Time off, Bristol and exam week
So I’m now into my 5th week of 5 and a half back on English soil before making the delightful 27 hour trip back to New Zealand. I don’t know where the time has gone exactly, it’s flown by far too quickly. I had a lovely week at home doing not very much at all; in fact the only productive thing I managed to do all week was get my Class 1 medical renewed. Apart from that I used the time to fiddle round with my now-working-again desktop computer (yes, it was the motherboard at fault despite Aria insisting it wasn’t – not buying from there again), drinking proper ale (not that piss-poor bland excuse for lager they brew in NZ) and watching proper television. You don’t realise how much you miss Sky until you’ve had nearly 7 months of Kiwi television.
Week 2 involved a trip down to University to see Naomi and it was a cracking week. It was pure chance that the Regional Brass Band contest fell on one of the weekends I was home and not working, so there was no way I was missing it! It felt a bit weird being sat up in the audience instead of playing but it was great to listen to the performance from the audience’s perspective instead of being sat in the middle of the band. Very good it was too; I know Simon didn’t think it was great but from where I was sat the band played far better than the two before it and, in my opinion, should have come higher than Matlock who came 2nd overall. I thought we were a bit unlucky but still, 5th out of 16 isn’t bad at all. The evening that followed, of course, just turned into beery carnage. I also have a vague recollection of being sat on a park bench with Jim on the way to the curry having a deep and meaningful conversation but neither of us can remember what it was about. The other notable event from that week was Score on Wednesday; being the last Score of term, the Union had got a live act on stage and guess who they were… The Vengaboys! Ok, so they didn’t actually do anything other than dance to their usual tracks and talk to the audience a bit, they didn’t even sing! But the audience loved it. Early in the week I also discovered that you can pick up a wireless signal in the Grad, which meant pretty much all of my exam revision took place in there. I should point out that there were some non-beer-related events over the course of the week; notably Naomi and I going to Leamington Bar & Grill for a very nice meal and going for some lovely walks round parts of campus we never knew were there! Walking round Lakeside, I discovered there’s something very amusing about watching ducks and geese fighting. I don’t know what they were fighting about but it was just funny.
Sadly I had to leave the following Saturday morning because my two weeks off were over and it was time to get ready for a two week intensive revision cramming session at Bristol Ground School (BGS). It was quite a trek down there (and even more so for dad, who had to drive all the way back again after). The accommodation I’d been allocated was fantastic, however – I’ve never stayed in a B&B quite like Churchill Court! The building itself is fantastic – absolutely massive, more like a country mansion than your average B&B like I stayed at down in Christchurch during the application process. And not only was the building lovely, but I really must give a special mention to John and Jan, our hosts for the two weeks, who were just fantastic. At most B&Bs you get your bed for the night, you get your breakfast and then you clear off for the day; not here. John and Jan could not have been more hospitable; constantly asking if there was anything we needed, getting in anything for breakfast we wanted, letting us use their kitchen in the evening whenever we wanted, basically treating it almost as a home than a B&B! It really did make our lives a lot easier. They had a grand piano in the hall as well; I didn’t play it because I didn’t really feel like I had the time to break off from revision, but there were a few occasions when Jamie and Beechy gave us a song during revision breaks.
BGS itself was pretty intense. You’re expected to have done all the necessary work before arriving there, of course, and be familiar with most of it so the idea is it’s mainly revision rather than teaching. The class we were in for the two weeks was pretty good; there were a couple of annoying people in there, including a Spanish helicopter pilot who kept saying “yes” all the time every time he agreed with something an instructor happened to be saying and, when occasionally translating for his mate sitting next to him, did so at a normal voice level rather than whispering (a concept I believe the Spanish generally have no idea anyway.) He wasn’t the only one, there were a couple of others. Fortunately, most of the class were alright and seeing as our lot made up nearly half of it anyway it wasn’t like we had to get stuck talking to them. We were all assigned seats which we had to keep for the two weeks. I was dreading being put next to someone arrogant who thought they knew it all about flying, but as luck would have it I was put next to a nice girl called Rebecca (hi if you’re reading this!) and we got on really well.
The one thing that you don’t really realise until you get to BGS is the sheer amount of work you get given. It’s colossal. There’s no way you can properly finish everything they give you to do unless you’re some sort of superhuman who can go without sleep. Depending on the subject you can probably get done about 2/3 – 3/4 of everything they give you every day, but the stuff that doesn’t get done just mounts up and up. I did get most of it done in the end but it left me shattered. It does work though; some subjects like Mass & Balance and Flight Planning I didn’t, and don’t, have a problem with and I did pretty well at them but with ones like Instruments and the utterly dreaded Meterology, I went in feeling like I knew nothing and now I feel more confident. The staff at BGS are excellent; Tom, the ex-Jaguar and Cathay Pacific captain who taught us Flight Planning was particularly good, but all of them really knew their stuff and more importantly knew how to teach it well. Most of them had a good sense of humour as well; a special mention must go to Baz (ex-RAF Victor and VC10 navigator) who taught us Navigation and Met. I’ve never met someone so in love with the CRP-5 computer and – to put it politely – he’s not about to win any awards for political correctness. But I came away from th ere knowing a hell of a lot more about Nav and Met than when I arrived, so it obviously all worked! It’s really, really hard work and it’s depressing when all you do every night for two weeks is come back at 5pm, bung in a microwave meal, chat on the net for a bit and then work solidly from 6 until midnight, but you just have to deal with it and get on with it.
Anyway, after 2 weeks of that I went home for the weekend to get a bit of laundry done and pick up the car. I’m now in Shuttleworth College, near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire, which is the CAA exam venue and we’ve got residence here for 4 nights while we do the exams. It’s a beautiful place outside and I’ll stick some pictures up when I have time. I’ll write another entry towards the end of the week on how the exams and stuff have gone and I’ll also attach some photos (I was going to do it tonight but this has taken longer than I thought and I’ve got an exam at 9am and really need to go to sleep!) So here’s hoping it goes well. Good luck to the guys on CP35 as well – nice seeing you today!