Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Over half term I went on a visit to London and on Tuesday 28th October I had the privilege of seeing the new memorial of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London which honours the sacrifice of British and Commonwealth soldiers in the First World War. In total there are 888,246 handmade poppies which blanket the Tower’s moat in a sea of red.

Some of the poppies that make up the display at the Tower of London.

Some of the poppies that make up the display at the Tower of London.

The installation started on August 5th earlier this year when the first of the poppies were planted. Since then more and more poppies have been planted by volunteers and some members of the royal family. The last poppy will be planted on 11th November in line with Remembrance Day.

Each poppy was handmade from clay by volunteers.

Each poppy was handmade from clay by volunteers.

Each and every one of the poppies was up for sale for twenty-five pounds. They have all now been sold raising over £22 million. The money will be shared between six charities which help and support ex-servicemen and honour the great sacrifice made by members of the armed forces both past and present.

The six charities that will receive the money raised by the sale of the poppies include The Royal British Legion and Help For Heroes.

The six charities that will receive the money raised by the sale of the poppies include The Royal British Legion and Help For Heroes.

When I visited the poppies the sheer number of people was truly astounding. Thousands of people were lining the walls and fences above the moat taking pictures taking in the sheer size and scale of the thing. You had to wait for others to move and slowly shuffle your way to the front as otherwise your view would be obstructed by people.

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Thousands of people came out to see the poppies on my visit and surely thousands more will by November the 11th.

The poppies were a truly breathtaking sight. A wonderful idea to remember and respect those who gave their lives on the field of battle and something I will never forget. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

For more information about the installation, visit the website here

London: A Capital City We Should Be Proud Of

If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be? Spain? Italy? France? Well whatever your chosen place is, I’d guess quite confidently that it isn’t London. After spending three days there myself, I can’t help but wonder why that is.

Although it may not have the main selling points that other places across the globe have – like warm weather for example – it certainly offers enough to make me proud to be English.

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Top 10 Tips for People Learning To Drive

I’m now 17 years old; this means I can’t drink, I can’t smoke, I can’t go to a nightclub, I can’t watch 18 certificate movies – well at least not legally. But there is one thing I am allowed to do. I can drive a car.

However, sadly I cannot just get in a car and drive off at 100mph into the sunset. No, apparently, first you need these things called “lessons”.

So I started taking driving lessons around a month ago and so far it’s going rather well. By “rather well” I mean I haven’t crashed into any trees yet, or killed any pedestrians, or even driven it off of a cliff for that matter.

I’ve successfully overcome the peril of roundabouts, picked up a lot of advice from my instructor and parents and overall learnt a lot about the world of driving.

So why are so many of my fellow 16/17-year-old friends either petrified of getting behind the driver’s seat or so eager that they start drooling every time I mention that I have a lesson the next day? It’s hard to say, but – after a whole 6 weeks of driving experience – here are my tips for both the petrified and the eager.

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City Review: Paris

My recent tearaway trip to the enigmatic city of Paris, with my older (but no more world-wise) sister seemed to the both of us as the height of sophistication. The fact that we succeeded in booking the entire enterprise ourselves; designing a dynamic enough itinerary to allow us to explore the whole city in the few short days we had available to us, making sure that our transport in and out of the country ran smoothly and keeping ourselves fed and sheltered throughout the duration of the trip, was surely a testament to our new found maturity and superb skills of organisation and budgeting. In fact, it more likely represents the growing ease of foreign travel in modern times, where cultures are becoming increasingly accessible and marketed, due to a burgeoning trend of tolerance and exploration.

The interactive nature of Paris was made very clear by the proliferation of beautiful street art, with the scrawling graffiti of most cities replaced with intricate and imaginative images.

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The Twinkies of Wrath-The Modern Day American Dream

As American confectionery company ‘Hostess’ faces financial troubles I am reminded of all the cultural significance of their most popular product, highlighted rather well here. U.S TV and film exposes us to a number of their exclusive products; I’ve long been intrigued by Taco Bell, Corn Dogs* and Captain Crunch. But it was the Twinkie that most captivated me, that cream-filled, tubular, golden cake that came up again and again. If the Ghostbusters, Peter Griffin, Woody Harrelson, Homer Simpson and the kid from the Iron Giant all recommend them how could they not be God’s greatest gift to man? Alas, false promises! Let me tell you my tragic story. Continue reading

‘Seek High Ground Immediately’

Railay, a spectacularly beautiful peninsula on the Thai coast of Krabi, the landscape currently untouched by tourism and unwelcome to motor vehicles is host to some of the country’s best climbing locations. Recommended by an ex-inhabitant met in Bangkok, myself and the other three teenagers I was travelling with were overwhelmed by Railay’s incomparable serenity and beauty- A welcome change from the bustle of Bangkok and boozers of Ko Phangan.

It is impossible not to notice the number of ‘Tsunami Escape Route’ signs that almost ruin the authentic landscape but the destruction left from six years ago refusing to bury its head made it clear they were obviously necessary. It definitely made us think. Not, about experiencing a Tsunami ourselves, that was for two hours later that day, but, about the lives uprooted and ruined, the remnants still viewable amongst the construction that still blight the community’s bays.

Exhausted and excited for our food we laughed off the comments of the seemingly dismal restaurant owner: ‘’Tsunami coming this way’’ he commented occasionally. We resumed a conversation until we were totally shocked out of our seats and running for what at the time could be our lives. ‘Tsunami is coming, seek high ground, immediately, high ground’ the voice boomed out of one of the numerous speaker phones dotted around for this purpose. Us, and numerous locals sprinted up the flight of self constructed wooden stairs that enter the hills under the condemning sign ‘Tsunami Evacuation Route.’ At the top everyone stopped, we stared out to sea, nothing was happening, other than some boats speeding away from an island at a daunting pace. With the help of BBC news we established there had been two earthquakes off the coast of Banda Aceh each an 8.3 and 8.6, a serious Tsunami warning had been issued for the whole Indian Ocean. Although presented with this news we and everyone around us seemed amazingly calm, the local children were sporting life jackets and everyone seemed patient.

Friends we had made kept in contact warning and urging us to get to safety if we hadn’t already. After two hours some loud voices erupted from a group of knowing locals pointing and then running to the hills, they had noticed the tide had gone out completely, leaving the beach looking like a sight screaming to be explored but thanks to Boxing Day 2004 we knew otherwise. We climbed higher but after a further hour it was announced the threat had passed.

What will forever stay with me is not how I felt as to be honest I can’t say I felt ‘that scared for my life feeling’ people endlessly describe or even a moment of clarity; all I felt is in awe, in awe of these peoples calm and controlled ability to handle the situation without police or television updates and a distinct sadness at the memory of the event that made it possible for them to gain the experience to do so.

The Great and Good Gap Year

With Strode College’s One World Week on the calendar our attention turns to raising awareness of different cultures, equality, diversity and the environment. Something many young people do to experience new cultures is embarking on a gap year.

For many, going away on a gap year is seen as a rite of passage, and an exciting and essential precursor to the transition to university. A gap year can mean different things to different people, but the common theme among those who embark on this twelve month journey is that it should be memorable and worthwhile, if not one of the best times of your life. It certainly isn’t for everyone, especially those who may struggle to secure a deferred position at university, but it is a tradition that isn’t in decline with over 16,000 students accepted for a deferred place at university in 2011, according to the UCAS website.

Foreign travel is synonymous with gap years for many, and can represent an opportunity to explore strange and exotic lands and peoples that have not been accessible to them before. But, how can you ensure an authentic, in-depth and rustic experience abroad? And, perhaps more importantly, how can you make your travel as low impact as possible?

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