Saturday, January 03, 2009

Christmas, New Year and a look back

I'm back in Oxford, sitting in the Summertown Wine Bar with glorious sunshine pouring in through the windows in the roof. It's freezing out but a lovely, crisp day nonetheless.

I have just a couple of days left in England before heading back to Spain. It's been great seeing friends and family, but I'm also looking forward to getting back home and getting back into work which I've been itching to do ever since I realised that a vital file which I thought I'd bought with me was safely and uniquely stored on my computer in the office. Still, I've been able to scribble a few calculations down in the meantime and have plenty to get on with as soon as I touch down.

So, I thought I'd update the last couple of weeks with some photos.

Just after Christmas three of my Korean friends from Santiago turned up in Oxford and so I took them round the city, to see some of the views and the colleges. They were rather disappointed not to bump into Harry Potter in Christchurch but I think that in all they were rather impressed with my hometown. I took them to the top of St Marys on the High Street which offers one of the best views over the city. The sun was low and cast a rather beautiful light over the stone buildings surrounding us, including the Radcliffe Camera:

Radcliffe Camera
and the High Street and hills in the distance:
View over Oxford2.jpg
After a home-cooked Indian meal I saw them back on the bus to London and I had some time to spend with my uncle and aunt and cousins, catching up after many months without seeing them. I have to bite my tongue not to comment how much my cousins have grown (I didn't appreciate it much when I was in their shoes).

Anyway, with skateboards, juggling equipment and puppets in tow we made our way around various parks around Oxford, including a trip to Blenheim Palace which was great to walk around, having not been there for perhaps 15 years:
Blenheim2.jpg
After saying goodbye I headed off to London to meet up with friends, staying in Mortlake, and Dulwich.

Sitting in a traditional London pub with an open fire and warming up over good conversation and good drink was truly a lovely way to wind down after the normal Christmas chaos. It's great to see friends all doing extremely well in their various endeavors.

On the 30th I made my way into central London to walk along the South Bank to the Tate Modern to see what was showing and get a view over the city (great view of St Pauls from the top floor). The city was bustling with shoppers looking for a bargain and the museums were similarly heaving with tourists. The crowds offered a great chance to try out the new lens which I'd picked up for a ridiculously cheap price on ebay just before leaving.

It seems that Parcour is the new Skateboarding, as this time there were more people jumping from bollard to bollard than there were falling off planks of wood:
Parcour
With a 70-300mm lens I could get shots like this from a distance without feeling intrusive. Similarly from afar I could catch the tourists pouring over Westminster bridge:
Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament
Getting to the Tate Modern I wasn't in a Rothko mood and although I like his work, the idea of seeing it with a room packed from wall to wall with other people somehow detracts from the calmness, so I forwent that for the Cildo Meireles exhibit which I enjoyed a great deal. Rather fun was the room filled with hanging tape measures, with clocks covering the walls. Interestingly the room as a reference frame was never mentioned:
Reference Frame
New Year's Eve was spent with friends in and around Farringdon, at a bar which had been hired out for the evening. Nothing huge, but a great chance to talk with people I haven't spent enough time with over the last few years. We headed back at three, feeling that that was pretty respectable though remembering the days we would have kept going through to the next day with no problem at all.

With a chill in the air on New Year's day we went to Richmond park, London's largest park with its local population of deer and parakeets. The park was full of families enjoying the crisp winter's day, people running off their hangovers and amateur photographers seeing what the first day of the New Year had to offer. I was lucky enough to spot my first Kingfisher, sitting by the stream and diving into the water to catch fish. Sadly I never managed a shot as it dove in, but did get a few perching shots.
Kingfisher
I still have to get used to this lens, as it's clear that on an overcast day I do need a tripod for a steady shot at 300mm. The parakeets were also out, flashing their colours and squawking away incesantly:
Parakeets in Richmond
After the walk I made my way back to Oxford where I've continued to gorge on Christmas food and spent lot of the rest of my time in cafes finishing as many Christmas books as possible. Proust and the Squid on the go now, which I'll talk about later, I hope.

Dreaming in Code was a fun, if somewhat quixotic look at the world of software design. The author spent several years following a company in Silicon Valley which was trying to design and build a large piece of software. It's simply the tale of how difficult it is to coordinate a large team of people to write good code and the frustrations which go along with it are clearly immense. In fact I was attracted to the book by the title, a state that I've got myself into on many enjoyable occasions where a problem won't leave you, even when you're asleep. These tend to be the occasions where I have the most breakthroughs in a problem and it can make you feel hugely focused, if exhausted!

Anyway, I'm going to leave it at that for the moment, but I wish you all a very happy New Year!

3 comments:

Nitin said...

Happy New Year Jon!
Year in, year out, and all throughout, it's still so nice to read your posts and look at your great pictures. Best wishes for another crazy year! :)

Jonathan Shock said...

Hi Nitin, a very happy New Year to you too. Have a great 2009!

1minutefilmreview said...

Nice pics, Happy New Year too!