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Monday, May 7, 2012

My Weekend at #CampEd12

by @TeaKayB, aged 29.

A long weekend is a beacon of light in anybody's life, not least that of a teacher. Having found myself approaching one, I was delighted to find that @Squiggle7 was going to make me spend it in a field. With teachers. And I had to do the 3 1/2 hours of driving required to get there.


Friday

In order to make the job lighter for me, @Squiggle7 booked an overnight stop at the Premier Inn in Rotherham. I was, again, impressed by the hotel chain: it's all the things that Travelodge consistently fails to achieve. I'm just disappointed that we didn't get to trough on the all-you-can-eat breakfast*. I took the opportunity to go for a pint with an old schoolfriend (now based in Sheffield), and was further delighted to be asked for I.D. when ordering my pint of Hobgoblin.

One of the best bits was when, lugging my cardboard box containing 200mm of reflective telescopic excitement into our hotel room for the night, a fellow inmate inquired "is that a coffin?"


Saturday

Saturday morning saw the extra hour's drive to the field near Oxenhope (wonderfully and generously donated by @helendaykin's mum Sue for the occasion) pass without incident beyond a fuel stop and the discovery that there isn't a single copy of this month's Sky at Night magazine anywhere in Yorkshire.

I have to confess that I'm a bit shy when it comes to meeting new people, and I was more than a little anxious at the thought of plunging myself into the middle of a group of people who had already built various networks, links, friendships and professional relationships with each other. Thankfully we arrived at the Waggon & Horses pub about the same time as two of the few people I had met previously, which helped to ease me in at the shallow end. 
That Hill. Well, part of it. The easy bit.

We walked down the hill**, and then @Squiggle7 and Phil, his daughter and I walked back up the hill and then down it again with some of my astronomy equipment, and then Phil and I walked back up the hill and down it again with even more astronomy equipment,*** and I will be eternally grateful for all the help I received: had I not been the recipient of such generosity, I would probably be typing this from another plane altogether.

After that, it's all a bit of a blur of meeting people, shaking hands, trying and failing to mentally assign faces and names to twitter handles, and walking up and down that hill (I left my coat in the car), although I do recall the the first person to talk to me at any length was @LordLangley73 (and we scrawled twitter handles on the barn wall). There were activity sessions including one on Mission Explore (ask @Squiggle7 , or just see if you can locate one of the books that she likes to leave lying around whenever she goes away for teachy things) before walking up the hill again so that we could go and check-in to our b&b****.

Despite my almost superhuman inability to start conversations, there was lots of chat and I was surprised and delighted to find that it wasn't all about school. In fact it got less about school as the evening wore on, the ribena flowed, and the guitars and telescopes came out. I just wish I could have been in the barn playing a guitar whilst also playing with telescopes in the field. There's consolation in the fact that wherever anybody chose to play on Saturday night they were bloody freezing, and neither telescopes nor guitars respond all that well when you can't feel your fingers.

Then we walked up the hill.


Sunday

Sunday, for the most part, lived up to its name, though it was still pretty chilly. After a frankly unnecessarily large breakfast which I polished off completely leaving little evidence that it ever existed*****, we headed over to the field and walked down that hill again.

More of the hill.

Emma squishing imaginary geckos
by jumping on them.
There were more educational sessions today, including one on geocaching in the morning, which was great fun, and not just because we were better than everyone else and won it hands down with barely any competition at all. Ha.

There were more sessions in the afternoon but I didn't get to take part in these because... I was running one! I hosted an activity on 'daytime astronomy', which I'll post in more depth about over at Blogstronomy. I was terrified- it's one thing standing in front of kids on a day-to-day basis, and entirely another doing it in front of a bunch of people who know exactly when you're blagging, ad-libbing and making stuff up. I can only hope that my propensity for waffling under pressure didn't take over too often or for too long.

I was really pleased with some of the comments that were made and questions that were asked that showed that some people were truly interested in the topics I was talking about. I was chuffed to tiny bits when I was asked if I'd repeat the session for a second time!

As it happens I nearly missed my second performance because I almost fell asleep on a hay bale. Fortunately I roused myself in time, but unfortunately I missed much of the Badge's coke-and-mentos session, which was a tough act to follow. The second screening had a few more kids joining in (including a rather big kid or two), and it was really nice to see them being enthusiastic about spacey stuff.

In the evening we took over the Waggon & Horses (yes, this involved walking up the hill) for a great three- course meal and a ribena or two. It was great to chat to @bevevans and family, but it'd have been nicer if tiredness and an encroaching cold hadn't forced us to cut our part in the festivities short.

When we arrived at The King's Arms, the taxi driver asked us "what does it usually cost you?"


Monday

Not a lot happened on Monday, but I'm including it here in order to say many, many thanks to Sue who cut a potential 3-4 telescope-lugging walks up the hill into one quick drive!


So that's my journey from initial trepidation into a very enjoyable weekend! I'm looking forward to #CampEd13 already.








* Though my waistline is not.
** The very steep hill.
*** Anyone who was there will know exactly why mentioning how many times the hill was walked up and down is relevant and important.
**** The b&b in question, The King's Arms in Howarth, was lovely, by the way. It was a comfortable room above a pub run by very friendly people who supplied a bloody marvelous breakfast. The only things I'd change would be to install a less temperamental shower and supply industry-grade noise suppressing headsets as on Saturday night the disco went on some time after midnight, and on Sunday the karaoke was simultaneously loud and hideous.
***** Unless anyone was caught downwind of me at any point. Sorry about that.