Wednesday, 30 March 2011


I'm in the library. Again.

However, procrastination has won, at least for a minute.

This made me smile!

Little things in life..

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Well, Cambridge didn't win the boat race. The series now stands in total 80 wins for Cambridge, 76 wins for Oxford. Although the result was a little disappointing, the whole day was great.

We met at the station Saturday around noon, and stocked up on edible goodies for the train. By 'we' I think there were about 12 of us travelling together, and we met more friends along the way. This time around, the ticket buying process was straightforward and we weren't harassed by any angry people. Always a plus. We managed to get a compartment on the train literally all to ourselves, so spread out our food and settled in.

Yes, that is beer. I know people who like to start early. I should note, however, it was at least past noon by this point. The whole journey was fun, while I played paparazzi with my friends.

Through the tube, a quick stop for food, and a walk to the river. We settled down to eat and wait, and situated ourselves in front of one of the big screens.

We staked out a spot by the wall so that we'd be able to actually see some of the racing as it went by! Since we were there so early we got to hang around there for a while. Fortunately, it was relatively warm (and dry!) so was quite pleasant.

Edibles along the wall. That meat was actually pork tongue.. Not mine, I hasten to add.

We waited and slowly but surely the crowds grew and grew.

I got decked out in Cambridge blue..

The helicopters started circling..

People used every possible vantage point.. (Sadly, I even know these guys..)

And the first race came into sight!!

First view coming under Hammersmith Bridge, and our boys are down. This is the reserve race, Goldie (the Cambridge crew) vs. Isis (the Oxford crew). The guys in the Gold are Goldie. Surprise.

Things aren't looking so great for the Light Blues..

The fleet that follows..

Between races some kind of James Bond boat went by..

We watched the rest of the race on the big screen, and sadly Isis won. Not be deflated, we turned our attention back to Hammersmith to wait for The Boat Race to come around the bend.

First view - see if you can spot the actual crews!

Here they come! Cambridge slightly behind.

But they were still in the game!

The fleet that follows..try and spot the Cambridge blue beanies, denoting old Blues who represented Cambridge in the Boat Race.

We watched the rest of the rest on the screen - although it was slightly obstructed..

After the race, we loitered for a while, watched the rest of the coverage on the big screen, and then headed back to the Tube to find a pub! We ended up going to Fleet Street, which is a lawyery, bankery district. Here are the Royal Courts of Justice.

View down Fleet Street, St. Paul's Cathedral in the dark distance

The pub we found was perfect, old and creaky and cramped, just how I like. Of course, that means it was very dark, so no decent pictures. Just a snap of us proclaiming our loyalty!

So, although it wasn't a great day for Cambridge, it was certainly fun. On Sunday, the rest of the university crews (Women, Women's Reserve, Lightweight Women, Lightweight Men) raced in Henley, and put in a good effort for Cambridge.

Since then, I've been living in the library. On the upside, I stopped in the local library today, and stocked up on non-academic goodies for some brain recharging. I just finished the book I had been working on for a while (The Yacoubian Building - I recommend) and want something that is distinctly unrelated to my looming exams. Trashy historical fiction it is!

Saturday, 26 March 2011


Today's the day - the 157th Boat Race. Oxford v. Cambridge, the Championship Course, slightly more than 4 miles, from Putney to Mortlake, on the Thames in London.

The Boat Race is a huge piece of Oxford/Cambridge lore and tradition. First raced in 1829, when Cambridge challenged Oxford, it has been raced almost every year since, and is now a major sporting event, with around 250,000 lining the banks of the Thames to watch.

For the first time, I'm going to be one of them! In my first year, I watched Cambridge lose in an English pub in Paris. In second year, Cambridge lost whilst I was on an airplane. Last year, Cambridge won as I jumped up and down alone in our living room in Cleveland, streaming the BBC on my laptop. This year, I'm going to be there.

I am so so excited to finally get to experience this in person. I'm about to head down to the station to catch the train into London - cameras fully charged and ready to go!


(--- ---- bloody Oxford)

Friday, 25 March 2011

Library Love. Sort Of..

This topic falls under a more general catergory of 'things I love. Full stop' rather than things I love about England. The problem is, however, that my relationship in this case is slightly more complex.

Historically, I have always loved libraries, since I knew what a book was. I have vivid memories of visits to the local library in Dayton, where I always took part in the summer contests they hosted to get kids reading. During holidays, even now, I head to the library and come back with stacks of books, way too many for me to ever get through, but I just can't resist! Anyway, my love of reading is something that's been a huge part of my life, and I'm sure will continue to be.

Since coming to Cambridge, however, the library has taken on a somewhat different persona. It is now a place of occasional stress and doom. To be fair, I can't usually spend more than an hour in here without getting distracted by an exciting book, so I certainly still get enjoyment out of it. The problem is that, for example, today it looks like this outside.

Yes, those are bars on the window. Only a little depressing, right? Here's a better view:

By the way, the library I'm talking about is the Trinity library, my college library. As college libraries go, it's a pretty good one. Bright, spacious, etc., but the bars on the windows take it a step slightly too far in my opinion. In addition, someone failed pretty spectacularly in printing out the labels for the different sections:

I suppose I'm feeling affectionate toward the college library right now, as it is officially the Easter holidays and so it's not full of first-years who think they should be in here 24/7. Granted, when Easter Term starts it will be crammed, and I will probably be keeping my distance. Fortunately, there are about 15 other libraries in Cambridge I can legitimately use. For one thing, every college has their own library, although obviously we don't use others'. Each faculty also has their own, which most anyone can use, as long as you can pretend to have some vague connection with the subject. (I'm an (occasional) fan of the History Faculty, Divinity Faculty, and Classics Faculty. My own, the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Faculty, has a horrific library, with a central working area with tables surrounded by books, which creates some kind of unpleasant fishbowl effect. Blergh.)

There is also the University Library. Once you get past its rather terrifying appearance (I'm always struck by it's resemblance to a concentration camp. I don't say this in jest, it really is scary. It was used in the filming of 1984 apparently.) Anyway, the thing is huge. And as such is filled with lots of little corners for quiet working. Still, the place stresses me out in general. But, there is a tea room attached, so at least food is easily accessible.

(Side rant: WHY must people wear flip flops in the library!?! Our library is pretty silent, so people tramping back and forth is slightly disruptive, people flip-flopping up and down the length of the library is seriously irritating. RAGE.)

Ok, feel better having that out of my system.

Anyway, I love libraries, I really do. And I love the Trinity library. Even when it's busy, at least it's filled with geeks like me. On Wednesday I was working here in the morning, and the fire alarm went off. After about 20 seconds of extremely loud wailing, it stopped. The entire time, no one moved. A couple people looked around, but no one was hugely concerned. We are such nerds.

(Another rant: If you have a cold, and still need to be in the library, PLEASE BRING TISSUES, so everyone doesn't have to listen to you sniffling!! Gah!)

(Final rant: If you need to talk to yourself while you study, please stay in your room!! I spent a few hours this afternoon across from a guy who was literally reading his notes to himself under his breath. Not ok.)

Conclusion: I love libraries. I really do. I'm just grumpy sometimes. It happens :)

Monday, 21 March 2011

Women's Head of the River Race

Recap from Saturday's adventure - my crew and I ventured to London to race the Women's Head of the River Race(WeHoRR), 7k on the Thames.

We met for crew breakfast in hall, and then proceeded to the station to get the train into London. The adventures began right away, as we had an altercation with some people in the queue for tickets. It turns out you can only buy tickets one at a time on the machines, and there were seven of us. The plan had been for one person to get all the tickets to save time, but once we realised we had to get each one separately, we figured it made sense for us each to pay for them individually. Three separate people in the queue saw this and started freaking out, yelling at us about queue skipping, being foreign and not understanding the concept of queues, not considering other people's feelings, being inexcusably rude and ignorant, etc. It was really quite unpleasant. I'm not sure I've ever had anyone have a go at me quite like that. In the end, Julia ended up buying each ticket individually herself, because they couldn't handle us 'skipping the queue,' although it of course made no difference to the amount of time we had to wait. Three of us tried to explain to these people the situation, but they were having none of it. It was quite horrible actually, but we eventually got our tickets, although we missed the train we were aiming for. Fortunately, there is no shortage of trains on Saturday morning, so we hopped on the next one.

A beautiful day for an adventure

Obviously, we had provisions for the train. Percy Pig makes an appearance again

It was an absolutely stunning day

From King's Cross, we grabbed the Tube to Hammersmith (I love the Tube! I love London!)

We walked from the station to Hammersmith Bridge/the river - the tide was up and the river was sparkling!

We were using the facilities of Auriol Kensington Rowing Club, which is where we had a week-long training camp at the start of this term. (Actually, that is blog worthy, at some point). In any case, we were pretty familiar with the area, and the boathouse. It's located in between two pubs, and lots of people were out enjoying the weather and activity.

Once we had settled in, we had to deal with our boat. In order to get it from Cambridge to London, we had to de-rig (take off all the metal bits, etc., and take the boat apart (it divides into two halves)), and put it on a trailer to get to London. Unfortunately, the trailer was parked very very (very) far away from where we were putting the boat on the water, so there was a lot of carrying to be done.

Putting the boat back together

Look what I found!

Our blades, ready to go

Getting on the water (this was so much easier than on training camp, when the tide was always out. Will do a 'then and now' picture for side-by-side comparison)

(in January)

A) Note the weather. B) Not sure you can quite tell from the photo, but that is a metal grated ramp at about a forty five degree angle. When carrying a boat that weighs rather a lot, this entire process was pretty unpleasant. Going straight out onto the pontoon this weekend was a treat! (Of course, by the time the race was over, the tide was considerably lower so we did have to go up the ramp.. but that's another story).

On the water - my blade. Notice how flat the water is. This is not normal for the Tideway! Because it's such a big river, it's usually pretty choppy. We were very lucky.

Whole crew while we're waiting for the start. There are more than 300 crews that race WeHoRR, so there is a lot of loitering while all the crews get into position.

Whilst we were waiting around, I took advantage of the opportunity to recline. Yes, I am lying down in the boat.

Obviously I don't have any photos from the race, but because it's quite a big race, there are a lot of professional photographers taking pictures for purchase. Here are a couple links to some of these.

The race itself was ok, ish. We were missing 3 members of our Lents crew, and had about three outings together before the race, and our lack of experience and consistency showed during the race. Of course, we knew going into the race that we didn't have the experience in the boat, so we didn't have huge expectations. At least it was sunny!

By the time we got off the water, the sun was setting, and the river was even more beautiful.

Once we had dealt with the boat (de-rig again, carry it back to the trailer, etc.) we got changed and joined current and past members of First & Third for a pub crawl. There is an annual 'Boat Race pub crawl' (usually nearer to the actual Boat Race, but whatever), which visits pubs along the Boat Race course (the reverse of the WeHoRR course). They got started whilst we were racing (this meant we got a massive cheer as we rowed past them during the race :) ), and we joined them at pub number six, The Old Ship.

By this point, my camera battery was dying, but I did manage to get a photo of the 'super moon.' (I didn't actually know about this in advance, but I certainly noticed once the sun had set!

We continued on to The Black Lion, The Bull's Head, Ye White Hart, and ending at The Ship. This was quite enough for me, no lunch + racing meant my pint or two (or three) of cider was felt quite quickly. Nevertheless, wandering around London was awesome, as was pub crawling. At the end, we stopped for food at a Thai/curry place, as by that point we were all very very desperate for some sustenance. I had some simple egg fried noodles, which were tasty and did the job. It was a good way to finish off the night!

All in all, it was another surreal experience - visiting lots of British pubs with lots of British people, just one of the crowd! It was really great fun. There was, however, quite a lot of walking. The boat race course is 7k long, and we joined in about 2k in.. We also had to walk probably another 25-30 minutes to get to my friend's car. (She drove down from Cambridge and volunteered to take me back, as I wasn't hugely keen on cycling back from the Cambridge station post-several pints, plus I'd forgotten my bicycle lights). When we finally reached the car, I promptly fell asleep until we were essentially outside my door.

Yesterday was spent sleeping, eating, procrastinating, erging, and hanging out with friends before I begin the serious holiday work. (I've inaugurated that today by writing this mammoth post.. Hmm..)

This afternoon the plan is to attempt to go out (rowing) in a double (two people, four oars, high likelihood of falling in. Yikes). Will see how that goes!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Foodie Friday

I've had a strange day that has involved pretty much nothing but rowing, sleeping, and eating. After our outing this morning, I went back to bed, and crashed until nearly 3 o'clock. I suppose that's my body telling me it really needed some rest!

In any case, I've had some exciting food exploits.

First of all, this mysterious thing

What is this strange creature? I suppose it just looks like water in a blue cup. However, it's not. It's blue Jell-o! I've become a little obsessed with Jello (or jelly, as we say here) recently, and I'm not sure why. It's an easy snack and I don't feel guilty if I eat three helpings.. The thing is, I usually buy it here, and Sainsbury's sells three flavours of the powdered stuff: Strawberry, Blackcurrant, and Raspberry. All three are good, but they're getting old. I did, however, have an actual Jell-o brand box hiding in the my cupboard, and I decided to make it yesterday. So, today I had blue Jello!

The strange thing is, I think this is the first time in at least ten years I've eaten blue Jell-o and the taste was so instantly transporting it was quite odd actually.

When I woke up from my basically day-consuming nap, I was hungry, obviously, and wanted cookies. (I know that doesn't really follow, that's just how my stomach/mind works). I don't have any cookies in my room (I try and avoid buying them, otherwise I just eat the whole packet. Seriously...) so got creative and googled 'microwave oatmeal cookie.' I have attempted this before actually, but somehow managed to fail. So I tried again! Using this recipe, I managed to produce something pretty delicious. I used frozen fruit instead of raisins, which made it look quite pretty too!

For dinner, creativity was also required as hall was closed this evening for another function. I had booked the BA Rooms (a big room with a massive kitchen for grad students to use. I count as a grad because I'm a 4th year!) so Julia and I decided to cook. We wanted to make soft pretzels using this recipe I stumbled upon, but I failed to read the fine print that asks for the dough to rest for an hour. And we were hungry. So, made some easy pasta - tagiatelle with spinach, garlic and cheese. Yum. (As per usual, this looks distinctly less appetising than it actually was).

At this point, my cooking juices had just been awakened, and I wasn't going to be satisfied until I had used my favourite part of the kitchen - the oven. Baking!! So, I quickly looked through the huge collection of recipes I've bookmarked, and found this one for Fudge Striped Shortbread cookies. Since we were hungry and mooching ingredients from the communal stores (the room is quite well stocked actually), I made a few adaptations/omissions, the main one being that rather than let the cookies cool and drizzle them in chocolate, we just dipped the warm-ish cookies into melted chocolate. Also by this point in the evening, other friends had arrived lured by the promise of baked goods, so I didn't manage a very decent photo. Still, they tasted incredible!

A pretty delicious day!

Tomorrow, I'm off to London with my crew to race the Women's Head of the River Race, down the Thames! It's the same course as the Oxford/Cambridge boat race (which is next week!), except the opposite direction, and it is long. 7k in total, although it's more like 5k of racing because the stream is so fast. Still, not hugely enjoyable on the body. In any case, rowing in London is always really exciting, as is a day out from Cambridge!

I will certainly be bringing my camera! :)