07 September 2008

'If there's one thing you can say about man-kind, there's nothing kind about man'

You may recognise that I am having a Tom Waits period. Fear not, my faith in mankind has not been crushed entirely! His 'dulcit' tones are the soundtrack to this post, and I couldn't think of a better title, although it's not quite as amusing if you don't 'sing' it like he does! Maybe my new theme for post titles will have to be classic Tom Waits lines. That man is a musical genius!

Not much been going on round this neck of the woods, but I'll try to hussle up a couple of stories. Just about surviving a legendarily crappy English 'summer'. I've been promising Sean an Indian summer for a couple of months now, but what we currently have is flash flooding. Nice to know the man upstairs has a sense of humour! Been to Bath, an ancient Roman city right next to Bristol, twice in the last couple of weeks, so can show you a couple of photos. As the name might suggest it was the site of Roman spa baths so my mum and I went for a lovely relaxing girly trip to marinade ourselves. The week before Sean and I had done the opposite of a relaxing trip by cycling there and back! There's a cycle path which follows an old trainline, which, whilst pleasantly hill-free, is pretty long at 16 miles. My intention was to cycle there, and then take a leisurely trainride back. Sean had other ideas and convinced me to cycle home again too - so it was a 35 mile trip once we'd also cycled up and down the hill to uni. We were knackered that night, but not at all achy the next day, which was a pretty proud moment - all those morning hill climbs must be paying off!
Here's a cuppla photos:

Bristol seems to be king of the festivals, with harbour, balloon and kite festivals already this summer. The Bristol Balloon festival is particularly nice, with hundreds of balloons taking part in a mass ascent. Unfortunately the weather prevented all but one of the evening flights, but below is a shot of the one that made it, although the resolution doesn't do justice to the number of balloons and majesty of the event. My poor schedule reading skills meant we missed out on seeing the 'night glow' where anchored balloons light up their flames in time to music with fireworks, but we did get to see the red arrows. The kite festival we also missed, although ironically whilst it was the wind (and rain for that matter) that brought the balloon festival down, there was a distinct lack of wind on the weekend of the kite festival. More evidence for God's sense of humour!

And in other news, to cheer myself up in a brief moment of glum (regarding other kittens which I don't think I've ever mentioned) I wrote to the guys who took our little cuties, Monty and Grey (now Lucy) and...got photos! They definately look a bit bigger and more grown up, but look as happy as ever. Evidently enjoying each other's company/killing each other as much as ever. And they have their very own little tent - something we never afforded them, so they've obviously landed on their feet with their new owners! Lovely to see that we did the right thing by at least some of the 'maison de bonheur' kittens.

So yeah, no other tales really. I'll have to start writing a few posts about ideas and thoughts, rather than waiting for interesting stories, which are relatively few and far between! Hope ya'll are well.

29 July 2008

Procrastination Entertainment Service

There have been complaints amongst the crowd that I am not providing adequate thesis procrastination distraction - a well-observed complaint. My apologies go to you, my favourite bovine biomass expert. Soon to be Dr Bovine Biomass Expert.

Well, Sean arrived a couple of weeks ago, so we've been doing all sorts of exploring and fun stuff. He's met all the family and a lot of my mates, and can even remember most of the names! After pouring down with rain solidly for a week and a half (during which time he complained continuously) the summer has finally returned so he's more keen on England now. We've been having a lot of post-work, beer-garden beers which always helps. And there are lots of wicked bands for us to see. Including a ridiculous weekend of fun this last weekend involving my personal favourite live band - Kora - as well as Lyrics Born who we've wanted to see for ages (and who I subjected Dr BBE to many times in the lab). And boy did both Kora and Lyrics Born kick some bootie! By the end I ached all over from dancing like a crazy fool at the front at both! There's a couple of photos below. Lyrics Born was playing on a boat venue in Bristol which was pretty small giving the gig a very intimate feel (he bashed me a couple of times in our combined crazy dancing!). And Kora were there usual simply fabulous selves. The crowd was about 90% Kiwis which made me a bit 'home'-sick for NZ! Got Kings of Leon, Goldfrapp, Roots Manuva and a pile of other great acts to look forward to as well and we were even too lazy to go back to London to see Manu Chao - I love being back in Europe!

The fabulous Thekla - the boat venue LB played on, complete with authentic Banksy painted on the side (that white dot - couldn't get a close up this time, but I'll try to get one - must have been a bit of a logistical coup to get grafitti on the river side of a boat!)

We really were right next to LB!

Get down!

My favourite bro's driving the crowd mad

Atmospheric scene at the Kora gig (get back on there Brad!)

The slug battle seems to be finally coming to an end. Whilst my efforts were partly responsible, we suddenly have a load of frogs living in our garden, and I'd say they're helping us out. We can even hear them croaking away in the evening. And we have our first courgette!

We've been keeping our eye out for banksy's and have seen a couple - including this one which is just down the road from uni, but it still took me 3 months to notice! It's next to the children's hospital - I didn't realise before but he often designs his graffiti to tie in with a nearby landmark.

So yeah, life in Brizzle is treating us well. Missing a lot about NZ, but the novelty of being back, the excellent entertainment, plus the fact it's STILL summer (a double summer really is a bit surreal and winter will be tough I suspect!) stops me missing it too much. I'm missing a lot of people though - y'all know who you are!

And on that note, hope all's well with you all.

PS Right, there you go, young lady. Now GET BACK TO YOUR THESIS YOU SLACKER! (you may make a cup of coffee first though)

18 June 2008

Settling in

At this rate of posting everyone will bugger off, and quite rightly! Things are mostly going well here and I'm settling in pretty well. Our flat still isn't completely sorted, but I have now lovingly planted out a variety of slug foods, also known as vegetables. I like to avoid killing critters unnecessarily so have discovered an exciting new passtime - snail picking. This is where I lovingly 'rehome' snails and slugs from my back garden, to my front garden, where they can't do much damage. And despite having quite literally taken hundreds of them out in the first few weeks after I cleared the garden, I still managed to pick at least 50 of the little darlings tonight. Apparently they don't much like if you put eggshells around your plants, so I've been eating a lot of omelettes. It may be helping a bit, but while you're picking snails off the eggshells you begin to wonder. Must say, if we'd had the same slug problems in NZ I doubt we'd have got as into growing veggies - it certainly takes the shine off it!

Otherwise life in the new flat is ok. I've only ever lived on my own for 6 weeks before this; I went partially mad then and I'm probably getting a little loco now too. It's the talking to yourself which is the big worry! Sean arrives in early July, so hopefully my sanity will return then! Been spending a lot of time at uni anyway, after having decided not to spend so much time working when I finished my phd. I figure it's ok cos there's nothing much for me to do at home except talk to myself, and the snails, but when Sean gets here there will be no more late evenings in the lab. I intend to take full advantage of the fantastic local pub at the bottom of our road and to develop a beer belly. They do great pie and mash there too! One of the things I complained most bitterly about in NZ was the lack of small local pubs that you can just have a quiet midweek pint in, so to have one of the nicest little pubs I've been in as our local is a bit of a result! They even do a really tasty local beer (as well as local ciders, which I still don't feel I'm ready for).

I haven't seen Bristol's most famous (indeed, realistically, only) tourist attraction; the suspension bridge, but I promise to bring you a photo of this fine piece of British architecture as soon as I can be bothered to cycle over there. Well I'm actually lying, I can see the very top of the bridge from the end of my road (we're on a hill), but that doesn't count. Bristol is quite a nice looking city, not entirely dissimilar to Sheffield (where i did my undergrad). Lovely rows of terraced houses, often painted bright colours. There's a nice, I guess, cathedral thingie (I've only seen it at speed as I come hurtling down the hill on my bike) as well. The city shopping centre is an absolute dive though - very depressing place somehow. Actually that may be partly for another reason. I've discovered recently that my increasing awareness of ways to limit my impact on the environment has taken all the fun out of shopping. Bugger! I finally now get paid properly so I could buy any clothes I wanted (well, within reason) but I find myself saying - yeah but do I need this? Where was it made? Where were the raw materials grown? Do I not already have something similar? And before I know it I've spent hours wandering round the shops and couldn't find anything that I 'needed' enough to get rid of the guilt! Now realistically, this is an entirely healthy position to find myself in - I DO have plenty of clothes already, and I DON'T need any more. But I still hate it, there's no joy in shopping anymore!

Work's going ok. I'm feeding my bugs some special precursors to see if they put them into their natural products, which I reckon is kinda cool! Never done anything like that before. The people are all cool, although there is definately a bit of politics and eggshells you have to avoid treading on in the group it seems. Still, they're all very welcoming and it's quite a giggle usually.

Well, I'd like to have some photos to show ya'll Brizzol and our new flat and stuff, but I don't so it'll have to be in the next exciting installment! Hope all's well with you all.

22 May 2008

I haven’t updated for ages because life has been ridiculously manic! A month and a hlaf ago I finished my PhD, and since then I’ve corrected and submitted my final thesis, submitted a paper for publication (and unfortunately had it rejected), been for a week holiday with my parents in NZ, graduated, sold all my stuff, packed up and sorted all my life out ready to leave NZ, left NZ, had a couple of flying visits to family and friends, moved to Bristol, found a flat, moved into it, been cleaning all the stuff that the landlord was too lazy to do (which is a lot), turned the garden from a jungle back into a garden and started my new job! That’s a long sentence, cos it’s been a long month and a half!

The holiday with my parents was great – one last cruise round the south island before leaving. We did stuff I’d never usually do, which was great – like fishing (my dad caught a big red snapper which made a fantastic lunch!) and horse-riding (with me on the one who thought he was a race horse!). Also got a chance to go see an ‘exhibition’ organised by Banksy and other street artists in London. They took over a tunnel and sprayed on most available surfaces! Plus there were installations and stuff, like a tree filled with CCTV cameras including a nest with baby cameras in! Random other artists could come in during the day and do their own work wherever they wanted, so you could see people working on it too.

The new job is going well, with really friendly people in my office. Already been out for drinkies a couple of times with them and got invited over for a fantastic home-cooked traditional English roast! It’s gonna take a long while to get the research up and running cos the cells I’ll be working with take a week to get to the useful stage! Plus there’s equipment which I’ll need which isn’t ready yet, but I’m keeping myself out of mischief.

The new flat is nice, although it takes a while to make it feel like home. We have our own garden which needs A LOT of work, but is slowly getting there. Hopefully the veggies will be in soon, and hopefully I can find a way to keep the MILLIONS of snails away from them. I’ve never seen so many snails in my whole life.

Well, I did get a few nice photos along the way this month, so here ya go:

Dad captured this photo of a fantail - he also got lots of shots of branches upon which a fantail had once sat! They're fast little buggers!

Kayaking in the Marlborough sounds

He also caught this impressive fish, which made a SUPERB lunch!

And dad ALSO captured this once in a lifetime shot of a dolphin in the Abel Tasman region.

And a couple of pieces at Banksy's street art exhibition:

01 April 2008

That's Dr Murphy to you lot!

So guess who's now a Dr?! I had my final exam yesterday and a minor hangover today! Gave a talk in front of the department first, and here I am in full flow:

Then after lunch, I had a two and a half exam which went mostly well, except for a couple of questions that threw me, but most was fine. Then when I came out I got given a VERY tasty bottle of champagne by Sean, which unfortunately I ended up drinking three glasses of! Couple of photos of the momentous occasion below!

Me with my thesis and bottle of champagne at the desk that was my home for 4 years.

26 March 2008

Long time, no blog

It's been manic here, which explains my lack of blog activity. Despite the fact that stress levels were going to be increased exponentially as a result, I decided to go to Glenorchy (near Queenstown) to do a walk I've been keen to do since I got here - the Dart-Rees track. It was a four day tramp, which took a fair chuck of time away, leaving my extensive list of things-to-do-before-I-can-leave-the-country undone. It was worth it though, with great views, ideal weather and great fun. Seemed that every mountain down there had its own glacier. Was a pretty tough walk covering something like 60km (I think), but without any electricity, and being too lazy to make friends with my fellow trampers meant I got 11 hours of sleep every night!

Now I'm back in chch and facing the carnage which is the next couple of weeks. I have my final PhD exam as well as an hour seminar to give to the department next Monday, plus papers and lab work to finish and packing up my life before heading home. Can't complain though - I'll be taking some more holidays with my parents who are visiting soon, before heading for the mothership.

Oh yeah, and go on Monty Panesar!

Anyway, so here's some photos of the trip. Wish me luck next week! Hopefully by then I'll be a doctor!

Rees valley

Lucky cows

Top of the glacier-formed Rees valley

Over the saddle and looking down into the top of the Dart valley

Dart glacier

Further down the Dart valley

Dart river

View back to towards Glenorchy

25 February 2008

Goodbye little buddies

On Saturday we bade a very teary farewell to our lovely little cats, Monty and Grey, who adopted us a year ago. We found them a great home with two lovely people and apparently they're settling in very well. Of course that doesn't make up for the big hole they've left in our lives. They were so much a part of the life in our house that it seems really quiet and sad without their friendly faces. They were great buddies to have around during the stress of a PhD. Well here's a last couple of photos of them.

A slightly teary goodbye

Fair trade fortnight

Apparently it's fair trade fortnight in the UK, so I thought I'd mention it. I heard somewhere (although I can't back it up) that the UK is one of the forerunners with fair trade products and that we buy more than any other country. Good on us! It's certainly gaining ground here in NZ, and our uni just went 100% fair trade coffee across campus. Can't get fair trade bananas here though, so there's room for improvement.

Not that long ago, a major portion of a families income would be spent on food but these days its a very small proportion (haven't got the figures, but there was an article on BBC news about it a wee while back). Admittedly we now spend a lot more money on housing costs, but our attitudes have changed to thinking that it's our right to have a new mobile phone and a big TV and a etc etc. I admit to liking being able to have quite a lot of luxuries in my life, but we should probably start to remember that they are actually just bonuses and to be able to eat a huge array of great food (and indeed we throw large portions of it away) is a privilage we shouldn't take for granted. We should be willing to pay a fair price for our food, both from a social point of view (ie fair trade) but also an environmental point of view. If we spent more on our food we'd have less money to spend on junk that we really don't need and we'd only buy those luxuries that were genuinely important to us.

It should go without saying that all trade should be fair so lets support it.