30 August, 2007

From Physiology to Pharmacology

On Tuesday, Lisa started her new job. She now works in the Pharmacology department and, for the first time in her scientific career, has a permanent position. As a big part of her new job is to help prepare the teaching labs for the students’ practicals, her work will now follow the rhythm of the academical year closely, just as mine does.

On learning that her contract in the Physiology department wouldn’t be renewed, Lisa immediately started looking for a new position even though there were still several months to go. Fairly soon, she got fixed up and the new job is based just a few hundred yards down the road from her old lab. Lisa finished work in Physiology on Friday and is desperately sad to be leaving such a great bunch of work mates. We all went out to lunch together on Friday, at the Eraina Taverna in Free School Lane where Lisa was presented with a farewell card and gifts from her erstwhile co-workers.

More farewells that evening at our regular Friday night pub session with the nucleus of what is no longer "Lisa's lab", though I imagine Lisa and I will still show up to keep in touch. Friday was Mei Hua's birthday and (although she'd tried to keep it quiet) we ambushed her with a special ice-cream dessert in the pub. Saturday was business as usual around the house, plus a trip to the vet for Thomas and Sofia for their six-monthly anti-flea injections.

On Sunday we were due to visit the art exhibition at Gravelly Barn to reprise last year's trip but poor weather prospects and a lack of cycling miles in our legs kept us home and we ventured out only as far as the river for a few hours gentle stroll and for Lisa to take some photographs of the wildlife to be found in that vicinity (including yours truly!).

And so to Tuesday, and an early start to get Lisa to Pharmacology to begin her new job on time. It was a huge wrench for her to find her self in unfamiliar surroundings but early indications are that it's a good place to work and there's every chance Lisa will settle down there at least as well as she did in Physiology.

22 August, 2007

Lousy weather & great company

We enjoyed our first camping weekend in Willingham so much that we re-booked before we left the camp site to return for the weekend just gone. We set off on Friday with high hopes of repeating the thoroughly pleasant experience of three weeks before. Leaving at 4pm we again rode via Coton, Madingley, Dry Drayton, Oakington, Longstanton and Willingham to Roseberry Tourist Park 1.5 miles out on the Earith Road, arriving at around 6.30pm having covered 16.7 miles in 1:35:42. The weather was cloudy and quite breezy all the way. Our welcome was again very friendly and we quickly pitched the bug and our stand-alone porch. Dinner was grilled lamb kofta patties (which Lisa cooked at home that morning) and basmati rice with shitake mushrooms, peas & mangetous (left over from Thursday night's dinner). We listened to the evening's Prom on the radio during and after dinner. Retreated to the bug and played some dice cricket, Steve finally got Lisa all out for 361 and reached 48 for 1 after 10 overs. And so to bed.

On Saturday we slept late. There had been quite a lot of rain during the night but it was not too wet when we surfaced around nine. I journalled for a while then made coffee in blustery winds under grey skies. Lisa prepared grits for breakfast (on the Trangia) which we ate with eggs fried on the Coleman. Around noon we rode into Willingham to get some food and the Guardian. As the weather was unsettled, we rode straight back to the shelter of the bug and clocked up just 3.15 miles in 18:57. After a lunch of cheese and ham sandwiches, we spent a rainy and windy afternoon in the bug reading the paper. Lisa made us some popcorn at some point. At dinner time we braved the elements to cook some stir-fried beef and vegetables and some basmati rice with mushrooms and spring onions. In spite of the cooking conditions, both huddled under the stand-alone porch at our respective stoves, the food came out well and we enjoyed a very tasty dinner. As night fell and the rain continued, we returned to the bug and listened to some music (Jacques Loussier's Play Bach) while Lisa read her book (Bill Buford's "Heat") and I journaled. When the iPod's battery ran out we set the alarm for 8.00am, turned out the lights and settled down for the night with the rain drumming on the tent.

It was not raining when we awoke but cool and very cloudy and it started to rain again while Lisa was on her weekly Sunday morning call to France. We partook of coffee and then ham & cheese sandwiches for breakfast. Eventually the rain eased of and we set to to break camp and head home after a thoroughly dull weekend. We left the camp site around 3.30pm and retraced our route out from Roseberry Tourist Park, via Willingham, Longstanton, Oakington, Dry Drayton, Madingley and Coton back to Cambridge. We were home by 5.30pm having covered 17.59 miles in 1:44:52 (an average speed of exactly 10.0 mph). Our cycling total for the trip was 37.41 miles ridden in 3:39:31.

We had Monday off work and dried out the bug and porch before stowing them away with the rest of the camping gear. Then we set to and prepared to receive two guests for dinner. This is Lisa's last week in her present job and Monday evening was our chance to say farewell to April, a veterinary student from Korea who's been working in Lisa's lab over the summer.

She came over in the early evening with our great friend (and frequent kitchen guest) Mei Hua and we made pizzas together using Lisa's home-made dough and tomato sauce. We prepared three different toppings: the one shown here featured three types of cheese and fresh basil from the garden, the other two pizzas were topped with goats cheese and red onion and pepperoni with anchovy. Before the pizzas we served a mozzarella and tomato salad and a selection of antipasti. The assembled company made short work of the food on offer and the conversation flowed in full flood well into the night.

13 August, 2007

Art and Sushi

Friday we again skipped off work in time to be on that 4:15pm Cambridge Cruiser train to London. This time our destination was more central as just five stops on the tube brought us to Piccadilly Circus where we surfaced and strolled along to the Royal Academy (of Art) to take a look at this year's Summer Exhibition. With the best part of a thousand exhibits this annual extravaganza is pretty much a case of Art Overload but great fun for all that. Apart from some amusing and witty video installations, the vast majority of my favourites were among the flood of paintings in the first few rooms. The obvious "star turn" of this year was the 50-canvas Hockney behemoth, Bigger Trees Near Water, that filled an entire wall but there was lots more to appreciate: too much to enumerate and, frankly, probably too much to remember properly, even with the help of the RA's illustrated "Best Of" guide.

Before heading for home, we wanted to eat and soon settled on sushi at a branch of the Yo! Sushi chain of "conveyor belt" sushi bars. This was the first time in several years that we'd had sushi in one of these places. When we lived in Harlow we were often to be found in the Moshi Moshi Sushi bar in Liverpool Street station which was my first introduction to the conveyor belt principle. It was fun to do it again and we piled the plates high as we tucked into a selection of favourites!

06 August, 2007

Barbecue triple whammy

I can't quite believe I have no photos from this weekend just gone. I guess there's no enforced correlation between the significance of events and the number of supporting images. Of course there's no reason on earth why there should be but in this case it's particularly a pity.

Friday we left work early and 4:15pm saw us seated on the Cambridge Cruiser non-stop service to London. Two hours later we were knocking on the door of a house in Eastcote on the north-west reaches of the Metropolitan line. We were excitedly greeted at the door by the reason for this trek into parts unknown: my pen-friend of thirty-three years, Louisa. Originally from Singapore and now settled in up-state New York, Louisa was making a visit to these shores with her family and generously invited us to dinner at her sister's house where they were all based.

You can't correspond with someone for over thirty years (even if contact has become sporadic, and mostly electronic, in recent years) without some kind of bond developing and Louisa and I have known each other much longer than either of us has known their respective spouse. I met Louisa in person a few times in the early eighties but this was the first time we'd seen each other in more than twenty years, it was my first chance to meet her husband and kids, and Lisa's first chance to meet any of them. Suffice to say we had a great time: they are all really cool folks.

Surrounded by the sister's eight West Highland White Terriers, we sat out in the extensive back garden and tucked into a seemingly never-ending flow of delicious food, much of it grilled by Louisa's husband on a brand new gas barbecue. All too soon it was time for us to make our exit and retrace our steps to Cambridge. We spent as long travelling as we did at the party but we both agreed it was more than well worth the effort.

Saturday, we were the barbecue hosts as Lisa's friend and sometime colleague, Sandro, paid us a visit. Among other talents, Sandro is a trained Reiki Healer and several years ago Lisa designed a web site for his Reiki work. Having not seen hime for some time, there was much to catch up on and the talk continued all afternoon and on into the evening. At some point it became apparent that the only sensible thing to do was to have dinner together and Lisa set to to work on the barbecue. So, for the second day running, we had grilled dinner al fresco with great company.

And so to yesterday evening, when, as guests of our friends (and my sometime colleagues) Kate & Makram, we completed the hat-trick. We cycled over to their place and were immediately plied with Makram's famously wonderful Hummus and other introductory delicacies while Makram cranked up the barbecue to start grilling kebabs. The food was tasty and authentically middle-eastern so Lisa frequently pumped Makram for details of how his culinary effects were achieved. There seems to be something about eating freshly grilled food in the open air that stimulates conversation and brings on a tremendous sense of well being and comradeship. Not until some time after sunset did we finally take our leave and ride home and head for bed ahead of another working week.