Wednesday, March 21, 2007
White cliffs of Dover, OR, giant chalk horsey!
Look! A castle!
But first, a weather report. Week before last it was t-shirt weather, just about. Bright sunny skies, and I was getting terribly sweaty while cycling. Then apparently something odd happened with the arctic or whatnot, and all weekend before last was bloody freezing. Sleet on Sunday, and last Monday we had snow. At the end of March. This in a city in which people assured me it would not snow at all ever. So I am pretty chuffed, even if the last batch was just a few light flurries.
So, weekend before last our adventure was to Dover, White Cliffs Of. On the way, we saw this controversial horsey. Unfortunately not one of the mysterious old ones.
Dover proper was a little shocking. It isn't flat, for starters. We had to walk up the hill to the castle (in fact, the hill we walked up was the side of one of the white cliffs), and my calves were in agony for three days afterwards. I am a Londoner now, and I don't hold with all this crazy hill business. I don't care if it's been a strategically significant site since at least the first century (there are the ruins of a Roman lighthouse). It should be flattened for the sake of the tourists.
Dover is of course the closest point of England to France and therefore the most likely invasion point, although I believe the last actual attempted enemy landing was in the thirteenth century. Still, better safe than sorry, and it is therefore the home of Dover Castle, a giant fortified structure whose ramparts contain an eclectic combination of Roman, Saxon, Norman, Tudor and WWII-era structures, as well as a warren of tunnels built during the Napoleonic wars and WWII. The evacuation of Dunkirk aka Dunquerque was coordinated from the super secret tunnel warrens, as was the naval stage of D-Day. If war is your bag there is quite a lot of interest around. Alas, the place is sadly lacking in the stolen treasures that other castles so amply offer.
On the other side of town is another giant hill. It's also full of tunnels, as one does. Otherwise, Dover is an excellent mixup of faded glory and postwar fugly, a lot of it having been bombed out of existence before it had a chance to fade.
Sunday before last we strolled around Kensington and unfortunately broke the seal on our formerly frugal selves. I picked up some boring black shoes for a lawyer functiony thing, Grant purchased his long-desired hoodie, and we spent an embarrassing amount on media (Kaiser Chiefs aka RUBY RUBY RUBY RUBY! Chili Peppers because we are oooooooooold school, and "Peep Show" DVDs which if you can stand embarrassment-based English humour is worth a look). We got sleeted on halfway through proceedings which was a good excuse for a break for tea and scones.
Grant actually had last Monday off and got to spend part of it queuing in a job centre for a National Insurance number (sort of like a TFN) in Camden Town, but he was happy as it snowed more there than here. I took the opportunity to add about another 1000 words to my thesis and freak out some more about it - 18,600 words now (word limit for those playing at home is 15,000). Good times!
Grant did a bunch of 12 hour shifts last week while I pretended to be studying French copyright law. Last Tuesday I had the aforementioned lawyerly thing which was a reception at a firm with whom I used to do some associate work. It was actually a wonderfully fun and incredibly long evening with about 6 hours of excessive corporate hospitality and some really aggressive wine waiters with an excellent grasp of stealth glass filling techniques. Anyway, I have a fistful of business cards to do the networking thing and it was nice to remember that I am actually OK at that particular game. And better still to hang with some of my peeps, aka lawyerly types. There are not really many lawyerly types at uni, and oh I had missed the snark and the brainiacs and the crazy client stories and those who sympathise with me when I say EUROPEAN IP LAW IS STUPID (ie. those who also harken back to the glory days of English sovereign IP law without nasty European bits in). I am considering doing a short stint over here at the end of my degree given the horrifyingly big numbers that get bandied about salary-wise for IP lawyers, but I guess I'll see what comes up.
However, excessive corporate hospitality did mean that the next day I was a touch under the weather and not really up to proper study other than uni class. For some reason this made me feel compelled to clean the oven. It doesn't smoke as much now, but buggered if I can work out why it was smoking before - it has weird black plastic flaky stuff in it that smells like burning plastic but who knows from whence it came - but enough of these glamorous tales from the front lines of housewifery.
I topped this off with a Uni book launch function on Thursday, which was yet more scads of free alcohol (no wine waiters though but you can't quibble self-service when it's free) and hanging around with a select group of tipsy academics and fellow students. Again, lots of fun. However, people seem to think I am crazy for wanting to go back to Australia and be a scary evil corporate lawyer when I could do ??? instead. I am not entirely sure what ??? is and no-one has yet clarified. Certainly there seems to be a relatively poor understanding of the differing academic markets in Australia and the United Kingdom. Here you could probably specialise in IP right off the bat. In Australia, even if I did manage some kind of academic appointment it would be low-end and general, probably in Woop Woop, and most Australian unis either don't teach IP or don't teach much of it, so it's highly unlikely I'd have the chance in the short term to actually exploit my specialty. PLUS it would be roughly a 50%+ paycut. But hey, other than that and the publish or perish mentality that would have me working longer hours than in corporate law for less cash, an academic career back home is a great idea!
I am getting rather cross with uni at the moment, because the reading is going in one ear and out the other. Fortunately I have tons of casenotes to review when it comes time for exam preparation, so I won't have to go back to the raw materials, but still. ANNOYING, because I am at last actually putting in the hard yards and am basically just making myself more confused. I'm hoping it will all settle in soon enough, esp since I am as of now on yet another 4 week holiday, then a 7 week term, then a 2 month study break, so - well, I have time on my hands and God knows I need to avoid spending it on the thesis at any cost. Humorously enough, I have been designated the go-to gal on my subjects by those fellow students with questions. I don't know that I would be relying on me, frankly.
Grant has been doing 12 hour shifts of the day and night variety for a couple of weeks to cover some training, and this has unfortunately overlapped with the start of daylight savings, so this morning we both got up at 5.45am to walk to the station and it was still dark. ICK. And then I was a zombie for the rest of the day while pretending to study the interaction of IP and human rights laws, but I think Grant managed a little better.
First grade of year (doesn't count to final assessment): A-. MINUS! MINUS! FIE! DON'T THEY REALISE I HAVE A REPUTATION TO KEEP UP, HERE?
Steps this week: 8700. But the week is young!
How deep Grant is in to the guts of his new computer: elbow - it's a little computer (Shuttle).
Tip for travel vegemite-in-a-tube users: apply vegemite to knife, not toast. It's like vegemite toothpaste!