Monday, 2 April 2018

Dating apps are killing romance

Unpopular opinion: I hate dating apps. They're just sad. Maybe I’m refusing to acknowledge that we now live in a world where the most fundamental and basic of human interactions (i.e. finding a partner) cannot be done without algorithms, profiles, and a lot of swiping. Obviously, using a dating app is a lot easier than asking a boy or girl out in person but since when was love (or sex) supposed to be easy.

A whole genre of movies is grounded in this idea of meeting someone and a connection forming. Pretty soon romance films are going to be closer to fantasy because the notion of seeing a person across a crowded bar and asking for their number will be an alien concept to the next generation. Hell, CBS managed to milk 208 episodes out of a boy meets girl story (HIMYM). Just imagine if that show was set 15 years later: 'I saw your mother’s holiday pic from last summer with the girls and I thought, “damn girl, u hot” so slid into her DMs with a pic of my dick’.

I hate Cards Against Humanity

Many a night during secondary school, I would invite friends over, we would drink Desperados, eat Fajitas, and play Cards Against Humanity. I also played Cards Against Humanity almost every time I went camping… and I go camping a lot.

So, why have I grown out of the game? It's repetitive - and nothing is less funny than a joke that’s already been told before. Once you’ve been through the whole deck a dozen times, you practically know every card so you’re no longer shocked by the outrageous and edgy white card that is played. The laughs are cheap and come from banally reading a crude phrase some guy in America has wrote from a piece of cardboard.

I hear you thinking ‘Yes, but there are dozens of black cards and hundreds of white ones so there are endless combinations!' No, once you’re familiar with all the white cards, the fun is dead.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

I'm going to miss being 19

“You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.” - Ogden Nash

Today is my last day being a teenager.

I spent today how I’ve spent a lot of April Fool’s Days… camping. Even on the eve of becoming a teenager I was camping.

There in one story in particular about the eve of my 13th birthday (well, technically my 13th birthday itself) that gets recited to me every Easter year-upon-year. Picture this: It’s night-time, a 12 year-old Liam Pape has been in bed for a few hours and wakes up in his sleep at one of his first Scout camps, crying and yowling because he wants to go home and spend his birthday with his family.

Ben, one of the older boys at the end of the tent, tells me to be quiet. Harry, one of the more considerate boys at the other end of the tent takes me to a leader instead. On waking the leader, I explained that I wanted him to call my mam so she could come and pick me up. The leader, Mark, instead gives me another blanket and tells me it’s 3am so he’s not calling anybody. I go back to my tent and eventually fall asleep. Unknowing that I wouldn’t live that down for the next six years.

Once of the best things I heard about being a teenager came from my secondary school history teacher. In 2013, I’d been invited to a peers event at the House of Commons as part of an anti-tobacco industry campaign I was part of at the time. He came with me as a chaperone and on the train down to London he said to me, “Don’t be afraid to look stupid today. You can get away with it. You’re a teenager.”

Me, looking smug about being a na├»ve, juvenile teenager
Even though, I’ve come to learnt that most people look stupid well into their old age nowadays, I’m sure I will look back at these teenage years with nostalgia that I will no longer be able to laugh off idiocy as “well I’m just a teenager.”

The main thing I’m going to miss about being a teenager isn’t any of the perks that come with these magical years (if there any any perks at all that is - spots, puberty, and PE lessons don’t sound that great to me). Rather, the actuality of being able to say that I’m a teenager. I still very much associate being 19 with adolescence. At the end of the day, it’s still the decade of your life when you went to Primary School and Secondary School. But being 20, nah son, that’s a whole other kettle of fish. Being the big two zero means that you're in the decade of your life where most people start a career, buy a house, and have kids. Being 20 is adulthood.

It’s not the expectations that bother me though, it’s the whole notion of adulthood associated with being 20.

Some of the best pleasures I’ve had in the last year or two, especially in London, have been the expressions of people who thought that I was way older than 19. Their surprise when I proudly declare that I’m only 19 is fantastic!

I fondly remember a conversation with a colleague at work last year. She was 35 years old and had recently came out of a long-term relationship but was looking to get back onto the dating scene. She asked me if I had any single friends I could set her up with. “Pah! I’m 18. Basically all my friends are single!” I chortled. She laughed it off, said that she thought I was in my early 30s and then declared that she was old enough to be my mother.

By far my favourite ‘being 19’ story happened this February. I was in a club and a woman (who I later found out was 24) asked me for my Instagram username - I can only assume this is the 2018 way of asking for someones number? She followed me and I followed back as she was very pretty.

Marin and Kyle went ballistic when I told them I had no plans to slide into her DMs though because I felt like a catfish. “What the fuck do you mean? She’s seen you in person though?” they said to me. However, the poor woman definitely thought I was far older than I was though.

Imagine if we went on a date and she says, "I’m a part-time model and work for an auctioneers. What do you do for a living, Liam?" and I then need to explain that I’m a student so I spend most of my time dossing around in my flat and watching David Dobrik videos on YouTube. Then what happens when the bill comes? I gently need to nudge it over to her side of the table with a pitiful expression as I explain, “student loan, sorry luv.”

Since their 20s were the decade that my parents got married and had me, I’ve decided to set a goal to spend my 20s trying to find ‘the one’ and seeing if I can unearth my true callling in life.

I’m shitting you.

I’ll probably just continue to overwork myself until an early grave.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Making 'The Camp 3'

Is camping - and scouting in general - still relevant to the youth of today?

In The Camp 1 and 2, we looked at what makes the 8th Darlington different to other Scout groups and why people, young and old, agree to spend one week every year in a boggy field. I thought answering those two questions over the course of 50 minutes collectively was a suffice summary of summer camp with the 8th. I was wrong.

In June 2017, I discovered that there was an appetite for a third camp film. I was told that although many of the events that happen at summer camp are the same year upon year, the way they are done and the characters involved are different - and therefore still worth covering. Over a string of emails with Alec, it was decided that we should try to answer the question of whether camping is still relevant to the youth of today throughout the course of the film.

As usual, we tried to maintain two main genres: informational documentary and humour. Hopefully most references can be understood by a wider audience and scenes that are about events unique to the 8th (such as PL’s choice and the X-fire) are explained thoroughly enough that outsiders get the gist of the what is going on.

Since the film is about a small community and for a small community, nobody cared if it was filmed on an iPhone 4S or a Canon EOS C200 4K Camcorder. Nobody cared for sweeping HDR aerial shots or dramatic sepia colouring in post-production. The characters and overarching theme are paramount. Nothing else.

I think we did a good job getting the theme of camping’s relevance in the 21st century to run throughout the film. In the opening, the reasons for why we are asking that question are identified and explained in an intriguing way with an overly-emotive soundtrack and edgy editing. Before the end of the second day of camp is concluded, Maverick gives a really wishy-washy interview where he cannot come to any conclusion whatsoever about camping’s relevance. But gradually, as the film goes on, the interviews get better and the audience can make up their own mind. This is of course accompanied by the documenting of the week with the highs and lows, the fun and the work, the silliness and the seriousness.

I have been asked if the last scene was scripted/faked for dramatic effect. But it actually happened… with perfect timing actually as it occured in the last hour at camp when I still hadn't figured out an ending to the film. Once Erika described what, to her, made camping relevant to young people, I went away and sat quietly, filming people at a high frame rate knowing it could be slowed down to look dramatic and poignant in the edit - like a nature photographer trying not to interfere with the wildebeests… or a pervert with a telescope.

Is The Camp 3 the best of The Camp trilogy, or even better than 100 Years with the 8th for that matter? Only Mark Kermode knows for sure, but you can judge for yourself, I suppose, by watching it here ---->>

Friday, 11 August 2017

Pickering Hike (Summer Camp 2017)

A condensed version of this report was originally published in issue 15 of 8th Mag.

After the arrival of the Hewinses on late Tuesday morning, the Rover quartet left camp for their day of hiking. The circular hike, planned by Liam, was supposed to be approximately 12 miles in distance and take up most of the day.

The Rover squad began in high spirits as they walked westerly towards Newbridge, through the quarry, along the road, and onto a footpath which led straight up to Cawthorn Roman Camp. Unfortunately, they mistook a worn track at the side of a field of wheat as the public footpath. The one they wanted was actually running parallel to them, just through a line of trees. The Rovers came up with a cunning plan of climbing over a fence and cutting through the trees to get themselves back on course - however it was far easier said than done.

Harry battered through nettles, thorns, and deer to lead the bunch through what turned out to be a small wood rather than a thin line of trees. With only minor grazes and stings, they were soon back on the right route.

On arrival at Cawthorn Roman Camp, Liam consulted the map and found a viewpoint where he suggested they have lunch. Finding this viewpoint proved difficult though. The paths at the Roman Camp were not traced on maps so Liam told the group to just bear right whenever they came to a crossroads. Those of you who are good at angles will know, if you take four right turnings, you end up exactly where you started. So, about 20 minutes after leaving the car park at the Roman Camp, the Rovers had accidentally returned to the car park at the Roman Camp, even more hungry the second time around.

It was at this point where the other Rovers insisted on checking a map and having lunch next to the actual Roman Camp remains (a two-minute walk from the car park).

For lunch, they devoured a whole apple pie and a can of squirty cream, amongst other things.

Newton upon Derwent would be their next stop however it was a long and boring three-mile walk along roads to get there. Liam walked slightly ahead so he was out of earshot of the death threats the other Rovers were mumbling at him by this point.

Exhausted a sweaty, the Rovers arrived one by one in Newton upon Derwent. All they wanted now was to enjoy a cool and refreshing Diet Coke in a local Public House. Sadly, the only establishment in the village did not open on a Tuesday so they instead sat outside and caught their breath there.

A gentleman in Newton approached the Rovers and struck up conversation with them about their route. Liam explained to the bloke that they were heading for Levisham. The geezer correctly guessed that the Rovers would be tempted to head straight down the valley; he warned against this as the path would be extremely steep, dangerously slippery, take them through a field of angry bulls, and there was no guarantee that they would be able to directly cross the beck at the bottom. The wise old man instead advised them to retrace their steps back up to the north end of Newton upon Derwent and follow the winding road that would eventually take them to the train line crossing at the bottom of the valley. He showed them on the map that it meant adding another half a mile onto their route but the descent down the valley would be far safer.

Once the Dumbledore of Derwent walked away, the Rovers said bollocks to him and set off down the steep but direct path. A decision they would come to regret...

The pathway was almost vertical in some parts causing James and Ben, especially, to skid and slide. At the bottom, Harry did manage to find a beck crossing he thought would be appropriate however it required balancing on a dubious looking branch. Liam went first. He placed one foot on the branch and kept the other foot firmly on the field, slowly putting pressure on the branch to see how much it could take. He spent five minutes in this dance with the branch before deciding to just risk it.

SNAP! The branch, unsurprisingly, was dead and Liam's leg went groin-deep into the water. The bed of the river was not even what stopped him from going in deeper, it was that his other leg snagged on the tree. That's what he gets for listening to Harry.

In hysterics at Liam’s wetness, the Rovers plodded along the side of the bull field towards the actual crossing, looking to see if there was anywhere else they could cut across to reduce their route. After going through swampy areas where the mud was coming over the sides of their boots, they eventually found a stronger tree to climb along and over the beck. Only problem here was, the other side of the beck was somebody's back garden; so, they hotfooted it towards the railway crossing.

The assent from Levisham station to the village of Levisham was far nicer than the descent from Newton upon Derwent. Although steep, the footpath was in good condition, and the views became increasingly breath-taking the more they climbed.

Once in Levisham, they stopped at The Horseshoe Inn for a Diet Coke or three. It was at this point where the Rovers were seriously considering ending their hike. They inquired with the bartender about local buses and numbers for taxi services. But eventually, they reluctantly decided that they might as well finish the route on foot. Liam promised them it would be a flat walk back to camp (spoiler alert: it wasn't). At exactly 17:25 they headed south out of Levisham and along the river back towards camp.

The last leg of the hike was familiar to Ben and Harry as it was along the same pathways they had trekked for their Senior overnight hike some five years prior.

In the end, the Rovers ended up walking 15.3 miles. And despite all the walking, they still had the energy to cram a large cod and chips into their gobs for tea. All in all, despite their feet looking like that Nazi whose face melted off in Raiders of the Lost Ark by the time they got back to camp, Ben declared it a "bloody good day and one of the best walks I’ve been on for a while."

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Nine months in London

I’ve been living in London for around nine months now. During that time, I have been to some wonderful places, met some awesome individuals, experienced things you simply can’t anywhere else in the world, and learnt some important lessons. So, what follows is a brief rambling on my time in the big smoke.
The view from the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street

Portobello Road
London is amazing. From the dozens of weekly markets to the scores of museums and galleries, I never seem to run out of things to do. They say that the best way to explore a city is by foot - and that is very true. On a weeknight you can usually find me getting lost in the Hackney Marshes, along the Regent's Canal, down in Canary Wharf, in the narrow and windy streets of the City of London, or in any other direction from Mile End. Walking provides a fuller understanding of London. I have discovered that I can walk to Kings Cross station in just under a hour, Westminster in just over an hour, and going north along the River Lea is probably the best place to go if you want to see scenery which mildly resembles the countryside. That being said, it has also been useful living next to a well-connected tube station.

It turns out, I like laughing. London is a great place for live comedy - and entertainment in general. They have loads of comedy clubs which I frequent - as well as work at. The Comedy Store in Soho is by far the best and if you’re ever in London, I’d highly recommend any of their nights because they’re all top notch.

Most TV shows with a live studio audience are filmed in London. They make a fun night out and they’re free! I’ve been to the recordings of Alan Carr, Have I Got News For You, and No Such Thing As The News.

London also has one of the most iconic theatre scenes in the world. Admittedly, I have not seen a single West End play or musical since moving to London however I have seen a couple of fringe performances (‘Andrew Hunter Murray: Round One’ was fantastic).

Since moving to London, there has been a couple of terrorist attacks. The second of which at London bridge, only a few days ago, I was reasonably close to. A friend and I were walking under the Millennium bridge when a group of police cars whirred past and a Guardian news alert popped up on our phones informing us on an “incident” on London bridge which we could see in front of us. Unalarmed by this, still unsure what was actually going on, we caught the tube at the next station.
Trafalgar Square

So, do I feel safe in London? Yeah, I do actually. Terrorism is a threat but it’s not something that’s going to make me reconsider going out. In terms of general safety, I feel safer in London than I do in Darlington. Even in the early hours of the morning, London’s streets are bustling with night owls so I never feel on edge when walking alone. Up north, the streets can be eerily quiet.

Student Stuff
In terms of student lifestyle, I think London has a club or two - don’t know for sure (not going to lie, I have not been to any). I have however been to flat parties which didn’t live up to expectations either. This might be down to the fact that student accommodation in London tends to be the size of a large cardboard box. So, it can get rather cramped at times. More likely down to the company though.

I’ve met some amazing people in London from many backgrounds. I’ve never been short of fascinating folk and intriguing thinkers with enviable drive. That being said, there are lots of painfully dull and pitifully stupid students as well.
Looking East: Mile End

Things I've learnt about myself:

I'm not going to lie, I know myself pretty well. University has not caused me to have any eye-opening epiphany moments which have posed as a catalyst to a spiral of self-discovery. Instead, here are two things that people have pointed out to me.
  1. People think I’m older than I am.
    I’ve met a couple of people who genuinely assumed that I was in my mid-30s. Even people at the University never guess I’m a first year (unless they’re in my class, of course). I like to this this is down to my mature attitude, professionalism, and bank of dad jokes I have stored in by head. However, it’s more likely down to the slowly greying hair, the ever-darkening bags under my eyes, and the bloated beer belly I saddle around proudly. (FYI I drank and rated over 40 different beers in 2016 - and I only turned 18 last April. Time well spent.)

  2. Darlington has its own accent - or is it just me?
    People are just as bad at trying to guess my hometown as they are my age. I don’t ask people to try and guess where I’m from, most just take it upon themselves to ask me if I’m from Yorkshire, “above Newcastle”, or - as one person guessed - Scotland. This has led me to believe that Darlington has its own unique sound. 

Read more >>> Six weeks in London

Friday, 9 June 2017

Kensington: the last undeclared seat

The parliamentary constituency of Kensington in west London will be the 650th of 650 seats to be declared in the 2017 general election. The reason for the delay is that there have reportedly already been two recounts. These continued until almost 7am this morning when vote counters were finally told to go home and get some rest.

A recount in a close seat, that's nothing unusual right? No. However, Kensington isn't usually a close seat. In fact, after the 2015 general election, the Conservatives had a 20% lead over the Labour candidate in terms of vote share. Moreover, since the constituency was created in 1974, it has been a safe Conservative seat as it homes some of the richest people in Great Britain with house prices climbing into the tens of millions. If the reason for the delay is confirmed to be because of a close race between the Conservative and Labour candidate, this will be one of the biggest stories of the election.