21 September 2021

Field trip barbecue

 If your fieldwork is residential, it automatically comes with a lot of social time. When we were still going to south Wales, we would normally have segregated the narrow, if only for logistic reasons; the staff and the students organising their own things. But one evening we would all come together; we had a traditional barbecue at the end of the fieldwork. The accommodation had barbecues, and by tradition, the technicians would sort out the rest. And everyone would show up! It was all very nice. But of course, this year we weren't residential. Everyone would just go home at the end of the day and sort themselves out. But we did want to keep the tradition at least somewhat alive. And I had figured that the best day for a barbecue would be the day we had been in the lab. After you have just been in the field from 7 AM to 6 PM you might not be overly keen to also have your dinner in the fresh air. So the Tuesday was the day of choice. And the day after we would only meet at 8 AM, so that could be worse. But where would we do it?

One idea I had was our botanic gardens. I know you can book them for social events. And it is a bit away from everything, but not all too far. It is easy biking distance from Bangor, where most of the students live. The staff would generally have to drive, but that is okay. So when nobody had a better idea than that, I booked the place. And as I would be in the lab with the students until just before the barbecue would start, I had asked Jaco to get the party started. He was willing to collect his barbecue and mine, get some coal, and start things off. So when my practical was done, I drove past the supermarket, got me some food and drinks, and headed for the botanic Gardens. I expected to see Jaco there, but there was no sign of him! And I saw some botanic garden employees, but they didn't know anything about the barbecue. They pointed me in the direction of another employee who also didn't know anything about it, but who at least had the number of the person I had liaised with. And after some discussion over the phone she could point me to the "Chinese garden" where she thought we could do no harm. And it was beautiful! I was happy to set up there. And while the woman was on the phone, Jaco appeared, so as soon as we knew where to go we could start setting up. And I really needed a drink after a long day in the lab. I didn't go beyond 1% alcohol, but it hit the spot!

How it started

Quite soon two more people appeared; not many! Maybe I was just unusually hungry and thirsty. I couldn't wait to put something on the barbecue and start proceedings. No waiting for me. But then more staff and students appeared. It was a lovely evening and we had a nice time.

At about seven, things changed. A group of students appeared, and one of them turned out to have brought half his kitchen with him. No arbitrary sausages on non-descript buns for him! He had both the best of kitchen appliances and the best of food with him, and he set to work. And fairly soon he was going around with a chopping board with the most amazing food on it, sharing it with everyone. That barbecue got more special than I had anticipated! But it got quite dark and the Chinese garden was not lit. At some point we all decided it was time to go home. I extinguished the fire in my barbecue with some water, and just put the whole thing in the back of the car. I think Jaco did the same. And by the light of mobile phones we checked if we had left the area as tidy as we had found it.

In the end, we only had just over one third of the students, and only the academic staff; none of the technical staff had made it. So a complete success it was not. But I think everyone who was there had a good time! And I am sure that we can do an even better job next year. The tradition has survived another incarnation of the field trip!

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