Thursday, 29 March 2012

What can you say?

The BBC recently wrote an interesting article asking what you can and can't say on twitter. You need not read the article, but merely be a rational human being to understand that there are certain things you simply cannot say or do on twitter. The most obvious, of course, being racism, although the BBC talk about some others which all fall under a criminal jurisdiction. Funnily enough, just as I write this, I got told something I tweeted was offensive. The tweet was "Trust a girls school to invite in a renowned philosopher to talk about philosophy of religion". That's obviously sexist, but let's be honest, it is a harmless joke - lighten up?! Or am I too liberal...perhaps. Either way, I certainly would not live in a world where I couldn't tweet something as harmless as that. (Oh update on this, just as I finished writing this post, the final reply was "next time you make an offensive joke, at least try and be funny". Ouch....Of course I will try.)

That aside, a recent tweet got me thinking. The tweeter will remain nameless, or "untagged" to use twitter language, but it was a tweet by a twitter account named after a football team and whose bio states it is dedicated to that club. The tweet was "BDSIsrael". Perhaps my bias viewpoint against this campaign doesn't help my judgement, but I would argue that twitter accounts have a certain duty to their followers to stick to tweeting about the stuff relevant to their name. I followed that account not for a political commentary but a commentary on the football club and, as they describe it as such, they have a duty to provide that. I wish to read football updates, not political updates - the whole reason for my follow goes out the window if they start providing something else.

Of course you may respond saying "twitter, you can tweet whatever from whatever account" - surely the account name shouldn't pose restrictions? But that is exactly where I would disagree with you. Because it is incredibly easy to set up a twitter account not specified to football or sport and tweet about whatever the hell you like. You'd get annoyed if the BBC News Twitter Service suddenly started tweeting about what his dog was having for lunch - you signed up to read news tweets, not personal ones! You should certainly avoid such controversial and highly charged issues on an account that is specifically for a certain football clubs views and thus people are following purely on the pretence that they will receive said views.

Opinion should be valued at all times. Of course it should but there is a time and a place. Political opinion does not belong on a football twitter account followed for football opinion. It is as simple as that.


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Budget

I thought I'd make a late night comment on the budget which has just come out today. Whilst every detail remains unknown to me, there is enough for me to make a comment on:


1. The reduction of the 50p tax rate to 45p.


This is probably the most contested part of the budget, not that any of it was left unexamined by Labour, and for good reason. There is sound argument on both sides here - tax people more and they'll work harder to find ways of legally/illegally avoiding tax/ move out of the country entirely and take their profits elsewhere. However, how can you justify reducing taxes on the richest at a time when the poorest are paying so heavily for the mistakes of the former government? Surely tax breaks for rich people isn't going to help us get out of this recession and plug the gap in government spending and tax revenue.


I lean towards the former argument - I do believe in incentivising high earners to earn more money and thus pay more tax. Forcing them to pay more in tax only incetivises the opposite. However, does that really apply in this case? Osbourne, although he is always going to say this, claims that the higher tax rate isn't bringing in any extra revenue which is fair enough, but does lowering 5p actually mean that people are going to suddenly stop avoiding this higher rate of tax? The only reason to lower the tax rate is if it will actually bring in more revenue (through the reasoning above) and there is no way that a 5p decrease in the tax rate will do this. Osbourne has bottled a big decision here - he could have abolished this rate of tax entirely and brought it back down to 40%, a huge move, that may have had a positive effect on revenues but decided for a pathetic middle ground that does nothing except attempt to appease the Conservatives' rich allies whilst monumentally piss off everyone who hate bankers. Which is everyone.There is weight, in my opinion, to the argument for lower taxes (if not at a time of austerity necessarily) but this is going to make no difference and smacks of protecting bankers for no reason.


I thought it best to add in a bit in response to the comment below regarding the 0.105% increase in the bank levy designed to stop bankers from gaining benefit from the reduction in tax. First of all, as I asked below, does 0.105% actually offset a 5% reduction? That is equivalent to giving 5p and taking back 0.105p in the pound - for anyone who couldn't do the maths, I cannot see how that really harms the bankers. However, more crucially, would you not agree that it is pointless to lower a tax and then raise another tax to ensure people don't benefit excessively from the new lower tax - 1. That seems to defeat the purpose of lowering the tax initially and 2. It seems to be admitting that bankers will/would have benefited from this lower tax as a (tiny) measure has been put in place to stop this. What a stupid move! 


It is about time, whilst we are on the tax point, that the government did more to prevent rich earners avoiding tax legally (or indeed illegally as the case my be). Here lies the real issue - big companies can afford to spend big money on avoiding tax and will continue to do so even with lower rates; why not deal with this problem effectively?


2. The child benefit caps.


This seems completely the right move in my opinion. You may be able to argue over the lower end figure for removing the benefit, but does someone earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year really need child benefit? More importantly, does it, in this situation, even benefit the child? Surely that should be the cut off point - where the child benefit is of no benefit to the child, where it makes no difference the standard of living of the child why should to be given to the parents? That's quite a simple argument, but I'm open to reasons why it's wrong.


3. The Pasty Tax


It has, since the writing of this blog, been brought to my attention that the "correction of VAT loopholes" that the BBC write about in their article, to be found on the BBC website, is actually, effectively, a pasty tax. I've tried to detach myself from emotional involvement on this and while one can consider the large negative impact this will have on the Cornish economy especially, it is the principle of this that irks me too. Needless to say there are economic arguments for and against the move, and I do lean towards the against side, but taxing something so British seems anti-British. Was it not the Conservatives who opposed the proposed Cider Tax that Gordon Brown proposed and dropped
The good in question


There are some other, more minor, changes:


4. Corporation tax has gone down - probably just about a good move, should help businesses and incentivise investment which can only be a good thing. We await the empirical evidence I suppose


5. New Stamp Duty rate for homes over 2million - can't see a problem here really. Seems the right move


6. Tobacco Duty Rises - As a non-smoker and a complete anti-smoker I can't see any problem here either. If you wish to kill yourself then at least give money to the government doing it!


7. Fuel Duty rise - will, due to price in-elasticity of demand of fuel, probably raise revenue. There is a strong argument for fuel already being to expensive and this may inhibit ease of travel and thus growth.


8. Increase in personal tax allowances to £9,205 - again this seems a good move, or at least a move that doesn't simply favour the rich and could boost consumption amongst those most likely to spend their income - the poorest, who will now be better off. 


Overall, I remain unconvinced. Sure this budget does some good things - the child benefit removal and increase in personal allowance but you cannot help but feel that the biggest change made; the change that headlines the BBC website and will be most focused on, has been horribly fudged up. I can't understand why he has made this move now - it will almost certainly not bring in extra revenue and can only serve to annoy those opposed to rich people getting richer at a time of need for most. It is at least a political mistake and time will probably show it to be an economic one too. 

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Field Day 2k12



Unlike HABSMUN, this was probably a final thing I was looking forward to the end of. I've stuck at the CCF despite it trying its best to destroy me (the 36 hours of rain at Warcop Summer Camp a couple of years back springing to mind). While there have definitely been some excellent moments - an incident involving coco-buttering of someone's arse in a gay-off and coasteering stand out, it is something I will be glad to say I have completed. And this final field day is one step closer to finishing Habs CCF. I think the response to my relatively sarcastic, "I will miss spending time in a basha so close to the ground with you two," summed up my feelings: "I wouldn't say I'd miss it...but I'll look back upon it with happy memories." More on that later!

My final army field day started as any other one did, with a long wait. No surprise really, but it is something we have gotten used to in the Army Section, coining the unofficial motto, "Hurry up and wait." We refused to be put off by our coach turning up fashionably late and were in relatively high spirits as the darkness dropped down around us even if most of that was "WOOOO final field day". Having decided that we would actually do a proper tactical de-bus (pronounced de-bu) instead of screaming "BE TACTICAL", "THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A TACTICAL DE-BUS" and generally laughing at how untactical our tactical de-buses (pronounced de-bu-se), those on the back of the bus (i.e. U6) would remain there for a while as the slowest bus exist in history occurred. Finally off, I took the opportunity to look to the heavens and was disappointed when nothing but cloud revealed itself - I was hoping that in my many hours stood around being enemy, I could at least look at the stars and pretend to have a clue what was going on. A relatively swift walk followed with the army section's, or rather my, taste in music brought into question with classics such as "Never gonna give you up" and "I want it that way" being sung at whatever volume we thought we could get away with.

Having made it into camp in the dark (I am not sure I have ever set up camp when it has been light), it was time to start setting up. That meant, at least for myself, Tom and Luke, making our final basha together and we were determined to make this the lowest one ever so that it was nothing more than slipping between two sheets. I am not quite sure why we put ourselves through sleeping in really low basha's, which invariably break as we try and get into them, but it became something of a field day tradition. I think we succeeded as well, with our basha no more than a few inches of the ground, leaving for an interesting attempt at squeezing underneath it later. With shelter built, I whipped out my Jew Saus (sausage) and shared it around. No, it is not what you're thinking, dirty mind. Jew Saus is a kosher turkey sausage that has become something of a favourite with fellow cadets and I bring it along every field day. We were left to cook and eat before setting of on the night exercise. 

I was dropped off at the "radio mast" along with Chris and Vivek, as enemy told to defend it from a section who were trying to plant an IED. Quite why enemy would defend a radio mast that belonged to the camp and quite why a section would want to blow up what was effectively their radio mast is beyond me but defend it we would. Well, we'd lie down and try not to get too cold, with Vivek finding a particularly comfortable tree branch and practically fell asleep. Every so often we'd get up, have a wonder and talk really loudly about our plans just like any regular enemy would with no sign of the patrolling section. I managed to scream as a teacher approached and we ended the night telling ludicrous jokes. We did get IEDed having not spotted the section, but I really couldn't care less with my attentions firmly focused on the 6am wake up that morning as we were still waiting to be dropped back at 1am. 

Sleep was interesting. The customary "ooo are you happy to see me?" jokes were made and there was a lot of "I AM OUT THE TENT" as we rolled around to get comfortable. Having managed to get the middle spot, I could only look in with smugness as Luke and Tom struggled to stay inside a quickly breaking basha. I had also brought a pillow and was strangely comfortable, even if Tom decided to climb over me so he could take photos of the three of us with a basha sheet in our faces. We left Luke to wake up at 5, Tom and I decided that we were not need until 7, at the earliest. Despite Luke's protestations we did not surface until just after 7 - why we would need to wake up at 6, when we had to be ready by 8.10, I have no idea and I wasn't about to give up what little sleep I had! 
The basha in question

I was enemy again, which was bliss with no running around or physical activity needed, just an opportunity to fire off about 90 rounds from whatever position we wanted with an interesting one handed approach being taken by a couple of us. There isn't much to report other than we definitely defeated a pathetic platoon attack despite there only being 4 of us and we then had to wait around...

Rounds aplenty
...For a long time. In fact there was nothing for us to do from about 10.30ish until 2, so we tossed a rugby ball around, made some tea and tried to stay warm. It was a nice feeling - knowing that it was nearly over and I could return home for a lovely shower and my bed very soon. Field days are always tiring even though you don't really do that much and while they definitely have given me some fond memories, it is good to finally be done with them. With jokes about joining the OTC when we went to university a plenty, we boarded the coach home (which was early for once) and within about 30 minutes the usual head back, mouth opening sleeping position had been donned by many. With the final mad rush to make the 4.15 coaches for most, having arrived back at school at 3.55, came the end of my final field day. 4 years of CCF and at least I've made it to the final field day without being kicked out!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Haberdashers' Aske's Boys School Model United Nations 2012


Or HABSMUN for short. Picture the scene. Habs was being transformed from an excellence nurturing machine to a Model United Nations conference, birds were singing, Mr Simm's customary yellow trousers were out and Will Thong was rumoured to be firing a member of the committee for no apparent reason. Having successfully navigated the week, using HABSMUN as an excuse as much as possible, it was finally the Friday, the day it would all begin. The banter began before any delegate even arrived with Mr Pauletto or "duce", imploring us to not mention the war because a German school were coming. Clearly the famous Habs level of wit was out in full force in anticipation of a weekend of a debate. My road trip with David Gottlieb, which lasted all of 30 minutes, was much more fun with Gottlieb's driving providing much laughter. Suffice to say his driving isn't great and he managed to hit a car within 10 seconds of trying to exit his space, I was very worried. It didn't help that he then confessed he only passed recently before stalling twice trying to re-enter Habs.  

Upon our return, I walked around for a bit looking important and wondered if (or indeed when) I would ever have to actually do anything. Even as schools began arriving and the walkie talkies went mental as no one could find Rob Harris (a theme that continued the entire conference) I felt underwhelmed as Ollie Anisfeld did what he does best and that is muscle his way in control. But I think it went well - no one got lost and Will Thong was still alive, no mental breakdown in sight and, or so it seemed, relatively calm. Well compared to the preceding weeks anyway. It was nice to finally see delegates in committee, lobbying away and thus the conference actually beginning. Why we open the conference after lobbying begins I am not quite sure, but regardless the day I had been waiting for had finally arrived, opening speeches were made and safety announcements made, HABSMUN 2012 was soon to be declared open. Before that, however, I slowly made my way to somewhere never before ventured by the ordinary Habs boy and that is the Staff Common room.

What lay behind those doors? Was there a gym? A boxing ring? A swimming pool? A trouser press with "Property of Mr Simm" inscribed on it? Perhaps there was snooker table and football goal? Nothing of the sort - just some seats, a table and some drinks machines. There was, however, also a finger food buffet which was to be our lunch. Having established that seconds was allowed, I was not complaining and tucked into the most expensive part of the HABSMUN food bill. It was quite nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the conference while making casual small talk with advisors who were all to quick to compliment the PGAs on giving up their time and commend us on how much work we must do. 

Opening ceremony was nothing particularly special with yet another opportunity taken to make fun of my dress sense. It was discouraging to note how many delegates actually seemed to get the joke not that I was complaining about the attention. Without the musical delights of Ben Okafor and his hit "living in a suitcase", we were treated to George Grant who looked suspiciously like Boris Johnson's younger brother. Anyway, he rambled on for a bit (the irony) and we went home excited for the conference proper to start. 

All that standing around and listening to people was incredibly exhausting and I crashed out in bed at about 8.30 having left my computer on and music still playing. Saturday was a weird day for me. Other than having to chair ECOSOC for a bit as Ben went off to play football, there wasn't much for me to do. I spent the day in Disarmament (where my bow-tie, pocket square, socks and cuff-link combo impressed with another best dressed award heading my way) and did some general wondering around. I was waiting to hear my name over the radio for something to do, a problem to solve or a delegate to reprimand. Nothing of the sort happened and I was left to my own devices for the entire day, not that I was complaining. It did mean that I spent a lot of time randomly posing for pictures but that, I suppose, was much better than being sat in a committee room all day. It just seemed odd to be given a role that, apparently, is an organising one and then spend the entirety of the only full day of the conference walking around looking pretty. 

Having successfully done nothing for a day I was delighted to get the general consensus that everything was going well. I think Thong implication that the conference is a success for those on the organising committee if the delegates enjoy it could not be truer, and it seemed as though this was the case in the main. Saturday night was an interesting one. There was, apparently, an event at Proud which is apparently a "club", not that I have any idea what that is. This of course was completely unaffiliated with the school and I am not even sure anyone went to it, just showing how unrelated to HABSMUN it was. 

Having decided that I don't get enough jokes at my expense because of what I wear, I decided blinding as many people as possible was in order by wearing a golden jacket. Yes, golden. I was compared to a gay vicar and got a few negative "OMG"s but that was far outweighed by the numerous "I love your jacket" etc compliments that many girls gave me. So I wasn't too fussed. Hey, if I was worried about what people were going to say I wouldn't wear such outrageous clothing! I was delighted to finally be given a job to do - announce crisis to the Human Rights Committee which consisted in running in and screaming "CRISIS". A very enjoyable task! There was a small mutiny on the cards next as the PGAs asked, reasonably, if we may do the jobs we were selected for and actually chair General Assembly rather than watch the Sec-Gens do it.  Not amused, we tried to work out a compromise whilst I tried to ascertain how long I would have for lunch.  

The gold jacket in question
GA finally rolled around and it was time for my actual job to begin - repeatedly telling delegates to be quiet and delighting in finally, after 4 years of being annoyed when I hear it, saying the phrase "or I will be forced to suspend note-passing", something that occurred a few times. I enjoyed receiving bribes saying "here is some chocolate/haribo (etc), please recognise us" and sending back "I am afraid I am not eating sweets, chocolate, desserts etc and thus this bribe does not work". Nice to be in control I suppose. I was very happy, however, to receive Matzo from the Italian delegation, a bribe that I could eat. Not that I let it affect my judgement. GA was an interesting "committee" to chair - much louder and more difficult to control, obviously, than a regular one and the influx of bribes and interesting notes was difficult to cope with at times but nonetheless I really enjoyed it. 

General Assembly...nearly over :( 
I did not want to to end. Well I guess I didn't want HABSMUN to end, but I guess it had to. With the final resolution debated, the final votes counted and the final minor issue as Ollie Anisfeld managed to spill coffee all over the desk and certificates, we were just about ready to close the conference. You would have thought nothing, really, could go wrong. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't even Ollie Anisfeld that made the comment (although some of his jokes were questionable) with Omar Ali taking centre stage in a weird attack on the streets of Croydon. That aside, the conference was drawing to a close and I made an emotional, for me, last ever speech at a Model United Nations conference and had the honour of announcing the Outstanding delegation award. With the gavel banged, the delegates leaving and slightly tearful eyes, all that was left was to...

...Get hugs from as many people as possible. Literally everyone was subject to the "Random Hug?" to which the usual response is "erm, ok?" with most being shocked sufficiently so that their vocal chords no longer seem to work and they are forced to nod in agreement. There are a few that do jump at the opportunity to hug a man wearing a funny jacket and a bowtie, but they are a limited few. Even hugs failed to cheer me up as it dawned upon me that this was to be my final MUN conference. Forgive me for being cringe or a bit soppy but MUN has been something I have enjoyed for 4 years now and I think I am going to miss it. 

I never wanted to write this post. Quite simple really, this post means my Model United Nations career, if we are to call it a career, has now come to an end. I guess I'm just going to miss it; meeting new people; getting random hugs and, of course, winning best dressed delegate. The business of writing about this conference was difficult. It wasn't external, obviously, so there were no coach trip antics, no opportunities to demolish Chinese or Premier Inn buffets or get "lost" in a convenience store and buy some "batteries". But this was what made HABSMUN so special. It was nice to end on home turf, at the conference which introduced me to MUN 4 long years ago which resulted in me meeting so many wonderful people, getting so many wonderful hugs and spending such amazing times away from school. I guess all that remains to be said is thank you - thank you to everyone who made HABSMUN a success, to everyone that has made any conference I have ever been to a success, to everyone I have ever hugged and finally to everyone I have ever met at MUN. 

4 years later, numerous awards, many memories, some fantastic conferences and brilliant people met, it is time to call it a day on Model United Nations. Not that I want to. 



Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Price of Life

The title is rather ironic. This article has nothing to do with how much preserving life costs, but rather the opposite: how much ending life costs. I shall not detail the rising costs nor explain why they are going up as this BBC article does it for me, but rather look at the death penalty. I think it is naive to argue that the States in the USA will stop executing people because it has got more expensive (indeed the article does not argue that) - when you have the death penalty in place, the relative cost of it is not really something you considered. Or at least, you would hope that the reason for having the death penalty is not because it is cheaper than keeping a man in prison for life nor the reason for not having it is because it is expensive. Having established that the cost of the death penalty is unlikely to effect whether or not it is kept in place in states such as Texas, it is worth asking the question, "Why is it in place at all?".


I am not so right wing or conservative that I can argue blindly for the death penalty (or torture which is a similar matter) but I can see justification for it, to an extent. I think it is more difficult to justify keeping alive someone who has been convicted of murdering children, for example. You give up certain civil rights when you commit a crime and I have no issues, really, arguing that convicted child murders (especially those with added sexual offences too) should lose the human right to life. You may say "but Texas execute others" but surely this is a punishment that needs to be judged on a case by case basis, as it is indeed done at the moment. So we can establish that some crimes are just so disgusting and heinous that the perpetrators do not deserve to carry on living. It is quite a hard line, but they are called human rights for a reason. I question the extent to which someone who can bring him/herself to murder a child can still be defined as truly human. After all the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article one does read: "They [humans] are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood". You could easily question the extent to which a child murder is endowed with reason, conscience and has acted in the spirit of brotherhood.  Indeed, there are many human rights detailed in that declaration that most would be very quick to deny this sort of criminal - the right to freedom of movement (article 13) for example. 


So we have established that certain crimes can render someone non-human and thus perhaps not entitled to (all) human rights and therefore it is (at least more) justifiable in this case. The big question is, where do you draw the line? When do crimes simply become "terrible" and don't rid someone of their human status? I am, of course, working on (a fair?) assumption that certain crimes can render you non-human. You wouldn't want to say that shoplifting deserved the death penalty, but through 6 steps suddenly it does: 1. Shoplifting, 2. Burglary, 3. Robbery (violent burglary), 4. Robbery whilst home-owner present 5. Robbery and murder of home-owner. 6. Robbery and murder of child in home. It is clear that 1, 2, 3 and 4 are not deserving of the death penalty. But can you distinguish between 5 and 6? Is child murder worse than adult murder? Likewise, few would have a problem with, for example, condemning Hitler (if he were alive) to be executed. Indirectly causing the death of everyone during World War II would definitely render him non-human. But when does quantity stop making a difference? Is setting a bomb off in an Old Peoples Home (where no children die), murdering 1000 any worse than killing 10? 


I am being deliberately unhelpful here because I have no answers. I am happy to accept the premise that there exist certain crimes which render you non-human and therefore eligible for the death penalty and the loss of your right to life. But fitting crimes under this premise is far too hard, indeed impossible. The premise alone cannot justify the death penalty. I am not wholly against the death penalty, I just find it hard to justify to the extent where I believe states should/can use it. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Israel-Iran

I mentioned here how I feel that some sort of military strike in the Middle East is not a matter of if but when and who. I'd like to change my tact and go for it is only a matter of when Israel can convince the USA to ignore an Israeli strike - the USA are almost certainly not going to support/condone one. Israel has long feared Iran's nuclear programme for justifiable reasons that I shan't go into and is becoming increasingly worried by her perception that the international community is not taking the necessary steps.

It is easy to justify this position:

1. Israel fully believes Iran is developing a nuclear weapon with the aim of destroying Israel.

This seems uncontroversial in that, even if it is not true, Israel do believe that it is. Furthermore, it seems as though one can easily defend the latter part of the statement seeing as Iranian officials have not hidden this view from their speeches. The former. Well, debate that all you want, Iran isn't doing the best job of convincing me otherwise!

2. Israel will go to whatever lengths it deems necessary to prevent (1) from occurring.

Again, recent history seems to make this also relatively uncontroversial. Israel has little to no concern about how it is perceived on the international community (with good reason - those who hate Israel are unlikely to stop and Israel's position is not strengthened by having support of anyone other than the USA who will remain supportive) and this only further points towards a potential strike.

3. The USA has similar fears to Israel.

This is the most important premise. While Israel cares not what the rest of the world thinks, she realises how crucial US support is. While the USA, unless Iran literally goes on state TV confirming it has a nuclear bomb, will never (publicly) condone an Israeli military strike, it is more likely that Israel could convince them to ignore one. This is easily the most controversial premise and any Israeli strike will possibly hinge upon convincing the USA to not stop them but then again, should Israeli fears escalate any further, USA opinion will also become irrelevant.

4. Countries such as Saudi Arabia could become allies by virtue of a common enemy.

Saudi Arabia is not a fan of Iran. Whilst it is not exactly Israel's best friend, it may be partial to allowing the use of its airspace (something that could be necessary for Israeli jets to make it to Iranian nuclear facilities), again probably in "ignorance", as a result of the shared distrust of Iran.

There is some way to go before Israel is ready to strike Iran. It obviously needs to ensure any strike works  but the most crucial factor here is the USA. Without the USA I am convinced Israel would have put into motion plans to destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities. However, I remain unconvinced that Israel can be convinced that diplomatic, political and economic pressure can have any effect and will stick my neck out and predict some sort of strike against Iran by the end of 2012.



Sunday, 4 March 2012

Bath International Schools Model United Nations 2012


Or BISMUN 2012 for short. This was to be my 3rd BISMUN, my 9th conference and my final external conference. I spent the week before the conference convinced that I would forget something, unable to quite figure out what it was that made my suitcase so full yet it still seem unnervingly as if I had not remembered to take something important. My dad, as usual, was no help suggesting "Brain and common sense" as two things that I may have forgotten and to ensure I remembered. Regardless of pre-conference nerves, which I was not used to, I was brimming with excitement as I finally tore off my CCF kit after our BGI (Biennial General Inspection - something that finally put to bed the "biannual/biennial" debate, with the latter meaning every two years) and headed to the coach park to begin our complicated coach, train, tube and train journey to Bath. 

We already knew we'd miss lobbying and a very young Habs team of delegates made their way to Strada for dinner having successfully navigated London's underground system and safely made it to Bath having only lost Ashwin twice. Strada brings back very awkward memories for me as my lack of subtleness struck once more as I may have inadvertently called two women lesbians. Anyway, with the staff locating us away from any other customers on the second floor, I was saved from myself and we ordered our food. This, for some reason, made me incredibly happy and in the lull between the main course/dessert and getting the bill I managed to be in hysterics for about 45 minutes. Nothing particularly funny was said either - I made a terrible knock knock joke which prompted Daniel to attempt one. "Knock knock" - Daniel..."Come in" - Raph. I found my comic genius simply hilarious and spent the next 45 minutes trying in vain to stop laughing out loud. Dan eventually told me the joke, but I can only remember how funny I found my "come in" comment and can't, for the life of me, remember the joke. 

We finally made it to the Premier Inn, where we were very disappointed to learn that Lenny Henry was not going to be staying. I was delighted to get my first hug of the conference and amazed that this hug resulted in my complete lifting off the floor with relative ease. I have spent the last month claiming to have lost weight. This, if nothing else, is vindication of those claims! Without so much as a KFC for dessert we were ushered to bed and I was very disappointed to lose the "Rock, paper, scissors" meaning I would have to make do with the single bed. No ladies back to the room for me then. I was strangely nervous at this point. I felt like I did before my first BISMUN, actually my first external conference, and really did not know what to expect. For the first time since that first BISMUN, I feared that I wouldn't enjoy it, something I was desperate to do. 

The traditional "All you can eat" breakfast buffet challenge greeted us the next morning. Having made the fundamental error of leaving the unstoppable eater James Zhao back at Habs, we did not feel as confident of putting the Premier Inn out of business and even I only managed 3 croissants, 2 crumpets, 5 pieces of toast, some fruit and a cup of tea. Undeterred by this oversight on our part we departed for the conference with the young team in high spirits, expectant of a good weekend of debate with the promise of the Chinese Buffet upon our arrival back at the hotel. 

Committee, as I have always said, is a very personal experience and I do not intend to bore you with all the details of my committee. I will, however, say that I got straight back into the swing of things, really enjoy it and (dare I say it) impressed a few with my interesting sense of dress. I also had the pleasure of joining forces with Palestine to solve the Israeli-Palestine problem, giving Palestine full UN membership with Israeli approval. No mean feat! Finally, however, what any BISMUN veteran actually attends the conference for: the Saturday night Chinese Buffet. I very much go by the "All you can eat" equating to a challenge to "eat all of it" and set about destroying plate after plate of Chinese food. The other events of Saturday night are best left at the Premier Inn, but suffice to say we didn't merely go to sleep...

Sunday morning began with the traditional buffet followed by an education. Not in debating, current affairs or world politics but in women and make-up. Having made ill-advised comments regarding make-up stating "you look the same" and the like, I spent the next 15 minutes witnessing the process a girl has to go through to go from "wake up" to "looking suitable to go out". Having applied mascara twice, used two different brushes and various creams and bottles of squidgy stuff, there was little difference that I could see. I did make the mistake of telling her that, but regardless...at least I was honest?!

I shall once again gloss over the events of committee, perhaps merely stating that I was delighted with one particular POI that I made. OH! And I won Best Dressed Delegate AGAIN. 9th conference in a row. Just saying. It is lunch that I am more keen to mention. Of course I am always happy when lunch time comes around - I mean food!, but the end of lunch proved particularly enjoyable. It was requested that for the purposes of this note, the girl in question remained nameless and I shall not go back on my promise. I will mention she found herself in a "sticky situation" and see if anyone gets the pun. Anyway, one of her friends sat down and within about 10 minutes declared I was "she who shall not be named"'s type. Intrigued I asked for clarification and it appears my "slight" arrogance, middle eastern origin, tallness and humour made me "she who shall not be named"'s type. Needless to say I enjoyed this, the girl in question was clearly incredibly embarrassed and I was just flattered. I shall move past GA. Habs did very well as usual, returning with numerous awards including Best Young Delegate at the conference, an award we retain for the 2nd successive year. I am delighted to say that I managed to go the entire conference without breaking a table, something that, on personal level at least, I am very proud of! 

Perhaps, as usual, I should end with a few messages:

1. MUN is a truly fantastic activity that I would encourage everyone to get involved with. 
2. Take advantage of all you can eat buffets, but don't forget the biggest eater at home!
3. Hugs are the way forward. 
4. Trying to get one over on someone never works (I guess only I know what I mean here)
5. Never waste an opportunity to do an MUN conference.
6. Always match your (bow) tie, socks, cufflinks and pocket square. 
7. There is nothing wrong with being concerned with your dress.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you. I have had a wonderful 9 conferences and will really really miss it. Thank you to everyone I have met, to everyone I have debated with/against, to everyone who has ever given me a hug or made me smile or delivered a funny speech. I will always look back at my MUN "career" with fond memories, remembering speeches, awards, hugs and people and I am truly grateful to anyone and everyone who has made MUN as amazing as it was. I am gutted that Bath will be my last external conference but look forward to HABSMUN next week where I will bring my MUN career to a close on Home Turf ending at the conference I began at. Thank you all, I love you all and to all those I will never see again, good luck!