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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When Vipers Sing (Poem)

I see you crippled by the endless pains

Which claw at the mind and senses.

I see the nest of vipers whisper

Behind your back and

Sing songs of themselves.

They wrap the truth in skins of fruits

That are long since past their prime.

Some do think you cannot fight

Yet you fought in years of recent past.

Smite the vipers one by one

And beat this darkness alone.

Whispers in the Mind (Poem)

Why do the whispers in the mind

And scissor blades upon the skin

Inspire in me, so deep within

Words to feed my hungry soul.

And why does anger light the spark

Igniting fire within that dark

And destitute pit of trite.

No other time, does my hand move

And start to scrawl, with coarse approve

Verse perhaps with some slight worth.

I see within those strokes of pen

The grace of sound, and maybe then

My tortured, cheated, doomed pretence

Makes, to me, a little sense.

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 – Venice, Italy

img_20160708_123531With the conclusion of our exhausting A-Level exams, my friends and I were left to enjoy a sprawling, three-month summer holiday. We had all decided to skip gap years (because realistically what would I do with my time?) and start university in September. So in the interim, we thought we ought to make ourselves more cultured and well-travelled and planned a short inter-railing break in Europe.

Our itinerary wasn’t as long as some, we decided to visit three locations (Venice, Budapest and Athens) and spend a week in each. We told ourselves this was so we could forge meaningful connections with our surroundings, and become closely acquainted with the area. But honestly, spending hours on a cramped European train every other day was not appealing. So unappealing in fact that we decided to fly between each location.

img-20160710-wa0037-copyWe set off from Heathrow, and landed at the Marco Polo airport in Venice at about 1 in the morning (it was the cheapest flight okay!) After a night on the airport floor we set off for our hostel, which Google Maps kindly told us was just a short walk away. In reality it was a three hour walk, struggling with our heavy camping bags, and dying from the knowledge that you can’t drink tap water in Italy.

We were all alive when we got there however, that’s all that matters aye.

The city of Venice was absolutely beautiful. Swelteringly hot and so bright I could hardly see even with sunglasses on, but it was worth it for the sights. Every side street, every building, every twist in the canal was just stunning. The architecture! The art! The pure, unadulterated poetry floating around us in the air! Look I appreciate stuff!

Whilst we were iimg_20160709_130221-01n the city we tried to visit the main sights. St Mark’s Campanile gave us (and my Instagram account) a great view over the city. The basilica was massive and beautiful and I’ve never seen so many paintings of Saint Peter in my life. We also got the ferry across to the island of Lido and went swimming on the beach. Good job I had purchased those minion swimming trunks right guys?

We were staying at Camping Rialto (there you go, some free promotion) which was a sort of hostel/campsite/caravan park hybrid. We got our own little shed and it was very cute, whilst over the road there was a Lidl, so we had baguettes when we needed them.

There was no wifi though, annoying. We had to keep popping in Burger King!

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