Week 110: Mental Health in Academia and Margaret’s ‘Divorce’ Party

The week began as normal; working both in the Gates room and at my department, with the usual lunch at college. On Monday evening, I went out to support Jacqueline in her Graduate Cup tennis match against Raymond. That tournament is a handicapped tournament, and so Jacqueline only needed two points to win any and every game, and her opponent only had one serve, needed to win seven points for the game, and was only allowed to hit the ball into a narrow part of the court. That advantage put too much pressure on him, and he faulted often, leading Jacqueline to comfortably win the match 8-0. The week continued well from there, with some more teaching on the Tuesday afternoon.

Friday was a day of back and forth. After a quick hit of tennis in the morning, I met up with Lily at a cafe in town to go over the accounts for the Orientation trip. I needed to make sure that all of the payments had indeed been made, and that what I had listed as paid agreed with Lily’s list. It took us some time to go through it all, but we eventually agreed on the books. After a quick lunch, I headed out for teaching at Mill Lane. It began the third week of teaching, and things were starting to get a little more complicated for the freshers, but most still breezed through it, meaning I could get out slightly early.

I went home briefly, to find Emma sitting on the couch mulling about the decorations for Margaret’s party that evening. I suggested a piñata, which sparked her inspiration. Not having time to make papier-mâché, she carefully crafted a target out of a cardboard box we had lying around, and went off to Poundland to get some treats for the inside. In the meantime, I headed out to a talk in the GSCR that Jacqueline had organised with Santa Ono, who is the current vice-chancellor at UBC in Vancouver. He was giving a presentation on mental health in academia, which was both personal and inspiring. After grabbing food, we left to go to Margaret’s party.

When we arrived, the party was already going strong. The reason she was celebrating was kind of convoluted; the party was ostensibly held as her partner in Vanuatu had filed the paperwork to divorce his estranged Chinese wife. As such, much of the party was a rebellion against the institutions of marriage. Soon after we arrived, it was time for the piñata, which Emma had carefully crafted into the shape of an engagement ring, with the help of a little tinsel. We didn’t have a string to hang it from, but instead found a garden hose, and so Danny and I strung the ring onto the hose and held it up for people to bash with the wrong end of a hammer, which we had also found lying around. Everyone took turns hitting the piñata, some hitting harder than others. However, during this process, Annika arrived and was told to unleash her aggression about her PhD onto the candy-filled cardboard ring. She did so, smashing it to pieces and giving Danny a fright for his life. Slightly embarrassed, she calmed down and picked up the candy. The party continued well into the night, though I grew sleepy quickly and headed across the river to home, just after we shared in Emma’s cake.

By Saturday, it was time for another Real Tennis Club match. Throughout the year, the tennis club hosts other clubs who are visiting for the day, as well as groups of enthusiasts loosely banded together. Today was no exception, we were visited by the Jesters. The Jesters are a group of enthusiasts not just of real tennis, but of racquet sports more generally, including squash, fives, rackets and padel. However, confusingly, a number of the players for the Jesters were also members at Cambridge, so the organisers had the luxury of choosing who was representing who once the match results were decided; fixing the club score at Cambridge 3, Jesters 3. I played one match against Christie, the fixtures secretary for Cambridge. Although I managed to push it to three sets, I didn’t have an answer to his excellent serving and couldn’t hold my own serve for nearly long enough, losing 3-6, 6-4, 3-6. The hosts did, however, bring along some excellent lunch! Finally, Sunday was just a lazy day at home relaxing and unwinding from the week.


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