Tag Archives: Rugby

Sunday Smiles: From the edges of the solar system to Eden Park

Not the happiest start to Sunday Smiles but I have to mention it: you guys, Neil Armstrong died.  I totally wanted to be an astronaut when I was little, and although my career dreams and aspirations veered off into the direction of the ocean, a little part of me has always remained fascinated by space, so the news saddened me, in the way that the death of a famous person who did something truly great does.  Neil Armstrong was definitely the person with whom I most associate space exploration.  And the moon.  I still think it’s incredible that humans have walked on the moon.  Fun fact: more humans have been to the moon than to the depths of the Earth’s oceans.

So this week’s Sunday Smiles starts off with something space-related:

  • NASA’s Voyager 1 mission is about to leave our solar system.  After 35 years of service, the Voyager missions appear to still be going strong, which is incredible when you consider that we can still communicate with 1970s technology at the fringes of our solar system.  Voyager 1 is currently 18.2 billion km from the Earth and Voyager 2 is currently 14.8 billion km from the Earth, which is apparently the furthest any man-made object has ever travelled.  Isn’t that just awe-inspiring?
  • This altered Oatmeal comic which jointly covers the (crappy) NZ internet situation and the ridiculous delay in TV series being shown here made me laugh.  I’m not supporting illegal downloading (just to make that clear), but I don’t see any logical reason for there to be such a delay on TV series – it’s the 21st century, so it’s not like the series have to be shipped here by boat or something.  And as for the internet situation here… well it’s pretty frustrating when one streams the radio over the internet and it cuts out every ten minutes or so.  I realise these are first world problems, but this is a first world country, so…
  • I’ve already written a whole blog post about them, but my labmates’ reactions to the chocolate, cherry and hazelnut cookies that I baked the other day were so enthusiastic that I couldn’t help but smile.  Other people enjoying something I’ve baked never fails to make me happy.

  • Time for something cute, check out these adorable koala macarons!  Aren’t they the cutest?
  • Another week, another Tumblr…  The link to Dog Shaming was sent to me by a couple of different people and it also made the rounds in the lab.  If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ll probably appreciate it.
  • If you’ve ever lived in a touristy city or town, you’ve probably encountered frustration if you’re actually trying to get somewhere but have to bypass hordes of (oblivious) sauntering tourists.  The effect seems to be so much more intense in Edinburgh, possibly because the population doubles during August thanks to the Festival and the Fringe.  Whilst I’m not there this year, this tongue-in-cheek analysis of Edinburgh’s tourist tactics amused me.  The observations are equally valid for anywhere touristy.
  • And finally, as mentioned last week, a friend from St Andrews was in Auckland this weekend and we went to see the All Blacks vs Wallabies match last night.  The All Blacks beat the Wallabies by 22-0 so it wasn’t the most nail-biting rugby I’ve ever seen, but I’m still not over my enthusiasm of seeing the All Blacks play in real life at Eden Park, and we were both totally excited by the whole thing.  Plus the weather was in our favour.  And the haka was played over the PA system as well, which was so much better than when I saw the All Blacks play Ireland a few months ago.

What made you smile this week?

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Watching the All Blacks!

Saturday was a day of much excitement – not only was it World Gin Day (which involved Gin & Tonic scones), but I went to an All Blacks game!  I watched the All Blacks play in real life for the first time ever!  And at Eden Park, no less – scene of their victory in the World Cup (we’ll just skip over the details of who they beat, ahem…).  I’ve wanted to see the All Blacks play in real life for as long as I can remember, so this really was a big deal for me.  It was also the perfect occasion to finally bankrupt myself buy an All Blacks shirt, which was quite an emotional undertaking, for personal reasons that I won’t go into.

The game was the first of three test matches that the All Blacks are playing against Ireland over the next few weeks, so not a particularly important game, but I wasn’t particularly bothered about that.  Since it wasn’t an important game, I don’t really think that many Ireland supporters would have flown over for the matches (since you know, it’s the other side of the world and a little expensive to do so), so I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Ireland supporters that were at the game – I had no idea that there were so many Irish here in Auckland.  The game itself wasn’t the most nail-biting rugby I’ve ever watched, and with a final score of 42-10 (to the All Blacks) it wasn’t exactly a case of not knowing who would win until the very end, but it wasn’t bad rugby and Ireland weren’t exactly pushovers.  My general excitement at just being there more than made up for it anyway.

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I really like Eden Park as a stadium.  We had seats in the terraces in one of the corners behind the try line, so we got drizzled on a bit, but we were fairly close to the pitch (which is always good), and I think the stadium itself is more or less square, which makes the pitch really wide and gives the impression that the opposite posts aren’t actually that far away.  The only thing that I found a little disappointing was the haka, the notorious Māori dance that the All Blacks do before every match to scare the crap out of welcome their opponents.  This was probably the part that I was most looking forward to.  We were conveniently placed so that the All Blacks were facing us when they did the haka, so we could see what was going on, and they transmit close-ups on the big screens around the stadium (which I imagine is what is being televised), but they don’t seem to have microphones that pick up the sound and transmit it around the stadium.  The haka is significantly less impressive if you can barely hear it.  And I know that the haka is for the “benefit” of the opposing team rather than the spectators, but it’s such an integral part of watching the All Blacks on TV that it seems a shame to lose most of the effect when watching in real life (on the other hand, perhaps having the haka booming around the PA system of the stadium would be a little too terrifying…).

More haka

If you’re a rugby fan and ever visit Auckland, I’d definitely recommend checking to see if your trip coincides with any All Blacks games – just the experience of watching the All Blacks play at Eden Park is totally worth it.  I’m afraid I can’t give you any information on acquiring tickets because somebody else organised that.  You can travel by train to Eden Park from Britomart (the train station at the bottom of Queen St) and back again for free with your match tickets.  I’m not sure if this is also the case for other train routes in Auckland since we left from Britomart.

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!

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So it begins…

I’ve said all my goodbyes (with more than one resulting in a rather awkward-crying-on-public-transport situation) and this afternoon I’ll be beginning my slightly epic trip to New Zealand.  Epic in that it will take me 30 hours so I won’t arrive in Auckland until Saturday lunch time (NZ time – which is super late on Friday evening UK time).  Not epic in that I’m swimming there or something terribly sensational like that.

I thought I should procrastinate from packing by writing a blog post probably show some signs of life, so here are some of the things that I’m super excited about:

Long-haul flights – I love flying (let’s just skip over the whole environmental impact thing, ok?), but I’m a particular fan of long-haul.  I love that almost every airline has individual TV screens now, even in Economy, so you can choose what you want to watch (assuming you’re not stuck with the only faulty screen in the whole plane).  Except then there are too many options and I’m terribly indecisive…  I’m hoping The Muppets are on, but we’ll see.  I bet I end up watching a whole series of terrible films that I would never consider paying to go see at the cinema…

Being an expat again – Aside from the last four years of university, I’ve spent my whole life as an expat.  As strange as it may sound, I feel much more at home whilst living abroad than when living in the UK, one of my “home countries”.  I’ve missed being an expat so much, and I can’t wait to discover a new country, new customs and a new culture!!

New foods – I feel this is pretty self-explanatory – I write a food blog, so of course I’m excited about the prospect of new foods!  I can’t wait to discover new fruits and fish and just generally new dishes…  The food section was obviously the very first section that I read when I acquired my guide book.  I have my priorities right, don’t you know.

Being a student again – I only graduated in June, but in the intervening months I’ve really missed being a student.  As sad as it may sound, I’m rather excited about all the reading and learning that I’m going to have to do (not so much the stats that will inevitably rear their ugly heads).  I think I need to get out more…

The scenery – NZ just looks utterly stunning in all the photos and documentaries I’ve seen.  The dramatically beautiful landscapes remind me very much of Norway.  The visa in my passport informs me that I’m there to study, but I hope that I’ll be able to visit some of NZ and see all the beauty for myself.  You can probably expect some Toothy’s Travels posts in the nearish future…

Rugby – I’ve wanted to see the All Blacks play for a long time (in real life).  Even if they beat France at the World Cup…  So fingers crossed that that happens!  I’m also hoping that the general love of rugby that seems to permeate across the country means that the 6 Nations matches are shown on TV.

Middle Earth – I’m quite enthusiastic about Lord of the Rings (I love both the books and the films), so going to NZ is totally exciting, even if Auckland wasn’t exactly the centre of filming.  Oh, you were under the illusion that I’m ultra cool?  Oh…  Well, that’s that illusion dispelled then.  Bonus points to anyone who spotted the LOTR reference in the title of this post, although I’d like to reassure you that I have no intention whatsoever of fighting orcs.  Or fighting anything for that matter.

NZ wine – I’m really not familiar with NZ wine, so I’m excited to discover it properly (because as we know, I’m quite partial to wine…), but whenever I say that to friends who actually know about wine they generally give me a pitying look that effectively says “good luck with that…”  Doesn’t bode too well…  I’m hoping that it’s just a case of NZ keeping its best wines for the domestic market and exporting the not-so-great stuff.  Any suggestions for wines to taste/vineyards to visit are obviously welcome.

And in the interest of balance (I seem to have come over all BBC), here are a few things that I’m rather less excited about, but still turning into positives:

The time difference – NZ is currently 13 hours ahead of the UK, so the impending jet-lag will probably be marvellous fun to deal with, I’m sure…  The difference will make watching the 6 Nations rather interesting – I can’t wait for the matches that are on at 4am on a Monday morning…  At least I won’t be late for wherever I’m supposed to be/whatever I’m supposed to be doing on said Mondays.  No promises for the rest of the week though.

Three winters in a row – It’s the end of the summer in NZ, so after winter in Europe, I’ll get winter in NZ, followed by winter in Europe again at the end of my course.  Planning fail.  Though on the plus side, winter = mulled wine…  And I feel NZ winters sound rather preferable to European winters.  In fact, they’re probably better than Scottish summers.

Downton Abbey – The problem with moving around is that TV series are always at different stages in different countries, so I don’t usually get too into them.  I’m totally addicted to Downton Abbey though – I rather hope that the series has made it to NZ and that it’s not too behind either.  Once again, I clearly have my priorities in the right place…

I don’t have anywhere to live (yet) – Because I won’t know exactly what I’ll be doing until I’ve met my supervisor (hopefully next week), I don’t know whether I’ll be based in Auckland or Leigh…  So I haven’t been able to look for anywhere to live yet.  Panic panic.  But I do have two weeks’ temporary accommodation organised when I arrive, so at least I won’t have to sleep under a bridge (for now).  Hopefully that will be enough time to find something decent…

So, on that wonderfully positive note, I’m off to Middle Earth New Zealand!  Exciting stuff!!  Needless to say, I’m not sure how much blogging will happen over the next few weeks as I sort out my living situation (minor detail) and settle in, but do bear with me!

Wherever you are, enjoy the rest of your day!

PS – Sorry for the lack of photos in this post.  I’m actually supposed to be packing, so ya…

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The many uses of a chopstick and other important things that I learnt at University

I haven’t really unpacked all my stuff yet, partially because I have no idea where to put it all, partially because I’m a bit lazy and disorganised, and mostly because once it’s all unpacked, I really have to admit that the St Andrews chapter of my life is closed and that I genuinely have no idea where my life goes from here.  So anyway, the point is that today’s post is not about food (and is also incredibly long – you’ve been warned).  Instead, since University is supposed to be all about learning, I’m going to share the random things that I learnt at University, but outwith lectures and labs.  A few are serious, but most of them are fun little tidbits:

  1. Being a TCK (Third Culture Kid) in a non-TCK environment is hard work – As a result of having lived my entire life (until University) as an expat, I am a TCK, brought up in a mix of cultures.  Although I am half British, and it is therefore one of my “home” cultures, when I first moved here for Uni, I often felt like a total outsider, particularly in first year, simply because there were loads of cultural references that I just didn’t understand.  So culturally, I was (and still am) a bit of a foreigner, but I’m British and I have a very British accent, and a lot of the people that I met found this difficult to comprehend.  Basically, I didn’t fit into a box, so people didn’t really know how to react to me, and I found this quite tough and a little lonely at times.  I realise this all sounds a bit miserable, but don’t worry, although it took a while, I found friends who accept me just as I am, or put up with me because I feed them.
  2. Being able to cook and bake is a great way to make friends – Most people enjoy being fed yummy food, and if they don’t, they probably aren’t worth making friends with anyway.  I’ve always found that, in general, people are particularly enthusiastic about baked goods – unless they contain nuts and you feed them to somebody who is allergic to them.  That might not work out so well. 
  3. Everybody loves madeleines – It might be rather big-headed of me, but I like to think that I bake pretty delicious madeleines.  I have yet to meet somebody who hasn’t enjoyed them and gone for a second, third, fourth helping/finished off the plate.
  4. The effort that goes into baking a cake sometimes goes completely unappreciated – This is a bit of an awkward point, since I am still a bit upset over this particular incident.  I went to a lot of effort to make a birthday cheesecake for somebody once.  They took a miniscule slice of it, told me they loved it (I had baked a trial run and everybody who tried that one agreed that it was lovely), and put it in the fridge “for later,” which was totally fine since we were going out for tea.  So far, so good.  The issue arises in that ten days later, when they left for a two-week break, the cheesecake remained, completely untouched.  Needless to say, it was rather past its prime.  Nobody should ever have to throw out a birthday cake that they made as a gift to somebody.  I don’t wish to name and shame this person, but if they are reading this, I hope they are aware of how insulting it is to have to do that.  Rant over and lesson learnt to only make cakes for people who appreciate it.
  5. Leather handbags are really good for ripening bananas – I accidentally found this out whilst dissertating when I bought a rather under-ripe banana on my way to the Bute one morning and then forgot about it until evening by which time it had totally ripened.  Not that I would really recommend carrying bananas around in your handbag since they might get a bit squished, but it’s good to know.  In case you need to ripen any bananas quickly…  Uhm, ya.  I’ll just stop there.
  6. Muffins can form the base of a pivotal moment in a friendship – Kat and I got to know each other over the course of third year after bonding over cookies and field-working in a knee-deep river (in wellies), but I think we really became close friends when she unexpectedly ended up living with me last summer (long story).  We spent a lot of time faffing in the kitchen, but I think one of the most pivotal moments in cementing our friendship was when we decided to make a US flag for the 4th of July… out of iced mini-muffins.  Ya, we’re that cool. 
  7. Amazon sells food – Ingredients-wise, I’ve almost always been able to find what I needed in St Andrews.  The only exception to this is corn syrup, which I have never seen stocked anywhere.  However, I found out completely by accident that you can order it off Amazon.  Amazing!  Incidentally, Amazon also sells champagne, which I find kind of random.
  8. Allowing others to use your non-stick pans may not be a good idea – All my pans and most of my bakeware are non-stick, and good quality at that (there’s a Tefal factory outlet near where I’m from in France), and since most of what came with the flat was pretty disgusting, we ended up using all of my kitchenware for cooking.  As I’m sure you’re aware, metal should NEVER be used anywhere near anything non-stick.  Apparently not everybody is aware of this (even after being specifically told), and whilst my pans luckily did not sustain any major scratch-mark damage, there were a few near misses.  Moral of the story: never let other people use your pans (further enforced by the next point).
  9. Although somebody may wax lyrical about being God’s gift to the culinary arts, this may not actually be the case – If you’ve read my crêpe post, you may remember my little rant about somebody using my crêpe pan as a frying pan, and searing burning tuna steaks in it.  In my humble opinion, that is not exactly the mark of a culinary God.  Enough said.
  10. People give you strange looks when you whip out an oven glove and take photos of it in tourist spots – This is much less bizarre than it sounds, since my oven gloves are shark-shaped and therefore completely awesome.  You can read about the adventures of Toothamanga around St Andrews here
  11. Some people “have no nose for wine” (from the genius of ‘Allo ‘Allo) – I know somebody who was given a very nice, and fairly expensive bottle of wine for their 21st birthday.  When they eventually opened the bottle with other friends also lacking a nose for wine, they left about a glass-worth in the bottom of the bottle, popped it in their fridge and only removed it (untouched) when they moved out 8 months later.  Now, I’m no wine expert, but really?!  Poor, completely unappreciated wine.  And my poor friend that gave the bottle in the first place – a bit of a smack in the face to see it every time he opened their fridge.
  12. Tesco Market Value wine can de-block a bathroom sink – Tesco Market Value wine comes in little cartons, very similar to individual drinks cartons.  Craig and I bought one once for a laugh, just to see how utterly disgusting it was.  The only reason neither of us spat the stuff out after taking the smallest sips possible is that we’re too polite to do so.  I’m pretty sure labelling it as “wine” counts as false advertising and it should really be sold as “vinegar” or “sink de-blocker.”  If you think I’m exaggerating, the bathroom sink was a little clogged so we poured the carton down the sink to see if it would de-block it.  It did.  Enough said.
  13. Pieropan: Soave Pieropan wine can be relied upon to result in some seriously awkward comments – The first time we tried this wine, I managed to accidentally come out with a spectacularly awkward comment.  Every time we’ve had this wine (which, due to it being good both with food and on its own and also very drinkable, happens fairly regularly), somebody has managed to go off on a roll of unintentional and awkward comments, with truly hilarious results.  Consequently, we’ve affectionately nicknamed it “The Awkward Italian.”
  14. Always keep a spare bottle of gin or three – For some reason, the gin always seems to be running low or gone (why is the gin always gone?).  Don’t underestimate the value of having spare gin.  And tonic, obviously.  Oh, and also make sure that you always have limes/cucumber in the fridge as well.  The freezer is a great place to store spare gin, by the way.
  15. It is possible to get tipsy (possibly even drunk) off my muffins – After much practice, I now have the baking of muffins with rum (or any other alcohol) as the principle ingredient down to a fine art. 
  16. At a party, when in doubt, grab the Cointreau and hang out by the freezer – This is a particularly great tactic if you don’t really know anybody or don’t really want to speak to people who are in the drawing room.  Why the freezer?  Because that’s where the ice cubes live.  People will realise that you’ve hit on a genius plan and also hang out with you by the freezer, or you might already find a collection of fellow alcoholics already there to make friends with.  Sharing the Cointreau is optional, obviously, though highly recommended if it belongs to somebody other than yourself.
  17. BUT when you run out of orange juice/Passoã/both to make punch, Cointreau is not a suitable alternative – This might sound like a genius idea, and it tastes fabulous at the time, but it leaves you feeling a little bit on the rough side the next day.  And also leaves you with a bit of a blank memory.  I speak from (hazy) experience.  Let’s just leave it there.
  18. An illuminated punchbowl fountain is a brilliant investment – A totally awesome addition to any party.  The end. 
  19. You can get chatted up through eBay – The eBay seller from whom I bought my James Bond DVD boxset attempted to chat me up via eBay message.  I’m sure you can imagine my surprise and amusement.  The guy’s profile name thing was something along the lines of “Hotrod69” though, so I probably should have seen that coming (please refer to the following point if you chuckled at that).
  20. Maturity is overrated – I could give plenty of examples of my immaturity, but I’m just going to stick with one.  There is a lane in St Andrews which I’ve walked past almost every day for four years, yet I still chuckle a bit to myself whenever I do, because it’s called Butts Wynd.  I’d like to think that one day I might grow up a little, but I somehow doubt that will be happening any time soon (I kind of secretly hope it never happens.  Being totally immature is really quite fun).
  21. Making friends with local shop-keepers can only ever end in win – This one is pretty self-explanatory really…  If you get to know the shop-keepers (and they like you – baked goods help with that) of shops that you frequent often then they get to know what you like.  And they might set aside that last slice of your favourite cheese for you, or give you a reduced price on that lovely bottle of wine that they know you’ll love.  How is that not a win?
  22. Over-enthusiasm for dinosaurs at the age of 22 is totally acceptable…  If you’re a biologist – I know I said that this was a list of what I’ve learnt outwith academics, but I’ll make an exception for this particular point.  When I was younger, I never went through a dinosaur phase.  I think it was in second year that we learnt about how amazing dinosaurs are and I’ve been enthusiastic ever since (totally nothing to do with the fact that our professor dressed up as a swamp monster for the lecture).  I even own dinosaur cookie cutters.  Whilst my fellow biologists totally share my enthusiasm, most of my other friends think I’m crazy.  They are clearly missing out. 
  23. There is only one way to get away with dressing up as oneself for Halloween – Dressing up as oneself for Halloween is a complete cop-out, and I have serious issues with it.  To the point where at our last Halloween party, I threatened anybody who dared turn up as themselves with multiple shots of tequila (nobody dared).  However, if one happens to have been caught on Google Maps Streetview and there is a funny (though blog-innapropriate) story behind it, dressing up as oneself as seen on Google Maps is totally acceptable.  And highly amusing, for those who are aware of the back-story.
  24. Watching rugby in the library is incredibly stressful and difficult – Due to a heavy workload during the Autumn Tests and the Six Nations, I managed to end up having to watch most of the matches whilst working in the library.  Have you ever tried to keep quiet whilst watching a rugby match?  It’s remarkably difficult and really quite stressful.  Needless to say, not a whole lot of work ended up getting done.  Woops.
  25. There are approximately 562 different uses for chopsticks – The flat that I lived in for the last three years came with several sets of chopsticks.  I think I might have used them as eating implements a grand total of once.  However, I discovered that chopsticks are, in fact, incredibly useful.  Stirring jugs of Pimm’s, loosening out curls if the hairdresser was a little too enthusiastic with the hairspray, fishing teabags out of the bottom of a Thermos flask, making mojitos, stirring paint, poking holes in the tops of muffins to fill them with rum and pushing fairy lights into empty champagne bottles are but a few alternate uses (ok, so 562 may be a slight exaggeration). 

So there we have it – 25 of the crucial life lessons that I’ve learnt at University.

Wherever in the world you are, enjoy the rest of your day!

PS – As a reward for getting to the end of this mammoth post, here’s a special bonus life lesson: If you are staying in a B&B or hotel, always close the curtains – There were B&Bs across the street from our flat.  Apparently people didn’t realise that if they could see into our flat, we could also see into their room.  A surprising number of people didn’t shut the curtains, you can imagine the rest yourself.

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