General Knowledge

Having lost the post I was writing in a powercut late yesterday evening, I though I should quickly bestow you with some information before Claire gets the chance to punish me. Currently, I am in the process of writing a quiz that I will put on as part of my Tanzania fundraising, and so I thought I could share with you some “general” knowledge that I have learnt in this process.

1. Eating frogs are not kosher, nor is it Halal.

2. There are different numbers of athletes on men’s and women’s bobsled teams.

3. Cake is a type of bread (apparently, if I only I could convince my mother).

4.  The Ethiopian Orthodox church has 81 books ( or 15 extra books) in its Bible.

5. There is no U in Elegy (pronounced U-lul-gee).

6. There is such a thing as a chow mien sandwich (I want one).

7.  There is Ketchup in Sweet and Sour sauce.

8. Watermelons have a white layer

9.  The Beatles, seminal 60’s music, were formed in 1957.

10. Dungarees were invented in 1792.



Dealing with Disappointment

To have one business venture go bad in a week is a shame. For two to turn sour is crushing. To be fair, a lot of it was to do with the weather. Had I known about the sudden deluge that would occur when I was walking down to sell my fudge this morning, I would definitely have packed it up in a more sensible way that didn’t result in literal puddles forming on its surface and me having to work out how to dry it out – and that way I wouldn’t have ended up with half a dozen trays of soggy sugary mess.

Despite the total income of zero, this was almost the least crushing of this week’s entrepreneurial activities. After nearly a month’s planning, this week I released upon the world my ice-cream sale. My house is within half a mile of 3 different primary schools, and on a relatively busy road – so with selling ice creams at a third of the price of the ice-cream van, I expected to make a killing. A nice big round number, to make my Tanzania fundraising look like it’s actually going somewhere. But no such luck. To be fair to myself, I did sell 24 ice-creams, and 13 lollies. Most of the passers-by were tempted by the signs I made for the sale, and about half of them bough something. The vast hoards off children I remember stomping past my house at around half past 3 every afternoon, however, seem to have vanished. Of the 3 schools I mentioned, the blue uniforms of the nearest one never even graced my street. Most of the children from the school I went to, newly kitted out in their slightly ridiculous green ties, seemed to be getting taxied around by their parents in surprisingly new cars like some sort of private chauffeur service. Thankfully, the third and final school did deliver. Being the furthest away, their numbers were relatively few, but they liked the ice-cream I sold, and some of them were quite sweet.

Rather than just stewing in my dissatistifaction however, and the looming nature of my fundraising deadline (I have 48 days to raise £730!), I have been proactive. After a present-buying break for the 18th birthday of one of my closer friends, I turned to Google. I have found about a number of car-boot sales taking place relatively near me in the next fortnight or so, which I will doubtless be attending – armed with the fixed fudge and plenty of cake. I am going to London on a course next week to meet the other people I will be travelling with, and I am going to ask them for advice; because 2 (or 6 or 7 or 10) heads are better than one. 

I think there was supposed to some sort of vaguely moral point to what I’m writing, something that had very little to do with ice-cream, or birthdays, or money; but I’ve forgotten it. It might have been about perseverance, but to be honest, I’m not really sure.

– Vicki


These Boots Were Made For Walking

So, I’m back. 4 days, 41 miles, and an inordinate number of bug bites later, I have finally climbed the Black Mountains. I’m feeling much better than I did at the time, but my ankles are still shot, and I can’t help feeling exhausted. In some strange masochistic way, it was great fun, but I’m not glad about what happened to my shoes. Or the subsequent effect of that on my feet – trenchfoot is not a word one likes to hear in general conversation.

After having visited half the countries I visited, and been on half the flights I’ve made, as well as having been worn in week after week during my the majority of my brief employment history, my walking boots have died. They have perished. They have ceased to be. Had I not thrown them in the recycling box, they would be pushing up the daises. I mean, to be fair, they had been on the way out for a while. And I did by them for about a tenner in Aldi.

So now it’s time to begin the ominous task of buying a new pair. I know it shouldn’t be that scary, but I hate shoe shopping – it’s not my fault that my feet are rarely the same size. Seeing as I want these to last, I’m probably going to be unbelievably picky about them. They need to be leather, for example – even though my last pair weren’t. (Leather shoes are far more waterproof, and generally easier to maintain). They need to have pretty solid ankle support – because my right ankle has never quite been the same after a black ice incident about 2 and half years ago. They need to have laces that don’t fray – and are easy to replace if they do. They need to have some sort of guarantee. And ideally, they wouldn’t cost me too much money.

Remind me again, why are people supposed to like shopping?

– Vicki


Open Days.

My presence on this blog has been somewhat sparse, as you may have noticed, as of late. This is because I have been busy, not just in sorting out all 7 million forms I need to fill out in order to go to Tanzania, but with the phenomena that is university open days. I don’t know if they are thing in other countries, given how much time it would take people to get to them. I’ve sort of implied it already, but one of the big things with these days is travelling to them. The amount of time I have spent on trains in the last few days, and also the amount of money I have spent on train tickets, is staggering. 

Like now, I am sat, (on a sofa admittedly) in the hallway in a youth hostel in a city at least 4 hours north of where I normally live – so that I can be on time to the open day tomorrow, and also be like independent and stuff. (The hallway is because there was no wifi in the dorm, and the lounge is full of americans and the world cup; so after the star-spangled banner came on, I decided to make a break for it. I can still hear their collective sighs through the wall every now and again when something supposedly interesting happens – and I can’t be only one silently groaning in response). I think that they’re important in helping you get a feel for the place, and also kind of fun. Also a small child walked past who looks exactly like my brother did 2 years ago and now I feel strange. 

So, you may ask, what happens on an open day? Well, They’re all different, but there are some common themes. There are lots of talks, some of which are more boring than others, and there’s nowhere enough time in the day to go to all of them. There are tours; of subject areas, of accommodation, and of the campus(es) themselves. There are little mock lectures, and practice labs – and the professors are on hand for you to ask pretty much all of the questions to. Which is good, but sometimes you have so many questions, you don’t really know where to start with them. I should probably write up a list of my questions for tomorrow now. Or sleep. Or anything else that involves me leaving this hallway, which is all of a sudden freezing. 

– Vicki (who is cold)



My textbooks sit in my schoolbag, tucked under the chair. For the last time. Geography, Chemistry, Statistics, Latin. My shoes are swished awkwardly underneath it, also for the last time. I can’t say anything much about clothes – and make this into a nice little triplet – seeing as I no longer have a uniform (its last time was a couple of years ago), but the tie still hangs on the handle of my wardrobe door. After 14 years, the time has come. It’s my last day of school, forever.

(Personally, I don’t count university as school, and even if you do, it’s a while until that happens). Even then, its not like this is a proper day of school. My last exam was on Friday – though had I done what I thought I’d be doing now, I’d probably have one this morning – so I’m just returning my textbooks. Telling the librarian that everything I’ve ever take out has been returned. And then, hopefully well before lunchtime, I’m leaving – and I’m never coming back. Had I really wanted to, I could have had this moment a couple of years ago (I think, but I’m not totally sure, because no-one can really get a nice job without A-Levels), but it still feels pressing. The fact I’m writing this at 4am might mean something there; although that has more to do with the stray cat that climbed through my bedroom window. 

Sat on my bed, listening to Mr Brightside – a song I will forever associate with school dinner dances, it’s a strange feeling. Mostly, I’m glad. These exams have not been even remotely fun, and I’m glad they’re over. There will be people, probably a majority of people, if I’m feeling honest, that I’ll never see again – and I think I’m okay with that. I’ll miss some of them, obviously – but I wouldn’t be being honest if I said there weren’t some people I’m glad to see the back of. I remember my first day of school like it was yesterday, and yet now is my last. And to think how much I’ve changed. 3 foot high, blonde bob, green gingham summer dress. Now, 5 foot 3 (4 on a good day), strawberry blonde short mess – having been dyed through auburn, red, black, purple, and then back to auburn – check shirt, and jeans. The world has changed. And I guess I’ve changed with it. 

– Vicki



I would have written something earlier, had I not fallen asleep at half 8 yesterday evening – face first into my chemistry textbook, with the electric light orchestra having been playing on loop for the past 4 hours. In all seriousness, I cannot wait until I have this exam behind me, because I seem to just about know half of it on a good day, so there’s still quite a way to go.

But on to what I wanted to talk about, The Fault in Our Stars. The book had intrigued me since the day it came out, but a combination of a badly written blurb, a badly-written blurb, and a mile-long library waiting list meant I didn’t actually get round to reading it until about 18 months ago. It was simply amazing. It was one of about 3 books to have ever made me cry. I know my premotion of it sounds somewhat overzealous, but I would recommend it in a heartbeat. Of all the millions (or maybe just thousands) of books I have ever read, it is my joint second favourite, which is a very high honour.

Understandably, when I first heard about the film, I had reservations. The guy they chose to play Issac looked nothing like I’d imagined him, nor Van Houten, nor even, back when she still had long hair, Hazel herself. I think in order to understand how nervous I was that the film would be bad, you’d need to understand more than how the day I met its author was the best day of my life. As the hype grew, and so did the popularity of the book, so did my nerves. I wasn’t going to set my heart on this being an amazing movie – because I knew that if it was exactly what I’d imagined, I’d be disappointed.

And yet, I wasn’t. Needing something to pull me through the horror of A-Level exams, I booked tickets for my younger sister and I to see the film on Thursday, as part of “The Week Before Our Stars”. Having turned up an hour early, somewhat surprised by the commerical hype and nature of the crowd  – about 90% 14 year old girls, including one who I used to sort-of-teach, which turned out to be kind of embarrassing – posters and discussions about Ansel Engort’s hair in hand, I was prepared for the worse. Skip ahead about 2 and a half hours, and you have me, sat uncomfortably near the back of the cinema, sobbing into my sister’s arm.

There were, of course, parts of the book that weren’t in the movie. There were things that could have been better. Some of the changes I would have liked to have made would really not have been hard. The movie was by no means perfect. But it was also brilliant. I expected the worst, and was thus surprised. I was quick to judge, and saw my expectations crumble. For when we expect the worse, is sometimes when the best happens, and that, I think, is the fault in all of us.

– Vicki

(who suddenly sounds a lot more pretension than she would like)

“The Fault, Dear Claire, Is Not In Our Stars”


International Citizen Service (part deux).

A long long time, many centuries ago, I told you that I had applied to go to Tanzania on ICS – which is a thing that my government does that is a tiny bit like the peace corps but not really. Five months, 3 trains, 2 coaches and an interview later, I recieved a phone call telling me that I have been successful in my application, and thus the journey begins. In October, I will be volunteering for 3 months on a  with Raleigh International in Tanzania, as part of the International Citizen Service (ICS) Scheme. This will primarily centre around improving the accessibility of proper sanitation, in a country where only 55% of people have access to clean water. In order for me to be able to do this, I need to raise some money to enable the charity to keep on doing the brilliant work that they do. If you feel like donating anything, however small, I would really appreciate it. 

In order to tell you everything that’s going on in my journey to raise money and help people, I’ve started a blog. No, it in no way replaces what we’ve got going on here. (That sounded much less weird in my head, sorry). Whether you can donate or not, please follow the blog for all sorts of updates what I’m doing with regards to fundraising and volunteering itself. Expect pictures of my face, of cake sales, and the occasional wall of text. 

Thank You!

– Vicki