Archive for Maynooth

The Maynooth Pound

Posted in History, Maynooth with tags , , on June 2, 2018 by telescoper

Taking a stroll around Maynooth this afternoon I came across a little bit of local history that I thought I would share. On the appropriately name Pound Lane, right next to the stream that used to run past an ancient mill where there is now a shopping centre, there is a small enclosure called the Maynooth Pound, marked with this sign:

If you can’t read the sign it explains that this is the only surviving example of a type of pound which used to be common all over Ireland. Stray animals were brought here to be fed and watered before being reunited with their owners (for a small fee).

The walls are of interesting dry stone construction and have survived the passage of time rather well; they were built in 1822, although the Pound itself is a bit older.

The interior of the Pound was virtually derelict until quite recently but has been tidied up and is now a pleasant place to sit down and perhaps feed the birds. The old mill was famous for its crows, of which there are still a great many in Maynooth although they tend now to congregate on the playing fields near the Royal Canal.

In the picture, the mill stream is to the right of the shot and you can see the roof of the Manor Mill shopping centre to the upper right.


End of Term Thoughts

Posted in Biographical, Finance with tags , , , on May 4, 2018 by telescoper

Today is the last day of teaching term at Maynooth University. My last lecture, a revision lecture, was yesterday morning and I spent most of the afternoon helping students put the finishing touches on their project work, which is due in on Tuesday next week. Next Monday is a bank holiday in Ireland (as it is in the UK), then there’s a short period of private study before the examinations start next Friday. As it happens, the theory paper for the module I’ve been teaching on Computational Physics is on the first day of the examination period.

It’s `Study Week’ in Cardiff next week too, and I have a revision lecture there. Owing to the Monday holiday we’ve juggled the schedule a bit to ensure all modules have a revision lecture so I’m doing my revision lecture on Thursday rather than the usual Tuesday. I have a meeting at the Institute of Physics in London on Tuesday and it’s the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society (also in London) on Friday so I’ll be spending all of next week in the UK, in between Cardiff and London. Since teaching is over I’m not planning any more midweek travel (unless it’s absolutely necessary) and intend to spend one week in the UK and one week in Ireland, and so on, apart from conferences and the like, until I fully relocate in July.

I thought I’d mention another thing, which represents a fortuitous bit of timing. Twenty-five years ago, while I was living in London, I took out a savings policy of the sort that involves making a regular monthly payment into a mixture of investment funds. The term of this policy was 25 years, and the maturity date was 23rd April 2018. On a couple of occasions I have been tempted to cash it in early but decided to let it run until maturity. The performance of my chosen funds has fluctuated over the last two and a half decades, but when the price of units drops and you invest a fixed cash amount you end up buying more units than when they’re expensive so if they do recover in value you do well. This is called Pound Cost Averaging.

However, when a policy like this reaches the end of its term the amount you get back depends on the value of the units on the day that it matures. Although my policy wasn’t doing at all well a decade ago, it seems my portfolio (more by luck than judgement) has done well over the last ten years, but with the stock market being rather volatile in the early part of this year it’s been a bit of a white knuckle ride recently. Thankfully the last few weeks seem to have been more stable, and although the units are not at an all-time high in terms of value they were not far off that when they were cashed in. aturity value turned out to be about three times the total amount I’ve invested. I received the money on 30th April, and the proceeds will make a significant contribution to the cost of purchasing a house here in Ireland.

The downside of pound cost averaging is that the final sum is paid in pounds to a UK bank account, and with the pound languishing against the euro there’s now a decision to be made about when to transfer it to Ireland..

Cardiff Bound

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Maynooth with tags , , , on April 21, 2018 by telescoper

Just time for a quick post using the airport WIFI to fill some time before my flight leaves from Dublin Airport. Once again on a Saturday morning I was up at 5am to get the 6am bus here from Maynooth. The journey back to Cardiff is far from arduous, but I won’t be sorry when I won’t have to do it every week. Fortunately, term is coming to an end and after teaching finishes I won’t be dictated to by the timetables of Cardiff and Maynooth Universities. And after July I won’t have to do the trip at all!

This morning a large group – I believe the correct collective noun is a murder – of crows gathered to give the bus a sendoff. I did think of Hitchcock’s The Birds but the birds in this case were more interested in rummaging through the rubbish bin than attacking any of us waiting for the bus. Incidentally, it was the anniversary of Daphne Du Maurier’s death on 19th April; she wrote the short story on which that film was based.

Anyway, it’s a lovely sunny morning. Yesterday was a nice day too, both in terms of weather and other things. In the afternoon there was a staff barbecue and an awards ceremony at Maynooth University. There was a big crowd already there when I arrived, a bit late because I’d been at a seminar. Standing at the back I couldn’t really hear the speeches. I didn’t win any awards, of course, but I did get a glass of wine and a beefburger.

On my way home I bumped into the President, Philip Nolan, who is the equivalent of a Vice-Chancellor. To my surprise he mentioned a point I had raised in a recent Faculty meeting about the possibility of Maynooth signing up to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). To my even greater surprise he went on to say that this was going to be in the University’s strategic plan. Good news!

Anyway, I’d better make my way to the gate.  Have a nice day!


The Day’s Events

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 13, 2018 by telescoper

Today has been a very strange day. The strangeness started last night when, without any notice being given to us mere residents, a crew arrived at 8pm to do roadworks (resurfacing). There then followed an excruciating racket right outside my window well into the early hours of the morning.

So, having not had much sleep at all, I wasn’t in a very good mood when I got up. Things went from bad to worse when, just after 8am, all the electricity in my flat went off. I checked the trip switches and saw no problem. I then went outside and saw the traffic lights were off. It turned out that the power supply to all of Maynooth was off (including the entire University), as well as quite a bit of the rest of County Kildare.

With no electricity I couldn’t have a shower or make any coffee or have the bacon sandwich I’d planned to have for breakfast. The prospect of sitting in a cold flat all morning with nothing to do and not even the radio to listen to didn’t appeal so I got dressed and went to the office (which is only 15 minutes walk away). No shops were open on the way. There was no electricity anywhere on campus, so no internet connection, and quite a lot of students sitting around wondering what to do. At least the office was fairly warm and I had plenty of things I could do without a computer.

News eventually started coming through that power was returning gradually to the campus buildings. Ours came back at about 10.30. At that point I finally got a cup of coffee. I still don’t know what caused the fault.

The other major event of the day was that the result came through from the Universities and Colleges Union ballot on whether to accept the Employers’ offer on pensions. A majority of the members voted `yes’, so strike action – which had been planned to resume at Cardiff on Monday 16th April – is now suspended. I wouldn’t bet against a resumption later this year, as the major issues seem to me unresolved. However, I will be leaving Cardiff in July so that’s the end of the matter for me.

Anyway, this now means that I’ll be resuming my teaching in Cardiff on Tuesday next week (17th April). I’d already decided to spend this weekend in Ireland so I’ll be going back on Monday morning, Flybe willing…

Back to Maynooth

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Maynooth with tags , , , on March 7, 2018 by telescoper

So here I am back in Maynooth. The University re-opened on Monday after being closed from Wednesday last week owing to the extremely bad weather. I’m told the snow was several feet deep and the town was virtually cut off until the weekend. There is still some snow lying here and there, but the thaw has begun and you can see the effect of the meltwater on the river (the Lyreen) that flows through town, which is usually no more than a little stream:

Picture Credit: Coyne’s Family Butcher, Maynooth

It’s not quite a raging torrent, but getting there!

At the moment there’s no sign of a resolution to the industrial action that’s affecting Cardiff University (as well as others in the UK) so I decided to travel to Ireland yesterday rather than my usual Wednesday. The flight over was virtually empty and so was Dublin Airport, so I got on the bus well ahead of schedule and made it back to my flat (which was cold, but otherwise all in order) in time to buy some groceries and make dinner. The panic-buying of bread had caused a shortage, but all seems to be back to normal again.

I had arranged for someone else to do last week’s Thursday lecture and Lab session so I could attend the event the IOP event I posted about, but as the campus was closed they were cancelled anyway and I now have to find a way to catch up. Do not worry, though, I have a cunning plan.

Unless there’s an announcement in the next couple of days that next week’s strike is off I plan to stay in Ireland over the weekend, which will give me the chance to explore Dublin a bit, something that my schedule has not so far allowed. Next week will be the fourth week of industrial action and the last of the current batch of strike days, this time a full week (having escalated from two, three and four days in the preceding weeks). If there is no resolution by then I don’t know what will happen, possibly an all-out indefinite strike. Nobody wants that, but there’s no doubt in my mind who is to blame for this dispute and it’s not the Universities and Colleges Union. However, there are some signs of movement, so let’s hope for a negotiated settlement. If not, I’m seriously thinking of trying to bring forward my full-time move to Maynooth. There’s little point continuing in my post in Cardiff if I’m going to be permanently on strike.

Anyway, I have a 9am lecture to give tomorrow so I think I’ll toddle off, get some tea and have an early night.

Transitional Arrangements

Posted in Biographical, Education with tags , on January 27, 2018 by telescoper

So I’m here in Dublin airport again, waiting for a flight back to Cardiff. I woke up early this morning so decided to get the 6am Hopper Bus from Maynooth instead of the usual 7am one. There was no traffic and it took only 40 minutes so I’ve had time to have a coffee and a bacon sandwich, as well as finishing the FT prize crossword.

Anyway, teaching term starts next week in both Cardiff and Maynooth so it promises to be quite a hectic period. I’ll be teaching Physics of the Early Universe in Cardiff on Tuesdays and Computational Physics in Maynooth on Thursdays. I volunteered for the latter course primarily to brush up my Python skills, which are distinctly rusty.

At least I won’t have the problem that I had in Nottingham when I was teaching two modules in the same Semester, Cosmology and Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics, both for 3rd year students (so mostly the same students) and both timetabled in the same room. I remember one day turning up and starting a lecture on weak nuclear interactions only to realise I was meant to be doing something about the propagation of photons in an expanding universe.

The midweek to and fro between Wales and Ireland will continue until March where there is a divergence of arrangements for the Easter break. My calculations indicate that happens after 7 lectures  and therefore 7 midweek flights. Should be fun. At least I’m racking up the Avios…




A Message from Maynooth

Posted in Biographical with tags , , on December 1, 2017 by telescoper

Today I started a new job, as Professor of Theoretical Physics in the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University, in County Kildare in the Irish Republic.

I haven’t resigned my job at Cardiff University. I’m currently employed there only half the time – or at least that’s what my contract says! – and I’m joining Maynooth on a 50% basis also so I can do one job alongside the other. In particularly I will be teaching in Cardiff next semester as planned.

Although I will be sharing my time equally between Wales and Ireland for the immediate future, I do intend to relocate fully to Ireland, as and when this becomes practicable and can be done in such a way as to not have any impact on ongoing activities in Cardiff.

I’ll post more about Maynooth in due course, but today is filled with organisational things: getting on the IT system, arranging tax and related matters, and finding somewhere to live. In the meantime I’m staying in St Patrick’s House, part of the Catholic seminary on Maynooth University’s South Campus. It’s a lovely building, with rooms that are basic but clean, comfortable and very inexpensive. It was too dark when I arrived last night to take a picture of the place but here’s one from the net:

It’s not quite as summery at the moment, either. It was very cold when I arrived last night and that has continued into today. I will take a snap at some point, but there was a rather ugly-looking crane at the front of the building and would prefer to take a picture when it has gone!

I’ve never been in a seminary before. Although everyone I’ve met here has been wonderfully nice and friendly, I have to say the corridors have more than a hint of The Shining about them:

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope to have some time at the weekend to have a look around Dublin, which is only 30 minutes or so away by train from Maynooth, and where I may end up living in the not-too-distant future!