Writers block is something that challenges anyone who writes regularly. It’s spontaneous and can occur at any time, often with no warning whatsoever.
I have realised that most of my blog posts begin along the lines of ‘since I started uni…’ and well, this one is no exception.
It’s safe to say that since moving down to where I am now, music has been an ever-growing importance to me and well, a wonderful invention called CDs have made it something more. Perhaps now I have too many? Or I’d argue not enough, but regardless of how many I’ve somehow managed to squeeze on my shelf – isn’t it wonderful?
It’s impossible to walk down Southbank in the early evening with your iPod plugged in.
It’s bank holiday Monday and I’m sitting enjoying a couple of buskers perform under the sunset outside the Tate Modern. The tide is out and just below me, are the pebbles and sand that usually form the river bed.
The air above me is busy, with planes and helicopters flying over and of course, the setting sun to me left, blinding any turn of the head towards Blackfriars Bridge.
If anything, I should be in my flat revising for my upcoming exams but I’m not. Instead, listening to two guitarists and the many conversations around me – most of which in a language I don’t understand. Continue reading
After purchasing a lava lamp Wednesday, I’ve noticed my mood chill out. The blue bubbles of lave bounce off each other in a kind of boring but weirdly relaxing way and have somehow inspired me to actually do something.
Considering the fact that my end of year exams are only a week away, you’d think that I’d do some revision, right?
Well I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve been a little distracted. Continue reading
If I’m being honest, Brighton isn’t really my scene…
My reason for travelling down to the coastal town was for an interview, just a couple of questions with someone representing a company. I figured that by going the extra mile, or so, I’d be able to give myself a great opportunity for the assignment. Once the interview was over, it was my intension to explore and to visit somewhere new.
The train I was on arrived into Brighton station an hour and a half early and after briefly popping into an internet café, took a stroll to the beach where I spent some time taking photos and walking up to the pier. I noted the old pier too, which appeared abandoned and cut off from the shoreline. I remember seeing it in a presentation based on hyperlocal websites, where one of my classmates chose a site local to Brighton and a banner on the home page was a picture of the old pier. Continue reading
In a very Dark Knight Rises approach, I returned to the kitchen with a new ingredient at my fingertips. Chips.
Okay, so chips are something I’ve cooked a few times before but surprisingly enough have never featured on my blog – so here’s their 15 minutes of fame. Also featuring in this article, chicken and baked beans with barbecue sauce. Continue reading
Ever since I could remember, holidays took weeks if not months planning in advance. Flights had to be booked as early as possible. Up until now, the shortest time I’ve had to prepare for a holiday is somewhat four months. Up until now of course, where little over 48 hours was really the fine line.
I shall set the mood for you back to when the idea first came into question.
It was a drunken Monday evening and the four of us had been on the topic of Mickey’s monthly adventure and that was where, I think, the joking about began. I have a vague idea of what happened next but it resulted in the booking of a city break to Amsterdam, later that week. Continue reading
Everyone loves muffins, and equally, everyone loves Tetris.
So why not combine them? I did.
I had seen this little gadget advertised around for a few months, waiting for its arrival in the UK after it took off over the great pond in America late last year, but I finally got my hands on one yesterday. Continue reading
After such a miserable attempt in cooking eggs, I wanted to give bacon another go as I knew, deep down, I would be able to make the perfect bacon. After a few hours at uni procrastinating, I arrived back at my flat and took a look in the fridge. I still had a few rashers left from yesterday, as well as some chicken that needed eating up. A bag of cheese at the back was still unopened and some ham looked lonely at the back of the fridge. I had bought some milk too that was still unopened and I knew that if I didn’t start it soon, it’d be in the bin before my breakfast – and so I came up with the master plan.
I’d cook it all. Continue reading
Every year, I say the same things. In the build up to Christmas, I’m always wishing for snow and then when it arrives, all I do is moan.
While it wasn’t so much a white Christmas, the last few days have seen a gentle blanket across London and for my first winter in London, I thought it would be fun to take some photos, so here are just a few that I wanted to share with you.
After returning home from my weekly food shop, I clicked my way onto the internet and up come my home pages. Six of them in fact and in order, they are; Sky News, Facebook, Twitter, then the WordPress Dashboard for both my sites and then finally Moodle for university work.
On the first page, which took my attention straight away, “HMV Poised To Call In Administrators” is written in a scrolling message bar, bright yellow across my screen. Continue reading
As funny as it may sound, for a company that has only just gone into administration, Jessops has advertised jobs on it’s website! I don’t even know why I looked, but it sure made me giggle after the stress and frustration the company has caused me over the previous few months.
If you look closely at that image, which is a screenshot taken at about 10 o’clock in the evening today (Wed 9th Jan), there are 25 vacancies in the company and they range in many different locations in the country.
I’m waiting for my own case with the Customer Relations department to be finalised and closed before I have my own story published; as it is still yet to be resolved after nearly four months of aggro. My personal issue with the store is that of aggressive staff, misleading and incorrect information, conflicting information from different sources and of course, them ripping me off in the first place. They also “lost” a couple of details and well, now that they are in administration; I presume will make things very difficult for me to get the rest of my money back!
But watch this space, as there is definitely a fun story to be heard from someone’s shoes.
Okay, so you could argue that it’s probably better to be going to bed than taking a stroll along the Thames at night, but really, isn’t she beautiful?
Today, I borrowed a DSLR camera from the university’s technical office – so that I could practice with it before potentially using it to shoot some very exciting photos in the upcoming days/weeks as part of a little experiment.
This is one of the many photos I took while trying to get my head around some of the settings – I’m not a photographer by nature you see, but this is what I got.
This is an extract from an unpublished book that I wrote following the death of my older brother Stuart, who passed away four years ago. Stuart was my hero, and I hope this explains why…
Throughout my life I had been coming and going wherever Stuart needed to be, School or into respite at Lyndon House. His school was a very special place, all the children there had some sort of disability. The atmosphere was fantastic! Everybody was so friendly, so caring. Lyndon House was a place where Stuart would sometimes stay, for a sleep over. It was his respite place at the time, before he moved to Acorns.
We had been with Acorns for a number of years by this point. Not only did it offer Stuart his respite, but also a fun and active group for myself and Vicky to join in with. This was the under 12 group, and not before long I was going to be 12. I had met some friends in the group, James was one of them. He was a few weeks younger than me, but we’d both be moving up together. Moving up to the big group, with the bigger kids. This group is the BASIL group.
BASIL stands for: Brothers and Sisters In League. It is made up of teenagers, like me, who live through similar troubles with having a disabled sibling. Or for the unfortunate, a disabled sibling who has passed away in recent time. The atmosphere with the group is incredible, I knew everybody. Everybody had respect for me, the younger members looked up to me, and so did the younger ones. I never really understood that at the time, I still don’t.
At the end of the year, each member would contribute an article, poem or drawing to a magazine, named BASIL obviously. This would then be distributed through the UK to other siblings in similar situations to ourselves, and other companies/charities who offer or want to offer similar programs.
The people involved with this group are incredible. The volunteers treat you how you want to be treated. Like a mature adult. I’m not a kid, I know we are, but I feel responsible. Now that I’m one of the older kids in the group, I get the same respect as the volunteers. The younger kids look up to me now, and that inspires me to be strong. They have respect for me, things I say influence them. If a volunteer asks them not to do something, they might ignore it. If I say the same thing, they stop. Instantly. No questions, usually. I was in their shoes once, I think they appreciate it. I know I would have done.
That’s Acorns though.
My brother, Stuart, is somebody incredible. He’s a true hero, my hero. Somebody I look up to in every day situations. Why should I moan if my dinners cold? Why should I moan if I’m tired from walking? How dare I! He can’t eat food as we do. He has a tube that enters his stomach through his nose, which pumps a special nutrition through. As you eat a bacon sandwich with melted cheese and barbecue sauce? I’ve been walking too much. And? At least you CAN walk. I hate people who complain about little things. How dare you complain. I can live through racist jokes. I can live through sexist jokes, ageism or any other jokes. But jokes on disabled? Fuck off.
Stuart had this thing, I can’t explain it. It was a brother thing. He looked out for me, in our own special way. If I needed to, I’d find a quiet time where I could sneak into his bedroom and talk to him. I’d lean over the side of his bed, which was fairly high, and just say it. It’s perfect, how I like it. No silly petty remarks, nothing. He couldn’t talk. Some people say I used him, but I didn’t. He always replied. He replied with a chuckle, a smile, sometimes he laughed so hard all my problems just, well, went?
He let me know it was going to be okay. And look at him? He’s lying on his death bed, pretty much. Heart rate monitors firing away, pulse monitors and god knows what else. Oxygen cylinders standing tall to the one side of his bed, with bags of medication, draws full of medical supplies at the ready. Some of it got used, some of it didn’t.
While at school, I’d be distracted from home life with tones of homework, sometimes extra work too. Exam preparation and also music activities. Two lives, well three. Home, school and band. Except, band life at the moment was pretty average. Every Saturday was groundhog day in it’s own effect… Yeah. Turn up. Move chairs, and then the tables. Plug amp in, guitar. Tune. Wait for everyone else to be ready and play. Same songs, same order, same pauses, same messing about, same getting nowhere in life cause we’re shit. Pack up and go home. Yawn.
School was an awesome distraction, at this point I had just started my GCSEs, while also joining stage crew. This was always something I wanted to do, being the techy guy in shows. Yeah, the cool job. Walking round with expensive equipment with massive ‘STAGE CREW’ on your back. Yeah. That was my get out. The first show I did threw me in the deep end. I was ‘assistant lighting director’, following the lead from an older pupil who knew it all before.
Only thing, he was ill the week before the show. I had to take over the lighting rig for the show, take charge. I hadn’t even used a lighting desk before, but I soldiered on and kicked ass in this show! It was actually pretty cool! I was the only person in the control box for this show, with a glass pane between me, sound and the stage, which was at 90 degree out. In other words, I couldn’t see the stage, instead I only saw the wing. Stage right. Really helpful for a beginner lighting guy.
I tried to fit in during the first production. All the cool and popular kids were in it, acting of course. On breaks during rehearsal, I would try and grab some conversations, however that was rather unsuccessful. Being the techy, I’d often have to run round the hall patching up a microphone. I didn’t want to, but I had to. I had to learn, this was going to be an important lesson in my life, I had to work hard. Being in stage crew wasn’t a club, it was a lesson that was going to benefit me for life. Two years of shows.
Elsewhere in school, people began to make new friendships. It was GCSE time, I began to notice who was splitting off. The old crowd with Anna had already abandoned me after the trouble which resulted from the break up. Was she seeing my mate? Was she not? Why? Nobody was allowed to say anything, and most of all, the girls cut me out. That made it very awkward for the guys, who had closer friendships with the girls than I, so I was back in square one. Need to find a friendship, stage crew was there, but not always.
I could go home, talk about my day with my parents, my brother. I’ll talk to him, telling him about how I set up this and that for the big show. He loved it, his grin would speak the words he wanted to. This was also the time that Stuart left school and moved to an adult center up the road.
For him to truly benefit from this place, he had to have a new nurse. Unlike the previous nurses, this was one who could work with adults. Stuart was at that age now, he was a man. In the real sense. His nurse was Charlotte. Young, beautiful and dead nice. She really was.
On the way home from school, I’d help them both get Stuart into the car. A difficult job for them, but one I could manage. We have a van. A big, green and very noisy van, specially converted to carry a wheelchair. I’d lift the tail gait, pull down the ramp and help mum push the wheelchair up the ramp, with Stuarts weight too. The wheelchair was heavy enough as it is, with all his equipment on. Stuart weighed a fair bit too, yet he was so small?
I’d then life the ramp back up, in a folding motion. It was difficult on the arms, if you weren’t careful you could pull a muscle. You would then have to jump up and reach for the tail gate to close it all up. Now, you couldn’t leave Stuart’s wheelchair as it was, it had to be tied down. In the floor of the van, hooks would pull up which would attach to the frame of the wheelchair, holding it secure. This stopped him from rolling about while traveling, but made it awkward to get round.
That’s something that shouldn’t really be a problem, because really, why would anyone be walking around the van while it’s driving? Oh. That’s right, sometimes we did. Sometimes we had to. There was one occasion, or maybe a few where I’d have to get round him during a drive. One moment in particular, while Stuart was really exasperated, uncomfortable. We were ten minutes until home, where he could come out of his wheelchair, and lie on his bed. He really needed to get out of his chair as soon as possible, but with only ten minutes to go, he could only hang in there.
Ten minutes. He couldn’t last, his heart rate monitor began to alarm. For a few moments we carried on as usual, gripped his hand, began to relax him etc. Wasn’t working. The machine was strapped to the back of his wheelchair, next to the tailgate. There was myself, and my mum. Less than ten minutes away from home, and all he needed was to get out of his wheel chair. The alarms had gone on for too long now, I whipped my seatbelt off, and raced round the van to the back to check the readings on the monitor. I had to. His feed pump began to sound too, the alarm explaining that there was a problem in the tube, telling us that the food was being pumped, but blocked. Shit. Keep your cool, I paused the feed pump while checking the heart rate monitor, which was showing that his heart was racing. Not surprised, over a hundred beats per minute. This really wasn’t good, we had to bring it down, he had to relax.
Only five minutes away now, his heart race was still increasing. I climbed over to be in front of him, gripped against the back rest of the drivers seat and the wheelchair, trying to relax him. His heart rate was slowing, I could feel it. His breathing relaxed, he was sweating though. Not long to go, he was strong. Held in there, his alarm stopped. Everything was good, almost. Still should not have happened in my opinion, while I was gripped to his chair now, both hands. Feet embedded in corners I had somehow found. To keep my balance while going round bends. It’s different from being in a car, it was a van. I was also standing, facing backwards, in the middle. I went over to check the monitors again, flashing lights everywhere, numbers, letters. Everywhere.
Home. As soon as the van had stopped, we raced to get the ramp down, the door open and Stuart down on his bed. He was under his oxygen while I put the ramp back up, and soon he was okay. Just another one of those moments, by this time, we were quite use to having little scares where he could end up in a worst state.
There has been times where we’ve had to pull him out of a fit in the middle of shopping centers, Charlotte too has experienced that with him. He kept her on her toes, like all of us. You could argue he was a normal older brother too. Laughed when you got told off, stopped you going to sleep, waking you up.
At school, my GCSE’s were picking up. I had my first exam in a few weeks, and we had to prepare for it. Math it was. First week of November, okay it was September, but in relation to the hours we had in the classroom, it was nothing. It was all so soon, I found it hard to keep up, really hard. If things stayed the same though, I could maybe pull through it, keep strong. Then there was a gap before the next exams after Christmas. Just this month had to be stress free at least, could it be?
My new math teacher began dishing us homework and extra revision, obviously. But it was around the time that something changed in Stuart. I couldn’t tell what it was, but he changed. Something was different. Something was really odd, and I was a little scared. I couldn’t ask my mum or dad, I don’t want to suggest anything, Vicky would be scared by any thought I was thinking. What was happening? This can’t be ‘it’, can it? It didn’t feel like it, can’t be. No, I was being silly. Stuart’s a fighter, always has been! He’ll pull through, anyway, it could just be a cold.
Science was beginning to get difficult, we suddenly had two exams in January, not one. Twice as much work in preparation, so now we had to begin twice as early. In other words, we had to start now. Math and science on the go. Should I mention French? I failed the subject, but then again, I studied it. My French speaking exam was soon, apparently we had to revise for it, it was in October. While I couldn’t give a shit, I still had another teacher who thought their subject was the best. The most important. It really wasn’t, an excuse to pull me out of stage crew more like.
It went from nothing, to everything. No warning, no introduction period. As if somebody said “you’re gonna spend six weeks on your arse doing nothing, then I’m gonna cause your school life and home life to demand everything you have.” Oh, why thank you all-mighty.
At home, Stuart was becoming restless. Like that one time in the car, where his heart was racing. Only, he was on his bed this time. On and off oxygen every once in a while. It was for a week. I’d often walk into his bedroom, and find dad doing his bit to calm his heard rate down. It wasn’t working, his heart rate lying down was in triple figures. Is that really normal? Stuarts heart rate was always different to everyone else’s, it would be faster when he’s awake and lower when he’s asleep. He would regularly stop breathing in the night too, and his alarm would be a constant reminder.
Monday morning was difficult. Going to school. Math, science, and double French all in one day. Could it get any worst? As routine, we picked Stuart up from the day center on the way home from school. This time, I was left to do the straps on the floor of the van, while mum had a quiet word with Charlotte. They stood for a while talking about something, All was good, Stuart had a smile on his face the whole time. Nothing different, his heart rate was fine, no problems with his feed. All good.
The rest of the afternoon was fine, even through dinner. It was going into early evening that it began to kick off again. Slowly it would begin to rise, until the alarm went off. Yet Stuart was chirpy, enjoying it all. Loving the attention. I had to concentrate on my school word. Math, science and French. On top of that, I had to practice my guitar for a gig at the Triplex Social Club next month too!
Tuesday was the same, but I could feel something was brewing. There was a silent atmosphere around the house, it followed me to school too. PE was difficult, I couldn’t do it. What ever it was, I couldn’t do it. I kept my kit in my locker, and said I had forgot it. It was only my second time, I would get away with it. Plus, my new form teacher was the head of PE, and he liked me. Easy. It worked, except I had no excuse for math. I had to do it, I sat at the front too. With Joel from stage crew. I couldn’t concentrate, really badly. People began to notice things were odd, began to question. I couldn’t turn round and say what I was thinking though, it’s cruel.
Wednesday was the same, I struggled trough the day. Almost late for the lessons, not really in my own head. I was worried. About everything. The state of my brother, what’s going to happen, how I’d react. How my parents would react. How Vicky would react. I would have to take over for a while, until they found their feet. What should I do if it did happen? I don’t want to think about this shit, I have a math exam soon, French too. science in a few months. I need to work on them. Block all this crap out, it’s not helping.
Thursday morning. The second I woke up, I was thirsty. Needed a drink. I stood up, and could hear something. Don’t normally hear it this early, Stuart laughing. He’s usually trying to get back to sleep after being woken up. Anyway, I strolled into the kitchen for breakfast. Something was good about today, it was going to be a good day. Stuart was happy, everyone was happy. Good. While I rushed through my architecture homework due in first lesson, I couldn’t help but think, he’s pulled through it again. I was proud, he was a hero. Again. Managed to pull through for us all, well done bro.
For some reason, I enjoyed school today. Thursday was my shit day in the week, except for the prefect duty. That was fun. It was my second or third week on it, and already I knew who the regulars were. The same kid would turn up, try and get through, and fail. Same time, same excuse, every bloody week. The duty was made fun by the staff on it. My designated teacher changed a little while at first, but the same teachers walked past for a little natter. A joke sometimes, what made it even better? The way I cant repeat the jokes, or say who told them. But surely they were the best! Today was a good day.
Again, we picked Stuart up from the day center, to relieve Charlotte from my cheeky brother, always causing trouble. He was being really good, staying still on the way home. No fuss from his machines either. He was in a chirpy mood, loving every second. Joining in with the laughs in the car. That was him. Isn’t it incredible?
I had one piece of homework for the Friday, still unsure about Stuart, but it was science. No matter how difficult it was, I loved it. So I did it, of course, and put it in my book. Book goes in my school bag with my homework diary and all the other bits and pieces ready for tomorrow. Dinner was delicious that night, I was hungry. Really hungry. Suppose I needed to eat all I could, need to be as big and strong as my dad. Ha! Stronger. I won’t do with second best! I had done all my work, ready to relax. It was Thursday night, the silence had gone, everyone was lively. Stuart was laughing, and we were watching telly together. It was about nine, I decided to go to bed. Long day ahead of me at school. Moc exam, practical in science, music. Tiring stuff! I said goodnight to Vicky, mum and wondered into Stuarts room where Dad also was.
I got distracted though, by the monitor. It wasn’t going off, it should be. It was that time though. I looked closely, and saw that dad had pressed the silencer on it. He knew it would be going off, but kept it quiet. He was perched on the bed, with Stuart. Reading to him. I went in and said goodnight, with a big grin on his face. It was hard not to return one, his smile was infectious, everyone who met him said it. Everybody loved his smile.
I left them to it, stumbled into my own bedroom, while drinking a glass of water. Lay down in bed, watching the night take me away. Something was different, but I was too tired to think about it. Maybe I’ll think about it when I wake up…
Friday morning. The second I woke up, I was thirsty. Needed a drink. I stood up, and could hear something. Don’t normally hear it this early, Alarms. Anyway, I strolled towards the bedroom door, and realized it was pitch black. I glanced over at my phone, 3am? Something was odd. Really odd. That alarm.
It was different.
All abrupt, I felt a sick sensation in the back of my throat, I snatched open the door and dashed down the hallway. Thirst? Fuck off, my dad had just let in another paramedic. The blue lights were shimmering against all the white walls in the hallway, it was clear what was happening. Dad stood there in distress. I walked past him into Stuarts room, where there was a few paramedics. Mum. Stuart, laughing and chuckling away on his bed. Cheeky sod, attention seeking again. His room was a clutter, bursting with people, and machines. There were two heart rate monitors, and other equipment I had never seen beforehand. Outside, an ambulance and an emergency response car.
It hit me. The clues. The week, the talks, the machines, the alarms. It’s been there in front of me all this time. How could I not visualize it! Vicky was still in bed, fast asleep. Completely oblivious to the reality from the room next door. I was scared, but I had to show I was strong. For Stuart. It would keep him going, I knew it would. The paramedics wanted to take him, but then they didn’t. It was difficult. We all knew what was happening, and then it was decided there was a small chance it could get better at the hospital. They were ready too, waiting for him outside A&E.
The paramedics gathered their equipment and took it through, while mum took hold of Stuart, carrying him through the house. He was still cheerful, loving every second. Loving the attention. My head was buzzing, shrieking out for help. Crying. I’ve got it. I was going to wake up. Get out of this nightmare, but it wouldn’t happen. I shouted and shouted at myself. He’s going to be okay I said as he was carried past my eyes outside. Stuart grinned at me, smiled.
“See you Stuey” I whispered to him.
I hurried into Stuarts room, to check that they had everything they needed. His medicine bag was still here. I snatched it and ran out the door, passing it to mum. Dad seemed to mention that he might not need it, but I didn’t take much notice. I was busy thinking about what was happening, going with the flow.
The blue lights echoed round the road as he left. Wow. What just happened? I was thirsty. Reality? I poured myself a drink, and sat on the sofa in the lounge. Calm down a bit before I go back to bed.
“It would be a good idea if you go back to bed. You’re gonna need all the sleep you can get” he said, a fatherly voice called from the doorway. His eyes said it all.
I did just that. Worked my way to bed, peacefully. I wasn’t to disturb my sister, she was sleeping. Still. God knows how. I lay in bed for a good five minutes, looking up at the world. A slight tear ran down the side of my face, splashing on the pillow beside my ear. What is reality?
Reality is that moment the phone rings. Reality is when you hear a voice shout out your name from across the house…
“Sam get your clothes on!” he yelled.
Shit. Clothes. Phone. Keys. Wallet. Tissues. Pen. Inhaler. Glasses. Jacket. Shoes. Pen. Glasses. Keys. Shoes. Wallet. Phone. Keys. Glasses. Phone.
I had forgotten that she knew nothing about what was happening, had no idea that our brother had been taken ill in hospital, only ten minutes ago. Now were where racing down to the hospital. Had no idea what to expect. Well, I did. But I didn’t know how to expect it. What going to happen, how?
As soon as we arrived, they were waiting outside the A&E doors, keeping them open for us. We parked outside by the ambulance which just carried my brother there. The lights were still flashing. We ran through, guided into a small room on the side. That’s when it hit me. Vicky stood oblivious, stood in between me and dad. The hospital was inaudible, not a sound. Just footsteps approaching the door, before it swung open. Two words.
Friday 19th September 2008, 3:18am.
No words will ever begin to describe the emotions I wish to express. Take the silence as a thousand words, cried out inside.
For those few brief moments, everything stopped. Nothing happened, until the first tear began to drop, rolling down my cheek. That’s when the reality kicked in. He lay peacefully on the bed next to his mum. The machines were switched off. It was all over. Twenty years of strength, and he lay prominent. I was proud. He wasn’t supposed to get this far, but he held on. It was the right time to go.
All of a sudden, my mind shifted. I was in another reality. All I could think about was everything, something I wanted to think about? No. What was happening? Confusion struck me, nothing made sense, nothing added up, philosophies were uncontrollably floating around in my head but none of them materialized. I comprehended that I was alone. Outside in the cold. It’s half past three in the morning, my hands were hurting. They were forced against the wall, outside, with my back to the ambulance that bought him here. It was cold. It was quiet. A cool breeze circled in the air, it was chilly.
Charlotte didn’t know. She had to, in a few hours she was expecting to be seeing his smile. Ready for another exciting day out in Solihull. We had to tell the day center. Transport. My school, my science homework was due fourth lesson. Why did I care? Seriously, I couldn’t think about anything else. My brother, lay lifeless on the other side of this wall.
I was inside. Sweltering, breathless. Running? My hands were sore from the bloodshot brick work, a colour which corresponded to my cheeks from the tears. The curtain was drawn across around us. Around him, his infectious smile. Somebody joked that he would carry that smile ‘til the day he died, well, he did.
My friends won’t care, will they? Would the teachers believe me? Probably not, still had to hand in my science homework. A few hours ago, I just finished struggling to complete it. Now this? I had to hand it in. I was strong. I am strong, I too can be a hero, I think? I have a video assessment in music today too. Math exam in a few weeks. Stuart lay in front of me. Band practice tomorrow morning. Science revision. The funeral.
I was back outside, with my back beside the wall. My hands were bleeding a little. I suffered no pain but they were a little sore I guess, I don’t know. I didn’t know who I was anymore. What was I? Where was I? I met my dad in the doorway for A&E, with Vicky and mum. What happens next? The doctor was there too, mum was going to stay. I was going home, in the van, to the house.
I had the medicine bag on my lap, clutched to my chest. He never needed it. The bottles, syringes ready under the velcro lid. He’s gone, but he’s still here. I was giddy, thirsty and exhausted. I was depleted of everything I had, you couldn’t take anything else from me. It was impossible. His bedroom was filled with all of his equipment and toys. But it was empty. His own machines switched off, until I turned them on. The reassuring sound of the alarm, no pulse. No heart rate. I couldn’t find the reader, when I did, I strapped it to me. Breathed deeply, needed to get it functioning. Needed to get his little heart going again. I had to. I would do anything to keep him alive, just that little longer. A chance to say goodbye, properly. It was all linked up to me, but still nothing. I wasn’t strong enough to power it.
I flicked the switch and headed into the kitchen for a drink. I was gasping by this point, desperate for some water. I could only think about him lying there. His smile held at the back of my mind. We still had to call Charlotte, and school. I was going to go in. It was five o’clock when I decided. I had to, I couldn’t stay here. It was too quiet. I needed to go to school, in at lunch, then go to music. I knew she would be understanding, she’s like that. I can’t see why people call her a bitch, she’s lovely. That was it, planned. I was going to school. Get away from the silence.
Four years on and I sit at my desk remembering my brother Stuart, his photo sitting above my desk reminding me of his lovely smile. Despite writing this account of what happened several years ago, I have never publicly shared it until now.
I hope that for the other hundreds, if not thousands of children who are forced to live through such difficult times, I dearly hope that the first four years for them are easier knowing that they’re not alone, you are not alone.
You could argue that I can cook, however there is an even bigger argument against it. To put it lightly, you’d think twice before eating anything I’ve prepared, to say the least.
I live a hundred miles away from home, or 104 for those who really care about the last four. This distance suggests that I’m not going to be travelling back home every night for my mum’s cooking, and instead have to survive with meals I have prepared myself and that’s exactly what’s been happening – most nights so far.
I began by cooking simply, quite literally. I cooked pasta with cheese.
It was almost a macaroni and cheese dish, but, with penne pasta instead. And sandwich style slices of cheddar cheese. The most adventurous part of the meal, was that split second when the pepper was mixed in. It was an exciting moment…
Four nights later, I decided that pasta and cheese wasn’t going to help me survive through university and so I decided to try a new device. A machine I had not even considered using before. What looked like a manual for the entire kitchen sat on top, so I flicked through to see how the microwave works. Page after page and no sign of anything except cleaning instructions. I flipped the appliance over and took the various details to find the instructions on the internet.
1. Plug the appliance into the mains socket on the wall but keep the power off.
It wasn’t very specific. We had four plugs, on two possible walls. I guessed that it would mean something appropiate, so I plugged it in and continued.
2. Put the food into the microwave.
The manual was starting to get a little cocky now, I still hadn’t chosen my food at this point and it was asking me to put it into the microwave? I finally took my pizza out of the freezer and ripped the packaging off.
3. Close the door.
It was getting silly now – until it decided to show off and give me the next set in one go.
4. Select the timer to the time required, noting that any time under 2 minutes will require a full turn before selecting the time in seconds. Select the required power and turn the appliance on at the wall.
I followed all of those instructions and like magic, the microwave flashed with a yellow glow and made a buzzing noise. I didn’t know hot to stop the machine from going! I scrolled up and down the manual, hoping to find a solution, incase the microwave was about to explode. Not until afterwards, that I realised it was nowhere near exploding, just that this model was known for making unexpected victims jump.
The little ping let me know that my pizza was ready and away I ate it.
After a caring phone call from my mom, we thought it would be a bad idea to eat microwave pizza (the safe option) every night for what could be five years, so instead she suggested that I tried a pasta bake. I knew how to cook pasta, and I knew how to grate cheese. The only thing I had never done before, was cook chicken and make my own sauce.
This would be a big step for me, having only ever squirted bottled BBQ sauce onto everything edible.
I began by collecting the tools for the job, lining them all along my worktop. Two saucepans, a frying pan, a colander, various knives and chopping boards, a grater and other utensils that I can’t name. Mom knows what it’s called though.
I checked my ingredients, only to realise I needed milk. I hadn’t got any milk anymore, as one of my flatmates had helped himself to some without replacing it or even letting me know. I popped round to the local store and picked up the smallest bottle, before beginning on the pasta.
A large saucepan, half filled with pasta began to cook on the hob while a frying pan of chicken began to whiten. It was going well so far, with only a couple of minutes left, I opened the sauce sachet and mixed it with the milk. I poured the exact amount specified on the sachet before adding just a tiny bit more to help the dust dissolve better.
I put the saucepan on the hob, as the pasta was finished cooking. That went through the colander and back into the saucepan with a ‘dash’ of oil, what ever amount that was meant to be, before adding my much loved pepper. The oil surrounding the chicken also started to shout at me, before I realised it had begun to burn underneath. While I dealt with the burning chicken, my sauce frothed up and other the sides of the saucepan making a volcano of a mess across the entire hob, cooking on the still hot patch where the pasta just finished cooking.
I quickly grabbed both the frying pan and saucepan and rescued them both.
The chicken ended up with the pasta in pyrex containers, ready to be baked in the main oven with what was left of the sauce covering it all. I turned the oven on, as I had forgotten to pre-heat it until now.
While putting the rest of the milk away, I realised that I still had to grate my cheese. This was going to form a crisp layer on the surface of the pasta bake in the oven, until I realised that I had bought the wrong type of cheese. Normally, you would use Cheddar or a similar cheese, however I had Red Leisceter. It worked well in sandwiches and cheese toasties, but not with pasta and cheese, with an attempt of a Bechalam sauce.
A plate caught the cheese dropping within the grater, as I raced against the oven heating up. A little bleep told me that the light had gone out and I dumped all the cheese I had on top of the pasta. On went the oven gloves and down came the door as I threw my meal into the oven. Nearly an hour had passed since I first took my equipment out of their homes and onto the worktop so my hunger was increasing by the minute. While the meal was cooking, I made a start on the washing up.
My dinner was ready, as I gazed over my next hours worth of work, completely burned on the top with cheese dripping down the sides. It was slightly depressing to realise how bad the dinner had turned out, but hunger took the better of me and I sat down at the breakfast bar to try and enjoy it. It was an experiment too far and far too early for an amateur like myself.
I am officially back to pizza until an alternative hits the shelves in the shops.
It’s felt like a long time since my last visit to the capital and even then it was business. Today marked two weeks before I move into student accommodation in London, sort of Eastern Centraly but still in the congestion zone. So to rephrase that, my humongous student debt starts in two weeks…
With it only being two weeks before the big day, I figured it would make sense to visit so that I would be absolutely certain that it was the right choice to make. Plus, it was helpful to find parking spaces too, and the local shops as well. The kind of things you’re going to actually need on arrival. So this morning, I packed a bag and hopped on a train, arriving for about half eleven.
All the fuss regarding the tube being busy during the olympics went straight over my head when I booked the tickets during the week before, however it was safe to say it all came back to me. Very quickly. Coincidently as I had my head squashed up against the door of the underground train I had shoved to get on. The moist atmosphere was the reminder, I guessed. Welcome to London.
I hopped of the train at the next stop, Baker Street, before launching myself around the maze of platforms and tunnels to find myself on the line I wanted. I forgot where I was going when I arrived as it had taken me so long! I stood dazed and confused as I tried to work out what had just happened, and what I had been thinking. Of course by that time, the train had left and I was stranded on my own at the platform’s edge. Not a soul in sight.
Twenty minutes or so later, I arrived at what was going to be my new local tube station.
Okay, so I spent a few minutes on Google Earth on the way down, I knew which way to go. I timed my journey’s from the station and past what would be ‘home’ for term-time before walking up to the University itself. It took approximately twenty minutes all in all, with the flat right in the middle. Literally, spot on! I also walked past the place some of my newly found friends would be staying, a three minute walk away from the main entrance to the Journalism Department.
After a stop for something to eat, I had a walk up to some studios I knew of around the corner – or twenty minutes around the corner as it turned out to be. The painful journey landed me in front of a very grand building, I knew I had arrived, even if there wasn’t a big red sign to say so. There wasn’t any chance of getting inside, so I decided to have a wander around the city. Kill some time. I made my way up to Piccadilly to find a couple of clubs I’m heading down to on freshers week, but where was the warning?
I have never seen Piccadilly so busy in all my life!
For one day only, and out of all the days in the year it was today, it was the ‘Piccadilly Circus Circus’ with eleven or so stages with gigantic performances! It spread from Fortnum and Mason’s down through and past the Rainforest Cafe! The streets were closed to traffic, and so it made life a free-for-all for anyone there. Little kids running from left right and centre, not to mention their parents running about after them!
Tourists with their cameras too. Why take the trouble to move around them all, avoiding their lens’ when instead you can do what I do? It’s entertaining to see the shock of a photographer’s face, when they realise you were staring down the lens over the shoulder of the person they were taking a photo of.
While I am a kid at heart, I’m not inconsiderate all the time. I helped someone open the toilet door on the train there! I was in hysterics though, as someone trapped in a train’s toilet is moderately funny!
Of course, after paying a visit to Piccadilly, I hoped back onto the tube to find the third of the clubs over in Elephant and Castle. That find wasn’t so difficult, as the entrance was right on top of the station. I then had a wonder over to Waterloo before making my way to Westminster where I hoped to meet Nick Robinson – the face of political news on the BBC. Much to my disappointment, he wasn’t there. Not even in the newsreaders spot around the back on the grass! Instead, a female correspondent spoke loudly into a ball of fluff held in front of her by a bloke with a pair of headphones.
It led me back to the familiarity of a station I knew all too well. I hadn’t got enough time to enjoy a drink in the bar like last time, so a quick stop to WH Smith and straight onto the train before a short wait before it left.
It’s not just a sightseeing trip however, it was a test of everything. My shoes failed, having insisted on giving my blisters almost straight away. My rucksack, the bag I spent so long trying to find, did me proud though. My patience was tested too, energy and general knowledge of the area. It would be my last visiting trip to London for the next three years, as the city swaps with Birmingham for it’s title of home.
Spending the time out and about today gave me the confidence that this adventure that I was soon to embark on, was the right choice for me. Perhaps a little sudden, considering the timing of my application but the right choice.
Two weeks wait?
Eat my shorts.
One thing I failed to mention in yesterday’s post ‘Would you like petrol with that?‘ is the progression into cars that fly. I talked a lot about the future, where driving through your local shop could be part of everyday life. Except I forgot one thing. The whole idea of flight! The idea of being able to drive in the sky seems missions away, as it did in 1925 with this image on a postcard. But now that we’re in the 21st century, the concept of driving into the air is getting closer and closer all the time – and for some people, has already arrived.
In America, a team called Terrafugia have developed ‘The Transition’ which was driven to fly. After 20 hours of training, you too could become a sport pilot and take this to the skies at your local airfield. On the road, this is a rear wheel drive car capable of doing about 35 miles to the gallon. At the taxiway, you simply press a button to lower the wings and take off. The length of runway required to clear a 50′ obstacle is 1700′ (which is about 520 meters).
Of course this begs the question, is it safe? First of all, it features full automotive crash safety features. This would cover you from any driving instances. And when you’re in the air? Apart from the ‘glide to the ground’ idea and hope for the best, the light aircraft comes complete with a parachute. If all these aren’t enough to put you off making the purchase (after a deposit), then there is an extended list of gadgets you can also purchase to make it your own.
Sounds very exciting, but what does it look like? Well, this is the demo-video from the Terrafugia website, which you can visit here.
Instead of asking for fries with your meal, how about petrol? When we think of the term ‘drive-through’, we automatically think of driving alongside a window at McDonalds and asking for a medium cheeseburger with chips, however, what if it became more literal? Yes, you read that right, what if we could literally drive through?
Of course, you’re now thinking about the size of your car and yes, I can already say it’s far too big, despite having not met you. The point is, we live in the 21st century. Already we have the power of talking to somebody on the other side of the planet, while sending all sorts of data to and from satellites in space within a blink of an eye, so how far into the future is it going to be before we begin driving through buildings?
Back to the question of size, moving aside your typical family car. It’s too long, it’s too wide, and far too wide. Thats a given. I’m talking about something much much smaller. A sports car maybe? No. It’s still far too big. The Smart car? A little two seater car that will pretty much fit anywhere? Again, no. Like everything else, it’s far too big. If you’re thinking that this is all a joke, I don’t blame you, but I can confidently say that it’s not.
Meet Peel. In 1962, this engineering company released the smallest ever production car, at just 39 inches wide and 53 inches long. Completely road legal, the Peel P50 was designed to be a city car and was on the market for £190. For such an early car, this broke the boundaries of what modern cars should be and by rights, still does. The single seater three wheeler engine was capable of 100mpg and up to 38 miles per hour, enough for most city roads in England. Unfortunately, the car has no reverse gear but as you could imagine, the car is extremely light, so you could potentially pick it up and turn it around. In 2010, an electric replica of the p50 was started by a newly formed company named Peel Engineering Ltd (which is not to be confused with the original company), however this car was not road legal. In 2011, this same company released the petrol model which then became road legal.
Back in the early days, the Peel Trident was also released towards the end of Peel’s reign of microcars. Slightly bigger than the P50, the Trident was the two-seater “shopper” version. This sprung the idea of ‘driving through’ into mind…
If places such as McDonalds allocated a special lane in their restaurants, you could literally drive through to the counter, and pick up your food and drive straight out. It’d be one happy meal you’d have there. But these microcars aren’t limited to picking up your burger any quicker, they could be perfect for shopping. Imagine leaving your desk at work. Usually, you would walk down a corridor, into a lift, before either walking over to a car park or to the bus stop (or tube station). From there, you would make your way home. What if you stood up from your office chair, and your car was parked only 2ft away? Simply climb in, drive down the corridor and out the building. Quite often, people will stop off on the way home to do their grocery shopping because it’s convenient. While driving your microcar, you could wouldn’t have to get out. Try driving through Tesco in a soft-top version of what you see above, with a detachable trailer on the back. You could just drive through the store, filling the trailor. When you arrive at the checkout, you simply scan the items and drive out the store again.
Using all that fuel, you would then hear the phrase “would you like petrol with that?” coming into use more and more often, with petrol stations being replaces by refuel points at checkouts.
The idea is genius, but lacks one thing. Where do you put the kids?
It’s been just over a month since I last visited the capital, with today’s adventure taking me across to my first choice University. Of course, instead of the daunting thoughts of travelling across the city alone, I was more anxious about my travel down from Birmingham. I switched the news channel off last night after seeing a yellow weather warning for snow, and predicted heavy rain and winds. Arguably not the best weather for travelling. I woke in the early hours of this morning, taking a spoonful of Corn Flakes with one hand, while the other was reading through travel updates on my phone. Everything seemed to be okay at that time, but there was still enough time for something to go wrong. Continue reading
After watching the television series ‘Airworlf’ as a child, I have always dreamt of flying a helicopter. The idea of landing anywhere seemed to be the coolest thing in the world, but how difficult could it be? On my eighteenth birthday only a week or so ago, I opened up the booking letters for my trial lesson at a nearby airfield. I was speechless. I had a week to study a small book and video, to prepare myself for my hour long session.
On the journey down to the airfield, I read through my book one last time, before in front of me was an open runway. We hung around outside for a few minutes, watching the light aeroplanes taking off into an overcast sky. I was glad it wasn’t sunny because I thought the glare would maybe ruin the experience, so I was happy. It was cold outside on the ground, a gentle breeze calmly swept through my hair. I was hoping it would be windier higher in the sky, but before I could think about that anymore, I made my way into the office. Just outside the office windows, sat a red Robinson R44, the four seated version of what I would be flying. Behind that, the company’s hangar. After signing in, I was shown around the hangar with a group of people who were going to have a ‘thrill seeker’ flight on that day. Everybody was excited, and one by one, they were called out for their turn in the helicopter. It wasn’t long before I was called through, for a fifteen minute briefing session with my instructor.
She sat me down in a small classroom, and recapped on the fundamentals of flying. Seems as this was my first lesson, I was only going to be concentrating on the three main elements of controlling a helicopter, the cyclic, the collective and the yaw pedals. I knew what all these did before, but the adrenaline made remembering these patchy. I continued to listen, as the flight plan was discussed. Then, after all the safety aspects were finished, we made our way through the hangar and out the back entrance to my yellow bundle of fun.
I strapped myself in, and put my headset on. I sat on the right hand side of the fuselage, waiting for my instructor to take her seat to my left. Once she was in, the take off assistant cleared the area, as we turned the key in the ignition. The helicopter shook a little and the engine was on. After the light flickered on the central console, we began the rotors. Slowly they spun round, with each rotation getting quicker and quicker before the two blades became a single disk. With the thumbs up from the ground crew, my training pilot flew us over to a helipad on the other side of the airfield, away from the hangar. Here, she demonstrated the controls once again, before we shot up over the hangar and into the sky.
Once we had reached 1000ft, she gave me control of each of the three controls, one at a time. Starting with the yaw pedals, she purposely flew at an off-central angle. As the air speed decreased, I used the pedals to balance the fuselage. It may sound unreliable, but the most accurate way of balancing a helicopter is by looking at two pieces of string attached to the front of the windscreen. It seemed unbelievable that these two pieces of string was keeping the helicopter in line, and potentially a life saving tool when flying.
Next, it was the collective. After taking back the yaw pedals, she demonstrated the use of the collective, before letting me take my turn. We increased the manifold pressure to 22 inches, before taking it back down to 15. It seemed like nothing at the time, but it would be more important to understand later on in the lesson.
Finally, she handed control of the cyclic over to me. The cyclic is the joystick which ultimately moves the helicopter in any given direction. It is also one of the more difficult controls to use, mainly for the sheer physical demand from it. The cyclic is a very sensitive piece of equipment and in the R22 it is linked directly to the rotors, without any hydraulics inbetween. This means, that the cyclic vibrates, making it more difficult to control as the muscles in the one arm numb very quickly if you aren’t used to it. It took a short while before I did, and once I had gotten used to it, I was manoeuvring the helicopter in all directions. It became easier as the flight progressed, and soon we flew back into the airfield and down to the helipad.
We didn’t land on the helipad, it was time to do some hovering. Once again, each control was demonstrated before she passed each one of them over to me one at a time. The easiest of the three was the yaw pedals, which while hovering, control the way you are facing. After keeping the helicopter still for a few moments, we did a couple of spins and bought the helicopter back to the starting point. The collective was then used to increase and decrease altitude, before the cyclic was used to keep us on the spot. While hovering, the cyclic became more sensitive and the vibrations shook more aggressively. On the first attempt of taking control of the cyclic, I put the fuselage into a sea-saw motion, before my instructor bought it back under control. I took another few turns with the same result, before we headed back up into the sky.
We reached 1000ft once again, before my instructor handed over full control of the helicopter to me. I had both feet on the yaw pedals, my left arm resting on the collective and my right arm on the cyclic. Once I accepted full control, she bought her hands and feet of the secondary controls and let me take over. We enjoyed the view for a few moments, before noticing a police car on a road below. The road was twisted, so we decided to follow the car. The cyclic gently followed my hand through the corners below, before we reached the boundary of the training facility. We bared left to remain on the course and practiced the auto-rotation into a field of sheep. After raising the collective at the last minute, we avoided any contact with the ground and continued to fly back up to our original height. After flying over a race course, and following another few roads, we set ourselves onto a heading for the runway at the airfield.
Because the airfield was used by aeroplanes too, we had to approach the helipads from the same angle. In front of me was the runway, and just to the left a grass strip for helicopters. It was like a scene from a movie, where the runway is lit up ahead. I realised that I still had control of the helicopter, with my instructor guiding me in. We flew closer and closer to the ground, the grass strip getting closer and closer. Her hands and feet were still off the secondary controls. She was calling out, “50ft, 40ft, 30ft” before taking control and bringing us to a hover at 5ft above the helipad. My nerves couldn’t take it anymore, and my arm was shaking, almost painful from the aggressive cyclic.
We had five minutes left of the lesson, so we decided to have another go at the hover. One at a time, I took hold of each control before taking on all three. The first time, I had to be rescued by my instructor. She then said that, when I’m ready, I have control. I wasn’t ready, but continued to hold onto the controls until I was. We were in a perfect hover, and after a deep breath, I looked over at her to see her hands were off the secondary controls. I had been hovering for ages, without realising! I had to do a double take, resulting in losing control, before she reached out and corrected the position of the fuselage. I was chuffed to bits, as she flew us over to the hangar for the landing.
It was the most incredible experience ever and I am left wanting so much more. While we waited for the rotors to come to a stop, my instructor explained to me about the cyclic being so aggressive. It was then that she told me that there was no hydraulics in between the joystick and the rotors in the R22, where as the R44 had these hydraulics so that you do not have the vibrations. It must be said though, that the R22 is a fantastic little machine, which is perfect for learning to fly.
One of the critical influences in live sound, has been our understanding and knowledge of the physics behind it. Like any type of wave, a sound wave doesn’t just stop when it reaches the end of the medium or when it encounters an obstacle in its path. Instead a sound wave will undergo different behaviours when it encounters the end of the medium or an obstacle. Possible behaviours include reflection off the obstacle, diffraction around the obstacle, and refraction into the obstacle or new medium.
Diffraction of sound waves is commonly observed. This occurs when sound diffracts around corners or through door openings, allowing us to hear others who are speaking to us from adjacent rooms. Low-pitched (long wavelength) sounds always carry further than high pitched (short wavelength) sounds.
As the wavelength of a wave becomes smaller than the obstacle which it encounters, the wave is no longer able to diffract around the obstacle, instead the wave reflects off the obstacle. Bats use ultrasonic waves with wavelengths smaller than the dimensions of their prey. These sound waves will encounter the prey, and instead of diffracting around the prey, will reflect off the prey and allow the bat to hunt by means of echo. The wavelength of a 50 000 Hz sound wave in air (speed of approximately 340 m/s) can be calculated as follows “wavelength = speed/frequency”.
Refraction of waves involves a change in the direction of waves as they pass from one medium to another. Refraction, or also known as bending of the path of the waves, is accompanied by a change in speed and wavelength of the waves. So if the medium and its properties are changed, the speeds of the waves are changed. So, waves passing from one medium to another will go though refraction.
Refraction of sound waves is most evident in situations in which the sound wave passes through a medium with gradually varying properties. An example of this is during the day and during the night. During the day, the temperature of the surface of the earth tends to be much warmer than far above the ground. Because of this change in temperature, or medium, the sound waves are refracted up towards the sky. At night, the complete opposite happens. The air on the surface is much cooler than above, and so the sound waves are refracted downwards towards the ground.
When a wave reaches the boundary between one medium another medium, a portion of the wave undergoes reflection and a portion of the wave undergoes transmission across the boundary. The amount of reflection is dependent upon the differences of the two mediums. For this reason, acoustically minded builders of auditoriums and concert halls have to understand the use of hard, smooth materials in the construction of their inside halls. A hard material such as concrete so most of the sound wave is reflected by the walls and little is absorbed. Walls and ceilings of concert halls are made softer materials such as fibreglass and acoustic tiles. These materials are more similar to air than concrete and so have a greater ability to absorb sound. This gives the room more pleasing acoustic properties.
Reflection of sound waves off surfaces can lead to one of two phenomenons – an echo or a reverberation. A reverberation often occurs in a small room with height, width, and length dimensions of approximately 17 metres or less. (The “magic 17” referred to earlier). The affect of a particular sound wave upon the brain endures for more than a tiny fraction of a second; the human brain keeps a sound in memory for up to 0.1 seconds. If a reflected sound wave reaches the ear within 0.1 seconds of the initial sound, then it seems to the person that the sound is prolonged.
The reception of multiple reflections off walls and ceilings within 0.1 seconds of each other causes reverberations – the prolonging of a sound. Since sound waves travel at about 340 metres per second at room temperature, it will take approximately 0.1 s for a sound to travel the length of a 17 meter room and back, therefore causing a reverberation. This is why reverberations are common in rooms with dimensions of approximately 17 metres or less. Examples of reverberations are when you talk in an empty room, when honking the horn while driving through a highway tunnel, or when singing in the shower. In auditoriums and concert halls, reverberations occasionally occur and lead to the displeasing garbling of sound.
Reflection of sound waves in auditoriums and concert halls sometimes lead to spectacular results, especially if the reflections are designed right. Smooth walls have a tendency to direct sound waves in a specific direction. Subsequently the use of smooth walls in an auditorium will cause spectators to receive a large amount of sound from one location along the wall; there would be only one possible path by which sound waves could travel from the speakers to the listener. The auditorium would not seem to be as lively and full of sound. Rough walls tend to diffuse sound, reflecting it in a variety of directions. This allows a spectator to perceive sounds from every part of the room, making it seem lively and full. For this reason, auditorium and concert hall designers prefer construction materials which are rough rather than smooth.
Reflection of sound waves also leads to echoes. Echoes are different than reverberations. Echoes occur when a reflected sound wave reaches the ear more than 0.1 seconds after the original sound wave was heard. If the elapsed time between the arrivals of the two sound waves is more than 0.1 seconds, then the sensation of the first sound will have died out. In this case, the arrival of the second sound wave will be perceived as a second sound rather than the prolonging of the first sound. There will be an echo instead of a reverberation.
Reflection of sound waves off surfaces is also affected by the shape of the surface. Flat or plain surfaces reflect sound waves in such a way that the angle at which the wave approaches the surface equals the angle at which the wave leaves the surface. Reflection of sound waves off curved surfaces leads to a more interesting phenomenon. Curved surfaces with a parabolic shape have the habit of focusing sound waves to a point. Sound waves reflecting off parabolic surfaces concentrate all their energy to a single point in space; at that point, the sound is amplified. Perhaps you have seen a museum exhibit which utilizes a parabolic-shaped disk to collect a large amount of sound and focus it at a focal point. If you place your ear at the focal point, you can hear even the faintest whisper of a friend standing across the room. Parabolic-shaped satellite disks use this same principle of reflection to gather large amounts of electromagnetic waves and focus it at a point where the receptor is located.
Today was the third time that I travelled down to London this year, with this morning being the earliest start yet. I usually try to avoid the morning rush hour in the city, by arriving late afternoon between ten and eleven, however I arrived just before nine o’clock, at what seemed to be the end of a flooding of commuters. I had exactly two hours before my appointment in Elephant and Castle, which situated at the bottom of the Bakerloo underground line and with me standing on the platform at Marylebone, it seemed the obvious choice to go straight there. But what was I going to do for two hours?
I bought myself an all day travel pass for zones 1 and 2 for the underground. It cost me £8.40, which back here in Birmingham would buy you not only the equivalent ticket, but also a decent lunch. The next train braked heavily into the platform, and the doors shot outwards. Nobody got off, there wasn’t going to be any room whatsoever. I began walking towards the next set of doors, with the tiniest gap I jumped in. The doors slammed shut behind me, almost claiming my shoulder bag which followed me in. I reached up for the rail and held on tight. I still hadn’t planned how I was going to kill two hours, so I had a look at the route diagram.
Since I first walked through Piccadilly Circus, I have felt the true vibe of London. So, every time I visit the city, I try to pop my head around to feel the excitement once more. It was the next stop actually, and I didn’t quite fancy keeping my nose under this fellow’s armpit for much longer. The light blinded me through the window as we pulled up into the station, a bulging train exploded as the doors open. People fleeing from their seats to escape the shuttle. I found my way onto the concourse, and up a flight of stairs to the surface. A vibrant coke-cola advert lit up above me, the scene below filled with red buses and black cabs. It was quiet at this time, the space between working commuters going to work and and tourists arriving. I headed out of the area, following my instinct over to Trafalgar Square. It was half past nine, just a handful of people walking about. I noticed the Olympic Clock, reminding us all that in only a few months time, the whole world will descend on the city. Are we going to be ready in time? I’m a little unsure at the moment, but who knows? We’ll have to wait and see.
Not knowing where I my actual destination was on foot, I thought it would be best to leave Nelson behind and start making my way over the Thames. I had an hour left, which seemed plenty of time really. I found Charing Cross Station, the station which seemed to have more tunnels than any other station I have walked through. With entrances that seem miles apart, I eventually made it to the concourse and down the escalator I went.
The best thing about the underground, is the waiting times. Every time I have been standing on a platform, I have never waited longer than two or three minutes for a train. Of course you hear about delays and unreliability on the tube all the time, so I guess I’m just lucky. Elephant and Castle was the final station call on the line, with a connection to the Northern Line. I really had no idea where I was going, so I followed the crowds of people towards the lifts, and then up to the exit. From the doors of the station entrance, I could see my destination over the road. Well, it wasn’t quite over the road. It was across an island. Doesn’t seem like much, but the roads joining the island are four lanes wide, filled with buses racing through. I played safe, thinking the subway was going to be the safest option, so I glanced about to see what was around.
A tall blue gate stood above everybody, marking the entrance to the nearest underpass. It was only a few feet away, there was no hesitation. I went for it. I knew the direction I wanted to head in, so I ignored the sign on the way down and continued into the artistic tunnel. Out the other end and up into day light, but I was back where I started. I headed back down, but the sign wasn’t there. I climbed back up to the top, but I found myself in a small market – nowhere near the island. I squeezed through the market stalls, to catch a glimpse of the road to get my bearings. It was no use, I was pretty much lost. I span round on the spot and headed back to where I came from, asking stall owners for directions. Nobody had a clue where I was going to, I felt the pressure as I had already spent fifteen minutes walking around, with only twenty left before I’d be late. I found the entrance to the subway again, following the numbers on the floor which seemed to be location markers.
A map caught my eye as I was walking around a corner. I ran over, locating where I was before working out my route out of there. It’s frustrating to think that from the tube station, it could have taken two or three minutes to walk slowly. Instead, with half an hour of panic over, I arrived.
I was back outside in time for lunch, with food in my bag I wasn’t planning on stopping. I knew my way around the subway pretty well by now, putting the two minute walk to the test. And yes, it took two minutes. I kicked myself up the stairs, entering my card in the machine and down the lift to the platform. I wasn’t sure what to do next, my train home wasn’t for another three hours. I quite fancied seeing somewhere I hadn’t yet seen, so again, I got off the tube at Piccadilly. It was a bit of walk to the BBC Broadcasting House, but I quite fancied it. It was straight down Regent Street, taking about fifteen/twenty minutes.
I sat down on the steps on the building opposite to catch my breath and rest my legs. This was the first proper sit down I had since arriving into Marylebone, so it was well deserved. I took a sip of a bottle of Sprite I picked up earlier, and began munching on my crisps.
Well, I had seen the broadcasting house, what else could I do in two and a half hours? Back on my feet, I walked back down Regent Street to Oxford Circus underground, and jumped on the central line to Queensgate. It was Kensington Gardens that I was interested in, the large open space. One of the royal parks too, so it was going to be nice. A thin layer of mist lay in the distance, as I found myself a bench to relax on. There was a cool breeze, rustling the branches on the trees above me. The wind blew in my hair and the fresh air was certainly felt. It tasted so much better than the gas fed down on the underground, which got unbearable sometimes.
I sat and appreciated the park for as much as I could, before I would have to make my way back to Marylebone for my train home. I watched as a group of cyclists passed, all seven casually cycling together with their matching electric bikes from stations around the city. I took one last breath before standing from my bench, finding my underground ticket and putting it to hand ready for the barriers. I went down in the lift and across to the platform, to see yet another crowded train waiting for me with the doors wide open. Not knowing how busy the next train was going to be, I squeezed on. With one arm clutching hold of my bag this time and one reaching up above me, I was on.
The doors began to close, another passenger leaped through the gap packing us in even more. I felt sympathy for sardines as the train pulled away, speeding through the tunnel. A sigh of relief every time the doors opened, but nobody left. Nobody could. Instead more people piled onto the train, pushing us all in further. I had found myself further away from the doors and wanting to get off in two stops time.
The train screeched to a halt at Bond Street and the doors slammed open against the side of the carriage. I wasn’t sure if the train was being evacuated as so many people barged their way off. I looked about, but people remained seated, the announcement was made to shut the doors so I guessed it was safe. A little girl was asleep, stretched across two seats down by my knees. Her mother sat next to her reading a book. I don’t know how she stayed asleep through all that, the noise was thundering.
I leaped out of the doors at Oxford Street, changing line to the Bakerloo and catching the first train back to Marylebone. It was pretty much empty, which surprised me. I’m still unfamiliar with the busy periods on the underground, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
My train home was due to leave in half an hour, enough time for me to get a bagel and a quick drink from the newsagents. The cafe was the the left of the ticket machines, in a long line of different food outlets. I approached the opening in the gateway, as the doors were pulled shut and the lights flicked off. I wasn’t going to be able to have one of the famous bagels. Disappointed, I began looking around for a replacement. Next best option was next door, with a cheap bacon and cheese burger and chips to see me through the journey home. I was expecting something a little bigger to be honest, and instead of queueing up for a drink, I ended up looking around for snacks. This was the shop that doesn’t understand that opening more till’s can cut the length of a queue. With a handful of staff chatting in the corner of the shop, one man on the desk and then a nice healthy queue of five people, you do think to yourself.
I perched myself on a seat on the train, the furthest one down from the doors. Pulling out my iPod and a magazine to read. I was absolutely shattered, but it was so worth it. As I arrived back into the Midlands, I knew I would be back again soon. I just need another excuse…
After writing the previous post, Hanging out in London, I felt it was necessary to tell you more about the bagel I do nothing but love. The situation was that I was starting to get a little peckish after a long day in London. There was a couple of cafe’s at the station, including the bagel bar. My first choice for food was closed, the tables were turned over inside and the lights were off. It was pretty desolate in there. I figured I would be waiting a little while to get served, as with the place opposite. The cues were through the doors, and I really didn’t have a lot of time.
Two places remained and quite simply, the bagel shop won. The staff inside were cheerful, the menu was clear and well, you couldn’t beat a good old bagel.
In fact, I enjoyed the first bagel so much, that when I returned to London the following time, I took a photo. I felt that everybody I knew should know about this bagel, the delicious bagel. Steaming hot, with melted cheese almost dripping down the side.
Like most people, I can taste good food. And while this photo makes my bagel look fatty and rather rubbery, it was the softest and most tasty sandwich I had eaten in quite a while. Although, if you are in Birmingham and have a couple of quid spare, do check out the pretzel stand in the Bullring. That is something out of this world. Ask for cinnamon and sugar too, you won’t regret that.
In the last couple of weeks, I have had the opportunities to pop down to London a couple of times and I just thought I would share two of these with you. I live along the Chiltern Mainline, which is basically the train line from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone. It takes about an hour and a half to travel down to London from my station, from where I usually pop straight down onto the underground to wherever I fancy going.
On the first of my trips, I arrived at Marylebone at about half past ten in the morning. It was surprisingly busy for what was after the morning rush hour. I made my way down the platform with my printed ticket that I had bought online only a few days before. Handing it in at the security barriers, I then sped through the crowds to get hold of my underground ticket. Down the escalator I ran, with my brown leather jacket flung open. All the daily commuters stood to the right, I felt my own adrenalin rush as I moved swiftly through the passages to the platform. I was traveling southbound, straight for the city.After a couple of seats, the carriage emptied out and I managed to find myself a seat. I still had over half the journey to make, so why not? The tube experience was fun, different to the usual commute into Birmingham I usually make for college by a long way off. The names of passing stations came into view through the windows, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus. They were landmarks underground, each station name being a picture moment itself.
My aim for the day was to see as much as I could in one day, so it was planned to work backwards from the furthest point away from the station, which seemed logical. It made more sense when I thought the off peak ticket wouldn’t be valid the two hours before my train home – so I didn’t want to be stranded on the other side of the city.
The painstaking journey underground was soon to be over, as I popped up to the surface at my first destination. I had arrived at Tower Hill. I walked across to the Tower Bridge, before walking the circumference of the Tower of London. I had only spent half an hour in London by this point, with a further five and a half left I got back on the tube and headed back into the city centre to Westminster. It was precisely 12 o’clock when I arrived, picture perfect. The gold around the clock face were highlighted ready for the Olympics which begin in a few months time. Everything was clean, it was a giant show case. In just a few months time, the whole world will descend on the city. The whole world will be watching us.
I hung around Westminster for a little while, admiring the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. It was when I started getting hungry that I began to walk up to Buckingham Palace. I didn’t fancy the tube, plus it was a nice walk. I was guaranteed to walk past a Subway or McDonalds at some point, so the walk didn’t phase me.
Sods law took charge, not a food outlet in sight. After arriving at Buckingham Palace, and taking a couple of pictures, I headed up the Mall to Trafalgar Square. I completely missed Nelson’s Column and the National Museum, there was food. My McChicken sandwich went down a treat, putting some energy back into my mind. I was set up for the rest of the afternoon where I had Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street planned before the walk back to Marylebone.
For anybody who knows London, or has seen a map of London, you will see the kind of distance I saved myself walking by getting the tube from Charing Cross to Piccadilly Circus. To be brutally honest, I spent longer walking around the station’s passages than I would have done walking straight there. But I arrived, and I was happy. After spending a couple of days in New York City a few years ago, I have had a thing for busy places. Walking through Times Square as I did is something I dream of doing again. The lights at night were incredible, the atmosphere was just as manic. It was only about two o’clock by now, still daylight. I wasn’t sure what time it would be dark and instead of risking missing my train home, I moved onto Oxford Street.
I had a couple of hours left, allowing myself enough time to walk back to the station and grab a bite to eat before my train left. Oxford Street was the last point of call, but before I began walking over, I stopped off at a shop I visited a very long time ago. I have vague memories as a child, walking through this shop in particular. Wanting to explore the other floors. Looking up at the counter of sweets, oblivious to the price tag next to them. Fortnum and Mason was somewhere I wanted to visit, so I did. I dragged myself up the floors to see what was around. It was January, Christmas sale period. I wanted a laugh. On the top floor, Christmas decorations were for sale at discount price. I was carefully browsing. I say carefully, because I didn’t want to look like I was about to make a purchase. My wallet wasn’t big enough for these prices, especially when a box of 4 crackers cost £270.
I doubt you’ll get a flimsy pen in them…
Shopping has always taken up lots of time, souvenir shops were a painstakingly slow process. Should I buy this sicker? Or that drinks mat? It’s a tough call. I ended up with the pen and key ring, a post card too! I spent more on a bagel back at Marylebone than I did in that shop, although it has to be said, it was one bloody nice bagel.
After spending almost six hours walking around the city, with so much of a half hour pit stop for lunch, a bbq chicken bagel with melted cheese was the way forward. It has become a ritual now to me, that whenever I wait for a train at Marylebone, I will have a bagel. Simple as that really.
Only a week and a half later, I was back in the city. My reason for travelling down this time was for a hour-long meeting over by Kings Cross St Pancreas, but it wasn’t going to stop me seeing a couple more sights. In between my visits, I had found out that the underground ticket was valid all afternoon without restrictions. This meant that I had no limits. My day, was my day. I did exactly what I wanted to do.
I knew what to expect at Marylebone now, so before the train arrived, I shuffled through the carriages to the front, ready to rush through the surge of people to the ticket office for my underground ticket. I was travelling an hour early, arriving in peak time still. People everywhere, you had to walk with a purpose. I learnt that in New York, from my tour guide.
“You don’t get mugged if you walk with a purpose. Tourists are too obvious, they walk around with their heads in the sky taking photos. Pick-pockiters just walk around looking for you…”
Ever since I heard that, I have always walked with a purpose. I also find that walking faster makes you ‘one of them’. I don’t know who they are, but you seem to fit in with the city vibe better. It helps having a long black coat too, and a scarf. A shoulder bag is also necessary for the look too. I think I qualify for the role as arrogant commuter then, as this is exactly what I wore.
My first stop today was in the opposite direction than before, I had dreamt of living in Maida Vale for years. I just had to see what it was like there. Maida Vale was also home to the Abbey Road Studios, made famous by the Beatles, who walked out on the pelican crossing just outside.
It was a busy junction, cars passing all the time. There were plenty of tourists too, waiting for an opportunity to take a photo of themselves on the famous crossing.
I walked through the district once more, back to Maida Vale station where I boarded the tube to take me into the city. After a change, I popped back up at Wood Lane, directly opposite the BBC Television Center. The building appeared to be smaller than I anticipated, with the ‘Prank Patrol’ van driving into the gates. I hung around for a bit, waiting to see if I could spot any celebrities. It didn’t take very long for me to give up, looking at my watch I didn’t have a lot of time left and the sky was getting darker. There was one thing I needed to do before I left.
I hopped onto the tube at White City. After all, it was only a few minutes walk away from Wood Lane and on the central line.I headed up to Oxford Street, changing back onto the Bakerloo line. Instead of heading to Marylebone, I went back to my spot. Piccadilly Circus. It was dark. The lights were vibrant, it was the atmosphere I love. Streams of colour lit the area, the rush of people flooded the streets. A clear night’s sky was a beautiful blue, contrasting to the red on the advert. This was always going to be my spot here in London.
Time was pressing on, a countdown echoed in the back of my mind. ’18:07′ flashed throughout my head, the time of my train. It was half five now.
The tube took me direct to Marylebone, my final destination of the day. I ordered my bbq chicken and cheese bagel, as promised, eating it on a bench to the side of the ticket office. I had also bought a bottle of lemonade and packet of crisps for the journey home. Two items cost me a fifteen minute wait. The cash register seemed to break every couple of minutes, with the cue of people growing by the minute. I was lucky, out at ten to six, I sat and waited for the platform number to be displayed.
A large group of people were hanging around, all waiting for the same train. It was busier now than last time I came down. I was unsure I would get a seat and for an hour and a half long journey, I wasn’t going to let myself suffer. I quite fancied a table too! Being the cheeky little kid I am, I discretely made my way over to one of the platforms early. Preying it would be my train. It was a chance I was willing to make, something which was well paid off. The platform was announced, and the swarm of people headed in my direction from the concourse. I was right by the doors, first pick of the seats. My legs took no more stress, I was relaxed, ready to go home. Slouched in my seat, the luxury from the silverline service comforting my aching body.
It was a day well spent, I was dead chuffed.
I will next be visiting London on the 2nd March, travelling down during the morning peak. It is going to be fun…
When you’re busy studying hard in lesson, on the fifth floor of the college building, it can sometimes be inspiring to gaze out of the floor to ceiling window in the corner of the room just behind me. There is always something going on, but nothing that would usually distract me completely from my coursework – let alone write a post about. Today has been the exception. While I was glancing out of the window, casually chatting with Andrew, we both noticed something different about a building down the road. It is an apartment block, white walls and lots of staggered windows. Nothing unusual yet, until I mention we saw two ninjas walking about the roof.
I’m not even joking.
In fact, we were so shocked by the discovery of these ninjas, we took some photos! Of course, we had considered reasons why these men were on the roof, but nothing was more imaginative than them being ninjas. Of course, the bucket and window cleaning cloth was a give away to their actual reason for being in that situation of, abseiling down the side from the roof of this building.
We were disappointed to see that they had failed ninja school, but glad to see that they put their ninja skills to good use peeping on people in their window cleaning career.
Of course, for those people who are concerned that I was supposed to be writing coursework, I did complete this by the end of the lesson…
Yes, I’m talking about the snow.
Across England in the past week, there has been warnings for snow all over the news. “Where ever you go, be careful of the snow”. Of course, it’s difficult to adhere to the advise when there’s none of the stuff about. Sure it’s been bloody freezing, but we want to see it snow!
And for me, today was the day. It attempted to snow yesterday, failing miserably. In the last few hours, I have gone from being able to see green outside my bedroom window, to walking in a nice blanket of snow covering the ground in a glistening manor.
There is always something quite magical about walking in fresh snow too, especially while it’s still coming down. Now, back in the warmth of my bedroom I sit and stare out of the window. It’s a peaceful scene, picture perfect.
It’s a shame my phone doesn’t have a better camera really, but here’s the view of the front right now. Such beautiful, but so so unpredictable.
Yesterday I briefly mentioned in the ‘Are our priorities in the right place?‘ article that a train had derailed itself and caused chaos for daily commuters between London and the North via the Western Mainline. Today, the repair works on the tracks have been continuing and are said to continue through tomorrow. It’s at times like now that you wish it didn’t snow, especially if you’re one of those commuters on a Monday morning.
Advise is always the same in wintery conditions, for a very good reason. Only go out if necessary and if it can be helped, stay inside. Wrap up warm too, even indoors. The ideal temperature to live in, is between 18 and 22 degrees, so get your thermometers out!