I did that thing where I signed up to stuff…

After a few failed attempts at guessing a password I stumble back into that once familiar world. I try and navigate my way through the new interface that I didn’t get the hang of before I left. I peer at the unused tabs and dusty posts that have not been read by anyone for years. I find an angry and self-indulgent rant about Brexit, a delightful little piece about finding happiness in friendships, and reminisce about a field course in the Bahamas two years ago.

Does anyone even blog anymore? Probably not. And yet here I am.

Life after uni… sucks. That’s about it. That’s my summary. Real life is awful, but then again uni wasn’t perfect either. After 6 months of utter mess (graduated university, was at a wedding, met my niece, left a grad-scheme, watched a birth) it is now somehow April – also known as the month when all my weird plans and ideas seem to come out. I have decided to A. take a pottery course, B. get a diving certification, and C. run a 5k race for charity. Now to tackle those three topics in turn. Let’s start with the running – cue internal monologue.

“Oh dear, how did we end up here?”
“Well I googled, that’s how.”
(Beware the power of google. It makes you do mad things like sign up for runs.)
“It’s only 5k though – what’s your worry? Surely you can run that?”
“No, we can’t. We can’t run that – not comfortably if AT ALL. Remember a few weeks ago when we went for a run and had a full on asthma attack because we got too competitive?”
“… Yes, but that won’t happen again.”
“REALLY? You’re telling me we won’t get competitive when we’ve decided to run in what is known as a “race”? ”
“Yeah but it’s not like a super competitive race – we can run at our own pace and be chilled out and it’ll be magical!”
“Viv. Remember the asthma attack? Remember being thankful that an ambulance was driving by in case you had to lie down on the ground that second? Remember feeling as if your heart was being poked sharply with a blunt but fairly large stick?”
“You exaggerate – we were fine in the end! Don’t worry though – we’ll take it slowly and build up to it! We will start really gently tomorrow and then build up to it ok? And anyways how else are we going to reach that goal we set for ourselves? You know the one where we run 24km when we’re 24?”
“God help us. We’re an idiot.”

If you’d like to support internal monologue voice number 2 please donate below:

trainer-no-branding_web

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Vivruns

Brexit – the turd on your bedroom floor

Britain exiting the European Union is essentially a drunk student taking a shit on the carpet of their room in full view of the landlord and then being told they have to clean it up themselves. The landlord can leave – she doesn’t live in the house. She can close the door and walk out. Yes it’s uncomfortable, and may decrease the value of the property, and she probably will have to have a chat with said student at some point in the future, but for now she doesn’t have to live with the chaos. Actually, she could make life hell for the student, and some people argue that she should! Set a precedent for future drunk students who want to shit on the carpet! And yeah, maybe she needs to change too – maybe give a better first impression, or be better at handling various situations with the tenants, maybe lower the rent or not spend so long outlining the precise method for cleaning the bathroom. But at the end of the day the student has to clean human faeces off the carpet – and no one will do it for him.

I refuse to join the (pardon the swearing) frenzied shitstorm on social media, I refuse to argue with people who will insult my integrity and my person, and I refuse to preach to a lost cause. This will be the last comment, the only words of my own that I have to say on the result itself – at least until actual decisions and negotiations are underway. And that is when people need to stay involved, that is when this level of political engagement is necessary. This sporadic character assassination of friends of friends on Facebook is just plain stupid, not to mention completely and utterly pointless.

(Meanwhile can we pass some laws on equality and maternity/paternity leave and pay whilst the trolls are occupied?!)

What follows is my personal account of what waking up to this mess was like.
Not interested? Don’t read.

Three times during my time at university I have been stunned by the political decisions made by the UK and its people.

The first was waking up the morning after the general election. Labour had a substantial lead when I went to sleep but when I awoke I was gutted – gutted that the next few years in the UK would involve continued cuts to the NHS, and the continued stamping on any kind of basic humanitarian ideas of supporting people less fortunate than ourselves.

The second was in December 2015 when the UK decided to bomb Syria. We were eating cake and laughing when the news hit. Everyone went quiet and it was like the whole room was somehow dampened. Everyone just sat with their thoughts, the same thoughts: Not again. Don’t we ever learn?

Today? Today I feel disgusted. I have grown up across Europe. I am European. I am not Swedish or English or German – I am European. As a child I was trilingual. Currently I am bilingual. I do not feel confined by country nor birthplace because ultimately, I am European. I don’t like claiming one nationality because it feels like a bit of a lie. I am European. But now I’m ashamed to own a UK passport. Ashamed to live in a country which denies experts, world leaders, economists, scientists, students and 48% of the population. I thought people on the whole were sensible – apparently not. Did you not listen to your parents or grandparents or great grandparents tell you about war in Europe? I did. The EU rose out of that to prevent it ever happening again. But we left that… and why?

Part of me still can’t believe it’s happened. I didn’t think I’d be waking up at 7am with that sinking feeling of revulsion and disappointment. I may be a bit of an outsider but ultimately I loved living here. Devon is beautiful, the cities are lively and bustling, you have self service checkouts everywhere, anything can be delivered to your door, and there is actual civilization – not just trees. But right now I think I prefer the trees.

 

Immigration and Trade – Big Changes promised… that just won’t happen.

I am not an economist. But years of Swedish History classes (thank god for a good education and thank god past Viv paid attention in school) and a bit of supplementary Wikipedia-ing gives the following.

Even if the UK leaves the EU if it wants to trade with Europe it will have to stay within the Schengen Agreement (ie like Norway and Switzerland) – this includes the free movement of people across borders. Previously the UK (and Ireland) were exempt from this as they opted out when the Schengen Agreement was first established, however, exiting the EU could lead to the EU re-evaluating this agreement and therefore requiring the UK to open its borders. Even Norway and Switzerland abide by the Schengen Agreement, despite not being in the EU. Oh but the UK will now be in the EEA – the European Economic Area – so we won’t really leave Europe! Look at Norway and Switzerland. Well Norway has oil and Switzerland has all the banks – the UK? What does the UK have apart from pseudo political power internationally and an inflated sense of self importance? And actually it’s a bit more complicated – do be able to trade with Europe and be part of the non-EU bit there is another acronym to join, called EFTA. But EFTA still need to operate by the rules of the EEA…. rules which are set by the EU. There are two things from which they are exempt – the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy. Goodbye sustainable fisheries, nice to know my essay exam was a complete waste of time since it’ll no longer be relevant. Anyway the point is if you want to stay in the European market you still have to abide by EU laws, except you’re not in the EU so you don’t get to write said laws or influence policy. Well done Britain. Goodho.

The Bailout Lies

This one really gets to me. Because it’s just an outright lie that the UK paid for the greek bailouts. I leave it to the BBC to explain it in detail.
“The UK has provided a total of €6.5bn (£5bn) via the EU for two bailouts: €3bn for Ireland in November 2010 and €3.5bn for Portugal in May 2011. With both Ireland and Portugal now out of their bailout programmes, the UK has not lost any money supporting them at the peak of the crisis. The UK has not made a contribution via the EU for the other eurozone bailouts: the three Greek ones, in 2010, 2012 and 2015 and for the Spain and Cyprus bailouts in 2012. The UK has made further contributions, not because it was forced to do so by the EU, but because the IMF too provided loans for some of the bailouts. The UK’s share of whatever the IMF provides is around 4.5% of the total. It amounts to around €4.5bn for all seven bailout mentioned. In addition, in 2010, the UK provided €3.9bn in bilateral bailout loans to its neighbour and important trading partner – Ireland.”

BBC, June 5th 2016
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36456277

 

I could go on for days – I could add my voice to debunking the £350 million / week to the EU (more like £190 million) lie, I could drill home the point that if you’re so afraid of immigration from Turkey as a member of the EU, then sorry but you’re kind of buggered because they’re not actually in the EU and not likely to be for quite some time. I could spend weeks drilling home the point that economic migrants from the EU are NOT THE SAME as refugees from Syria and Iraq (countries the UK bombs, just for the record). I could also point out that saying “the foreigners are stealing all our jobs” is more than a little bit racist, hypocritical (British Empire ring a bell? or maybe voluntourism?) and flawed since …. do you have a medical degree? I don’t and I have no plans on getting one. I’d rather a nurse from Poland sew up a cut on my foot than try and attempt it myself, and I’m pretty sure you would too.

Really, there is much more to say about it. But I am not an expert – if you want the facts, go find them. Go read the news, and read the expert opinions, read not the opinions of politicians and campaigners, but that of the statisticians, bankers, scientists, economists and specialists. Go ask the lawyers and the doctors and the policy makers. Because there is still a very long way to go.

So thanks. Thanks for proving to be a country of xenophobic arseholes. Thanks for listening to the shit stirrers and the liars. Thanks for being just racist enough to get away with something like this. Thanks for a movement towards isolation with a slogan stolen from Donald Trump the notorious Oompa Loompa running for Village Idiot – “make Britain great again”. Thanks for proving completely democratically that you’d rather vote for recession than stability. Thank you.

I’m not angry, just disappointed.

P.S. I’m moving to Scotland and hope they vote for independence.

The Weird, the Wacky… and the profound?

I came out of the cinema not knowing what to think – I went in expecting a raucous comedy, but it wasn’t. There were some truly hilarious bits, but it takes a certain sense of humour – a taste for the wacky and ironic and political and philosophical. What did I watch? A spontaneous midday viewing of the Coen Brothers’ new film Hail Caesar.hail caesar film

There were two 12-13 year old girls in front of me who didn’t laugh even once, something which I found off-putting and amusing at the same time. The comedy not shown in the trailer came from the understanding of religion, politics, studio intervention and the film industry in the US in those days, and maybe I knew more about that stuff or maybe I’m just the same shade of wacky as the Coen brothers.

Although I truly can’t comprehend how no-one else was crying with laughter at Channing Tatum’s glorious song & dance number as a sailor. It’s self-mocking on a whole new level, with a level of camp that mocks the industry, mocks Tatum, and mocks itself for being so camp. In a sense this is a good example of the film as a whole – if you take it at face value as yet another expendable comedy it’s pretty darn bland. If you’re willing to delve into the meta and the irony and the oddly profound comments it makes then it’s a completely different film.

Profound comments? Surprisingly, yes. I had to take a moment after the film had finished to sit in the cinema and think a bit about what I had seen, because in amongst it all, there were some interesting comments about religion, politics and the film industry. If you haven’t seen the film yet STOP READING NOW THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING. I don’t know if this is what the Coen brothers “intended” the audience to take with them but these are the thoughts that muddled my mind.

caesar

Religion

People may differ in religious beliefs, but ultimately they are arguing about events from a thousand years ago, which may or may not be true, and some of this faith is so abstract and complicated that to a non-believer or someone unfamiliar with the scripture it sounds like complete and utter nonsense. How is anyone in our day and age of critical evaluation meant to believe or even understand something like the Bible?

But despite their differences maybe people of different religions can agree what is a respectful portrayal of an important religious figure in the media. But maybe in the same way that everyone’s a critic, everyone’s an expert on film too.

Politics

Most people believe or can be convinced that the “little guy” should have the same opportunities as the “big guy”, but in the US their commitment to change the system often only results in discussion. Great thinkers may not be great leaders nor inspire people to take action. If it does turn into action it is done more radically, in the form of a farcical escape to Soviet Russia on a completely un-proportional submarine (yes this genuinely bothered me for a good ten minutes), reminiscent of a reversed Hunt for Red October scenario. However, with the removal of the main active leader the system hasn’t changed, it’s still the same “big guy” leaching off the “little guy”.

Studios

Studios own(ed) their actors, directors, sets, scripts, writers, everything. They have/had complete and total power. They make the Wild Western / gripping drama/ entertaining musical/ epic biopic of the year, and do the same the next year and the next and the next. They run on covering genres and “types” of films. Also their power and money is overwhelming. If you’re at the top you are rolling in it, but very little trickles down to the lower rungs. The same goes for the power: if the studio wants a change, it happens. Their decisions trump all others, even if as a director/ writer/ producer/actor your idea may be more suitable or sensible from a creative point of view. It’s like a casino – the house always wins.

There are a whole other comments that are less profound and perhaps more obvious: gossip columns are full of crap (shock scandal horror), stars are never squeaky clean, it’s a crazy industry with crazy people, the media can be used to your advantage, and stars bring in money – it doesn’t matter if they’re the best for the role.

would

The Last Scenes

The conclusion of the film has some interesting yet mildly bizarre messages. Where politics is concerned the message is that in the end, as the “little guy”, you can’t change anything – it’s shut up, sit down and do as you’re told.

But the other ending to the film is about purpose and your place in the world. If you love your work, if you are good at what you do, and if your gut feeling (or God) tells you to stay doing what you’re doing – why leave? Being sensible may not be the best in the long run (such as taking a secure, well paid job with good hours… for a company that produces hydrogen bombs). Just because your life is completely mad doesn’t make it awful. Sounds oddly familiar….

Somewhere Only We Know

My mum is pretty great.

I mean she’s a bit batty, has a bit of a cleanliness thing, and is a bit of a worrier – but aren’t all mums? But my mum is pretty great.

She’s not perfect, that would be impossible, and she’s had her good times and her bad. Unfortunately I saw a lot of the bad growing up, but it allows me to truly appreciate the good that she’s in today. I see her in her beautiful house, sitting with a book on her favourite armchair by the big windows that open up to the forest behind. She tells me how she falls asleep under the light of the moon each night. I hear about all the exciting things she’s done and places she’s been – places and things that are no more than 3 hours away from where she lives, but still seem to have made her life so much brighter.

I see her catching up with her younger self, I see her finding herself in the present, and I see her looking for what she wants to be in the future. She never truly felt complete – I remember coming back from Kindergarten, aged 4 or 5, and being confused because every so often it would feel like something was missing in her. It’s not missing any more. It’s like there are glowing embers where that missing bit used to be. It’s somewhere warm and cosy that you love to sit by and warm your hands on a cold winters day.

When I grow I up I want to be like my mum. I’m not perfect, that would be impossible, and I’ve had my good times and my bad – and I will continue to do so, that’s not something you grow out of. But I’ll keep trying, keep finding what makes my life brighter. And if I lose my own glowing embers, I’ll think of my mum… and she’s pretty great.

 

IMG_7058

Happiness & Third Year

When I was 16 life felt impossible. When I was 18 the world lay at my feet. When I was 19 I began to find my footing. When I was 20 I became myself. Now I’m (almost) 21 and … and what?

The world feels too cramped and too vast simultaneously. It feels like I only have to blink and my day or week or month or term has passed. Some days I know exactly what I want to do in the next year or so, others I have no idea. One week I’ll be excited about becoming a Real Adult (and not just a student) and the next actual adulthood is the worst thing that could possibly happen. Some days I would love a career in Science, and others it sounds like the most disgusting thing. I want to stay in one place, but I want to travel. I’m excited, yet utterly terrified. The future never really terrified me – I always had a goal, an aim. I never wanted to crawl under the duvet and hide from it, but at the moment I would give one of my kidneys for time to just slow down a bit.

IMG_6589.JPG
The feeling when adulthood hits

I keep being asked the dreaded question: “So what are you going to do after university?”
And I keep giving answers. All of them are lies. In the last two months alone I’ve gone from becoming a theatre producer, to doing an MRes (research masters) in Marine Biology, to running a café with an arts and crafts section, to working in something related to conservation, to doing a masters in Wildlife Filmmaking. And yes, whilst it sounds like I don’t know what I’m interested in and what I’d like to dedicate my time to – that’s only part of the problem. Unlike many at this university in particular for me this whole “money” thing is a bit of an issue. At this point I would happily marry anyone relatively well off, of any gender and any sexual orientation. And then I’d search through my Agatha Christie novels to find a way to bump them off and steal their fortune. But then I’d be stuck with the problem of finding something to do with my life… again.

IMG_6092.JPG
The Dream

The thing is, I could do pretty much anything. And by saying that I don’t mean that the sky’s the limit blahdiblah, but rather that I’d be fine working in pretty much any field. But my main worry is that I won’t feel fulfilled, and when I don’t feel fulfilled I get restless and find myself thinking that I am somehow wasting my life.

Why is feeling fulfilled so important? I feel like our generation has spent their entire lives hearing about their potential – you can do anything, you should make a difference, you should fulfil your potential. But how do you know what your potential is? This may sound highly pretentious, but growing up I always felt like I could do anything, be anyone. I knew I was among the privileged, and I felt it was my duty and my responsibility to take hold of that privilege and do something with it. If I set my mind to it I could be extraordinary. And that was what I wanted most in the entire world – I wanted to be extraordinary. It came naturally to me to stand out, and I enjoyed it. It became part of who I was. My grades were excellent, I competed and did well in various sports, I was among the best piano players of my age in my district: I was that kid. The child that every parent can boast about. I had the luxury of closing doors, as opposed to trying to find ways to open them. I went into science, I strayed away from sports, I virtually stopped playing classical piano, and then at university I realised something very odd.

I was content with being happy. I didn’t need extraordinary, because I was happy. All that time spent on wanting to be something more, something different, was really just my way of trying to be happy. But it turns out you don’t have to look for happiness. It just kind of finds you. Life isn’t about the things you do, or the job you have, or the stuff you can write on your CV. Happiness doesn’t automatically follow from being extraordinary – in fact many would argue that the extraordinary people (Einstein, Tchaikovsky, Dostoyevsky, Chagall) were unhappy. Maybe they put their energy into their work because they were searching for happiness.

blog2.jpg
Happiness is made by people

Happiness is made by people. And I know some great people. It turns out that I am happy. Or I was, until … until what? Until uncertainty and instability returned, until the future was unclear again? Is that really so terrifying? Isn’t the future always unclear? I mean I probably know more about my future now than I ever did before – I know that I’ll probably end up living in the UK for quite some time, I know that the friends I’ve made here will be with me for the rest of my life, I know that it will be ok somehow, because all prior evidence has shown that it always is.

It’s almost as if now that I’m given that choice again – the choice of finding something to do, for myself, that makes me happy, has in itself just turned the contentedness into worry. Worry that I’ll somehow “mess up” my life by making a terrible decision. Which is absurd in a way, because I’m likely to have at least 20 jobs in my lifetime, and probably at least 6 different careers. Life is long and full of choice. So I’m content with staying still, even though that makes me feel claustrophobic, and I’m excited about moving forwards, but terrified of having to put in the effort to do so.

Why on earth were humans allowed to take control of this planet? No wonder we are the main cause of its destruction and collapse when our brains are so contradictory. Or maybe this is just third year life: the year of eternal existential crises.

“How did the staff cuts inconvenience you?”

A week ago the editor of Exeposé asked me for a quote for the following week’s paper about the University of Exeter staff cuts and how it affected music. They asked for a statement (“only 50 words or so”). I wrote 1456. I gave them a quote for the article (here) and Dom Self wrote a great comment piece with a far more appropriate word count (here).

But I still want to get those 1456 words out there. Feel free to share and generally smear around the university, because frankly it needs to be heard – and keep on being heard to prevent it from happening again. This was my life for a year and I can’t just let it be lost. So here we go.

ExTunes Committee 2014/15
ExTunes Committee 2014/15

At risk of sounding a bit like a year four English class:

Hi, my name is Viv Inglis and I was the president of ExTunes last academic year. I was asked for a statement, “only 50 words or so”. Here’s 1456.

The Timeline

Back in September 2014 I was aware of the idea of music merging into the Guild. In fact, a member of the Music Office put forward a detailed proposal that would also transfer staff, to his line manager within the University. Despite this, no real decision or announcement was made until March 25th 2015 – not even to the staff in question. Way back in September I was excited by the idea of moving across to the Guild – happy to do so even, and didn’t mind too much when I was told not to mention it to anyone else, and only hinted at it to the rest of my committee.

The arts were due to undergo a rigorous review by the university in November 2014 – they had employed a professional evaluator of some kind with previous experience in the arts industry to report the “value” of the arts to the university. (I often find that the University have trouble evaluating the “value” of music – there are no league tables, it’s difficult to see the direct outcome of money put into music.) I was made aware of the potential loss of facilities, however in this case it was phrased as “we might lose Kay House if we do not show its importance and use on booking systems” etc.

Throughout my entire year as president of 1300 members I felt constantly not only “out of the loop” but also as if I just wasn’t supposed to know. First term was therefore stressful, with the potential loss of a building and the change in teaching hours being proposed, but this stress was nothing on second term’s.

As mentioned, the teaching hours were changing, and amongst other things, I went to a meeting with University executives to discuss these changes. This was where I found out for definite that we would not lose Kay House. I say found out – it was an offhand remark from Michele Shoebridge. And that was that. All the stress and the worry, and not even the Music Office had been told this fact. It was ridiculous. Prior to this, a meeting had also been set up specifically for music. Despite a lot of problems which the timetables caused for societies, the meeting as a whole was successful as the university promised better communication and music requested an individual feedback session in term one of this year.

Better Communication. Bollocks to that.

The University does things very tactically. This could be a bit of a conspiracy theory, but to be honest it’s getting to a point where it is just ridiculous. The timings of announcing the teaching hour changes AND the handover of music to the Guild both took place at the end of a term. In BOTH cases the decision had already been made, and the only way forward was to see how students could alleviate the damage, so to speak.

The idea that the University actually “consults” its students before making decisions is utter bullshit.

I’m not speaking about departments or colleges, but about the general overall administration.

The Music Rep on Soc Exec in my year as president knew about the merge with the Guild long before I did. However, he did try and give me a heads up – but again it was a situation of trying to “tell me” without actually telling me. After this I went to chat to Matt Bate (VP Activities) who was a continuous support through-out the process. He had very much been thrown in at the deep end; he was supposed to formulate a plan for Music in the Guild, without actually being able to ask the musicians before the end of March. He had first learned of the proposal a month earlier, but due to the sensitive nature of employees of the university losing their jobs, could in fact not talk to students about it. In the end, he told me what was about to happen a week before it was announced – yet another week of pretending I didn’t know anything, not being able to tell anyone else, and not being able to discuss it with anyone.

It all had to wait until the 25th of March, the Music Office staff would be told that morning, ExTunes committee would be told just before the ExTunes AGM, and the actual announcement would take place at the AGM. Frankly, it was infuriating that it had to wait until the AGM; I felt I couldn’t wait any longer to elect a new committee, but equally how do you responsibly hand over presidency to someone and immediately tell them “three of the four people you currently know as the Music Office will not be here to support you next year”.

The Music Office

The Best Freshers' Fayre
The Best Freshers’ Fayre

At the end of my first year we organised a massive scale event: War Song. I had only been elected as president shortly beforehand. Without the help of the Music Office it just wouldn’t have happened that year. It was a great way to pick up how things worked. If I made a mistake they could catch it, and indeed did so solidly for the first couple of months. In fact, if I was ill, or didn’t have time to do something they would catch that too. I never felt alone with the responsibility, and I never felt burdened by it. It’s difficult to explain how much they did, when honestly I’m only just beginning to understand the volume of work they did as we transition over into the Guild. Also, it worries me how much now is asked of ExTunes committee, which this year is half the size of last year’s committee. I devoted an average of 10 hours of productive work a week to ExTunes. I also devoted probably 4 times that amount in general stress or worry towards the end. When you can’t even vent about what’s worrying you, it’s much easier to let it overwhelm you. At times it felt like there just wasn’t anyone to carry music on into the next year.

Then thankfully Abi Elliston and Dom Self became the amazing duo of P and VP, or as someone beautifully put it “the self-imposed Music Police”. I think that’s a great line, because it’s funny. It’s funny that they’ve been portrayed as such, when in fact they’re being asked to do too much. They did it, they’re doing it, but it’s still too much to ask of them. It’s funny that the Guild haven’t given them the support they needed, funny that they haven’t held up their end of the bargain, funny that despite the attempts of ExTunes to solve some of the problems, they’ve been told that the Guild are doing it their way, so shut up and sit down.

The Music Office weren’t just staff who sit in offices and rarely communicate with students – they went above and beyond. They sacrificed evenings, weekends, families and partners to support us. I can’t even begin to estimate how many students a week went into that office to offload about their degree, or life in general. In my degree we have very few one-on-one contact hours with tutors, so it was alien yet wonderful to see students coming into the office crying, smiling, shouting and laughing at to and with members of staff.

University is an odd place. It’s easy to lose your footing and to lose touch with the ground. I know for a fact that the Music Office grounded many people, including myself. It came to a point when every time I felt bored or stressed by my degree (there is nothing in between) I would go sit in the Music Office and be a different kind of productive for a couple of hours. I also got to know them, and they got to know me: they could tell when I was having a bad day as soon as I walked through the door.

I’ll always remember two instances in particular. The first is on a particularly rough day when I just slumped on the ExTunes desk after a brief “hello” – Mark Barretto the Music Manager immediately jumped up from his chair, disappeared from the office for a minute or two, and came back with three packets of biscuits which he lined up in front of me. The second is coming back to Uni, back to my second year after The Summer from Hell, and being hugged by all four of them as I walked into Kay House. I’m aware this is a tad sentimental, but this is just representative of the kind of support they’ve provided to students over the years. They’ve shown overwhelming compassion and kindness, alongside professionalism and I can honestly say that I miss them.

Unicorn Travels – Episode 1

Tuesday 16th JuneIMG_4765

The red haired one has been round to our house a lot this week. There have been many cups of tea, glasses of wine and plates of food. I am beginning to suspect that she lives here, but she leaves every evening in the pretence that she doesn’t. I was sent to visit her home and travbeach in Exmouth and to the Clip’n’climelled all around Exeter, including a trip to the b by the quay. I now believe this to have been a trial run for The Holiday as it has been referred to. The red haired one calls it a “Field Course”, but as I do not understand this term I have assumed that it is merely a synonym for “holiday” – a belief also held by my keepers I believe. I am not entirely sure why my keepers have sent me with her, but I suspect that she is my charge who I am meant to watch over. Tonight the red-haired one and I are due to board a train at 1:04 in Exeter.

Wednesday 17th June

I was rudely awoken by the repacking of the bag I was travelling in at Heathrow Airport at 5.30 this morning. Much of this day has been tedious, most of it was spent in a backpack at 37000 ft, and then on a much smaller and ricketier metal bird. I briefly glimpsed a vast expanse of blue and heard the yelps of the other passengers, as we flew in the sky for a second time. After a jostling ride on the back of a truck we were greeted by mosquitos and sweltering heat at what the red-haired one referred to as the “Research Centre”, something which I identified as the resort, however it rather resembled military barracks. My charge disappeared off into the night to swim in the sea and gaze at the clusters of stars that flooded the sky, and I was propped up on a shelf to keep an eye on our room. The others in the room with her eyed me with great suspicion and mistrust. I’m glad they learned their place so quickly.

IMG_4848    IMG_4841

Thursday 18th June

The first morning the red-haired one awoke with great energy and excitement at a very early hour, and strolled down to the beach to take some photos with me to send to my keepers. However, being the fool I have found her to be, in the pursuit of a picturesque shot underneath a palm tree she managed to place me in the centre of a pool of fire ants. She paid for this mistake soon after. She then disappeared off to eat and be informed of the day’s activities, returning only to pick up her oddly shaped gear (snorkelling??) and set off with the rest of her room. She returned, slightly damp, at lunch time and repeated the procedure of eating, getting an update or a “lecture” on the next task, and setting off with her kit. She returned again in the evening, this time for a shower (something which made her smell much better) and a lie down (listening to something called a Hairy Otter, which I can only conclude is the sound of otters frolicking, played through that white headpiece that sits on her ears), before disappearing once again – this time to “lectures” and “data write-up”, until 10pm when she once again flopped down on the bed, exhausted.

IMG_4813 IMG_4816 IMG_4815

Friday 19th – Tuesday 23rd June

The rest of the days past in similar fashion – early mornings, many hours of “snorkelling” interspersed with “lectures” in a room with “air conditioning” (something which I gathered was much welcomed) and evenings filled with “data write-up” (I have no idea what this is, but it must be rather strenuous and undoubtedly infuriating, since she always returns slightly frustrated and wound up). On Friday she added another layer of clothing to her get-up – a black garment that covered her legs, which had gone a violent shade of lobster red. In fact, that morning as she got out of bed she winced with pain, and fiercely whispered a stream of silent yet very colourful words (almost as brightly coloured as her legs!). Each day she returned less pale and tired, yet pleased. Saturday lunchtime she seemed a bit more grumpy than usual, but by the evening all was well – I think all it took was a good look at her beautiful surroundings.IMG_4837   IMG_4840As the door swung open between outings, I heard her discuss her sightings with the others – a Hawkbeak turtle, banded barracuda, Flamingo’s Tongue, parrotfish, pufferfish, stingrays shadow-hunting with bar jacks, schools of triggerfish, honeycomb cowfish, trunkfish and much more. I have no idea what these are but the others sounded suitably impressed, and exclaimed especially at the “turtle”.

Wednesday 24th June

Finally, the day of our departure arrived. I was sad to go, as was the red-haired one. The heat and the view was greatly enjoyable, and I think both of us could have easily stayed in this beautiful place for another week – yet, I was not to be disappointed with our intermediate stop on this journey! After once again flying across the vast blue expanse in a tiny propellered metal bird, I found myself a couple hours later being unpacked again, but this time in a cool room, with the sweltering heat trying to enter through the windows. The red-haired one immediately flopped down on the huge bed and pulled out that small rectangular device that is so popular with these people. I peered over her shoulder and found her communicating to my keeper, emphasizing the joys of having “internet” and that she was currently in Nassau, but still in the Bahamas. Satisfied in the knowledge that I would be in this beautiful place another night, I intended to sleep, as the red-haired one set off to find the others and eat. As I nodded off I noticed that all the others at this hotel were in pairs, and wondered if I was the other half of the pair for the red-haired one. She had grown on me over these past weeks, and I had greatly enjoyed keeping watch over her in this beautiful land and wondrous climate.

IMG_4885   IMG_4884