A snowy Oxford

At midnight (UK time) last night, I was walking back home from College when I encountered what I thought would be a highly annoying bout of rain. I haven’t had to use my umbrella since I got back and I was not looking forward to having to pull it out. Thankfully, it turns out to be something much better, although not necessarily less annoying. SNOW! Finally, what didn’t happen over Christmas or the New Year was now falling onto my nicely wrapped and protected head. It was only a few flakes, but I was happy enough that I’d seen snow.

I thought it’d be the sort that disappears once it hits the ground. That’s exactly what they were doing at midnight. S oI was pleasantly surprised to wake up and find the grass and everything outside covered in a nice blanket of white snow. So glad, although now I’m going to have to make use of those boots of mine. Here’s some photos of Oxford in snow.

2011 English Mace [MOTIONS]

R1: THW allow gifted students to skip years in primary and secondary school
R2: THBT all countries should abandon the fight against climate change and should just seek to adapt to its consequences
R3: (Pre-released motion) THBT all US primary elections should be held on the same day
R4: THB the EU should centrally govern all vital aspects of the economies of heavily indebted eurozone nations
R5: THBT single parents in prison should be provided with special treatment to allow them to raise their young children from behind bars
SF: THBT Pakistan should cease all assistance to the United States in the fight against the Taliban
GF: THW criminalise all forms of racist speech and behaviour, even where it falls short of directly inciting racial hatred or violence


Awaiting the end

We’re hitting the month of December and the countdown begins. There’s another two weeks until I get back home but boy is it a busy two weeks. Classes, coursework, homework, activities, arrangements to make and the UKMT Intermediate Kangaroo Challenge in Friday. Saturday sees our end-of-term party, and once again Morgannwg *cue applause for the best student house*, we’ll have ours in the library.

As things begin to wind down, I’m allowing myself a little more breathing space. The day before yesterday, I attended what I had thought was a concert performed by students, only to find that it was in-fact student compositions performed by their music teachers. The performance was lovely and reminded me of something that I had not touched for a long time but still thoroughly enjoyed.

The winds are picking up and the number of hours with light is slowly shrinking. Getting up in the morning has never been so hard since it is literally pitch black when I go down for breakfast. Dinner at 5 is experienced in much the same conditions. I’m hoping that we get some snow before we leave, although that seems unlikely. We did have snow around this time last year, but it appears to have been an anomaly so this may turn out to be a snowless winter.

The countdown has started. now there’s just a final sprint to the end and hopefully a little more relaxing December to look forward to.

TEDxYouth@Bath 2011

After a long nights travel, we finally arrived in bath. It was my first ever visit, but hopefully it won’t be my last. Grabbing a bit of food, we headed up from the station to the very modern Egg Theatre where TEDxYouth@Bath was held.

The conference itself was brilliant. I truly couldn’t have asked for a better first formal TED event. Charlotte Calkin did a brilliant job of organizing the event. every single speaker was spectacular and I’d be hard pressed to select my favorite. Nevertheless, my attention was most grabbed by Dave Cornthwaite, Robin Wight, Neil Mullarkey and Deena Gormick.

Both Dave and Deena reminded me of the importance of having the bravery to go with our passions, even if it means breaking traditional moulds. Neil had a very interesting perspective on collaboration, based upon his experiences in improve theatre, as a process of offering things to others. Robin had some fantastic insights and the examples he sighted were shocking and inspiring at the same time.

All in all, a wonderful and worthwhile experience.

Our few seconds of Youtube TED fame. See 00:51.

For more photos, see and

TEDxYouth@Bath: The Guardian Report

Just got back from TEDxYouth@Bath. Haven’t had time yet to really write much on it, it has definently be a worthwhile experience. But the first thing to catch my eye was The Guardian report on the event. Here it is, complete with a photo of a UWC Atlantic College student!

Photograph: Stephen Shepherd for the Guardian

Over a buffet lunch a huddle of teenagers is trying to work out if any have yet had their “ah-ha” moment – the instant when an inspiring, perhaps life-changing thought hits.

Across the room at the TEDxYouthDay event in Bath other young people are discussing the meaning of happiness with a bright-eyed adventurer who gave up his nine-to-five job to skateboard across Australia. More than 100 teenagers are crammed into a theatre in the Georgian city to hear talks from artists, entrepreneurs, travellers of all sorts who, organisers hope, will help them shape their lives.

“We’re learning more today than we would at a normal day at school. It’s opened our eyes,” says Indra, 16. “Usually when you go to talks it’s about being a doctor or accountant or something. Here we’re talking about jobs you’ve never even heard of and thinking about concepts that aren’t tangible – that you feel but haven’t got a name for.”

The TED (Technology Entertainment Design) concept appears unstoppable after beginning as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago. It became an annual event to which the world’s leading “thinkers and doers” are invited. They speak for no more than 18 minutes and the best “TEDtalks” are posted on the TED website. Bill Gates and Al Gore have contributed.

Most common names in the UK

Meet Oliver, Jack, Harry, Alfie and Charlie, the five most common names in England and Wales according to the UK Office for National Statistics. The top names for girls are Olivia, Sophie, Emily, Lily and Amelia.

What really surprised me was the fact that Paul had fallen out of the top 100 along with Christopher, Simon, Jonathan and Steven. That really was a little disappointing and really unexpected for me personally.

Another interesting feature were the number of alternative spellings. #1 was Oliver while Ollie came in #63. Mohammed, Muhammad and Mohammad came in #17, #31 and #67 while Finley and Finlay were #35 and #68 respectively. I was also quite surprised to find Jayden, Harley, Kian, Reuben, Luca and Jude in the top 100. They must be popular names, but not really what I had expected. On the girls side, Ava, Poppy, Faith, Lexie, Niamh, Aimee and Tilly all managed the top 100.

Full list of top 100 names in England and Wales:

Twists and Turns of International Travel

I’m back! After a sometimes normal and sometimes odd journey, I’m safely back in the UK, assuming nothing else happens that is. The last few days in Hong Kong were quite, mostly working, packing, chewing and sleeping my way through the days. Then of course, things started going wrong. While waiting to change from one bus to another in Central, Hong Kong, my 3 minute McDonald’s toilet trip made me miss my E11 bus, forcing me to take A11. That being said, the A11 bus was far more direct and took us on the newly opened (it was my first time at least) Stonecutters Bridge. Airport buses would usually speed-up my journey by about 15 minutes as opposed to the more winding route of Express buses. But taking an Airport bus combined with the Stonecutters Bridge route probably made the trip a further 15 minutes shorter, bringing me to Hong Kong International Airport just 35 minutes after I left Central.

Waiting... at HKIA

Getting to the airport might have been a walk in the park, getting onto the plane and off the ground certainly wasn’t. All the passengers of the massive Boeing 747-400 were set at gate 17 only to find out 15 minutes before boarding was set to start that we had been switched to gate 32, in another part of the airport near the very end of that section. So, we all had to trek over. Unsurprisingly, neither the plane nor the crew were ready at all. In fact, as I ranted on twitter, the crew calmly sat opposite me in the waiting area, chatting amongst themselves – pilot included. I didn’t board until 11:49 but we had been scheduled to take-off at 11:45. We were late on take-off, but thankfully the pilot put in some extra fuel and got us to our destination largely on time.


Most trips home take quite a while, but this might end up being the longest of them all, mostly thanks to a 7.5 hour wait at Heathrow Airport. Thankfully, the lovely company of those of us who stayed at Heathrow waiting for our flights helped make the time pass much faster. The various movies, videos and DVDs certainly helped. My final CX flight for the immediate future eventually left at 6:55pm and landed 12 hours later in HK at 1pm local.

The flight itself was pretty normal, consisting of lots of movies and food. I did get extra space since the middle seat had no-one in it. I also finally completed my ‘5 movies in a flight’ challenge, successfully fitting in five movies and two TV shows. TRON: Legacy wasn’t a bad movie, but a little bland. The Green Hornet was quite good and so was The Kings Speech although I’m not convinced it was automatically Oscar worthy. The Mechanic and Mission Impossible were both reasonable but I got a little lost with the plot of Mission Impossible. Perhaps I was getting a little tired myself. With still some time left, I managed to squeeze in an episode of The Mentalist and TVB’s My 2010 ~ neither was that spectacular.

I must have been pretty drained from all that movie watching, IB and having stayed awake for nearly 24 hours because I promptly collapsed and enjoyed 12 beautiful uninterrupted hours of sleep after I got home.

I’ve had a week of ‘rest’, essentially doing absolutely nothing. So now it’s back to work until school starts again in August. What a lovely summer holiday 😀 At least I’m home!

An ending…

The final days of this academic year have been a concoction of emotion, nostalgia, fear, anticipation and rush. For some odd reason, we still had classes on Monday despite it being our penultimate day before departure. Frankly, there was little real learning going on, but in some cases it was useful in tying up loose ends and preparing for the summer holidays. I also lunged my library of stuff from the school library back to the house. I had no idea I had so much stuff – textbooks, workbooks, papers, notes, files – until I had to carry it myself. 😀

Tuesday was a bit crazy. We spent most of it running around, packing our stuff, writing in yearbooks and recycling/rubbishing lots of stuff. The house looked a downright mess but it eventually got sorted out. Just before dinner, we had the Graduation Assembly for second years. It’s suffice to say that both Valerie and Bill (both Americans, 2nd and 1st year respectively) gave top of the notch speeches. A buffet dinner followed but it were the many group photos that inevitably followed which seemed most important.

The first group of first years left at 10pm Tuesday night. I myself left on the Wednesday morning bus. Although no tears did flow despite what I’d anticipated, it was none-the-less a heartfelt departure. My second years have had a real and major impact on me in the last year and they will be sorely missed.

Best Wishes to all of you.
I love you, truly.

To first years – see you after summer, 2 months are a long time, but a 9 month bond isn’t that easy to break.

TEDxCardiff 2011

Following on from the first event which was held last year, TEDxCardiff is set to return to Wales Millennium Centre this April and promises to once again challenge, provoke and inspire audiences through a range of engaging talks.

TED is an annual event that brings together the world’s leading thinkers and doers to share ideas that matter across a range of disciplines including technology, entertainment, design, science, humanities, business, and development. The talks at the conference, “TEDTalks,” are then made available to watch for free on