Thank you for warning me...

Discussion of the SES, particularly in the UK.
Eyesopened
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Thank you for warning me...

Postby Eyesopened » Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:11 pm

To all who have contributed to this forum and to those who put in lots of time and effort to maintain it, I would like to say a sincere thank you. I have just finished an introductory course at an SES school and was considering going on to the level 2 course in the autumn but having read this forum have decided not to.

I came away feeling particularly uneasy after the last session – so googled the SES and found this forum. How grateful I am that this forum exists. A lot of the unease I had increasingly been feeling and a few queries I had in my head all fell into place when I read other posts on this forum.

I would like to explore my thoughts and queries about the course with other people on this forum so I can have an open discussion of the kind I had initially thought the course was intended for. I also thought other people on this forum might be interested to hear how the intro course is currently being run and how it is experienced by a newcomer.

I had found out about the course through adverts on the tube a few years ago and finally got around to going this year. I was interested in exploring different aspects of philosophy and how they may be applied to daily life. I was looking forward to an opportunity to discuss and debate different ideas in an environment with other people who were also open to questioning and exploring.

Over time I realised that the course was proposing a certain position and that exploration of that position was designed in some way towards acceptance / understanding of that one position. Although we were told to 'not accept nor reject' the ideas put before us, I started to feel uncomfortable about airing my objections and queries even though they were seemingly encouraged. We were told that 'the truth' was not something which could be understood entirely by the thinking mind. It seemed to me that some of the ideas proposed required a leap of faith and that in fact what was being taught was not so much practical philosophy but a belief system or religion.

I found 'the exercise' which is essentially a mindfulness exercise, to be quite helpful in enabling me to have a break from my thoughts and feelings and still think I might use it from time to time. However, it seemed that being connected with the present and being 'aware' was considered to be the best state to be in and to be aimed for a lot of the time rather than being caught up in thoughts or feelings. We were given the idea that as our feelings, thoughts and bodies change over time, these are not what we are and instead the true self that is never changing is the observing self that watches what is going on without judgement. I didn't like the idea of being a blank empty entity as it sounds a bit robotic and cold and vacuous. I think that our feelings, aspirations, thoughts and our relationships with others and our ability to explore the world through our senses and bodies are what make us human and what give meaning and vitality to life.

We were told that our natural state is happiness and that if all men were wise, all would be happy and there would be no dis-ease of any kind. But I don't think that's realistic. Life involves ups and downs, loss and grief, illness and death. The idea that if we were wise we would be unaffected by these things doesn't seem very likely or even something that I aspire to - as if that were the case I would not be a real thinking, feeling human.

I liked the calmness of the tutor and the way they considered things thoughtfully. However, it seemed that doing so required effort and control and did not allow for much spontaneity or freedom of expression. I felt a little stifled and uneasy observing this, including how they paused periodically and seemed to speak deliberately and carefully.

I thought the dynamic between the male tutor and their female assistant was a bit weird. Why did the tutor have a glass of water on a doily, ontop of a saucer, ontop of a cloth mat ontop of a nice table but the assistant and students not? And whilst I understand that the tutor was to lead the session, why did the assistant not join in so much and seem to look to the tutor before or after speaking as if seeking permission or approval?

In one of the breaks I spoke to an older male student of retirement age in a suit who told me that the school of philosophy was initially the school of economic science and its name had been subject to debate. I said the current name sounded more appealing as I was more interested in philosophy than economics. He said that women might understand economics better if it was explained in terms of housekeeping for society. I put this perspective down to a generational thing...

I noticed that some of the men wore suits but I assumed that this was probably because the course was after work, although I did wonder why the man of retirement age thought it necessary to wear a suit – but again I put this down to a generational thing. I also noticed that the tutor's assistant and the woman who served the tea always wore long skirts but I just assumed this was their style and it did not seem out of place for women in their 50s. They were both very polite and pleasant and a bit 'serving' in their nature if that makes sense.

Attempts to find out more about the school or about the level 2 course were responded to but I was still left not quite sure what it was about and as if they were holding stuff back. I thought it a bit odd that when we asked if some of the material discussed was available in written form, we were informed that the school followed an oral tradition because if people take away written information, they tend to digest it with their thinking mind whereas it is best received verbally.

I do feel like I am betraying the people who I spent the course with. My developing unease only really came to a head during and after the last session so it may come as a surprise to them. I enjoyed the calmness I felt a lot of the time during and after the sessions. I am disappointed that my hopes of exploring some new ideas that might give more meaning to my life with like minded people won't be fulfilled.

I do think that the tutor and the assistant and the lady who gave out tea are very nice people and that they truly believed what they were teaching us. I do not think their intention was in any way to harm. Although I do think that the tube advert did not make it clear what the course was about and I do think that for some reason, some information about the activities and aims of the school was witheld from us – perhaps because it was thought that we were not ready to receive it.

I am grateful to this forum for helping me put all these experiences and queries into context for me and for enabling me to avoid the negative experiences that others have had through a longer involvement with the school. Thank you very much.



I

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Free Thinker
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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby Free Thinker » Thu Jul 22, 2010 3:28 am

Hi there! Welcome to the forum!

I don't have much time now but I wanted to let you know that I took that course 17 years ago in a different country, and my experience was exactly the same as yours. From the wierd sexist dynamic between tutor and "assistant" to the stupid doily. Only I was only 15 years old, having been raised within the school. And it took me another 4 years before I realized I should leave, and I'm still working on undoing the things I was taught there.

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ET
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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby ET » Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:36 am

Eyesopened wrote:The idea that if we were wise we would be unaffected by these things doesn't seem very likely or even something that I aspire to - as if that were the case I would not be a real thinking, feeling human.


This sums up the SES in a nutshell. Not feeling and living in the present all the time makes you an automaton. I'm glad you've found this forum, eyesopened.
Pupil at St James Girl's School from 1979-1989, from age 4-14. Parents ex-members of SES.

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bonsai
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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby bonsai » Thu Jul 22, 2010 2:05 pm

Eyesopened wrote:Over time I realised that the course was proposing a certain position and that exploration of that position was designed in some way towards acceptance / understanding of that one position. Although we were told to 'not accept nor reject' the ideas put before us, I started to feel uncomfortable about airing my objections and queries even though they were seemingly encouraged. We were told that 'the truth' was not something which could be understood entirely by the thinking mind. It seemed to me that some of the ideas proposed required a leap of faith and that in fact what was being taught was not so much practical philosophy but a belief system or religion.


Hello Eyesopened and welcome to the forum.

The way the SES use the phrase "neither accept nor reject" ideas is quite truly one of the most deceptive techniques they use to manipulate rational and discriminating people into the organisation. I haven't been able to put my finger on why until you have said what you said.

This phrase has two direct consequences:

Firstly it allows the students the continue believing that there will be debate on the subject matter put forward even though there is no intention on the tutor's part. And it can be, and is, used to disarm the automatic objections of students that disagree, without entering into a debate or provide justifications.

Secondly it allows them to keep repeating their dogmatic views even when they should have discarded particular beliefs because there is no criticism on which to justify abandoning them. This in turn creates a "drip drip" effect which can wear down the reasoning in some people.

Far from creating and stimulating rational and justified philosophical debate or creating an environment where philosophy can be put into practice it is used as a weapon to shut down criticism and dissent.

As such no debate is really entered into, either in a Socratic tradition or otherwise and it destroys the critical thinking of the student, which they say is so required, whilst retaining the perception that students are free to discriminate and debate.

It is probably one reason why people who would argue and stand up against the proposed philosophy choose simply to leave and those who are persuaded by the ideas or who simply like the feel of the organisation don’t get their views challenged and can easily get stuck.

This is all very manipulative.

Bonsai

Eyesopened
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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby Eyesopened » Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:10 pm

Hi Freethinker, ET and bonsai,
Thanks for your replies.

I've been reflecting on what it was about the last session that rang alarm bells. I think it was mostly something about the tutor who led the session. The session was taken by a different tutor - who is high up in London SES. He came across as a bit arrogant and used to being in a position of power. He seemed quite proud to reveal what he did for a living when asked (I was merely returning a question he had put to me.)The assistant certainly had a more serving attitude towards him as if he was the boss in charge to be pleased and it made me feel a bit uncomfy to watch.

What struck me was how similar both tutors were. They had similar styles of dress, very neat and tidy and professional looking. They both wrote on the board in chalk with such precision and delicacy as if it were an art form. They both spoke in a measured way with pausing. I also wondered whether they both had links professionally as they both had jobs to do with planning for buildings, the initial tutor working for the government. The similarity was so striking it was almost as if the initial tutor was a clone of the tutor in the last session. Bit of a shame because I quite liked the initial tutor and he didn't seem arrogant and he seemed quite genuine - but some of that got undermined when I saw how similar he was to the last tutor and it seemed that perhaps some of how he was might not be so natural but learned.

The tutor from the last session asked us what the initial tutor had taught us but in a kind of critical way that seemed like he was checking up that the tutor had done what he was meant to and that there might be trouble if he hadn't. I was wondering why the last tutor had stepped in - is there a practise of verifying the tutor's sessions to quality check them or something? It might just be that the initial tutor was away as they had said.

The tutor in the last session asked the assistant why at this level, we had been told about the decorating days. I wondered what it was about decorating that he thought this practise should be kept from us. I felt the need to defend the initial tutor and explain that we had asked whether there was anything happening over summer that we could get involved in. From having read other posts on this forum about cleaning carpet with toothbrushes, I am guessing he thought that we would think it was a daft idea at that stage until we had learnt more about the benefits of staying in the present moment etc...(and he'd be right!) We discussed the day retreat in Edenbridge and when I asked if I needed to specifically request vegetarian food, the tutor and assistant said it would be vegetarian food anyway and looked at each other quite pleased. Having read more on the forum, I have learned that the SES encourage vegetarianism...

I also asked the tutor from the last session whether there was any chance to practise the exercise or meditation with other people during the summer break as I found it easier when it was led. He said that there was a particular form of meditation that the school followed but that you had to be initiated into it and it was best at this level to just practise the exercise until it was done twice or 3 times daily as part of your routine.
I'm intrigued about this - please could anyone enlighten me as to the meditation techniques followed by the school and what happens in the initiation? I thought meditation was beneficial - what is so special about the meditation the school does and why does it require an initiation?

The initial tutor had discussed during the election how proportional representation was a fairer system. I didn't think much of it until I read later that there are links between the SES and the liberal party. I can't believe how many aspects of life the SES seems to have a stance on from what party to follow, what to wear, what to eat, how to behave according to your gender, what to direct your attention to... Its amazing that just those few subtle ideas that came across in the intro course were just the tip of the iceberg to something that runs so deep. I'm so pleased I read this forum just in time as without it I would be going on the retreat, decoration days and the level 2 in September and on the path to getting caught up in it all...

joeblogs
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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby joeblogs » Fri Jul 23, 2010 12:06 pm

Hi Eyesopened.
I think it's great you managed to get out so quickly. I spent almost 20 years of my life being mentally twisted by these people. Your description of the room and the tutor with the suit, and the glass on a doilly on a plate, was so accurate and it bought back a load of memories. I completely agree with Bonsai on the phrase 'Neither accept or reject', the usage of which he summed up very well. I was in the school from the age of 7, and over the years I've experienced the London, Australian and New Zealand SES, and all of them are equally awful places. Not because they are unpleasant, but because everyone is so nice but completely soulless, because they are all trying to be these enlightened emotionless 'robots'. For a long time I had the same thoughts as you, that I didn't want to be a robot on automatic mode in the presence all the time, but the school has a way of making you believe that this is the ego speaking, the evil ego we have to separate ourselves from in order to become free. The thing that finally pushed me to leave was the final week residential. You mentioned the weekends away, but they also have week long retreats, as you've probably picked up from other postings on this site. These weeks are very hard, physically and emotionally. This was a Youth Week, and they kept on hammering into us that we had to obey everything they said, and be in the present all the time, not allow our own ideas of pleasure and what we'd rather be doing to come into it. They were always trying to control us, telling us off, and the thing that finally broke me was just the absolute arrogance which you mentioned you saw in your tutor, and which I have seem in a lot of people in the school over the years. They are so convinced that they are right, and so smarmy about it, and they feel their job is to talk down to everyone. And it was so obvious how they were trying to control everyone. There were young people on this week( young means 16 to 28 I think) from all over the world, and actually the lord of all Mr Lambie himself dropped in to visit us, and we had to prepare a special picnic of scones and strawberries on the lawn. How pathetic is that! But they kept repeating how lucky we were to have the great leader come to visit little old us. Talk about culty stuff! I imagine you’ve never met Mr Lambie, but he’s a strange person, very strange. Creepy would be another way of putting it. It was horrible, and I thought, oh my God, if I stay in the school I will have to keep on coming to these things for the rest of my life, giving up all my free time and holidays to this bullshit! So yeah, as I say it took me 20 years, cos childhood influences are hard to escape from, so I'm really happy you got out so quickly.
You asked about the mediation too. It's basically the repetition of a mantra for half an hour twice a day, at sunrise and sunset if possible. Which is a way of making sure you're bloody exhausted on the weeks and therefore offer less resistance. The mantra I've heard is the name of a Hindu god. In the ceremony you have to present a piece of fruit, a white hanky and a week's salary to the initiator, and then you have to listen as they chant a whole lot of names before finally they give you the mantra to repeat. Then, every few weeks you have to go for a ‘check’ as they call it, to make sure it’s all going ok. When I was getting initiated, at the age of 12, I was left to meditate for ages, alone, and I think I fell asleep because afterwards they told me they didn’t want to stop me because I looked so peaceful. Of course I did, all sleeping kids look peaceful! Anyway, I never had any good experiences with meditation, I found it hard, and a bit boring, spent god knows how many hours on long boring residential weeks trying to force myself to save the world and myself with meditation(which after awhile is what they tell you, the good vibes from the mantra have a beneficial effect on the world) and spent more time thinking about other more interesting things, because staying focused for a whole half hour on one word is impossible.
Anyway, good luck finding a real philosophy course. The older I get, the more I’m looking for this too. I’m thinking of doing an evening course at uni, or something like that, at least its less likely to be a cult! Best of luck!

Rosie
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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby Rosie » Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:15 pm

Hi Eyesopened,

Your post has finally made me pluck up the courage to write something here, because I've been lurking for around 3 months now but always chickened out before posting. The truth is that I've never even posted on a forum before, so I apologize in advance if I unknowingly breach any rules of netiquette. I would also like to thank everyone on this forum for making me aware of the true nature of the 'philosophy course' I had been attending quite happily and even enthusiastically for almost two years. I found this forum only a very short period before I was due to be initiated and I feel extremely relieved to have escaped before I got in any deeper. I think I would have found it far more difficult to quit if more and more time had passed. As it was, it was difficult enough to leave, and I feel quite disappointed and deceived about it all. I also feel a little stupid.

I had become very friendly with my group and considered the group meetings as a sort of 'haven' which also made me feel calm and often exhilarated afterwards and eager to try to recapture that feeling for the rest of the week. Even so, now that I reflect on my experiences, even though I enjoyed the atmosphere, friendly chat and rather esoteric ideas, I have to admit that at no point did I honestly and truly 'believe' all the references to gunas and atman and all the rest of it. I certainly found it quite interesting within the context of learning about different ideas held by different cultures and so forth, but I now see that I was very naive in not realising earlier that it was not being presented as an option but as the Truth.

Alarm bells only started ringing in the final class I attended where the focus was solely on meditation. Before that, I had found it a little puzzling that we had to wait two years before being 'allowed' to do it and it was like the tutor never gave a straight answer as to why. (I agree about the smug, superior air and the careful and measured way of speaking, but I genuinely trusted him and thought he was remarkable). But in the last lecture I attended, any question at all, only received the response 'the answer is meditation', 'through meditation all will become clear'. Also the connotations given out by the word 'initation' made me feel uncomfortable to say the least.It was almost creepy and robotic. I came home, googled the SES, found this forum and never went back. A heartfelt thank you for sparing me the horror of future retreats and service and meditation checks.

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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby ET » Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:43 pm

Hi Rosie and well done for finally posting, it's a scary thing to do the first time! In fact, sometimes I still get nervous and I've been posting for years.

I just wanted to say, please please don't ever feel stupid for getting involved with the SES. Four of my relatives were heavily involved for many years (my parents have left, one of the others has died and one is still a member) and they are all highly intelligent and sensible people. The SES are extremely good at what they do, and have their cult manipulation techniques absolutely fine tuned after so many decades of using them.

I'm so glad you got away and so happy that this forum continues to help so many people after the initial help it gave us "child-survivors" of St James and St Vedast schools.

I hope you will feel able to continue to post now you've started!
Pupil at St James Girl's School from 1979-1989, from age 4-14. Parents ex-members of SES.

Eyesopened
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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby Eyesopened » Fri Jul 23, 2010 11:41 pm

Hello,
Please could somebody explain to me how to send a private message. I have written one and it seems to be stuck in the outbox. I can't see a send button to press. Sorry to be posting this here - but obviously can't private message the moderator to find out how to send a private message!
Thanks,
Eyesopened

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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby Daffy » Sat Jul 24, 2010 9:09 am

You've probably sent your PM successfully. It stays in the Outbox until the recipient opens the message, and then it moves to Sent Messages.

You can also update a PM until it is opened by the recipient.

Eyesopened wrote:Hello,
Please could somebody explain to me how to send a private message. I have written one and it seems to be stuck in the outbox. I can't see a send button to press. Sorry to be posting this here - but obviously can't private message the moderator to find out how to send a private message!
Thanks,
Eyesopened

Eyesopened
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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby Eyesopened » Sat Jul 24, 2010 9:16 am

Thanks Daffy

Tootsie
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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby Tootsie » Sat Jul 24, 2010 12:55 pm

The SES reminds me of North Korea, where they have a beloved leader and the people are treated like mushrooms. Kept in the dark and fed on bull...t.

Eyesopened
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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby Eyesopened » Sat Jul 24, 2010 2:11 pm

What I'm left wondering is why? What's the purpose of the SES? What's the point?

I understand that the organisation may think its spiritual practises and beliefs, or 'philosophy' are the aim in itself – having only done the intro course, I imagine I do not fully know what the ultimate aim of this philosophy is. Please could someone explain?

Is the power and control exerted over the members for any of the following reasons?:
- because it is seen to be for the members' own good to coerce them into following the practises and belong to the organisation (because the benefits are not obvious, so you have to obediently follow practises until you 'get it'?)
- because the SES's philosophy proposes that society needs a hierarchy with people obeying rules for the sake of harmony?

I imagine that the leaders may exert the power and control over the members merely for the kick it gives them as individuals. But other than the leaders enjoying the power and control for its own sake and exerting it to further the aims of the organisation and its members, are there any other motives?

For example, I have read on other posts that the SES is quite wealthy and owns a number of properties. I have also read that the way the members are encouraged to maintain the properties for free contributes to this. I get the impression that as members are asked/expected to contribute financially to the organisation (please can someone explain how btw?) and have read that it is considered to be financial exploitation – but I am not sure why? I imagine that the organisation could justify the requests for contributions on the basis that it is to enable the organisation to have properties to meet in and to hold its courses and to further the aims of the organisation. If you believe in the organisation's spiritual aims and philosophy, then furthering the aims of the organisation through financial contribution would not seem exploitative? Or is that the point – that as the organisation's philosophy is flawed, any contribution to it is considered exploitation? Or is it the amount of financial contribution expected by each member considered to be too much? Are there any individual members higher up in the organisation who personally benefit financially from this?

I am wondering whether it is just coincidence that both tutors for the intro course work in building planning. One tutor is an independent planning consultant and from Google I have seen they have consulted on local authority / governmental buildings. The other tutor works for the government regarding government buildings. Is this just a coincidence?

I have also read that the SES has links with the Liberal Party. Is this simply because the party's aims fit well with the SES's views on philosophy and economics? Is there some link with power and politics for individual members? Does the SES encourage its members to support the Liberal party in any way?

Would be grateful if you could clarify this for me. Is the organisation's aims simply about its philosophy and beliefs or are there other agendas?

Many thanks,
Eyesopened

Rosie
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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby Rosie » Sat Jul 24, 2010 2:36 pm

Hi Eyesopened,

I'm sorry that I don't know the answers to your questions. I'm pretty confused myself as to the ultimate purpose of the SES since I wasn't much more advanced than you when I left. Please forgive me if I"m threadjacking but I wasn't sure whether to create a new thread, so I hope you'll allow me to simply say thanks to ET for the warm welcome. You're right, I know I shouldn't feel stupid, they're quite subtle in the way they do things. Only a little bit is revealed at a time, which makes you wonder what lies ahead and so you remain hooked enough to keep going week upon week. And the build-up to meditation was quite cleverly done too, I'm embarrassed to admit that I sometimes had high hopes for it totally transforming my life and solving my problems because it was really presented to us in such glowing terms. That was quite naive of me, but I was in rather a vulnerable place.

I'm not in the UK, and interestingly, our classes did not include a tutor's assistant. Perhaps there aren't enough volunteers to go round in my country's organisation, or maybe it's not deemed necessary?) Once we did receive a visit from Mr Lambie himself (he gave a short lecture) and come to think of it, there was something in the atmosphere I couldn't put my finger on, plus I did notice that while the lecture was going on attended by mostly men, downstairs the women were preparing the vegetarian buffet in long skirts! This is why I'm grateful to the forum, for helping me make the connections through what I had already observed. Now I also remember a fleeting reference early on to the school's students doing the chores in the school building too. I think I really would have felt uncomfortable during the coming retreats and not sure how to get out of it due to group pressure, so I'm SO glad I escaped before initation. It was really tough to just stop going and lose the social network (no-one has kept in touch with me after the first polite exchange of e-mails and one attempt by one member to entice me back, but maybe it's better that way, because I won't be persuaded back of course). I do feel betrayed at the secrecy and deception but mostly I feel relieved to have escaped.
Thanks again for the existence of this forum. And to all those who suffered the terrible abuse in childhood at the hands of the SES, I can only offer my feelings of shock and sympathy for your pain.

Tootsie
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Re: Thank you for warning me...

Postby Tootsie » Sat Jul 24, 2010 3:48 pm

If you asked any of the leaders in the SES what was the purpose of the school? Their answer would be to raise the level of consciousness in society. Most people are interested in bread and circuses, just have a look at The Sun newspaper to see where all their attention is focussed. So instead of following the herd the school tries to focus their attention on Shakespeare, Plato, Mozart, Shankara etc. And tries to keep the ladies skirts near the floor.The problem arises when most people are sitting in front of the TV watching world cup football or whatever tickles their fancy and a few SES pupils are enjoying the pleasures of a weekend residential following Measure. Having been to many residentials my choice would be the football, a beer and then to bed. Life is pretty good outside school.


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