July 21, 2009


You’ve got to admire the hospitality you get when on the continent, the lengths the good people of Goettingen are going to to make me feel at home are simply extraordinary.

The Blue Note

I look forward to a night of sticky floors and underage drinkers

[EDIT] The picture was the right way around on my computer…

July 12, 2009


So I’ve got a Chiropractor. This is exciting. I don’t know why I wrote Chiropractor with a capital letter, perhaps it underlines both my fear and reverence for them. I was going to get a lawyer but then I thought maybe the excitement of suing somebody would be mitigated if I didn’t get back treatment and ended up crippled.

I wondered what she’d be like, the chiropractor, as I cycled from maths towards the practice. Perhaps a beautiful, talented and insightful Donna Moss to my handsome if a little awkward genius Josh Lyman, always on hand to organise my life and social relationships while I sit around being brilliant. This is going to be wonderful. I’ll have a little office in the West Wing and be serving at the pleasure of the president and whenever I need something I can shout Donna in a loud voice and she’ll come over and lovingly disarm me with her gentle mocking while sorting everything out. Tum te tum te tum… Do I daydream to much? I’ve only watched the first four series of The West Wing so if it turns out later that Josh goes mad and kills Donna and then eats her brain with a teaspoon please forgive me, that honestly wasn’t part of my plan….

Anyway, all of my best daydreams are foiled by minor technical details and it seems this time that the good people of Sheila’s wheels, tireless in their effort to rid womankind of the yolk of male oppression, deemed it inappropriate to get me a beautiful young chiropractor. Apparently not content with hitting me with a car they had to go piss on my dreams too, thanks a lot guys. ‘Jim’ my decidedly male and un-Donna like chiropractor makes me fill out lots of boring forms before asking me to colour in where it hurts on a picture of a man. I resist the temptation to draw comedy breasts. Whenever I’ve been for any treatment before I’ve been made to take off my shirt and trousers and lie on the funny bed, it’s kind of what happens when you go for any kind of physio, but here they provide you with a blue gown which goes down to the knee and has velcro running all down the back. On balance I think this is more freaky, and possibly reminiscent of a psychiatric ward, this visit definitely isn’t going to plan. It doesn’t get any better when I go in and Jim is playing with a hammer, “just sit down and relax” he says.

But,as it turns out, Jim is not a psychopath but an extremely good chiropractor. He measures my neck movement with a protractor. So when I get back from Germany I am going to get cured and everything will be excellent again. Alas there’ll still be no Donna Moss for me but that’s life eh..

July 10, 2009

And Now For A Little Russian Folk Music…

Also famous for being the tetris theme.

Which I know doesn’t really count as a blog entry, but I need to pack for Germany.

June 27, 2009

Work Avoidance

Today’s chief method of work avoidance has been reminiscence. Daydreams led me slowly towards a dinner I shared with Caroline at what was at the time Dubrovnik’s only vegetarian restaurant, not particularly fine food it has to be said, during which we only managed to name 49 American states. Times and technology have changed and now sporcle provides a much more efficient way of wasting time on such problems, my knowledge of US states hasn’t improved but somewhat more worryingly I was only able to name seventeen of Time Magazine’s top 100 books given the authors. And no matter how many times I entered ‘The End of The Affair’ it just wasn’t there. Then I went to Waterstone’s with three of the top one hundred on my list and they didn’t have any of them. Troubling.

Anyway, cleaning to do…..

Notes on a Car Crash (2)

Follow-up to Notes on a Car Crash from Kempez's blog

I don’t see her until too late. And I guess she doesn’t see me either. I always like to catch the eyes of the car drivers who are joining the roundabout to check that they know I’m there, so as I’m cycling across I swing my arm out in a huge exaggerated movement to indicate that I’m turning left. The woman in the third lane smiles at me. And then her smile is replaced by a look of absolute horror and I have only a fraction of a second to wonder why before I can see something out of the corner of my eye coming towards me at speed. There’s a huge noise as I’m rolling across her bonnet and then I’m lying face down on the road and for a full five seconds nobody moves. The road is hot. And then I get up, very calmly, drag my bike to the side of the roundabout and sit down on the pavement.

Everybody is asking me lots of questions, and my head is buzzing with thoughts but I can’t think of anything to say. So I just stare at them. I find it funny that the whole roundabout has stopped for me. They all seem quite anxious and my silence doesn’t seem to be helping things, so I say that I didn’t hit my head and I don’t want to go to hospital. I don’t know where the words came from but they’re something I can hold on to and I repeat them five or six times because they seem to calm things a bit. Someone protests that I did hit my head but I don’t want a return to the squabbling so I Ignore him and say that I’d like to go home. My bike is already in the back of a car so I guess that’s where I’m meant to go. The woman who hit me is crying so I smile at her and say that everything is okay really. She gives me her business card and tells me I have to ring her. Apparently she’s in PR. And then somebody drives me home and I’m sitting on the bed in my house and it’s cool and quiet and I’m completely alone. My legs are starting to shake so I lie down and put on Eddie Mair. And finally I sleep.

June 19, 2009

The Banned List

I like banning things. It makes me feel important. The following people are banned from my house.

  • George Galloway
  • Robert Kilroy-Silk
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Ken Livingstone
  • Anne Robinson
  • Julia Hartley-Brewer

Chief crimes are arrogance and general offensiveness. Catherine thinks we should ban Fern Cotton. I don’t think she understands how important my list is. Any other suggestions?

June 16, 2009

Notes on a Car Crash

This entry has appeared in various forms in my head over the past couple of weeks. There’s the dreamy confused sitting at the side of the road and wondering what happened version, the far too graphic to publish in a place my mother might stumble across it version, the euphoria of being alive and the misery of being in pain. Somehow none of these quite captured what I felt, so we’ll have to settle for the matter of fact what can I learn from all this version; I’m sure it’s rather dull but I wanted to write it.

Two weeks ago I was hit by a car. I was riding home from the maths block at about four thirty and crossing over the roundabout by Canley fire station when a car who was joining the roundabout failed to see me. A last minute squeal of brakes was not enough to prevent her hitting me pretty square on and I rolled somewhat ungracefully over her bonnet before landing back on the road. As collisions between cars and bikes go this was not serious, spectacular maybe, but I walked away apparently undamaged with my bike needing only minor servicing.

What I did for the next thirty six hours wasn’t especially sensible. I felt no pain, I’d walked away from what could have been an extremely serious accident, I had adrenaline coursing through my veins and I felt on top of the world. I refused people’s offers to take me to hospital and got people’s details only as an afterthought. When the extremely upset driver rang me to check that I was still alive I assured her that everything was fine and that there was really nothing to worry about. Had my opinion been sought, I would probably have told her not to bother with her insurance company as it would just end up more expensive for her. So when I woke up two days later unable to sit up in bed I realised how fortunate I was that she had done everything through the book and her insurance company were accepting responsibility.

My mum reacted furiously, as is a mother’s prerogative, insisting that this stupid woman should be banned from driving. But I don’t think that covers it, this was bad driving but not the kind of bad driving that I don’t see regularly on the road, and to dismiss it as a chance encounter with an atrocious driver would be to close my eyes to the real danger of being a cyclist.

I have lived with the notion that one can ride defensively, setting yourself a metre out from the pavement so that cars will have to think about overtaking, that if you always have lights and don’t behave in a way that drivers won’t expect then you’re perfectly safe. This is a myth. Of Warwick’s fifty or so maths PhD students, at least four have been knocked off a bike at the Canley roundabout, a staggering statistic given that not all of them ride a bike or commute from Earlsdon.

Bike riders are vulnerable and hard to see, and while we may fume at the actions of bad car drivers we must also accept their existence as a reality that isn’t going to go away any time soon. So from now on I won’t be doing big roundabouts on my bike, and while I’m hesitant to start lecturing people on here I’d really encourage people reading this to think twice before tackling the fire station roundabout again, as far as I’m concerned it’s just not safe.

June 03, 2009

Swine Flu on Campus


help, swine flu is on campus, we’re all going to die. Run my friends, run for the hills, take your girlfriends wives and mistresses and escape. Write a poem, sing a song, live each day as if it were your last. We’re all going to die, argh help help…..

End of message

May 14, 2009

Paris – The Scoresheet So Far

Half way through my first ever conference overseas, I thought I should give an update as to how things are going.

  • Saturday 2pm, Paris 1 – 0 Tom.
    So the channel tunnel wasn’t quite as exciting as I’d expected, really it was just a long tunnel, but I arrive in Paris full of optimism about traveling again. Feeding my one Euro sixty into the machine I pick up a receipt that somebody left in the machine rather than my ticket. Several attempts to cross the ticket barrier later and I realise my mistake but my ticket is gone. First blood to Paris.
  • Saturday 11pm, Paris 1 – 1 Tom.
    It’s Saturday night in Paris and the whole place is alive. I’m wandering with two Canadians and five utterly insane South Americans known collectively as ‘The Peru Team’ towards the Eiffel Tower as we’ve heard it goes crazy at midnight. Wandering is quite the wrong word, we are sprinting through the streets shouting ‘Vamos Vamos’ whenever a decision is made about which direction we should travel in. I take the opportunity to relieve myself behind a bush in one of the extremely posh parks, sure it’s a low goal to claim but it brings me back on parity.
  • Saturday 11:45 pm, Paris 2-1 Tom.
    Among the mass of people under the Eiffel Tower we are separated, suddenly we are in two groups and unable to find each other. Federico, a sole Argentine in our reduced party from the northern hemisphere is distraught, “Oh where is my Peru Team” he can be heard to mutter disconsolately form time to time.
  • Sunday 11 am, Paris 2-1 Tom.
    As a citizen of the European Union (a phrase you wouldn’t see in England!) who is less than 25 years old I get free entry to the Louvre. I alternate between reading Daphne Du Maurier and looking at paintings for about three hours, the sitting and reading makes the experience so much better, I usually appreciate art for a strict maximum of forty five minutes but today I’m having loads of fun. I guess since the Paris authorities sanctioned it this doesn’t really count as a point to me but hey, free culture.
  • Sunday 8 pm, Paris 2-2 Tom.
    Dinner for twenty euros? No thanks, instead I’m invited to the house of Wolfgang, a friend of a friend, where I enjoy four courses at a dinner party of random conference attendees and Wolfgang’s relations. I taste my new favourite cheese, it’s called Epoisses with an acute accent on the e.
  • Monday 9pm, Paris 3-2 Tom.
    It’s opening coffee and I can’t work the machine – things do not look good for my chances of understanding the mathematics.

February 20, 2009

Addressing the Questions Which Matter

A: When washing your hair do you shampoo your sideburns?

B: What about your eyebrows?

My answers are no and no but it’s always interesting to see what people do in the absence of precedent (I’m assuming this isn’t the kind of question which is commonly discussed).

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