Week 9: Gates Gala

The weekdays were filled with normal routine. But now there was a new addition. With my bike now functioning as both a commuting and a road bike, I’ve been able to add a pre-breakfast ride to my schedule on most days of the week. Most of the rides I’ve been doing thus far have been around 20 km long, which on the flat fens can be completed in around 40 minutes. I’ve been out and around a number of the towns surrounding Cambridge: Madingley, Coton, Grantchester, Barton, Girton and so on. With motivation, I hope this is something I can continue.

By far the highlight of the week was the Gates Gala. This was a formal, black tie event. I didn’t have any black tie clothing, however, so on the Tuesday before the Gala (which was on Friday), I went to Moss Bros in the evening to stock up on formal wear. Although formal wear is expensive, I knew that, being Cambridge, I would need to spend up on it at some point, so I held no guilt when I returned home with a new peaked-lapel jacket, pleated shirt and bow tie.

On Friday morning, I was in a lecture when Mum sent a message inviting me to Skype with all of my grandparents, two of which were visiting from Tasmania. I dutifully obliged, returning home and logging on to share stories with a then-tired set of ancestors. Afterwards, I walked out of my house and into the hairdressers next door for an impromptu hair-cut. I walked in without appointment and in less than 20 seconds the scissors were at my head. I ran a few more errands that morning, including a trip to the department store, before lunch at the college and off to teach.

I finished teaching just before 6. I went home and started to prepare myself, but noticed in a Gates Facebook chat that the dinner options were not substantive, so went and ate some dinner in the college just in case. By 7pm, I had suited up, and was ready. Problem was, the dinner was being held at Anstey Hall, in the town/suburb of Trumpington 3 miles south of Darwin College. Some of the other scholars were taking taxis, but I had insisted to myself that I would ride my bike. I mounted my new very bright front light, and rode down the country lane in my dinner suit (aka tuxedo). The roads were quiet and it was a very pleasant experience.

When I arrived at the Hall, I parked my bike and joined the queue of Gates scholars heading inside.Everyone looked fantastic, though it seemed that many of the other, especially new, male Gates scholars had all bought their jackets from the same vendor. Once I had my name checked off, I went to explore. There were various activities dotted throughout what I gathered was, historically, a country manor house. In one room, there was face-painting and a VR video game. In another, there was a bar. Upstairs, there was a (no cash) casino room. In the back garden, there was a large tent with tables and a ceilidh, a variety of (free) food vans and an underused bouncy castle and laser tag. Through the rest of the night, I was mingling and chatting to Gates scholars, some of which I hadn’t seen since the orientation camp and others who I’d seen since.


Over the course of the night, I tried out quite a number of the activities, and met and chatted to many different people. I even went into the casino room (which was OK since I wasn’t spending any money), which served to reinforce my belief of not spending money at casinos. I savoured my free burrito from the food trucks outside, which served to reinforce my belief that there is no way to eat a burrito without making a mess. My turn on the VR machine was amazing too, which served to reinforce my belief that playing VR in a confined space or near delicate objects is a dangerous endeavour. But it also changed my belief that VR couldn’t become a wide-spread gaming tool, especially with respect to first-person shooter games.

It wasn’t until 1 in the morning that I finally left the Gala, for the 3 mile ride home in the eerie night-time silence. The next day, I found myself completely exhausted and tired. The long night combined with the early bike ride had taken it out of me. Only by Sunday, for football, had I really recovered. Speaking of, we lost 3-5 to Hughes Hall at Gonville and Caius, but that was after we only just managed to scrape together 11 players, and with the score 3-3, we lost one of those to injury without a substitute. Personally, I had some of my better saves since returning to football.

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