A Fun Weekend

Last weekend was excellent if I can be completely honest.  For starters there was no 10 mile walk (see previous post for details). Friday evening consisted of me meeting up with several of my second cousins (and one first cousin once removed if you’re keen on genealogical pedantry) who all live near/in SW London, along with their various partners.  It was a hugely enjoyable evening, and great to catch up with them all again.

Saturday I had a work social with some of my colleagues.  This involved going on a steam train that had two real ale breweries on board, selling various beers that they’d made.  Let’s be honest, it’s a pretty golden combination.  Steam trains and beer?  Hard to go wrong.

Sunday concluded the weekend with a visit to my parents and grandparents back on the other side of Surrey (where I originate from).  A delicious Sunday roast lamb kicked off proceedings, followed by various other goodies.

All in all, pretty successful!

Another Surreal Evening

I’ve started to have a realisation that going out with friends in what at first appear to be normal nights out in London usually end up having rather bizarre and surreal conclusions.  Don’t get me wrong, they certainly make life more interesting, and allows one to increase one’s repertoire of dinner party anecdotes.  The catch is of course that it makes the evening slightly more tiring than is often initially planned!

Take a few weeks ago for example, when JW visited London, and JG and I went out to a bar we know (colloquially christened “Creepy Joe’s” by JW).  As with any other night, we started off with a few beers (and enjoyed the excellent music “Creepy Joe’s” had to offer – 70s and 80s rock for the most part).  Anyway, as the night drew on, and the last trains departed, the bar got more and more busy.  The good thing about busy bars is that you meet some rather interesting characters.  In this instance, the character in question was slightly intimidating at a first glance, with long dark hair and a leather jacket.  He was a Portuguese chap who formerly worked for the MoD. He was enjoying his last few weeks of freedom – quite literally as it happened – he got sacked from the MoD and was due a stretch in chokey for having a rather vicious fight with some Polish gent apparently.  I thought it prudent not to ask for details, but he seemed quite charming.

Anyway, as is often the inevitable conclusion, owing to all the public transport being shut at night, I had no way of getting back to Woking, so I opted to walk to London Bridge (from “Creepy Joe’s” – nearest tube: Angel) to get a train back to my parents’ home (I was visiting them anyway the next day).  Unfortunately for muggins here (who’d forgotten), London Bridge was closed, and so it was a rather lengthy walk from there to Victoria for the train.  It did mean I got to walk past Parliament at half three, which was beautiful as ever.


Moving on to a few weeks later (i.e. last night), I was out with some ancient friends (known for ~18/19 years ish), which was a lovely catch up as I’d not seen them for a while.  After they all dispersed, I went to see some university friends at another pub nearby.  We headed back to one of their flats and watched some TV (because why not?).  At this stage someone suggested going out to a club which was “really good”.  A few minutes later, we got there, and discovered it wasn’t “really good” (think Fifth Form “prom” meets college bop).  It was after this that things came to their inevitable surreal conclusion.

Walking back from around Tottenham Court Road to Waterloo (where said friend’s flat is), we encountered a young American student who had lost her friends (and was not really in a fit state to walk, let alone be left by herself, certainly not at half two in the morning in Central London).  She asked us where Piccadilly Circus was as her friends were waiting there for her.  As it wasn’t too far, I offered to take her and waved goodbye to my friends, saying I’d catch up with them later (as the last trains had left, I’d been offered the floor of the flat to sleep on that night).  Anyway, my new charge soon realised her friends were not in fact waiting at Piccadilly Circus and asked if I’d mind helping her home.  Naturally I agreed (I thought it better than for her to be on the streets alone before being picked up and put in a cell overnight to sober up or worse) and asked where she lived. The reply “Baron’s Court” was not quite the response I was hoping for, given that Hammersmith is a bit of a walk from the West End (~4 miles away), but she was insistent that that was where she lived and she knew her way back from the tube station.  Clearly, I was in for a long night!  Anyway, 90 minutes later, just past Gloucester Road tube station, there was an epiphany (she had sobered up a bit at this point – nothing a good spot of fresh air can’t fix eh?).  Baron’s Court was in fact not where she lived, instead she lived in an exceptionally similarly named Hall of Residence, by Russell Square tube station. Again as before, this was not the response I was hoping for.  Cue another 4 mile walk back towards Central London.

For those of you who aren’t particularly familiar with London geography, here’s a handy map showing the magnitude of the error in all its cartographical glory!:

The green circle shows where I found her, while the red ones show the dichotomy in where we heading.  The blue star shows how far we got before she realised the mistake.  (Image: Google Maps with own annotations).  Click to enlarge

The green circle shows where I found her, while the red ones show the dichotomy in where we originally heading, compared to where she actually lived. The blue star shows how far we got before she realised the mistake. (Image: Google Maps with own annotations). Click to enlarge

Eventually (at half past five in the morning) we arrived and I deposited her with the porters who were (rather understandably) slightly concerned by her disappearance (to the extent that they’d declared her missing to the Met).  Luckily though, all’s well that ends well, and they were grateful for my assistance.  I bade them all farewell and was on my way (to Waterloo to collect my stuff from that flat).

Unfortunately (or rather, obviously) when I arrived at a quarter past six in the morning, I couldn’t get in, so I had to call one of my friends sleeping there (who wasn’t especially thrilled of course – HL I really really owe you one for letting me in)!  I collected my stuff and decided that it was time to head home.  A few minutes later, I was on the 6:30 train to Southampton (Woking was the second stop thank goodness), and I was back in my own bed just as the sun was rising. Thank goodness it’s the weekend and I can have a quiet day!

So what have we learned from these two incidents?  Well first of all it is that strange and peculiar things seem to happen to me on a night out with friends.  Life does have a tendency to be more bizarre these days (certainly when one combines beer, late nights, and Central London).  The second lesson to be taken from this is that London is a BIG city.  Walking it, while exceptionally scenic, does have an element of making you somewhat knackered.  I’ll be honest, 24 hour tubes from next year will make a great difference!  Seeing the City, Parliament, and all that business in the middle of the night is absolutely stunning though.

Oh, and before you ask, I never did catch her name.

Ticking Over

It’s been a while since my last post (partly due to the fact that the internet was down in my flat – not ideal), but what a lot has happened!

First of all, I had a delightful week or so in Devon with my family, which was a great chance to relax a while away from work.  We were staying in a small town near Kingsbridge, and basically just enjoyed the scenery.  The house we rented had brilliant sea views, and my father and I went on a long hike along the coast one day.  We also went to several pubs, one of which has beams nabbed from a wreck of one of the ships from the Spanish Armada in 1588.  We also planned to go sea fishing with some family friends who were holidaying in the same village at the same time on their fishing boat, but unfortunately the sea was too rough (due to the wind).  Ah well, such is life.

Back in Surrey, things have been going well.  A couple of other new grads started two weeks ago, so they’ve been settling in.  I’ve spent a lot of my free weekends in London seeing various friends, and it’s been a lot of fun catching up with them all.

RS and I built our new computers last Tuesday which was enormous fun.  Quite tense at some stages (mainly the installation of the cpu and cpu cooler), but luckily it all works well.

Work wise, everything’s great.  The job is still really interesting and enjoyable, so that’s rather lucky.  I should be going on a business trip soon, so that should be rather exciting!

Moving On

Well, that’s it, I’ve left the company flat, and am now nice and settled in my new room.  It’s located in a much leafier part of town, and it’s much quieter than previously (which was adjacent to a train line).  Out of my window I can see a large patch of grass and the bus stop (and the corner shop/mini supermarket that’s next door which is super handy if I can’t be bothered/forget to go to the main one).  When I moved in yesterday (around 15:00) there was some random bloke asleep on the pavement outside the front.  I’m not sure if he’s still there, haven’t checked yet.

It’s a glorious day, and I’m sitting at my desk reading.  The desk belongs to my parents, but they kindly loaned it to me as it was just gathering dust/spiders’ nests in the garage at home – cleaning it up was a rather entertaining exercise I can tell you.

So what’s up this week?  Well, work obviously.  It’s still super busy and there’s a lot to learn still (of course), but I am still enjoying it.  I’ll also be getting a new computer (hopefully) this week, which is definitely needed (my current one is very old, slow and has a major problem with its fans resulting in it shutting down due to dangerously high cpu temperatures quite a lot).  I’m buying the parts separately, and building it myself as a: It’s cheaper, b: You know exactly what you’re getting, and c: I’m super geeky and it’ll be a lot of fun.  I might even do a special post about building it because I’m that cool :P!

The Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural Show

So, I’ve just come back from a very enjoyable Bank Holiday with my family at home on the other side of Surrey (I know, I go to such exotic places nowadays).  In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to the agricultural show that is held every August bank holiday in one of the adjacent villages to my own, so I thought it might be fun to write a bit about it.

Traditionally my family goes every year, but due to my being in Chile last summer, I had to miss it, so this year I fully intended to go.  It’s a fun day out, with all the typical events one might expect from a country show, including a vegetable contest, gun dog displays, an on site farrier, etc.  

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Personally my favourite would be the vegetable and flower displays, as they are always very inventive and spectacular. One rather fun spectacle was a sheep (called Amy) wandering around with her owner. Apparently she’s been on various television programmes and is something of a star.  

Amy the sheep

Amy the sheep

There was also an owl show, because who doesn’t love an owl?!

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Anyway, the day usually starts with an amble round the whole show to see what’s on offer, followed by a picnic (with smoked salmon sandwiches naturally)!  After lunch, we all split up to go and see the stalls we’re particularly keen on.  

This was a good stall!

This was a good stall!

This year we were very lucky with the weather, which is unusual for a Bank Holiday.

Apologies if this isn’t the most scintillating post to date!  I’m still having internet troubles in the company flat, so I’m writing this just before I go to work (as it seems to work* in the mornings, but not in the evenings for some reason), so I’m not really on top writing form right now alas! *By “work” I mean “connects at almost dial-up speeds rather than not at all”…

Edit (30/8/14):  Updated with photos!

The Latest Update

Good news everyone, the internet in the flat I’m staying in has somehow fixed itself, so I am now able to write my blog again.  I’ve not really had time to do one until now, as everything’s been rather busy regarding my new job in Woking (of The War of the Worlds and Town Called Malice fame)!  I’ve now done it for around 4 weeks, and it’s slowly beginning to make sense which is good!  It’s interesting and fun, so I’m rather lucky, as I definitely am of the mindset that a job you don’t enjoy is a pointless waste of your life.

I’ve spent the last month in the company flat, while looking for a more permanent place to stay.  Fortunately that is now sorted, and I’ll be joining a flatshare with some people who work at McLaren above an architect’s studio.  I’ve not met them yet, but the signing and deposit paying etc. stuff is happening next week, so I’ll meet them then.  It’s a 20 minute walk from the office, but I think there’s a bus for when it rains.  Handy, as being ripped off for a daily train ride isn’t really appealing to be honest.

So aside from my new job as a geophysicist, what have I been doing? Well, for those of you who know me, the answer is fairly obvious I should imagine (spending time with friends in bars for those of you who don’t).  The office also has a weekly pub lunch on Fridays (so that’s something to look forward to tomorrow), which is a good chance to get to know more of my colleagues.  The company is quite small, with only around 50 people in the office in total, so everyone knows everyone.  It certainly makes the transition from the Cambridge Geology Department less stressful although I do miss it a lot (and I’m not just saying that because I know Fabio and SP amongst others read this), as that was more or less a similar size (my year and the year below was around 45 people ish, and we often had pub lunches too).

This weekend it’s back to the other side of Surrey to see my family for the Bank Holiday weekend.  As is traditional for my family (presumably due to us having grown up in rural Surrey), we’ll be attending a local annual agricultural show.  If I remember I’ll write a post about it with some photos.

Special Edition: Graduation Day

Well it’s done now, my educational career has come to an end, and I am no longer in statu pupillari.  On Saturday I graduated.  It was a poignant day, and the realisation that I was leaving the calm and sheltered harbour of Cambridge behind for the tempestuous high seas of the real world that will undoubtedly be fraught with various (presumably metaphorical rather than literal) Maelströms, Krakens, and other such delights.

The day started with a service in the College chapel, with a couple of classic hymns (such as Jerusalem and Tell Out, My Soul), readings, and an address by the Director of Studies for Medicine.  After that, the photo in Front Court, followed by a dress check by the Head Porter and Praelector.  We then all processed formally to the Senate House where our degrees get conferred.

The Senate House

The Senate House

It was at this moment, as we were waiting outside that it decided to pour with rain.  We entered the Senate House all soaking wet, and there we waited for the graduation to take place.  Owing to the large number of Colleges that comprise the University (31 in total), there is a strict order.  King’s, Trinity, and St. John’s Colleges go first due to ancient tradition, then the rest follow in order of foundation date, with Peterhouse (est. 1284) first, all the way through until Homerton College (which only gained full College status – by getting its Royal Charter – in 2010) last of all.

The Cambridge graduation ceremony dates back in part to the foundation of the university in 1209, and so is quite unlike most universities’ ceremonies.  Instead of walking across a stage, shaking some dignitary’s hand, getting your certificate and going off, it’s rather different.

People are arranged in rows of four, alphabetically, and in the order of precedence for degrees.  While you wait, the Head of your College enters, accompanied by some university officials carrying two mediæval maces.  Once the entry formalities have concluded, the graduation starts.

Your group proceeds forward to your College’s Praelector who presents his right hand.  Each person holds (with their right hand) one of his fingers.  He then says to the head of your College (in Latin), that he’s presenting these people for whichever degree(s) they’re getting, as they have proven themselves in both studies and in character.  After that, individually, you kneel in front of the head of your College and put your hands together as if you were praying.  The head of your College then puts his hands around yours, and (again in Latin) formally admits you to your degree(s).  Then you rise, take a step back, bow to him, and walk out the side door of the Senate House where you collect your certificate and shake the hand of your College’s Senior Tutor.

Anyway, once all that had been concluded, we headed back to College for a reception and to say some final farewells.  Afterwards, my family and I went punting on the Cam, and visited the Geology Department one last time prior to returning to College to finish packing and heading home.

It was a great day, and a truly memorable one.  I have no doubts that I shall miss the University, my College, and perhaps most of all, my Department.  On the upside, there are extremely strong alumni relations at Cambridge (presumably owing to the shared trauma of completing the Tripos), and there’s a University-wide alumni festival every year in September (which I fully intend to attend this year). There’re also things run by both College and the Department too, so rather than being a goodbye, it’s more of an à bientôt.