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Friday, July 21, 2006

Graduation

Well the heat wave continues but now we have the added value of high humidity. On top of that it has been graduation week, as a consequence of which the university has been bedecked in nice plants and hanging baskets - all rented and now being returned.

It always makes me laugh when the uni does this, and they do it regularly; something important happens - notable visitor or graduation for example - and we get in a whole load of plants to spruce the place up. Though interestingly no actual spruces, but I digress. To be fair, the central part of campus can always do with sprucing up, now more than ever with the building work going on. I remember when I first came here to start my PhD I was taken aback by the sheer ugliness of many of the buildings. I have often described it as if someone dug a depression into the top of a hill poured concrete in. Many of the architects who trained in the first half of the 20th century owe the UK a large apology. Having said this, some of the uglier (though not all) excesses are being demolished to make way for potentially new monstrosities and so things might improve, yet in the meantime we have to put up with a demolition/building site.

With that in mind it is clear that a bit of greenery and flowering colour is called for but God forbid we could keep the plants and have the place looking pleasant all through the summer. It was particularly amusing when the architect of the (award winning) building I work in had a whole host of funky furniture and plants installed for the day that some architectural prize judges came a-visiting.

Anyway, back to graduation. Lots and lots of happy smiling people in black gowns and silly hats. All relieved that they have passed their degrees and ready to start their new lives. All looking somewhat different to the scarcely dressed, scruffy drunks that usually inhabit campus. Particularly charming were the several instances of the parents of couples meeting each other for the first time. One has to wonder how many of those meetings are both first and last as couples break up in the post-university years. Culture shocks may abound for a number of these graduates as they experience work in the real world, but good look to them all. At least they won't be underfoot now and I can look forward to the new intake.

Addendum: I heard one old granny (or possible much older mother) suggesting that her son take £20 from her and have a nice celebration with his girlfriend that evening. I hope its a relationship where partners pay equal shares otherwise the celebration might be short. £20 doesn't go far for a night out for two these days.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

What a good place to be...

Last month we had an influx of housemartins into the area as they arrived for their own spring break. Em and I were treated to a dazzling aerobatic display of diving and chasing when we were out walking beyond the canal. Soon after this a small brood took up residence under the eves of our neighbours' house; this proved to be a mixture of delightful and distracting as they very noisily called between themselves at incredibly unsocial hours of the morning just a few feet from our bedroom window.

The first photo shows adult housemartins busily feeding the young in the evening.

The whole row of backgardens was a feeding ground for them as they would swoop and dive after the rising insects. Their ability to turn is amazing; serious g's for any pilot that tried it. It is almost impossible to catch them in flight, at least for me it is; I don't have the reaction time nor the patience to sit still for long enough to get lucky. However, I did get lucky once and by sheer fluke managed to capture one of the birds as it approached the nest to feed the young.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A whole lot of ass



I saw these donkeys at our local village fete a couple of weeks ago, the extra "ass" was an added bonus ......