Friday, 28 June 2013

Songs from D of E


 I will start this post by explaining what D of E is, as readers outside the UK may not have heard of it. D of E stands for Duke of Edinburgh's Award. It is a programme available to 14-25 year olds in the UK, which involves volunteering, learning new skills, doing a physical activity on a regular basis and the expedition. 

 The expedition involves spending one to four days walking eight hours a day in a scenic part of the UK - with me it was the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales - and spending the nights camping.

 There are three levels of D of E; Bronze, Silver and Gold. I did Silver between the ages of fifteen and sixteen, and Gold between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. Each level involves different lengths of expeditions. For my Silver I did two practices of one and two days and an assessed expedition of three days. 

  For Gold I undertook three practices of between one and three days, one assessed that ended prematurely due to bad weather, and finally the assessed that I saw through to the end.

 The reason that I am doing this post isn't to promote D of E, although I would recommend doing it if you live in the UK as I found it to be a great experience. 

 No, the reason I am writing this post is because there are various songs that remind me of my D of E expeditions for various reasons, and I wanted to share with you these songs and the stories behind them, and to demonstrate how powerful music can be in bringing back memories.

 My first ever experience with D of E expeditions was my one-day practice walk for Silver, which took place in the Yorkshire Dales, near Malham to be precise. As we travelled there by minibus I was nervous about the day ahead; I didn't know what to expect or whether I would be able to keep up with the others, navigate well enough, etc. 

 This song came on the radio, and I think I had heard it before but I had never realised how much I liked it.

 Now this song reminds me of that first journey to the Yorkshire Dales for D of E.

 That day turned out to be really enjoyable; we saw lots of sheep and some really nice views from the top of hills. It was good to get to know the group with whom I'd be doing the rest of my Silver expeditions.

 Next came our two day practice in the Lake District. We saw some cows this time, which made a nice change to sheep, and some more lovely scenery. 

 This had been playing on the radio on the way there and it stayed with me throughout the weekend.

 Somehow it turned into "I walked all night" in my head, what with all the walking we did!

 We spent the night camping at Gibraltar Farm, one of the best campsites I have ever been to. It was big and spacious, with amazing stars due to lack of light pollution, and a view of the sea. The sunset was sensational.

 At night I had to find my way to the toilet block by torchlight - and it was quite a long way from where we had pitched our tent. I was slightly scared of falling over or walking into something, when I heard someone playing "Telephone" by Lady Gaga and Beyonce in their caravan. 

 I won't post the video as I know people who don't like it, and I find parts of it questionable. But it was kind of reassuring to me to hear a familiar song in such an unfamiliar place, and I stopped feeling scared and realised how wonderful the stars were, and altogether felt much better.

 I survived that trip to the toilets and back, and in the morning I was sad to leave Gibraltar Farm. I'd love to go back there some day.

 My next adventure was our final and assessed Silver expedition in the Yorkshire Dales. We saw some beautiful places - including Malham Cove, which I was pleased to later see feature in one of the last two Harry Potter films - but I was very homesick and felt ill during the weekend.

 I got through it, and got my Silver Award. But during that expedition I couldn't help playing this over and over in my head.

 I had got into a tradition of having my mam's homemade pizza and listening to Nick Grimshaw and Annie Mac on Radio 1 the Sundays I returned from a D of E expedition. When I got back from my Silver assessed, this was on the radio and, bizarrely, will always reminds me of D of E:

 The next year I started my Gold expeditions. The first was a day's practice near where I live, and it was an enjoyable day. 

 We then had a two-day practice in Yorkshire and that was also nice - I had a new team this time, different to my group for Silver, and we played cards and word games (I went to the moon and I brought...). 

 This song by Jean-Jacques Goldman really reminds me of that weekend; it's a song about setting out on an adventure and leaving all the baggage behind.

 We then had our assessed expedition in the Lakes which went pear-shaped due to bad weather but while it lasted, Losing My Religion by R.E.M. - again, it had played on the minibus radio on the way to our starting point - was its soundtrack for me. 

 As I plodded on through the rain I played it over and over again in my head, even though my grasp of the lyrics was shaky and I only knew parts of it. What I did know, I held onto. It kept me going through what was for me a very challenging couple of days.

 Happily I got the chance to finish my Gold D of E expedition the next summer. We would be in the Lake District again, which suited me as I love that part of the world.

 I have written a blog post describing the practice expedition and the two songs I associate with it in more detail, which you can reach via the green link above.

 I will recap here though: the two songs were We Don't Need Another Hero by Tina Turner, which stuck in my head at a particular point - it was the third and last day and we were gradually ascending a mountain and it was drizzling rain and it generally wasn't very nice, and I used this song to spur me on.

 The other song was in my head more generally over the three days, and was These Days in an Open Book by Nanci Griffith. As this song has other significances for me, it is weaker as a D of E memory song than others such as Losing My Religion which I associate more with D of E than with anything else. 

 It's not the song's fault, it's just that I happen to have other memories linked with it. Still, it certainly played a part in motivating me during that Gold practice expedition.

The day arrived of my Gold assessed expedition. It's strange, I had to hope this would be my last one as that would mean I had passed Gold D of E, as opposed to having to redo it. Yet in another way I wished it wasn't my last, as D of E had been such a big part of my life and the expeditions had been so special and I would be sad when they were over.

 I felt really comfortable with my group after the practice, and really enjoyed travelling with them through the Lakes. The first night we camped on a farm by Lake Ullswater, and across the lake was what I think must have been either a hotel or some kind of party boat, and it played 80s music so we could hear it clearly all the way across the lake - either sound carries really easily or they were just playing it really loud!

 Among the songs were Livin' on a Prayer and Sweet Child of Mine, and it was nice drifting to sleep in our tents with these old, familiar songs playing in the background.

 We walked around Ullswater, we saw Aira Force, we followed the old coach road and felt like we were walking on the top of the world.

 Overall it was a really brilliant weekend, we passed, and I'm so glad that my last D of E expedition was probably the best I've ever been on.

 Music for me played a huge part in the D of E expedition experience, as it has in all aspects of my life. I can hear a song and I'm back there, in the hills or the forest or the meadow or at camp. I'm glad I have this musical memory, as it means I can bring back magical moments in seconds just by listening to a song. Never underestimate the power of music!

 Thanks for reading,

 Liz x

Gravity - Pixie Lott - 2010
I Drove All Night - Roy Orbison - 1992
Home - Michael Bublé - 2005
Rock That Body - Black Eyed Peas - 2010
On Ira - Jean-Jacques Goldman - 1999
Losing My Religion - R.E.M.- 1991
We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) - Tina Turner - 1985

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