A quiet week in Cambridge

July 27th, 2005

This week, I’m mostly supposed to be doing IT training, in a kind of informal way, with BAS’s IT staff. They’re a nice bunch, and I’m now aware of how Novell NetWare works, and how the Antarctic Message System transfers email between Cambridge and the bases. AMS goes back to the days before the permanent satellite link to the bases, and was originally designed to queue all the email and then exchange it over a £6/min Inmarsat dialup link twice or three times a day. Now it just acts as a buffer between the Cambridge GroupWise system and the local GroupWise email systems on each base.

I’ve also had a chance to play with a field-portable HF radio we’ve got on loan from a manufacturer. It’s a possible replacement for the old military sets we use at present. I took it back to Girton College last night (I’m staying at Girton this week) and had a listen to the amateur bands – I heard contacts from Moscow and (I think) South Africa – so I reckon the receiver’s all right. The reviews on the ‘net by enthusiastic amateurs suggest that it’s a good durable radio and I reckon it’ll probably suit us. Anyway, Chris (my boss) is back in tomorrow and we’ll see what he makes of it.

Girton College is a strange sort of place – a big Victorian neo-Gothic pile in red standstone. I reckon, having once been an all-women’s college, that it may have been the inspiration for Castle Adamant, the all-women’s university in Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta Princess Ida. It certainly looks the part with its tall conical tower and pointed arches. It was built in 1873, and Ida premiered in 1884, so it’s possible! My room is long, thin, and furnished with the kind of unstylish, well-worn furniture common to old student rooms everywhere. Staying at Girton has turned out cheaper than I’d originally expected (£15 a night!) and the food is really pretty reasonable indeed. Breakfast is copious and the evening meals are pretty good too, and at around £3, very good value.

Girton’s also hosting part of the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival at the moment – a performance of The Tempest is being held in one of the quads. I’ve not seen it yet, as the weather’s been inclement and I’ve somehow managed to be busy at the time when it starts. Maybe tomorrow.

RGS exhibition: “With Scott to the Pole”

July 22nd, 2005

Today I biked up to Kensington to the Royal Geographical Society’s shiny new building – it’s in Exhibition Road, next to Imperial College and the Albert Hall. They’ve got an exhibition on at the moment called “With Scott to the Pole” – it’s a small selection of the photographs taken whilst on Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole from 1910 to 1913. Most of the pictures were taken by Herbert Ponting, who was the official photographer. It’s a really excellent selection – you see the domesticity and the heroism of the explorers side by side. The pictures are accompanied by notes, usually including quotes from present-day explorers (Ranulph Fiennes, Mike Stroud, Pen Hadow, etc) and scientists talking about how Scott’s expedition pioneered a lot of the techniques still used in the Antarctic today, and how the scientific data they so painstakingly collected is of great value today in assessing climate change.
If you’ve got time, go and see it. It’s on until the 31st July. If you haven’t got time, the RGS’s archive of Antarctic pics is now online, including all the pictures from the Scott expedition.

Cycle routes from Addiscombe: Farleigh and Fickleshole

July 6th, 2005

This is about 10 miles (I haven’t measured it yet) and takes me about 90 minutes. It’s on the road and quite hilly.

Start at Upper Shirley Road, Map and proceed up the hill to the junction at the top. Turn right, crossing the tram-tracks, and immediately left into Ballards’ Way. The road descents steeply and you should take the third left into Crest Road. At the end of the road cross over and go down the footpath opposite. It says “no cycling” – you may or may not want to ignore that! Turn left at the end into Littleheath Road, and cycle uphill to the T-junction at the top. Turn right into Foxearth Road, and immediately left. You’re now at the traffic lights in Selsdon. Map
Go straight over into Old Farleigh Road, which has several ups and downs. Keep going until you pass through the GLA boundary and onto a plateau. The view opens up and you pass a couple of farms. Cycle on along the road and turn left by the Harrow Inn into Harrow Road.
From here, just keep going straight on at the next two junctions. Take the next left (it’s adjacent to a field with a reservoir in it) into a narrow road. Follow the road to a T-junction (by a farm with a big radio mast) and turn left. This is a slightly bigger road, but still quiet. Follow it until you come to the White Bear pub at Fickleshole. Turn left (signed Selsdon, Croydon) and go down the lane, passing the Scout camp and golf courses until you reach the traffic lights at the bottom. Turn right, and then go straight on at the roundabout. After the roundabout, turn immediately left (traffic lights) over the tramtracks and join the cycle path alongside the main road. About 50m further on, the cycle path branches – take the left fork and join Addington Village Road. At the church, join the main road and follow it round to the left and up Spout Hill, which is 1-in-6 but not very long. At the top of the hill, pass through the width restriction and onto Shirley Church Road, which brings you down hill to a pair of miniroundabouts: go straight through (first exit) on each one. At the end of the road it rejoins Upper Shirley Road. Fin.

Riding my bicycle!

July 6th, 2005

Why has it taken me so long to get back on my bike? I think I’ve been Too Busy and deluding myself that I wasn’t fit enough. Anyway, I dragged it from the shed last week and rode off to Halfords in search of some replacement handlebar grips. Whilst there, I obtained a discounted cycling jersey and shorts. What a difference! No more getting hot and sweaty going uphill, only to get cold and sweaty coming down again. I’ve now been out on the bike about half-a-dozen times, mostly first thing in the morning.