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.

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!

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.

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!

The End of the Year

It’s been a very long time, and I can only apologise.  Life and a Master’s degree have caught up with me, and I’ve been rather busy since my last post to say the least.  Add in a broken laptop, and you can see it’s been a less than ideal situation for writing this blog!

Anyway, I thought I’d write a brief “end of the year” entry.

So, what’s been happening since I last wrote?  All in all, I’ve just been doing what I usually do, namely procrastinating and spending time in the pub, with a bit of scientific research done on the side.  Luckily my project is nearly over, but unluckily, I need to write the damned thing up.  Don’t get me wrong though, I’ve really enjoyed doing the work, I just hate writing stuff up!  There’s the option of continuing with it for a Ph.D, and while the title of Dr is very appealing, I feel that my time at Cambridge ought to come to an end.  Graduation awaits in six months, and I should quit while I still can.  I’ll certainly miss that great city and university, but the real world beckons, and all good things must come to an end.

I’ve not just been working though.  Earlier in the holiday, I (along with JW and JM) went to visit old AJ.  He’s doing very well for himself, and it was splendid to catch up with the old rascal (and I know he’ll read this and enjoy that rather apt description of himself).  I’ve recently got interested in photography, and so he and I went around London taking some photos of the city, with a large healthy dose of geekiness thrown in for good measure.

Last week, I went down to one of the Part II’s house for his Christmas party.  From what I remember of it, it was an excellent do, but the trouble is that when students mix with free alcohol, there’s a tendency to enjoy oneself.  In quantitative terms, the 70 or so guests got through 200 bottles of wine that night.

Christmas Day was spent with my maternal family at my home, which as usual was lovely.  Boxing Day involved me meeting up with my old friend JL.  SJ unfortunately was busy, so I wasn’t able to see him this time.  He’s now working in Germany, so it’s a little more difficult to meet alas!

Today and tomorrow, I’m down visiting my father’s family in Poole.  My cousins and uncle (who live on Jersey) are arriving in the morning, and it’ll be lovely to see them, as it’s been ages!  After I get home, I’ll have to put my nose to the grindstone and get my project done. There is something to look forward to however, as the annual Sedgwick Pub weekend of fun and booze geology field trip is in the middle of January (we leave a couple of hours after the project’s handed in), so that should be excellent.

All that remains is for me to wish you all a thoroughly Happy New Year!