered laneways.

There’s more to you than meets the eye. You showed me the beach, the city and the countryside all within a day. You reminded me that variety is the spice of life, and it’s good to keep things a bit different, to keep things changing.¬†

You’re laid back, love the outdoors, sporty and friendly as well as cultured, educated and sophisticated. And a little bit different. My kind of place. And that is why I fell in love with you and will miss you terribly.

So farewell my love, until we meet again one day…¬†

Tara

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A holiday from the holiday.

That’s what I had recently. 10 days on a beach, eating lots, drinking lots, partying, sleeping, sunbathing, paddling in the sea, a little bit of running and little else. Just resting and having a bit of a holiday.

You probably think, but you’re ON holiday. Why do you need a holiday? That’s just being greedy.

But you know, travelling is tiring. Travelling can be non-stop. Travelling can be hard work. Travelling can be stressful. Travelling is not really the same as a holiday.

Imagine the last weekend away you might have had, where maybe you went to a new city, or a new place. You’ll have to get there, right, so by car, or train or even plane. Then, you need to find your hotel, that you’ve probably already booked, so it’s just a case of finding it. Then, you spend a few days finding places to eat, visiting sights and attractions, lots of walking, taking pictures, new sights and experiences. Then you travel back, and get home and probably feel a little bit worn out, and maybe in need of a little rest.

OK. Now imagine doing that pretty much every¬†day for a few months. Imagine not having any accommodation or travel booked, so all that has to be sorted out on the move or when you arrive in a new city. Getting to a new place and finding your way around. Learning new bits of a different language every few weeks. Organising visas and getting used to new currencies. Packing, unpacking and repacking. Figuring out who’s genuine and who’s trying to rip you off. Finding a laundry to wash clothes. Lugging a heavy backpack about. Getting on and off buses, trains or tuk tuks. Finding cheap places to eat, where you can try the local food without it costing a fortune.

I tell you, it’s a bit tiring. And I’m not knocking it one bit; I do enjoy every minute of it. And please don’t think I’m being ungrateful, I realise how amazing it is for me to be able to do what I’m doing. But boy, I didn’t realise how much I needed a break until I laid on that beach. A break from¬†doing. No going anywhere, no sorting anything out, no photos or sights to see.

Sometimes, travellers need a holiday from the holiday. A chance to recharge, to stay in one place for a while, establish a little bit of a routine and just enjoy the art of not doing.

And oh, it was heavenly. It worked.

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Work? What work?

It has been a busy weekendings so far. It’s already Sunday night and I’m sat watching the Grand Prix at my brother’s house thinking about the last few days and wondering where the chuff they’ve gone. Blink-and-you’d-miss-it.

Friday was my last day at work. My last day as an IT Project Manager. My last day working for the University of Lincoln. Technically I’m still employed until the 31st but in my head I’m now unemployed. No job. I’ve had a job since I was about 14 so it feels a bit weird. Just a bit like I’m on holiday and I’ll be going back at some point. Although it did hit me yesterday that I didn’t have to think in weekends and weeks any more. And that it didn’t matter when it might be nice weather because I’ll have chance to enjoy it however I want.

I had a brilliant last day. Did a bit of work and a had a last meeting in the morning, then two fab speeches from both my bosses. Although a bit¬†embarrassing.¬† I like other people’s leaving speeches but when it’s your own its a bit different. I’m not that keen on being the centre of attention, especially when people have just said lots of nice things about me. Was wondering whether they were actually talking about the right person. After that we headed to the pub for a little lunchtime drink before finishing up a last few bits and saying goodbye to everyone who wasn’t going out later. Oh, and of course making sure the office window got updated:

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Lots of people had asked for my blog address so I sent an email round to everyone before I left. I decided to add in a cheeky RickRoll to see who I could get. Don’t know what RickRolling is? Shame on you. Tis an internet phenomenon. Learn here. I got quite a few people, but I am most pleased with the reaction from my boss Matt. I wish I had caught it on camera. It was a classic. My work there was done; a most pleasant exit bow.

We then went and drank beer. Fun. Lots of people out; it was really nice to get to chat and say goodbye to everyone. I did get drunk; that was inevitable. BUT. I managed to stay a little bit sensible and call it a fairly early night, meaning only a small hangover on Saturday. Win.

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As excited as I am to be starting a new adventure, I’m sad to be leaving the Uni. I’ve had some great times there and met some brill people. It’s been life changing. Literally. My life is very different now than when I joined. I’m very different. There are some special people there that have had an impact on my life and me in different ways and I’m very grateful to them. And I will miss them. A lot.

Leaving. Soon.

So leaving doo number 1 was last Saturday. I’m only just blogging about it now because I’m *just* about recovered. Yep, I had a bit to drink. Had to be done. Didn’t really think my hangover would last for two days though.

It was worth it though. Just. It was a most awesome night. I saw loads of my lovely mates who had all come out to bid me farewell, thank you, you wicked bunch of people that I’ve collected along the years. All different, all special. They say people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Some stay, some go. There was a mix of people there on Saturday. People I see most days, people I used to work with, people I currently work with, my best friends, school friends and people I’ve not seen for years. I am truly chuffed that I can call you all my friends.

Even though it’s the last time I’ll see most of them before I go, I didn’t feel sad. I guess it’s because to be in touch with someone nowadays doesn’t necessarily mean having to see them. The wonderful invention of the internet means that I can be in touch with you all throughout my year away. Just not in the flesh. I’ll be in the computer. It was probably also helped by copious amounts of alcohol and having a happy night.

Whether I’ll carry on feeling like this, I don’t know. I know there’s a couple of people I’ll miss seeing in person. I already miss one person and I’ve not even gone yet. I’ll just try to remember: don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

It was great catching up with a couple of people that I’ve not seen for quite a few years too. My old buddy Tara (we were the two T’s back as teenagers) who I’ve not seen since we were 18, and Vic who I went to school with who I’ve only seen a few times over the last few years. It was SO good to see them. Just a shame I won’t get to see them properly for another year now. When I get back ladies we will have that proper catch up ūüôā

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Nessun Dorma.

I listened to Nessun Dorma this afternoon. It appeared on a friend’s playlist on Spotify and I’d not heard it for a while so decided to play it. I don’t usually listen to classical music (find it a bit boring) and really only know of Nessun Dorma from a drunken night on a training course from years ago. As I was listening it made me remember that training course. It wasn’t your usual training course. It was a Research Skills course for people working for Police Forces. Sounds innocent enough.¬†A two week course held at a MOD camp in Essex. Our accommodation was old married quarter houses for all of us, split into a few houses for ladies and gents.

It basically ended up a two week drinking and partying binge. One day the trainer finished the day really early because we were all so hungover. I’m sure some stuff got learnt. It was one of the best courses I went on, but not really for the right reasons.¬†Some¬†of the things that I [can] remember about it:

  • The pool car I was given had a leak and so the footwells were about 2 inches deep in water. Not pleasant when spending 3 hours driving down to Essex and I spent quite a lot of time using a paper cup bailing the water out during the week (as it pretty much rained the whole time), much to other people’s amusement.
  • Very cheap drinks in the on-site bar.
  • The long walk to the canteen where we had all our meals. The food was OK, but a lot of people went to the local supermarket to avoid the long walk. Lazy arses.
  • The party we threw in one of the houses where we drank a shed load of alcohol, played charades and the trainer sung Nessun Dorma at the top of his lungs at about 3am in the morning (it was the day after this that he ended the day early because we were all so battered, him included).
  • That because of this party they stopped people staying in the houses and put them in single rooms on future courses.
  • Hanging out my bedroom window to smoke (shows how long ago it was now).
  • The affair that started between a [married] guy and a woman (it actually turned into a proper relationship and lasted a few years).
  • The guy who got a bit obsessed with one of the girls on the course.
  • Having to do ‘homework’ with dice which took aaaages.
  • Coming home to find the ex had decorated the bathroom while I’d been away. Bonus.
  • Learning to live with strangers for two weeks.
  • Making lots of new friends and keeping in touch with at least 2 people for a good couple of years afterwards.

I’m sure there was more but it was so long ago now I can’t remember everything. Suffice to say, I had a ball.