Research

Week 75: Cambridge in Snow

This was a week most noted for a big cold weather system that hit the UK from Siberia, the so-called Beast From The East. It brought snow across much of the country. For me as an Australian, this was a great novelty, and I relished in seeing the sights that I had come to know well covered in white.

The snow began in earnest on Monday. I went to college to get some lunch and pick up a big package for my garden. I strapped it to the back of my bike and went out to teach the next session of Scientific Computing at the Downing site. We were still going over basic MATLAB commands and functions, and when I came out at the end of the session, the carpark and surrounds had now been covered in snow. I nearly slipped on the powder when going back to my bike, and then made it back home. I wouldn’t be able to do any gardening yet, as the garden was now covered in snow.

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On Tuesday morning, I woke up to find my street covered in snow, as was our backyard and garden. When I rode out to work, everything else was now snowy, and I took great joy from riding through the still-icy roads. However, most of the day was spent inside working, it was snowy but it was also cold. I was trying to get my program to output the masses of the particles in my theory, with some success. That day, I also picked up a rather large parcel from college which contained a selection of new bike parts I had ordered since my freehub broke. I wouldn’t be able to install them until the snow cleared, however, as my workspace was my backyard, and it was not exactly accessible.

Wednesday was the heaviest of the snow, and I was out in it early, heading for an early morning real tennis match against Stuart. The rest of the day was spent in the lab with a pen and paper examining further the theoretical masses of all of the particles in my theory. This was followed by yet another teaching session, and I was now enjoying cycling through the snow quite a lot.

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After more snowfall on Thursday, I decided to try and make the most of it. During lunch at college, I tried to take as many nice-looking snowy-college photos as I could, skyping home to show off the uniqueness of the weather. After work, I wanted to ride in the snow, so I took my bike and rode south of Cambridge towards Grantchester. Not content with riding on icy bitumen paths, I went off-road through the snowy Grantchester meadows. I was piling through banks of snow, with bits of snow that were icy and other bits that were muddy. It took a fair bit of bike handling to make it through. I fell off twice, but that was on the icy roads before I got to the off-roads. I came back as it was getting dark, having rather enjoyed myself.

By Friday, the snow had simply become a fact of life, and the routine had resumed. I spent the day trying to make plots of the masses of my particles as a function of the input parameters. When this didn’t illuminate my problems, I moved on to examining the different physical processes operating in my models.

The snow came to an end on Saturday. When I left the house, the common and the riverbank were still covered in white snow. I was headed out to the Gates Day of Engagement, where scholars volunteer for a variety of charities for the day. I was assigned to go to Wintercomfort, which provides day services for homeless people in Cambridge. We were to give their kitchen a deep-clean. There were five of us there, and we were met by one of the service providers there. The first step was to clean out the cleaning cupboard, and reorganise it in a way to make it easier to use in the future. Once the centre closed for the day, we went up into the kitchen. The first step was to clear out everything from the kitchen, all of the plates and cutlery and cooking implements. We then put gloves on and cleaned everything from top to bottom. This meant scraping the services, cleaning out the oven, dusting, and other cleaning. Finally, we put everything back into its place ready for service the next week.

I rode home, now the snow had mostly melted, before heading out again to the GSCR. There, many of the people who had volunteered at all of the different projects over the day were meeting up for a bit of light refreshments, and to thank Mine for the work that she had done in preparation for the day. Many of us were going to head out to the West Road concert hall afterwards to see Joanna perform her ballet skills in Swan Lake. First, Andrea, Annalise, Jacqueline and I headed out to the supermarket to pick up some flowers for Joanna, where we met Danny who was also doing the same. We tried walking through King’s, but the back gate was locked, and we had to go around.

Joanna was performing with the University of Cambridge Ballet Society. She was one of the top dancers, as she had plenty of previous experience. She was to perform as the Black Swan in the second half of the performance. The society had both new, fresh dancers and seasoned, experienced dancers, so they were trying to give an even mix between the more skilled dancers and the newer ones. The best bits were exceptional, but there were moments of mediocrity. The largest disappointment was that they were using a recording for the music, which didn’t work all that well, even though the inconsistency of having a live orchestra would have been difficult for the new dancers. Joanna’s moment to shine came in the second half, and she really stole the show. She came out with so much attitude and skill, and amazed most of the audience. At the end, Andrea through out some flowers to her, and we all cheered like crazy.

The snow had cleared, just, by Sunday, when the Cambridge Half-Marathon was brought to us. The starting line was in the park next to us, and they were circling around our house most of the day. Jacqueline and I navigated the crowds and headed out to Churchill for brunch, after which I returned home and spent the day in watching the Strade Bianchi bike race from Italy. That evening, we had a relatively efficient Council meeting. Our week of snow was at an end.

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