Lots has been happening in the Campus Garden in the last couple of months, and I’ve been writing about it over on the Garden Soc blog. Go and have a read to find out about how we sold our first crop, finding edible plants on campus and to see more pictures.
The last month has been an interesting one. Certainly a lot has happened over Easter that has got me thinking about my long-term career prospects and even short-term goals.
To start with, the University has started an ‘Operational Review’ seemingly in an attempt to stifle research efforts and reduce the student experience all in the name of short-term cost-savings. My two cents is that the university should be investing in better marketing to entice new undergraduate students to Surrey instead of the other top universities with with we now compete due to increased entry requirements. But what do I know, every time students are ‘spoken down to’ regarding the changes, dumbing down information with meaningless metaphors and simply saying ‘don’t worry your little heads about it, let the adults work it out’. Frankly, it’s pathetic.
Moving on to something more exciting and positive, Emily and I went on a boating weekend in March. Just the two of us in the fresh midlands countryside gave us time to relax and get away from all the stress of operational reviews, thesis reports and conference deadlines. Life in the slow lane for 48 hours. It was bliss. To say I’m looking forward to this summer’s marathon boat trip to Bristol would be an understatement.
Back to PhD life again, and it was time for my thesis review at the end of March. This is a new report you have to write for your 2-year milestone. It caused much argument and debate between my supervisor and I for a good many weeks, resulting in a stale-mate where neither of us are happy with the outcome. I’m still unsure about what to do about this, but thankfully the head of department has been very helpful in moving things along, albeit with me still carrying more than a teaspoon full of scepticism. Alas.
I’ve been taking more of an interest in my personal fitness again. Stuart and I are still going climbing on a weekly basis and hoping to transcend to new heights by taking our skills outdoors very soon. I’ve been keenly going to weekly Roller Derby sessions, and went to cheer on the girls team in a game in Coventry a few weeks back.
By far my biggest achievement recently has been playing in my first Roller Derby game! It was a men’s rookie game made up of guys from various teams around the country. Playing with people I’d never met before in front of a crowd (containing my parents!) could be described as being “thown in at the deep end”, but Emily had made me a sign saying “BRING THE POWER” and I managed to score 14 points for my team! It was a great learning experience and I’m now eagerly awaiting my next chance to play.
If that wasn’t enough fitness news, I’m attempting Tough Mudder on Saturday. I say attempting because it’s a 12-mile military-style obstacle course and I’ve done next to no training. Should be a laugh. I might die.
Today Garden Soc went to the RHS Wisley garden. It was great to see how they organised their allotment (which is smaller than ours!) especially their compost bin which we’re hoping to replicate soon. I was surprised by the sheer variety of things to see over the 240 acre site – everything from herbs and heathers to ponds and bonsai. Favourites have to include watching wasps help pollination of flowers – I was literally mesmerised for about 20 minutes, and the butterfly house! Check out some of the photos below.
In the last 6 months I’ve managed to get myself involved in 3 weekly activities: garden society, roller derby and climbing. I’m really enjoying not only having a structure to my week, but also having regular social activities that feel far more productive that just sitting in the pub. Especially after a boring or stressful day it’s really rewarding to have a couple hours doing something different… and I probably couldn’t have picked three more varied activities.
Monday – Garden Soc
Next week marks the re-start of our weekly Garden Society meetings after our winter hiatus. We start back with a potluck event – inviting members to bring a dish to share along to the social, creating a kind of crowd-sourced tapas evening.
Last weekend we continued work in the polytunnel, reusing old pallet wood to make planting bed borders. It’s such a productive way of spending some of your weekend and it always makes me feel more relaxed when I get back to it on Monday morning.
Spring is fast approaching and there’s lots to look forward to. The last few months have seen the garden transformed from a plot of dying grass and weeds to a bed of sprouting onions!
Tuesday – Roller Derby
I started playing roller derby in May last year after the boys team organised a skate-a-marathon fundraiser around Goodwood racetrack. I had such an amazing time and everyone was so friendly that I knew I had to stick around.
Since then I’ve been attending weekly practice sessions and a couple months ago passed my minimum skills test in order to play on the actual team! I’m absolutely loving the challenge, and there’s nothing better to let out steam than smashing into a few people on roller skates. Hopefully this year I’ll get the chance to play in an official game.
Wednesday – Climbing
I’ve been climbing on and off now since I started university, but recently it’s had a revival of sorts. Mainly spurred on by my officemate Stu starting to climb, I’ve been going rather religiously for the last 8 months. We’ve even started lead climbing – essentially when you clip the rope to the wall as you climb up often resulting in some hairy moments where you’re frantically trying to clip in before you lose your hold and fall 8ft to your last clip. It’s really bought back the challenge and excitement that I felt when I first started climbing 6 years ago.
This year I’d like to go on more outdoor trips as well as upping my top rope grade from a 6b to a 7a.
In an ideal world I’d also like to do more swimming, especially in the mornings, as it’s proved really good before – but hey, it’s all just a matter of time.
Just a short post this week as final preparations are coming together for my trip to Paris next week. As I mentioned a few months ago, some of my work got accepted into the International Conference on Image Processing taking place next week in Paris, and now you can see my name in the program listing:
I’ll take lots of pictures for you all, and I’m taking my GoPro just in case :P
Speaking of GoPro, here’s the full timelapse for the Garden Soc Polytunnel building…
Can’t promise a post next week, but you never know,
As promised last week, I’ve got some videos taken with my new GoPro for you to pass through your cornea.
The first delight I have in store for you is footage taken at Craggy Island in Guildford – a large, indoor climbing centre with top rope and lead climbing walls. Since I’m new to the whole lead climbing malarkey, this video doesn’t exactly show the most extreme routes in the world, but for people who have never been climbing and want to see what it’s like, it’s a great insight into the whole thing.
I’ve also been testing out the timelapse function of the GoPro – where photos are taken at regular intervals and then stuck together to make a super-fast-forwarded video. I always thought timelapses of construction work looked super cool, so I timelapsed Garden Soc‘s 35ft polytunnel construction at the weekend.
The weekend started with a major setback when we discovered the builders had concreted the ground tubes in the wrong place, despite being given the polytunnel instructions and being explicitly told not to use concrete. We spent the first few hours digging out eight tubes (and their associated concrete blocks) and moving them all one foot to the right. Even still, by the end of the weekend we managed to get the polytunnel frame and sides complete with only the poly on the roof still to do – incredible progress considering the setback, and all thanks to literally dozens of volunteers who helped out despite the rainy conditions.
This weekend we’re going to get the polytunnel finished, as well as build a shed and some raised beds, so you can expect another timelapse very soon :P
For this week’s blog post I was going put together a short video of me and a few friends rock climbing, but due to the immense amount of things happening this week I just haven’t been able to edit the footage yet. Hopefully I get pull something together for next week when I have a bit more free time.
With the birthday money kindly gifted to me by my friends and family I bought a GoPro – a small, light, waterproof video camera.
It’s something I’ve wanted for ages now, and as soon as it arrived I wanted to start recording everything, starting with my rock climbing. With the head mount it’s easy to record someone climbing up a wall from their point of view, and it looks really cool! But the main reason I wanted the GoPro was for travelling. I’ve made a few travel video in the past, and it’s something I want to really push the boat out on for my next adventure!
As I mentioned last week, I’m involved with starting up a new community garden on campus, and over the last week there has been lots going on. We had an amazing response at freshers fayre, with over 200 students signing up to the society mailing list. Our first session was attended by over 30 people, who had lots of great ideas for the garden. It’s so great to have such an overwhelming response after estates and the whole committee worked so hard over the summer to make the freshers week deadline.