Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Long and Rambling Post

Right then, to it. Mainly because I am so disgustingly full from my chicken curry dinner that I can't even be bothered right now to move myself downstairs to shower, and that is a disgusting level of fullness indeed. Reminds me of our Florida holiday meals, wherein somewhere after the main course we would be at a happy level of fullness, considering whether to get dessert (usually Key Lime Pie, yum) to achieve an unhappy (=disgusting) level of fullness... and of course we always did. Oh yes, also just earlier this week some friends and I went to La Tasca, pleasantly surprised to discover the happy phenomenon of their Monday "Tapas for a Tenner", where of course you feel obligated to order more after the first very robust round just because of the whole all-you-can-eat mentality. Oh, the gluttony. I convinced myself during the dance show that I must be bouncing up and down on stage so much (literally - the techies took to calling me anti-gravity Tzo, not sure if this is a pleasing nickname really) that any backstage consumption of bananas and Quality Street and one evening actually two entire dinners (pre- and post-show) was fully justified. Alas, no such excuses anymore. Still, gluttony is such a very wonderful vice.

My field season looms ever and ever nearer. I am not panicking. Yet. I shall save panicking for when I get to Lizard Island and find all the dwarf angelfish have emigrated to Antarctica. Meanwhile I am employed in still remarkably little science and quite a lot of last minute equipment and logistics sorting. For instance sometime next week I have to submit my first food order -- you order food from a supermarket in Cairns, which delivers it to the barge yard, and then the barge chugs its way over the Lizard Island every fortnight, and so food must be ordered about three weeks before you even get a sight of a single blessed carrot. I've had to ask my field assistant whether she has favourite cereals or whatnot. Apparently the only thing she won't eat is spinach... so I imagine we'll just go without, I do quite like spinach but not to Popeye levels.

I've also been engaged in a bit of a dive bag saga, having decided that my beloved bright yellow duffel/mesh bag simply wasn't practical enough (you can only carry it in one hand or on a shoulder, hardly the most ergonomic of things). So having spent literally days browsing through dozens of dive gear and regular luggage shops and half settled on about 8 different bags in turn, I made the discovery that the place to go is.... Argos. So today I went and bought the most humongous rolling holdall they have, still "cheap as chips" as somebody on a dive forum very astutely recommended it as. It's even got lots of pockets inside to organise stuff in, and I am very hopeful for it -- if only it doesn't fall apart as Argos stuff is rather prone to do. I do realise this must be one of the most boring paragraphs I've written in this blog (maybe not, you can make me eat my words if you can find one about statistics in the archives), but after all you read this at your own peril.

What else... oh yes, the dance show! It was our annual thing, become a bit of a tradition over the years as we occupy the same five night slot at the ADC (oldest student theatre in the country, its venerable-ness not quite compensating for the dilapidated dressing rooms, do I really care so much that Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry might have preened in front of the same mirrors -- though they are meant to be renovated soon) each year. I was fairly heavily involved this year artistically, though I'd handed on my previous producer's role. It seemed like the show was longer in the gestation this year than previously, what with more pieces than ever in it (25!) and many of the most active dancers in up to 5 or 6 dances and so having a very hectic rehearsal schedule. Nevertheless by dint of running it umpteen times in the few days running up to the show it came together, and I think by opening night we were as solid and beautiful as we have ever been. There was a unique diversity of styles this year, the show having evolved quite a lot from its what I think were quite purely contemporary (of the "be a tree" school of dance) roots -- the first half in particular being populated with everything from bellydancing to Irish to flamenco to hiphop to tap to breaking to a piece that was Baroque court dance inspired! The second half was far more contemporary in feel and I think it worked out fairly well, as the more serious contemporary pieces do take some settling for the audience and perhaps they were more ready for it by then. Commercially we did our best ever -- three of the five nights utterly sold out and the other two certainly not to be blinked at. Bizarrely, neither of the student newspaper reviewers liked it much -- but ah well, what do the critics know? ;)

I was most exceedingly pleased by our contemporary teacher's very kind remarks that I should really choreograph, seriously. I would indeed like to never really abandon the dance that has become a "full-time hobby" as my college friends put it -- I will never make a dancer (that hallowed creature), simply not got the body or skill for it, but it would be so much fun and so satisfying (in a very intellectually exciting way) to be able to continue making dances if people want to see them, in between fish watching seasons. Of course there is the whole temptation of taking it even further than that, of getting myself some real training and exposure, but other than parental horror, I'm not confident enough -- raw blinding talent in the arts being something still seen by me as a prerequisite for any sort of success and certainly not something I would ever dream of claiming for myself. But then I don't really need to succeed, do I, if I do it for fun? Full-time hobby is probably the best way to do it. At the other end of the scale sometimes I wonder if I should allow myself any space at all to hold on to dance, single-minded determination another one of those things I sometimes think of as neccessary for success in anything, but then again, I would like to remain sane and balanced, thank you very much.

Pictures of the show linked in the post below and backstage on facebook -- not so much fun if you've not actually seen the show, particularly as we are not professionals and when photographed have a very bad tendency to be caught very inelegantly between positions, but there are some lovely ones if you would like to have a look!

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Five night dance show run ended last night -- I haven't the time to write now as I am off to a rehearsal (no, it never ends), but here are some links to some initial photographs:

Duncan Grisby:
Claude Schneider:


31/1: Edited the link for Claude's photos -- more up now on his main cantabphotos website.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Jumbo polythene bags, anyone?

For the past couple of days I have been engaged in ordering various bits and pieces of equipment for my impending field season. The essential equipment of a marine biologist seems to consist of the most bizarre things, leading to my faintly bemused perusal of websites selling all manner of what can most accurately and precisely be described as "bits and bobs", ranging from Simply Scuba, gps4less, Millipore filters and Net Manufacturers UK (perhaps understandable) to Food Safety Direct,, Lakeland Limited - The Home of Creative Kitchenware, Tooled-up and Forsport UK (?!?). Yesterday I spent something like an entire hour trying to find giant ziplock polythene bags (to collect pelagically spawned eggs and sperm in, in case anyone is wondering). Nobody makes them except for ZipLoc itself, which sells them for an exorbitant price. So I resort to regular jumbo polythene bags (from a packaging website) and then I spend another hour trying to figure out the best way to clip these shut in some sort of secure waterproof fashion. Options range from bits of string and clothes pegs to NASA quality Clip'n'Seal (sold only in the US of A) to some kind of miraculous one-handed plastic clip made in Sweden called Twixit that is mysteriously difficult to track down (in the end the home of creative kitchenware comes to the rescue).

Oh and of course not to forget the snazzy Durarite underwater paper and all-weather pens (writes underwater and upside down!). Expensive, but I couldn't resist and it is probably actually quite useful as unless I carry a giant plastic slate down (which is what we normally use underwater, with a pencil) I'll never get an hour's worth of observations down.

You know sometimes I think I ought to be spending a little more time thinking about Science. But then, intrepid and resourceful field biologists surely must know the ins and outs of standard UK polythene bag sizes. It's all part of the training, I'm sure...

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Eve

Passed very quietly indeed; I didn't much feel like going out to a friend's party in the evening, so stayed in, watched the countdown and the very impressive looking South Bank fireworks on telly, had a Sex and the City marathon, and felt rather pleased and not at all sorry for myself -- more proof, if I needed any, that I have definitely arrived out the other end of that social insecurity that seems to hit all who move overseas for university. Woo, 2007, and all that. I've never been much of a one for New Year's, probably because my family never really "did" New Year, and also after last year's Times Square insanity I almost feel like I've been there etc.! Nevertheless, wouldn't want to rain on anybody's parade, any excuse to have a party and such -- I even had a celebratory glass of Pimm's while watching the countdown ;)

Earlier in the day I took myself to the V&A, had a bit of a wander and went to the da Vinci exhibition they currently have on. It was interesting enough -- not of his art, but rather about how he 'thought' on paper, so lots of sheets of his notes and diagrams were on display, carefully exhibited by theme. I came away without having gained much knowledge other than that he was a genius and a damned good artist, but somehow I think these are not new conclusions. Still the notebooks were interesting, full of his 'mirror' writing (apparently because he was too lazy to train his dominant left hand to write left to right) and gorgeously sketched doodles of craggy Roman face profiles. Some of his anatomical drawings in particular were wonderful (he'd even noted the optic chiasma), and the exhibition was careful to point out examples of his highly lateral thinking with constant almost seamless drawing of analogies between nature and machine, microcosm and macrocosm. He seemed to think that natural design was the ultimate perfection; a very worthy philosophy, I suppose, although now I think we would hesitate to design a machine with an eye that has a retina wired in backwards like ours does.

Elsewhere in the V&A I also enjoyed:

This 1955 Givenchy dress which I fell in love with,

A light installation in the central courtyard,

and a rather jolly sculpture of the quack doctor Joshua Ward.

Afterwards I wandered next door to the Natural History Museum to have a look at the ice rink: