Wantage Hall History

IMG_20170304_083055_068Picture little old me, just got accepted by Reading University and ready to find out which halls I have been assigned. ‘Ping’, oh look I’ve got an email, I’ve been given a room in Wantage Hall. Wonder what that place is like…

Baron Robert Wantage was born in 1832. By all accounts he seems to have been quite a lad. He was awarded one of the first Victoria Crosses for his service in the Crimean war, and devoted much of his later life to public service. He had no children though, so when he died in 1901 he left only a widow; Lady Harriet Wantage.

IMG_20160924_082457Now if you’re struggling to imagine more of a lad than Robert, then let me present to you his wife. She had a “great personality” and was “admired and revered by all who knew her” (I can’t reference these quotes by the way). In honour of her late husband, and to use up some of his massive fortune, she offered to build a Hall of Residence for use by Reading University.

The hall, designed by architect Charles Steward-Smith, was the first purpose-built Hall of Residence outside of Oxford and Cambridge. Around the central quad there stands a clocktower and bell, a common room, oriel windows, two impressive Magnolia trees (removed in 2017, what a tragedy!) and a grand dining hall. The Wantage motto is Astra castra, Numen lumen (the stars are my camp, thy name, my light).

Over its hundred year history the hall has housed flight instructors during the First World War, and appeared in scenes in Private’s Progress in 1956. It is still in use today, with the addition of a ‘new court’ in 1970 (a far inferior part of the establishment). That’s my history lesson done, hope it interests some of you 🙂

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Bath Christmas Market

Sophie, my number one home dawg, goes to Bath University, so we planned a little squad trip to visit her, and check out the famous Bath Christmas Market at the same time.

The market, which has been running since 2000, is one of the largest in the UK. Reams and reams of little sheds are placed around the city’s various squares, and around Bath Cathedral. Various small companies then fill these sheds, and sell to the artsy middle-classes who visit.

My favourite stalls were any handing out free samples of cheese! Oh good lord, I do love cheese.

Is This the Way to Amarillo? (Parody)

Going travelling around Europe and having nothing to show for it except a load of photos and a slightly higher appreciation of culture?

Nope, we couldn’t resist but make a video on our little holiday, and here it is. We made it as a parody to Peter Kay’s 2005 music video for Tony Christie’s song Is This the Way to Amarillo?

To read about our trip, check out my articles on; Venice, Budapest and Athens.

Interrail Trip 2016 – Athens, Greece

img_20160720_113502Our final destination was Athens. I was originally not going to document this part of the trip as… what Athens in Greece stays in Greece! Hahaha, I’m so funny. Right let’s get on.

We were staying at Pagration Youth Hostel, just a short journey from the city. It was an odd place, as there were rooms in two different buildings, and a corridor had grown in the space between them. It was swelteringly hot there, not something I can blame on the hostel sadly, meaning our most important daily choice was falling asleep in a baking tray, or falling asleep to the sound of noisy air fans. What I have since learnt is that the summer is not Greece’s biggest tourist season, for this very reason.

img_20160721_184226But that did not stop us from seeing ‘the sights’. On the first day we visited the Panathenaic stadium, the sight of many of the ancient Olympic games. Throughout the week we also saw the Acropolis [where the Parthenon is], the outdoor theatre of Dionysus and the Temple of Hephaestus. And of course no holiday to a Greek city is complete without visiting a museum or two. The museum at the Stoa of Attalos contained many crumbling and headless statues for us to gaze at (and a water fountain), whilst the Acropolis museum was hugeeeeee and contained a vast array of objects from Athens’ long history.

To say that all three of us are ‘artists’ would be an exaggeration (I for one am not nearly creative enough) but we did want to check out a bit of art whilst we were there, so decided to spend a day at the National Gallery of Athens. We packed our sandwiches, put on two layers of sun cream and walked for an hour to get there. The building site we found was a little bit of a disappointment however. The gallery was being rebuilt, meaning the whole collection was being img_20160725_110008housed temporarily at an ex-army base across the city. That didn’t deter us! We love long walks in the sun! (ignore my sarcasm, the chance to feast my eyes on Nikolaos Gyzis’ Behold the Bridegroom Arriving made the whole trip worthwhile).

The actually city of Athens, however, is not as nice as its history. Traffic law or one thing the Greeks haven’t decided to adopt. Cars jumped red lights left right and centre, motorbikes mounted the pavement to skip traffic queues, and one women parked her motorbike in the bread section of Lidl. Not to mention the streets were crawling with stray cats (interestingly Lidl capitalised on this by selling very reasonably-priced cat food) and pickpockets were also something to be wary of.

This interrailing/interplaning/travelling/culture-fest really was a wonderful experience! I loved seeing the three amazing cities, and dipping my toe into the ocean of ‘independence’. Totally recommend guys, go for it!

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Interrail Trip 2016 – Budapest, Hungary

img_20160712_135513So the next location in our world-wide expedition, was Budapest. We actually arrived at this one at a sensible hour of the day, so no rough airport camping for us #winning. We caught the metro from the airport to Budapest town and then arrived at our hostel (Google Maps was a little more accurate this time).

Our hostel was called ‘Carpe Noctem Vitae’ which, as the well versed among you have undoubtedly already worked out, means ‘seize the night life’. It was inhabited by that intimidating breed of human; millennials. Not any millennials though, the fun, up-beat, really cool and hip and enviable millennials who everrrrrry body wants to be, and who drank their nights away in a succession of ‘ruin pubs’.

img_20160716_183051Okay, they were actually quite nice, and they didn’t steal our food which was good. For the second half of the trip we stayed at HIVE hostel. Now this place looked like a space, but the lack of friendly youngsters made it feel oddly… empty.

The city of Budapest is actually very beautiful. Its huge, yet everything is spaced out so the roads and pavements are huge. In the middle of the city is Vajdahunyad castle. It’s a nineteenth century construction meant to showcase the architecture of older buildings, and it really pulls it off in a series of beautifully complex buildings. In the middle of the river is Margitsziget, an island entirely given over to parks and recreation facilities. Meanwhile the national Hungarian gallery across the river was showing a huge exhibition on Picasso, and we are all ‘cultured’ kids so we loved that.

img_20160719_124045We also met up with two friends who were also travelling at the time. Our days together included sightseeing in the middle of torrential rain (we got these sick waterproof ponchos though so it was okay), and climbing to the top of the Hapsburg citadel to watch the sun set over the skyline of the city. They also joined us for the famous Budapest pool party. Basically, hundreds of young millennials, a pair of ancient thermal baths, and some flashing lights. Can’t really describe it any better than that, but it was a great event to experience. And it meant I could use my minion swimming trunks again.

A wonderful city all-in-all. Had a lot of culture, nice nightlife, saw some Picasso which was cool. Didn’t I mean to say something about illuminati? There was illuminati graffiti EVERYWHERE!

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Reading University – English Literature Applicant Day

So the quest to get accepted by a half-decent university continues, with Applicant Days being the next bump in a very bumpy road. Applicant Days are run by universities, to candidates they’ve offered places to, and showcase a little bit of what you’ll be doing during the course. The other day I attended my first applicant day at the University of Reading.

So the day started at about 10, with a tour of the campus. Whilst I’d already done one of these at the open day, it’s was nice to see the campus again, not to mention the bloke trying to flog us the premium accommodation options (cheaper options were ‘unavailable’).

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Then we had some talks, the first of which was given by a professor of English Literature, explaining the course and the division of study over the three years. The second was given by a student and concerned student life. I must say it was rather amusing when she showed a photo of the sports centre and admitted she’d never been inside. #futureme

Then we had what was probably the most fun part of the day. A mock seminar. We were all given a pack of poems and asked to read them through before discussing them as a group. Finally, thought I, fellow poetry enthusiasts. The poems we discussed were Catherine Dickinson’s poem 764 (famous for introducing the ‘Loaded Gun’ metaphor) and Kai Miller’s ‘Some Definitions for Night’. Both of which were interesting poems, especially as I’d never heard of Kai Miller before. Some say that means he’s a randomer. Others would say it’s just ‘cos I haven’t heard of him.

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So all in all a lovely trip. Learnt a lot about the course, especially getting to experience the feel of a seminar for myself. Let’s hope Reading gets into my top choices then!

Some Famous People

My blogging activity has sadly decreased recently, however that’s not to say I haven’t attended plenty of radio recordings at the BBC. To summarise, here are a few of the famous people I’ve met in the last few months.

Tim Vine

I met comedian Tim Vine in October, when he was recording ‘Tim Vine’s Chat Show’ a one-off stand-up performance for BBC Radio 2’s annual comedy gala. The show consisted of an unending stream of one liners from Vine, interrupted only by brief interviews with members of the audience, including my friend Amber.

Tim VineJessica Hynes

Jessica Hynes, the star of Spaced, Twenty Twelve, W1A with guest roles in Skins, Doctor Who and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Hynes was hosting an episode of ‘With Great Pleasure’, a showcase of the host’s favourite passages and poems, back in July. She was in a rush after the show but managed to sign a few items for me.

Jessica HynesCyril Nri

Cyril was reading in Jessica’s episode of ‘With Great Pleasure’ and signed some photographs for me after the show. I know him from his guest appearance in the Sarah Jane Adventures and his leading role in Cucumber.

Cyril NriAlex MacQueen

Alex was features in ‘The King’s Men’, another comedy commission for Radio 2’s comedy gala. He seemed to me a very lovely man, posing for a photograph after the show. As a fan of Doctor Who I know him as the Master, appearing in Big Finish radio dramas since 2012.

Alex MacqueenIsy Suttie

The comedian and star of Peep Show has recently taken over as host of ‘Sketchorama’, a radio show that showcases performances from various sketch groups. Also a lovely person, she signed for me and discussed the recording of Peep Show and its [then] upcoming final series.

Isy Suttie