The highlight of Monday, aside from the regular bit of work in the department and lunch at college, was that it was time for the Orientation Co-Director interviews. As I had served as Co-Director last year, it was time to choose the next year’s position. I was to be sitting on a panel with Emma, the other Co-Director and now Vice-president, Margaret, the President and other members of Council. We met up in the GSCR after dinner, and heard from the candidates one by one, asking them the pre-arranged questions and listening to and evaluating the responses. Of the three candidates, two stood out and the panel was unanimous in their decision of the new Co-directors. The only thing remaining was the hand-over meeting, but that wouldn’t be for a few more weeks.
On Tuesday, I intended to head to London to vote in the state election back home in Australia. I had been to the High Commission when in London on Sunday, but it had been closed, and I intended to try again. After a brief visit to the department in the morning, I went out to lunch in college, and then to a pre-arranged tennis match against Andrew. This turned out to be an hour later than I had put in my calendar, and so it wasn’t until mid-afternoon that I actually arrived at the train station. I caught the train to Liverpool Street, as it was marginally cheaper than King’s Cross, and had my bike with me. Once I came into London, I cycled through the City, past St Paul’s, down Fleet Street and onto the Strand, where the Australian High Commission was located. I found a bike park, and came to the door. The person at the concierge told me to go around to the other side, but I couldn’t find another open door. Eventually a security guard came to tell me that the voting had closed for the day, and to come back tomorrow. The time was 4:30 pm, the electoral commission website had suggested it would have been open until 5 pm. Nonetheless, my trip to London was now rendered pointless, so I rode back to Liverpool Street to catch my train back to Cambridge. However, the station staff wouldn’t let me board a train with the ticket class I had and my bike until after 7 pm, so I sat around in London for another few hours before heading back to Cambridge.
On Wednesday, I planned to try and vote for a third time. I headed in to the department in the morning for the regular weekly meeting, then headed straight to the train station, so as to make sure I had plenty of time to get to the High Commission. I followed the same path as the previous day, but this time I arrived in the mid-afternoon. There was one party volunteer I was directed up to the third floor of the High Commission, where the South Australian government was based. It was very clear that this was the South Australian office; the walls were adorned with framed jerseys of the Adelaidean football teams, place names from across South Australia written up on the dividing glass, and bottles of the top end South Australian wines and beers hanging from the ceiling. I was met by a lady from the office staff, who took my details and collected the ballot papers for my local district. I spent time filling out all of the details on the ballot paper, before sealing it in a declaration vote envelope and placing it into the ballot box. My vote now cast, I headed back for Cambridge, where Jacqueline and I had sausages for dinner, commemorating elections back in Australia. Finally, I went out to cricket training in the evening for one of my most successful attempts at bowling and batting of the year.
Thursday was the date that, as with every term, I had to head down to the Gates office and sign a form confirming that I was indeed still in the country and indeed still studying (even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes) in order to get my next maintenance payment. After spending the rest of the day in the department, the evening was spent playing tennis for my Cambridge League team, where three members of my team play three members from the other team in a best-of-three set singles match. I lost badly, but the other two players in my team won their matches and we won the tie overall 2-1. My team would now be placed second in the division about a third of the way through the season. This was followed by a rather nice dinner put on by the opposition.
Friday was similar, another day of not very exciting work, but the highlight would again come at the end of the day. The Gates Social officers had done a wonderful job in organising a ceilidh for St Patrick’s Day eve at the Cambridge Union. As a member of council, I had volunteered to help out at the door, handing out wristbands to those attending. I ended up staying on the door much longer than I was intending as Chris gave me some tickers to keep track of people going in and out, which I found rather fun.
I began Saturday morning by following the South Australian election coverage, which owing to a redistribution resulted with the opposition Liberals winning government, despite a swing to the governing Labor party, and the third party challenger falling well short of winning seats. This was followed by following the Milan-San Remo bike race, which was particularly exciting owing to a very late attack by the local favourite. I also managed to get out into the garden, finally, and plant some seeds that I had been keeping for when the weather got warmer. Outdoors, I covered the plants in a fleece tunnel, which I had had since the last time it snowed a few weeks ago. I also planted a few plants inside in pots on the kitchen windowsill.
I finally left the house in the evening, to meet up with Krittika, Annalise and Jacqueline. We had entered a 90’s themed pub quiz by the South Asian society at the Cambridge Union. Personally, I struggled, as a lot of the questions referred to things that happened before I was born. Importantly, though, we didn’t come last. Afterwards, we headed out to Annalise’s place to do a few crosswords and play a few card games.
On Sunday, Krittika and I were due to make a trip to Essex to continue touring around the world’s Real Tennis court. Today was a trip to Prested Hall, south of Colchester. We met at the Cambridge train station at 9 in the morning, amidst the cold and snow that had fallen overnight. The countryside had once again been covered in white, that would slowly melt and clear up late in the day. We took the train to Ipswich, with our bikes on board, and had enough time to get a coffee from Starbucks before connecting on to a second train to Colchester. This was a high-speed train, but was almost empty when we were on board. Finally, we had a few minutes to transfer onto the final train which took us to Kelvedon, a small town in rural Essex.
We had some time to spend before we needed to be at the tennis club, so we found a sandwich bar in the centre of town, which sold rather cheap but very juicy burgers. The Prested Hall Tennis Club was just out of town, so we rode over there, still with snow covering the countryside. Prested Hall is one of the newest real tennis clubs in the world, being less than 20 years old. It is connected to a hotel, spa and gym, so there were plenty of people around who weren’t playing tennis. We walked inside, and were directed to the courts. Prested is one of only a handful of clubs worldwide that have two courts. The main “show” court featured a glass back wall, were spectators got a unique view of the players on court. We met Rob Fahey, who won the World Championship 12 times between 1994 and 2014, and would be competing again in a month’s time. He was very friendly, and introduced us to our opponents for the day.
I was playing first, on the main court, against a guy called Melvyn. I found the court difficult to judge, as the bounce was a lot less than I was used to and the balls didn’t grip and spin as much either. It was rather punishing of poor technique, which meant I had to fight hard, but ended up losing the match. The other confusing feature was the green and blue stripey floor which was dazzling to the eye.
Krittika started on the second court halfway through my match, and so when I finished my first match, I went over to watch. After another half hour, Krittika’s match finished and my second match started. I was playing another local called Simon. This court played a little more normally, but was coloured a bright orange. It felt a lot more like a warm-up court, by the way the grill and galleries were constructed. Finally, Krittika still had to finish her match on the main court, which ended in a draw. Our matches all completed, we headed home via three trains back to Cambridge, where Jacqueline had made shepherd’s pie.
Sunday ended once again with a Council meeting, which featured two scholar support fund applications that took a lot of our time, followed by a quick run-through of the other portfolios, and a picture of Council taken for the Scholar magazine.