Posted on December 23, 2006.

So nearly six months since an entry.... that's pretty poor in anyone's book. The truth is, I was constructing a gigantic, International Camp based post, but then due to the sheer gargantuan nature of the entry, I never finished it and University snuck up on me quite comprehensively. However, it's now the end of term, I'm back home, and I've got time to kill, so this seems like an apt time to strive to put right what once went wrong, hoping each time that my next post will be the post home... or something to that effect...

I raved about how sensationally fantastic International Camp was last year. Going this year, it didn't cross my mind that last year could be beaten - but it most comprehensively was. This was almost single handedly down to the expedition. Last year, I'll admit, that while I got to know a lot of people through the computer room as they got bored waiting for websites to load, much of my village remained a stranger to me. This year, the expedition changed that. By taking each village to an individual location, people couldn't go talk to their friends in other villages, which forced them to get to know people within their village. This made a huge amount of difference to the atmosphere within each one right from the start.

The workers arrived from 2 on Sunday. After sorting out tents, we had a big meeting in the main hall to tell us all about international camp, what we should expect and what was expected of us. The earliest internationals started arriving shortly thereafter, and quickly we had the independent Polish contingent - left by their dads who Ben quickly reasoned were here either for an affair or a fishing trip - as well as the Dutch group with us. We were graced by Ewein's presence in the village, who had a broken leg and thus garnered a real bed, with a mattress, and everything. He and his two friends were a bit of a handful, but were (mostly) good natured, if reluctant to do what they were told.

The next day was devoted to international arrivals - Israelis, the French, Spanish, the Koreans and Germans all pitched up, raring to go. Unfortunately the Estonians weren't to arrive until the following day. Nevertheless, camp was filling up nicely and was more than ready for the Welcome Disco in the evening. Pav at Cambridge is the cheesiest event in the universe, but even a year of preparation left me mildly stunned at how fast the disco descended into the core of quintessential cheese - we're talking the Macarena and 5678 in quick succession. I didn't think that anyone had the gall to come up with such a playlist, but Ginge Dave (actual trade name) proved me wrong. Gloriously, deliriously wrong. Everyone enjoyed themselves and got to know each other a little better, as was the aim. After looking after someone who was erring towards worse-for-wear, I went to bed, looking forward to the rest of camp.

Teambuilding the next day was both short of Estonians and enthusiasm from most people. Fruit salad was grudgingly partaken in and we then played the dueling game whose name escapes me. Fruit salad is where everyone sits on a chair in a circle around one person, who says something - such as 'I have a sister'. Everyone who that applies to has to run to another chair. Whoever doesn't make it get to a chair makes the next statement - the idea being that you get to know each other better. Of course, it degenerates into 'Everyone wearing jeans' which is less interesting, and gets boring quite quickly. One game that was surprisingly enjoyable was 'Ha-Ha', where you lie on the next person's belly, and then the group has to pass a chain of "Ha's" without anyone actually laughing. It's more difficult than it sounds, and very entertaining.

The afternoon consisted of 'It's a knockout' which was based around a medley of inflatable and water-based activities. I didn't get to do the one I wanted to do the most - the gladiators - but everyone going around with a small group of people from the village helped everyone get to know each other far better than the teambuilding in the morning. It was here that the inter-village rivalries kicked off, with the Barmy Army quickly becoming most people's least favourite village - if only because of jealously directed towards their chant (which, I have to admit, was the best - though quickly became overused).

The evening consisted of village parties - again, to help bond the villages together. Ours was a pajama pudding party (I seem, ironically, to go to more pudding parties than most) which was excellent fun, with Twister and limbo sticks both putting in appearances. My personal best for the evening was handcuffing Ted and Ness together while they were playing Twister but, alas, the handcuffs were only made of plastic and so readily succumbed to their tugging. It's the thought that counts! The evening also gave rise to the immortal line of 'but that's nine-tenths of the fun', courtesy of TPJ and the sex-education talk.

One thing that struck me about camp this year was the amount of chess being played (certainly in our village - the Firefighters had a taste for Poker) and I rediscovered how much I enjoyed playing it. I recall one particularly excellent game with Patrick towards the end of camp, which we ended up calling a draw with a rook, three pawns and a king on the board each, in almost identical positions. Katya, one of the Polish girls, turned out to be awesome at chess. I played her several times, and never really came close to troubling her. She even stepped into a game that I was playing against Deepak when he had to leave; I was winning quite convincingly, I thought, and she just inexorably turned the situation around. She would have been a joy to watch, had I not been on the receiving end so consistently!

The following day we left for the expedition - raft building and kart racing were waiting for us and I think they were enjoyed - to some extent, at least - by everyone. TPJ and I made sure to enjoy ourselves a lot as, with no computer room, we were without the vast majority of our responsibilities. Arguably more enjoyable than the activities were the spontaneous ball games that we played, which gave the Polish girls another chance to show off their borderline-inhuman reactions. I brought out the glow-poi and had a toi (sorry) with those for a while. I also taught Elly some Poi on the expedition, who was just plain inhumanly good at it. She got a three beat weave sorted in mere minutes, which was alarmingly quick.

I make it sound like the Y chromosome was given a thorough kicking, but there was that most masculine of activities on offer: burning stuff. The campfire in the evening provided a focal point for the village at night, and it was fueled with wood collected during the day by villagers, which provided a nice outlet for the French boys, who appeared to have limitless reserves of energy. Of course, perhaps the biggest boost to the Y chromosome total was Deepak as village leader. He did a fantastic job of the daunting task that was being responsible for everyone and came out of it the other side unscathed. Jo did a great job too as village co-leader, but her contribution doesn't add to the Y-chromosome score!

After the expedition, the rest of camp was just as much fun. We had a whole bunch of activities laid on for us as would be expected, ranging from the serious (like Rounders and the Swimming Gala) to the not so serious (like Silly Sports) and then, of course, the parties. Of particular note was the Masquerade Ball - tuxedoes all around, which greatly added to the occasion. My bow-tie spent the night in the rain, unfortunately, and I managed to dent my camera by dropping it onto a brick floor, but neither of these unfortunate events managed to dull my enjoyment of the event even slightly.

This year I was there for the end of camp (last year I was on my way to V - alas, no tickets were won this year. I blame Glastonbury), and it was surprisingly sad saying goodbye to everyone. However, thanks to the wonders of technology, people seem to be doing a reasonably good job of keeping in touch (both my sister and I are speaking to people, so I assume most others are too, based on my sample space of two). I'm looking forward to Camp next year, but whether I can do it depends really on the dates and what I'm doing over the summer. Alana's successfully applied for Planning Committee, but I know that Ted hasn't got on, which is a shame.

When camp finished, I still had a huge expanse of time until I needed to head back to Cambridge but, alas, about half of it was filled with revising work that I would need in the year to come. Materials was joyfully discarded with great gusto and it was nice to be able to not worry about Chemistry any more, even though I quite enjoyed it. Maths and Double Physics was my poison of choice, resulting in the revision of IA Maths and Physics. I was excessively glad that I did this, as it was almost alarming how much I had forgotten. It came back relatively quickly, but it was a hairy week or so at the start of the process where I was a little bit concerned.

Indeed, the case could be made that I should have started earlier. Returning to Cambridge we, the physicists, were hit with more work than ever before. We dealt with this in a novel manner. Bequeathing the bar as a work area to the new freshers, we moved into the infinitely more comfortable reading room and never looked back. It even has a blackboard in it which, once Chris bought chalk, was usually covered with some fairly gnarly physics. The room wasn't just used for physics - both Scrabble and Chess made regular showings throughout term and the term as a whole further re-enforced my rediscovery of enjoying chess that I made at camp. We looked so much at home in the room - and the physics on the board was so scary to the layman, perhaps - that on many occasions people opened the door, took a couple of steps in, looked around, and left again. I do hope that we keep up inhabiting the room next term, as it quite awesome having a comfortable place where everyone can go to work and ask questions about any troubles that they're having with work set.

Cambridge was, as always, brilliant. In spite of all the work (don't get me wrong, I enjoy it; it would just be nice to have a few less questions every week), I managed to enjoy myself immensely. I got to a Fire Troupe burn, which is now being enthusiastically organized through weekly-ish emails from Aran, an Engineering fresher at Churchill. He ran the Canterbury Fire Troupe before he came to University, and things seem to be ticking over more steadily than last year. Towards the end of term I also started teaching Sarah poi; like Elly, she's suspiciously good at it. She got a three beat weave sorted within half an hour, and then did a butterfly first time, much to my amazement. I expect great things in the future! There was a small sprinkling of Random Sports in there too, when it wasn't rainy or the aforementioned work was creeping up uncomfortably close. The last week of term was a bit of a rush (thanks, Physics Lab Report and Computing Practicals), but made the eventual release all the sweeter. I achieved a sorely needed level of decadence the day after I handed in the last piece of work by seeing The Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time (which was being shown just once at the Arts Picturehouse), and Casino Royale for the second time, the bookends to an afternoon/evening that also involved the Rainbow Cafe and just general pottering in town (Borders, we salute you) with Sarah.

I stayed in Cambridge until the Thursday after term ended so that I could attend a "Demonstrators' Training Session" for the IoP outreach event that I was to be helping at on the Sunday. I could have stayed in Cambridge until the Sunday, but I fancied a few extra days at home. I was a little nervous about what the talk would consist of; I thought it was going to be a terribly formal talk about safety, which end of the scissors we should use, that sort of thing. I turned out to be very wrong. The entire session consisted of generally having quite a good time making pan-pipes out of card, as well as straw trumpets, which are the singularly most annoying instrument ever crafted by the hands of man. We also put marshmallows in a vacuum dessicator with predictable yet not any less entertaining results. I managed to put a name to a face in Anne, who I'd seen during the second half of my Thursday pacticals but never spoken to. She really enjoyed the whole kids aspect on the Sunday, and had helped the day before at a similar event at the Geology department (which sounded like Alana would have loved it - making jewellery) for that very reason. Lisa Jardine-Wright was demonstrating at the event, which I am happy to say she did much better than lecturing (though I shouldn't be too harsh - she was thrown in to lecture the course at short notice). She was making comets with Soy Sauce using liquid nitrogen, which was actually quite interesting; the resulting balls of dirty ice did rather look like comets (or certainly, how I've pictured them) too.

I took a week off doing no work, and then started into the grind. I have 53 questions (including Computing Practicals) to do and, as of this writing, I have 26 done. I'm not keeping a pie chart of death at home (partially because it would sully the pie chart of death at college, which keeps track of the supervision work we have to do, and partially because at under 7 degrees a question, it would just depress me), but just crossing questions off of a big list, which is satisfying enough to keep me going. Half way through the questions, and not even half way through the holiday (where I'm allowed to work, so the first week doesn't count) is where I want to be for Christmas (though I might try a Computing Practical or two on Christmas Eve, so I could be over half way...).

The holidays are going well; work is progressing and parties are being attended (much love for the Durin's Day Party, Ben and Elly). The nerve wracking Evans Challenge match was also attended today (5-5 at full time, 6-6 a.e.t. and 6-7 to us on penalties, after 13 kicks) which was seriously awesome, in spite of my twisted ankle which I picked up through entirely my own fault 30 minutes in (I didn't think it was too bad - I was able to keep playing after hobbling around for five minutes or so - but it's getting sorer this evening). I fully intend to be massively relaxed by the time I get back to Cambridge, but I have this nagging feeling that the one subject that hasn't set work will do via the wonder of e-mail and I'll end up finishing it the day before my first supervision next term. It's the Cambridge way!

If you've made it this far, then I salute you. Have a very Merry Christmas if I have not wished you so so far, and a Happy New Year!