Big Bangs…

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Anyone who’s ever met me knows full well I don’t like fireworks, but in an attempt to push my own boundaries I decided to put aside my anxieties over large crowds, big bangs and a morbid fear of being in a close proximity to fire, and attend the annual fireworks display at the university where I work.

I have to admit that the atmosphere on campus was quite exciting and the fact it was after dark simply ramped up the intensity. There were plenty of stalls, all lit up, in one of the main squares, and queues for hot food were growing longer by the minute. Hundreds of staff and students were already on a slope enjoying the DJs and live music on the floodlit stage and before long the university’s own fire display team were hard at work thrilling (and terrifying) the onlookers.

Despite my reservations, it was impossible not to get caught up in all the excitement when the first rocket launched high into the sky, although the racket it made when it exploded shook my insides. Apparently, it’s impossible to put both fingers in your ears when taking photos, so I just had to embrace temporary deafness and enjoy the pretty colours in the sky.

I returned home cold and stinking of smoke, but I’m proud of myself for stepping so far out of my comfort zone and I have to admit that I actually enjoyed it. Time to find out what else I can do when I put my mind to it…

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Liquid Lunch…

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The University where I work was recently awarded a Gold award for teaching the same day as a Gold rating in learning, so along with various other celebrations on campus there was an invite extended to all staff and students to attend a thank-you event in a woodland marquee. Obviously, never one to turn down a freebie, I booked my Golden ticket and spent my Monday lunch-break rubbing shoulders with the Vice Chancellor and various other senior management and department heads, as you do!

With the sun beating down and several hundred people crammed inside, it quickly turned into a sauna, so knocking back liquid was the only way to keep hydrated. Partaking of Prosecco in a posh tent certainly beats scoffing a couple of cheese spread sarnies with a coffee at my desk, although booze at lunchtime probably wasn’t the best way to ensure that anything remotely productive happened in my office after 2pm. Hmm.. I can see a theme emerging…

Meerkat Monday…

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When you work at a large University campus, there’s always something new and exciting happening, and today was no exception. In order to give the students something else to focus on during the main exam period, the Student Union had arranged for one of the outdoor spaces to host a Petting Zoo. This proved to be extremely popular, not only with the students but with staff too.

Little did I know that when I left home early this morning I’d be spending my lunch break surrounded by chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, a tortoise, a dog and….. meerkats! I may be just an office administrator, working a regular 9 to 5 job, but life’s certainly never dull  – and it’s only Monday. Goodness knows what Tuesday will bring…!

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Fact Finding…

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When you work in a multi-cultural environment, some of the people you spend time with will probably be Muslim. I admit that I know absolutely nothing about Islam, other than all the negative press regarding terrorism and so on, which is why I decided to attend an awareness event put on by Islamic students at the local university.

Admittedly, I was a little wary beforehand, but within minutes I’d been put at ease by the kindness and courtesy shown to me by those running the information stands. Not once did I feel pushed into doing, thinking or reading anything, and I was able to wander around taking it all in at my own pace. I was offered (and I accepted) a free cup of mint tea, which tasted lovely, and I had my name written in Arabic as a little memento. I came away with a few pamphlets and a book which I can read in my own time, should I choose to do so.

I have no political agenda regarding the whole ‘Muslim debate’ nor do I feel the urge to ‘convert’; this was simply my own personal desire to find out some of the facts for myself, rather than relying on other people’s uninformed opinions, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Hopefully, the small amount of knowledge I gained today will make me a more understanding and accepting human being, which in this day and age is no bad thing…

Experimenting…

screamIn order to earn some ‘pocket money’ I’ve been undertaking paid experiments at my local University for their psychology students. When I first started doing this I simply wanted to make some easy cash-in-hand, but I have to say that there’s far more to be gained than a few extra quid in your purse; you meet a truly eclectic mixture of oddballs and you get to do some bizarre (and often fascinating) things.

So far I’ve watched and reviewed video clips, worn a swimming cap with wires sticking out to track my brain-waves, been involved in the initial stages of creating a brand new video game, tried to count coloured spots on a screen whilst wearing 3D glasses, and much more.

Some tasks have been a little tedious, admittedly, but most have been enjoyable and a few have been absolutely hilarious. My reward for being introduced to these ‘mad young scientists’, and being part of their weird and wonderful experiments; along with a very favourable exchange rate; is that I now have a nice big wad of euros to take to Lanzarote. Carry On Professor…!

Happy Campus…

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I’d maintained loose links with my local university ever since I graduated back in 2008, but now I’m happily single I’ve re-connected with campus and it’s given me some really positive new experiences. During 2014 I took part in numerous paid experiments for psychology students; as you might imagine, I’ve participated in some extremely bizarre and amusing tests! The extensive grounds are a haven for wildlife and it’s been a joy to wander around with my Nikon Coolpix snapping flora and fauna around the lakes and woodland and I even joined the gym!

Today was another first for me – I attended the Student Union Carnival to celebrate One World Week. Mother Nature treated us to near-perfect blue skies and glorious sunshine while the performers delighted onlookers with an array of dancing from around the world, juggling displays and a variety of multicultural food and drink stalls. Flags were flying all around the square and everyone was smiling and clapping along to the beats. It might not have been in quite the same league as Rio, but it was fabulous.