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!

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Exploring London

While I’m very familiar with the centre of London and the City, there are quite a few areas that I’ve never been.  However, with the huge number of new places opening up, I’ve finally started widening my horizons.

The new place that’s the subject of this post is Shoreditch, or as it should be called – Hipster Central.  I’d heard a few months ago that London’s first board game café was opening up just north of Shoreditch, and yesterday seemed the perfect time to go and try it out.

Draughts (as the café’s called) is located under the railway arches, just by Haggerston London Overground station.  It was pretty full, but there was a table that its current occupants let us share, which was rather kind of them.  It costs £5 per person, after which you may play as many games as you like for as long as you like, and there’s table service, so you can order sandwiches and coffees and things.  All in all there are around 500 games, with “game gurus” on hand to recommend something new if you fancy trying out a game you’ve not played before.  If there’s a game you want that they don’t have, you can email them to request they get it in.  There’s also a small area where they sell board games too, which is a nice touch.

We ended up playing a new card game – Port Royal, which was good fun and an easy game I recommend, before a quick round of Monopoly.  There were a lot of other games that looked good fun, so I’m sure I’ll definitely be back.  There’s one I played at school in the school French Club called Milles Bornes, which I’ve not played since ~2007 that they have there, so that’s definitely towards the top of my list.  There’s also a great board game they have that I backed on Kickstarter back in 2013 called Cornish Smuggler.  It’s really good, and I definitely recommend playing it.  Other games that are good that they have include the classic Settlers of Catan, (along with several of its expansions), and one I’ve been playing online with some friends a lot lately called Talisman.

It’s Been a Bit Slow

Another month has passed, and we’re nearly out of the winter.  I for one can’t wait, especially for when the clocks go forward in a few weeks.

Anyway, this post is about one of my latest acquisitions – viz. a slow cooker.  Lots of my friends and colleagues have them, and by all accounts they’re excellent.  Just throw in your ingredients for whatever you want to make that day, switch it on, go to work, and by the time you get home, your supper’s all cooked and ready to eat.

Rather smart if I do say so myself!

Rather smart if I do say so myself!

My first attempt was a leek and potato soup, something which I’m rather partial to.  I also opted to add other things I liked to the mix (i.e. garlic and mushrooms).  Unfortunately this wasn’t such a great idea, and the result was a soup that looked like someone had instead just ladled some water from the Thames into my bowl – the sort of thing that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Victorian workhouse.

Anyway, waste not want not, and I ate it all, although it wasn’t particularly good.  Deciding to try my hand at actually following the recipe this time I opted for a simple creamy chicken and mushroom pasta thing I found online.  (At this point I should confess that as I was writing this, I realised I in fact hadn’t actually followed the recipe, and had to go downstairs to add the missing ingredients). Ignoring that little bout of amnesia, it’s now all cooking nicely, and should be done in about 7 hours.  Hopefully this time it’ll taste better!

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!

The 160th Boat Race

Each year, more or less, since 1829, Oxford and Cambridge have had a race on the Thames.  It’s a huge sporting fixture in the UK, (one estimate is that in 2011, 17.2 million people watched it on TV, which is around 25% of the population of Britain).  Rowing upstream from Putney Bridge to Chiswick Bridge for just over 4 miles, it’s a great event to go to.

The rivalry between the two universities is deeply entrenched, ever since scholars from Oxford broke away from the university to form a new one of their own – Cambridge – in 1209.

I met up with AW at a local pub near to the start line at Putney Bridge, the Eight Bells, where we enjoyed a pint or two while waiting for the others to arrive, as we were a few minutes early.  LS, another friend from Cambridge turned up.  He graduated last year and has been living in his native Cyprus ever since, but was back in London for a job interview (which he just got offered), so we were all delighted that he’ll be returning to the UK from September.  An hour later, AC and his girlfriend GD showed up (AC got confused with how the tube works, despite living in London his whole life).  I’d not met GD before, but she was very charming, and we had a good chat.  Finally FJ, GS, FL and EB turned up, along with one of GS’ friends.  We all had some beers and chatted about this and that, until it was time for the race.  The race itself was quite late this year (18:00), owing to the tides.  (For those of you who don’t know, the Thames is a tidal river, and so the race has to be timed correctly with respect to the tides).

We watched the start of the race, and promptly hurried back to the pub to watch the rest of it on TV.  Unfortunately, Cambridge got a beating, and we lost by 11 lengths, which was a disappointment to say the least!

The two teams wait at the start line (Cambridge are the nearer team)

The two teams wait at the start line (Cambridge are the nearer team)

After regrouping, GS headed off to visit her sister, while the rest of us went to a pub by Leicester Square called The Cambridge (seemed the best named pub for us), before going out to grab a rather good Chinese (as we were right by Chinatown).  We went to a restaurant that I’d frequented a couple of times before called Mr. Kong, and we had a lot of food!

Afterwards, it was time to go our separate ways.  I said goodbye to everyone bar FJ (who was walking to GS’ place by Waterloo).  I left him at Trafalgar Square, as my train was from Charing Cross (named after the replica Eleanor Cross outside the entrance – the original 13th century one was destroyed during the English Civil War unfortunately). Or rather, it would have been from Charing Cross.  Unfortunately, Network Rail maintenance meant that there weren’t any trains from it. Instead, I walked to Victoria, through Admiralty Arch, up the Mall, past the Palace, and through St. James’s Park, which was rather a nice and peaceful end to a fun day!

A Bit Of Argy-Bargy

Another Friday night in Bellavista, more fun was had, with a few more anecdotes to add to the rather long list.  As per usual, it started off with some food (hamburguesas a lo pobre) and beer.  JD and I got talking to some people at the next table who suggested a club to go to.  Unfortunately, we forgot the name, and so were unable to find it. We stopped and asked a few people, but to no avail.  A couple of blokes we asked politely offered us something that’s best described as “slightly suspect” to smoke.  Clearly we declined this offer.  After learning we were from Britain, one of them, who was Argentinian, decided to start talking about the Falkland Islands, at which point I made an executive decision to disappear off, dragging JD with me, as in spite of thinking along these lines, some things are best left unsaid. Being attacked by a 40 year old stoned Argentinian guy didn’t feature especially high on my agenda.

We returned to our old haunt, En Secreto, but unfortunately, it was full, which we’d never come across before.  Apparently there was a half hour wait to get in, which wasn’t ideal.  Some of our friends were already inside, and they came out to try to persuade the bloke to let us in, but without much success.  One guy waiting outside got a bit impatient with the delay, and so decided to indulge himself in a brawl with the chat guarding the door.  Unfortunate for him, but ideal for us, and, because his attention was somewhat diverted, we seized this opportunity, and sneaked inside while his back was turned.  It worked perfectly, and we stayed for a few hours (with of course yours truly doing some singing, as per usual).  Anyway, we had a good night, and, owing to the fact that I had to meet my boss this morning, I left JD to it (at about half 3 or so), and walked the two miles back to the hotel.

Anyway, I’m now in the hostel where I’ll be staying until Monday (when I fly to Easter Island), and it’s very near to Baquedano station, so assuming that tonight will be spent in Bellavista as well, the walk back will be nice and short.

Fun, Feasting, and Final Farewells

It’s time for another alliterative title for a post, and it’s been a busy week this week.

I turned up on Tuesday morning to find one of my colleagues smiling at me, and telling me to be careful when I opened the packet my tea’s in.  I was intrigued, and upon entering the office, saw that the lid was kept shut by the addition of a small rock.  Foolishly I assumed that he’d probably put something like one of those spring powered joke snakes that burst out when you open the lid.  How wrong I was.

Being a cautious fellow, I took the rock off carefully, and tentatively opened the lid, very slowly.  Inside, I saw a leg, and thin, brown, hairy leg.  I should have guessed.  A tarantula (of the same type as I saw on the weekend).  I took the box to my colleague’s office laughing, and asked if it was alive.  It was, and we released it onto the desk, before picking it up.  While the tarantula was rather intimidating, it was perfectly harmless, and a couple of minutes later, we released it unharmed outside.

My new friend

My new friend

 Anyway, moving on.  Last night was my final night at the mine, which was rather sad.  On the upside, we had a big barbecue, of sausages and a huge slab of beef (along with salads etc.).  One of the field assistants was in charge of cooking, and given that he used to be a butcher, was the perfect man for the job.  He cooked the meat perfectly, and it was delicious.

A brilliant barbecue

A brilliant barbecue

After eating, my colleagues very kindly gave me a gift, of some traditional chilean games, including a trompo, which is a traditional chilean spinning top, which you power by throwing.  I wasn’t very good, and definitely need a lot of practice, but apparently it often takes a few years to be good at it, so I wasn’t discouraged.  We played this for a while, and had a lot of fun, before calling it a night and heading to bed.

Anyway, all good things must come to an end, and sadly, today is my final day at the mine.  However, there’s an exciting week ahead, as on Monday morning, I’m off to Easter Island for the week, and I’m looking forward to that a great deal.