It had been a good few months since I had seen my NCS Leaders 2015/16 group, so great surprise and happiness was held in physical form; my train ticket to London Euston for the 22nd January 2016. As you may have seen in my past articles, long distance travels are my forte – especially when going to London, by far my favourite place in the United Kingdom.
My reserved seat ticket was scheduled for 3:58pm, but I had other plans. Me being me, I wanted to wholly appease my inner tourist and visit every major attraction there is to see in London (or as much as my little legs could bear to walk). As a result, I took a train that arrived 2 hours early.
The train ride was wonderful, as ever with Virgin trains, with only one pitfall. I sat across the table from a middle aged woman who A) must have thought of me as some teenaged thug as she kept giving concerned looks and B) kept staring at me as I tried to get some sleep. My sleepless, blissful hell was soon over, however, as my train edged into the borders of London then finally into Euston.
The last time I was here, I was scuffling towards a huddle of blue-hoodie representatives of NCS and a gathering of equally lost young Leaders of 2015/16. No, I was here, alone and totally not afraid. I had an agenda, a burning mission. To visit everything London could behold in only a few hours.
I set off, agile and speedily, towards the nearest tube station. Bearing in mind this is the first ever time I had traveled on the tube on my own, I totally nailed it. I had the attitude and selfishness of any Londoner, yet with the signature apology-fueled attitude of anyone that lives anywhere out of London. In fact, I was quite literally the only guy saying “sorry” or “excuse me”.
After only a brief ride and a quick change in line, I reached Piccadilly Circus. I sped towards Nelson’s Column as I remembered this is where some ‘cool stuff’ was from last time. Boy, I wasn’t wrong. Not only did I see some funky, giant illuminated signs on the way, I bear witness to the architectural beauties of London; the Canadian embassy, the wonderful fountains, the lions and the column itself. In fitting with my agenda, I took a selfie at each major point and set forth down Whitehall Lane. Here, I saw the Queen’s Guard building, 10 Downing Street and of course, the peeking wonder of the Houses of Parliament; Big Ben gently irradiating elegant golden light through the tree lines.
I arrived at the Houses of Parliament, took my selfie and headed straight down to MI5 and MI6. No, I’m not a spy, but yes, I’m a James Bond freak.
As ever with London, the buildings didn’t disappoint. Despite it being an hours’ worth of straight walking in now-pitch black light and bitter-cold weather, the lights shone elegantly upon the Thames. After this, I made a straight dash for the nearest tube station both in order to cut travel times and in the hope of a seat to take. Nope. It was crowded as hell and selfish as hell. Regardless, I squeezed gracelessly into a grove of bodies and set forth for The Mall.
I felt like my mom. Not physically or anything, but mentally. She adores the Royal Family, so walking down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace gave me chills unbeknown to any permanent-residence northerner (sorry, mom). The statue outside sparked two main thoughts with me; firstly, wow, it was beautiful. Secondly, I wonder how much someone could make if they stole the gold from the top. I blame my physical and mental tiredness on this thought! Almost as quickly as I arrived, and a few selfies later, I made my way once again to the nearest tube line and set forth to St Pauls cathedral across London. Once here, I blasted through the cathedral (metaphorically…), Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and some other bridges that put to shame all our northern creations.
After this, it was time for me to finally head to NCS. It was now 8pm and I was needed at NCS in half an hour. This didn’t bother me, mainly due to my nonchalant attitude to travel and the fact I couldn’t really hurry the tube. Anyway, I arrived at Latimer Road Station is quick time, and walked the short but painful path to the NCS office.
It was bliss to finally sit inside on the cosy carpets a friendly attitude of the office itself, despite a 5 minute issue with the doors and my incompetence to open it properly. A platter of Subway sandwiches and friendly faces greeted me; even a more-than-embracing hug from the ever-energetic Rae – one of my closer friends from Leaders. I also chatted with some of the other National Youth Board members there, and then once united with a few more travelers, we made our way to the Hilton Hotel Kensington.
Now, I’m a pretty basic dude. Hilton Hotel isn’t. The foyer itself was more posh than anything I’d been in (bar the House of Commons), so tired me in my baggy green coat felt far out of place.
We received our room keys and, after an initial confusion, found our rooms. Because my room-mate, Josh, lives in Northern Ireland, he wasn’t here yet. I took this evil opportunity to claim the best bed and mark my dominance; yes, I took all the Hilton pens.
Once Josh begrudgingly arrived, grasping a McDonald’s in hand, we gathered for a ‘friendly’ game of “Never Have I Ever”. Because I know the lovely NCS staff will be reading this, I’ll remain innocent and say it stayed strictly-PG…hmm.
We were whisked to our respective rooms as the time fast approached midnight, but this didn’t hold us back. We created the perfect plan only geniuses could fool…we planned to all sneak into the same room.
This failed, hard. Josh and I were late to the party, as we bumped into one of the graduate guys with NCS. Out of panic, I blamed our wandering on “looking for the toilet”, despite our rooms having on suite toilets. The other graduate leader caught the others in the same room, and apparently went mad at them. That made me feel lucky I made a fool of myself asking where the toilet is and not going to the room!
After making the walk of shame back to our rooms, Josh took pride in telling me of his “30 likes on his Instagram post”. I then made him sad by saying I got 300. Sorry, Josh. After I had clarified our social hierarchy, we finally rested for the night and went to sleep.
The 6:30am alarm was very much appreciated (please sense the overwhelming sarcasm in that), but oddly, I didn’t feel that tired. To be honest, I was seriously pumped for the unlimited breakfast awaiting us downstairs.
When I saw the breakfast was glorious, I speak with pure understatement. It was literally the best thing I had ever eaten. If you read my previous NCS Leaders 2015/16 article, you’d know how much I adore food. In fact, here’s one of my key quotes about the food last time;
“Onto my favourite part; food. Specifically breakfast. This time, God himself had come down and provided it for me; hot baked beans, a decent egg, sausage, berry yoghurt (gotta have that dairy,) and of course, the one and only, the love of my life…the southern pure orange juice.” – Benjamin John Wareing/ 2015.
Anyway, the food here was utterly brilliant. I started with a hot full English breakfast, followed by a ‘bread section’ of croissants, Swiss rolls and weird little pieces if bread with chocolate entwined in it. We were also treated to some orange juice that almost rivaled that given in Sevenoaks during Leaders, and also an odd little Melon smoothie that looked like it should cost £15, despite it only being about 50ml.
After our beautifully fattening breakfast, we once again made way to the NCS office 15 minutes down the road. During this journey, we discussed many seriously important topics, like how one of the Leaders always starts by saying “Hiya!” or how some people “hate English”. The walk pretty much flew by, and before long, we were once again sat upon the vibrant beanbags scattering the NCS office.
For about half an hour, we lounged around and listened to music. We definitely did not break open a beanbag by accident and definitely did not spill juice over one of the Leaders.
After being re-united with the other half of the Leaders 2015/16, we began our ‘serious’ work – the reason why we were here in the first place – the first of this year’s NCS National Youth Boards. Our first part, what I’ll call ‘Agenda A’, was surrounding a short speech by NCS CEO, Michael Lynas and the Chairman of NCS, CEO of RockCorps, Stephen Greene. As ever, these were driven by inspiration and deep insight into the inner workings of NCS and the short term goals needed to bring NCS to fruition in the long term.
A short break was called, where we proceeded to make fun of a guy in our Leaders team named Shanil who looks terribly like random people off Google Images, and not in a good way! This break was short-run by our ‘Agenda B’ part, which centred on our roles as members of the National Youth Board, such as minute taker, enforcer and communications. We also discussed the amazing progress our individual regions have made in the past few months.
Following Agenda B, we were given another short break. This time, it was but shroud by the drama to unfold; someone spilling an entire glass of water over someone else’s laptop. It wasn’t just the typical ‘little spill’ that is enough to rip someone’ heart out, oh no, the entirety of the water seeped into every key of the poor laptop’s keyboard.
Agenda C came round fast, this time about our opinions of the NCS Website (which is being updated brilliantly – check it out!) and also planning/ discussing NCS Action Day 2016, which will take place on the 5th March. Everyone’s ideas were perfect and morally beneficial; from raising awareness of sexual health to combating the issue of mental health that has sadly gripped this nation. Everyone has a wonderful plan that represents us as engaged and passionate NCS representatives and young citizens to the world.
Break 3, or lunch, then followed. This gave me an opportunity to catch up with Georgia, who allowed me to take over the NCS Snapchat channel and create an article for the NCS website. We discussed a multitude of gripping and informative manners, from engagement on social media to dealing with criticism. It was also nice to put a face to the name! I then set forth in writing the first part of this article, perching on a little window ledge in the kitchen over-looking the rest of the team. There were many people that utilised the given chalk to write on the ‘blackboard’ wall in the kitchen, leaving our ‘creative but not so talented’ mark forevermore in the NCS office (or until someone realises how crap it is and continues writing terrible food puns) This overlook position was both pretty comfortable, but pretty humbling. I could just sit back and watch this group of people, in essence my family, just engage intelligently, creatively and enjoy themselves above all else. It was incredibly heart-warming to have this moment. I was also joined briefly by Michael Lynas, who expressed his pleasure at my writing, quoting, “so this is where the magic happens!” Yes Michael, it’s just as boring and lifeless as it has ever been! (Also sarcasm). Rae also joined me for a little bit, punched me in the arm and asked “am I going to be in the article?” No, Rae, clearly you’re not.
After this lunch break, we were summoned back into our little board room. Here, we were met by Georgia, who discussed social media and gathered our opinions on it. We chatted Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, with a little bit of ‘Shazam’ about our new National Advertising Campaign. Suffice to say, this was a very packed section of the day, buzzing with plenty of ideas to bounce around.
We then had shorter sections on improving the experience for those signing up and also the general assembly experience, of which the vast majority of participants sign up through. That last part was my ground of interest, considering that in the near future, I will be conducting school assemblies about the plethora of outstanding opportunities NCS opens up for everyone. I mean, that’s evident in the very fact I’m writing this article, not just led in bed playing Grand Theft Auto (I still might do that later – shh)
Anyway, in this ‘assembly’s part’, we were tasked with creating videos for use in the assemblies. The goal was to keep it “amateur” and “generally improvised”, but these two words aren’t included in my vocabulary. Instead, I grabbed my camera and began shooting professionally shot scenes, taking into consideration angle and lighting. This was surprisingly enjoyable, perhaps due to the fact I wasn’t the one in front of the camera! I got this truly wonderful ‘music album-style’ photo of fellow Leader, Toby:
Once we had completed this section, we were called to the board room once more. The time was fast approaching 5pm, our ‘finish’ time, so we were debriefed on the day, what is to be expected of us in the future, and a final sweet ‘goodbye’ video for the NCS Snapchat channel. It was a cringe-worthy, yet bitter-sweet moment, before finally departing from those I find brothers and sisters.
The walk to the tube was one of suppressed sadness. Not only does NCS provide me with wonderful opportunities, it gives me the greatest memories and the greatest friends. As much as it destroys me to leave them temporarily, it humbles me to know that across this entire country, there are people that I hold closer to my heart than oxygen.
Once on the tube, I was given a final 15 minutes with Ash, yet again one of my closer friends within Leaders. It was a rather quiet ride, yet that was made up by the typical ‘lad’ goodbye of “see you later”. But two stops later, I was at London Euston. The walk to Euston train station was my last piece of enjoyment within London for the near foreseeable future, so I took in every last skyscraper and tourist, before heading in and making the mildly-mad dash to my train.
Here, after finding a seat on an overcrowded train (thank God), I set forth typing this last part of the article. It’s warm and stuffy in here, so I’ll sign off with this last message before I pass out (not literally, don’t worry!)
If you’re reading this, and you’re hesitant to sign up to NCS, don’t be. Seriously, NCS has taken me to literal opposite ends of the country, from Scotland to London, given me a countless list of friends from the main ‘part’ to Leaders, and has given me that many memories that I can’t remember the world without it. You may be anxious, worried or concerned about making such a leap to something new, but be assured, you won’t regret it. The world is a shimmering pearl for you to take as your own and offer to everyone else.
-Benjamin John Wareing
You can learn more of my NCS journey by clicking HERE.
You can sign up to NCS by clicking HERE.