Acquiring some kind of higher education had always been a goal of mine, and in 1998 I began my studies in Birmingham (which at the time was an uncomfortably long way south). I would spend the best part of the next eight years there learning a lot, making some of my most meaningful discoveries and decisions; finally breaking out of the ivory tower to go travelling in 2006.
By this time I had upgraded to a poorer-quality-than-35-mm-yet-idiot-proof APS compact camera, which would serve me faithfully all through my undergraduate years until the advent of the digital age. On the left, you can see one of the many stereotypical student-y activities my friends and I were apt to engage in – cricket in the excellently-proportioned corridors of our first-year halls of residence. We did manage to knock some plaster out of the walls with a few spectacularly mistimed deliveries, but the building was demolished a few years later so any loss of structural strength was short-lived.
The outdoor photographs below mark the beginning of my involvement with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a broad programme of self- and community-improving activities for young people. Having breezed through high school largely ignorant of this opportunity, I wasted no time in starting and soon found myself labouring up on the slopes of Mt. Snowdon.
The D of E support group was mostly concerned with helping students get their hiking expeditions done, and I spent a few enjoyable hours with the Handbook figuring out what I could do for the other sections of the Award. The list of approved activities has (of course) been updated since I was wondering what to do, but I’m fairly sure there were a few eyebrow-raisers like sheep training and wallpaper appreciation for the Skills section.
The two photographs below are from an expedition to the north-west region of the Peak District National Park, famed for its bleak moors and dramatic vistas. Rare was the trip that didn’t involve torrential rain, and we were always watching the skies as we puffed along sections of the Pennine Way.