Research · Sport

Week 84: Day of Research, and visitors from Australia

Tuesday was the first day of May, which, after months of waiting, finally brought with it the proper start of the cricket season in Cambridge. After four months of training in the indoor nets at Fenner’s, the evening promised the first play outdoors on a grass pitch of the year. However, this wasn’t with the college team, rather, it was with the Cavendish departmental team. The team was playing a modified-rules friendly match at Churchill College grounds. We were divided up into pairs. Each pair would bat for five overs, with the loss of wickets counting as minus five runs, and wickets taken by the pair offering five runs to the pair. That way, across a team of 14 players, everyone could bat and bowl a bit. I was paired with Angad. We batted agressively; I hit a six form my second ball faced, but lost a couple of wickets which hurt our score a bit. Later on, I offered to keep wicket, and was involved in effecting a run out. We ended up coming second, with 25 points, behind the overall winners Matthew and Richard with 62 points.

Wednesday was another ordinary day at the Cavendish, but promised yet more cricket with the final training session for the Darwin College team before the first cuppers match against Trinity.

Thursday started well. It was the day of the Gates Day of Research. This was an event put together with much effort and strain by Kevin, the Gates Internal Officer, and showcases in a conference-like setting the work that Gates scholars do in their research. This year, it was hosted by Jesus College, instead of St John’s as it had been the previous year. There were four sessions in total throughout the day. The first session, the keynote, was given by one of the Gates Cambridge Trustees, who spoke about how to manage the competing interests of conducting and promoting research in the modern political era. It was a rather informal speech, and he used it to promote his new book, but he did speak to some poignant truths about the present political view of the academy.

After a short break for coffee, the exciting part of the day began: the talks by scholars themselves. In the first session, I went to hear Erica talking about her research on using the composition of music to promote empathy among medical students. This was then contrasted by Sharmila’s talk about current violations of human rights and the rise of chauvinist populism in the Philippines. Both topics were engaging, but sharply contrasted in levels of optimism. After a break for lunch, the third session began. This included the microtalks: ten minute presentations briefly summarising people’s research. At Kevin’s insistence, I presented a short presentation on what dark matter is, and how it fits into our current understanding of physics. There were other talks in the session about various topics including biology and philosophy. Finally, after a final coffee break, I went to a final panel session with Anna, Margaret and Sara who each had presentations on the way that we reflect on history, from the perspective of modern-day human trafficking, memorialisation of or against Stalinist Russia, and ancient Peruvian civilisations. Overall, it is always fascinating to hear about what other people research beyond the realm of the sciences.


After the Day of Research, my day took a turn for the worse. I went out to play a Cambridge League tennis match against Kevin, best of three sets. However, in just the first game of the first set, I went to play a ball and slipped backwards, hitting my head on the solid brick wall behind me. From there, I fell down onto the ground, sending people rushing over to see if I was okay. I didn’t lose consciousness, but wasn’t feeling the greatest, and withdrew from the rest of the match. After some deliberation, one of the pros drove me out to A&E, just to get checked up. Jacqueline came along as well, and after several hours in the waiting room, the doctors assessed me and told me to go home and rest.

I took Friday morning to rest and relax, and recover from my injury the previous day. Then, in the afternoon, I headed out to the Trinity College oval, where Darwin were playing Trinity in the first match of the season. The format was a Twenty20 match. Darwin won the toss and batted, with our captain and opener making a solid 50. However, we had something of a lower-order collapse, with one of their bowlers taking five wickets in the space of three overs. I was part of the collapse, getting bowled behind by legs for just one run. We set a target of 128 for Trinity to chase, and took early wickets, however, one of their batsmen put on a defiant stand. Eventually, he was dismissed with an over to play and Trinity needing four runs to win. With the field in close the last over was kept very tight, and by the last ball, Trinity needed one to tie and two to win. Unfortunately, the new batsmen managed to lift it over the infield for four, and won the game on the last ball. It was doubly disappointing for me, as whilst wicketkeeping, a ball bounced more than expected and knocked me on the forehead, with a lump starting to swell.

From cricket, I raced home and changed into my formal clothes, and managed to get to Downing college for the Gates Graduation formal. As a member of Council, I had been invited to help farewell the departing scholars. I arrived a little after the dinner had started, and after some confusion, found a seat next to Naomi. The food at Downing was decent, but their formal hall was rather unique compared to many others around Cambridge. The dinner ended with a well-received speech from Margaret, the Council president, and Barry, the provost of the Trust. After the dinner, and at Jacqueline and Annika’s insistence, Jacqueline and I headed back to the hospital to ensure that my new cricketing injury wasn’t too serious. It wasn’t, and the doctors again assessed me and told me to go home and rest.

On Saturday, I was expecting a visit from Rohan and Rosie, friends from back in Adelaide who were spending a year living in London. They had booked a trip up for the bank holiday weekend. They were arriving in the afternoon, and would be staying until Monday morning. So, stocked up on pain-killers, I headed out to greet them at the Cambridge railway station. In the morning, I met with Emma, Lilly and Anna to do the Orientation Handover, leaving the afternoon free for Rohan and Rosie. Their train was slightly delayed, but soon enough we were exchanging pleasantries for the first time in well over a year and a half. We walked back to our place, showing off Parker’s Piece as the origin of the first ever soccer game, and a place where hundreds of Brits were hanging out in the park. When we got home, we found that the house was buzzing. Annika, Emma, Margaret and her guest were attempting, with various levels of success, to design and bake an artisanal cake featuring a pair of otters. I was pleasantly impressed by the quality of their final product.

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Rohan, Rosie, Jacqueline and I then headed out to see some of Cambridge before the evening. I had hastily arranged with Annalise on Thursday to take my guests to a formal at Trinity College, and wanted to acquire a pair of gowns to help them into the Cambridge spirit. So we walked across town, taking in some of the famous sights of the old colleges, before Krittika kindly offered to let us borrow her and Kevin’s gowns. So we dropped by her place on the way back, before going to get dressed up for the evening.

We met Annalise outside the Trinity College Great Gate, and headed inside, with the sun setting on the sandstone buildings in the Great Court. Of course, we had to take the obligatory photos from the fountain in the centre of the Court, before heading in to pre-drinks near the hall. It was a chance to catch up with the two of them and socialise, before heading into the hall and sitting up near the front underneath the guise of Henry VIII. Rosie, having stayed at a residential college in Adelaide, found some of the formal hall ritual familiar, but it was all unique to Rohan. The formal was a so-called green formal, where all of the dishes served was vegan, a pleasant change from many of the other Cambridge formals were vegan food is an afterthought. After the formal, we walked around Nevile’s Court and a couple of the other sights of Trinity College, before heading back home for some rest.

The next day, after breakfast, we headed for Darwin College. I had booked out the college punts for the first time in the season, and we were going to go punting up the river. It was unseasonably warm, which draws out the tourists to the river. There were also a lot of drunk undergraduate students out celebrating before their exams, so as the morning went on, the river became more and more packed with boats. From Darwin, we headed downstream, taking in all of the sights of Cambridge from the river, including King’s Chapel and the Bridge of Sighs. When we got to Jesus Green, Jacqueline had a go at punting back to the Bridge Street bridge, and then Rohan took over up to the Bridge of Sighs. But by that point, the river was getting very, very busy, so Rohan asked if I could punt us back to Darwin.

Lunch came in the form of a Darwin Sunday Roast, eaten out on the college lawns in the warm sunshine. From there, we went out and did a few more of the touristy things in and around Cambridge. We went and explored King’s College, including wandering through the famous King’s College Chapel, and then headed through St John’s College to check out the Bridge of Sighs from close up. Our plan for the afternoon was to go to an evensong service at King’s College, but we had an hour to wait, so we went to a coffee shop and sat around chatting for a while. When the time came, we went over to the chapel, and observed the service, sung by the King’s College Choir, which excited and entertained both of my guests.

The warmth had made us all tired, so we headed back home for the evening. For food, we went to a local Indian restaurant. They had now seen almost all of the exciting parts of Cambridge, and were almost ready to return to normal life back in London. They stayed over on Sunday night, and in the morning, headed back to the train station and back to the big city.

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