Friday, 12 February 2010

300 miles, 280 pupils, 6 undergrads, and 5 schools in 4 days.

Cumbria is a rather beautiful part of the world. I've been away for four days as part of my Student Ambassador job I hold with university. Basically, we're a team of undergraduates who promote the university (and universities in general) to the public. Not as bad as it sounds actually, there are no cold calls or leafleting or anything, we get to do some quite interesting things.

My favourite aspect of the job is working on the summer schools that the university runs bit I also get to go into secondary schools around the UK and talk to students about university and university life as well as take things like campus tours and work on open days. There were a stack of schools in Cumbria that wanted visiting so a team of six ambassadors and two members of staff were dispatched to set them right.

Highlights included a school that employed two bouncers, some quick rally driving, sampling one awesome nightclub in Carlisle (and a few terrible ones) and a trip to Royston Vasey. No kidding, there was a certain hotel that was literally straight out of a horror movie. You know when somebody walks into a bar and everybody puts their pint down to glare at the non-locals? Check. The overly-joyous-and-so-must-be-hiding-a-dark-secret manager? Check. The mute and miserable waitress? One of those too. It has since come to my attention that this particular pub is one of the roughest in the area. We left and went to Wetherspoons. Now, I like Wetherspoons. I like it like I like McDonalds, its simple and cheap but who cares? It IS cheap after all and if you go expecting anything else you will be disappointed. But how often has the phrase "This hotel is horrible, let's go to Spoons!" been said? How bad is somewhere for a Wetherspoons to not be a step up but a whole fire escape up?

I slept with my penkinfe under my pillow.

On a more serious note the kids there were awesome. Names of kids and schools are obviously off the menu but I was extremely happy to, once again, prove the people who argue that the youth are a bunch of time-wasting, violent yobs wrong. Schoolkids (like all humans) naturally gravitate towards what they find comforting, in this case their friendship groups. I usually go for the group of rowdy lads. I was one of them at school and I'm hardly one to back down from a challenge. I quite enjoy the peacocking, posturing and the politics that groups of boys get involved in on what I am sure is a largely subconscious level. It certainly beats the boring social interactions of girls. Another, female, rep is even better. We call her the alpha-male and she simply rocks out with her cock out when it comes to taming loud boys. I tried to make that not sound dirty but it failed.

I'll say it again (although to the first time on this nascent blog): People who claim kids are inherently bad do no know how to handle kids. The problem lies with you and your poor social and communication skills, not with them. Just for shits and giggles, go back and replace the word 'kids' with whatever you like. 'Blacks', 'Gays' and 'Women' are fun ones. Funny how it's still just as true, isn't it? This attitude really started to piss me off at Beamish, particularly in the school. Every day I'd hear about how bad the youth of today are and every day I would have to defend them. Victimising and scapegoating a group of people is not a great way to make them feel wanted by society. Why are people surprised when someone whom they have turned their back on turns their back on them? 

A middle-aged lady once latched on to me when I was walking from Chester-le-Street station to my parent's house. When I asked her why she was following me she said she wanted to talk to me as she didn't like walking by herself. With a little further pressing it seems she was afraid of everybody under 25 as they are all rapists and muggers. Everybody apart from me, but by this point it was quite clear the woman existed in a constant state of dread so maybe she wasn't thinking straight. She literally just didn't feel safe walking through her hometown without an escort. Most people, on hearing this, would invariably think that she was the victim of some great social injustice where a small minority ruin it for the rest of us. Or perhaps she had been mugged or raped and was understandably worried about a repeat performance. But no, she was just a headcase. "There is nothing to fear but fear itself." If you tell yourself that a place and it's inhabitants are scary then you will be scared, but if you pull your head out your arse and visit some schools and talk to some kids you'll realise that, at worst, they remind you of you.

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