Taking out the Trash

There’s something pretty satisfying about clearing out junk you’ve accumulated over a length of time and cleaning everywhere up. Well, that’s the situation I’m in at the moment. I’ve been tidying, cleaning and sorting the rubbish out in my room for a couple of days now in preparation for leaving for home today.

My bags are mostly packed, and so now I sit in wait for my family to arrive. They’re a good bunch… I managed to get them to come up here to bring me home. I’d never have got all this stuff on the train in the first place, so I suppose it wasn’t difficult convincing them…

The other bonus of this is that while they’re here I can get them to go the rubbish tip. At last… we will truly be able to get rid of all the trash left behind by the Evil housemate. And there’s a lot of it. So many boxes. So much plastic. So many irons. And an ironing board. Not to mention a steering wheel for a PS2 which we don’t know what to do with. Bin it, sell it, or give it to a charity shop? But the rest of it is unusable. At the very least though, it means the house will finally be cleared of this messy legacy, and when I come back in September it should be a pretty nice place to live.

That’s assuming my housemates keep things clean and tidy while I’m away. I’m very concerned that no one will both putting some bleach down the toilet every week or so. I don’t want to have to clean another seriously manky toilet again. The one I did a few days ago was bad enough!

I think the nerves are starting to build. This time next week I should be at Heathrow, preparing to fly out. I’m really looking forward to it, but I’m still doubting my own ability as to whether I’ll really be able to cope. This will be the biggest venture into the unknown I’ve ever done. It far surpasses starting University – which was terribly nerve wracking in itself. But this could be difficult…

Either way, it’s something new. I could really do with some of that right now. This will be my last day in Hull until September. Much as I’ve grown to love the place, I don’t think I’ll miss it. Too many bad memories. Hopefully I can wipe those clean and start afresh next academic year. Ack. A second year I’ll be. I liked being a freshman.

I’ll be blogging by e-mail for the next few months. Hopefully. It works fine, so my rantings should appear as normal.

Wish me luck.

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Looking Ahead

Today is my last day of solitude. I’ve been on my own in this house since Sunday when one of my housemates left for the summer. The other housemate went away on Thursday but is returning tonight. It’s all so convenient the way people seem to disappear when it comes to the time the house has to be cleaned. The housemate who has left for the summer has hardly lifted a finger all year. Once he cleaned the bath, and he’s hoovered the living room a couple of times… and it’s mainly because he never seems to be here when it comes round to doing the big jobs.

And one of the big jobs came a couple of days ago when I had to clean the upstairs toilet. I suspect it hadn’t been cleaned for a year… and this is the toilet the Evil housemates and his girlfriend had been using all this time. It was a nasty job… but it’s remarkable what a bit of bleach can do. It’s almost useable now. I say almost because when it rains things tend to get a bit wet in there thanks to the dodgy, rotting windows. Good job there’s another toilet downstairs…

But the legacy of the Enemy lives on. I can’t remember if I mentioned he left tonnes of rubbish behind. Well… today the bins were emptied, and no sooner was it taken away it was filled up again with the final few bags of his rubbish. We’re nearly through it now, but we still have the question of what to do with his two irons which don’t work (why anyone needs two irons I don’t know), his coffee machine which stinks to high heaven, his microwave which is filthy and a lot of weights under his bed. We can’t put them in the bin because they’d break the bin lorry when they come round to collect it, and neither can we take them to a rubbish tip because we don’t have any transport. This is one we’re going to have to think about.

In the past couple of days though I have cleaned up both the Enemy’s room and his Lackey. They are beginning to lose the smells they developed – at last. I doubt it will ever go, but it’s fading. Both rooms are now habitable again. I’m pretty impressed with the job I’ve done! I’ll need to start thinking of them as the rooms of my new housemates soon. They’re going to be moving in over the summer.

Meanwhile, I’m starting to get nervous. My passport and visa have returned from the US embassy, and my flight is a week on Saturday. I still can’t believe this is happening. There is a lot of stuff I need to buy, which is unfortunately going to increase the amount this whole business has cost me even more. I’m going home this Saturday for good and I won’t be returning to Hull until late August with a bit of luck.

I’m sure it’ll be great. My friends are all trying to get jobs for the summer, and I can’t help but feel a bit smug that I’m out of that whole loop as they trawl around McDonalds, B&Q, Subway and the endless other retail employers around here looking for work. My summer is already planned. I’m looking forward to it.

Free At Last

I meant to make this post yesterday but I’ve been enjoying my freedom so much that I was just too distracted. My last exam has come and gone, and suddenly the world seems so much brighter. Exams are the bane of my life, and of any student’s life. I’ve been having exam sessions twice a year now since 1997 – 8 years of studying, preparing and taking exams. In theory I only have three more years of this to go. It’s weird that you end up taking exams as entirely an ordinary part of existence. It might even have some slight depressing factor when they’re all over in 2008. No. I lied. That’s a stupid thing to say!

It went better than I thought it would. In fact, I managed to write the most I ever have in two hours… over 11 sides of sheer bollocks on the death of liberal democracy and how voters are not as loyal as they used to be. I say sheer bollocks, because to the casual non-political observer, that’s what it would look like. Very dull, but still, it should help me to pass. That’s all I’m after for that module. Just as long as I don’t have to resit anything this year, I’ll be happy.

Once the exam was over, it meant I had to start form filling for my trip to the US Embassy on Tuesday. It took much longer than I thought, mainly because I kept making stupid mistakes because I wasn’t reading that they wanted dates in American mm-dd-yyyy rather than the European dd-mm-yyyy. I’ve never understood why the American’s put the month first. Months are irrelevant. The year could be divided up into so many other different ways, so why make it look as if the month is the most important?

Anyway… I ended up getting about five hours sleep before I had to get up at 5am on Tuesday. I didn’t sleep very well because I was dreading what was to come. I hate central London. I’ve been there a few times in the past and it’s a very bleak place. From London King’s Cross I took a long walk to the office of the company organising my summer, and then on from there to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. It was amazing… you would never have thought it was the US Embassy because there were no flags in very obvious positions on the building. Yet, the concrete blocks and barricades all around as well as police with guns were a dead giveaway. A shame we’re in a society like this.

I queued just to join the queues inside. Over zealous security guards were everywhere, even asking why I don’t look more like my passport photo. It’s a question I’ve wondered too… it was only taken this time last year, and yet I look strangely different. I blame it on the photo booth, naturally.

Once through all the security I was assigned a number and took a seat in a very big room with dozens of other people. A computerised system called out numbers in a corny American accent every minute as people were called up first to hand in their documents, and next to have a small chat with an Embassy official.

I was there for about three hours. Three hours of mind numbing tedium. There was one guy who I spoke to for some of it, which thankfully helped pass the time, but for most I had to sit there reading the same articles in the newspaper that I’d bought earlier and already read on the train. Then there was the fact that I was starving. I got in there about 1pm, having had nothing to eat bar some chocolate biscuits and crisps I’d brought with me since 5am. I was eventually forced to pay shocking 75p for some more crisps and a more reasonable £1 for a bottle of water.

It seemed an age before number 421 was called. The first time I went up to get my fingers scanned, I was nervous and so my hands were quite sweaty. This meant my first attempts at scanning were a failure. Then the second time was wrong because I pressed too hard. Then the third time because my finger was not far enough forward. Eventually I got it right… but then when I had to come back two hours later so they could “compare” the scans, I had to have three goes again before I was asked a few questions about where I was going. Three hours waiting finished in this one-minute chat with an official who told me to “have a great summer”.

Hooray. I could now go home. By now I was wasting away through lack of food, and the chocolate biscuits were starting to make me sick. It took me a combined 35 minutes to get from King’s Cross to the US embassy on the way there, but the way back took me just over an hour, mainly because I slowly drifted down Oxford Street and then got lost trying to find the way back. The lack of sleep was beginning to catch up with me, and I could feel a blister forming on my foot.

I had anticipated coming out of the Embassy about 4pm, as I had booked a train ticket for 5:20pm. Instead, I finished at about 3pm, so I had to kill off a lot of time waiting. That gave me an opportunity to get something to eat. I find it impossible to make a decision about which of the hundreds of food shops I passed to go into. There must have been about six Subways just along Oxford Street alone. Being a vegetarian (not sure if I’ve ever mentioned that) my choice is limited. I eventually settled for a Burger King Veggie Burger… which was nice, but set me back a whopping (no pun intended) £2.79.

This was the first time I’d ever been to London on my own. The other few times I’d been with other people… so this was an exciting venture. On the whole it paid off. It was a nice day out and wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. London has been pretty depressing every time I’ve been to it, but this time Oxford Street was a little more welcoming. I can’t really explain why. People just seemed to be a little more smiley than usual. Normally everyone thunders down the street in a permanent rush to get to places. Maybe I missed all the office rushes and so didn’t get to see the Miserable People In Suits. Just a lot of tourists instead.

When I finally got back home at 8:30pm, it felt like a job well done. There’s nothing left to get in the way of my summer now. I’m going home next Saturday, and from there I’ll be getting things ready before the flight the following week.

So things are now definitely on the up. I’m happy for now, but I know the nerves will start to kick in soon. It’s now finally settling in what I’m actually going to be doing this summer. Before all the exams I just couldn’t think about it because it was such a distraction. But now it feels imminent.

My first year of Uni is officially over. I suppose I’ll have to analyse that soon. Maybe I will when I get round to the Youth Review. Coming “Soon”!

Tedium

It’s been a very difficult few days. I’ve found it very hard to concentrate on the revision I should be doing for this final exam tomorrow afternoon. The work is just too boring, and I don’t feel like it’s sinking in the way other exams have. Of course, it won’t anyway if I’m sitting here at a computer so I should pull myself away from it soon.

The past couple of days have been a roaring success, as it were. Both Hated Housemates have now officially left, but they could still have a key. That is bad, as we don’t want them just turning up out of the blue again. In any case, they both left several binbags full of rubbish, as well as presents in the shape of dirty t-shirts, unwashed towels and even underwear. All of which were handled with tongs, placed in a funeral pyre in the back yard and burnt to a cinder.

It was a good fire, I must admit. It was great to see all of the Evil Housemates notes go up in smoke. These must have been from when he went to lectures in the first semester… but they are now no more. All his hard work is gone, and the house still smells of smoke this morning. Good job our landlord ensures our safety by breaking all of our smoke alarms…

There was a small catastrophe though in that we have managed to melt one of the pipes (stupid plastic) through which water from the downstairs shower drains. This is a problem as now the yard is full of water, which will only add to the severe damp issue this house already has. I need to research if I can buy a new pipe to replace what we’ve broken. I don’t want to have to report this because if I do I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep a straight face while I blame the Evil Housemate for it.

Roll on Wednesday, when the exam and the US embassy visit – which I’m worried about, simply because of how long and boring the day is going to be for me – will be all over and I can start preparing for the summer. It’s still a distraction, and I need to put it out of my head.

Better get to work…

Still Good

Things seem to be moving ahead at their own pace at the moment. Saturday morning, shortly after I wrote my last post, I received a letter from CCUSA that I have been placed at a camp in Colorado. It’s a private, independent camp (with prices to match) and the income bracket of the campers according to the placement details is “medium to high”. Not quite where I was expecting to be placed. I was hoping to be somewhere in the North East – mainly just because it’s slightly cooler up there, but now I’ve looked into this camp it actually looks pretty damn good.

Unfortunately, this placement has come through a pretty bad time. I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it, especially since I had to go to the orientation day on Tuesday which was not very enlightening. It was something of a distraction as I tried to revise for my exam on Wednesday, which went pretty well apart from a stupid exam invigilator who thought it would be funny to play with his mobile during the exam.

After it, I went to collect my essay for this module… and was very pleased to have scored my first First. 73% is pretty damn good for politics at University. I’d like to say it’s the first of many Firsts, but judging by the other marks I’ve been getting, it’s not something I should be aiming at as I’ll only end up disappointed. But I was very happy, nevertheless. Things just seem to be going nicely.

The other bonus that happened yesterday was that Evil Housemate returned to collect the rest of his stuff. It was almost expected… we had been anticipating him coming back on Thursday, so we’d cleared the house of all the masks of his face we made. One day early was even better, because we were expecting him to come back with the other Stupid housemate who is returning today to collect his stuff. If they’d encountered each other I’m sure they would have decided to make a night of it. We’ve been spared that fate.

Evil Housemate packed and left, leaving behind a lot of decent stuff. We’ve now acquired a whiteboard, a snooker cue, two irons (why does anyone need two irons?!), an ironing board, a small 10″ TV and a set of weights. Plus seven binbags of rubbish just from tidying up his room. Well, actually his girlfriend tidied up the room while he pretended to be all friendly with us.

So things are progressing nicely. My last exam is on Monday, and then it’s the US Visa interview on Tuesday. After that, it’s a long steady ride to the 4th of June, when I am flying out to the USA. I’ll be there until at least 22nd August, but the good news is that I do have access to e-mail while at camp. I’ll be able to blog-by-email to keep this thing up to date.

I’m excited at the moment, but as the day gets closer I’m going to end up very nervous. I’ve e-mailed the camp to find out more details, so I should know more soon.

Still haven’t started the Youth Review. I’m one hell of a procrastinator. Maybe tomorrow.

Recovery

It’s been a fun packed and exciting week. Of course, as a politics student, I would be failing in my duty if I hadn’t had an interest in the General Election and the results as they came in over Thursday night. It was all good fun. Naturally, I do have an interest in politics but I mostly try to avoid it on this blog as it’s not that type of thing.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the election. I stayed up till about 6:30am on Friday morning to watch the results develop, and it was very interesting to see. I watched both the 1997 and the 2001 elections almost all the way through the night as well, and I found those genuinely interesting despite being only 11 and 15 at the time (plus I had an RE exam the next day when I was 15…).

I managed to get four hours sleep before returning to check out the final closing developments of the election. As such, Friday was an interesting day in my battle to stay awake. I managed to get to 10pm, and this morning I feel I’ve almost fixed my sleep pattern. But it was worth it.

My two exams this week went reasonably well. My first exam for politics was OK, and the second exam for maths was surprisingly good. I’m happy about it so far. I have two left now, and the schedule for them probably couldn’t work out better. I was very concerned I was going to get an exam on the 6th, which would stop me staying up all night to watch the election, but I have been very lucky.

Next Tuesday I have the “pre-departure meeting” for Camp America in Leeds. I can’t believe how close to going to America this is all getting now, but I don’t want to think about it before my last exam. It’ll only make me nervous. It’s a shame it is the day before my third exam on the Wednesday, but at least they don’t clash. I’m not quite sure what it’s for, but it’s going to cost me another £15 for the train ticket anyway.

Meanwhile, in this house, the final disliked-housemate seems to be preparing to leave altogether. I honestly thought he had left yesterday after his parents came in their car, loaded it up and then disappeared at about 1pm. However, either I was having a very vivid dream, or he turned up at midnight last night and made a lot of noise.

A shame. I’m sick of their long and protracted periods of “goodbye” they seem to enjoy. Just go! I’m still expecting the Evil Housemate to return some time soon, because there’s so much stuff he’s left behind in his room. But I hope he doesn’t, because there are a lot of games and DVDs that I can sell on eBay…

I still haven’t started the Youth Review. I will soon…

Exam Season

Tomorrow I have the first of my exams. I’ve been revising pretty well the last week, and I’m much more confident about them now than I was a few days ago. But I still need to use today to the full to make sure I cram in as much as possible. I have four exams coming up, with the final one on May 16th. On the 17th I have a trip to London to the US Embassy prepared, where I have to have an interview with officials to prove I am intending to return to the UK after my summer in the USA.

The past couple of days have been good. The other housemate of mine who I didn’t like seems to have left for good. As a consequence, the house is now finally free. To celebrate, my friends and I cooked a celebratory pasta bake using all ingredients left behind by the Evil Housemate who left some weeks ago. It was made all the nicer to know that I hadn’t paid for any of it.

The icing on the cake came when I printed out several copies of a picture of the Evil Housemate. Before he left, he was foolish enough to leave his NUS card lying around – on which is quite possibly the worst passport photo I have ever seen. I scanned it in at ultra high resolution, and it just so happens to print out beautifully on a sheet of A4 paper.

There are now seven Masks of the Evil Housemate. They got stuck to cereal boxes and cut out, and they are now lovingly adorned all over the house. More will be produced and stuck around the University and other places when we eat enough cereal to get more boxes to stick them on. Elastic bands can be stuck on so they can be worn, and there was something satisfying about putting a pencil through the eyes on the card so that you can see through it when it’s worn.

Of course, when I was doing all this, I should have been revising. In fact, I probably should be revising now.

Roll on Thursday. Not only are these two exams out the way, but I’m looking forward to voting…