rmc28: (rmcf+fcdf)
Twenty years ago, I arrived in Cambridge with a carload of belongings to begin my (first) university degree.  I remember that partway down the M4 Mum & I realised that although we'd carefully put the bike rack on the car, we'd failed to also add my bike, which languished in Wiltshire for at least another year.[1]   I also managed to leave behind the welcome leaflet from the College with helpful driving directions, so we navigated through Cambridge on my optimism and hazy memory of walking around the place on two previous visits.  In retrospect I'm quite impressed Mum didn't drown me in the Cam.

Ten years ago I gave birth to Charles in the Rosie Maternity Hospital at Addenbrookes', by unplanned c-section after a day and a night in labour.

Today, shortly after 6am, Charles informed me he was ready for school and could he start opening his presents now?

[1] I ended up spending £65 with Chris the bike man on a 3-speed sit-up-and-beg bike with a good basket which I used for at least a year.  I can't remember what I did with it when I finally retrieved my own bike from home - my guess is I sold it back to Chris the bike man?

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Having a working immune system is great.  My cough is nearly gone and today I went on several buses, and to a place inhabited by large numbers of children, and I might do something similar tomorrow. 

Louise and I took the children by bus to the Funky Fun House; normally I do this by bike but that didn't seem sensible yet.  It's two buses with one change on the edge of the city centre and a short walk at each end.  The children were mostly cooperative and sensible on the journeys, and clearly enjoyed hurtling around at the play barn for hours until I declared time to come home before we got caught in the rain.

Cambridge buses are much less stressful to use if you are in no particular hurry to be anywhere; the long tailback on the way home due to cars queueing for the Grafton Centre was merely a bit dull, and at least we were warm and dry.

When we got home, Nico spent over an hour being entranced by CBeebies Stargazers, which delighted me by having Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock co-presenting.

Louise goes home tomorrow morning; the children and I have a vague plan to do the long bus ride to Cheeky Monkeys once she has departed.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Cambridge people: can you recommend to me?
  • a window cleaner
  • a general handyperson (competent with drill and screwdriver, simple painting, etc)
  • an electrician
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
The upcoming Cambridge History Festival has clashing events:

Impact of the Railways in Cambridge: Friday 27th Feb from 19:00 to 20:00
Tony Kirby looks at the role of the railway in shaping Cambridge and explores the past and present railway landscape, from the days of steam through dieselization to electrification, and from the Hills Road Bridge to Chesterton Junction, Cherry Hinton and Histon.

CAMRA at the White Horse Inn: Friday 27th Feb from 19:30-21:30
Find out more about the history of brewing in Cambridge while sampling delicious beer from the Moonshine and Black Bar breweries, and enjoy a short tour of current and former Inns in the Castle Hill area.

Surely I'm not the only person who is torn between TRAINS and BEER?

Poll #16417 beer or trains
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 20

Daddy or chips?

View Answers

11 (55.0%)

17 (85.0%)

1 (5.0%)

3 (15.0%)

4 (20.0%)

10 (50.0%)

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Yesterday I walked into town with Nicholas to get him new shoes and do other errands.  He asked to walk when we crossed Jesus Green, and as we were making our slow erratic way across the park he gestured and asked about the people playing some kind of ball game enthusiastically to our right.  I glanced over properly (most of my focus being on him up until that point), and took in the three goals at each end, and the sticks between players' legs, and the pattern of play.

"Yes darling," I said.  "They're playing Quidditch."

I'm not sure I'm happier that there were people playing Quidditch in the park on a Sunday lunchtime, or that I could recognise it in a glance.

Nico has not been paying sufficient attention to Harry Potter to care about such things. Charles might have done, if he'd been with me.  We haven't got much further through the books because he is focused on Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its sequels.  I'd rather be reading Harry Potter but so long as there is reading at all, I am not complaining.   Too easy to kill his enthusiasm.

rmc28: Charles holding his baby cousin (charles and cousin)
Charles is 8 today.  We took advantage of a teacher training day last week and spent Friday and Saturday at Legoland Windsor, which was a good family trip, but very tiring.  He got a few birthday presents there from us, and some more from relatives when we got home.

I've been living in Cambridge for 18 years now.   I am finding this strangely hard to comprehend.

[icon is a recent photo of C holding his baby cousin the mustardseed]
rmc28: (silly)
There is a letting agent whose sign I pass on my commute, called Let's Rent Cambridge.  Every time I see the sign, I find myself thinking "what, all of Cambridge?"

Tony was 40 earlier this week and we had a meal at the Cambridge Smokehouse, where the Eraina used to be.  This is a great restaurant if you like meat with your meat and some meat, and I love the "ping a light for service" approach.

I have a new fitness-monitoring-wristband thing (Fitbit Flex for those that care), and my slow overfull waddle back from the Smokehouse was classed by it as "intense activity".  I slightly fear what it will make of my running, when I next manage it.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I ran for the first time since breaking my toe - it's been just over 10 weeks, between the toe itself and then getting an evil cold. It was very gentle easy running but it felt really good.

I went to see a "back one day only" screening of Captain America: Winter Soldier, having got the toddler to sleep just in time. (For future reference, I can do my house to the ticket desk at the Vue in 15 min, including getting bike out of garage & locking it at the far end. But I prefer more contingency.)  I still love it, I could still watch it a lot more times, I'm still impatient with the long gap between leaving cinemas and DVD release.

Between the two, I got caught in another rainstorm on the way home from nursery. Less dramatic than yesterday, but I still got soaked to the skin. Again. At least it's warm?
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
A truly enormous amount of water landed on Cambridge just as I was leaving to collect N from nursery. I was pretty wet within a few minutes of leaving work, and decided I might as well continue to nursery rather than try to wait it out (better wet and on time than dry and late). It just kept getting heavier and heavier, and there was also excitingly-close lightning/thunder, with the flash-bang gap between 3 and 8 seconds for most of my journey.

Water was thick and heavy all around, people were huddling in tiny shelters offered by trees, or running or walking soggily onward, as I was. The roads were mostly draining, the pavements were mostly not, great rivers running along the gutters and drains clogging with debris.

I wrung out my clothes as best I could before going into the nursery but still left something of a puddle while catching up with N's day. As we left the building again, I hurried N out to the bike and got him safely inside the cover as fast as I could, though the rain was already lighter than it had been. Within a few minutes of us leaving the rain had stopped, and in a few places I saw it starting to steam off the road surfaces, which I don't remember ever seeing before.

On the last junction before home, a huge ankle-deep puddle spread across the entire cycle/footpath and road. I cycled carefully through it and got us home safely, then walked back with N to see if the drains were blocked. The gratings seemed clear but the water didn't seem to be dropping.

Ankle-deep puddle after sudden rain

When Tony cycled home an hour later, the puddle had disappeared, so we assume the drains eventually caught up.

The rainfall graph for today from the Computer Lab (next door to my workplace) is quite amusing.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Last Thursday it was raining as I left work, and the sun was setting, and there was the most enormous clear rainbow over north Cambridge as I cycled to nursery.  One end seemed to rise vertically from the sunlit tower of a College chapel in the centre of town, the other dipped somewhere in the mass of houses around Huntingdon / Histon / Victoria roads.

I lost count of the number of people I had to cycle round (bah, shared use paths) because they had stopped to take photographs.  One of them, as I passed, sang triumphantly "DOUBLE RAINBOW!"  I looked again, and they were right.

I mentioned the DOUBLE RAINBOW comment at work the next day and several colleagues joined in enthusiastically with their own angles of view on it.  Such a simple thing, but beautiful, bringing happiness in the homeward commute.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
This is a temporary exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, which I visited today with [personal profile] kaberett.  It's on until 3rd November and I thoroughly recommend it.

The exhibition takes up two galleries.  The Mellon Gallery is full of combs, lots and lots of them, from all over Africa, with more or less certain provenance, including some very modern ones in both plastic and wood.  I appreciated the care in labelling to show the limits of what we know about the sources & ages of the combs, and especially the entire case of mystery combs.   The final case showing combs grouped by cultural/stylistic similarity is beautiful but also makes a gentle point about Africa's artificial borders thanks to colonisation. 

The Octagon Gallery is much more about Afro combs in the context of recent history, culture, race relations and racism.  A very popular design of plastic Afro combs has a Black Power fist on the handle; there was a huge picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists on the Olympic podium in 1968.  After watching a huge number of podium ceremonies during last year's Olympics, I had a much stronger emotional reaction to this picture than when I first saw it.   Other things that affected me strongly in this room were the set of combs narrating the story of the Jamaican maroons, and the personal stories submitted by visitors to the exhibition, especially the story from a woman whose hair grew back differently after chemotherapy.  (Both [personal profile] kaberett  and I have mothers who are still with us thanks in part to chemotherapy - and my mother's hair also grew back differently.)  On a lighter note, I really loved the Jamaican souvenir comb made from wood and recycled bicycle spokes.

There is a book accompanying the exhibition for sale in the museum shop, and a rather thicker book on the topic of Afro combs.  I bought the former, along with some postcards from the exhibition.  There was a smaller selection than I had expected, and I may go back with my camera to attempt some photos of my favourite pieces.

We did not make it to the companion installation at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which finishes on 28th September, but I may try to get there while there is still time.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Last Thursday we had local elections, and the weather was so nice, I managed to get sunburned after spending most of the day outside delivering, telling & knocking up. Such a contrast to last year, where I shivered in multiple layers and had changed clothes three times by lunchtime.

I took Charles with me to vote on the way to school, and we met one of his friends and her mother doing the same thing.  I cast a proxy vote for the first time, which meant they sent me round once with my friend's ballot paper, and once with my own.

I paced myself fairly well with the day's campaigning but by the time I picked up the children from nursery and kidsclub and got them home, I was worn out and unable to face speaking to strangers, even by phone knock-up.  So I got the children fed with Jonny's help, and put them to bed, and dozed with them for a bit before my father rang to catch up and make arrangements for the weekend.

(For those that are interested in the election results, Phil Rodgers again has good coverage on his blog, with a quick results-in-Cambridge post and a much more detailed follow-up.)

I had a quiet day at home on Friday, before we travelled to the west country to see my father for the long weekend.  We used the Travelodge in Swindon as a base, and took the bus to Cirencester on Saturday, and to Avebury on Sunday.   The weather was lovely on both days, and I realised at the end of our time at Avebury that I had sunburned again and more thoroughly.  Everyone else was fine: the baby had sunscreen & the others are either more sunproof or better at staying covered and in the shade.

The bonus extra of our little trip was a couple of hours in the pub with my dad's wife and her children on Sunday evening. It has literally been years since we got to spend time together with them all and it was a real pleasure to do so.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Tony & I were walking home through the city centre, sometime between midnight and 1am this morning, when a rattling noise caught our attention. We turned to see a couple cycling in their wedding outfits, with tin cans tied to the rear wheels of their respective bicycles. Tony called out "Ah! Just Married!" and I called out "Congratulations!". We got a cheery wave from both before they turned onto another road, and we walked on laughing a bit.

We were on our way back from the lovely and cheerful wedding of [personal profile] cryptogirl and [livejournal.com profile] pjc50 at Corpus Christi. I saw little of the service, thanks to a grumpy baby, but the wedding breakfast, speeches, and disco in the bar were all enjoyable and made more so by his lordship mostly sleeping through it all. And then we toddled our way back through the summer night slightly tipsy with one child in the bike and one in the buggy and set the world to rights a bit as we went.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
It exited Cambridge 5 minutes walk from my house, so as I was awake in time, I walked up to see it go by. As it happened, there was a changeover just opposite the end of my road, so there was a bit more to see than usual. Lots of locals gathered, smiled at a lot of known faces, and walked back home most of the way with the family of one of Charles's friends.


Some rather better photos taken by friends who have srs cameras and got up early to queue for good spots by the river:

Torch Onna Punt by [livejournal.com profile] fivemack (Facebook)
Torch Onna Punt by [livejournal.com profile] ewx (Flickr)

rmc28: (babysitter)
I went to sleep on Wednesday night listening to rain drumming on my roof and hoping that it would have eased by the morning.  But I woke to my 5am alarm with the drumming still there.  By 6am I was out delivering Good Morning leaflets.  I discovered very quickly that my waterproof was merely showerproof and useless against the solidly heavy rain then falling.  It was windproof enough that I didn't get too cold, so long as I kept moving.

Back at home I peeled off my no-longer-waterproof, and then changed my saturated clothes for dry ones.  Plan A was for me and Tony to vote together with Charles, before Tony took him off to school and I took up my telling shift at the local polling station.  However, Charles was uncooperative about being ready in time, so after breakfast I just went straight to the polling station, leaving Tony with the school run.

Telling is probably my favourite part of election campaigning, because it's the one time for cross-party co-operation.  Most local activists regardless of party are there because they care about their local community and it's usually possible to have friendly conversations in between asking voters nicely for their numbers.  We had a friendly person in charge of the polling station too, who at one point was explaining in detail how they make voting accessible to blind people.

The rain had stopped, thankfully, but it was still very cold sitting outside.  (The other thing I normally like about telling is the chance to sit outdoors in the nice May sunshine ... not so this year!) After my shift I voted and then went home to try to warm up.  Two hot drinks later, and a third set of clothes (more layers), I felt able to face my next telling shift, over in a different ward.  I packed a blanket  this time but was relieved to discover that the new polling station had a large porch area and the party political people were allowed to sit in it. 

Even so, after this shift I opted for a hot takeaway lunch and then needed some time in the warm at the committee room before I could face going outside again.  Eventually I went out for a round of knocking up, but in my own knocked-up condition needed to sit down three times on the way around.  So after that I alternated my time between telling and resting at the committee room until I ran out of steam about 8:30pm.  My last telling shift was shared with an amazing lovely lady, who had clearly lived in the area for years, greeted half the voters walking in by name and in between times told me anecdotes about her extended family and gave me lots of well-meant encouragement for my pregnancy.  (There was also the highlight of seeing [livejournal.com profile] angua on her way in to vote, and to catch up a bit on her way out.)

Back at home, Charles had been allowed to stay up to say goodnight to me, and then Tony & I vegged in front of Goldeneye for the rest of the evening.  I had forgotten how much I like the film, especially the tank sequence.  Things I hadn't noticed before were the rubbishness of the incidental music apart from the big theme tune, and the last line which sounds rather more sinister these days than it did in the late 1990s: "Why don't you two debrief each other in Guantanamo?"

As for the results, the LibDems had lost 3 of the 7 seats they were defending, and gained none. The Labour party gained the one Green seat being defended, and the other Green councillor (not up for re-election until 2014) announced his defection to Labour on the morning of polling day.  The LibDems retain control of Cambridge City Council for the next two years, with the Mayor's casting vote.  (For more details, see Phil Rodgers' excellent political/data visualisation blog posts on vote swings, vote shares and the new balance of power on the council.)

Overall, I did much better at pacing myself throughout the campaign than I managed last year, and I knew better than to even try to go to the count. This year was also immensely better than last in that I didn't have to authorise a cat being put to sleep 36 hours after close of polls.

rmc28: (finches3)
About 9cm fell in Cambridge yesterday - it was fairly even in front of the house, but with rather more dramatic drifts in the back garden:

Tracks show the cat finding a deep part

Hen run completely covered

The hens have been deeply unimpressed and barely ventured out of their henhouse at all - I laid some torn-open pizza boxes on top of the snow in their run and took them the leftover pizza, but to very little avail.

In front of the house, next-door's children built a snowman army:

The neighbours' snowman army

While they were doing that, I rather doggedly dug out a path down the drive to Nursery Walk proper. Some neighbours kindly lent me their proper snow shovel as they were going out for a walk "and we'll do our bit later". I had a much easier time with the right equipment and decided to aim for clearing the pavement all the way to RIchmond Road, especially as I know the occupants of the house bordering most of that stretch are well into retirement. Half-way along, next-door's V insisted on taking over to finish the job, so I resorted to sweeping and then getting grit from the bin at the other end of the alley. V also bravely tackled the alley which I gritted behind him, and we discovered a small group of people had cleared a good stretch of pavement in Windsor Road. I joined them, and we got it clear pretty much all the way to the Co-op.

Histon Road has been gritted, but not Windsor or Richmond. Some courageous people were driving anyway, even through the width restriction. I probably spent about two hours in total outside moving snow; if I had a pound for everyone who thanked me or the people I was with, or commented that we were "very public-spirited", I'd well, have enough for several drinks for all of us. One of next-door's children asked "shouldn't the city council be doing this?" and my answer was "well, perhaps, but why shouldn't we? We live here." I thoroughly enjoyed it actually; it was almost addictive clearing "just one more stretch", especially with a proper snow shovel.

Some hours later I made a quick food shop trip with Charles, and I was pleased to see that all the cleared paths had melted entirely so hopefully between that and the grit, it'll be safe to walk tomorrow rather than the ice-rink we had for several days last year. Back in Nursery Walk, the neighbours with the snow shovel were clearing the rest of the pavements with enthusiasm.

Now to find out how to find out if school is closed tomorrow.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
School's closed for teacher-training, so I've taken the day off to do the childcare

1. Lie-in (8am before I woke: luxury!)
2. Go into town and look at queue for the University Chancellorship election
2a. Vote if queue is not too long
3. Go to St Ives on the guided bus, as Charles loves buses and now that we have the white elephant it would be a pity to waste the millions spent on it. Also I have never been to St Ives in my 15 years living here so it'll be an adventure.
4. Routine doctor appointment
5. Meet up with the lovely [livejournal.com profile] emperor in the Carlton for supper.
6a. Drink and gossip all evening while Charles snoozes on a comfy seat

6b. Go home after supper, put Charles to bed, and get more OU done.

I'm indebted to [livejournal.com profile] atreic for her thoughtful post on the Chancellorship, and the discussion she hosted there (now including contributions from one of the nomination committee). Also to Ian Jackson for discussion in the pub last night; without either of those I would not have made time to go and read all the candidate statements and come to a decision on how to vote.

Also I have a mild essay crisis looming for my first Open University TMA: the deadline is not until Tuesday but my job is pretty tiring and exhausting at this peak time of year so I need to submit the TMA by Sunday night or it won't be done. I've done most of the reading, but I need to write up my notes and structure them into something approximating an essay. Tony's going to take Charles out doing fun stuff tomorrow so I can focus on getting it done: my personal preferred deadline is to submit it by tomorrow evening so I can go and socialise with a clear conscience. Let's see how that works out ...
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I'm out of the country but the Magic of the Internet has brought two Cambridge things to my attention:

1. The Carlton Arms has reopened! Hurrah.

2. Next Sunday (7th August) the busway & cycleway between Cambridge & St Ives officially open and there's an opening cycle ride planned by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign. I'm not sure if I'll be up to it as we only get back the previous day, but I'd like to.
rmc28: My cargo bike with red waterproof cover (bicycle)
For the first time ever in the 14 years I've lived in Cambridge, I cycled along Gilbert Road in both directions without once having to dodge a car parked in the cycle lane. The double-yellow lines have now made it all the way up both sides of the road, and the nice wide red tarmac that got laid a few weeks ago was finally entirely free of parked cars in both directions.

I cycle Gilbert Road both ways every weekday to get Charles from nursery. Earlier this week Charles & I were nearly hit by a car that accelerated when I signalled rather than leaving us room to pass a parked car, and I wish I could say that was an isolated incident. Today I just had a nice swift ride along a pleasant street and at no point was I scared or intimidated. It was a dramatic and very pleasant change.

I am very grateful to the hard work of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign over at least the last decade, and of course to the councillors who agreed the proposals and the workers who actually laid the tarmac and painted the road. I'm not at all grateful to the local residents who fought so hard against the change, especially those who continued to endanger me (and the hundreds of other cyclists passing every day) by parking in the cycle lanes right up until the double-yellows were actually painted.

A tiny remaining niggle is that a minority of drivers are using the cycle lane as a queueing lane to turn left at the junctions at each end. I'm hoping that'll reduce when the lanes are fully painted in.


rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

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