Sunday, April 30, 2006

Free golf, 24 hrs in Sweden

It's taken us three years - can't quite believe that this May we'll have been in Scotland for three years - but we have at last played a round of golf on the world's only free course. The Bruntsfield Links are just a 15-min walk from our flat, with a backdrop of Arthur's Seat and 36 pitch-and-put holes. It's a bit lumpy sometimes, but hey, it's FREE!

When Caragh was here last September we bought clubs and balls from the local op-shop. For a princely sum of £8 we were fully equipped, but the weather conspired against us. Winter has since passed, and spring has definitely sprung now. Daffs and hyacinths are in full bloom around the surprisingly dry course. My technique is poor, but I hope that by the end of summer it will be less so!


A small passport problem took me to Glasgow yesterday. When I flew to Copenhagen last week, an overzealous check-in assistant (at 6am!) threatened to cancel the trip, because my passport only had 6 weeks of validity left. In Brussels, apparently, that would be a problem. I protested that we weren't flying to Brussels, and after much colleague and computer consultation, she discovered that Copenhagen has no such regs. Still, I'm off to Korea in 2 weeks, and will need a valid passport, hence my trip to the passport office for "fast-track" service.

It was nice to be in Glasgow, especially on such a hot sunny day. Much wobbly flesh was on show, plenty of dodgy orange tans, and a general air of celebration. The sun was shining. At the weekend!

My 24 hrs in Sweden was somewhat hectic. We were filming 3 interviews, with a neurologist and a couple of ethicists, as part of our film on the ethics of stem cell research. A 7am flight saw us arriving in Lund (via the Oresund bridge) by 11.30. We found our filming studio, local sound guy, equipment, and left the boys to set up while we scouted our 2nd locations for each interview. The persistent rain made exteriors impossible.

Lunch was quick and tasty Thai (canteen-style), and then I had to find the hospital locations my director had her heart set on, plus secure permission to film there. Fortunately my local contact plays golf with the head of the neurology clinic, and Swedes are more relaxed about filming than in the UK. Several schedule changes and some great interviews later, we wrapped at about 6.30.

Next stop, check in. Rooms in Lund are scarce at this time of year, so we were booked into the Patienthotel (where mothers and their families stay after giving birth). There were a lot of babies born that day, and we found ourselves bumped to some decidedly more spartan cells further out of town, complete with lights that didn't work. Ah well. We were hungry, first and foremost.

After a few "sorry we're fully booked"s, losing our cameraman, finding him again looking somewhat bewildered, all the while dodging the rain, we settled on Bantorget 9 - a gorgeous little house that looked cosy but with seriously good food. Our starter of wild nettle soup with salmon roe, quail egg and crispy bacon confirmed the hunch.

By the time we got back to our rooms, the lights were working. But by then, I just wanted to sleep.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Everywhere you go...

Saturday, 0720 hrs
"What's the weather like in Edinburgh?"
"uh, just let me open my eyes and see...not very bright, yeah, grey."
"Give me a call back in half an hour and let me know if it's still grey."

Saturday 0750 hrs
"Do you think it's going to clear?"
"Dunno, it's patchy"
"I'll get the paper and look towards the castle to see"

Saturday 0800 hrs
"There's some sun, but cloud too. Do you need 100% blue?"
"Yes, definitely, or it won't work. Let's try for tomorrow."

Saturday 1300 hrs
"Is it sunny now? In the Borders it's beautiful."
"Yeah it looks OK."
"Do you think we should try for an end of day shoot instead?"
"Maybe tomorrow."

Saturday 1700 hrs
pouring with rain
"Glad we're not trying to film now."

Sunday 0730 hrs
"Is it sunny?"
"I'll just look...sort of, not 100%..."
"It is here, let's go for it, see you in an hour."

Sunday 0830 hrs
"What happened to the sunshine?"
Spring weather! By the time we were rolling, though, the sun was shining again, and we got some purty shots at the Camera Obscura. Which is lucky - I'd already started having weird dreams about the filming (somehow the cast of Dallas - soon to be a movie - were joining me in my weather angst).

Otherwise Easter was fairly low-key. Lunched at VinCaffe - a tasty reminder of Italy. Watched Junebug - a movie of delightful simplicity, space and honesty. Walked along the Tweed, whooping at the gambolling lambs en route. Tucking in to succulent chops from aforementioned babes. Simple pleasures. Just the thing, after a weekend of more excessive ones in Bellagio.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bloody good site

I promised an eh10 plug for A's latest venture on the web, He's a man on a rid the world of bad techniques for stopping nose bleeds.

So, why did he start this site? What's it all about? Here's the reason, from the man himself...
We've travelled all over the world and encountered people with nosebleeds in all sorts of places. Almost all the people we've met with nose bleeds had their own method of stopping them. Mostly, however, these were bad and/or slow methods - like leaning back and letting the blood flow down your throat. When we first show people the Thumbs Up method there is often some resistance - perhaps it's just too simple - but once they've tried it, people swear by it and never look back. This website is dedicated to spreading this simple but important knowledge and thereby making the world a (slightly) better place.
There you go. Plus he gets to use all sorts of dodgy puns like the one in the title of this post, and of course the IT fave, "bleeding-edge" (like leading edge, only more so). Make his day, take a look, change your technique!

Bella Bellagio

Since being back in Edinburgh, I've hardly been here.

I had an overnight in London less than a week after we got back - 1st class train-ride down, a lovely dinner with Fern that night, and a workshop in the hallowed halls of the Royal Society the next day, along with lots of medical men in suits.

A visit from Josh & Helen made the next weekend fly by, and a flying visit to Manchester for a conference followed hard on their heels.

Early last Saturday morning (550am flight!) came the highlight of my work year - our annual meeting at the luxurious Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, on the shore of Lake Como. The location is stunning (especially at this time of year when there's still snow on the Alps, on the days when the lake isn't shrouded in mist), the hotel suitably grand and the food gourmet. Most of us (scientists not known for being well-paid, especially junior ones) felt like impostors on the first day, but had settled in and were reluctant to leave by day 4. It's amazing how quickly you can get used to 3 course lunches, 4-5 course dinners, live music every night in the "salon" by an accomplished Belarusian trio, and of course that amazing lakeside location!

I'm back in Edinburgh for a quiet Easter weekend - catching up on sleep, kicking the cold I've had for the past 10 days (hopefully), eating well. The only intrusion is some weather-dependent filming. Every morning at 7.30 the director calls me from the Borders to see what the weather's like here. Hopefully I'll be able to say "gloriously sunny" tomorrow and we'll go, get our shots and be done by 10am! Fingers crossed...