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Week 35: Kayaking, Bike Theft and Croquet

What would end up being a hectic week began slowly; the only notable activity beyond work entertaining my Monday was to go out to an Asian noodle bar with Annalise and Jacqueline. The food tasted and smelled like the food courts back in Adelaide, a scent surprisingly rare in the UK.

On Tuesday night, I rode around to Joanna and Danny’s for a quick catch-up before heading together out to the ADC theatre (with Annalise) to support Callie in her stand-up routine for the Footlights Lady’s Smoker; a truly feminist stand-up show with an ensemble cast. I haven’t been to many stand-up shows before, but this was a real delight, especially as the comedy either poked fun at how other comics talk about women, or was just genuinely interesting monologues and skits.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jacqueline and I made the somewhat impromptu decision to go kayaking down the Cam. Being a college on the river, Darwin has kayaks and a canoe to go with its several punts. So after dinner, we got the key to the boat shed from the porter’s lodge and pulled out two one-person kayaks. They were a tad small, but it didn’t really matter all that much. That was until we started down the river, where we discovered that the boat’s lack of hydrodynamic bottom meant they were prone to spinning out. Every hundred metres or so, when attention wavered slightly, the current would push the boat around in a circle. This was frustrating given the number of not-so-competent punters using the same part of the river. That said, we were able to go much farther than the punts, and eventually found ourselves at the weir and lock opposite Jesus Green. Normally, this is where one turns a punt around to head home, but we had time to carry on. We hauled our boats around the weir and set off again to the lower part of the river.

The weir serves multiple purposes for recreation on the Cam. For one, it keeps the water level by the college constant, but perhaps more importantly it separates the slow and often erratic punters from the fast and mechanical rowing squads. College boathouses line the north bank for a good mile or so. The consequence was that now, every now and then, us kayakers had to make our way to the edge of the river so as to let the fast rowers past, who were out training in the evening. This wouldn’t have been too much of a hassle, except for the fact that our boats were unstable. In the end, we didn’t cause too much trouble, and turned around and headed back for home.

The fun of Wednesday evening was quickly dissipated the next morning when I awoke to find that my bike had lost it’s seat post and saddle; evidently somebody had taken it during the night. This was a major annoyance; a bike without a saddle isn’t all that comfortable to ride. Fortunately, my bikes are both insured, and I was able to ride my road bike to Real Tennis training. But it did mean that most of the morning was spent reporting the crime to the porters, the police and the insurance company. I went out in the afternoon to get a quote on a replacement saddle. Unfortunately, the saddle I had is only sold with bikes as a whole and not available for individual resale. But when I returned home, I was hit by a stroke of luck, when I found the saddle by itself returned to the bike racks which it had been taken from. I don’t know why it was returned, because it requires a non-trivial amount of effort to remove it from the seat-post (which remains missing), but I was happy to have it back nonetheless.

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That evening, I met with Harum and Pedro to discuss what we wanted to do with college contacts this year. The premise is that, for the Gates Orientation, we should have at least one person around who is at each of the colleges (for which there are new scholars) to be a mentor, a tour guide (on the induction day) and a point-of-call for college related questions. At our committee meetings, Pedro seemed keen on getting this part of orientation organised, and so we were keen to get his help on board.

Later, I went out to the Trinity College MCR to join in on a communal game of Werewolf. The premise is similar to games like Mafia; where there is at least one person who is an “enemy” of the town, and the other players have to use clues and interrogate each other to find out who it is. It is a game based on working out who you can and cannot trust to be truthful. The difference here, is that there are a lot of other roles to play that make the game a lot more interesting. Overall, it was an fun evening, though at no point did I get the opportunity to play villain.

After the Real Tennis training in the morning, I set out to purchase myself a new seat-post such that I could continue the day as normal. Although it isn’t exactly the same as the original, it isn’t something where you particularly notice the difference, and so now my bike feels normal again. The day pretty much proceeded as normal until the evening. One of the Real Tennis professionals had asked if I was free and willing to play a match in one of the Cambridge Leagues, a weekly tournament hosted by the club. I said I was willing, and so I played the third of three games against Isabella, one of the few children playing Real Tennis at the club. The game was handicapped, and rather evenly matched, though I found myself unable to win game points and hence lost in straight sets.

After the game, I headed out to the Pembroke graduate parlour, where Jacqueline and Harum were relaxing that evening. Other people came and went through the evening; at some point were were joined by Annalise, and at a later point by Matthew, one of my lab-mates, plus a host of people finishing formals. At some point in the evening, I started folding one of the many newspapers in the Pembroke GP into a paper hat, which later lead to Annalise making some for everyone. It ended up being the kind of evening I enjoy; sitting around and hanging out with people I get on with.

The weekend started with a morning hit around on the tennis courts, followed by Krittika and Jacqueline coming around to Darwin to partake in the Saturday brunch. Because of the warm (for England) weather, we sat around in the gardens as we ate, watching the birds hop around in the college garden. Though I don’t know where the idea came from, we decided as a group to head over to Jesus College, where we were joined by Annalise, for a round of croquet. Krittika went to the porter’s lodge to get the set, complete with an old, red wooden box, and I paced out the court on the Chapel court. We had just read through the rules and started playing, when a group approached and told us that they had already booked the set. Annoyed, we retired to the Jesus MCR for a while, where we were joined by Natalie, one of Annalise’s friends from Trinity College. I found a Kubb set, a Swedish game involving throwing sticks at targets. We ventured out onto the lawns again and played a few rounds, showing off our woeful throwing abilities.

When we got bored of Kubb, we decided to see if the croquet was yet free. It was. We paced it out again and got started, dividing into two teams of two (Natalie had since left). None of us had played before, so it took a while to realise the strategy of, as a pair, forming runs of breaks to progress the balls further around the course. The first game finished as a close affair, but that was nothing compared to the second game; which came down to the last hit. Krittika left, and Jacqueline, Annalise and I headed out to Tesco to collect items for dinner; we put together some burittos with whatever we felt like filling them with. After, we had a rematch in Monopoly, which ended far faster than usual due to a few lucky breaks at the start.

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Tennis was again the topic of the day for Sunday morning; Krittika and I played against three sweet elderly ladies in a high-handicapped doubles tournament. As there were five of us, we rotated through each of the permutations; only vaguely keeping score. The rest of the afternoon was relatively benign, until I headed out to join Annalise and Jacqueline for left-over burritos. After, we went out to defend our title at the Sir Isaac Newton pub quiz. However, there were seven of us who turned up, and they would only allow teams of 6 (an exemption was granted to a group of Americans next to us, but not us). As such, we suffered badly and didn’t do nearly as well as the previous week.

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