Racewars!

So, I’m in Albany. I’m here for the weekend for Racewars—one of those BIG car events that everyone in the scene knows about, but that I’ve somehow never been to before…

But there’s a first time for everything, right? So here I am, with my handy dandy media pass, blogging Racewars for the weekend.

I left Perth at around 10am with my mumma in tow, and managed a solid two hours of driving before my fatigue kicked in and she had to take over. We took the inland route—Albany Highway all the way—which was not the most scenic choice, but definitely the most direct.

Tim Winton’s fictional town Angelus was in my mind as we drove closer to Albany. Mum and I chatted about the town’s history, about roads and ruins and shipwrecks and the people who came before. It’s an odd place, I think. Has a funny sort of vibe to it. Being here sort of feels like being at the edge of the Earth. Which is true, in a way.

The stars are stunning. I just wish my new glasses were ready in time for this trip, so I could see them more clearly. I saw a shooting star and thought of my work colleagues and their frequent trips out into the desert; how beautiful the skies must be out there.

Tomorrow I’ll get to watch some cool cars go fast, and write some words about it. It should be fun!

Home sweet home

Well, this post marks the official end of my edventure. It’s bittersweet—I’m so glad to be home, and I had such a fantastic time on the trip and met so many amazing people,but I am sad that it’s come to an end and that I won’t be seeing my Aurora fam every day anymore!

I’m looking forward to getting started on my outreach work with Aurora, though. I’m hoping to spend some time at my old high school, encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to pursue a university education.

In the meantime, I have a busy first week at my new job this week! And some major thinking to do about my PhD plans and life in general post-tour.

Saturday 24th November

I arrived home around noon on Saturday, after something like 36 hours in transit. I was met at the airport by the friend who had been looking after my car, and he’d picked up my dog ahead of time so she was waiting for me in the back seat! (She was very grumpy with me for about the first half-hour, but has barely let me out of her sight since. I think I am forgiven for leaving her for five weeks).

The weather in Perth was surprisingly mild, rather than the awful summer heat that I had been expecting. The sky was that glass-clear blue that I’m learning you only really see in Aus, the sun was warm but not scalding, and there was a nice fresh breeze that smelled like home.

Mum and her partner brought over some Chinese food for dinner, and I spent a significant amount of time rambling on and on about how good it was to be eating good food again.

I loved being on the trip, but I am very glad to be home.

Sunday 25th November

Sunday was busy! I had hoped to spend the day resting, but I ended up running around allover the place catching up with people. In the morning my aunty and I went to our local Dome for breakfast, then dropped in to see my cousin before heading back home. I really needed a nap, but my body was not cooperating, so around lunchtime I drove to my dad’s house and spent a couple of hours chilling on his couch and cuddling both of our dogs.

In the evening Mum and I met up with Trudi and Rosa who I met in London, and I took them to one of my favourite burger joints for dinner and then over to Crow Books, my absolute favourite bookshop (even after all the stunning places I visited in the US and UK). I filled them in on my time in Oxford and my plans for the future, and gave them a couple of sight-seeing ideas for their last couple of days in Perth.

Monday 26th November

On Monday I started my new science communications job (No rest for the wicked, hey?). I spent the day helping run a workshop—most of which was actually just sitting around and listening to planetary scientists talk about their awesome research.Not bad at all!

Two friends brought dinner around in the evening and we chatted and chilled and it was lovely. I drank a lot of tea. Michael’s quiche was delicious.

Tuesday 27th November

Today is another busy one. I’m at the second day of the workshop (tomorrow is the last day),then this evening I’m going to drop in to the launch party for CoRE (the Centre of Resources Excellence). It’s a new high school science program developed by the fabulous Suzy Urbaniak, which I will fill you all in on very soon. If I have time after that I will drive to Murdoch for an event run by The Conversation:The State of our Planet. It should be interesting and make for good science fiction research!

Jet lag is catching up with me though, and I am looking forward to resting on the weekend.

It’s good to be home with my car and my dog.

Second-last day

The fatigue was manageable today, so I felt pretty good! I woke up in time for breakfast,had a shower, then caught a taxi to my meeting with Dr Elleke Boehmer in the English department at Oxford. We had a good chat about possibilities for study,and I also got to speak with another Australian writer—Sophie—who was absolutely lovely. We’re going to grab a coffee tomorrow morning before I get on my plane!

I stopped back in at the accommodation briefly to pick up some things (pressies for the mentors) and then hopped in another taxi to go to our high tea—our final activity together as a group. The food was tasty (and sufficiently cute), the tea was good, the company was fantastic. We were all given copies of the info brochures we’ve been handing out all trip, and we all swapped and wrote notes in each other’s books. It was lovely. We gave the mentors their presents and they all seemed chuffed!

I walked back towards the accommodation afterwards with one of the other Scholars (Jacinta), and we stopped in at a couple of shops before I had to call it quits to go home and rest. After about an hour of rest I’d had enough of that, and met up with some of the others for dinner at Thaikhun. Jacinta gave me a book as thanks for editing her thesis, and I proceeded to get very soppy and went on and on about how much I love her and everybody else, and how much I will miss everyone once we all go our separate ways. It was great.

I’m tired and looking forward to going home, but I’m also sad that this grand edventure is coming to an end. It’s been the most rewarding experience, the most fun I’ve had in ages, the best group of people to travel with… it’s been amazing. I am so so lucky to have been given this opportunity, and I can’t wait to see where all of the members of my new Aurora family end up!

My next post probably won’t be until I’m home on Saturday afternoon, and that’ll mark the end of this edventure series (though I might revive the tag if/when I go to study overseas). Thanks for coming along for the ride! It’s been fab.

The rickshaw inside Thaikhun. I will miss this restaurant, and all the memories I made here.

Sunday / Monday / Tuesday

A group of us went to see The Crimes of Grindelwald on Sunday afternoon, which was a nice outing and a break from my lounging in bed. Controversial opinion: I like the Fantastic Beasts franchise more than Harry Potter

On Monday I rested again, but made it out for a couple of hours and joined the others at a lunch at Rhodes House. I met some current Rhodes Scholars and had many good chats about their studies and interests. I made another chronic fatigue buddy and we talked about the difficulties of managing fatigue and study and generally just being a human. I took a taxi back to the accommodation and rested for the rest of the afternoon, and one of the other Scholars brought some dinner back for me in the evening.

Today was another bad day for fatigue. I had a shower around midday, and have just eaten my first meal for the day (at 4pm). We have a group dinner tonight which is a half-hour walk from here, but I’ll be taking a taxi with one of the mentors who is also feeling unwell today. I might have to go back to bed for a little bit between now and then.

Tomorrow I have a meeting in the morning and then a final group get-together in the afternoon—we’re having high tea. It should be a pretty chill day!

Wanderings and musings

Today was slow and comfortable. After breakfast I went back to bed for a couple of hours,then I grabbed a coffee and a slice of cake from the café at the YHA around lunch time and settled down to read. I’m now about halfway through Caliban’s War, and things are happening. It’s intense. I’ll be heading straight to Crow Books when I get home and picking up Abaddon’s Gate.

Once I gathered a little more energy I decided to walk into the centre of town and look around. I ended up at Blackwell’s Bookshop where a couple of books on AI might have leapt into my bag of their own accord…

Blackwell’s is a treasure. It’s two or three levels, it’s hard to tell, with stacks upon stacks filled with all manner of interesting books. One of the mentors recommended the basement level so I went down to suss it out, and I was not disappointed. I thought Boffins back home was the best bookshop for nerdy stuff and specialty books, but I was wrong. Blackwell’s wins hands down. I wish I could bring it back to Perth with me.

After losing track of time in the bookshop I crossed the street to visit the Museum of the History of Science. Yet another favourite place among all my other favourite places on this trip. If you ever get a chance to go, you really, really should. I took a selfie with Einstein’s chalkboard, but as I am bad at selfies it turned out terribly. So I won’t be posting it. Sorry not sorry.

In the evening I walked to the Eagle and Child Pub in search of dinner, but it was packed and so warm inside that my glasses fogged up and I was effectively blind for a good ten minutes, so I ended up heading back to Jamie’s Italian to eat. The Eagle and Child was where Tolkien and CS Lewis set up their writing group, I am told.It felt a little too cozy and cramped for a writing group I’ve gotta say, but it was nice.

During my dinner at Jamie’s I made some notes about a couple of story ideas that are brewing in my brain. I finished the evening with a delicious chocolate brownie and a cup of English breakfast tea. I was tempted to take more photos of Thaikhun through the window because it’s just so damn pretty, but the restaurant was quite full and I was already getting funny looks for the number of snaps I’d taken of the chandelier.

It was agood day, all in all. If I have the energy tomorrow I’d like to go look at theOxford Castle. There’s a mound! It looks interesting.

Only five more days until my flight home!

A travelling medicine chest and other curiosities at the Museum.

Oxford adventures (sort of)

Today I proofread an archaeology thesis for one of the other Scholars.

Oh my gosh. She is amazing (I already knew she was amazing, but now she’s like, amazing-er). Her work is so insightful and respectful and original and it took me way longer to edit than it should have because I was so engrossed in just reading it. I’m so excited to hear her results and see where she goes from here, because jeez, that woman has a lot to offer this world.

We spent the afternoon working together at the George Street Social, a lovely two-storey café with powerpoints and wifi and good coffee. We both had a serving of pancakes with fresh fruit and maple syrup for afternoon tea, which was delicious, and fantasised about the high tea we will be attending on our last day in the UK.

Late in the afternoon we parted ways briefly—I went in search of Boots, a Priceline sort of deal which I’d heard about on the interwebs and was curious to check out. I found a perfume by one of my favourite YouTubers, replaced my empty mouthwash, and stocked up on some hair dye for when I get back home.

Then I metup with Ms Amazing Archaeologist and one of the mentors, and we had Thai foodat Thaikhun for dinner. It was delicious, and the atmosphere inside therestaurant was bustling and urban. For the hour or so that we were there Ialmost forgot we were in Oxford!

One of the other Scholars joined us for dessert, and my chocolate ice cream betrayed me by containing chilli. It was very off-putting, expecting my throat to be numbed by the cold and instead finding it warmed, very off-putting indeed.

I spent the rest of the evening reading Caliban’s War, the second book in The Expanse by James S. A. Corey. And now to bed!

The restaurant we visited for dinner. There’s a rickshaw in the window!

On travelling with chronic fatigue

Hi friends. Sorry for missing the last two days! My fatigue was super bad so I spent most of my time in bed or dragging my unwilling body to meetings.

But I am back! And feeling better. And I have good news and three days’ worth of stuff to catch you up on. Please excuse the weird format that follows, but I think it’ll be the best way to structure this one. Skip to today’s post (Friday 16th) if you wanna get to the happy bits, and ignore the last section if you’re bored or not keen on hearing me ramble on about chronic illness.

Tuesday 13th November

I woke up at 8am absolutely wrecked after the London reception the night before, so I went back to sleep until lunch time and then had a quick shower before heading off to my meeting. I spoke with Dr Steven Connor of CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) at Cambridge. He was lovely, and we had a good chat about academia in general and the changing structure of the Humanities at Cambridge.

After my meeting I walked through a little park behind Queen’s College and around the corner to Clare Hall, where we had a group session on applying for Cambridge.

To be honest, it was not a good time. It is likely that that was due to my fatigue-induced bad mood. I left partway through because I was so tired I was sure I was going to either burst out crying or throw up all over the table.

I stopped by a café on the way home to grab a sandwich and some snacks for the evening, because I knew from the headache coming on that I wouldn’t be capable of going out to fetch dinner later on. I ate my ham and cheese toastie and skulled my coffee, then fell asleep for four hours. I woke up briefly to eat a muffin and finish the last little bit of Leviathan Wakes, then I went back to sleep until morning.

Wednesday 14th November

Wednesday was another tough day. I made it out for lunch with Gemma (my first meal of the day) and she very kindly relieved me of my washing so that I could go back to sleep.

I had a shower at some point, and drying my hair left me so exhausted that I had to sit on the ground in the bathroom for ten minutes before I could walk the short distance back to bed.

In the evening I took a taxi over to Anglia Ruskin University for their open night, and I’m so so glad I went. I met Dr Tiffani Angus and Dr Helen Marshall from Creative Writing, and they were both amazing. We talked on and on and I felt so at home in their company that I could have stayed there for hours.

Afterwards I stopped by the group dinner briefly to eat a little bit, then started feeling ill and fatigued again so took a taxi the short distance home. I slept for twelve hours overnight, on top of the however-many-hours I’d already spent napping.

Thursday 15th November

Today was better. I had a meeting with Dr Una McCormack from Anglia Ruskin this morning at Fitzbillies down the road, and it was so good. The meeting concluded with us agreeing that I would apply for the PhD program in Creative Writing with (probably) Tiffani as my main supervisor and either Una or Helen as a secondary supervisor.

Oh my gosh. I am so ridiculously excited.

All the other universities have been so amazing, and all the academics I’ve spoken to have been super welcoming and supportive, but I think this is the one.

Even at Stanford and Harvard, which I was so impressed with, I would have had to squish my research into their framework. But here, I can 100% do the work that I want to do. And these three ladies are fabulous, and accomplished, and a joy to chat to.

We ended up talking for over an hour, and finished up just in time for me to take a taxi to the bus stop. I met one of the mentors and two of the other Scholars there, and we hopped on the bus to Oxford!

I sat next to a lovely lady called Susie on the bus (the third Susie in my life, all of them lovely) and we chatted the whole way. We’ve swapped contact details and will be sending each other postcards once I’m back in Perth!

We’re now in Oxford, where I have no academic meetings. So this week I’m going to be a tourist, and rest as much as I need to. It will be a nice end to the trip, I think. In eight days I’ll be home!

Chronic fatigue ramblings

Okay, so here’s the thing. Chronic fatigue sucks. And experiencing a bout of fatigue while travelling on the other side of the world, so so far from home and my support systems, sucks big time.

I didn’t blog the past two days not so much because I was fatigued, but because being fatigued and unable to do things that I could do relatively easily just a few days before was so upsetting. I was in a foul mood both Tuesday and Wednesday, and anything I tried to write would probably have read something like Catcher in the Rye meets A Clockwork Orange. And not in a good way.

But hey. I’ve made it through another few days of fatigue and for the moment I have a little bit of energy, so that’s nice. I still met some amazing people and got to experience beautiful Cambridge (even if only from the window of a taxi). And I learnt that even here, on the other side of the world, I’ve got people looking out for me (thanks Aurora fam).

Unfortunately, my experience at the group meeting on Tuesday has turned me off Cambridge (the university, not the place). I left that room feeling like there was no space for someone like me at Cambridge—someone who struggles with chronic illness and needs extra time/support sometimes. I left that room feeling like there was no way I could possibly cope with the workload of a postgraduate degree at Cambridge, and that somehow that was a personal failing. Like I said, it was not a good time.

But we’re in Oxford now, I have some Anglia Ruskin stuff to work on, I have plenty of time to rest and no meetings I need to get up for in the mornings, and in a little over a week I will be at home with my puppy dog and my car and my friends and my family.

This trip has been amazing, but these last two days knocked me around a bit, and I’m ready for a hug and a cup of Milo.

(Thanks Robyn for sharing your Vegemite this morning—it was just what I needed).

Una said my jumper was very Tom Baker. I was pleased.

Cambridge and surrounds

Today was another big day. I had breakfast at Fitzbillies again with my roomie, then we parted ways—she headed off to a meeting and I wandered about doing some shopping.

At noon I met with Dr Anna Alexandrova from the Cambridge History and Philosophy of Science program. She invited me to attend a seminar on ethical use and disclosure regarding algorithms that may be discriminatory (a very similar vibe to the Algorithms of Oppression talk at Harvard but much more philosophically technical). It was great to sit in and listen but I think I’d be exaggerating if I said I understood even half of it!

Then it was back to my room for a little rest before our big London reception this evening. And while I was resting… I received my thesis results! Not too shabby for someone who didn’t do creative writing undergrad, I’ve gotta say. And the feedback I got on the fiction component was absolutely lovely. It was a very surreal feeling, sitting in a room in St Catharine’s College Cambridge, reading my Honours results. A very “what even is my life” moment.

So of course now I’m completely reconsidering everything about this tour and my future study direction. Now that The Academy has confirmed that I can indeed write fiction, there are some mighty fine MFA courses that are calling to me…

Late this afternoon we took the train to London. We stopped in at a sushi train on our way to our event, and spent ten minutes stuffing our faces before continuing on. We had a fancy pants reception at Australia House (Gringots Bank from the first Harry Potter film for those Harry Potter nerds following along at home). It was a stunning building, but unfortunately for security reasons we weren’t allowed to take any photos.

After the reception we had dinner at a nice burger joint and then hopped on the train back home. Overall, a full and satisfying day.

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St Catharine’s is gorgeous.

Today was fab.

I had brunch at Fitzbillies down the road with one of the other Scholars, and it was delicious. And the coffee actually tasted like coffee, unlike whatever we had been drinking in the US.

At about noon my big day started in earnest. I set off in search of bridges.

My first stop was Mathematical Bridge, a gorgeous little wooden structure crossing the River Cam between the two halves of Queen’s College. I then walked back through Cambridge and stopped in at a cute little jewellery shop and the Cambridge University Press book shop before purchasing visitor’s entry to St John’s College to view the Bridge of Sighs. It’s a covered stone arch bridge which was built in 1831, and is named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.

I also stopped by the Round Church (it’s a church… that’s round), though I didn’t go in this time as I had other things I wanted to tick off my list. I climbed the bell tower of Great St Mary’s Church, from where I had clear views of King’s College to the west, Cambridge markets to the east, Trinity College to the north, and Corpus Cristi college to the south.

Then it was a short walk to our afternoon tea in Christ’s College, where we ate delicious snacks and sandwiches, and our host—Master of the College Jane Stapleton—let us sit in Charles Darwin’s chair and hold Alexander Todd’s Nobel Prize!

Two of the other Scholars and I ate dinner at the Eagle, the pub where Francis Crick and James Watson announced their discovery of DNA’s function in 1953. On the walk back to my accommodation at St Catharine’s College we passed the Corpus Clock, which was inaugurated by Stephen Hawking in 2008 (it features a little beastie atop the gold-plated main face dubbed ‘the chronophage’—literally “eater of time” in Greek, thanks Wikipedia—by the clock’s funder John C. Taylor).

Overall a very science-themed day! And I have been promised a visit to Einstein’s chalkboard when we are in Oxford. Excitement!

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Mathematical Bridge. Unfortunately I couldn’t cross it, but I still enjoyed admiring it from a distance!

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The Bridge of Sighs.

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View of King’s College from the roof of the Great St Mary’s bell tower.

 

Oh. And I learnt that one of the other Scholars on the tour is related to me. Hi Aunty!

Cambridge, Massachusetts / Cambridge, England

We have arrived in the UK! In the space of about 12 hours we left one Cambridge and arrived in another. It is just as beautiful here as it was in Massachusetts, and I’ve already found a good local coffee shop.

I’m staying in St Catharine’s College with one of the other Scholars, as it’s closer to the campus and easier to manage with my fatigue. The others are not too far away, though, so even though we’re split across accommodation again it should still be fairly easy to meet up and do things together.

I don’t have anything particularly exciting to report about my travels across the ocean, but I do have an exciting discovery to share!

Anglia Ruskin University, which is also located in Cambridge, offers an MA in Science Fiction and Fantasy! And on the list of academics is none other than John Clute, co-founder of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and one of the big names in sf studies. AND they offer creative practice PhDs in Creative Writing! AND AND they have an open day on the 14th, my last day in Cambridge before heading across to Oxford, which also happens to be completely free of appointments! To say I am ridiculously excited is an understatement.

I’ll leave it there for tonight. I’m going to finish my cup of tea and make a few more notes on these amazing programs and then hit the hay. Hoping to go exploring tomorrow.

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The view from the coffee shop this afternoon. Note the pretty sundial on the wall.