Sunday, 21 September 2008

[yesterday's laughter]

5th of August was such a long time ago. I haven't blogged for aaages. So this is going to be a bit of a catch-up, until I have the time and the inclination to think of anything else to blog about. Which, knowing me, will be about five minutes after I finish this post. It's thanks to Fiona really that I'm doing this... reminding me that I do have a blog and it is really a good way of telling everyone what's going through my mind without having to see them or talk to everyone individually. Like a kind of mass-mailing, I suppose, like some people do at Christmas. It's subtitled (mainly) for ease of reading, so you can skip to the bits that interest you.

I've discovered that my sense of time is distinctly warped - for me, the year is Methodist. Or Educational... take your pick.
Basically, that means that the new year starts in September. I think that it makes a lot more sense... but there you go. So, just for the record, when I say "Last year" I mean "last METHODIST/SCHOOL year", meaning that July was last year. If you followed that, well done!

I'm feeling a bit left behind at the moment. Everyone seems to have gone to uni. I want to go :( Either they're going back, or going for the first time...
either that or they're all in with the swing of school and everything and I still feel like it's the summer, having just got back from the German Exchange. More on that to come.

Being in Year 13 is rather surreal. I can't believe that I've been in school for 13 years. Well, more than that really, as I went to Nursery from 3 and a half. That means that I've been in education for *counts* um... 14 and a half years. That's 80% of my lifetime! I hope it's paid off...
if AS levels are anything to go by it's been relatively worthwhile. That seems years ago now... as does year 12. Year 13 is just more of the same, except now we're the oldest and the next to go off to uni. As I remarked yesterday - "This time next year I'll either be at uni or packing". Hopefully. Still got 9 months of learning to go yet... And hoping that I remember it all!
I've also decided that whoever invented the Synoptic paper is very evil. Who wants to have to go bak and learn something that was over and done with more than a year ago? It's just silly. Well, I can see the logic in it really, but that's not the point, is it?

Where was I?
Oh yes. The end of the summer that seems like years ago even though it was only last month. Got back from holiday and was promptly told that we were off to Grandma's (a 3 hour drive away) the day after next. Now, this would have been alright but for the fact I spent the day before going through the FURY report with Andy. And most of the Friday as well actually...(a lot happened). Still, I managed to be ready on time, with everything packed, and Tom's stuff done as well. And even half-straightened my hair. I was rather anxious about this trip, as my Grandma, for one, is not the most... sensitive of people. I'd rung her from France to tell her my results (just the grades, mind, not the numbers) so she'd had a few days to get over the initial shock before she saw me. Donning my more confident persona (the jeans, heels and bomber jacket one, for those in the know) Grandma was ... alright, actually. Saturday was their wedding anniversary, so that was alright, and on Sunday we went round to my uncle's for a BBQ. There, my first attempt at a cocktail was born. Don't ask me what was in it, because I can't remember all of it. I just remember that my uncle told me to put a 4:1 fruit juice:alcohol ratio and my Grandma told me to do a 7:1. Hmm. Oh well... I know it had Lemoncello and whiskey in it... it tasted quite nice actually. This was followed by my Grandad being absolutely lovely about me and my further education. I do love him when he says things like that. Of course, being Grandad, he doesn't actually say things like that very often, but you know that they're always implied. But it's nice when they are actually said, especially when it's in front of all of the "adults" (my 25-year-old cousin and his girlfriend were playing inside with the Wii and my brother and 11-year-old cousin). It really does mean a lot, and I'm not sure he knows how much.
All added up, a really lovely evening.
We went back on Monday, and I spent the next few days just generally sorting and washing, til I went shopping with Linda on Thursday. This was a big mistake. Everyone who knows Linda will agree with me when I say that she is lovely and just generally a good friend (because she is), but going shopping with her is not a good idea, especially when you're a size 10/12/14 (depending on the shop and the cut) and she is a definate size 6, very, very, very occaisonally being a size 8. She is ridiculously thin, but soooo sporty and healthy. I mean, there's healthy thin and unhealthy thin, and Linda is most certainly the former. Still, I managed to find some things that I needed for school, which was good, then I went and got my hair cut. I really like it - she finally did what I wanted and didn't just cut it the same way she usually does. So big smiles there!
The dentist on the Saturday was rather amusing, as neither of the children needed anything doing, but both the adults did! Seems like were better at doing as we're told than they are... We also FINALLY got the bathroom flooring sorted.
There's a bit of a history here. We decided aaages ago that our upstairs bathroom needed re-doing as it was about 20 years old. So we sorted it all out, got it all done and fitted and everything, and everything was fine. Thing is, that was when I was still in school uniform, so a good year ago at least. All that time, we had the old carpet still on the floor of the bathroom. So, after much nagging from my Grandma (yes, the same one as mentioned above...) and quite a lot of procrastination (obviously running in the family here) we got it sorted. Mind you, for it to actually get here is another thing...
I went off to London on 2nd September to see Rach (and Aunty Val and [I suppose if Aunty Val is Aunty Val it would be great-uncle] Mike). That was fun. Delays in the bank to start off with (I had to sign something and it took soooo long) and then at the station meant that it was about half ten by the time I got into Paddington, and about 11 or so by the time I got into MCH - that's Methodist Church House. For some reason I decided to walk up to 6th Floor... I have no idea why. Did me good I suppose. Anyway, got to the right floor and found Rach, and we chatted for a while until Aunty Val came back and found me lovely things to do, like tidying :D
When she'd shown me the cupboard and the loft (which was up another floor and then outside and up some more steps) Rach and I deided that we'd better have some lunch before I tackled it. That was nice, and we chatted for most of that!
When I got back we decided that the loft would be best tidied first, as it was the messiest. An afternoon later, there was one rather dusty Emma, about nine piles of (sorted) rubbish, two piles of stuff to take downstairs and a rather tidy and sorted MAYC part of loft! I went downstairs and distributed cake to those worthy (aka those in the office) and watched the DYE video (it was good). Rach and I then went back to her hotel place via my work experience place, which had come on quite a way, then we went to Paddington so I could go back to Maidenhead. Wednesday and Thursday involved going through Claire/Zoe/Gerty's wardrobe and then coming back to mine and sorting mine out. We chucked out quite a lot. Well, gave it to Charity Shops. After sorting out the Creative Writing board in school (it looks really cool now) we went shopping in Reading, and I discovered a very important and useful bit of information:
Prime Primark Shopping time is about 2pm on a Thursday in September.
Of course, that's only good if you don't have school and can do all of your Primark shopping in no more than an hour. Now that they've joined the Ethical Trading group thingy I don't feel bad about shopping there either.
Friday was back to school, then a gig involving [dweeb] and electrolyte on Saturday evening. That was good (other than the small matter with Victoria, but as she assures me that wasn't intentional I'll forgive her) then back to school on Monday for a week.
It's amazing how easy it is to get back into the swing of things, what with Panto rehearsals, bible study, meetings and Anchor Boys.

German Exchange
Which brings me to Friday. Friday, the most exciting day of the week. Well, it's one way of putting it I suppose.
I'd finally packed for the German Exchange and gone down for tea, when the phone rang. It was my German teacher (well, the Newlands one), Mrs Smith, saying that the Exchange was off due to problems with insurance.
Now, for those of you who don't know too much about the Exchange, let me fill you in a bit on what's happened before and what was happening this time.
Basically, the two single-sex schools in Maidenhead (that's Newlands, the girls' school, and Desborough, the boys' school) do an Exchange with the Gesamtschule-Sued (Comprehensive school south) in Duisburg. The German Exhange is open to those studying German from Year 10 to Year 12 (but we weren't offered it in Year 10) and the Chemistry Exchange (which goes on different trips) is for Chemistry students in Year 13. I've been on the exchange since year 11. The first year was the regular exchange, where you arrive on the Saturday, spend the weekend with the families, go into school with your Partner on the Monday, then we did Duesseldorf on the Tuesday, follwed by Koeln (sorry, Cologne) on the Wednesday, school again on the Thursday (complete with German/English sporting competitions - Football [which we lost] and Basketball [which we won]) and Oberhausen (complete with Sealife and the biggest covered shopping centre in Europe apparently) on the Friday - that's with us coming back on the Saturday. That's what you do in Years 10 and 11 - but it changes around and now they do something like GoApe on the Oberhausen day. By Year 12 this gets a bit boring, so you get to do Work Experience in a Grundschule - a primary school. It's only for 4 days and you join in with the others on the Friday - added to this it's only 8 til 1, and you get to help with the little kids in their English lessons. The idea is that you're basically on your own in Germany, but it's not too bad - taking out all the little kids gabbling German at you like you're a native speaker. No, really it's good, and it's great for them to have an English person in their lessons - it brings the language alive. So, that's what I did last year, and on the Friday I went with the Chemistry Exchange (Year 13) instead of the Year 10s and 11s, which was nice, and of course meant that as soon as I got back I was persuading Miss Nicholls to let me go on the Chemistry Exchange this year.
After much persuading she finally agreed. Suffice to say I was over the moon - before then it had been a Desborough-only affair. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough interest from the Desborough Chemists (I have no idea why!) and there was some sort of dispute as to who would lead it, as Dr Couch - the previsou leader - had retired. The upshot of it all was that the Chemistry Exchange wouldnt go ahead. This was devastating news for me - obviously, as after all the effort I'd gone to to get on it was all for nothing! However, after a chat with my parents and Mrs Smith, we decided that I'd try to get Work Experience there instead. This was left in the very capable hands of Herr Ferber, the teacher from Germany who is head of the Exchange over there. He managed, by some miracle, to get me a placement at HKM - Huettenwerke Krupps Mannschaft - one of the main steelworks in Duisburg (which is the second-largest steel producer in the world). I think he likes me :) and my speech last year probably didn't do any harm. In fact I know it didnt, after what he said on Friday. Still, to that later.
So, I was off to do Work Experience in HKM. HUUUUGE smiles all round - this was amazing! How many other students could possibly say that they've done work experience in a relevant field in a different country in a foreign language?? This would make my Personal Statement AMAZING. In it went. The main embodiment behind it all - this amazing work experience that solidified all of my thoughts and dreams behind my otherwise random degree choice.
So, we're up to the phone call on Friday, with Mrs Smith saying that the Exchange wouldn't go ahead. Yes, I was gutted. That might be a bit of an understatement actually. And I was so angry! I was amazed at how angry I was - I could barely type!! After sharing some of this anger and disappointment etc etc etc with a few people I felt slightly better, and decided to stay up disspelling this anger til about half eleven or so. I had been going to go to bed early, as we would have had to be at Heathrow (about half an hour's drive away) at 5:45am latest. I woke up at 12:40 hearing my dad on the phone - the Exchange was back on! :D
Now, I am sad enough (as some people would say) to be really rather excited. I was like a small child at Christmas, but unlike small children, I couldn't get back to sleep, so I wasn't too annoyed when someone (not mentioning any names here :P) rang me at half two. I'd just dropped off to sleep when my alarm woke me up at four.
We managed to get to the airport fine, as did everyone else (if a few were a little late) and finally arrived in Duesseldorf, took the "Sky train" to the Flughafen Bahnhof (Airport railway station) and then proceeded to go up and down the travelator thingys 7 times trying to find the right platform, even though I TOLD them it was platform 5 right at the start! (that's down to platform 6, up and down to 5, up and down to 6, repeat, down to 5)
We were met by our families (mine was a girl called Alex) and went off. We went for a walk in the afternoon and then to a birthday party, which was good, even though I was slightly tired.
Sunday was sleeeeep and then off to the Aquazoo in Duesseldorf. We went to the pub for lunch and left at about 4, then I did Maths while Alex cleared out her Rabbit and Guinea Pig hutches.
On Monday, I started my Work Experience. Having to get up at twenty to six (english time - twenty to seven in Germany- I'll use German times from now on) while not quite having recovered from Friday/Saturday nights did nothing for me. We left at 7:20 to get to HKM for 8, then spent most of the day (from about 9:30 til 3) in the Kokerei. I must apologise for the amount of German that has been and will be in this blog - I'm still half-thinking in it. Kokerei = Coke Plant, which is basically coal, for those who don't remember Year 9 or 10 Chemistry/don't speak German. That was really cool, as I got a private tour of the whole ting, got to climb up half the buildings and see the control room. Of course, it was all in German but I got the gist of what they were saying. Roughly. It got better. One of the people who was showing me round was a Chemical Engineer, so that was rather good. Not that I actually asked her anything, mind, as I couldn't think of anything at the time. Typically, as soon as I got home I thought of a thousand things, so I'll have to write.
On Tuesday I was working with Frau Demski and the man in the same office-y bit as her. I only know that his first name was Wolfgang. Anyway, they showed me how they deal with air pollution. Wolfgang showed me the computer programs and how they detected it (laser grid) and Frau Demski showed me all of the paper work they had to do! After HKM we went to a JuGo (Jugend Gottesdienst - Youth Service) which was quite good, if strange.
Wednesday I was with Herr Hellermann (who was rather cute, I must admit) and he talked about all the different kinds of waste that you can get on-site. There were two main kinds - Nebenprodukte (waste produced by the processes) and Unnebenprodukte (the waste which wasn't produced by the Chemical Processes - like Paper). Nebenprodukte were all dealt with within the plant, so that was no problem. The others were taken to a large warehouse on-site and sorted, and, as the Germans are very efficient consciencious recycling people, recycled if possible and burnt if not. I got to go out on-site to see the warehouse and some of the rubble that had tar on it so had to be contained... it was a lot more interesting than I am making this sound!
In the afternoon I had a tour with a group of Stuttgart students. That was quite interesting, as we got to see the molten Iron being poured from the Hochofen (Blast Furnace) carrier things, the smaller of which weighed more than 200 t when full. We also got to see the Stahlwerke (Steel works) which was where the iron was put into a Konverter (pretty self-explanatory there) and, with added Koks (Coke) and Sinter, made into Steel. It was very clever, the way the Steel and the Schlake (Slag) were separated. The steel is then cast continuously and left to cool.
We went to the Innenhafen (Inner harbour) afterwards for about an hour, then went back home. Thursday was my last work experience day and I spent most of that with H. Hellermann, after our meeting with H. Dr. Kalina (Head of Department) and H. Pohl (who had been looking after me), H. Ferber and Mrs Smith. H. Hellermann and I talked about Staub (dust) which is actually vey important, would you believe. It was good. I said Tschues (Bye) to everyone, recieved lots of warm wishes for a successful future and degree course etc etc etc and even an informal job offer for when I've finished my degree!
Was good. Friday was a rather hyper day with Sophie and Kayleigh... as can be seen from the photos on Facebook. I think that the bin would make a good lover for you, Sophie.

So I'm finally back. Well, I say "finally". I loved it of course, as everyone knew I would. Even the 4:30am meet at the station, but the coming back says it all.
My dad and I talked about: his cold ("I have a cold" "Awww no poor you") my suitcase ("I don't like pulling it because it rips my jeans" "I'll have to get you a new one then" "No, it's fine, the screw just needs tightening") and my brother ("we'll be back to see Tom then" "Mmm") on the way to the car, and the weather ("It's been quite nice here" "It was cloudy in Germany, but it didn't rain") for all of two minutes in the car coming back with my dad. Other than that, silence. Having got in at 8:30am, Mum and I went up to Church at 9:15 and then to the Butcher's before going shopping from about 10:30 til 4 in Reading and then going off to look at a car, whihc I decided I rather liked. Of course, I wouldn't be allowed to drive it... but that's not the point.

Now it's back to work... starting off nice and easy with a Chemistry Test first thing tomorrow, Physics, Mechanics, Maths then Further Maths for an hour after school, followed by a DofE meeting at 5 and Drama rehearsals at 7. No lie in for 6 weeks at least...


But we all know I love it really :)

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