Monday, 22 December 2008

Tea drinking and counting marbles, amongst other things, in 2008!

2008. A year full of marbles, more learning, turning eighteen, and going, via church, to the pub. With a few tears, and much merriment i finished my time at Groby community college with plenty of giggles and embarked upon quite a long time of doing basically nothing much until the time came to embark upon possibly the biggest adventure of life so far. Times have been far harder than I thought they would be, and yet life at university has pleasantly surprised me, being someone so reluctant to go when September 2008 finally rolled round.

The first month of the year, as I remember it contained a few A level module exams, which meant lots of tea drinking and a disproportionate amount of time spent quoting Keats, whilst 'drowning' as Martyn would say 'in the swamp of confusion' and longing for the helicopter of clarity's rescue. I did clearly at some point realise that in order to pass my a levels I needed to spend less time listening to singing vegetables tell bible stories, watching dancing on ice and writing false letters of complaint to maplin electronics. I decided early in the year to definately get baptised and I adopted the marble jar method (one marble in the jar for every half an hour of revision completed) in order to try and achieve a bit more academically. I have now passed this encouraging technique on to my next door neighbour at uni. So I buckled down, kind of, and along the way engaged in some mildly controversial online debates as a result of various 'religious' blogging escapades and also encountered a fair bit of degree course related confusion, having sent ,my UCAS application off the previous December. I went for a couple of university interviews, including Cardiff, which was a bit posh, and Reading, which was my original favourite. As I look over past blogging escapades it's amusing to read my January wonderings about whether or not pharmacy is an even worse idea than Archaeology. (And oh look at me now!) Of course, to remember all of what has happened this year it is very necessary to look over past blog writings. In doing this, I remembered that we brought new year in, with a little bit of novelty value, having a party in the house of our school's principal. It was a very good time all in all, though when my dad appeared my drunken friends decided to nickname him meat-loaf. My Dad looks no more like meatloaf than our cat looks like hitler! I have also found that in January; I half seriously considered creating a political party, with Rory as deputy prime minister and voice of reason-to stop my renewable energy policies getting too decorative. Also, Alison, Sian and I recieved a hilarious response from the HQ of maplin electronics, following a ridiculous time wasting merry procrastinating letter we had previously written one friday afternoon after a near miss in a Keatsian 'swamp of confusion'- accusing their christmas catalogue of gross sexism.

At the conclusion of 2007's roundup blog, published on New Year's eve before I headed off to number 44, i had indeed made some vague 'resolutions' which will be reviewed later.

Early February brought amongst other things, the performing arts festival at Groby Community College, which was great fun as ever. It's so strange that i wont be there in 2009 for more singing and musical frivolity. Sian and I made an almost perfect performance of Radiohead's 'Hight and Dry' and Sam, Sarah, Michael and I sang our last as a quartet, a slightly interesting rendition of the beautiful Locus Iste. We couldn't sing it right at all of course, but Tor, our legendary music teacher as ever didn't seem to mind and encouraged us in the way that only Tor can, saying that no one could have noticed the way we, due to being completely unaccompanied, did somehow manage to change the key halfway through. In february half term, the churches in Groby ran a holiday club for primary school aged children, called Chattabox, at which I had the joy of helping out as a leader, especially as I am now old enough to remember going along to Chattabox myself all those summers ago as a much younger child. Each morning we coloured in, painted egg-boxes, watched bible story videos where the characters had outrageous accents, made valentines cards, played with the parachute, and revived many of the old school songs we used to sing, including 'The Chattabox Song' and 'Oi Oi we are gonna praise the Lord' to name a couple of favourites! On the 27th I visited the University of East Anglia, for pharmacy fun, a guided tour and an interview with Dr. Desborough, not really knowing that this is where I'd end up!

March was a bit stressy at times, with exams approaching, but there were plenty of fun times, including Beadie's fancy dress party and general giggles at college. I took grade 7 piano, which i would later find out i had failed, but it was, in the end, of little grievance to me. I dressed up as cruella de ville in honour of Beadie's 18th birthday, and we hit a mexican restaurant for the Nicola's. I lazily and reluctantly dragged myself along to my last university interview, Nottingham, but apparently managed to somehow manage to impress them with chatter about harps rather than diabetes, which was quite a relief to my then unenthused pharmaceutically ignorant self. Looking back, i must have rambled about all sorts, similar to my blogs in the month of March, but it all turned out for the best. One thing amongst the many things I think I've learnt in 2008 is that although as christians we believe God has a plan for us, and think that there might be a 'right' place for us to be, there won't always be lightning bolt moments, and God isn't, most of the time, just going to write us a letter telling us exactly what universities to apply to, if any.

I think I was pretty much waiting for God to write 'UEA' in the clouds for me, but in the end, I know I would have been waiting quite a while! I've realised that choosing which uni to go to, has always been my choice, and I'm now sure that I couldn't have made a 'wrong' choice. God's ultimate plan is for me to learn to love and serve him more,putting other people first, prioritising his word in order to become more like Jesus, and telling others about his great love. I think that as long as I'm willing to trust God, knowing that this is his ultimate plan for me, I can do good stuff to serve God wherever I end up!

In April, I headed, with The Scotts, The Smiths, and Megan, to spring harvest! Another excellent time as a tagalong with someone else's family, singing and jumping up and down, church family fun and fellowship at butlins with crazy golf, water slides and much dangerous rioting on chucklevision buggies. I loved hearing the Watoto children's choir, taking tonnes of notes and lingering longingly around the christian bookshops. One of the best discoveries of 2008 has to be the 'Kids Praise Party 3' CD that has since been used with all ages at Groby's various youth groups. You can't get much better than a song containing Noah,Moses,David,Daniel and Jesus to demonstrate God's awesome faithfulness through history, especially with the appropriate actions, props, and Chris stumbling on to play Jesus whilst wrapped in a parachute (as ever this role falls to the male with the longest hair present at the time).

Over the easter weekend, there was snow, and on Good Friday, I went with my family to see Christ in The Centre for the first time, a massive passion play performed in the city centre. Some of my younger and older friends from church had parts which made it even more exciting, as I met up with friends to watch it all happen from the haymarket car park balcony. It was one of my favourite days of the year, and so wonderful to hear the city centre singing 'In Christ Alone' before going for lunch together in debenhams cafe and watching it all over again on the news later that evening. In April I was pretty radjy at times, still wondering what to do with my life and worrying over imminent A levels and the whole prospect of change.

Our final months at college were full of sunshine in the beer garden with coloured pens, and text books. For those not in the know, 'the beer garden' was our nickname for the greenhouse like area outside at college, enclosed within four glass walls containing picnic tables with big umbrellas, where we would sit and revise/'revise'. For a while, time spent doing anything but learning chemistry was wasted and counting marbles into an empty jam jar became the only way to incentivise my life. The phrase 'bang it up bang it out' was coined, describing many hours of quick and efficient revision in the social lounge. The last few weeks were an emotional and surreal time, as words can't describe quite how much I enjoyed my time at Groby community college, but we didn't waste them- cramming in an awful lot of learning, with plenty of giggles too. It was an academic fest for a few months although I forgave myself for not revising on my eighteenth birthday, the final saturday of silly season, as Roger my piano teacher would describe exam season. I went with my parents to The Big Session Festival, where we spent the day in the sun, before seeing Seth Lakeman and Allison Moorer amongst other acts open for Steve Earle in the evening. It was a great day, before the final emotional hurdle of our last week of exams. On the 19th June, I sat my last exam, and said my official goodbye to Groby, beginning the longest ever summer holiday, which was filled with more fun that I could possibly begin to summarise here.

Starting with a pool party, the summer was filled with lots of late nights,day trips,tea parties,dressing up and holidaying. I made music with Sian for our last Groby college concert, did an acoustic night in Desford, went on a day trip to alton towers, spent a 'week of awesome' with Ellyn when the other girls were in Ibiza,and spent many a night dancing in the city of Leicester. Michael bought me loads of red roses before a double mate date, before we accidently stumbled into a gay bar. I discovered Fan Club..possibly the best place ever?

At the end of June, I was baptised at Kirby Muxloe Free Church, because I wanted the opportunity to celebrate being a christian, and also to share a bit more about my faith with my friends, who hadn't necessarily heard the gospel. It was, as described by my oldest friend Margaret who would sadly pass away only a month later, a very happy day, and I am so glad that I decided to do it then, so that she was here to share the time with us. The bible says that we should get baptised as a symbol of the new life we have as Christians because of Jesus' death and ressurection for us, and having been baptised myself I can now say that it is an awesome thing to do if you are a christian. Of course, being a really happy day, there was a definate call for a party-in order to celebrate the salvation we share! I think the day of my baptism saw the house as full as it has ever been-it really was madness.

In July I went with my family and further discovered Kefalonia for two weeks, meeting up with Helen there, as we made sure to make the most of the strange co-incidence by which our families had booked simultaneous holidays in places so close together! We swam lots, around a massive rock, and reflected on the joy of 'meeting up in Kef'. Over the two weeks there we saw loads of the sights, took lots of photos and I accidently stood on a sea urchin, which freaked me out a bit.

Our return to England meant a return to general madness. I spent a sunny day with friends at Bosworth water park, where we had a few death rides on dodgems and an epic rowing disaster on the water whilst loads of families looked on laughing. In the evening, reconvening for impromptu fancy dress fun, i realised the ridiculous extent to which i was sunburnt, and the morning after a novelty night spent in the principals bed, Sian, Ellyn and I stood classily on the curb outside Onestop in Kirby waiting to go home. To our shame, we bumped into Polly's mum, Jenny, who enquired as to whether it had been a 'good session'. I went to see the Kirby Players 'Snoopy the musical' before drinking an apparently excessive amount of rum with friends at Chris' house. Unfortunately, this wasn't to my advantage when i remembered the next day was due to be spent at the library.

In the middle of August, you might have spotted some friends and I looking rather excited over our exam results in The Leicester Mercury. I managed to achieve an A in English, a B in Chemistry and a C in Physics, results which, being enough to get me well into my first choice university, both surprised and delighted me. Soon after the photograph had been taken, we headed to the park in Kirby, via The Castle, of course, where we stopped for lunch. Reconvening in the evening, we had a great night out at Fanclub, one of my favourite places to be in the world where post A level euphoria was definately in the air. Still uncertain about actually wanting to go to uni, I ignored the fact that I knew I was soon leaving and enjoyed the last month of the holidays all the more, going the day after the Groby College Year 13 Prom, as a leader to Bonsall (godcamp,for those not in the know) and learning a hundred things whilst i was meant to be teaching them. God's awesome provision, answer to prayer and the gift of christian friends, who are actually our family, to name a few learning points. This trip had me climbing a big wall, spending yet another day at alton towers and wandering round a village in derbyshire with a mummy and jasmine off of aladdin whilst dressed as oliver twist, amongst various escapades. Each night we took a different theme, learning about God's grace, the power of prayer, the persecuted church, what jesus would do and what it means to be Fully Reliant on God.

I officially finished my job at New Parks Library on the 30th August, which was strange, especially realising that I'd made it nearly a whole two years with a proper job! I was sadder tha I thought I might be, although I know that I'll be returning in the holidays, and I have done already, to earn some much needed money. By co-incidence, the same day marked the last weekend before Rev. John Hall off of Groby United Reformed Church retired from being a minister with us. So it was a weekend of endings, church BBQ-ing and piano playing, sad but full of joy. In many ways, things in 2008 for me, have all changed. But reflecting upon it all having returned home for the christmas holidays, it seems that actually, things aren't all that different. My primary identity is still a christian, who values the same gifts given to her by God, the same friendships, although many more, the singing, the dancing, the family and the same nights out in the shire of Leicester.

Another church type outing occured on the first weekend in September, when eleven of us rowdy youths got on a barge and went, well, nowhere much. Unfortunately we picked the weekend with the most torrential rain, which made going anywhere along the canal in our hired barge largely dangerous and illegal. Despite our dissapointment over this, we didn't bail on the barge trip, and had a great weekend all the Thurmaston. We went on a walk to Asda, had coffee in Starbucks and spent plenty of time discussing whether or not its alright to pray and ask God to improve the weather. We visited a random church, which was good fun, and we talked lots about moving on to University, and the various other things people are now upto. We had a laugh, it was at times hilarious, and so and great to spend so much time together.

The beginning of September meant saying goodbye (for a while) to Quest and Rock Solid, two of the monday night youth groups at church that I've been helping on the leadership team for the last three or so years. More times for sad endings and looking forward to finding a new church, and places to serve by helping out in Norwich. I've been to a fair few churches here in Norwich (I conclude this blog well into the new year upon my return to the fine city) but won't go far enough to name one as 'home' just yet, although I know that one day soon I will. In sometimes scary, and often difficult times during my first term, it has been such a support to know that through his never ending grace God has provided people around me for general support and encouragement from the churches and through the Christian union, both in terms of my faith and general life.

There were many nights out to mark our last week of the summer holidays, visiting Leicester's favourite watering holes, and consuming lots of tea too. As you can infer, it was a busy time, but as the end of the summer approached I didn't particularly look forward to heading off to university- fear of change plagued me a little, although I did think/know that I would begin to love my time at uni almost as much as home.

However, I won't lie, and say that I wasn't terrified the first few weeks, by excessive pharmacy and the general madness of change, because I was-and I wondered for a while what on earth I was doing! Sustained by the sure knowlege of God's amazing grace and provision however, I manned it out, and as much as I do love being at home, I won't deny either that UEA is wonderful. I live with some great folk and I've made some friends who I know I'll keep for life, especially those I have met through Christian Union and those I have bonded with over the sheer mentalness of being a pharmacy student at UEA. Life there is, in many respects, just the same as it is at home...fairly regular fancy dress nights and a continual church pub church club routine. The phrase man it out has never been so well used, and I'm really trying hard, and doing quite well with my course, even enjoying a guided tour around a drug factory, wholesalers and rising from my bed at 6am following a night out to trek to London for a British Pharmaceutical Students Associaton conference. My exam results so far have been good- somehow! And by the Grace of God only I will carry on, only dependent on him as far as all things pharmacy go. I have even managed to scrape through the biology modules....a previously disasterous no-go zone. Physiology and Pharmacology...Cells and Life molecules...ahhhh!

Chinese and wine are fortunately/unfortunately as regular an element of my diet as they ever were, and tea is as abundant as ever it was, and still is, in Groby. I've enjoyed hanging with my friend Lorna, from Groby, who is also at UEA, and loved an encouraging weekend in Great Yarmouth at the CU houseparty, roaming the beach and making faces familiar. I was visited by my family, then Chris, and I came home once for a whirlwind weekend of family and friends., visiting the URC a couple of times, the castle and of course Fanclub. Although I have missed home lots in my first term, I have grown to love Norwich as a second city- A Fine City.

Gigwise, much like 2007, 2008 has been a quiet one. I feel I'll need to step up musicalness in 2009. Ultimately gutted to have been away in Great Yarmouth on the night that Jools Holland visited UEA, I'll just be waiting a little longer for that one, and jumping at the next chance I have to see him here, which hopefully won't be too long. The Pogues dissapointingly avoided nottingham on their christmas tour this year- much to my upset, having made myself a great promise to go this time around. Next year, for sure. I thoroughly enjoyed The Big Session Festival at Demontfort hall on my birthday, where we saw a range of folkheads, including Ruth Notman, Seth Lakeman, Allison Moorer and Steve Earle- all excellent quality, especially Mr Earle. For me, this has been the year of Frank Turner discovery, and I had the good fortune to come across him at UEA too, supporting The Levellers. Their music made me sacrifice pharmaceutical maths revision in favour of dancing, and that is indeed what happened. Whilst I feel like my musical ability is slipping away slightly from lack of practice whilst at uni, I love singing. Not having a piano under my fingers all the time definately means that it is necessary to try and compensate a little using my voice, as well as one can.Any opportunity is taken to bang out a tune, as my flatmates well know by now!

The Christmas holidays have been excellent fun. Coming home to catch up with friends in Leicester has been really great, and the time has flown by. The 'Bros and Hoes', some of my best friends made at Groby Community College, had a christmas party, which I arrived to following our annual family outing to the Pantomime in nottingham and a nice meal out, just in time to head into town..Fanclub, of course. The Urban Saints leaders social took us to the Coach and Horses for skittles, pub grub and catching up, and on Christmas eve of course, the annual church crawl took place, with some piano playing. It was great to get along to the December 3SE (Third Sunday Evening youth service) on the 21st, where I also played the piano and my grandparents all joined us over christmas, my granny from Scotland staying a full week.

I finish this 2008 round up on the 11th of January, following my return today to UEA, after a last ladies night out in Leicester, we went to Life, a club likened quite rightly, once and forever more to a 'meatmarket'. A definate highlight of the christmas holidays has to have been the 'European Invasion' of the Bro's and Hoes. Arranged by my good friend Jack, sixteen of us were reunited,after a whole term scattered around a bit, on a (kind of) classy holiday in france. We have stayed the last week in the french holiday house, chateux if you like, of his mother and father who have been so good to us, providing transport, croissants and local information. Caroline being the headteacher of our old school, is actually, definately, the best teacher ever. She didn't even seem to mind that six of her ex students went straight for her ivory bedroom and plonked ourselves in her bed, crammed in like the grandparents in charlie and the chocolate factory appreciating the three B's; beer, bread and bed. There were very long walks in the cold sunshine to the beach,the shops, and lovely meals alltogether by candlelight. However, of course, for much of the week, with eight eighteen/nineteen year old lads, the tone was pretty low. An old school game of truth or dare saw many downings of disgusting 'shitmix'es, Loaksey's head down the toilet, the ultimate resolution of the long standing question 'Lick or be Licked?' and a slightly disturbing comedy video of Jack in the shower. Putting all this aside however, there were pleasant, classier moments too. Life can't get much better than sitting in front of the fire on the ultimate ivory tower leather chair with a duvet and a glass of baileys,in Torville la Chapelle (!), reminiscing with friends about favourite moments of 2008. The highlight/lowlight of the holiday, has to be the most epic night of all our lives, spending the first nine hours of 2009 wandering the streets of Paris waiting for the first train home..trying to ward off all the muggers and rapists really was a team building exercise! Despite being dissapointed by the eiffel tower's ultimate anticlimax- a complete lack of fireworks, we agreed that the epic night was worth the gamble, and retrospectively, hilarious. It was great to spend so much time together, especially having been deprived of eachothers company for so long over the last couple of months, what with all those inconsiderate universities,jobs and things. A great way to see us out of 2008 and into 2009.

There have been many moments of pure hilarity, and I've travelled fairly far and wide across the country and beyond a little bit. Skegness, Yarmouth, Bonsall, Thurmaston to name a few 'Godcamp'-y destinations, to France of course, which was a great place to spend part of the christmas holidays, and to Greece again, one of my favourite places to go.

It has been a year of uphill academic struggle, getting to the top of the mountain and breathing a sigh of relief, only to (after a long holiday of good fimes) arrive at uni and start all over again. I've loved beginning the studenty lifestyle and had loads of giggles, trying lots of new things- for instance laundry, cooking and generally looking after myself, which have times been scary but I am learning. Remembering that I began 2008 with not much of a clue how the year would end up, I'm thinking ahead to 2009 and wondering what on earth is in store for me just around the corner. So far, I'm back at uni, I've had a catch up and a cup of tea with a few friends and more of the same will occur I am sure. Same old, same old! It's time for dinner soon.

How is 2009 going so far? Well, just over a week into the new year,my rough 'resolutions' are being trialed and tested already. I thought I'd look back at the ones i noted down vaguely at the start of 2008 and evaluate the extent of my success/failure in terms of keeping them..

''..New Years Resolutions? Hopes for 08? A few..''

Don't ever drink enough again to make self throw up in teachers garden…success! dignity intact.

Learn things as I go along in school, rather than waiting til exam time to learn the things I didn't pay attention to the first time
….almost nailed this one!

Spend less money buying pointless things and books I wont ever read off Amazon…Yes! although probably only due to lack of job and regular income.

Get to a decent grade 8 piano standard..quite the contary with the epic failure of grade 7..oops!

and get fully competent on Harp…progress but not to 'fully competent' level yet!

be less of a technophobe…no improvement as technology still advances faster than me!

Read more books…enevitable, as university is just a bit academic, tho I'd like to do more for fun

Become a better chemist enevitable due to finishing A level chemistry and getting into the pharmacy zone

Impress all the uni's at my interviews...yes!

and find some serious life direction...well, I'm doing a degree aren't I, and developing proffesionally?

Not a bad effort, even if it was all a little subconcious. And so..what shall I aim for in 2009? In France, we discussed a couple of times, whether or not we had new years resolutions. It seems to me, that not many people seem to make them any more. Apart from all the people on loose women, GMTV and This Morning that is, who were talking detox dieting,health farms and sports bras for most of last week, whilst I enjoyed the luxury of doing actually nothing. I've only got some vague ideas- and I suppose, these ones will probably be the ones which apply for the rest of my life...(as I write, it is the 11th Jan, and I've actually already failed a bit at all of these but I'll still try at least)

-Drink Less
-Pray more
-Put other people first.

- and 'ALWAYS be ready to give a reason for the hope that I have' off of 1 Peter 3 verse 15

-Be a biology queen- be the one that people ask for biology advice.
-Blog more frequently
-Get my life organised better so that I can fit more into it.

-'Work hard and cheerfully at whatever I do' off of Colossians 3 verse 23-24

And here I will conclude, knowing that this is probably the longest blog I have ever written, or will ever write, although I haven't counted the words or anything. It's been a great year for various reasons, although there have been bad things and sad things too. I could have written so much more but if I carried on i think I would jepordise any chance I have of becoming that biology queen, or getting my life better organised so I'll be able to fit more into it. *sigh*

Lots of Love for 2009 :D

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