Sport · Travel

Week 58: Gates Term Trip – Ironbridge Gorge

In terms of work output, this was one of my more productive weeks since Orientation. I finally managed to put together enough motivation and concentration to be productive through most of the week. I discovered that a program called MicrOmegas would work better for what I was doing than a number of others that I had tried, and so was learning my way around the code.

On Monday, I spent a bit of time working through a number of left-over items from Orientation, before heading out to meet Charlotte for lunch at Darwin. I hadn’t seen her since Orientation, and I was curious to see how she was getting on. It was a concern I shared equally about most of the new scholars, and I was trying to make an effort to make see how many of them were going; even if trying to keep up with a hundred people seems an impossible task. Later, I met with Joanna in town for a coffee, to talk about some other matters that had recently arisen.

Most of the rest of the week was spent in the now re-established rhythm of commuting between home, work, tennis and college, doing a mix of work, eating and sleeping. On Wednesday, I headed out to the GSCR for the termly Internal Symposium. It is a chance for Gates Scholars to present their work to other Gates Scholars. This evening, there were three talks by Joseph, Alex and Jessica, on topics ranging from the philosophy of cancer treatments to Japanese migration to Mexico. As usual, each of them were interesting and involve topics and perspectives that I’d not considered or were new to me.

I later met with Alex for lunch on Thursday, again, interested to hear how he’d been settling in. Later, I sat down with Daniel, an undergraduate student and a friend of a friend, who had questions about applying to PhDs in Physics and wanted another perspective. Finally, that evening, I headed out to the tennis club for a match in the Cambridge Doubles League. My team, the Th’underdogs, were playing the ‘andicaps. There were three match-ups, I played in the first with Terry, which we lost 3-7; but we managed to win the following two matches, of which I won one with Barry 7-2 to shoot to the top of the table at the halfway point in the league.

Saturday was a date I had been looking forward to for a while: it was time again for the Gates Term Trip. Today, we would be heading to Ironbridge, a UNESCO world heritage site in Shropshire. We had to leave home early to be at the bus stop on Queen’s Road by 7:40 am. Unlike Orientation, where we had over a hundred people trying to cram onto the busses, today there were only a couple of dozen of us. We climbed aboard the coaches and set off on our journey.

We were on the bus for a few hours. While some people tried to catch up on some sleep, I engaged in a healthy and lively discussion about all manner of topics with people at the front of the bus who I hadn’t seen for a few weeks. Our mood was soured a little as it was raining outside, but fortunately it cleared up as we pulled into our first destination.

Our bus arrived at the Blists Hill Victorian town, and we eagerly clambered off and towards the entrance. Once Callie and Eddie had organised the tickets we made our way through and into the museum. The first rooms played a short introductory video about the history of ironworking in the valley. After this, we were given free rein to explore the museum.

Blists Hill is an open air museum. It was mocked up like an old Victorian town. The valley once had been used as a centre of ironworking; and a number of the original buildings were still in place. Alongside, they had a number of replica buildings and buildings that had been restored and transported from somewhere else. The upper part of the valley had been made to look like and old fashioned town, with main streets, pubs, sweet shops, bakeries, butchers and so on. Further down the valley, there were steelworks and traditional trades. Unlike some other open air museums I had been to, where the insides of all of the buildings were museum-like displays, at Blists Hill the shops and houses were all staffed by people wearing traditional clothing and selling goods and wares.

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We all went separate ways, meeting each other as we wandered around. I went into the bank, where they were minting tokens to look like old fashioned pennies and shillings. The butchers were selling sausage rolls and the bakers were selling shortbreads, which both tasted fresh and delicious compared to the pre-processed supermarket versions. One particular highlight was the blacksmith, who engaged in a long conversation with Callie and others, and was rather keen to show off what he had made and what he was working on.

Most people were rather keen for some lunch and/or coffee though, and so we all congregated in the little café by the entrance as the time approached to head on to the next destination. Once we found everyone, we climbed back on board the busses and on to our next destination. It was a short bus ride in to the centre of the town of Ironbridge. The key attraction here was The Iron Bridge, the first bridge in the word to be made of cast iron. Our bus dropped us off with strict instructions to be back in half an hour, so we wandered up to the bridge for a photo and a chance to wander across. A bridge is a bridge is a bridge, so we spent the rest of the time briefly exploring the town. Of particular interest to many people was a second hand book store in the town square, but Jacqueline seemed more interested in the teddy bear shop.

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It wasn’t long before we had to be on the bus again and on our way to the final museum of the trip; the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron. The three storey high museum walked through a number of exhibits on the history of Iron work in Ironbridge, and how it contributed to the Industrial Revolution. There were numerous displays on the things that iron can be used to make, and how iron was made in the first place. We wandered through, roughly keeping together, before heading out to see an old iron kiln in the yard.

Finally, our time at Ironbridge had come to an end, and so we headed back to the bus. We stopped briefly by the railway station to drop Callie off, then headed back to Cambridge. Many people were tired and sleeping, but I still managed to find conversation all the way.

Once back in Cambridge, Jacqueline and I raced home on our bikes. We navigated through the crowds of people around our section of town. Tonight, was the Guy Fawkes Night fireworks on Midsummer Common, even though it was a day before the fifth of November. It was literally a ten second walk from our front door to the Common, where many people were congregating. Jacqueline and I wandered a bit before finding a good place to watch from. The fireworks started soon after, and lasted over twenty minutes. We were in a good position to see both the colourful explosions in the sky as well as the rocket launchers firing the fireworks from the ground. There were lots of people with kids milling about, making it a wonderous sight and a good end to the day.

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The weekend continued on Sunday, though it was far less exciting. In the morning, I went out to referee a soccer game between Cambridge Assessment and Anglia Ruskin. It was a brutal game; both teams were very physical, talked back a lot, and complained about a lot as well. One team didn’t particularly like the ball we were playing with, and kicked it far off into the distance, which I didn’t approve of at all. Towards the end of the game, the tackles stopped being for the ball and started being towards the player’s legs, which meant I was giving out more yellow and red cards than I had in any other match combined.

The afternoon was more relaxed; we had a Dungeons and Dragons session at home, with Emma, Joanna, Danny, Annika, Jacqueline and Lewis. Things started to get a bit out of control, with the party splitting three ways and a character nearly dying after investigating a booby-trapped chest. Finally, the evening and week ended with the Gates Council Hustings in the GSCR, where people campaigning for positions on Council had a chance to make their case. I spoke for a bit, but I reflected that I could have done better, as it is not a format that I am used to and I struggled more than I ought to have.


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