(I don’t even particularly like Hobnobs)
To your right, you will see a picture of me triumphantly holding up a resealable tube of chocolate Hobnobs. Partly because I’m just that awesome.
But mostly because I required obscene amounts of Hobnobs to get through my Gold DofE expedition; seriously, I ate more calories a day in Hobnobs alone on that expedition than the average daily calorie intake per person in the Democratic Republic of Congo, by a total of 1580 to 1570 (as a side-note, where the Hell did we go so wrong as a species that this was able to happen?).
However, this is not the time for bitching about the shocking inequalities of human society, this is the time to regale you with the tale of an inexpensive extra-curricular activity I chose to do, in which I lived in conditions for a week slightly better than those lived in my millions of people around the world for years on end, for no reason other than having a laugh and improving my job opportunities; truly these are the topics we ought to be discussing here in the Western World with our easy access to computers and near-unlimited access to the Internet.
The expedition was the culmination of a year’s worth of work: weekly volunteering, sport and club sessions were required to even be allowed on the expedition, as was a ‘residential’ section, in which I had to spend a week living away form home working with new people; conveniently, my BBC work experience in Salford fitted the bill. Having completed these ‘sections’ and got all the paperwork signed off (LOL JK I’m still working on getting all that finalised even now, three months later), my three naive group-mates and I embarked upon a journey to Wales, a country which only appears to be part of the United Kingdom to train marines and provide players for Lions tours.
Once there, we stayed overnight in a bunk house with an ominous lack of central heating, and watched Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2, by which I mean I spent 45 minutes trying to fathom why in the name of Jesus a sequel to the first God-forsaken film was ever demanded to the extent that producing it would result in a net economic gain, while said piece of garbage played in the background.
After that appropriately harrowing experience, we went to bed, got up the next day and were carted off to a hill somewhere, to being our trek of doom up and down the hills of Wales. The uphills sucked because it was tiring and I have the fitness of an obese Dunsparce, and the downhills sucked because my Osgood-Schlatter syndrome weakened my knees, so walking downhill put extra pressure on them, making them hurt like Hell. It also rained, to the extent that we had to hide under a big orange blanket of cuddles with our leaders to drink Bovril, and the third day consisted entirely of walking along a painfully exposed ridge of rock, that took an age and a busted knee to get up and down, at the start and end of the day respectively.
The night I was also sad for the first time in a very long time; usually I can brush off adversity with sarcasm, nihilistic optimism (‘This isn’t so bad when you consider the meaninglessness and pain of life) or pictures of sloths, but that night wasn’t to be.
I also tried to be clever: I changed my boots from my old, tough ones that keep my feet dry but are too rigid to be comfortable, for softer, lighted boots that were pretty strong but much easier to walk in; however, the latter pair were much less waterproof than the first, and so I spent he first day essentially walking around Wales in the hiking equivalent of soggy slippers.
My clever solution was to wear carrier bags inside and outside of my socks, keeping the sweat from my feet and the rainwater from outside ever reaching my socks, keeping them warm and dry. However, the bags split, because they’re not built for walking in; they split incredibly painfully too, as my toes poked holes in the bags at the front, but the bits of bag in between the toes did not break. As a result, every step I took shoved the front bits of my feet between my toes into sharp, fine, bits of plastic, that cut them a little. I then replaced the carrier bags with bin bags, solving the problem; by that point, my feet were already in agony.
We were also aresholes on the expedition; having got lost on day two, we realised we could walk along a flat road for a few kilometres, rather than retrace our steps back up a hill and take the proper route, which was about two kilometres longer, and so we did, to the fury of one of our assessors; we’d made a mistake and exploited, not rectified, it. The other leader gave us lollipops though, so I think we’re about even on that one.
Also Diabetes was occasionally annoying, but the constant Hobnob consumption helped that.
Regardless of my quibbles though, DofE was a fantastic thing to do; it gave me a sense of achievement, because it was a project I chose to do, and was practically useful – the volunteering and residential sections showed me how to behave and be eloquent in a professional environment, without looking like a baby or a prat. The expeditions also served as an end-of-level boss for reality: I had gone through the, admittedly enjoyable, motions for a great number of hours in my sections, and now I could test my endurance, stamina and ability to cry into a sleeping bag without waking my tent-mate up in a tough environment.
Also, the leaders were great, the audience at the awards ceremony laughed at my attempted jokes, I got to eat a McDonald’s as a ‘reward’ and I made friends: I’ve mentioned the idea of ‘temporary friends’ on this blog before, but DofE is perhaps the best example of people that I really liked hanging out with (albeit in the fifth circle of Hell), that I probably won’t see much more of simply because our lives are going in different directions: one group-mate is applying for Medicine, another’s going to Exeter, and the third plans to work in America. But these folks were there to offer me sarcasm and realism in times of great excitement and deluded hope, which is the best you can really hope for if you’re a cynic.
So I have a new profile picture, which is interesting to look at, and some Hobnobs, which are nice to eat, but I’ve got some brilliant memories, forged from cool people, a sense of achievement, and the underlying combat-like adrenaline that made it all vaguely exciting beyond reality.