Mixing with the Celebs in New Zealand!

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📥  Education

So 5 months into my placement at Harbour Sport and I still love life in New Zealand! Throughout this sheep covered land you are always bumping into and spotting celebrities when you are out and about. I got the chance to mix with a lot of famous people, as for one night I was amongst many past and current Olympic medal winners, and future Olympians and Champions. The event was the Harbour Sport ‘Sport Excellence Awards’, and what a night! After many months of planning and preparation making sure the best decorations, music and food were sourced, selecting the deserving winners from a wide pool of nominees, and selling all the tickets; the night could now go ahead.

My duties on the night required being seen by all and not to fall over. I was a trophy girl for the first half of the night, and photography assistant for the second half. These were great opportunities to build up my communication and presenting skills.
- When being a trophy girl I had to stand on the stage in the spot light ready to hand the trophy to a sponsor or award to a winner. Standing on stage in front of lots of people, including your whole work force and famous people, well all I can say is that it was scary but fun. Thank goodness....I didn’t drop a trophy or fall over! (See photo)

On the Stage

On the Stage

- When I was a photographer’s assistant I ushered the winners from the stage, congratulated them, and took them to have their photos. This was awesome as I got to chat to all of the famous sports heroes. I may have had a few sneaky photos with the stars (See photo).

Me and Gary Freeman!

Me and Gary Freeman!

A few of the sporting celebrities I have met over my time in New Zealand so far are:
- Usain Bolt – Fastest man on land.
- Valerie Adams – Double Olympic Shot Put Gold Medallist from Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
- Gary Freeman – one of New Zealand’s greatest rugby league players.
- Lisa Carrington’s partner (Missed Lisa by 5 minutes).
- Barbara Kendall – Won a Gold, Silver, and Bronze at three different Olympics in boardsailing. (See photo)
- Lydia Ko – Ranked Number 1 amateur golfer in the world.
- Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie – Gold medal Women’s Double Handed class London 2012 in sailing.
- Martin Devlin – One of New Zealand’s leading sports broadcasters and columnists.
- Brent Newdick – 1st Australian Decathlon Championship, and 12th Decathlon at London 2012 Olympics.
- Nathan Handley – Coach to Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie – Gold medal Women’s Double Handed class London 2012.
- New Zealand’s Women’s Waterpolo Team.
- Harbour Sports very own staff member Richard Casutt – Beach Volleyball 1st Men’s referee at World Tour’s 2012 and London 2012 Women’s quarter and semi-final.
- Swimming – 7 Olympians and 3 Paralympians represented New Zealand at London 2012 Olympics.
- Tony Woodcock’s wife (Tony was absent on the night of the Awards, but he was in the Champion All Blacks side that won the world cup.
- New Zealand Warriors – NZ’s Team in the Australian NRL..

Barbara Kendall

With NZ being a country with a small population there is a pretty good chance of spotting someone famous, especially sports stars. I love being in New Zealand as it is such a nice place, and why not top it off with mixing with the celebs!


The 'D' Word - Dissertation Planning whilst on Placement

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies


As much as I'd like it to, my internship with 10gen can't go on forever -- and as 2013 rushes onwards, my return to university creeps ever closer.

This can only mean one thing; the dreaded dissertation.

It may not seem like the most attractive prospect whilst also working a fulltime job (can anyone here say 'exhausted'?), but there is a lot to be said for laying the foundations of your undergraduate dissertation whilst on placement -- giving yourself as much time as possible to work on your project and thus reducing your workload on returning to your studies.

So what can you do?

  • BE REALISTIC: This cannot be stressed enough. Take an honest look at the time you have to complete your project and allocate a realistic amount of time to each of these steps, some of which will obviously take longer than others. Don't be disheartened or overwhelmed if some take longer than you were expecting -- the most important thing is that you keep your focus.
  • TALK TO YOUR COMPANY: If you're lucky enough to have a highly supportive placement company, why not talk to them about allocating some time towards working on your dissertation?
  • THINK TOPIC: Begin by thinking about a focused and manageable topic that you know will be interesting, original and achievable.
  • THINK TEXTS: Undertake some preliminary reading and research to establish that there is appropriate source material upon which you can draw. Why not make an Amazon wishlist of relevant textbooks?
  • GET IN CONTACT: Contact your university department for guidance on whether your topic is a suitable area of research, and enquire as to which staff members in your department may be most knowledgeable on the subject.
  • GET READING: Once you've received the go ahead, you can begin your reading in earnest. Work towards completing the bulk of your research into your chosen topic, making sure that you manage your information effectively and retain all the relevant details you will need for your bibliography etc. I know this is a pain, but when you're near final hand in and discover you're not having to panic about missing references, you'll be thankful you did it.
  • GET PLANNING: Take some time to work on a semi-detailed plan of your dissertation -- identify each major section which you want it to contain. Remember to keep the final word length in mind, and perhaps even allocating a rough word length to each section. Remember this will probably change as your dissertation progresses.

Reiterating the need for a realistic and achievable plan, this is where it may be advisable to stop; enabling students to make progress on their final year dissertation without detrimentally affecting their placement.

Don't be afraid to say 'that's enough for now'.


All for the love of feet...

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📥  Health, Uncategorized

Hi Guys

I thought I would write this blog entry based more around how I ended up here, my placement is similar to others on my course, linked to my job and the environment I am working in, but the main subject area is slightly different in some respects. Working as a research fellow at the University of Salford has really allowed me to put my skills already developed at Bath to practical use alongside helping me to learn new skills and work with different equipment. I'm working in the foot and ankle biomechanics department, meaning that everything is very feet related… to some people I imagine this would be their worst nightmare, but for some reason it is a big interest of mine which is why I think I am enjoying my time here so much!

I guess that when it came to looking for placements I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do, podiatry had always been a career aspiration, even before applying to Bath, but I still applied to a variety of placements ranging from working in a school to performance analysis, I even got offered a couple but I still wasn’t sure (now I know I made the right decision).

I was not sure whether I would find a placement linked to podiatry, I did a lot of research and worked out that if I went to work in a private practice I would probably take on the roll of receptionist so to speak (stereotypical intern.. making the tea) as I am not qualified. The idea of working in a research environment came from one of my lecturers, this would allow me to get hands on experience working on a variety of projects and also work alongside some podiatrists - bettering both my sport science and podiatry understanding. I did my research and got in touch with my supervisor here at Salford explaining what I wanted to do, he invited me for an ‘interview’ and it went from there. Thats how I ended up here in Manchester (as a bonus my supervisor might be able to organise some work 'shadowing', for me in the new year).

What I'm trying to say is, that if you are currently thinking about doing/looking for a placement then always try to find one which interests you. There is such a wide range of placements organised by Bath that to most people this won’t be an issue (it may even become tempting to just go and do something that you don’t really care that much about) but if, like me, you have a different interest, then do pursue it, it is worth it! I think the main aim of my placement is to work out what I would like to do in the future. Whether this is to go and study podiatry after I graduate or whether I want to carry on my education and complete a masters, hopefully at some point before the end of my placement I will know which route I want to take.

Anyway back to my placement, since my first blog I have been really busy developing an idea for my own study which should be underway in the new year. As a general overview of the project I will be looking at 'the effect of foot orthoses' and whether there is a significant difference between the effects of prefabricated and custom made during the walking gait cycle. There is a large debate about this in the literature which has been ongoing over the last few years, so I feel this is an important research issue to approach. I am also excited about learning to make custom orthotics, using two different methods and some very expensive equipment such as CAD-CAM software (I always knew making that plastic perfume bottle in year 9 using CAD-CAM would come in useful). I will be collecting kinematic data using a 16 camera Qualisys system alongside a Pedar in-shoe pressure system which I have already become competent using.

Just some of the orthoses I have been working with.. it is pretty easy to get confused which is which!

I have been pretty busy lately, last week at one point I had done 42 hours in three days trying to balance both placement and my job at United (leaving the house at 6:45am, leaving placement at 6pm, then going straight to United 7-2am for three days running is pretty tough, but I do like a challenge!). I also bumped into Fergie in a lift and he knew my name, which made me happy!

I still have a few tasks to do up until Christmas; these include reviewing some literature, planning my protocol and applying for ethics, along with the christmas work do, obviously!


I cannot believe how fast the time has gone, Manchester is full of Christmas cheer with the German markets scattered all over town and a massive ice skating rink. The fact that I walk past them is turning into a bit of a problem, a hog roast/mulled wine every couple of days is not doing wonders for me or my bank balance!

Merry Christmas everyone!


Placement Tutors, Chocolate Biscuits and T-shirt Ties

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

Today a little piece of Bath came to London.

As part of any University of Bath 'sandwich' degree, students are allocated a placement tutor, whose role it is to provide a range of support, advice and guidance to help placement students.

It was my turn. My tutor popped into the 10gen London offices to make sure everything was going smoothly for all parties, and that I wasn't being held captive or sold into slave labour.

Oddly, although everything has been going swimmingly here during my internship, I was nervous. When you're fully immersed in a placement year, it's easy to become disassociated with university life, forgetting the routine of tests and assessments that go with it, as well as the mountains of paperwork. To be suddenly reminded of it was strangely unnerving.

I needn't have worried however, as upon welcoming my tutor to the offices I found myself greeting a warm and easygoing Clare Wilson, Faculty Placements Manager.

From the off, Ms Wilson noted that my placement was different to the majority of my university classmates'; many find positions working for larger companies, accustomed to taking on interns and thus having clearly defined and fixed roles for their interns.

10gen, on the other hand, offers a true 'start-up' experience; all hands on deck, everyone mucking in and the chance to gain experience in a wide range of capacities. During my time here I have worked on projects with marketing, sales, outside companies and, of course, the community team. Each time I gain a fresh perspective and accrue new skills to help me in the future, as well as having the chance to work with a wide variety of wonderfully interesting people. It's certainly something I love about my internship, and can recommend to anyone thinking of interning for a start-up.

One issue which was driven home pretty hard during the meeting was the importance of prepping for final year - numerous people, including my head of year, my line manager, former students, my placement tutor and even my parents have tried to press upon me the importance of using placement year constructively -- in particular to prepare for dissertation writing. The reiteration of this fact was yet another reminder to prioritise this in the new year.

After an hour of nibbling on chocolate biscuits and chatting to our Community Marketing Manager, James Chesters, and 10gen's EMEA Engineering Director, Alvin Richards, Ms Wilson seemed satisfied that I had found my perfect internship, and went on her way -- like some kind of academic Mary Poppins, flitting her way between placement students in need all over Europe.

If nothing else, catching up with my placement tutor reinforced in my mind just how lucky I am to have landed such a great placement, with such fantastic and supportive people. Not only are my colleagues interested in ensuring I get the most out of my time working at 10gen, but also that I make time for my academic studies and am in good stead for returning to university next year. Bring it on!

James even wore a tie for meeting my tutor


Clicktivism: A Model For 21st Century Activism?

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

A war is being fought. Its battlefields are the pages of social networking sites across the globe, and its soldiers are armed with placards and computer cursors. This is the battle of traditional activism versus clicktivism.

You may wonder why this is part of my placement blog, but as a politics student who recently co-coordinated the launch of Peace Of Paper, an online community peace project, and who works within the field of online community management, this topic is one which continues to perturb me, often leading to my changing opinion throughout any discussion about its intrinsics.

Despite what you may think, the conflict between traditional activists opposing the online marketisation of social change and digital activists (often referred to derogatively as ‘slacktivists’) is not a particularly new one. Back in 1987, a husband and wife team sold their California-based software company for $13.8m, allowing the politically left-leaning founders to start an online political organisation called ‘MoveOn’. This site combined the principles of modern marketing with the technical skills of computer programming, and has been referred to as ‘the model for 21st century activism’.

Not everyone shares this optimistic view, however. In 2010, Micah White wrote “we’ve come to rely far too heavily on a particular form of internet organizing...we have become so dependent on digital gimmicks that our revolutionary potential is now constrained”.

In many ways this rings true; we have become obsessed with the digital marketing measurements of click-throughs, retweets and likes, assigning value only to that which we can quantitatively record. By doing this, we neglect a vital human element; that spark behind activist movements and revolution which ignites and inspires each individual to stand up, raise their voice and be heard.

Micah White goes on to argue that ‘clicktivism reinforces the fear of standing out from the crowd and taking a strong position. It discourages calling for drastic action. And as such, clicktivism will never breed social revolution. To think that it will is a fallacy. One that is dawning on us’.

Could this be right? In 2012, are we completely turning our backs on the trend of online petitions and ‘click causes’? If not, should we be?

Contrary to what I’ve written in the past, I would argue not. I’d like to speak out in defence of clicktivism; a bit of online activism for online activism, if you will.

Whilst it is certainly true that clicktivism often lacks the traditional gusto and media-friendly frenzy witnessed in 'real life' activism, such as protests and marches, it shouldn't be consigned to the scrapheap of irrelevancy quite yet. In fact, in many ways it is doing a service for traditional activism by piquing the interest of those who might not otherwise have noticed a cause - clicktivism places the issues of today slap bang in your face(book) and makes them hard to ignore.

Critics of digital activism are often quick to loudly dismiss it as ineffective and inefficient, but often they are referencing only the 'passive clicktivism' tactics such as online petitions and Facebook status campaigns. They fall into the trap of overlooking the more proactive (though not necessarily positive or indeed completely successful) digital projects and organisations, a handful of which are outlined below.



Life as a research fellow

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📥  Health

Hi guys!

Welcome to my blog, I have never done anything like this before so let’s see how this goes! My name is Emily Gregg and I am currently on placement in the Foot and Ankle Biomechanics Department at the University of Salford in Manchester. I have been here since the start of July and so far I am really enjoying it! A lot of my friends are in London with a few in Australia but as a northerner by heart I knew Manchester would serve well as a placement destination, although I am not going to lie I think I will have grown by the end of my placement with all of this rain! I was a little nervous and did feel like a fresher again when I first arrived as I didn’t know many people at all, but after lunch on my first day I knew I was going to be absolutely fine. I have met so many people already from all different backgrounds both at placement and outside, a few I know will be friends for life.

I had a bit of a rocky start to my time here as I snapped and dislocated one off my fingers which meant that I needed surgery twice to have it pinned with a couple of wires, so had to be back and forth from York fairly often for the first couple of weeks. This never really affected my placement which was a relief and within my first week I was thrown in at the deep end and straight in the lab.

Picture 005

Snapping your finger is not a clever idea (especially not your wedding ring finger)!

I applied to the department as I am really interested in feet (yeah I know this slightly weird). My placement is slightly different to most of those on my course and is much more podiatry and health related. It does mean that I get to use and better my sport science knowledge already learnt already at Bath but I also have started to get an insight into podiatry with my main aim of the year to know which path I would like to take after I graduate.

I am working as a research fellow and since I arrived I have been really busy helping with a wide variety of projects ranging from a study focussing on Achilles tendon strain to the effect of high heeled shoes on foot function. I have also helped with testing for a shoe company which has given me an insight into footwear research and shoe design. Randomly I pretended to be a fresher again and joined in with labs learning how to plaster cast alongside the prosthetic and orthotic undergrads and got asked to carry out some ultrasound testing for a study looking at the effects of obesity.

Picture 009

All markered up ready for testing

One main study that I helped on, when I first arrived, focussed on the effects of muscle fatigue on rear foot pronation during running. I collected data using motion analysis and EMG. This allowed me to not only get to grips with collecting data in the lab but also gave me a chance to use various programs for data analysis. Over the last two months I have been working alongside a researcher from Ireland who is focussing on why people respond differently to foot orthotics, as the protocol for this project is very complex with various parts I helped organise and collect all of the kinematic and in-shoe pressure data for him alongside taking 3D scans of each subjects feet. I have really enjoyed this responsibility although I did feel like I was living in the lab for a couple of weeks, however all that hard work paid off and we are just about finished the first batch of subjects.

I had a meeting with my supervisor yesterday and we started to plan my own project which is really exciting, so that should be up and running in the New Year! I will tell more about that in my next blog.

I haven’t had the chance to meet any athletes on placement like some people on my course, but outside of placement I am also working as a VIP waitress at Manchester United - working in a private box on match days and meeting some players and Sir Alex is not all that bad!

Picture 026

Not a bad view of the pitch!

Thanks for reading!


Insight Of An Intern: Preparing For A Job Interview

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

Having been chosen from potentially huge numbers of applicants, you’ve reached the interview stage - congratulations!

Those few days before any interview can be a nerve-wracking time, so it can be difficult to channel your time into doing anything constructive. However, preparation is the key to any interview - though many people don’t actually realise this.

Preparing for an interview is vital for three main reasons:

1 - It helps you answer questions clearly and concisely. Although you can't second guess every question you might be asked, if you are prepared you can tailor them to fit or at least draw upon them for inspiration.

2 - For your own confidence. If you’re prepared, your body language and demeanor will show it. For both interviewees and interviewers, there’s nothing more soul-sapping than an interview in which you have to drag ill-prepared and under-researched answers out.

3 - To show willing. The interview allows your potential employer a first opportunity to judge whether you’re right for the job, and showing you’re keen and organised enough to do your prep work is a big plus on any employer’s tick list.

With this in mind, the following article will provide you with some key pieces of advice for making sure you walk  into your interview room armed with as much relevant knowledge and confidence as possible.

The Basics

Before your interview, be sure to find out the following basic pieces of information:

-  Where will it be held?
-  How long will it last?
-  What format will it take?
-  Will there be any capacity tests or group exercises?
-  Do you need to bring or prepare anything specific (such as a presentation)?

Do your homework!

- Know the Organisation: showing an interest and a firm knowledge base about the company you’re applying to is essential.

There are many ways to go about this; check the company website, read the company news, follow the company Twitter account, read any press releases relating to the company, visit the premises and talk to anyone you know who works there already, or who has worked there in the past.

- Know the Role: walking in with a vague idea of what your position within the company would be is not good enough.

Ask for a job specification with a list of the duties and responsibilities that go with it. Then, go through it and make notes of any  relevant prior experience you may have relating to those specific details.

Why not ring the nominated person on the job description? They may be able to give you more of an insight, and answer any questions you have.

If you’ve got friends or family in similar roles and industries, pick their brains for advice. Even if they’re not working for the specific company interviewing you, they may be able to provide you with some inside industry tips.

Question Preparation

- Remember *STAR*: during your interview, you will undoubtedly be required to give solid examples from your past that exhibit your competencies, skills and qualities in real life situations.

Honestly one of the most useful things ever taught to me for this kind of situation is the *STAR* model, which is a framework for answering questions and keeping you on track.

STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Action and Result.

  • Situation - the context of the example you are giving.
  • Task - what you were asked to do
  • Action - what you did and how you did it
  • Result - the outcome and the effect it had

‘Lessons learnt‘ examples, where you talk about something you did in the past and how you might now do it better demonstrate a capacity to learn and grow from less than ideal situations.

- Think about why you want the job (barring the money!) and your plans for the future, as employers are usually looking for someone who will be staying with the company long term (or returning after a final year in university, in many placement year student’s cases).

- Prepare your OWN questions - this is one of the most frequently missed aspects of preparing for a job interview. Draw upon your earlier research into the company to tailor your questions - are there specific departments or projects you are interested in? What about training opportunities? You could ask about the team you’ll be working in (how large, how frequently do they meet etc). Just show some interest beyond the confines of the interview room!

Now What?

You’ve done everything you can, so now it’s time to pay attention to some of the smaller, more mundane details. Think about what you’re going to wear for the interview - this may seem simple, but you won’t want to be worrying about this an hour or so before you leave for the interview. If you’re going to be using public transportation to get to your interview, make sure you check the times. You don’t want to be late!

Get some rest. A good night’s sleep will do you wonders, and leave you feeling ready to take on that all important interview.

Good luck!


Top 5 Useful iPhone Apps for Future Placement Students

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

Since moving to London I’ve learned a few home truths; squirrels may seem cute and fluffy, but they’re actually well-trained food-stealing thugs who won’t hesitate to mug you for a Tracker Bar; the cost of a round of drinks for you and your mates in Shoreditch would fund an entire night out and the taxi home in most other towns and; the guy on the overcrowded tube train with two empty seats either side of him is sat by himself for a reason.

That said, if it hadn’t been for the apps featured in today’s article, I would probably have learnt far more ‘London life lessons’ the hard way - such as getting lost in Brixton at 3am with no idea how to get home - and had a lot less fun.

I never realised how much I actually relied on my phone to help me muddle through my new life in London until, in true London style, it was stolen. Suddenly, I found myself adrift in a world of mystifying underground transport, place names which I only recognised from the Monopoly board and a frustrating inability to do work on the go.

With this in mind, here are my top 5 London apps which I hope current and future placement students may find useful too:

5) Vouchercloud

There’s no getting away from it; London is expensive. Free to download and use, Vouchercloud has the biggest selection of mobile discount vouchers - anything from restaurants, pubs & bars, entertainment and days out to deals on hotels and properties. I can’t even guess how much money this little app has saved me, but it’s substantial.

4) Hailo

This is ‘the black cab app’ - use it to digitally hail a taxi wherever you are, and to track its location and time until it arrives. The app helpfully provides you with a photo of your driver and their name, which is a great safety feature. Handily, you can also use it to pay by card, so no need for cash or a rising taxi meter.

3) Secret London

Famed for being ‘a uniquely collaborative app designed to help Londoners discover and share interesting places and new and exciting things to do’, this app allows you to browse a map or list of ‘secret’ places, together with more detailed information and pictures uploaded by users. Great for if you’re looking for that special night out off the beaten track.

2) TubeMap

This app. Wow, this app. It has saved me from tube-induced bewilderment countless time, and made navigating the warren of the underground a blissfully easy experience. With features such as find a station, plan a route, realtime tube service updates and even oyster card balance, this little piece of tech has made my stay in London thus far so much easier.

1) CityMapper London

At number one is CityMapper; the ultimate public transport app for London. It includes live bus information (including how long until the next one at your stop), live tube information, details about cycle and walking routes and average costs for taxi journeys. It’ll even let you know how much it’d cost to fly.

Possibly my favourite thing about this app, however, is the ‘Get Me Home’ feature, however. Once you’ve set up your ‘home’ information, no matter where you are in the city this app will find you the fastest route back; indispensably useful when you’re still out at 3am and have no idea where you actually are.



Tracht und Pracht- how my apron told the world I was widowed

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📥  Politics Languages & International Studies, Uncategorized


Every year, round about the end of September through to the first week of October, Munich, the Bavarian capital, is hit by an internationally-renowned, centuries-old phenomenon which completely changes the city’s character from a pleasantly cultured air to an alcohol-fuelled haze of sea-shantying, swaying, beer-swilling madness. Locals call this ‘die Wiesn’. Some call it ‘ein Chaos’ and make plans to be out of town for its duration. The rest of the world calls it Oktoberfest.

It all kicks off with a parade of national costume groups from all over Europe, waving flags, dancing, blowing horns, riding horses- there was even a carpenter carving wooden sculptures on one of the floats. They all walk through the city, up to Theresienwiese, the site of the main festivities. Some lovely old ladies, pitying my shortness, let me stand at the front of the teeming crowds lining the street, opposite the Bayerischer Hof (“I’ve translated for the Hof!” I couldn’t help thinking smugly.) A thrilling addition to the proceedings involved whips... men in scarlet waistcoats stood in formation (everyone cowered) and simultaneously struck the ground with a din like gunshots.

What couldn’t have been clearer was that one integral component of the Bavarian lifestyle is traditional dress: Lederhosen with stockings and waistcoats for men, and Dirndls and perky little hats for the ladies. It isn’t just reserved for Oktoberfest; you genuinely will see people of all ages and nationalities wearing them all year round. Around Oktoberfest time (even up to a month before), seeing someone who isn’t wearing it is unusual. It thus became apparent to me that I, a registered Bavarian citizen, could embrace the ever-growing trend myself. I wasn’t a mere tourist, spending a small fortune for something I wouldn’t wear after this visit. No, I was now a Münchner on paper and in affinity. I took a sneaky trip to C&A, along with about half of the western world, or so it seemed, to take advantage of the sale to pick up a Dirndl.

For those who have not yet had the pleasure of doing the same, let me put it thus: Wearing Tracht is like being allowed to wear fancy dress even though it’s not Halloween and you aren’t five years old. It makes you feel special, but not silly, because everyone else is wearing it too; and the special feeling reflects itself in the little spring in your step, the swish of your skirts. I don’t usually get like this about clothes, much to the benefit of my purse- what with that and being a non-drinker, my boyfriend delights in my relatively low expensiveness. But it was just one of those things- I saw it, heavy blue cotton with a print of faded roses, a dainty puff-sleeved lace blouse under it, laced with bright frills and ribbon, and thought immediately, “That one- if I am actually going to do this- is definitely the one.”

What a mad profusion of colours and fabrics and bijoux. Older women wore more sober colours and prints, but their dresses were the genuine article, passed down to them from their own mothers, down through the generations, and they accessorised them with jaunty little feathered hats and jangling chain belts of charms. Most girls stuck to the traditional checkered pattern, but chose lime green, fuschia pink and sky blue, bearing gingerbread hearts and tiny heart-shaped handbags and heavy glass pendants. Thus musing, and now suitably attired, I braved the crush on the train and did Oktoberfest.
What’s it like? It’s a funfair teeming with all sorts of rides and food stalls, but so much BIGGER. It’s a mad mélange of chair-o-planes, Ferris wheels, rollercoasters, candy floss, Bratwurst, pretzels, candied nuts and neon lights. Oh, and everyone is dressed like something out of a storybook, even the ones vomiting profusely on the grass verge. What makes this fair different is the beer tents, built as solidly as actual houses. I went to the red-and-yellow Hippodrome, where a brass band played before the teeming masses- and of course, every other song was ‘Ein Prosit!’, the cue for swigging and tankard-clashing. Furtively I glanced around. All the Münchners had their apron bows tied at their hips, not at the back. I retied mine accordingly.

In work several days later, I brought the Dirndl out again, and a colleague gave me an amused look. “You’re wearing your bow on the wrong side,” she said.
She taught me the rules. An uncomfortable thought occurred to me.
“So if you wear it at the back...”
“Oh, whatever you do, don’t do that. It means you’re divorced, or widowed.”
Ah well, we live and learn...

So anyway, if you happen to see someone who looks like they’ve stepped straight out of ‘The Sound of Music’ waltzing around Bath next year, full of the joys of spring, don’t be alarmed, and don’t send for the men in white coats. It’s only me. 🙂