Orientation · Politics · Research · Socialising

Week 32: Elections and Trinity Hall Formal

The week began with a rejuvenated spirit following my trip to Yorkshire. As per usual, the weekdays were filled with the usual schedule of working, lunch, seminars and dinners, but I was working on producing a calculation rather than reading papers, which spurred me on a little. In particular, I was looking at trying to calculate any variations to the amount of dark matter in the universe given the particular model my supervisor has taken an interest to. The problem was, expanding out all of the terms got hopelessly messy. I persisted for a while, in the hope that a nice set of cancellations would emerge, but it proved futile. It got to the point where I had all but run out of Greek letters to use as unique indices, which were being colour-coded in up to 8 colours to indicate symmetries or anti-symmetries. By the end of the week, I gave up doing it by hand, to attempt later with a computer, but I could at least now easily see the structure of the problem clearly.

Cricket training returned this week, after a hiatus over the term break where the captain had been out of the country. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough players to make a team on our own, and so will likely merge with another college’s team in order to play matches. Details are still to come on that front. Over the hour of play on Wednesday night at the indoor cricket nets, I played relatively well (for my standards) in the first half, but poorly in the second. It was still nice to have something to practice at.

Thursday was the day of the local elections in Cambridgeshire, and across the United Kingdom more broadly. This was not the more publicised snap general election announced by the Prime Minister; rather it was a set of elections to the Cambridgeshire County Council, the body which oversees transport and housing policy in the districts around Cambridge. This body supplements the Cambridge City Council, but there were no elections to that body this year. There was also an election for Cambridge and Peterborough District Mayor. As an Australian citizen resident in the UK, various colonial provisions mean that I am technically eligible to vote in all elections in the part of the country I am registered. I had enrolled to vote months before mostly with the reasoning “because they let me”, but now I get to vote in three elections in two months (this counting as two).

Unlike Australia where voting occurs on a Saturday by the constitution, elections in the UK are held on a Thursday. The booths were open from 7 in the morning until 10 in the evening. You also had to vote at the specific polling place you were assigned to, unlike in Australia where you can vote at any polling place on the day. I went early in the morning, before work, to the rear entrance of the guildhall in the centre of town. Though there was a big sign saying “Polling Station”, there was no evidence of any paraphernalia, campaign helpers, or the traditional sausage sizzle (a key part of Australian Democracy). Instead, I walked straight in, had my name checked on the roll, and was handed the two slips I needed to vote. In the County elections, I could vote only in my ward; a franchise of about a few thousand or so. The local race was between the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates; the Greens and Conservatives didn’t have much of a chance. The Mayoral race was between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, with Labour a distant third and minor tallies for the Greens, the independents, UKIP and the English Democrats (even more right-wing than UKIP). Even though Cambridge itself voted strongly for Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the provincial areas returned strong results for the Conservatives, and they took control of both the Mayoralty and the County Council.

On Friday morning, I met up with Krittika for another round of Real Tennis. We had both thoroughly enjoyed the try-out a fortnight ago, and had arranged for individual coaching sessions going forward. It being the second half of the academic year, the club was trying to get more people involved and was offering reduced rates on coaching and membership to newcomers. I really wanted to keep at it, because it was something rather unique to Cambridge, and I won’t really have a chance to try it anywhere else (there are only 43 remaining it the world). We spent the first half of the session with Kees, the head professional at the club. He took us through improving our shots, and trying to train us out of the big, flashy swings of lawn tennis, squash and badminton, into the small but forceful taps that are needed here. It took some getting used to, but we improved a lot. At the end, Scott (another one of the professionals) showed us some serving techniques, and took as through a short game. We had enough skills to be able to return it, but not much more than that. Playing a ball coming in a game is very different to the controlled shots of practice, but it was more than fun.

That afternoon, after work, I headed into the GSCR to meet up with the Orientation Committee for the first time. A few weeks back, Harum and I had sorted through all of the applications to select our team, and it had taken this long to sort everything out. Harum and I tried to bring everyone up to speed with what had happened so far, trying to keep it as informal as possible. It is at the next meeting that the serious work begins.

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I left the meeting and went to get changed. Joanna and Danny had invited me to formal that night at Trinity Hall. It was meant to be James Bond themed, which basically meant to wear black tie. I met them at the porter’s lodge, along with their friend Alice. This was my first time at Trinity Hall, so I began by soaking in the beautiful surrounds. As usual, there were pre-dinner drinks in the MCR, but we very soon migrated into the main hall for dinner. The food at Trinity Hall ranked amongst some of the best formal halls of the colleges I have been to thus far; while the entrée was just a soup, the mains were a delicious cut of lamb and the dessert was a chocolate sphere with apple ice cream inside. The hall was nice too, though I thought it had a very 19th century feel to it.

As per most themed formals, the night continued in the MCR. There was a faux casino set up (still going with the Bond theme), where all entrants were given a fake $200 to spend. We started with roulette. Personally I got to a point were my starting money had nearly doubled, but finished exactly even. Joanna, who I was playing with, lost money from her initial $200 down to $25, and left the table momentarily and so I facetiously placed her chips on the green zero. She returned as the ball was still spinning, only for the zero to come up and get paid out 35 to 1. Stunned, we now had more chips than we knew what to do with, so we played a bit of blackjack until we bet it all and lost. If it were real money, I would have checked out long ago, but there were no stakes.

After, we were moved into what I gathered was a different part of the MCR, and stayed there late until someone there decided to order pizza. The problem was, the pizza took ages to arrive at the gate, with some people standing out in the cold for far longer than necessary to collect the delivery. Eventually, it did arrive, and it was eaten through rather quickly before it was time to head home.

I slept in on Saturday morning, before heading into brunch at Pembroke College with Harum shortly after I got up. Pembroke is renowned for having a good brunch, and today their waffles were greatly oversized. Together with a bit of maple syrup made this an excellent way to start the day. I stayed there until the early afternoon, chatting with Harum about things both orientation related and otherwise.

Eventually, I left Pembroke to meet up with Joanna and Danny again; Danny and Matthew were playing Borderlands, an FPS video game which I eventually joined in online, once it had downloaded and installed on my computer. This was a relaxing way to exhaust a Saturday afternoon because I could forget about everything else for a while. Dinner was pizza again, after which I rode home, with Danny coming along briefly.

Sunday was a time for me to do some minor bike repairs and cleaning, with Jacqueline coming to Darwin to share in Sunday Roast. It was a quiet afternoon until 5pm, when I had to attend my first Gates Council Meeting. Now that I am co-directing the orientation camp, one of me and Harum should be attending each of the Council meetings from now on; making us a semi-official part of Council. Of course, this meant going through a number of items not directly relating to my role, but I did get to update everyone on the progress we have made thus far. This was followed by dinner with Jacqueline at Churchill, being one of the feasible places for food open on a Sunday night (even the supermarkets shut), and a subsequent attempt at pool on Churchill’s rather roughed-up pool table.

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