If I said to you to imagine an airline pilot's home, what would you come up with? A positively palatial building perhaps with bedrooms galore and every possible amenity? A nice country cottage in the Cotswolds? Or perhaps a modern flat in the centre of the city?
Quite probably all appropriate, but for those of us who are still on our way the lodgings are rather less grandiose. As mentioned, I'm now living in the OAA halls at Upper Heyford, about 11 miles from the airport and quite simply in the middle of nowhere. Military buffs among you may have twigged the name already and you'd be right; Upper Heyford is of course the long decommissioned RAF Upper Heyford, used by the United States for nuclear bombers during the Cold War but largely abandoned since it was closed in 1994. On site are the OAA halls, some light industry and a village that's popped up in some of the old quarters; other than that most buildings are boarded up with the result that when driving up from the main gate last night in the pouring rain one of the others commented that we'd better "get into our rooms quickly before the green-glowing zombies appear!"
The halls themselves are in the drably named Building 41, an ex transit block that now houses approximately 60 students in two bedroom flats. The flats are rather basic but they come with an adequate kitchen (although without a freezer), two decently sized and equipped bedrooms and a newly refurbished bathroom (I believe the plan is that after next being vacated each flat will be similarly refurbished before any more students move in). On the subject of the bedroom we've all currently got a single bed, a desk, a chair or two and a built in wardrobe. We've also been assured that over the next six weeks we'll find upon returning at the end of the day that the furniture fairies have visited and have gifted us with a bed side table, a chest of drawers and a book case.
We've also been informed that the internet will imminently be upgraded with a cable the size of an oil pipe; possibly an exaggeration but certainly needed. The current wifi arrangement is taxed but the computer based training which makes up a significant proportion of the training; Skype apparently will do it in entirely so we were warned off using it by more experienced students on our first day here. The wifi routers are also interestingly located due to the fact that the wall sockets are up by the ceiling, so the routers tend to hang somewhat precariously on their cables...
That said, don't let any of this phase you. The flats are perfectly fine for living in and anyway, from what we hear we won't have time after the first weekend to notice the little foibles. Our splendid isolation also has an advantage; there are very few distractions. It also means that everyone talks to everyone else and indeed the more 'senior' students have gone out of their way to brief us on what we've let ourselves in for and to offer us help and advice for when we need it.
So there we go, the low down on the accommodation at Upper Heyford. I should also point out that a car, while useful, isn't essential for living here. There is a free shuttle bus service that runs to the school and back every hour and Sainsburys will deliver for a couple of quid; both it and Tesco can be found about 5 miles away in Bicester.
I shall now sign off as, like three of the other five on the course, I'm heading off home and will return on Sunday evening. Ciao!