Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sciblog 2008 (part 1)

OK, right, ease the old digits in place over the keyboard. I begin.

First, a whinge. Coach travel. Everything about this mode of transport is bad, bad, bad. It is slow and unpredictable, there is not enough room between seats to open a laptop, and Victoria Coach station is more like a refugee camp than a modern terminal in a major western city. It is crowded, dark and chaotic. The seating is inadequate, and when I was there taken by some very large families with suitcases who looked like they were intending to camp there for several days. It is also inconveniently distant from any other (more civilised) means of transport viz the railway and tube.

I am trying to find positive features: of course it is cheap, the seats are moderately comfortable and I did find myself developing an inexplicable fondness for the other passengers (though this may be related to the refugee-type status, as described above, which tends to inculcate a 'we're in this together' type of camaraderie).

Bankside (LSE hall of residence) was very good (with reservations - see below) and I would stay there again. It is very quiet, two minutes walk away from from the Tate Modern and the Globe (pictured above), and offers a high quality breakfast. It is excellent value.


Due to Bankside's inexplicable booking-in policy (no one was admitted before 3pm) I was told to go away on arrival at 2pm only to find that when I returned there was a long queue of people. This, together with a remarkably inefficient booking-in system and also my own arrogant and erroneous certainty about the location of the Natural History Museum (that's South Kensington not West Kensington, idiot) meant I missed the rendezvous, and thus spent an hour wondering round a place for which I have never had a great fondness.

After asking every curator in sight if they had seen a group of people from Nature, I found myself straying into the Geological Museum (as usual - it must be a kind of homing instinct) and wondering how I got there. Rocks good. Stuffed animals and skeletons bad.

Eventually I felt thirsty and arrived at the cafe just in time to see the closed sign going up. So I sat on a stone bench and stared up at the ceiling and encountered this primate skeleton hanging from the arches.

Which for some reason moved me almost to tears.

Another journey through London and I arrived at Charlotte Street and the Fitzroy Arms. This was crowded and I suddenly realised that I would recognise no one. So I wrote this

on a free newspaper, which very fortunately attracted the attention of Vaughan, author of Mind Hacks (who is now my hero and is going to receive a copy of my last novel whether he wants one or not).

I also met various other people including Mo of the very well-written Neurophilosophy blog, an immunologist with an interesting research project, Victor of Mendeley Blog ('manage, share and discover scientific knowledge' - an admirable concept), and Karen of the fascinating Beagle Project Blog. I know there were plenty of others, and my apologies for not remembering, but after a couple of beers everything faded away into a highly satisfactory soporific haze.

Part 2 of the Sciblog Report is here.




Blogger Kay said...

I love scientists! :)

Wed Sep 03, 09:20:00 am  
Blogger stu said...

It wouldn't be a hall of residence without at least one bizzare rule.

Wed Sep 03, 11:05:00 am  
Blogger aliholli said...

Clare...i don`t know whether you were intending to be amusing but this blog is hilarious.And so true.Brilliant! Stu is right.."bizarre"!

Wed Sep 03, 12:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Debra Hamel said...

I do love this. Since I never leave home--never particularly want to leave home--I enjoy your experiences vicarioiusly.

Wed Sep 03, 02:28:00 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Sounds a good session.
Have you considered a motorbike??

Wed Sep 03, 03:09:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Kay: Don't happen to have one handy, do you? :)

Stu: good point - a little investigation would soon reveal many more, I feel.

Alli: Thank you - resigned, I think:)

Thank you Debra - I sometimes think that that is the best way of travelling.

Jan: It was indeed!

Wed Sep 03, 08:29:00 pm  
OpenID maxine said...

Clare, I have just read all your sci blog posts in reverse order (ie in the RSS reader) and they are wonderful! What a lovely account. I've linked to them all in the Friend Feed sciblog 2008 room.
Sorry I did not get to see more of you - I was determined to say hello at least to everyone I'd encountered before the meeting on N Network but it was a hopeless ideal. I did enjoy the conference though, and so glad you did too.

Wed Sep 03, 09:00:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thank you, Maxine! That's very kind.

Please don't worry about all the rest - I realised you were a bit like a hostess at a party. I didn't do very well at all at meeting many people - the ones I did meet were so very interesting they rooted me to the spot. Great fun.

Wed Sep 03, 09:29:00 pm  
Blogger Alethea said...

I'm so sorry we missed you at the Nat Hist Museum - it sounds like we had just slipped around back to the Darwin Centre while you were looking for us. And I went through that long tour of the front hall also because I spent too long in front of the fossilized giant armadillo and everyone disappeared to the cafe. So you only missed by a short period.

Wed Sep 03, 11:12:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I remember the armadillo! Such a shame, but never mind - at least I know where the Nat Hist Museum is now!

Fri Sep 05, 08:33:00 pm  

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