Rounding out the Christmas party week was Irina and Andy’s drinks party on Saturday evening. With mocks this week I almost missed it, but fortunately she convinced me to pop in for a few hours. I had not previously met any of the other guests, mostly ex-Cambridge students as well as Andy’s sister. Rivalry swiftly ensued as the Wii was fired up, the battleground being the pretty awfulCarnival: Funfair Games. A ramshackle collection of 25 fairly ugly mini-games, it’s a momentary diversion before swiftly moving to tedious and infuriating. It was described by Eurogamer as the sort of game you would only pay when “you’d rather eat soap than play one more round of Wii Sports baseball”. It highlights the chief issue plaguing the Wii: while the console may be selling well with no signs of slowing, Nintendo’s lack of any form of quality control when it comes to third party releases means most of the games border on unplayable. The games made by Nintendo themselves are uniformly excellent, but brave the rest at your peril.
Accompanying wines and a special bottle of vodka Irina brought with her from the Ukraine was an impressive spread of doughnuts. It seems that inadvertently my innocuous housewarming gift of a box of Krispy Kremes a few months ago sparked something of an addiction once I informed them there was one in Paddington station. I seem to be alarmingly proficient at inducing such addictions, having also hooked Jenna on Lindt white chocolate truffles, for which I feel particularly guilty as importing Swiss chocolates to the States is even more exorbitant than here. Woe betide anyone I accidentally introduce to heroin…
This relaxation was needed after Meredith’s funeral on Friday. It is not something on which I wish to dwell, though it was certainly cathartic that we were finally able to say our farewells as she was laid to rest. Being able to share this traumatic time with friends who knew her helped a great deal although it stirred some guilt that many of us have not stayed in touch as well as we ought. This jarring experience will hopefully force us to make a greater effort. The service was wonderful with excellent music selections including Mez’s fav With or Without You and closing with Sigur Ros’ incredibly soothing Hoppipolla. The tributes from her siblings were truly inspiring, showing real strength as they delivered heartfelt but upbeat messages. The only mar on the day was the inevitable, but nonetheless intrusive, press presence. Circling like vultures outside the church, I am not sure what they expected to see — it was a funeral, people were upset — but it was not exactly what mourners needed to be faced with as they left.
Posting stopped as I have been rather busy over the last couple of weeks. This may initially have had something to do with the release of Mass Effect and not very much to do with forthcoming mock exams, while last week I found myself doing the Christmas Party circuit. This included Bird & Bird’s at Dust Bar, the BPP crowd at Boardwalk in Soho, and a very Cambridge Christmas dinner in — well, you can probably guess.
In reverse chronological order, the BPP do comprised our “group” for classroom teaching. It’s a diverse but really fun bunch when we do all get together. I found the Boardwalk left a little to be desired with excessively loud music that made any form of communication difficult, particularly with such a large number spread over a long, thin table. The food was reasonable, but the highlight was undoubtedly the company and the exchange of Secret Santa presents. Lauren had decided to make this hideously difficult by imposing a £2 limit, a restriction that required much creativity. The best of the evening was a bright red, fur-trimmed Christmas cowboy hat given to Gordon, which fitted alarmingly well with his chequered shirt. The hat then proceeded to do the rounds. Lauren’s efforts in arranging the night were much appreciated, although unfortunately I could not stay later as some of the others partied into the early hours.
On Tuesday I headed up to the Bird & Bird event for future trainees with Rachel and Tor. I only realised just how quickly the last year and a half has flown by on seeing Chelsea, whom I had last seen during our vacation scheme in the summer of my second year at Cambridge. It was great to catch up again, as well as meeting several new and future trainees. I was also able to meet my trainee “buddy” (less intimidating than “mentor”, admittedly, but perhaps too casual a word since we had not managed to get in touch yet!). It is strange that what felt so far away when I accepted the job offer now feels just around the corner. I imagine there was careful (self?) selection of partners allowed to attend, since those there did not affect the mood (or banter) of the groups to which they were chatting. Dust is a great venue with wandering staff serving impressive nibbles in quantities more than enough to fill us all. Now we just need to make sure the 2008 intake arrange something ourselves to catch up before next summer.
Finally, the weekend before last I was up in Cambridge for a wonderful Christmas dinner mostly cooked by Angie, with several dishes provided by others. The journey took forever, though bizarrely it was getting across London that took the longest due to work on the central line. Arriving late, I had a plate thrust into my hand and headed upstairs to meet everyone and share stories about the couple of months since I’d seen them at the housewarming party. The food was great, accompanied by Sparkie’s home brew (sweetly palletable since he had added additional sugar in order to ferment it to a more alcoholic strength). Several shots of vodka with the medics later, I ended up walking back to theirs for the night since space at Victoria Road was pretty tight. This meant I was able to see TomTom the next morning who had missed the festivities. Much tea and Gears of War later, it was sadly time to head home. My camera, however, was more than full. As I gradually improve with the new camera, photos actually look good full size, so these should be added to the Gallery soon.
I spent last weekend up in Cambridge, taking a look at the fourth years’ new houses and generally catching up with everyone. It was my first trip back to Cambridge since I graduated, but this visit was really more about the people than the university or the town. Indeed the location was completely unfamiliar with their houses being far off north of the town proper, once it becomes residential and real people start to exist. Fortunately the Citi7 bus travels all the way from the station to such uncharted reasons so it wasn’t too difficult to navigate.
The housewarming was in a house predominantly inhabited by the ex-K lot from last year, most of whom had also been down for my birthday in August. The house was pretty packed with Angie keeping food flowing, Rav and Sparkie rewiring the house, and Adam (whose not-very-surprised birthday party was also being celebrated) showing off his Guitar Heroics while laughing maniacally at everyone else’s attempts. Everything as normal, really.
The following morning I was up early, gorging myself on a breakfast of bacon sandwiches following by a lunch of freshly cooked mini-doughnuts — with such hospitality I’ll certainly be back soon! After helping with a little tidying I headed over the medics’ fancy new abode. TomTom and I charged through several levels of Halo 3 (getting dirty looks from Cat) before being more sociable on the arrival of Lyds’ guests. I headed home in the early evening which was fortunate given the inevitable rail works. I would have liked to spend longer, but I’m sure there will be plenty more trips to come. I also expect everyone down in London to see the flat before long, though possibly not at the same time what with it not being a house. As for the photos, larger versions may appear here soon but I’m still getting used to the 400D and its ridiculous ISO settings (up to 1600 which is great for low light blog photos but obviously very grainy at full size).
I have also received a some of Philips’ great new amBX gaming gear (apparently worth just over £200) which conceptually is a fantastic extension of the ambilight which first featured in their TVs. I would absolutely love to write you a review except that there are no 64-bit Vista-compatible drivers yet. This is disappointing given that supposed cutting edge technology like this is most likely to be adopted by people running the latest OS. They promise new drivers are on the way, so stay tuned…