School Years: Part II – The Early Years

Ahhhhh the easy years, 7 and 8. It was a simpler time. No exams, no pressure, just asking people what their MSN ‘addy’ was and sharing loves on Bebo. Friendship groups had formed and, more importantly, so had the fine art of spiralling. The first test of who the alpha male was – who could kick the rugby ball the furthest. Technique was everything. Hold the ball flat pointing out in front of you, cut across it with the outside-middle of the foot, catch it right and watch it fly like a bullet. Catch it wrong and boot it onto the roof of the sports hall changing rooms and you’re a knobhead who nobody speaks to for the rest of the day. Oh and don’t forget you’re bringing the next one. Indeed, whoever was crowned the alpha male was overshadowed on the fields in the summer by a certain Mr Drury. The Ronaldinho of St Wilfrid’s, he would megs you twice, flick it over your head and turn you inside out all to the woos of the girls who watched on, and you could only hang your head in shame and applaud the maestro.

As for teachers, one of my first was the one and only, Mr Bellwood. He taught Geography. Or Geog if you were too cool to say anything’s full name (I’m looking at you, Res Mat people). Creator (and presumably emperor) of Bell Woods, he was the epitome of bearded greatness. You know like Samson’s beard gave him strength? Well Bellwood’s beard gave him the complete geographical knowledge of Castleford. Though, I’m sure he made some things up; whether we were doing longshore-drift or volcanoes he always managed to relate it to Cas somehow. But nobody questioned him. You could never question the Bellwood. “When I was a lad in Castleford in 1957, we didn’t have rain, we had lava.” “Ok Sir”. Absolute legend. I don’t know what this image is that I just got off Google, but it’s almost certainly a tribute to him:

October would bring my first experience of St. Wilfrid’s Day, which in the lower years involved a mass and a fair. Exciting stuff, and what’s more is that the fun began way before the big day, with HYMN REHEARSALS! Woo. Conducted by the Head of Music, Mr Clark – a man too cool to smile at his own jokes (or at all, in fact), they were a painful two hours of condescending ‘I can’t hear you!’ cries and year vs year loudness contests. But I guess we did have to learn the songs and I sympathised with the guy trying to motivate several hundred adolescents to sing through their not-quite-broken voices (except Ratty, I think he already had a beard and sounded like Leonard Cohen by 12). And it wasn’t all bad; it meant two hours of no lessons which was like a mini-Christmas, especially if it was swimming in P.E.

Alas, all the practice didn’t exactly pay off. My rule was: mime, and if you see a teacher looking at you, mime louder. It was either that or suffer the between-hymn awkwardness of knowing that the two people sitting next to you are quietly thinking “Wow, he really can’t sing. We’re so not friends after this.” That was, until the end of mass and HAIL TO SAINT WILFRID CAME ON. I’m not quite sure how it came about, maybe because it was always the last song and it meant we got to go to the fair in like 5 minutes, but it was belted out like the national anthem by everyone. At least for the first couple of verses, then people kind of didn’t really know the lyrics, the testosterone wore off and people started to feel a little bit embarrassed.

I’ll conclude part II with a harrowing tale I’d like to share with you. I started ‘noticing’ the opposite gender (wink wink nudge nudge) pretty much as soon as I came to Wilfs. I mean, the field of play increases 10-fold from primary and everybody’s hormones start to go ape shit so it’s fairly inevitable. Anyway, because I was an absolute stud – with my stupid spiky hair and my 7 stone twig-like physique – I had what I thought counted as a ‘girlfriend’ by the first Valentine’s Day of high school, 2007. Basically we used to sit next to each other on the bus and conversed solely by MSN… so we were practically married in year 7 terms. I bought her chocolates, because my middle name is original, but I was so panicky and nervous I avoided her all day (don’t ask me how I got home) and ended up not giving her the chocolates… And so… I ate them. Myself. I can never remember exactly how that pseudo-relationship ended, but that was probably it.

Cheers for reading! Seems like I only got through year 7, Part III awaits…

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School Years: Part I – Starting Out

Lemme tell you a little bit about the school which had a huge influence on who I am today; as it turned an 11-year old socially awkward lad who liked maths and sport into an 18-year old socially awkward lad who liked maths and sport. St. Wilfrid’s, Featherstone.

I guess I should describe Featherstone to those of you who are alien to all things north of Watford Gap (there are people up here, y’know!). First of all, we call it Fev – much less of a mouthful, and much more Yorkshire. It’s an ex-coal-mining town, so most of the people there either worked ‘darn t’pit’ or are descendants of those who did, so them in Fev dunt ‘alf know meaning of ‘ard work! Unfortunately, the coal mining retirees are now plagued with a fair proportion of chavs, who make up the other significant part of the population. There are lots of crap shops on the terraced high-street, along with about a one-to-one pub to resident ratio. I’m trying to think of something to gloss over all this, but I really can’t. Luckily I live in the next town over! Anyway, here’s a picture of the ‘high street’:

Featherstone

See. It’s well busy. But not very glamourous; I think that’s the queue to get out of Fev.

Now, onto St. Wilfrid’s – my school! Where to start. Year 7?

I vividly remember the first day of school. First call of duty was: get dropped off by parents and follow signs for ‘Bruynseels Hall’ (named after first headmaster, I think) where we were herded together like clueless bovines into our forms – 10 sections of the year group each containing 29 others that we would be stuck with for most of the first 2 years. Second point of call was to find absolutely anybody I knew from junior school and avoid meeting anyone new at all costs. Didn’t quite succeed there; found a guy I knew from football and sat awkwardly next to him while he talked to his mate. Standard set up for the next 7 years. But anyway, found my form – Clitheroe – in which were two of my best mates from junior school going by the names of Reeves and Haynes (cue relief, I don’t think we found out who would be in our forms until that day!). I think we were then whisked away to do some cringy get-to-know-each-other exercises like ‘let’s go around the room’ or ‘catch the ball and say something about yourself’ or ‘who can make up the best story about themselves to make them instantly popular and interesting’. Oh and our tutor was nice. Apparently she looked like someone’s Mum which for a bunch of 11 year-olds became a hilarious running gag for a good 3 years.

At some point in the day we probably got a talk from our head of year, Mr Wass, who was the kind of guy you feel you could approach, but not after sunset. He had a disturbing Chuckle Brothers moustache thing going on and a tendency to wear ‘cat’s died’ suit trousers, but he was cool at heart.

So yeah, that was day uno. Not sure if I made any new friends that day. Probably didn’t; probably just wanted to get it over with without doing something that would subject me to ridicule me for the next 7 years.

I remember our first P.E. lesson. We did a ‘shuttle run’ fitness test to group us into ability sets. Doesn’t really make that much sense, our primary sport was rugby league and since when have they been the pinnacle of fitness?! But anyway, it’s the method they used and thankfully I did enough to get in the top set, which would play a huge part in defining social status in school. That’s just how it worked – if you didn’t play football or rugby to a decent level, you would have to have unbelievable banter to be in the ‘cool’ group. It can be a bit of a shame how that happens, and what’s more we were separated into two halves of the year until year 9. As a result it can take years to meet some great friends who just happened to be in the other half or who didn’t have time to eat their breakfast on the day of the first P.E. lesson.

Thus, came the birth of break/lunchtime football/rugby. Absolute highlight of school no doubt. There’s something about blasting a ball at a fence as hard as you can that forms an unbreakable bond between lads. You don’t even have to speak to each other, a casual ‘oof’ or ‘chuffin ‘ell’ would do and you’re friends for life. I will talk more about these times in later posts – as there are many-a-story to tell – but for now we’ll just say ‘spiralling’ and a guy called Wimpo played a big part.

So yeah, that was the start of a pretty awesome 7-year journey I will take you through in this series of blogs. Hope I’ve intrigued you enough to want to see what the next chapter entailed, and hope some of my friends will find this vaguely reminiscent!

A Post About Monkeys

I like monkeys. Probably more than humans to be honest; they don’t bump into you on footpaths and turn off roundabouts without indicating. Nor do they make the comments section on a Youtube video about baking cakes a religious debate, or something about Hitler. I don’t know anybody who isn’t a fan of our swingy biological cousins, and this post is a celebration of all things funny-nosed and shiny-red-bottomed.

Of course, our primal roots make monkeys all the more endearing as they’re just hairier, grin-ier humans who are satisfied with a diet of bananas and assorted vegetables. Ever heard a gorilla ask for a cheeseburger, large fries and a coke? No, because they’re happy-go-lucky fellas who appreciate the simpler things in life. Although maybe there’s that one monkey in the zoo, the ‘monkey who knows how to get things’ like Red in The Shawshank Redemption, who smuggles in the occasional Dominos pizza. Who knows what happens behind closed monkey doors.

We envy their care-free lifestyle, lazing in the sun, throwing dung at zoo-goers and chasing each other through the trees like a primary school game of bulldog. A stress-free world, where sniffing each other’s backsides is their equivalent of making ends meet. I doubt that the same can be said vice versa. I doubt that there are any monkeys who wish that they could suffer the daily struggle of that guy who smells funny sitting next to you on the commute in, or who want to work in an office 40 hours a week and hear the excruciating noise that is Justin Bieber on the way home. Indeed, I believe that monkeys would have a much better music taste than 15 year-old girls.

As affectionate and envious as we may be, we’re not really that nice to our ape friends. Firstly, we make them do a ridiculous challenge in order to get their food. Take Barry, for example. He’s just woken up on Sunday morning after going out on the lash the night before and he smells freshly picked bananas. He rises, bedraggled and hungover, only to discover that they’ve been hidden inside a hole in a log hanging from a 20ft tree by that tw*t of a zookeeper. I think we can all understand Barry’s pain, here. Don’t complain when you get Barry’s poo flung in your face, zookeeper.

Secondly, they (chimpanzees, usually) are often the subjects of our dangerous scientific experiments as they’re the closest species, biologically, to humans and we think that the death of a chimp is less tragic than that of a human (I can’t disagree with that and neither can you, cruel as it may seem). Look at Albert II – the first monkey in space – he died of suffocation poor lad!

Anyway, enough on that. Let us thank our ancient relatives for making our lives that little bit better, by getting Barry some breakfast in bed and admiring a snap of this particularly handsome fellow.

Grinning Chimpanzee

Why a post about monkeys? Why not, I ask?!

Living for the weekend? Why?!

If you follow the common social notion of ‘living for the weekend’, you’re doing the wrong thing. The weekend is 2/7ths of the week, or roughly 29% if you prefer the percentile outlook on life (I do). So what are you doing with the other 71%?! That’s like, sacrificing the rest of your body so that you can have a really nice leg.

When I first came to uni I was overwhelmed with all the potential career opportunities I was showered with. DO BANKING DO ACCOUNTING DO ACTUARIAL. You know, the jobs I SHOULD do with my degree, cos that’s what everybody else does. So, naïve as I was, I explored these paths with the lure of giant green dollar signs and convinced myself I wanted to go into banking, despite a few months prior I knew nothing of the industry or profession. I went through a fair few interview processes, and after being asked a million times why I want to go into the industry and having no truthful answer, I realised that I didn’t want to at all. I was just in it cos I’m young and money is all that matters, right?

Well, money is nice. It allows you to shop at Waitrose and wear designer clothing which is the same quality as normal clothing but it has a tiny badge on it so people know that you spent a lot of money on that shirt and therefore this implies you have lots of money but you could also just be a normal person who spends 90% of their disposable income on designer clothing in order to give off a false economic impression of yourself in the hope that it will impress those around you or so you might pull on the weekend because you’re insecure that your personality alone isn’t enough…  (breathe)… or you can buy pretty girls 50 years your junior – I’m looking at you, Mr Ecclestone.

But again, you only get 29% of your life to enjoy your money if you don’t like what you do for a living. You could argue against my 29% and say yeah but what about retirement? Well, ok, but you’re old then. By that stage you’ll probably spend most of your holidays complaining about the heat and finding it hard to poo in the morning. You’ve gotta be enjoying life whilst you’re still young and able (to poo). If you enjoy your Monday to Friday and surround yourself by your family and friends, you’ll lead a much happier life than the stress-ridden Mr. B. Anker.

Now, I still don’t really KNOW what I want to do. I mean, I like pizza, koalas and FIFA but I don’t know if there’s a job in that line (if there is please please let me know). All I know is that I’ll have passion for my work and I’ll enjoy it. I’m currently considering ideas for a business so let’s see where that goes (Pizza delivery service with a koala who comes in and plays a game of FIFA with you?!).

Erm, that’ll do for that topic I reckon. You get da gist. Money ≠ happiness n that.

Leeds threw away a 2-goal lead yesterday.

Thanks for reading!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Intro to all things me and all things blog

Erm, Hey! Welcome to my ‘blog’, whatever one of those is…

I don’t know what I’m going to write about. Could be uni, sports, polar bears, the little EDF energy guy… I guess that’s the adventure (cue excited face). One thing I can pretty much guarantee is that I won’t talk about politics or religion. They have no place here!

I guess an introduction… I’m 19, studying MORSE at Warwick. Now, pause. This is always a pain. Every time I meet someone new, be it at uni or elsewhere, of course one of the questions that comes up is ‘What course do you study?’ In real life, by the time I’ve said ‘Maths’ that’s probably enough. Though I don’t feel it justifies what I actually do (especially since I dropped all Maths modules after first year – we’ll get to that), and so I continue with the OR – Operational Research. Nobody outside of the course actually knows what that is (we’re not so sure, either) – it’s linear programming y’know like algorithms for maximising profits and stuff. Basically they’ve just added OR so it could spell a cool acronym. By now, the person I’m talking to is already bored, but I plough on through my socially awkwardness onto Statistics and Economics. By which point they have either interrupted me because they get the gist or have quietly decided I’m a pretentious snob who has to list all of the things he studies. Or both. This is one of many struggles in life as a MORSE student.

The other half of me is dedicated to running, namely the 800m and 1500m. I have 10 sessions/week spread over 6 days – Friday is rest day! I’m alright, don’t expect me to be in the Olympics or anything. I compete at national level for my mighty county of YORKSHIRE, but the gap between where I am and international level is, though not unbridgeable, fairly significant.

In my opinion it’s the most rewarding sport out there. People always ask ‘Why do you run?’ to which I never really have an answer, but I don’t really need one. I do it because I want to push myself to the limit. The human body is an amazing thing and I can’t think of anything more wasteful than spending my life sitting behind a desk every day, drinking every evening and letting my body rot away. Nah, I wanna see what millions of years of evolution can achieve.

Anybody who runs will tell you that when you’ve smashed out an unbelievably brutal session in the cold, wind and rain, there is no better feeling than getting home, sitting back and admiring what you’ve just achieved. Whether it was 15 miles or 15 minutes, you’ve done more than that guy sitting on the sofa watching TV, and a million years ago you’d have fed your family, whilst he would have been eaten by lions.

Doing all this uni and athletics jazz doesn’t leave much time for anything else (says the guy who’s writing a blog post). It’s the classic trilemma – Academic-Athletic-Social. You can have any two, but never all three. And yeah I’ve made loads of great friends at uni, but I guess I’ve prioritised the two ‘A’s so as to make something of myself with the £27,000 being spent by my family, rather than going for the ‘full uni experience’. Something many of the upper-middle class privately educated don’t understand over here… Honestly, they wouldn’t survive a week in Fev!

That said I wasn’t exactly the best student at school, I never did homework and I wasn’t afraid to argue with teachers who were being condescending or generally getting on my tits (P.E., I.T. & History spring to mind). But it was free and as long as I got good grades I didn’t care and neither did my parents. Don’t get me wrong I was no rebel either, the worst I’ve done is an hour’s isolation over the famous Bowman doppelganger scandal of 2011.

So yeah, I was a wannabe rebel who was friends with everybody from the chavs to the nerds, who blended in with the sporty crowd inc. several novelty rugby team appearances, and who did as little as he possibly could to get those magical A-Levels which got him into Warwick. I guess I’ve changed a bit since then but definitely haven’t matured a great deal. Though, gone are the days of starting fires after school with my *bad influence friends* and doing shameful things on the back row of the cinema at the ripe old age of 14.

Aaaaaaanyway… I hope you like my intro, congrats if you got to the end. Maybe we can be friends someday.

Did I do it right? Was that a blog?