Darwin May Ball
June 26, 2007, 5:56 pm
Filed under: england, events, festivals, travel

On Friday night I went to the May Ball of my unofficial college, Darwin. There was no crazy dress on this occasion – the May Ball is all about getting frocked up, or bow tied up if you’re a guy, and making the most of your pricey all-you-can-drink-and-eat ticket.

It costs about the same as the Big Day Out in Australia, but it’s just one evening. And that’s just for relatively impoverished Darwin – I know the more lavish Clare, King’s or St John’s tickets were double that.

The cost and effort getting dolled up was worth it – it will be one of my excellent memories of Cambridge.

The theme of the Darwin ball this year was Il Milione, the travels of Marco Polo. Hence we had Venetian gondola rides (ie. punting), a Chinese dragon and drums, a kind of harem room with big pillows, Turkish delight, baklava, nougat and muffins (bit of a cultural mishmash really), a Monaco-style casino room, and all sorts of other entertainments.

It was well done. There was a constant supply of alcohol and food, as well as water bottles, so people were merry, not disgusting.

Somehow I’ve been here long enough that even when I lost my core group of mates amongst the fairylike Darwin gardens I came across someone else I knew, which is always a good thing after a couple of drinks.

No doubt due to the constant supply of entertainment, edibles and amigos I managed to make it through to the survivor’s photo, taken at a rather tame 3am.

The photographers, rather foolishly I thought, arranged for the photo viewing to happen on Sunday. Hopefully someone was perky enough to get a copy of our survivors shot – I’d like to see it.


Dark summer
June 26, 2007, 5:34 pm
Filed under: england, events, travel, weather

Even the English are complaining about how cold it is for summer. There’s flooding in England, just as there’s been in Australia recently. Ian and I are lucky if we get enough dry weather to get a game of tennis in.

But I don’t mind. Perhaps it’s because I’m happy to be a hermit in my house working on editing projects, and rain outside suits obsessive productivity.

Perhaps it’s because it makes me more of a night creature, and summer in Cambridge is good for that, what with all the garden parties and May Balls (don’t ask me why they’re in June).

I don’t think you can tell, but it was pouring with rain when I took this photo of fireworks over King’s College – we were all huddled under an bar’s awning with our jackets on.

Lack of ocean or snow is doing strange things to me…
June 17, 2007, 9:37 pm
Filed under: england, sport, travel

Back in Canada in 2004 I wrote about how one of the challenges… and nice things… about moving to a new city is getting used to it. One of the challenges is finding equivalents, or substitutes, for the things I like to do. I’m not able to go skiing or surfing in Cambridge, that’s obvious.

I’ve adapted to typical English activities (the type that you can easily ditch to go to the pub if it starts pouring with rain). I’m playing tennis a few times a week, and football once a week. Football, as in soccer football! Who would have thought!?

Even more astounding is that I actually willingly watched a cricket match the other day!

Those who know me well know how much I hate cricket. Not even the lure of free corporate box seats at Adelaide Oval tempt me. I detest it, it’s so boring.

That said, I do really like picnics. So when our mate Chris was playing cricket the other weekend it seemed a good excuse to have a picnic and use one of the pitiful disposable alfoil barbecues the English seem to think are adequate (they’re not).

We even mucked around and played a bit of cricket ourselves after the game. I was more interested in doing handstands than fielding, but it wasn’t that bad.

World Environment Day inspiration
June 6, 2007, 3:09 pm
Filed under: australia, climate change, england, environment, events, science, travel

I deliberately have separate professional and travel/personal sites, because I like to keep things separate. But they’re merging! I want to talk about something that will also appear on my professional site in a few days.

Last night I went to London for an event by Advance, who have been promoting themselves around Cambridge through the Cambridge University Australia and New Zealand Society.

I dragged Ian along, because I thought he would also be interested to hear Tim Flannery talk about climate change, and associated things. It was fantastic. Ian was equally as satisfied.

I got to interview Tim before his talk, outside the Great Hall at King’s College, London. We sat on a bench. He was jetlagged, but very amiable and inspiring still. The interview didn’t take long – we were done well before he had to go on stage. We got chatting about how Adelaide is going, how great the Central Market is, what we were both doing in London (he was there to launch his books in paperback in the UK). Talking about what I was doing there led to me telling Tim about my various career options and what I might be doing next year, and he gave me some great advice.

Like me, Tim did a degree in humanities (English in his case) before moving into science. That’s good to hear. Realising that great people like him have the same humble beginnings as me was very motivational. Getting career advice from someone so successful who started out in a similar way is invaluable.

I feel very privileged to have properly met our 2007 Australian of the Year, I think he well deserves the honour. Thanks Tim.

Brad the Paparazzo
June 4, 2007, 9:48 pm
Filed under: england, events, festivals, food, travel


Brad is making a habit of taking photos of me eating in an unladylike manner. Others I have chosen to ignore. This one reminded me of the good things about Strawberry Fair, so I’m recording it here for posterity.

Strawberry Fair, no fruit.
June 4, 2007, 10:30 am
Filed under: england, events, festivals, travel

I went to Strawberry Fair on Midsummer Common on Sunday with a bunch of Aussie mates also living in Cambridge. It was free, which is great, as I would have been a bit disappointed had I paid for it – but since it was free I was very content. The weather was absolutely stunning, it could have been a summer festival in Australia, if it weren’t for the muddy patches under the trees, the rowers on the river and the ancient buildings as a backdrop.

It was certainly a unique Cambridge experience. In place of academics cycling in their robes, there were goths with giant boots and black lace parasols. Instead of haughty undergraduates with their collars turned up, there were men with three huge dreads running down their backs.

We did typical festival things – ate donuts and watermelon, listened to the inescapable thumping bass, wandered the stalls that were selling everything from 5p healing crystals to organic fair trade decaffeinated coffee.

It’s the first time I’ve had to wear sunscreen in England.

Here’s to a long hot summer
June 1, 2007, 8:37 pm
Filed under: england, festivals, sport, theatre, travel, weather

Summer arrived in Cambridge as it should, with stunning weather. I love Europe in summer, long days, warm nights, more opportunities to relax and bask in all the good things Europe has to offer. Tomatoes smell like they should, and taste even better. Even unreliable rockmelons (or cantaloupes if you will) are generally worth the effort.

Cambridge is an exceptionally good place to be in summer. The abundance of time-rich students means a mélange of social opportunities, whatever your taste. Yesterday afternoon I played social football on Parker’s Piece, followed by some basking in the sun, followed by a play at the ADC Theatre, part of the Pacifika Styles festival happening this week. The football was great fun – you can read more about it courtesy of Joan Ko here. The play was also fantastic, one of the best I’ve ever seen. If you get the chance to see Niu Sila in your neck of the woods I highly recommend it.

Tomorrow is Strawberry Fair on Midsummer’s Common – the first of many laid-back summer celebrations I love Europe for. Bring on the summer.