Sep 242007
 

It’s been a serious couple of weeks.

I went to London to see Ed and Jane and Iona and Finlay and had a great time. I think I’ve probably contributed to Ed and Jane having more to drink– and worse hangovers– than they’ve had in quite some time. Iona and Finlay are turning into wonderful, idiosyncratic, engaged children and they are amazingly well-behaved. Not to mention cute. Nothing less than I’d expect of Ed and Jane.

While I was there it just happened to be the days before the start of the London Design Festival, which I was sad to miss as there was a whole bunch of talks and things I’d have liked to see– from a green design/making contacts/just plain fun perspective. It was also, however, the weekend of London Open House which is really quite cool. We went out on the DLR to Trinity Buoy Wharf where we saw a lot of cool art at Container City. An urban redevelopment group Urban Space Management, who is responsible for a number of cool projects developed this very historical wharf (Faraday, of cage fame, did some work here) and has made a good start at doing some really buildings out of shipping containers. I’ve definitely filed them as a possible Strategic Consulting Project contact down the road.

The SCP: Part of the Oxford/SBS program is a Strategic Consulting Project. Partly because the program is so intense (a year instead of two) and partly to cut down on any time wasting (see above) we don’t do an internship, instead, we form teams and pitch them to companies to solve a particular need, which we will then write about. It’s pretty cool. And a big part of why I wanted to go to this particular program. Besides the Oxford brand and the special secret handshakes and the bat cape.

So London was good.

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I even got a bedtime story, Mrs. Armitage, Queen of the Road. by Quentin Blake, who did all the drawings for the Roald Dahl books. mmm.

Back in Bournemouth with Jamie I prepped for my motorcycle trip to France/Belgium/Amsterdam by not being able to find my passport. At all. I know I had it, though I went through every spot I could find, always expecting Barbara to come home, show off her new teapots, and say “Oh, yeah, I put that in on top of the fridge for safe keeping!”

Which didn’t happen. Phone calls to the police, the embassy, the train company, transport for London, the bank, all proved fruitless, and I accepted that I’d not be leaving this island for a while. And that it it’s going to cost me quite a lot of money if it doesn’t come tumbling out while I’m unpacking in Oxford making me feel like a fool.

So off I go, alone, on Jamie’s new Triumph Tiger 900 (’99) alone along the south coast of England to Cornwall, with only a vague idea of where I’m headed.

I had some great meals, and can recommend: The New Inn in Shipton Gorge, the entire town of Polperro, and most particularly the blood sausage and unbelievably fresh scallops at Couch’s Modern Cuisine. I wasn’t looking for foofy food but I was happy to eat it… besides, the pubs stopped serving food as it was the tail end of the tourist season. St. Mawes is another beautiful seaside Cornish village with a giant well-preserved castle built by Henry VIII which protected the Cornish coast from the 1560s through WWII. It was actually really cool.

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I also went on to the Eden Project which is a huge hole in the ground– it was a china clay mine that was eventually played out which has been revitalized into a museum and active research center for plant growth and environmental issues, including climate change. The main building is called The Core and it’s a great example of using Biomimicry to build a super strong building. The whole place is really inspiring– they have these giant geodesic greenhouse domes which contain different ecosystems: outdoor/local, Mediterranean, rain forest, etc, using caught rainwater to grow their own food and research biodiversity, ecosystems, etc.

At the same time I found some of it disappointing. They had a lot of great literature on using local resources and much of the stuff sold in the cafe was organic and locally grown, but the fresh apples were from New Zealand. I was really shocked. Some of the best apples in the world come from this island and this is a peak harvest time for them. I could get Cornish apple juice– in a plastic bottle– but I could only get apples that were old, flavorless, and from quite literally halfway around the world. There were books on the coming water crisis for browsing in the cafe but they still served bottled water (their own literature pointed out that bottled water is responsible for 12% of UK salmonella cases, and that trucking water around is just plain stupid, but…

So I was a little disappointed, but at the same time it really is an amazing, educational, and inspiring place to visit. And I’m hoping and trying to see it as an opportunity– I’m going to write them and point out what I saw. I think– and hope– that I’ll get through to the right person who’ll have a Homer Simpson “Doh!” moment and fix it.

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The Core, with the bio domes behind. Utopia in Cornwall.

All in all, I have to say that I’m quite pleasantly surprised with much of England, and its focus on locally sourced food and general awareness, friendliness, and education.

On the way back, I went up through Dartmoor National Park, spending the night in Tavistock where the couple who run it were idiosyncratic and funny and cute in such a British way. He’s working on a reproduction of an old steam-powered tractor. She talks your ear off and makes you feel like she’s your auntie. They’ve got silly murals in the Gent’s loos and the room was spotless, if perhaps overdone in the Lavender Kitsch department, but it was really endearing.

A grueling day followed on the bike and I passed through a 12th century fort which was interesting, though I’m started to get a bit “English countryside and old castle”‘d out. The cool thing about this fort, though, is that it was abandoned but, since it had a Cathedral, it was technically a City and “elected” 2 MPs until 1832, even though no one was living there at all. Ah… you gotta love the creative ways that people grab and hang on to power. Corruption in government remains an art form.

A couple of days in Brighton visiting my friend David and then back to Bournemouth, home of pensioners. I’m headed to Oxford tomorrow to meet and greet my new classmates. I’ve gotten the skinny on the class. We are:

  • From 40 different countries
  • 73% men, 27% women (which is actually pretty high on the women side for MBA programs. Most are closer to 25% women)
  • Average GMAT 685 (that’s pretty good)
  • Average age 29 (so I don’t feel quite so old… though I think I will soon)
  • Average number of years of work experience is 6. 6? Yep. Old-feeling again.

Good thing I’ve got that motorcycle riding thing. Makes me feel young. Or something.

See y’all on the flip side, once I’m all moved in.

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