I hadn’t announced it in my calendar yet, but last weekend was an official Galaxy Zoo meet-up weekend in Oxford. Me failing to update my calendar properly has everything to do with the fact that in everyday life there’s just too many things to fill it with, which will probably not change before the big summer break. Anyway, if you follow me on twitter, you knew. That’s where I’ve been keeping everybody updated on the event, using the hashtag ‘Ox’. But here’s an account of the weekend, almost fully illustrated.
After my students had called me a jetsetter that Friday afternoon, I switched bags in the office and indeed flew off to the big L that same evening. It was an interesting flight, as I sat next to a pilot (not the one flying this particular plane obviously) and another lovely guy, who turned out to be a teacher as well, and who said I must write a book about my Voorwerp-adventures. We agreed that next time we’d be on a flight together, Paul (the pilot who already said hi to me on twitter) will show us the cockpit and I’ll give them a signed copy of ‘my book’. This is why I love travelling on my own.
On arrival, my good friend who can beat everybody at ‘I did that’, picked me up for a road trip from Stansted to Oxford. He had been looking at the wrong arrival aisle (the one to the ladies) and both our phones turned out not to work, but like gravity and moths to flames, we managed to find each other at the door. He remarked that I already made it stop raining again, which was good, as I left a 20+ degrees and sunny Heerlen. Although this time it wouldn’t last and we quickly found drops on our roof drumming along the sounds of the Eagles. And so the United Kingdom became our playground.
We slightly worried about parking space in the city, but jammy as we are, we found a spot across the road from ‘our’ pub – the one that started it all – The Royal Oak. It has all these nice little corners and in one of them we found Els, Christine and new friend Adrian. Later Rona and her hubby Nigel, better known as ‘Mr. Bananabread’, joined us and Bunny, being a local, also came round for a drink. We were the last to leave and mentioned we were with the big group who’d reserved seats for tomorrow. This was the start of my very first night camping in Oxford, which was… interesting. That’s the word.
It turned out to become the coldest weekend this spring, but we knew we were creating a memory we’d later look back at with a smile, thinking ‘we did that’. Tick in the box. You only live once. And so we cleaned up in the morning at McDonald’s of all places, where they turned out to have rather nice and warm oatmeal porridge for breakfast. That afternoon the meet-up would more officially start as more ‘Zooites’ gathered at the Ashmolean Museum. A wonderful place of art and archaeology, where Nathanial took me by the hand and showed me all the things without a lot more words.
The group had gotten bigger by the time we had decided to leave the museum café and have lunch in the Royal Oak. All the usual suspects were there. Geoff, Jules, Infie, Anders, Annie, Julianne, Alice, Hannah, Jo and Andrew, David, John, Mark, Jan, who brought along Jonathan and I thought it was lovely Edd showed up again too. Old jokes resulted in new laughs, as Edd took my picture counting the rings (age) of the trees they had put on our table. Our group had also gotten bigger since the last meeting, as also Peter (Dee) and Hugh (McGroo) and his friends joined our family and it quickly seemed as if they had been there from the start.
From there we headed for the Denys Wilkinson Building, for the official part of this meet, where Chris had arranged a number of the Zoo crew to talk to us. Meg told us about the planets via Skype and we also sang for Kevin, as it was his birthday. Dr. Phil (Marshall) and Aprajita (Verma) announced a new project: Lens Zoo and Chris himself gave us a great general update on everything Zooniverse, amongst things. Then all the well-behaved students plus the team headed back to the pub for more chats, dinner and drinks till late in the evening. Phil showed us some more lenses and we tried the wineglass trick. We also recreated the solar system with stroopwafels and Annie taught me the ‘Do, a beer’ song. It was one of those nights.
The next morning we pretty much repeated the morning before that one, although now the city full of zooites, seemed to settle down at the Waterstones bookshop. If only we could live a couple of hundred years; we could then lock ourselves up in here a couple of weeks and take it all in. Since it was dry for a few minutes, we had a walk along the city before we arrived at the Head of the River at noon. Ish. Tom and I concluded that the nearby clock got its act together, but it remains a mystery as to why it sometimes ‘boings’ on inappropriate times. Anyway, there was quite a few of us left and even zookeeper Chris-from-solar-storm-watch joined us that afternoon.
We had hoped to row a bit, but those plans literally fell in the water with all the wind and rain. As we were all getting ready to leave, the Sun broke through to wave us bye though! Not long after that we were back on the road again, travelling through Aylesbury, with some great views being added as last memories of this trip. I didn’t get much sleep and I have a cold, but I had a wonderful time again and I did not worry one second about all the work waiting for me at home. Thank you, you lovely lot; I’ll be back in the summer, anyhow!
Bee beer, someone was drinking on the Friday eve of arrival. (I only took the picture).
Reserved seats at the Royal Oak – Zoo’s birthplace. Picture by me again.
Annie-Q with the guys. From left to right: Adrian, Annie, Jan, Jonathan, Nigel & David.
Picture from Christine.
Me, counting the tree’s rings. Picture by Edd, who was laughing at me.
Zookeeper Chris, preparing conference calls. Picture from Jules.
The well-behaved students. You can all find yourselves right?! Picture from Adrian.
Me in teacher mode. (Only taking a picture too). This was taken by Mark.
Outside the popcorn-box building. We were really here again! From left to right:
Alice, Els, Edd, Hanny, John, Paul, Jules & Julianne. Picture from Adrian!
Back in the pub. A recreation of the solar system. Uranes and Neptune were eaten already. Picture: me.
Dr. Phil approving of us trying the wineglass trick. Bring on Lens Zoo! Picture: Jo.
Bro’s Bunny & Tommy. Aww. Thanks for posing for me guys!
“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”. Edd & Infie.
Picture from Christine.
With Geoff’s new toy we created this ‘thermal’ picture of me. I’m so ‘hot’.
With such ‘cool’ hair. Right. Well.
The Head of the River! Wet wet wet, with Annie on the right. Picture by me.
Warm inside. Els, Hanny & Julianne. Picture by Geoff, I think.
Outside again. From left to right: Christine, Jules, Chris, Hanny, Hannah, Tom & Geoff.
Picture from Adrian.
Quick, look, sunshine! Picture by me.
Zooites Julianne, Nathanial, Tom & Hannah not noticing I’m capturing this moment. Aww.
One more little group piccie before the road. From left to right: Hanny, Hannah, Tom, Nathanial & Julianne. Picture taken by Graham.
The lasts to leave, waving bye… Picture by me.
Pretty view on the way back. Picture from me.
Gloomy weather making space for rainbows, through Aylesbury. Bye Ox! (Picture: Hanny).