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!

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.

Adventures in the Wilderness

Well, I’m back from Scotland, and have started my new job.  What better time to reminisce over the holidays?  As a result without any further ado, I’ll talk about my Scottish adventure.

AW and I planned a few months ago to visit the most remote pub on the island of Great Britain.  It’s in a small town called Inverie, and is accessible only by boat, or a 30 odd mile hike.  Obviously we decided to hike in, and then get the boat out (stopping overnight to enjoy the pub itself of course).

After getting the overnight train from Euston to Glasgow, then another train from Glasgow to Glenfinnan (with the viaduct of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets fame), we started our walk around 1pm.

The famous Glenfinnan viaduct

The famous Glenfinnan viaduct

The scenery was wonderful, but the weather was cloudy with light drizzle. The route was fairly simple, and essentially took us up a glen, over a pass, then back down the other side.  Unfortunately for us, the weather turned at the summit of the pass, and once we’d crossed over the other side, we were completely drenched, owing to the heavy rain and strong winds.  At around 7pm, we finally got down the second glen, when we were faced with having to ford a very deep and fast flowing river.  It took us quite a while to decide where to cross, and it was about knee deep (resulting in a total drenching)!  The challenge that immediately followed was to cross an area of land described by a sign as “dangerous bog”, which was rather reassuring. It was certainly a bog (I personally can vouch for this as I ended up thigh deep in it on several occasions)!  Anyway, we eventually got to where we were going to camp, but the weather was still horrendous, so instead we elected to push on through a forest to a bothy.

A'Chuil bothy and the surrounding countryside

A’Chuil bothy and the surrounding countryside

Upon reaching the bothy, we were ecstatic, and we quickly made ourselves at home and had some tea (after collecting water from the river outside).  There was one other occupant inside, a man called Dave who had done the walk many times, amongst lots of others in the area.  We chatted until 11pm or so, after which we went to sleep (after leaving some chocolate buttons out for the resident mice).

The next day dawned, and we packed and left.  The destination for this day was another bothy, around 7 miles away, and over another pass.  Luckily the weather was much better, with sunny spells instead. The first part of the route involved crossing yet another bog (and once more I fell in it rather deeply), but after that, there weren’t too many troubles.  Descending down from the pass at around 4ish was amazing, and the view was breathtaking (with the sun shining down over Loch Nevis – the sea loch where the bothy was on the shore of).

Loch Nevis

Loch Nevis

We reached the bothy at around half 6 or so, and therefore enjoyed a rather relaxing evening (with Dave who had arrived a few hours earlier) sitting outside in the sunshine, in the middle of nowhere, at peace with nature.  It was delightful.

Sourlies Bothy

Sourlies Bothy

The route the following day was subject to the tides (as the path went over the beach), and as a result, we had to leave at 6am. However, I’d been up since around half 3 owing to the mice who sounded like they were having an enormous party under the sleeping platform. We left just as the sun broke over the mountains, giving yet another beautiful view.

Sunrise over the Scottish Mountains

Sunrise over the Scottish Mountains

AW and I stopped at around half 7 to grab a quick breakfast on the road, as immediately after, there was a 600m ascent.  After breakfast, and what seemed like the longest climb in history, we made it to the top, and looked down the next and final valley.

The view towards Inverie

The view towards Inverie

We could see the village of Inverie (which is also on the edge of Loch Nevis), but it was a good 6 miles away still.  Having made it to the top, we rewarded ourselves with a long rest, and had some delicious (and ice cold) water from the mountain spring we were sitting beside.

That's what spring water actually looks like

That’s what spring water actually looks like

Then we hastened on, down the long valley to go to the village. Around 3 hours later, we finally arrived in Inverie absolutely knackered.

Not a walk for the fainthearted!

Not a walk for the fainthearted!

We dumped our stuff at the bunkhouse where we were staying, had a rather good shower, and headed out into the town.  First on the agenda (for it was only 1pm at this stage), was some lunch.  The pub wasn’t open until 3, so we elected to snack at the tearoom where we had an enormous pot of tea and a large sandwich (I chose cheese and haggis).

Cheese and haggis baguette.  Ideal!

Cheese and haggis baguette. Ideal!

After that, we moved to the pub, and enjoyed a few pints outside (until the midgies got too bad – they’d been plaguing us the whole trip to be honest, but that’s to be expected).

The most remote pub in Britain!

The most remote pub in Britain!

Supper time soon rolled around, and I decided to eat scallops (collected from Loch Nevis, so it couldn’t get more local).

Scallops from the Loch!

Scallops from the Loch!

After that, and a few more pints of course, it was bed time, which was great (as we actually had proper beds this time)!  We woke early the next morning, and caught the ferry to Mallaig, from which we got the train all the way home.

The ferry back to civilisation.

The ferry back to civilisation.

It was a great holiday, very challenging, but exceptionally rewarding (especially with respect to the scenery).  All in all though, let’s be honest, it was just a pub walk!


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.

A Cheeky Ramble

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time, and after graduation seemed like the perfect time to start ticking off fun travel things.  I mentioned it to AW, and he seemed very keen, so we’ll be going together.  What is it I hear you ask?  Well, it’s a walk to the most remote pub on the island of Great Britain.  Called the Old Forge, it is situated on the remote Knoydart Peninsula in the highlands (just opposite the Isle of Skye).  It’ll take three days to walk there from the nearest town (Glenfinnan), camping for two nights along the way (one wild camping in a tent, the other, if it’s not full, in a bothy). You’ll definitely recognise Glenfinnan, or rather, its railway viaduct. It’s this bridge from the Harry Potter film series, and is where scenes like this were filmed.  As me and AW will be getting the train to the start of the walk, we’ll get to travel over it, which will be great!

One of the benefits of walking in the Scottish Highlands in the summer is the long days.  Owing to its high latitude, in the summer, sunrise is around 04:30, with sunset taking place well past 22:00, so there’s a lot of time for walking!  The maps are faultless in the UK, courtesy of the Ordnance Survey, founded in 1791 to make detailed maps of the whole country.  The remoteness of the Highlands means that you’re almost always alone in beautiful mountains.  The only downside is that it usually rains, and there is a rather significant population of midges, ticks, and other delightful insects that enjoy eating you.

Once me and AW make it to the town of Inverie, and have enjoyed a celebratory pint and pub supper, the next morning, we’ll have to head back.  We won’t be walking out though, but instead getting a boat across the sea loch to Mallaig, before getting the train back to the Home Counties.

All that remains now is to finalise the details and book everything up!

(If you’re interested in the route we’re planning to follow, the route described on this excellent blog here is what we’ll be aiming to emulate).

PS:  The geology is pretty interesting around here too, so that’s an added bonus!

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!

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.

High As A Kite

Firstly, the title here is not a reference to the apparent psychological state of a shady and rather unsavoury bloke in the loos of the bar JD and I went to on Friday night (although admittedly, it could well be).  It is instead referring to my high altitude medical test that I had this morning.

“What did it involve?” I hear you cry.  Well, surprisingly, it didn’t actually involve any running on a treadmill, or breathing air with less oxygen.  Therefore, quite how I was actually tested for altitude remains something of a mystery to me.  I had an ECG done, an X-Ray, blood tests, and a brief test of my eyesight, but nothing that seemed obviously useful with respect to altitude.  The only part of the experience that was relevant was a piece of paper with advice for dealing with altitude written on it.

Anyway, that was how I spent this morning, before heading back to the mine with my boss, to arrive just in time for lunch.  This is the final shift here before my little excursion to live in the Atacama Desert, and I’ve got a few things planned (like visiting the actual mine part of the mine – i.e. where they extract the ore, rather than just the bits around it).  This shift only lasts ten days, as Thursday week is a national holiday (so I’m finishing on Wednesday week instead).