Reading 2014

Oh boy, where to begin? I’m currently curled up with a hot mug of Twining’s English Breakfast Tea (yes this is a recurring theme, no I am not ashamed) and have been pretty much consistently since I rolled into my bed on a very soggy Monday morning; drenched, freezing cold and nursing a sore everything, but having had the best five days of my life. For those that somehow aren’t aware, last weekend was Reading and Leeds Festival and I was lucky enough (I say lucky, but I was the one that slaved away at work for months to be able to afford it) to go to the former, and oh my was it an amazing weekend.

As a first time Reading-goer I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and without a doubt it lived up to the “drink, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” reputation that it has gained itself- perhaps with less of the rock ‘n’ roll with the likes of Disclosure and Vampire Weekend topping the bill of famous faces. But in spite of that (or perhaps as a result of) the whole festival just had such a friendly atmosphere and you could tell that everyone was there for the same reason, apart from maybe the wonderful human outside my tent at 4am whose new friend asked him who he was most excited to see and to which he replied “oh I don’t even know who’s playing, I’m here for the ket”.

For those of us that were actually there for the music, we certainly weren’t disappointed, with my stand-out act being Arctic Monkeys (not really a surprise for anyone who knows me in the slightest)- it was the second time I’ve seen them and I finally got to see them play When The Sun Goes Down live, which pretty much made my year. I’ll probably end up doing some in-depth reviews of particular sets from across the weekend as it is way too much to fit into one post, but my other highlights would have to come from Catfish & The Bottlemen, Cage The Elephant, Foster The People, King Charles and The Kooks, just to name a few.

All in all, despite the gag-inducing toilet stench and complete lack of sleep, comfort or sanitation, it was a weekend I won’t be forgetting quickly- not least thanks to the multitude of illnesses I seem to have returned with that garner no sympathy from my parents on account of being “self-inflicted”. Can’t say I can really argue with that.

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Eton State of Mind

So I’m back. Three weeks later and I’ve returned from possibly the most incredible ten days at what I previously thought to be the most stuck-up and judgmental establishment in the whole of the United Kingdom, but which turned out to be not only full of beautiful red brick buildings and endless traditions, but of inspiring beaks (Etonian slang for teachers) and once in a lifetime opportunities. When my mum and I first drove up to the school, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon and Eton could not have looked more breathtaking.. or more imposing for that matter. One hundred and thirty 17 year old strangers thrown into three larges houses for ten days sounds like the synopsis for a bad television show, but it soon proved to be not only bearable but actually the best experience of my life. Right from the offset, as we all mingled awkwardly drinking our orange squash, I was overwhelmed by how friendly everyone was and also how diverse the group was- there were people from as close as London, as far as Ireland and everywhere in between.

I’m not going to pretend that it was a relaxing ten days in the slightest- with three lessons a day on top of tutorial, lectures, recreation and endless tea breaks, the days were ridiculously long and many nights were spent staying up until 3am finishing that essay or this book. We were of course given some time off, with a barbeque and disco at Dorney Lake, departmental drinks at our teachers’ houses (it was unanimously agreed that the English one was of course the best), a hilarious talent show (called Speeches and based on an old Etonian tradition), and a multitude of sporting events- from netball and dodgeball tournaments to the not-so-convetional Wall Game. On top of that, us English students spent a day in London in order to see Julius Caesar at the Globe Theatre, which was an incredible experience that I’ll definitely be repeating.

The experience I had is a hard thing to describe- hence why I have taken so long to write this post- as the thing that really made it so great was the people and the atmosphere and just the aura of intelligence and interest that surrounded you. The lessons were nothing like those back home, with the idea of geeking out over original Shakespeare texts or Shelley’s diary in Eton’s library being completely normal, and the discussions being so rich and challenging in the best possible way. Being in a room surrounded by people who are just as passionate about the same things as you are is unbeatable and incredibly stimulating- my English teacher said to me that I wouldn’t want to go back to my English lessons at school, and I fear she may have been right.

I honestly can’t recommend applying for this enough for anyone who is considering applying to the likes of Oxbridge and wants to spend an intensive ten days with like-minded individuals. I met some of the most amazing people there who I could go from having deep intellectual discussions with to being in fits of giggles over the stupidest things, and isn’t that really the best kind of friendships to have? The leavers’ dinner ended in plenty of hugs and tears from everyone there- I am honestly not the kind of person to usually get emotional, but even I was a blubbering mess by the time my mum picked me up. That’s what Eton does to you, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.