The Boat Race 2015

Well the Boat Race has once again come and gone, and once again Cambridge lost.  It was an inevitability this year, as the Oxford team was very good.

It was still a very fun day.  RS, GC (who I’d not seen for ages), his flatmate, FJ, and LS showed up, and we had a lot of fun in the Eight Bells in Putney.  Luckily the weather was really good, and we got a fair few drinks in in the hours before the race itself begun (it’s wise to arrive several hours early as it gets very packed very quickly).  We sneaked off to watch the start, before sprinting back to the pub to watch the rest on TV.

After the race was over, LS went home, and the rest of us crammed onto the overflowing tube to go to the West End for supper.  We elected on a Taiwanese restaurant in Chinatown, which was really good, before grabbing one final drink in the Cambridge on Charing Cross Road.

All in all it was a great day, in spite of the loss! Ah well, there’s always next year!

January Shenanigans

Yes I know, I’ve neglected this blog for far too long, but I’ve been busy!

First of all, Christmas happened, which was lovely as per usual.  I went to see my family and ate an obscene amount of food as is the tradition.  New Year was spent seeing old friends, and no sooner had I settled back into the normal pace of working adult life than I contracted a rather unpleasant bout of tonsillitis that put me in bed for a week.

Anyway, that’s all over now.  Last weekend I ventured back to Cambridge for the first time since graduation, and I had a marvellous time, so this post is going to be about that really.

It’s surprising really, but when I arrived, it was like I hadn’t really left.  Nothing really ever seems to change there, and upon going into the geology department (which was my first stop), I came across a lot of my friends, as many of them have stayed on for Ph.Ds or to work there, and it was brilliant to see them again and to compare notes about the various things we’d been up to in the meantime.  Of course, no visit to the department would ever be complete without popping in to see Fabio, and it was great to catch up.

After my little trip to the department was done, I met up with JS (with whom I was staying that night) in The Mill (an excellent pub of many in Cambridge), and we had a quick drink.  HL turned up too, and it was good to see him again too.  He was visiting the medics, so was only around a short time.  JS and I headed back to College to wait for AW, and once he arrived, we headed off to Formal (which was great, as I’d not been, well, since graduation).

The next day, I bid farewell to JS, and AW and I popped out for a morning fry up in College, after which we went to the UL to re-register as alumni members (so that we can borrow books again if we so wish).  Then I headed over to my sister’s college to dump my stuff (as I was staying with her that night) followed by making for my favourite café – the Indigo Coffee House – to have one of their excellent hot chocolates.

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Their walls are covered with all sorts of foreign currencies, so I donated a note I’d saved from Suriname to their collection.  I don’t think they had any from Suriname, so it’s another country for them to tick off.  Apparently they’ve got around 80-90 countries’ worth of bank notes in total at the moment.

They're literally  not joking!

They’re literally not joking!

Once we’d finished our drinks, AW informed me that there was an ale festival going on in the University Social Club, so we went to see what was on offer.  FL and EB turned up a couple of hours later, but I only saw them for a few minutes before heading back to my sister’s as I had to get ready for a Formal at her college that night (that my parents were also coming to).

It was a Burns’ Night themed Formal, so there was of course haggis and a poetry recital, and afterwards there was a ceilidh which was enormous fun.

The next morning, it was time to leave Cambridge.  It’d been a great weekend visiting, and I’m sure I’ll be back again soon!

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.

Jesus May Ball 2014

I’d never been to Jesus May Ball before, but several friends were going this year, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon too.  I was slightly nervous as HL was in charge of getting my ticket, and he’d not collected them, so the fact that I was in the queue without an actual ticket was slightly disconcerting – but of course he picked it up for me without any trouble.

Jesus has the advantage of being larger than Robinson, so the queue outside the college was for wristbands and security.  After getting through this, there was another queue inside where everyone waited for the doors to open.  There was however food and drink provided in this second queue, so it didn’t seem to take too long.  At 20:00, the doors opened, and we all streamed in.

The theme this year was “Lost in the Woods”, and it was extremely well done.  The variety of food and drink on offer was astonishing, and it was difficult to know where to begin.  However, at May Balls, particularly at the beginning, there’s often a queue at each of the food and drink stalls, so the trick is to find one without a queue.  I spent the ball with HL and his two younger brothers, and we first got a coconut drink thing and a hog roast tortilla, which was rather nice. We spent the majority of the first few hours eating and drinking our way around all the different areas, and we were extremely full towards the end.  Deciding to take a quick break, we elected to go on the ferris wheel and dodgems which was a lot of fun.  After that, HL found a giant chess set, and played a game.

Once the game was over, SL (HL’s immediate younger brother) and I went to tackle Churchill Casino (who were here as well).  This time, we did much better at blackjack, and ended up actually winning the £10,000 on several games of roulette, which was great (so we entered the prize draw).

It’d been so busy up to this point, so at 01:00, we all went to watch some of the comedy.  One of the Footlights was hosting, and two professional comedians (who’d been on television) did their sets and were very entertaining.  Once they’d finished, at around 03:00 or so, we headed over to get some more food (in the form of a kangaroo burger) to the silent disco for an hour or so, before heading out to listen to some more live music in the form of a ceilidh band.

Once that’d finished, at 05:30 or so, it was time for the Survivors’ Photo, and then we all headed back to get some sleep.

Robinson May Ball 2014

As promised, here’s the first of two write ups for the two May Balls I went to this year.

Robinson was pretty good as usual, and was essentially very similar to last year.  The theme was Japan, and there was a lot of good stuff going on.  Lots of my friends didn’t want to go this year (owing to it “always being the same”, which strikes me as a shame really, given that it was their last opportunity to go as undergraduates).  AC came down from London, along with GD.  Having queued from fairly early on, it did not take long to get inside.  Once in, we headed straight for some cava, and then out to the college gardens to grab something to eat and listen to the music.

At 22:45, the traditional fireworks display kicked off on the other side of the lake, and we were very close to the front (allowing an unrestricted view of the display).  Unfortunately, it also decided to rain at this point, but that’s hardly unexpected (this is Britain after all)!

Once the fireworks were over, we headed off to see some of the comedy.  The first duo were alright, but weren’t brilliant.  Indeed, the hecklers were often funnier than the comics.  After this warm up act, the Footlights did their show, which of course was excellent.

Stocking up on a few more drinks, we promptly headed to the casino (run by Churchill College students).  You get given “£500” worth of chips, and have to try to win £10,000 worth, which if you succeed, enters you into a prize draw.  Unfortunately, I’m not very good at blackjack, and the house won (as always).

The remainder of the night was spent having several drinks and chatting with friends, before we all headed back out into the gardens at around 04:00 to eat breakfast and listen to the final act on the main stage – an Abba tribute band.  After that, it was just the matter of the Survivors’ Photo before heading to bed.

Busy Times!

Well, what a lot has happened since I last posted around three weeks ago!  Exams came and went, the viva voce came and went, and results also came and went.  I’m pleased to say that I got a 2.i, so that was an enormous relief.  I opted to wait for the results to be posted publicly on the Senate House boards, rather than check online which was a bit scary, but definitely worth it I think!

It’s currently May Week here, and I’ve been lucky enough to go to two May Balls (Robinson and Jesus).  A great time was had at both, and if I get round to it, I’ll do a write up of each (maybe).

Apart from that, I’ve been relaxing a lot, eating lots of good food (the highlight being some fried wild mushrooms that JW collected), along with the usual post-Cambridge exam Pimm’s and croquet combination. Oh, and visiting the pub, a lot.

Anyway, today’s the Sedgwick Club “May Ball”, so that ought to be a lot of fun.

Looking ahead to next week, known as “Grad Week” (as it’s the week where everyone except the graduands leave Cambridge), I’m off to Wales for a Part III holiday from Sunday to Tuesday.  Then my graduation takes place on Saturday week which is quite a sad moment really, as it means I’ll be finally leaving this amazing place, and will no longer be in statu pupillari.

Looking Ahead

Well, it’s been a long time since my previous post.  I’ve mainly spent that watching cat videos online revising, but as my first exam was today, the calm before the storm has finally ended (thank goodness).

So, what’s the timetable looking like?  Well, not too shabby really, and everything ties in rather well.  A week from today I’ll have finished my exams (and therefore my degree), while two weeks today is results day.  A month from now is graduation day, and two months from now I start my job.  Between graduation and work I’ve got a couple of holidays planned, one domestic and one foreign (which of course I’ll document here).  Not a bad road map eh?  All I need to do now is survive the next four exams (tomorrow morning, Friday afternoon, Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning).  I’ve also got a viva voce on the 9th, but that doesn’t really count…