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.

Just Another Day

Well this does make an interesting change.  Today’s the first day when nothing has happened.  Ok, so not completely nothing, but a sufficient amount of nothing.  Compared to all the excitement of May Week, and the Imperial Summer Ball (as well as the “excitement” of the Tripos), it’s been very quite.  I had a haircut this morning (done by J – I don’t know her surname, in spite of the fact that she’s done my hair for the past 17 years – which is always fun, as she always has great stories to tell), washed the garage windows, and did a little bit of gardening.

In the afternoon I went over to my maternal grandparents’ house to help them with changing a ceiling light, and had some tea.  Now I’m back home doing some reading, and have spent some time looking at Ordnance Survey maps of Surrey (as I’d like to go on a long distance walk generically south one day if the weather is any good).

This Is The Life

Another peaceful and fun day today, I could get used to this.  After a morning in bed with some easy to watch TV (i.e. Friends), I got up for lunch with my friends which was enjoyable as always.  I then popped to the UL for a couple of hours in the early afternoon to do some digging around of Easter Island material, and I was not disappointed.  I spent a while perusing a detailed map of the island, to get a sense of the scale and the layout of the place before I visit in September, and then read a book about it.  After that, I played Uno in the gardens with JT and HB which was a lot of fun.

Tonight is composed of a formal at Homerton, with TI (who I shall be meeting in an hour at the bus stop to get the Uni 4 there), along with native Homertonians SP (big shout out to you SP as I know you follow this blog) and JA, thereby making the group sometimes known as Team Dalradian (after the banter filled summer of mapping we shared). It looks like it’ll be enormous fun, and I’m looking forward to it greatly!

Special Edition: Chalk, Snow, and Roman Numismatics (or How Geology Can Shape a People)

It’s the weekend, so why not have a new Special Edition?  (I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually write this today, I wrote it several days ago, as I’m revising practical papers this weekend).  Anyway, the title of this post is of three things that seem pretty unrelated at first, so why a special edition about them?  Well, one day, while procrastinating, I noticed something interesting, a correlation between them.  Also, it’s a little taste of home, which is nice to remember in the midst of all these dastardly exams.

First of all, we need a geological map of Britain.  The area with the box is what we’re looking at today.  Look at the arrow.  You see there is a horseshoe shape of greens and blues in that region?  Good!  Make sure you remember that shape:

The Geology of Southern England: British Geological Survey/Natural Environment Research Council

The Geology of Southern England: British Geological Survey/Natural Environment Research Council

Right, now that we’ve got the geological basis of the post laid down, I’d better get on with the snow (appalling pun intended)! (I know it’s hard to imagine snow in June, with its (occasional) warm sunny days, but give it a go).  Earlier this year, there was a lot of snow across our verdant isle, and a satellite picture was taken by those chaps over at NASA:

Satallite photo of Great Britain: NASA

Satellite photo of Great Britain: NASA

What do we see?  That same horseshoe shape.  Why is it there?  It’s fairly straightforward.  There was a large fold present originally, but now the centre part has eroded away.  As a result, there are now two series of hills that meet in the west (the North Downs – known to me as “home”, and the South Downs).  Snow settles more easily on higher ground, because it’s colder, so it stays on these hills for longer.

Now, let’s move onto where the Romans come into this. “What have they got to do with this geology?” I hear you ask.  Well, let’s have a look.  The Romans were a busy bunch, first invading properly in 43, and not withdrawing until around 410 or so.  As a result, there is a lot of Roman archæology knocking about.  A while ago, I came across a map of where Roman coins had been found over the past 20 years or so, and noticed an interesting pattern.  Yes readers, that horseshoe is back once more (highlighted below).

Locations where Roman coins were found between 1997 and 2010: Portable Antiquities Scheme

Locations where Roman coins were found between 1997 and 2010: Portable Antiquities Scheme

Not being a Roman expert, I can’t really make any solid argument as to why more coins may have been found here relative to the centre of the area.  Maybe my sister (if she’s reading this) could elaborate, as Classics is her thing.  Perhaps the Romans preferred the hills for their strategic value?  Either way, it’s an interesting example of how geology can shape a civilisation.

The William Smith Map of 1815

So today, we got an email from the Department saying that (one of their) copies of the William Smith map (touted as the first ever geological map in the world) would be on display, so I gave LB a ring (as a IA she didn’t get the email sadly), and we went to have a look at it.  My mapping supervisor (sarcastically of course) said he’d give it a 2.ii if he was marking it, partly due to an issue with the Variscan unconformity.  Anyway, needless to say it was very awesome (although as I’m obsessed with both maps and geology, that’s hardly a surprise), and a couple of pictures are attached for your perusal. Enjoy!

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