A New Era

My last blog was way back at the beginning of April, and since then it certainly feels like a fair amount has happened. I have become a writer for WideWorld Magazine, and things are moving fast with both the team at Wardour and Oxford, and my expeditions, the first being just over a month away to Kyrgyzstan.

But by far the biggest milestone is the completion of my final exams at uni which turned into a mammoth task of revision, sitting at a desk for 8 weeks with no sport, and a rather remote sense of interaction despite being in the centre of one of the largest cities in England.

The situation was made slightly harder by the fact that this was the heat of the Everest season, with a few friends on the mountain this year. It took all my self-restraint to refrain from contacting a few friends, however as hard as this was, it seems to have worked.

The revision however was a great learning experience both literally and metaphorically and I was amazed just how much I was able recall with the correct strategy. I did however make a few interesting discoveries whilst sitting in a rather lonely place in the university. This place was the silent area in which I waited for 4 hours prior to each exam. It had the unique feature however of being right next to the shelves of books with titles which make you question the value of your own degree, not great immediately prior to a final exam!

As you may or may not be able to see from my potentially award winning photography, I was sat next to quantum physics and condensed matter shelf which had to be worth a look. As much as I thought some last minute cramming would be helpful, I trusted that after the prior 2 months of reading, I could not possibly squeeze in another reference to please dear old Mr. Examiner. There was a method to my madness, and fortunately, I would find out that I was right to start revising quantum physics as it gave me some time to relax prior to my exams, however at each exam, I became increasingly disappointed that I was never able to utterly bewilder the examiner with my new found ability to spell the ‘nonlinearities in the Schrödinger equation’.

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Never the less, rather sensibly I thought, I decided to start at the beginning, and take a look through perhaps the easiest book in the section; ‘Basic Quantum Mechanics’.

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However, as I soon found out, there is nothing basic about quantum physics, and only found a page full of integral symbols, which are not usually the best friends of mathematicians.

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Upon abandoning my first book, I came across a second book which to my relief was not only written in English, but was perhaps the most advanced but useful physics book I have ever come across.

Its title was simply Nuclear Energy. It doesn’t go into detail; and in fact possessed the unique quality of being the only book I have ever seen to have written itself, considering there was no author.

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However, as they say, never judge a book by its cover… So I read on, and upon reaching chapter 13 (admittedly after some skipping) I reached a page titled ‘Making radioactive isotopes’. So at this point I am reading with interest, and finally come to the conclusion that this is a nuclear DIY type book!

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I read on… And eventually (admittedly after reading backwards from chapter 13), came across some of the most advanced DIY pages ever written. The first was just self explanatory, entitled ‘Making a Nuclear Reactor’. At a first glance, it looked like a bit of a jump from your regular IKEA construction guide, but on closer examination, this section gave a step-by-step guide, which if it existed, would be comparable to a ‘Nuclear Reactors for Dummies’ book.

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The subsequent page simply added to the excitement, revealing the exact process, including materials (most of which are available in any good DIY shop, perhaps excluding the refined uranium) to build your very own nuclear power station/control room. This picture however looked suspiciously like the work place of Homer Simpson.

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So finally, after an hour of reading, I reached the grand finale of the book which answered perhaps the most fundamental question of anyone who has been able to follow the building instructions this far. This question simply put is: ‘Now I have my nuclear reactor, how do I install it in a Nimitz class warship?’

Admittedly, this is somewhat of a challenge; however again, the book comes up trumps, and gives intimate descriptions for anyone in this particular conundrum.

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(Perhaps unfortunately, in the FAQ section of the book, it states nuclear reactors are not suitable to power inflatable type boats, since the reactor generates 140,000 horse power. Multiple inflatable boats may be tied together, however once installed the boats are liable to melting, after the nuclear fission process which reaches around 1,800degC has commenced.)

Aside from all the lunacies of physics books, I did manage to find a book during my first year which turned out to be one of the best mountaineering books I have ever read. It is fast paced, and is written by one of the legends of mountaineering and climbing, Dougal Haston. It is beautifully titled ‘In High Places’, and unlike any physics book, is poetically written.

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And so, at approximately 13:15 on Friday the 27th of May, replaced my final quantum physics book in its rightful place on the shelf, headed off to my final exam, and 3 hours later, the last 3 years of my life had come to an end, albeit a diverse ending.

Finishing university, now over a week after completing my final exam, still has not completely sunk in, especially the last few months which where the pressure of 3 years all comes down to a final 3 hours.

However as this section of my life comes to a close, a new era begins. My university life was an amazing experience which I will never forget, however for me personally, it was made more special through my time at one of the, if not the best squash clubs in the world. NSRC was my second home for 3 years, where I was privileged to play, train, and make friends with some of the best squash players in the world, and a few up and coming who are most certainly destined to be future champions.

One relationship that was by far the most interesting was formed when along with professional squash player Mark Fuller; we set up a company called UK-Racketball. Many experiences ensued, both good and bad which could perhaps be anticipated with running your own business. After leaving the company at the beginning of my 3rd year of uni, it took me time to realise the full nature of the experiences we had shared, in fact almost a year. It turned out that actually setting up a business, is one of the most frustrating, lengthy and demanding processes that can be experienced, however equally, there are not many satisfactions greater than succeeding in something you have created from scratch. An experience that sticks out as one of the defining moments was working from 9am through till 5am the next morning; sleeping for 5 hours, and then going again. This is a lot of work just to learn the intricacies of Div Tags. Despite everything however, many life lessons were leant in those early months, and it was a privilege to be given the opportunity to do something very few people have the chance to experience.

So… if anyone reading this has any desire to play racketball and preferably buy some kit, visit the guys here: http://www.uk-racketball.com/ and to view the new project from the creators of Uk-Racketball, please visit http://fantasysquash.net/index.html

My new era is perhaps beginning with a rather extreme take on training. On Monday the 6th of June, I will be leaving from home on my bike, and covering the 160 miles down to Southampton. I will then be walking with my friend and Everest climber Becky Bellworthy around the Isle Of Wight nonstop for 70 miles, before cycling back for 160 miles.

In addition to this, I have been able to take the skills I learnt from those months at UK-Racketball, and work with the guys at Wardour And Oxford who are helping me to achieve the financial requirements for my Everest expedition in 2012, to maintain their site: http://www.wardourandoxford.com/

It has been a tough few months; however the satisfaction of being able to graduate will be far greater than any pain endured along the way, perhaps this is only now starting to sink in.

A new era has begun!