Sunday, June 29, 2008

Oxford @night

I walked home tonight from movies. I was appalled by the dirt collected after a night out in Oxford. It seems a prerequisite to leave the bar/club drunk, not tipsy, not happy, drunk. Most people seem to stagger (with help) to a late night takeaway vendor and eat to satisfy those late night munchies and just discard the containers as they go. There seem to be a lack of bins and a mindset of cleaning up after themselves. I think the students here think there is always someone who will pick up after them. It makes the normally pretty street look like rubbish fills.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Police, protests and education

I was walking home today when I passed an animal rights protest happening in front of the science buildings. This isn't unusual apparently. There is a controversial new lab being built to test drugs on animals for cancer etc. The unusual thing was the ratio of people to police. It was 2 protesters to 1 police officer. The police officers even had cameras to record the event. Now i think that is overkill, obviously the miscreants of Oxford are not providing the police with enough work :)

On to my next discovery, the school and uni education system in the UK. At 16 you can leave school with O-levels, and learn a trade of sorts. Alternatively you can do your A-levels which is the equivalent of maybe halfway into our first yr at uni. Now this is when things get weird. At uni you pick a stream and stick with it, no dual majors in different faculties, the guys here were very confused how people managed lectures all over the city when they did business and science subjects. It just isn't done. No tailor-made degree programs here. I suddenly was very happy to have gone to UCT. The next is the exams. Turns out you write prelims at the end of first yr and then finals at the end of third yr. Prelims don't count and most courses only count the final exam, so the whole degree rests on 2 weeks worth of exams. That SUCKS.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Drowning in statistics

I drowned in statistics at a Royal Statistics Society day. The theme: Communicating uncertainty in Climate predictions. I hope to not see a summation sign for a few days. I'm going to have nightmares :(

In further news, I hate the tube during rush hour, the other people push and shove and I'm little and get squished. Its not a pleasant experience. I will avoid this if possible in future.

Beaches in the UK are now called coastlines

I refuse to call the British coastline beaches. A beach has sand. Norfolk places have pebbles or cobbles or whatever its referred to. It did however have a nice promenade to walk along. I didn't have the prerequisite icecream though, did the pub lunch thing instead. I have also officially played in the arcades at the beach. Weird experience and a money waster of note.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

On safari in Norwich

I have been walking around Norwich for the last 2 days with my cousins and aunt. St Paul's Cathedral is absolutely stunning with its sculpted ceilings and stained glass windows. There is a real sense of calmness about the place that is very soothing.

The Marketplace in the town centre is a group of now permanent structures with metal roofs, all painted to match the canvas of yesteryear. Very colourful though I'm not sure it works. Many of the businesses have been there for over 30 yrs.

After the conventional touristy things to do, I persuaded the rest of my family to come on elephant safari with me. I know, safari in Norwich, i've gone mad. Well, actually, there is an art exhibition called Go Elephants on that has decorated statues of elephants situated throughout Norwich starting today. There are 53 but I've only managed around 20+ atm.

Its the journey, not the destination

I arrived in Norwich yesterday after the most badly planned journey on my travels to date. I left Oxford at 5.10 in the morning, I was meant to catch the 4.10 bus but missed it by 10 mins. After being dropped off at Marble Arch I dashed to the tube station and practically jumped onto the tube as it was about to leave, I got to Liverpool St with 2 mins to departure time. After running to the correct platform (big hugs to helpful ppl) I made it on with 30 seconds to spare. Turns out I sat next to an Alzheimer's person. I think I was asked the same thing about 10 times.

All train/tubeworks tend to happen on weekends so my supposedly direct train detoured to a coach and back onto a train between Witham and Ipswitch. Arriving in Norwich was quite anticlimatic after that.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Lunch with a side of innuendo

I had lunch today at La Piaza Tapas Bar. Interesting selection of dishes. Nice to see Matthew again and I have found a lady who can compete with Ant in the innuendo stakes. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing :) Off to Norwich in the morning (4am start). I will remember my camera this time.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Oxford from above

If anyone has the chance to be in Oxford on a nice clear day (I know these are rare) I recommend doing the Tower view from St Marys behind the Radcliffe Camera. It costs 3gbp, but it is really worth it. Rob Garlick and I trekked up the twirly never ending stairs to see it for ourselves. Too bad I forgot my camera. I might go again and get pictures.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

UCT ppl in the strangest places

For those of you have ever thought it is a small world, I was beginning to doubt it. I hadn't randomly bumped into someone I knew since arriving in the UK, until today. For the CS crowd, I bumped into Matthew West on the way back from lunch in Oxford. He apparently works at the Maths Institute.

Do you think if we spread the UCT crowd around the world we could stage a coup and move for world domination? I think there are enough of us to create a well ordered plan.

I have a random question and the person who answers it logically gets chocolate/beer/wine when I get back. In the sci-fi genre, why are all the planets ruled as a single nation versus like Earth which is made up of individual countries. Do you think it is easier to write an idealised scenario?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bohemian with a side of goth

Camden Town seems to be a collection of bohemian market stalls with a few goth stalls thrown in for variety. I had a fantastic time wandering through the various markets on Chalk Farm road and meeting some of the truly eccentric store workers. One lady asked me my birth month before i looked around the stall and then chose a selection of clothes that i should like. It seems freaky that she was right.

Regents Park is very green and I had a great time watching the various soccer games that were on. Regents Park Football Club officially operates out of a tent pitched in between sectioned off pieces of park.

Liverpool Street and Petticoat lane was like going through Green Point Sunday market. Lots and load and touristy. One interesting thing to note is that this section seems to have the only fabric stores in London (and Oxford). A haberdashery seems to be a foreign concept. The theory(complements of Lily) is that the English have the disposable income to buy clothes and not make or repair items. Any other suggestions will be gladly welcomed.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Technique classes

I went to a dancesport team technique class today (well 1 hour ballroom and 1 hour latin). Learnt a cool tango step, a pivot and chasse. Rumba we learnt a technique routine: advanced hip twist into hockey stick, basic into 6 walks into syncopated hip thing into an alemana and start again. Killer on the feet, and no Vaughan I did not learn all guys steps to demonstrate when i get back.

For those of you interested in lesson costs here. A private lesson is 26gbp/hour. General class is 2gbp/hour per lesson. If you do the maths with how many classes we normally attend, we would be bankrupt in a few months.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


For those of you who appreciate the irony, I went to a cocktail bar/restaurant in a converted church over the weekend: Freud. Due to a clash of accents, mine and the waiters, my order was a bit different from what i thought i ordered for lunch. nm. Ordered a Lady Boy cocktail. Rose tequila and grenadine and stuff. Lily has a picture on her phone. The thing looked like pink froth.

pollen and planes

I thought I had escaped the spring pollen but it seems that the sunshine has brought out all the flowers and hence the pollen, hayfever sucks.

On another note, if you look up at the sky on clear days you see these weird stripes zigzagging across the otherwise blue hue. These are aeroplane tracks. From what the atmos ppl can tell me, when the planes fly through, they cause condensation and hey presto, white stripes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Homesick for the arbest things

After a few weeks here I am homesick for various things. Elgin Lemon Ice Tea, Fruit chews, Liquorice and obs cocktails. It seems that cocktails here are just not the same. After trying a variety of places, those who know me realise I only try the wine or cocktail menus at places, I have come to the conclusion that while CT cocktails are all about the amount of alcohol in the thing, bars here are all about the process and make a big production of making them. I'll take the alcohol versions anyday. I mean who doesn't want a Jamican Genocide or Tasmanian Devil or two?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Shiny medals

I partnered a dancer from OUDC today for a medal test: Silver Latin. There is video footage, not sure how good, but I might post it once I get it.

It is interesting how UCT differs from Oxford. At UCT we encourage family to come watch and make a day out of it. Oxford just gets on with it. You show up, fill out some forms and dance. There aren't extra practice classes beforehand, most people start thinking about doing a medal the week before. Melvin the guy I partnered worked out a routine last night!

This is the real difference over here. Dances are taught in routines and steps are added to the routine and built up over the year. I have come to appreciate Maureen's methods of learning a move and then the different ways of putting everything together, it creates a very free way to dance.

Friday, June 6, 2008

speedy speedy

My download mission is progressing smoothly. I have 50gb already done in 2 days.

Went to a latin technique class today. Interesting lesson. Haven't had to concentrate that much since ballet classes. I'm probably going to be sore tomorrow. Sean if you are reading this, you are a sadist who likes to amuse yourself watching other people squirm.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

looking back over my shoulder

I have become a victim of situation. Being in SA, you always look over your shoulder no matter what the time of day. We just do it, no real thought involved. Here I was asked why I kept looking all around me. Its instinctual and quite sad. You keep checking out the people and assess them as potential threats. Sad sad way to live.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

hell on wheels

Its official, the bicycles in Oxford are worse than the taxis in CT. They don't seem to care that there are pedestrian lights or people in the way. I nearly got ridden over by an over sixties lady today. One thing I have to applaud though is the girls who manage to cycle in heels. Some of the shoes I can't even keep on my feet when I'm on solid ground and they whiz through Oxford happily.

On a happier note, I was introduced to G&D Ice Cream Cafe. Now its not quite up to Hout Bay ice cream, nothing really is, but its got After Eight flavour and all these different toppings; fudge, hot choc fudge sauce, maple syrup, jelly bear, smarties, choc sprinkles. It is a true dieters nightmare. Thank goodness I don't have to worry about that :)

At the moment I am downloading the initial 20gb of data of 240gb due for Tuesday. 300kb/s beats SA hands down.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Rain go away

Its pissing with rain outside, has been all day. My supervisor sent me a message about something at uni and had to reply I was still in PJs and trying to work up the effort to bundle up and walk to varsity. He called it a Snoopy day - drink tea and stare out of the window - seems apt. I braved the weather and arrived here to be told they are forecasting floods in Oxford. charming.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ballet for All

Sunday dawned nice and gray, but not raining. This is important for all intrepid explorers of London. Warrick went to tennis and I wandered trough Covent Garden properly this time, looking at all the shops and watching the acts. Jubilee Market was packed.

Wandered down through Chinatown for lunch and then on to Trafalgar Square to grab a seat for the ballet. BP have this summer program where they set up big screens throughout the country with a live feed from the Royal Opera House. Sunday's was Romeo and Juliet. The organisers handed out inflatable pillows and rain covers. Beautiful performance, all 2 1/2 hours of it. Trafalgar square was packed to capacity for it. Needless to say I was late getting back to Oxford and dancing.

Walking London

I had grand plans for saturday that were ruined by delays on Mike's side. My improvised day included a walk down Oxford Street (it took an hour to do 1km) packed with sat shoppers. Wandered through Covent Garden to the Freed shop to look what shoes they had. Had lunch with Mike at Reef Cafe in Waterloo station, nice place but it was packed because the rugby was on that afternoon. I then walked across Lambeth bridge and visited Cornucopia, a vintage shop that is in Pimlico tube stop. The place is a nightmare of dresses and tops all out of size order but I managed to find a divine plum coloured chinese collar dress. Carried on my tour to the museums in Kensington. I was warned it would take forever in the Science Museum, but i assume that is when the 2nd floor is open. I went especially for the computer floor, which has Babbage's machine and a punch card computer only to find it is closed for redevelopment. MEH!

The V&A Museum is interesting and rather large, more so than I was told. Never quite made it all the way through before closing, so I will have to go back again :)

After the museum shut around me, I wandered in Harrods and through the different themed rooms, which are awesome btw, especially the Egyptian room. I thought I was in the deli section and actually ended up in the sweet hall. The place has an entire hall of sweets. Heaven. Managed to restrain myself to only a few jelly beans from the about 30 flavours they have (cream soda, toasted marshmallow, very cherry, strawberry cheesecake) and milk bottles. Best milk bottles ever.

Eventually made it to Warrick's and went to dinner at an Italian place round the corner with Rudi and Saadi(?). Fun times. My feet are so sore now.