Where was I? Ah yes, Wednesday: an exciting day because I marked some first-year lab notebooks! Just kidding, that wasn’t terribly exciting. I did get to go to an MCR/SCR Common Table, though! Translating from Cantabridgian into normal-person language, that’s a formal dinner in Hall with the fellows (SCR = Senior Combination Room) and their graduate student mentees (MCR = Middle Combination Room) sit together, as opposed to the traditional setup where the fellows sit at the high table with the Master and all the students sit at tables perpendicular to them (think Hogwarts’ Great Hall). My assigned SCR mentor, theoretical astrophysicist Christ Tout, invited me to this particular Common Table, so I got to see the inside of the SCR (the physical room this time), which was very fancy, and have some interesting conversations with fellows and graduate students while enjoying some really good food. Afterwards, I went back to the SCR and got the chance to talk to the Master, Prof. Dame Athene Donald, for the first time! I mostly managed to avoid fangirling too much (although I think the first words out of my mouth when my mentor introduced us were, “Hi, I read your blog“), and she was lovely to talk to, laughing at the idea (that I expressed) that I should have some data by now. I’m looking forward to the next Common Table very much (whenever it is).
Speaking of data, research is going reasonably well. I’ve moved to the stage where I’m spending less time at my desk and more time fiddling with equipment in the labs downstairs, which I think is a really good sign. My supervisor seems reasonably happy with my progress as well. Hopefully I can actually collect some data this week!
On to the weekend: I started things off on a high note by making banana pancakes based on this recipe, though I didn’t have any buckwheat flour, so I used my GF blend and more oats instead. They turned out pretty tasty; just the sort of thing you want in your belly before the planned 20-mile bike ride to Ely, an MCR-organized trip to see the cathedral and Christmas fair.
As it turns out, the bike route along the Cam that Google recommends has several miles of not-very-bikeable farmer’s fields to get through, so we cut across some more fields (going through a lot of mud and over a few stiles) to get to an actual bike path at Wicken.
It took us nearly four hours instead of the planned-for two, but we eventually made it to Ely!
Getting there was an adventure in itself, but Ely and its cathedral did not disappoint. Amanda (in her capacity of co-Academic Officer with Courtney) managed to get us on a later tour of the West Tower of the cathedral, as we had missed our assigned tour times. The West Tower is the taller of the cathedral’s two big towers, and climbing it was a minor ordeal for some, but fortunately our guide stopped a few times along the way to explain some of the architectural features.
The fog meant that we didn’t have a particularly good view of far-away sights, but it was still pretty cool looking down from the top on the surrounding town.
Afterward, most of us spent a little more time at the Christmas fair in and around the cathedral, which was mostly arts and crafts stalls. We checked out the architecture of the building as well, of course. I think the Norman style is quite lovely; suitably impressive without being overly ornate. The main renovations (stained glass windows, ceiling paintings, huge stoves to heat the place), completed in the Victorian era, mesh pretty well with the original stonework.
Sunday’s big event for me was dinner with almost all of my house, which I sort of ended up organizing. I got up early to get a little bit of work done, then bike to Aldi for some last-minute ingredients. When I came back, Amanda and I started on a giant pot of chili and did about half the simmering in the morning so that when we got back from our outings at around 5pm, dinner wouldn’t take forever to cook.
I also made a version of Scotch Toffee Bars in the morning so that they’d have time to set. By the time I was done with all the cooking and had eaten lunch, it was practically time to row! I’ll gloss over the details of that, except to say that I think we’re still making great progress but I’m still nervous for our first race this coming Sunday. We came back, slightly damp, and got cooking! Morgan and Amanda spearheaded the effort to make various delicious flavors of kale chips, Terence made a sweet, soupy rice dish as an extra dessert treat, and I kept an eye on the chili while nearly everyone else played poker in the living room.
I had to rush off afterwards to meet with my boat and help make costumes for next Sunday’s race (it’s fancy dress…), but failed to get any decent photos, so I’ll end things here.