Monday was my last day in Australia, so it was time to say farewell to everybody. First, I drove over to Lobethal to take Nana to the bakery for morning tea. We got chatting about what I was planning on doing when I got back to the UK. From there, I drove down into the city and went into the university to do a little work and say goodbye to Andre, Zach, Rob and the rest. Most people had pulled up well from the wedding, and were straight back at work. I stayed for lunch and afternoon coffee, before farewelling them all and heading home again to farewell Dad before he left for work that evening. I then packed up all of my things, and Mum drove me out to the airport. Once again, I was on my own, for the long trip back to the UK.
Fortunately, neither the flight from Adelaide to Dubai nor the flight from Dubai to Stansted was full, so I had plenty of room to stretch out, watch some movies and relax. I also had a relatively quick layover in Dubai, and got back to Cambridge on Tuesday mid-afternoon. The next day, I met with my supervisor for some discussions on where my PhD was at and the work I had done over the last few weeks and months. I then spent part of the rest of the day trying to get back into some kind of tennis form for the weekend to come.
The whole weekend was consumed with the Real Tennis Inter-Universities Tournament, which was hosted by both Cambridge and Newmarket Real Tennis clubs. Over 60 players would represent nine universities across four days of play on three courts at two clubs in two tournaments. For me, the tournament began on Thursday afternoon. I spent part of the morning still trying to overcome jet lag and recover some kind of match fitness. However, when I arrived at the club, Newcastle and Middlesex universities had already arrived and were warming up. I was playing in the first match and the first group of the handicap singles tournament. This tournament consisted of 15 groups of four, the highest ranked in each group progressing to the knock-out phase. My tournament started very poorly, with a 2-5 loss to Charles from Newcastle, followed by a 4-5 loss to Hubie, also from Newcastle. That was a match I should have won, having been up 4-1, but the short format leaves not a lot of room for error. Already out of the tournament, I chalked up a win against Jack from Cambridge, but it wasn’t nearly enough. From our group, Hubie went through. I stayed around to mark (keep score) for the evening group.
I returned first thing in the morning on Friday. Personally, I had no matches on the Friday, but Jacqueline was playing, along with a number of other Cambridge players and so I wanted to support them. I spent the whole day in the Cambridge dedans, marking all of the matches on that court. First up was the first round of the Inter-University Cup. Here, teams of 2 play each other in a pair of singles matches and a doubles match, the best team across all three matches progressing to the next round. Jacqueline and Shruti were the lowest seed team, and they were drawn against Newcastle, who were about the same level as me. They didn’t last long, losing all three matches 8-0. After that, the rest of the day was the rest of the group stages from the handicap singles tournament. Jacqueline won two of her matches against players from Exeter, but lost to the only representative of St Mary’s University in London, an American on a 6 month exchange program. Word came through from Newmarket that Krittika had won two of her games, and narrowly lost her third, meaning she was in contention for wildcard qualification to the next round. I stayed on until the final group, which was meant to be the marquee group with all of the lowest handicapped players. This would have included a pair from Oxford, one player from Cambridge, and one player from Durham, but one of the Oxford pair withdrew with illness, and he was supposed to give a lift to the other player. That meant that he arrived late after walking from the train station, but still went on to win through his group.
On Saturday, the play resumed with the second and third rounds of the Inter-University Cup. I was playing with Jack in the Cambridge second team; we would enter in the third round around midday. Our match was against the Bristol pair of Louis and Jamie. While Jack beat Louis, I struggled against Jamie, who was that bit more consistent than me, and had a devastating serve. Which sent the fixture to the deciding doubles. But Jack and I were slow to start, that difference being enough to send Bristol through to the quarter finals.
I had no more tennis to play, but stayed on to help with the marking for the remaining matches. However, because many of the matches had been remarkably close, we were running very over time. The Handicap singles quarter finals were postponed to the following day, and we only just managed to complete the round of 16 before the end of the day. All of the top four seeds in the Cup managed to win through their quarter finals, setting up an exciting final day of tennis. From Cambridge, Krittika, Elle and Ivo all qualified through to the quarter finals of the handicap, and Ed and Jimmy were through in the Cup.
With all of the matches finished, I got on my bike and raced home to shower and change ready for the Gates Gala that evening at Madingley Hall. I also grabbed something to eat, before putting on my strong bike lights and heading for the hall. Most people take taxis to the hall, as it is in the first town out of Cambridge, but I was happy to ride. When I got there, I hastily did up my bow-tie and found some people I knew to chat to. My next task was to help bring in the ceilidh band, and help them set up in the main dining hall of the venue. At the time, that room was very crowded, but we managed to get in there.
Much of the rest of the night was spent chatting to friends or entertaining ourselves with the activities of the night. Naoki put on a fantastic yo-yo performance, and many people were keen to try out the Dance Arcade machine. There was also a fair bit of food to eat through, and people were very keen on the silent disco. It was basically one big party, and everybody was looking fantastic. But soon enough, it would be over, and I was tasked with collecting up all of the decorative candles. I then raced the taxis back into Cambridge, heading for bed and not the after parties.
Sunday was the last day of the inter-universities. Unfortunately, nobody form Cambridge made it through the quarter finals of the Handicap singles. Cambridge played Durham in the semi finals of the Cup, which resulted in a rather amusing display of self-chastising from Oliver from Durham. The final set up as an Oxford vs Cambridge affair, a preview of the varsity match in March. Ed did fantastically well to beat Rory from Oxford, for the first time in his life. But Jimmy couldn’t beat Charles, sending the cup to the deciding doubles, much like the Varsity match from earlier in the year. Oxford played slightly better to take victory in the cup.
My weekend wasn’t quite over. After heading home briefly, I headed out to the Council handover meeting, where Marina and Kevin were taking over from Margaret and Emma as president and vice-president of Council. I was continuing on my role of Treasurer, having been comfortably re-elected, and was eager to get to know the rest of the new Council.