Sunday, March 26, 2006

An encounter with geese

The tree outside my window is covered with new leaves and I am just about to put the winter coat into the closet: sure signs that spring is upon us. So I went to pay a visit to my favourite "isn't Cambridge just gorgeous" spot, Jesus Lock, and took some pictures -- of geese rather than ducks or swans this time, in my bid to photograph a diverse mix of Cambridge waterfowl. Just the moorhens to go now.

And on the way home I met a pair of doggies and their owner.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The simple things.

I am feeling expansive and warm; my linguine bolognese (I prefer linguine to spaghetti just because it cooks faster!) dinner was one of those surprisingly satisfying ones (every so often my cooking astounds me and sadly it is always by pure luck) followed by a healthy 'king of crunch' Braeburn, leaving me feeling particularly smug about my well balanced and very cheap student meal. Go me. Also I am looking forward to the 5 week holiday that I've just embarked upon in gastronomic terms, having just bought Gary Rhodes' 'keeping it simple'. Lots of pretty pictures and very usefully laid out. As a student I really cannot be bothered to make things which take 4 hours and about 30 ingredients to make, and am much more concerned with learning to roast the perfect chicken than how to dress it in the celebrity chef's equivalent of McCartney and Manolo -- usually involving spices which I can just about spell but don't have a faintest idea about the taste!

Forced myself to the library this morning to meet a friend for something after 6 hours of sleep (Yahoo! arcade games are too damn addictive), then sat fairly productively there for about 4-5 hours with a lunchbreak at my beloved German cafe. It was a pain struggling very slowly through all these papers, what does intragenomic conflict have to do with behavioural ecology anyway, blahdeblah, but I persevered with the help of a 35p mug of coffee from the tearoom when I found myself watching the bloke next to me falling asleep over Albert's The Cell more than my paper (and no, he wasn't a very interesting sight either). Ah, we scientists. So sacrificial. So damn keen. Another friend came into the library which was being used as a holding room for PhD interviews and looked so bored I found Dr. Seuss' The Lorax for her to read (it is on our overnight loan shelves -- recommended Conservation Biology Module reading!), unfortunately then her interviewer came to get her while she was reading Dr. Seuss, I hope I am not the cause of a bad impression!! Oops. She was trying to read the current issue of Nature before Dr. Seuss I think; obviously it failed as stimulating pre-interview reading material.

Doing several hours of work -- after multiple botched attempts on previous days when I got up about lunchtime and then didn't get to the dept so did no work whatsoever -- made me feel positively angelic so I wandered around in Borders and bought myself Mr. Rhodes (whom I shall always know as the perfect poached egg man having first seen him on telly making one) and also Ian McEwan's Saturday. Read a few pages before dinner, there is something incredibly emotionally and intellectually satisfying and pleasurable about sinking into a great book. Like many other authors whom I enjoy he is a master at the detail of a life (extra)ordinary, I don't pretend to understand why the sentence "The overfull litter baskets suggest abundance rather than squalor; the vacant benches set around the circular gardens look benignly expectant of their daily traffic - cheerful lunchtime office crowds, the solemn, studious boys from the Indian hostel, lovers in quiet raptures or crisis, the crepuscular drug dealers, the ruined old lady with her wild, haunting calls." can make me smile, pause to think, enjoy -- but enjoy I do. The simple things: food, books, the lack of study related guilt.

Spring is being very reluctant to arrive and I dearly hope it changes soon. I want to sit out by the Cam with my book and feed the duckies and feast on the sight of the daffodils in bloom across the bank. I am aware now I think that my time in Cambridge may well be fast drawing to a close (I am leaning ever more perceptibly towards Princeton, for a new start) and I suppose like everybody else I want my fill of this beautiful town before I uproot myself to another one.

Oh yes, thanks for the comments everyone. :)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Ah, tradition

Is a gorgeous thing when it involves fancy schmancy dinners consisting of:

Melon and Parma Ham w/ Pflanzreben Riesling Rolly-Gassmann 1998 (white wine)
Scotch Fillet Steak, Red Wine and Shallot Sauce, Herb Scented Potatoes, Tomatoes and Mushrooms w/ Domaine Marcous Chateauneuf du Pape 1998 (red wine)
Individual Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse with Coffee Sauce w/ Domain de la Rectorie Benyuls 2001 (dessert wine)
Cheese w/ Warre 1983 (port)
Amaretti Biscuits

Which is why I am very very pleasantly full now and also very slightly woozy! College Commem Feast was gorgeous as I suppose it must always be, and I think I had a far more convivial time this year -- less time to be stressed out about talking to Nobel Laureates and also I am probably far better at dealing with those four confusing glasses of alcohol and all the cutlery and all the standing up and sitting down and looking at ease with pomp and ceremony and laughing politely during speeches and making small talk with important old men. I chatted rather pleasantly to Profs Handley and Davidson (whose place names I have stolen as a memento!!) on my right and left about conservation, fish and fluid dynamics, China, archaeology, US vs UK PhDs, the number of years they have been to commemm feasts (40! have yet to beat Aaron Klug from last year), Darwin, David Attenborough, bilingualism, women in academia, how to name species in Latin, Malaysia, classics, etc. etc. etc. I think my social skills are far more attuned to retired professors than Brits my age -- perhaps not quite so bad a thing?! I was lucky enough to be sitting at high table again where you get to exercise such rarified skills as talking about the world in general rather than Cambridge drinking holes and what one is doing over the next holidays, and also can now claim to have sat only 3 places away from the Master himself. (Although my sister chatted to Sir Michael Atiyah so I can't quite beat that!)

Also at the feast:
Toasts to the queen, the college benfactors, the master, etc.
The choir singing God Save The Queen, Pastime with good company (written by dear old Henry VIII himself, our founder), John Brown's Body -- I did not know they sing the same songs every year!
Speeches by the Rt Hon Oliver Letwin (son in law of the nice old bloke sitting next to me) -- tolerably funny, and the Master -- not so funny.

I came back from London just in time for the dinner, after a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful week with the Boyfriend mostly here in Cambridge ostensibly finishing off my term (I have had my last ever examinable lecture EVER, woo!) but really just spending many happy hours, well, being in love. I am such a sickening sap. But I know you will read this when you get home so what the hell. :)

Sunday, March 05, 2006


So today was absolutely beautiful, still is. I woke sometime after noon, lazed around, talked to the boyfriend, refused to do my essay.

Thought I would go pay a visit to the duckies, I have missed them dearly, haven't been to see them properly since term started. (Also I had several pieces of stale bread in my room which I had to get rid of.) The walk there was peaceful, through the late afternoon shopping crowd, then down Portugal Place and across Jesus Green. Families playing football and collies fetching. Everything green and crisp and it seemed for a while that the Met Office mayn't have been quite so utterly stupid with deciding spring has already arrived. I love this town and it is so difficult to consider whether to be gung ho and young and must-see-more-of-this-world and uproot myself to America (albeit New England, so it is not as if I am going to Texas; I'm not sure any force could make me spend 5 years in Texas actually), or just stay here in lovely old decrepit England with the ducks et al.

The ducks didn't want any of my stale bread! :| I watched them a while, but not long before coming back. Rejection from poultry is hard to take.