Sunday, June 25, 2006

May Week once more

Any week that ends with you having the champagne (well, Cava) stains dry-cleaned out of your pale linen suit has to be May Week.

For those who've not been lurking around this blog that long, or have but haven't paid much attention, May week is a week in June that celebrates the end of the academic year with Pimms-drenched garden parties and stay-til-dawn College balls.

This year I hit the garden party circuit harder, and kept myself to one college ball, going to the Caius (say "keys") Ball with a group of PhD mates.

That said, I may be getting old and jaded. I was feeling tired after just two days of steady-but-never-roaring-drunk drinking and pushinng on until dawn at the Caius ball felt particularly rough between about 2.30 and 4 am.

However, once dawn started to break around 4 (it hadn't been properly dark until 9.30 anyway) I perked up remarkably and went in search of a black coffee and steak sandwich. (As opposed to the mixture of voda and fruit juice that got me through the chill morning that followed the Jesus Ball last year.)

Caius is a gorgeous college and it was a good night (a photo of the college at dawn to the left).

Unfortunately, the weather wasn't 100% with us. A light misting rain was falling a lot of the night. It was that typically English rain that if you stood out in it long enough would never be heavy enough to soak you through, but you would start to grow moss. It was mostly only visible in the spotlights, but did put a dampner (no pun ...) on the outdoor activities.

Even the music venue tent wasn't totally spared: a gust of wind could send water crashing off its non-existent eaves onto anyone unfortunate enough to be at the fringes.

Still, good food, drink, company and some memorable comedy and music acts in a wonderful setting. Even if the dining room of the Senior Parlour looked mock Greco-Roman in a Las Vegas kind of a way ...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Fun in the sun in France

So Monday I got back from five glorious days in the South of France. I won’t bore you with too many details, just photos.

The basic day consisted of rising around 10 for a breakfast of fruit, yoghurt bread and honey. We'd then leave the house at the crack of noon, and zip off to stand in a ruined Cathar fortress on a mountain ridge for a bit, going “Oooh, pretty.”

This was usually followed shortly by, “Right. Where shall we go for lunch?”

This in turn lead to several hours of eating far too much and washing it down with litres of Rosé, before crawling home for a nap and a late cheese-platter dinner.

It was great to see Beth, Peter and Jasmine and Clay in particular was an absolute legend for doing all the driving. This really was the neglected Southeast of France where doing anything definitely required a car.

In fact, we were so far off the backpacker and American tourist trail that the village where we stayed wasn’t even listed in Wikipedia or google!

The low tourist population was probably just as well, as few of the ruins we went to seemed very strict about safety. You knew something had to be really dangerous if anyone had bothered to install a hand-rail, safety fence or warning sign.

My French even held up to a conversation with an old guy in the markets at Narbonne about what a nice hat I was wearing. There’s even a photo of me in it over here.

The only downside was I couldn’t find anywhere to check my bags for my last solo day in Perpignan before my Ryanair flight home, and lugging them around felt rather heavy – especially when I was also probably carrying some surplus food. I must’ve eaten eight days worth of food in five …

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Washing my underwear for France

Well, okay, maybe I should rephrase that. I doubt France has a terribly keen interest in my underwear.

I, however, after a day of fun-filled excitement at the IMO library now am packing for a five-day jaunt to France.

(Don’t knock the IMO, by the way, their headquarters are right by the Thames and they have a cafeteria with a roof garden with a stunning view of Westminster.)

Predictably, like all last-minute packers everywhere, I was short of underwear.

Anyway, that small crisis of hand-washing dealt with, I am travelling light, light, light. Just me, a day-pack and my ambiguously hand-bag-like, yet-still-manly shoulder-bag. No checked luggage for me!

I’m headed to Perpignan to join the Beth travel extravaganza in Padern for a bit. Should be awesome.

See you in a week, if I remember I still sort of have a blog.

PS The photo was from my IMO day trip, taken on the Albert Embankment, where I also saw (but stupidly forgot to take a photo) Met Police officers on mountain bikes practicing cycling down stairs, to the bemusement and delight of passing Japanese tourists.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Official charity plug: "Walk with a Rose"

The observant would have noticed the "official charity" bit I added to my sidebar last week. The curious might have asked "Walk with a Rose, what's all that about?"

"Walk with a Rose" was set up in my home town, Canberra.

It is an eight-week long walk from Brisbane to Canberra by Amy Banson to raise awareness of, and money for, acquired brain injury (ABI).

ABI refers to any brain injury acquired after birth, usually as a result of an accident.

It can result in symptoms such as memory and concentration problems, dependency, irritability, poor problem solving skills and depression. These may be mistaken for being lazy, childish or just hard to get along with.

What's important to realise is that people with a brain injury might exhibit no physical symptoms and still be unable to work or look after themselves.

The short of it is, over 340 000 Australians have an acquired brain injury, of these over 160 000 need daily assistance in living.

The majority of these, even the most profoundly disabled, will be cared for by loved ones at home.

Obviously, carers need a break, and there's a lot that could be done to expand respite care provision - especially at the best facilities that can offer Australians with brain injuries a genuine holiday themselves.

The aim of Walk with a Rose is to raise money to help pay for new facilities at existing respite care centres so more carers can get a break.

The walk's already attracted corporate support from ACTEW/AGL in Canberra and the endorsement of the National Brain Injury Foundation.

So if you were thinking of giving something to charity in the near future,
do consider the "Walk with a Rose" campaign.

More details and on-line donations at: