Monday, 30 July 2012

Horsing around in Greenwich

As the colourful banners go up all around Greenwich so we have settled into our roles as the Clearing Reception team.

We’ve had lots of fun with my camera.  Two weeks ago was graduation week and the Maritime Campus was filled with graduates looking amazingly spick and span in their flowing robes accompanied by families bursting with pride.  An undergraduate degree is such an achievement and represents more than just meeting the academic requirements of the course as students learn to study independently, juggle precarious finances, and achieve a work /life /study /social activities balance.  So often it can feel easier to just chuck it all in and do something a lot easier.  I know that feeling so well.

I also met some of the graduates of the masters and doctoral programmes. Getting through those programmes is such an amazing achievement and the golden robes of the new doctors shone in the summer sunlight. The ceremonies took place in the superb setting of the Painted Hall and the Chapel on the Maritime Campus.  The beaming family members bustled around bursting with pride as they posed for pictures we put up on the uni facebook page uniofgreenwich.

With the graduation ceremonies over, it was full steam ahead to transform the campus into a magnificent entrance way for the Olympic Equestrian events in Greenwich Park.  We now have a bridge across the main road, banners flapping everywhere and hospitality tents that have sprung up everywhere like giant mushrooms unexpected places.  Lunch-time becomes a veritable obstacle course as we negotiate our way through tourists, Olympic ambassadors, and summer course students.  It is very lively made even more so by the very welcome sunshine. 


Road sign

Road bridge

The View from the third floor of Queen Mary Building

Amongst all this excitement, we now have our three reception areas set up in Queen Anne and Queen Mary buildings on the Maritime campus and in the Student Common Room on the Mansion site in Avery Hill.  We are meeting a variety of people who pop in to ask mainly about clearing but sometimes for directions to the loo and to other educational establishments completely unconnected to us.

In between chatting to people, we are doing Live Chat, an MSN service where we are ‘meeting’ people from all over the world.  I thought I would get really stressed out doing it because I thought I was a really slow typist but I am learning that there are lots of people slower than me which is great for my confidence.

Today was the equestrian eventing in Greenwich Park and you could tell when something exciting was happening from the whoops and cheers coming across to us from the park.  There were 50,000 people in the audience and the atmosphere was electric.  At lunchtime I popped out to watch some of it on the Big Screen set up by the river.  People sat in the deckchairs transfixed by the action and the skill of the horses and riders. I was lucky to catch the British athlete Mary King competing to the extra loud roars of the crowd. The jugs of Pimms were very tempting but with an afternoon of work still to do I had to resist the temptation.

Big screen
I do not have tickets for the Olympics this year so I am very glad I got to go to the trials last year with my horsey daughter Kate.  We got to see the course and watch the British riders testing it all out.  I was worn out by the end of that day as I trailed behind a very enthusiastic Kate rushing around to watch all her heroes – and actually I must agree with her that William Fox-Pitt does look rather good in his jodphurs. 

William Fox-Pitt - see what I mean?

Picture Credit: Willaim Fox-Pitt jumping:
                          William Fox-Pitt standing- taken at the equestrian trials Greenwich Park 2011

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

If even Stephen Fry can get his head around twitter …

…then I should be able to manage my new role in the clearing team.  My head is exploding after having spent this morning with Jenny and Nicola attempting to master the intricacies of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Livechat under instruction from our endlessly patient Enquiry Unit permanent staff.

If you are one of my much treasured regular readers you may recall my difficulties in even getting my head around writing this blog.  I had an interesting Skype with my son Jack a couple of weeks ago when he was trying to get me to understand that you don’t twitter a tweet or go around twittering like “wot one did in the olden days when one grew up in a cave and had to be protected from the sabre toothed tigers roaming around”.  Nowadays one tweets on Twitter.
Bam Bam
…so I sort of got it and then managed to find his twitter account only to discover this tweet :

Hilarity is trying to list the reasons why one doesn’t say: “I’m sending a twitter”, to my grammatically-sensitive mother 

Hmm – I did email him to enquire whether I should be amused or offended!

So we are now the reception staff for both the Greenwich Maritime and Avery Hill campuses with the lovely Tony as our supervisor (he makes a jolly good cup of tea,  answering all the drop in visitor queries and doing the social networking.  It is rather scary but I am looking forward to the challenge.


…so if you’d like to have a live chat, tweet us or facebook us
                                    ….please be gentle, I’m a newbie!

Pic sources:
Twitter cartoon:

Monday, 16 July 2012

Wimbledon, Fungus the Bogeyman and getting promoted

The tennis was brilliant!  I sat there glued to the screen watching the woman’s finals on Saturday and the Men’s on Sunday.  It is the first time I have watched the finals for many years but a combination of inclement weather, a deadline for my second project draft on Monday and having the house to myself for the weekend was an adequate excuse to be very indulgent.

Serena Williams

Murray and Federer
In between matches there were lots of opportunities to pop out for a cuppa,  make some lunch, have a loo break , check out how many frogs were sitting around the pond, fill in a few numbers on   the Soduko – anything but apply myself to my project work.  These opportunities included:
  • when the players needed time to have their fevered brows mopped  with towels provided by super-enthusiastic towel bearers
  • when it was time to change those shabby old racquets restrung that morning and in use for at least half an hour thus enabling  an increase in ball speed from 130mph to 131mph,
  • when players needed to gently stroll to the other end of the court for the next game
  • when the rain started so everything had to stop for the court to be covered and the roof closed
  • when players stopped for a refreshing drink from containers displaying the maker’s name– worth a fortune in advertising
  • when we needed time for good shots of the celebrities arranged around the court in all their finery. These included Kate and Pippa, David and Posh, Cliff Richard.

I may jest but really it was two days of fabulous tennis and I would have been on the edge of my seat the whole time if I hadn’t been lying prone on the sofa feeling exhausted watching all that rushing around on court.

So I arrived at work in the Enquiry Unit on Monday rather despondent about not doing as much work as I had wanted to and with a tutorial booked the following day with my supervisor who expected a reasonable second draft of my project to be delivered to her at lunchtime. 

…but first I had to get through the skills test and interview for a senior position in Clearing.  That was at 10am and I duly lined up with the others all looking like lambs going to the slaughter.  After a written test on general knowledge of the university and Clearing process we had a 10-15 minute interview followed by a phones test when we had to take three calls from disgruntled people complaining about various things.  I came out shaking sure that I had failed, while my mate Cherie looked as white as a sheet.  I did feel better when I discovered that everyone felt as grotty as I had. 

On Tuesday I had a brilliant tutorial.  Fearing that my tutor Val would tell me to chuck it and start again (I had already restarted twice), instead she had some wonderful suggestions, helped me get right on track and plan a good structure for it.  I am a very visual person and need to be able to ‘see’ an essay like piece of art and until I have that picture in my head, I feel like I flounder around.  Luckily it was pouring with rain all of Wednesday which meant I didn’t mind too much putting my nose to the grindstone and working all day.

Nose to the grindstone

However I am beginning to think I will turn into a Fungus the Bogeyman lookalike soon if it doesn’t stop raining.  I am beginning to check for webbing between the toes and green mossy growths in my armpits.  Rain stop!

Fungus the Bogeyman

Today I was called in for the verdict about my interview and I had been selected for a senior position so I am relieved and delighted.  I will be working with the reception team over on the Greenwich Maritime campus right in the middle of all the Olympics goings on - so interesting times.

…but before all that I have to spend the next three days writing
                                                                                                            writing …  no more excuses!

Murray and Federer:

Friday, 6 July 2012

Tumbleweeds, Hampton Court and Flirting with Bees

We have started working in Early Clearing this week and it feels quite strange.  We have had to move from the familiarity of the Enquiry Unit working with a small team to the newly set up arrangement in the Mansion Site computer lab that normally buzzes with students during term-time. Now all the undergraduates have completed their summer terms and sat their exams, the only students around are the post grads with longer deadlines like me, or those who are preparing for re-sits in August.  Even the library feels strange with piles of books everywhere and furniture in disarray as renovations are carried out ready for the start of the new academic year in September.  For the next two weeks our Clearing team is the same size as it was in the Enquiry Unit so we are tucked away in a corner of the lab with vast expanses of empty desks filling the rest of the space.  I have visions of tumbleweeds rolling down the aisles any minute!  We then expand into 8 teams with the ranks swelled with newbies at the start of A level week.  Throughout Clearing we have a rota to write for a daily Clearing diary .  If you are thinking of applying to Greenwich for a Clearing place, check it out for lots of useful advice – mine was the second and dealt with money issues – a subject always close to a student’s heart!


Thinking of tumbleweeds and Clearing I came across this wonderful piece:

All hail the tumbleweed, denizen of deserted steppe, itinerant ditherer of the dusty plains. It goes wherever the wind and the land dictate, often shedding seeds as it bumbles. Around boulder and over hillock it canters, cantankerously, seeming to ask as it rolls by: “Why do you notice me?” It speaks – whether we listen or understand – of life past and passing on; of wide open spaces and perhaps loneliness; of a spirit at once opportunistic and inscrutable.
How’s that for waxing lyrical? I wish I could write like that. However, I really meant to write about my annual trip with him-at-home to the Hampton Court Flower Show.  I much prefer it to Chelsea because it is easier to escape the rather annoying moneyed weirdo people to admire the wonderful plants and landscaping in peace.  I love even the journey there which entails either a walk along the river checking out the lovely houseboats,

 or strolling through the palace gardens with the backdrop of the Tudor Hampton Court Palace setting it all off perfectly.  I always have to get my fix of those amazing chimneys.

Hampton Court Palace chimneys
As we arrived we met Mr Bee-man who was having a sartorial challenge with his costume wings so a quick adjustment from yours truly and he was happy to pose for a pic.

Bee man 

That was before I proceeded to tell him all about our wonderful hives at the Avery Hill campus and probably went on a bit too long and too enthusiastically.

I love bees and they are so important to sustain our food supply and the well-being of our planet.  Over the last few years they have had a really hard time with populations being decimated by viruses, pesticides and loss of habitat.  I would love to have a beehive in our garden but it is much too small so we have lots of bee loving flowers growing instead.

I loved this garden of cacti and succulents set to resemble a coral reef.  It was so cleverly done, set up in a blue Perspex cube with a watery roof on a little island surrounded by a moat.  Standing in the cube I felt surrounded by water as the light played on the ripples

Coral Reef
This was a rather strange garden with peacocks, angels and floaty things  - even the idea of a stained glass window rendered in flowers – a very strange mish-mash in my view.

Victorian Fantasy

Stained glass window

There is always a themed competition for colleges and I had to admire this entry from the students at Hadlow College ( ), one of our partner colleges specialising in environmental (more bees!) agricultural, equine, and animal courses.  The theme must have been poetry or literature as this entry is called the Lady of Shalott. I wonder if it could have been improved with a few small onions around to give it an ironic note!

After a great day we staggered home.  I was very restrained and only bought two plants.  We changed trains at Waterloo and I was delighted to get the best view I have ever had of the new Shard building at London Bridge.
The Shard
Every time I travel up to London Bridge, I enjoy watching the London Quarter project develop; the demolition of several really grotty buildings progressing to a very large hole in the ground to the construction of the most elegant of spires. Then there is the expansion of the railway and changes to Borough Market. Watching the spectators on the viewing platforms has been just as fascinating. Why is it that it always seems to be men and small boys line up peering at building sites, gazing in fascination at large construction vehicles, and engrossed in the music of pile drivers?

Hampton Court Palace chimneys: