15 November 2017

Gnatty guest

Sometimes you get landed a job that actually has nice perks. When Paul left, he asked me to take over his job as organiser for the palaeoclimate part of the School of Ocean Sciences (SOS) seminar series. We have three entwined series: marine biology, physical oceanography, and, thus, palaeoclimate. Ideally, you wait until interesting people visit SOS anyway, and rope them into giving a talk. But with James' leaving, few palaeoscientists would be visiting us. I had to invite people especially for the seminars! And that's nice. You can pick and choose! I thought of the people I might want to invite. They had to be UK-based as the budget doesn't stretch any further. But there's plenty of those! And I thought only some would say yes so I'd better get a big list together. One person I had had in mind had already been roped in by the physical oceanography organiser: Ivan. But one can't have it all!

The first two I chose were Stefan, a former fellow PhD student in Amsterdam, and Tasha. They are based in Nottingham and Leeds, respectively, which is not too far away, and they do interesting stuff. And they are nice people. And both said yes! Well, that was my slots filled up. Didn't expect that to go so smoothly! I'll write about Tasha when she gets here. Stefan works mainly in lakes; he uses the fossilised jaws of mosquito larvae as climate proxies. And also pollen, and lots of other stuff. And these lakes tend to get stratified in summer, and thus anoxic at the bottom; that means the bottom sediments are annually layered, and barley disturbed. That's perfect for climate reconstruction! He has cracking climate records with a resolution, and age control, I can only dream of.

There was one thing that didn't go as smoothly as I hoped; Stefan did say yes but he also said he'd move to Cambridge first. That's very far! It was only just possible to travel in on the day itself. He would have to get up early...

The day came. I lectured in the morning. Then I texted him to say I assumed no news was good news; he was probably in the intended train and was due to arrive on time? And he was! I picked him up from the station and took him to SOS. There was a bit of time for a cup of coffee and a snack. Then he was on!

I had received apologies from quite some colleagues who said they were interested but not able to make it. That's a pity! And some bloke from the mail campus had mailed to say he wanted ot come for lunch. Excellent! But he wasn't there. Oh dear.

Stefan started talking. It was a good lecture, and it nicely tied into loads of things I teach about! A fair number of my students showed up; I like it that they now hear about stuff such as the Younger Dryas and palaeoproxies and tephrochronology and all that sort of thing from someone else.

When he was done there was some talking afterwards; mainly with one of my students from two years ago, and with Dei. And then it was lunch time! And that was only Stefan and me. Not a big harvest! But people are busy.

After lunch I suggested to drop him off in the mountains. He lives in Cambridge and works in London, so how often does he get to see a mountain from close up? And the weather was OK. I drove to Ogwen Cottage, gave him a map and went back to the office.

When it started to get dark I drove back to pick him up. Then we had a cup of tea, and then went for dinner. The Freckled Angel, which I had tried with Monique, was busy, but the Straits (which I had wanted to try for years) had space for us. It was nice! But I had three glasses of wine and I'm not used to that anymore.

After dinner the visit was as good as over; we were both tired so not inclined to go night-crawling, and the next day I had to be at work again for an open day at 10:30, and he had to have a train back at 11. But it was nice to see him! And his talk was everything I had hoped from it (although he himself was fretting over not discussing the thermohaline circulation in more detail). All good! I'm sure it will be good when Tasha visits too!

 The Laacher See; an important field site for Stefan. Pic by Holger Weinandt.

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