After my morning panic and realising that I had in fact only slept for about half an hour (apparently I fell asleep at 4:30am according to my laptop and awoke at 5am to find all my work erased.) This underlying theme of tiredness and redundancy of sleep loomed over my being throughout the day.
The first thing I did when I woke up? What all normal, sane teenagers do; check my phone! I was overjoyed to find I had received a massive total of one friend request overnight and a text! Texts always get me eager, but when I opened it and saw it was my mom, that excitement soon faded. “Hey Ben, have a great day lol xx”. Aww cringe.
I then dragged myself out of bed, and once I finished typing everything back up until 7:30am, I sat down and chilled to some music. That was the first bit of music I had listened to since the train ride here, so the sweet sounds of my playlist boosted my tired mood up a little.
After our roll call in the common room, we set forth for breakfast; a man’s favourite meal, if cooked right! Sadly, this wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, the croissant was pretty on point and the yoghurt was to die for (what can I say, I’m a stickler for good dairy produce) but the bacon and eggs denied me complete victory. The bacon was cold and the eggs were bland, but whatever, it’s the thought that counts! Those little downfalls were over-swamped with the table entertainment we had; diversity driven jokes ranging from Northern Ireland to London. We also had typical lame jokes like that whole “what are those?!” trend and just general testosterone driven hyperactivity. It has to be said, the pure orange juice on offer was my highlight. I don’t know what it is, but southern orange juice is miles better than northern.
Once our quasi-breakfast sort of compilation was down us, we were herded into a small grass embankment to play more group bonding ‘games’, such as chanting weird rhymes that no-one could really understand and high fiving a bearded staff member. This soon thereafter ended, and we were once again moved onto our next area. This was to be delivered our “morning plenary” and “treasure hunt” part of the day. The plenary was the typical stuff; “good morning,” “Hope you’re all ready,” blah blah blah. The treasure hunt was the part we were excited for; after all, it gave us the opportunity to sort of explore the grounds of Sevenoaks boarding school.
To my American readers, the fact that this is a boarding school doesn’t mean that it is Harry Potter-esque. Sure the uniform is sort of similar (emphasis on the word ‘sort’) but I can assure you no-one runs around with wands, and if they do, chances are they’re a little bit odd…not Harry Potter.
The treasure hunt went particularly well; most of the tasks were to traverse the acres of Sevenoaks and find certain things or act certain things with our bodies (ironically, for example, a Harry Potter scene – I promise that was purely ironic.) Other tasks included spelling the ‘word’ NCS with our bodies, which I didn’t really do but I put my thumbs up for the camera so that sort of counts. We also had to recreate the Sevenoaks boarding school logo, and amongst other things, count some trees in a courtyard. Words don’t really do this part justice, but I assure you it was a fun, engaging time filler.
Once we gathered into the assembly hall and established how badly we lost (we came ninth out of ten groups) we were given a truly inspirational and captivating speech from Mary Daniels about her life journey and what led her to that very moment. She also talked to us about the importance of leadership and the different forms this takes place. I’m both an auditory and kinesthetic learner so this speech was perfect for me, and above all, one I’ll remember and cherish for a long time to come. We also luckily received a small yet powerful speech provided by the CEO of NCS; Michael Lynas, his life journey and how his dream for NCS came to flourish into the successful and impactful organisation it is today. Both his and Mary’s speeches will inevitably hold impact within many aspects of my life, especially around leadership and changing social perspectives about the youth. With the inspiration given to us through Mary and Michael, we were dispersed into our smaller groups to further develop the idea of leadership.
Our next session of the morning was the “I Am A Leader” task; a hypothetical alien had landed and needed convincing as to how we, as leaders, could rule the world and end certain issues. Our group focused on a drama, theatrical piece with both acting and voiceovers. My task was to speak, so speak I did. Here’s exactly what I said, in conjunction with the drama performance;
Poverty: People are starving even though we have the resources to feed everyone 1.7x more than they need. We need to spread the resources across the world. Feed those who need it.
War: Refugees are fleeing to Europe, trying to escape persecution. Countries like North Korea restrict free speech and yet people abuse their own freedom of speech with the sole intent of hurting others.
Equality: 66% of minorities report hate crime discriminations based off prejudice. We need to stop the idea that only one way is right. We are all different.
Needless to say, we won that task seemingly with flying colours following the onslaught of “That was beautiful,” messages.
After a hard morning scattering of sessions driven around leadership, we were met with the golden announcement of ‘lunch’. This time on offer was a variety of salads and a Quiche/ Shepard’s pie sort of thing. I didn’t go for that, instead settling on my salad. By now, following the morning shambles of cold bacon, I was craving meat and this craving was not appeased. How I could have killed for a chicken leg or a piece of lamb. Not to complain though, for the salad was actually remarkably enjoyable and once again I was reunited with my baby; the orange juice. One cannot comprehend the love I have for that beautiful orange liquid.
This was followed by an entire evening of leadership activities (notice the common trend yet?) followed by the learning of different types of leaders. By this point, my body had completely shut down. The toll of the previous night’s writing was wearing me down, and I’d say for a good half an hour, I’d completely zoned out regardless of how much I wanted to engage. Despite this, we did learn a few things. Namely opposite sorts of leaders in relation to short-term durations and long-term durations; the common trend being short-term leaders tend to be more direct and ‘dictator-like’ in nature. This time also gave us a slot to get to know our group leader a bit better, mainly about what he does as a career choice and how he incorporates the importance of leadership in all aspects of what he does.
Our final meal of the day beckoned us; dinner. By this point, I was more dehydrated than hungry, but I was pleasantly happy to see ravioli. My love for ravioli takes me back 13 years, but that’s a long and likely pointless story. There was an alternative of some sort of salmon and salad that looked absolutely gross to me (I’ve never eaten salmon like that, the texture looked like really raw chicken and it was slimy as hell.) I also got a yoghurt again and my little bowl of salad like my previous meal. Only this time, the salad tasted different and disappointing and there was NO orange juice. That’s right. They don’t offer my beautiful drink in evenings. I could have cried after hearing that.
The meal was extremely filling thanks to the ravioli, which for once, was actually warm! I was a happy Benjamin. We then split back into our small groups to play a variety of teamwork games, such as ‘raise the bar’ where everyone places their finger underneath a pole and for some stupid reason it rises. I’d go into more detail of this game, but I’d become too angry. I hate that game and I hate that stupid bar. I’ll probably get flashbacks if I ever see another pole like that again. After that ‘extremely nice’ game (ugh) we, as a group, were given a clothing sheet to create our group banner on.
As before, sadly I zoned out for a bit of this, but our group had an ingenious collective idea to centre it around a bus, for our group leader owned his own bus (but couldn’t drive it) and incorporate all our journeys of how we got to this point. Cringy stuff, but like the drama performance, who cares if it makes us win. I should point out by this point that our group is called Team 2, just in case I use that in future reference.
After our banner creation, or more the ideology behind it, we had to explain it in front of everyone in the assembly hall. We didn’t have a completed product or a plan on hand, so in true northern fashion, we winged it! That didn’t go down too well, sadly, but our saving grace was within the last ten seconds of our time where a few members spontaneously decided to dance. I hate to admit it, but we lost that one. Some of the other groups were extremely witty and well thought through, such as team 8riginali(tea) which was spelled exactly like that, which a cup of tea replacing the word tea. Original, huh?
The Big Debate was up next. I cracked my knuckles in anticipation, after all, being a wordsmith had given me an inadvertent passion for debating. Maybe that stemmed from my opinion writing, but who cares, I was ready to win some debates. I was sad to find out it was small group V group debates, centred on a topic, regimented into set segments. I understand that was to introduce the idea of debating to the less extroverted characters, so if that eased them into this wonderful world of fiery passion and aggressive persuasion, hey, who am I to complain? However, for us ‘more advanced’ guys, it would have been nice to have 1 V 1 debates or such like that. Either way, it was a nice final activity.
Following from the completion of this, we were dispersed for free time for the final time of the day. The time was now 10:00pm and I was shattered. We made our way to a collective common room and I dived for my comfy chair with the arm rests. I then put my feet up on the conveniently placed coffee table and just observed all the different personality changes. After laughing my lungs out at one point with a fellow leader, much to the confusion of other leaders, I settled on my phone game ‘Smashy Road’, which I downloaded 8 weeks ago but only played for the first time today. It has vague aesthetic relations to the original arcade version of Grand Theft Auto, but in a more friendly, curved pixel style. That little game passed my time until we were called to g back to our rooms. The walk there was perfect, for myself and a few other leaders planned to pick up another leader on a ‘bird call’ produced by a leader. This is a long running joke, but the individual we picked up had been somewhat of a Casanova throughout the journey, so its only right we recognised his efforts. In a football hooligan sort of way, with the guy over all our shoulders, we chanted as we carried him down the road. Once we let him go, he was visibly anxious of another bird call. In the brilliant words of one of my friends, “watch out for the birds, they’ll carry you away.”
Rather than mingling in the common room for an hour, I made a dash straight for my room. I was both far too tired to further communicate with humans, and I needed to write the summary of this day. I once again sat by my desk and began to type, finishing at 3am and awaking at 6am to double-check it. As before, my sleep itself was rather comfy; I don’t know why it is, but every other bed in the world seems more comfortable than my own.
Anyway, after awaking at 6am, I thought id be the only one awake. Luckily there was my dear Irish friend on the group chat ready to provide me with his ‘craic banter’ (I think that’s how they say it?)