Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Challenge #13: Sarah vs Urbexing

Urban Exploration

I find abandoned buildings strangely intriguing. Places that were once full of life just left empty and still, as if they never held any significance at all. Whenever I look at the crumbling walls and boarded up windows, I can't help but wonder what stories unfolded within them and the scenes they've witnessed over the years.

While real urban exploration, or urbexing, involves entering abandoned buildings and having a snoop around, mine doesn't because I couldn't get in I didn't want to trespass.

King Edward VII (Upper) School

It's funny that my old school became the scene of my (not quite) urbexing, because some of the stories its walls hold are mine. Like every teenager in Melton Mowbray, the Upper School was the place I suffered through my GCSE years, bored shitless and desperately counting down the days until I could leave and get a job.

Anyway, King Edward was closed a few years back, boarded up and is now left derelict, so it seemed like a good place to have nose around, especially as I hadn't set foot on its grounds in 13 years. It also has no gate, which is pretty much an invitation really...

As you walk up the drive, through the gates of misery, this is the first building you see. It was the IT centre and I don't think I ever actually stepped foot in it. This was between 1997 and 1999, when there wasn't much to see on the internet. I'm not even kidding.

The building on the right was the dreaded maths block. I say dreaded because my maths teacher was a crumpled old battleaxe. She had shark eyes - completely dead - and probably should have retired about 20 years before I arrived at the school. Admittedly, she wasn't my biggest fan either, as I preferred playing truant to learning algebra. I feel it's important to point out here that I've never needed the algebra I never learned and I've done just fine without it, thank you very much. I think Bruce Springsteen was right when he sang: "We learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned at school."

The building that you can just see a bit of at the back was the hall, with the language rooms above. There was a quad in front of it where everyone would meet in the mornings or at lunch time and where all the fights took place, while the sports fields are to the left. I didn't spend much time on there either.

The maths block

This is the maths block (on the left) with the English rooms pictured in the background. I find it funny that I chose a career that involves writing, as English classes here weren't really worth bothering with. My teacher, who insisted on being called 'mzzzzzzzzz' not 'miss' and looked liked Sue from Mel and Sue, insisted on re-arranging the seating plan every single lesson. It was a tedious exercise that took up most of the hour and left us with little time for any learning. I actually did ok in my exams, which is definitely down to me and not any teaching provided by that school.

This is the back of the art block, which led to the cookery rooms and some windowless cavern where I was forced to take some bullshit sewing class. It was bullshit firstly because my mum taught me to sew from a young age and therefore I didn't need to learn how to do it and secondly because I wanted to take graphics and they said it was full, so I moaned constantly until they let me change. Graphics was much better and was taught by a guy who only owned two jumpers, one burgundy and one blue

It may shock you to know that I actually liked art and it was probably the only class I always turned up to. Well, nearly always. I loved drawing as a kid and thought it was art I would pursue careerwise.

This is the back of the music block. The less that is said about my guitar playing abilities, the better. I think if it had involved listening to a lot of music I'd have been a star pupil.

And that's it for what I could access of my old school. Everything was fenced off and either painted with anti-trespass grease or spiked up, so all of the photos were taken through the fencing. I'd love to go in and nose around, see what's left inside. It's weird because I hated that place so much as a teenager, yet it was sad to see it all just left to ruin, left to sit there as it will no doubt do for a couple of decades before it's pulled down. On the other hand, I struggled to think of a happy story associated with that place. The day I left was probably my favourite, released into the wild clad in a spray painted skirt and Doc Martens.

Extra pictures of the sixth form

I can't share any stories of these buildings as I've never been in them, but they are pretty and worth a look.

Verdict: WIN (because it's my blog and I'll make up the rule as I see fit)

Monday, 6 August 2012

Challenge #12: Sarah vs Blood Donation


This challenge was inspired by my mum, who is the kind of person who always considers the needs of others before her own and who was a regular blood donor when she was my age. Although donating blood has been something I have wanted to do for a long time, like a lot of things I had just never got round to it. Partly because of finding the time and partly through fear. My main concerns were that it would hurt and I might faint and/or throw up.

Of course, the fact that 96% of us rely on the other 4% to give blood was also enough to shame me into taking action.

The blood truck

Drain the blood

There were a lot of people waiting to donate when I arrived, more than I imagined there would be if I'm honest, and there was a quite an age range, which was really encouraging. As it was my first donation, I was asked a lot of questions about my health, before the nurse did the prick test to check if I was anaemic.

The drop of blood is added to a solution and they time how long it takes to sink. Mine just floated there, unwilling to play ball and the nurse said they would have to do a further test to determine whether I had sufficient iron levels to donate. My heart sank slightly. If I was low, I would have to abandon the challenge.

Thankfully, the test showed I had a higher than average score and we were good to go. I was ushered into the express queue to wait my turn. Dan told me later that at this point I had gone very pale - I think it was because I was so nervous about the task ahead.

I needn't have worried though, because the nurses were so reassuring and helpful, and once the needle had gone in I didn't feel anything. Also, as it was my first donation, they let Dan come and sit with me to help take my mind of it.

The guy in the bed next to me looks dead in this
 picture, but don't panic I'm pretty sure he survived

The time went by really quickly and before I knew it the machine was bleeping to let me know I was done. And that was it, I had done it, with passing out or chucking up and I felt fine. In fact, I felt quite pleased with myself and proud that I had done something that might help someone else.

And then...

Once I had been unhooked, I was ushered over to the refreshments table for a drink and biscuits, so they could make sure I was ok. Just as I tucked into my third custard cream I felt my temperature rise really quickly and knew exactly what was going to happen next. My close friends refer to me as a flaker, because on odd occasions I like to add a little drama to situations by passing out. Usually somewhere really inconvenient like queuing to get into a festival site or right at the front of a gig.

Everything went black and seemed to move in slow motion, and I felt arms pulling me backwards. I came to with a cold towel on my head and a nurse fanning me. Apparently I started a bit of a domino rally, because right after I passed out a young woman followed my lead and did the same. The feeling passed as soon as it had come on though and the nurses were so quick to respond that I felt I was in good hands.

Adding a bit of drama to the situation

One of the nurses insisted I take loads
of biscuits and stickers home as a reward

My blood donation in numbers:

10 minutes 15 seconds - The time it took to drain a pint of blood from me. The machines beeps like you're in Super Mario World when it's done. Sadly I didn't get to ride home on Yoshi as a reward.

131 - My iron levels, the average is 115, but you need to be over 125 to donate.

2 hours - The time spent at the donation session, which was longer than normal because of...

10 seconds - The approximate length of time I was out of it following my dramatic fainting episode.

3 - The number of wounds I left with thanks to the prick test, anaemia test and blood donation.

4 - Number of months I now have to wait to donate again.

War wounds


I was so pleased that I managed to get through this challenge and complete it successfully. It is such a nice feeling to think I may help to save someone else's life and I couldn't help wondering where my blood will go, who it might end up with and the reasons they might need it.

Despite the slightly embarrassing fainting episode, I will definitely do again. The donation didn't hurt and it wasn't unpleasant, so please do not be put off by my post-donation dramatics, because it doesn't happen to everyone and it passes so quickly. Besides, the knowledge that you've done something worthwhile far outweighs a minor bit of fainting.

Well of course I look rough, 
I've just lost a pint of blood

Do something amazing, give blood

Search for your nearest blood donation session by clicking HERE.

Verdict: A very proud WIN!!!!