Archive for May 25, 2009

Catching Up

Posted in Biographical with tags , , , on May 25, 2009 by telescoper

I’ve been away for a few days leading up to the Whitsuntide bank holiday so I thought I’d just throw together a quick post catching up on two or three things.

First, we’re all  indebted to Ed and Haley for putting together this video of the Herschel-Planck launch party a couple of weeks ago. I think it’s very nicely done, despite the fact that I’m in it. In fact, some trick of the lens makes me appear slightly drunk. I don’t know how that can have happened.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the fine folks at the University of Sussex Astronomy Centre for inviting me to give a seminar there on Friday and also laying on such fine hospitality, in the form of an excellent curry afterwards. They also put me up in the splendid Cavalaire hotel (run by Derek and Garry) which is comfortable, friendly and, well, just very Brighton

I did my graduate studies at Sussex, getting my DPhil there about 20 years ago and stayed thereafter for another couple of years as a postdoc before moving up to London. Having the excuse to go back was rather wonderful because wandering around the city brought back lots of very happy memories of the place.

Some things have changed, of course. I was shocked to discover that the Zap Club under the arches on the seafront has closed down (or at least changed its name).  Superficially, things have come and gone but the overall feel of the town hasn’t changed much, though, as far as I can tell. I was quite surprised that the same bus route (number 25) runs from the town to the Campus in Falmer, although the one I got was stuck in traffic for ages on the way. On a glorious sunny weekend, though, there’s no better place to be than Brighton. I wish I could have stayed a bit longer.

And finally, as I predicted, the last day of the Premiership season did indeed see the relegation of Newcastle United. I wasn’t surprised at the outcome, but it’s typical of this season that they went out with such a whimper. Basically they needed to get something out of their game away Aston Villa and hope that either Sunderland or Hull City would lose. In fact the other two teams played their part by both losing. Unfortunately, however, Newcastle also lost 1-0 (to an own goal) so they go down. I’ve been reconciled to this for quite a long time, however, and it didn’t depress me too much. It probably helped that the substantial bet I made on this eventuality has already paid out and I’ve got a nice bit of dosh to compensate me. It probably also means I’m a cynical bastard. Quite a few folks at Sussex expressed disapproval of my gambling philosophy – always bet on the outcome that you don’t want to happen, as a kind of insurance policy – but I stand by it. I’m looking forward to seeing the team play in Cardiff City next season and, who knows, maybe they’ll be playing Brighton the following year!

Incidentally, the Whit week holiday (which celebrates the feast of Pentecost) was always called “Race Week” when I was a kid on Tyneside, because it is when the Northumberland Plate has been run at Newcastle racecourse (since 1833). The associated festivities regularly got out of hand and degenerated into drunken chaos until, in 1882, the local Temperance Society set up a Temperance Fair on the Town Moor. Over the years this grew into the largest travelling fun fair in Europe and became called “The Hoppings“. It was the highlight of the half-term holiday at School to be taken to The Hoppings – usually in the pouring rain – to come home with a goldfish in a plastic bag and a toffee apple.

Race week isn’t to be confused with the famous “Blaydon Races” which take place on 9th June and which are commemorated in Geordie Ridley‘s music hall song, which mentions the date of 1862. The race referred to in this case is an athletics race which was originally run on Stella Haugh, which is now the site of  a power station. The runners now race from Newcastle to Blaydon following the route described in the song. If you’re confused by the lyrics then you probably weren’t aware that Paradise is a place in Newcastle. The Blaydon Races is typically sung by supporters of Newcastle United, though I suspect those renditions will be rather subdued for a while.

Anyway, back to work tomorrow. In a day or two I’ll be locked away marking examinations. Hey ho.