Monday, May 9, 2011

Banyoles and Beyond!

Because it is now Second Week of Trinity term, and I have not managed to catch up the blog yet, I thought I would do a sort of rush-job covering only the major highlights of April.  The first week is easy enough, because from the 3rd to the 9th I was in Banyoles, Spain (near the French border, about 90 mins outside of Barcelona by bus) with the rowing club at a training camp.  We stayed at a hostel next to a former Olympics course on a gorgeous natural lake, in a valley overlooked by mountains.  We had lovely weather for the entire week, and the water the natural lake was so clear, you could see straight to the bottom (though there were bits of green algae floating here and there, but rather beautifully, like semi-clear gelatinous bulbs. I even touched one once, just to see if it felt like a jelly fish. It did.).  The mountains surrounding the lake were covered in trees, and there were two in the distance that were snow-capped.

The hostel was nicer than most: the room and bunk beds were comfortable, and there was a pretty little balcony from which we could see part of the lake--and there were two sheep with BELLS around their necks that grazed around in the back yard and stared at us when we were eating breakfast, as well as a few roosters, one of which liked to crow at ten second intervals from 5 a.m. till 7 a.m...which was pretty annoying.  I was rooming with my boatmates, Sophie, Anne, and Kirsten, and we had a great time chatting and giggling and singing songs and watching "Mama Mia" and "Juno" and about three-quarters of "Seventeen Again."  (I had never seen any of these films before.  They were all better than I had expected!)

When we weren't being silly girls, we were rowing 2-3 outings per day, and doing core exercises and watching video of ourselves to improve our strokes.  Oh, and eating: they fed us at least two platefuls of food at every meal, and we supplemented with stores of snacks in our rooms and occasional ice creams from the cafĂ© by the lake.  And of course, there was the hand taping... 

With the sudden change to warm temperatures, plus increased humidity and harder rowing, plus alternating between wooden and plastic oar handles, everyone formed serious blisters, even after just the first day.  So each morning we would go through a complex ritual of cleaning, drying, bandaging, and taping these holes in our hands in the misguided hope that extra layers between our skin and the handle would somehow protect them.  But sweat and friction generally rendered our efforts futile, and we just learned to row through the pain. Because we are just that hard core.  Or something.  On the last day our practice was cut short by a fire going on in a nearby town.  We were told to clear the lake because the water planes would be coming through to pick up water.  Of course, as we couldn't row, we all decided to go swimming (close to the docks, so not near the planes).  It was a wonderful end to a long, hard week.

Because there was really no opportunity to work on my dissertation while I was at the rowing camp, I knew I had to get into work mode when I came home.  I still had no idea what my actual thesis would be, so I decided to begin by reading more or less the entire works of John Donne.  The sun shone in Oxford for weeks after I got back, and as this was so very uncharacteristic of the place I took advantage of it by doing as much dissertation reading as possible outside, on a picnic blanket (a.k.a. an old white sheet that had been sitting in the laundry room since September and has now been appropriated by me) in Christ Church Meadows.  This served the twofold purpose of getting me out of my room and getting me away from the internet, which is my favourite distraction.  (For example, right now I ought to be in bed, fast asleep, as it is nearly midnight and I have been up since six, but I am not only blogging and occasionally checking emails, but I am also watching a clip of Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle on BBC iPlayer.  Now that's multitasking.)

I have now finished my preliminary reading, and am moving on to criticism this week.  I even have a thesis...sort of!  (I'll share it when it is a bit more clear.)  There were not any more events of note going on until Easter, which brings us officially into Trinity Term, so I will cover that in another post, as it is definitely bed time.  Ciao for now, folks!

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