Archive for March 22, 2009

Endgames

Posted in Biographical, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 22, 2009 by telescoper

I haven’t blogged for a few days largely because I’ve been too busy doing other things like teaching and writing grant applications. This is because we have a deadline for the Astronomy group‘s STFC rolling grant application coming up in early April. This is a complicated thing to put together and I’m glad I don’t have the responsibility to assemble the whole thing. I have been charged with the responsibility of putting together the section on cosmology, which should have been easier than it proved owing to the reluctance of some of my colleages to get their fingers out and provide their contributions.

We’re also reaching the end of the term, with the holidays starting on Friday 27th March. I can’t wait. This term seems to have gone on for ages. It’s certainly much longer than last year owing to the late arrival of Easter in 2009. For the second half of this semester I have to give some lectures on particle physics to the third years, which I enjoy doing, but preparing and delivering lectures does take up a lot of time and energy, even if it doesn’t appear that way to the students!

I don’t usually take holidays other than a few days here and there tacked onto the end of a conference, a long weekend here and there, or a few days off at home in the summer to do a spot of gardening. I don’t think I’ll go anywhere at Easter either but I’m definitely going to take some time off to do some things that need doing around the house.

Anyway, on Thursday night I have to fly to Ireland to give a talk on Friday at a meeting at Trinity College, Dublin, so my term finishes on Thursday afternoon. I can’t wait.

Speaking of Ireland, I must mention yesterday’s extraordinary scenes in Cardiff as the RBS Six Nations Rugby came to a close with a dramatic match between Ireland and Wales. Ireland had won all four of its previous matches against England, Scotland, France and Italy so was on the brink of a Grand Slam in this tournament for only the second time, the previous occasion being way back in 1948 when it was called the Five Nations; Italy joined in relatively recently (in 2000). Wales, on the other hand, had only lost one game this year (to France) so if they beat Ireland they stood a chance of winning the competition, although not with a Grand Slam of course. If two teams are level on the basis of games won, then the points tally is taken into consideration to decide the competition winner. Wales would have to beat Ireland by 13 clear points to take the Championship.

The importance of this sporting occasion, along with the glorious sunny weather, brought unbelievably huge crowds into Cardiff yesterday. The capacity of the magnificent Millennium Stadium is about 80,000 but I’m told that there were 3-4 Irish people without tickets for the match for every one that made it inside the ground. I think Dublin must have been a ghost town for the day. The streets of Cardiff were alive with red (Welsh) and green (Irish) colours, so much so that it was difficult to move around the City Centre all day yesterday, and well nigh impossible to get a drink in the heaving bars.

Because many Irish fans hadn’t booked hotels, there were rugby fans camping out on Pontcanna fields near my home, which is only about 15 minutes from the stadium. There’s a good number of pubs near where I live (no coincidence, I assure you) including one, The Half Way, which is a favourite haunt for sports fans. Yesterday it was packed out from 11am onwards, although the Wales-Ireland match didn’t start until 5.30pm.

After watching France thrash Italy in the first match of three on Saturday on my TV, I had been hoping to pop into the pub and have a pint while watching England play Scotland in the penultimate Six Nations match (for the Calcutta Cup) on the big screen, but there was no chance of getting a drink so I watched that one at home too. I don’t think a lone Englishman would have been a good thing to be in that crowd anyway! England managed to beat Scotland after putting in a good first-half performance, which meant that they would be second in the competition if Ireland won the Grand Slam. So then it was all set up nicely for the decider.

As it turned out, I think the pressure got to both sets of players and the match was a hectic scrappy affair riddled with errors by both teams. Unusually for rugby, half an hour passed before any points were scored as attack after attack ended with some form of breakdown, such as a knock-on or a penalty. By half time it was Wales who had inched ahead with two penalties to leave the score 6-0. However, after the break Ireland scored two converted tries in quick succession to make it 14-6. Then they seemed to lose their composure a bit and gave away a string of penalties, three of which were kicked for points by Welshman Stephen Jones. Suddenly Wales were ahead 15-14. With the clock running down, a quick drop goal from O’gara after smart work from the Irish pack left them in front 17-15.

But that wasn’t quite it. With no time left on the clock, Wales had a penalty in the centre of the field, so the last kick of the game could win it for them at 17-18. Stephen Jones, who had kicked all of Wales’ points in the game, gave it a big hoof but it was too far out and the ball fell short. Victory (17-15) and the Grand Slam went to Ireland.

The celebrating Irish fans flocked into Cardiff to enjoy their victory. Much drunkenness and out-of-tune singing followed up and down my street for the rest of the evening, but it had been a fine occasion and it was all in very good humour. The high spirits carried on until the early hours: I was woken up at 3.30am by the sound of a couple shagging on the bonnet of a car in front of my house. I peeped out through the blinds of my bedroom window to see what was going on. I can tell you it wasn’t a pretty sight, but it was certainly very funny. If I’d had a camcorder I would have posted the video..

Anyway, the end of the Six Nations together with the accompanying nocturnal fertility ritual, is yet another indication that Spring is here. The good weather has continued into today, but looks like we might be in for a bit of a change over the next few days.

It being Mothering Sunday (which is its proper name, not Mother’s Day) I was talking to my Mum (in Newcastle) on the phone today after her flowers arrived, and she told me that the weather there has already turned much colder.

We have now passed the Vernal Equinox, which actually happened on Friday 20th March this year. This makes it officially Spring, I guess, and the only remaining formality of this transition is that we switch to British Summer Time from Greenwich Mean Time next weekend.

Finally, in this embarrassingly rambling post, caused no doubt by the fact I didn’t sleep well last night owing to things going bump in the night, I remembered that one of my first blog posts was inspired by the Autumnal Equinox last September, which also happened during a period of clement weather.

This tale of two Equinoxes tells me I have now been blogging for over 6 months. I didn’t think I’d spend as much time doing this as has turned out to be the case, but I have to admit I’ve found it quite addictive. I also didn’t imagine when I started that I’d get so many readers.

So for the time being it’s cheerio, and thanks for all the hits!

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