Week 60: Gates Gala

Workwise, it was a fairly standard week of work, lunch and dinner. I spend the week trying to work out why the program I was using wasn’t acknowledging the existence of antiparticles; it turned out there was a slight inconsistency with the way I was inputing my Majorana particles. As usual, the interesting parts of the week came in the evenings and the afternoons.

On Tuesday, I headed out with Alex to Jamie’s Italian in the centre of Cambridge. A few weeks ago, Olly had requested a few Australian Gates Scholars to meet with a group of students on the so-called Aurora Project. These were 18 high-achieving undergraduate students from Australian Indigenous backgrounds. The Aurora Project had selected them and was taking them on a five week tour through elite American and British universities, looking for postgraduate opportunities. They were meeting with potential supervisors and learning about potential degree programmes. As part of the Cambridge leg, they wanted to hear from us about the Gates funding process; how it works and any tips or advice. In return, they gave us a free meal, so how could we refuse? We spent the evening talking to a number of the students, hearing their stories and what they were interested in, and gave them a few pointers along the way. They were all fascinating people who were really motivated to do well.

By Thursday night, it was time for another Cambridge League Real Tennis Match. We had won both of our previous ties, and with two ties to go, a win here would almost guarantee us the division title. I played in the first two rubbers with Rob and Pat respectively. While both were close, we won both, and then I sat and watched the third, which we won also. Depending how the other matches go in our division, that may have been enough to win the division, though it still is mathematically possible for one other team to beat us.

On Friday night, after work, it was time to dress up for another formal hall. Tonight, it was time to head to Clare. I’d never been to Clare before, for a formal or otherwise, so I had arranged with Amarynth for Jacqueline and I to visit. Clare was right in the centre of town, so it wasn’t too far to cycle. We arrived early, and so met Amarynth in the MCR where they were serving sherry as predrinks; the first occasion of sherry I had seen at any formal. When it was time, we headed across the old court into Clare’s narrow formal hall, with the fellows having to push past the rows of students to get to their high table. Dinner at Clare was soup, followed by duck; we were told that there was never any red meat at MCR formals at Clare. It was a lovely dinner, and we got chatting to a guy called Sam and his guest sat next to us for much of the evening. After, we headed back to the MCR, where Edyth was there to tell us Edyth stories.

On Saturday morning, I took the opportunity at the first weekend free for many weeks to head out for a bike ride. Armed with a new helmet and some new overshoes, I headed out south of Cambridge. I was riding into a headwind for a bit, heading for the hills of Hertfordshire. Eventually, I found a series of rolling hills, often hard to come by in Cambridgeshire, and ended up in Great Chesterford. However, I had to wait over half an hour for my train back to Cambridge, which ended up getting a bit cold.

I ate some food and headed out again to get a new cummerbund to go with my black tie attire. After that, it was time for a quick shower and to get all dressed up for the Gates Gala. The Gala is one of the biggest social events on the Gates Calendar, and this year it had been organised by a herculean solo effort from Sara, but now it was time for those on Council to step in and help pull off the event itself. As one of the outgoing co-directors, I qualified as being on council and was therefore encouraged to help out as well. That meant showing up a couple of hours early to help set up.

I cycled out to Madingley Hall in Madingley, a few miles to the north west of Cambridge. I was one of the first there, but very quickly, a few taxi loads of other Council members arrived and started getting their bearings. When Sara arrived, we were called to action stations. I had been tasked with inflating the balloons, alongside Annalise, Kevin, Eddie, Mine, Jacqueline, Emma and Kasun. We got an effective production line going; Annalise would inflate the balloons from the helium tank, I would tie them, Eddie would cut the strings to length and everybody else would attach everything together. By the time we had finished the set, we looked around and found that everybody else had made the hall look spectacular.

The guests slowly started to arrive, with Margaret and Eddie checking people off as they came in. I met with the face-painting lady and one of the bands, and helped them in to set up. That marked the end of my work for now, and I could go and relax and enjoy. The theme for the Gala this year was Venetian Masquerade, and so everybody was wearing masks, and the hall had been decorated with Italian themed props. There were a number of rooms to the hall, with various activities in each. Very quickly, we went to the photographers, and took a series of photographs with people looking resplendent in their black tie suits and their formal ballgowns.

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Together with Emma, Jacqueline and Annalise, we joined the queue for the face painter and then silhouette cutter. The cutter took a piece of black card, and in a matter of a minute or so, had carved out a very accurate image of each of us with scissors. However, while we were in line, the food was served and was eaten up almost immediately; there was hardly anything left by the time we got there, leaving us rather hungry. The night continued with a bit of ceilidhing, a bit of arcade games, lots of chatting to people and dancing and singing. Many people were at the silent disco, with the room packed full of people. It soon came time to start packing up. I had put my name down for a couple of roles at the end, which included ushering people to the exit and cleaning up the trash. Many people were still drunk and dancing the silent disco, and it took some effort to try and get all of the headphones back. There was then a milling about of people waiting for taxis to arrive. Council did an fast job of packing everything away, and scouted most, but not quite all, of the venue for lost property. With everything nearly settled, I headed for home, riding through the dark countryside.

It was a relatively early start, considering how late the previous night was, on Sunday morning. I headed out to the Trinity College Old Fields to referee a cuppers game between Trinity and Pembroke. I’d never been to the Old Field before, and it was a tense game; stuck at three all until the dying minutes when Pembroke scored a final winner. That afternoon, I played a bit of tennis with Krittika, before heading out to the Clare MCR for hustings and a council meeting.

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