Orientation · Research

Day 22: Darwin College Welcome Dinner

I went into the Cavendish in the morning only to leave straight away again; I needed to pick up a notebook before going straight to DAMTP for a lecture. This time, it was a course called Symmetries, Fields and Particles, something rather fundamental to particle physics. This lecture was about the preliminaries of groups and Lie algebras, something that was rushed through in one lecture in Gauge Field Theory back in Adelaide. I found that it was part revision, but the things that the lecturer referred to that would be discussed in more detail later in the course were things that I felt would be valuable to know. The following hour was a lecture on Cosmology. This lecture was an odd mix of the General Relativity I knew from Adelaide, with a bit of Brian Cox-esque hand-waving explanation about Inflation. Of particular interest was the lecturer; he was a young, friendly, bearded energetic fellow, which was a stark contrast to the older lecturers that had taught me GR before.

I rode back into town to go to the bank to pay my rent to Darwin College. Once done, I went back out to the Cavendish. I now had fixed all the data, and spent the afternoon making my plots look nice again. It should only take another couple of days more work to get it to a good position, though we’ll see how it goes.

I went home at 5, then left again straight away to go to John Lewis. That evening was (one of) Darwin College’s Welcome dinners, essentially a formal hall. I needed to get my shirt ironed. To do so, I needed an iron. So I bought a mid-range iron. I figured the super-cheap irons are probably super-cheap for a reason, but I couldn’t understand what made the expensive irons so expensive. Nonetheless, I brought home and iron, ironed my shirt and suited up for the college dinner. I initially went to the college sans-gown; the dress code said “shirt and tie” so I didn’t know if gowns were allowed. But as soon as I stepped into the college, I saw at least two people wearing gowns, so permitted myself to go and put mine on too.

Pre-dinner drinks were served in the Old Library. I walked in to the room already packed, signed off my name and mingled for a short time. In particular, I was talking to an academic named Mary, who was losing her voice. Before long, we were instructed to head to the dining hall. Normally, the Master and fellows would lead, but tonight the students went first to be briefly instructed on etiquette. As we filed into the hall, there seemed to be no consensus on whether we should be seated or standing. There were no assigned seats, so I went to the table on the western wall and sat at an empty seat. Little did I realise that I had inadvertently sat next to one of the seats in the hall assigned to fellows, further still, I had sat myself next to the Master of the College, Professor Mary Fowler. As the fellows walked in, I realised this was the same Mary I had spoken to downstairs. And that is how I met the Master of the College.

As far as formal meals go, Darwin College is rather informal insofar as there is no structured hierarchy between fellows and students. We were served a three course meal: salmon, chicken and tart. During entrée, we were welcomed by the DSCA president, and during desert, the Master of the College made a speech, despite her failing voice. We were introduced to the previous Masters, now hanging as portraits on the walls of the dining hall. She made reference to the community at the college and the diversity of the students. Following formal hall was a reception in the Old Library with coffee and port. I stayed awhile before retiring back to my dorm for the night.


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