Central Leather Research Institute

Our planned short first day at the CLRI turned into a 4 hour Q&A session. Very enthusiastic hospitality from the group and we were impressed by the Department librarian, who spoke very well and was very knowledgeable. Had some quite tough questioning from the polymer/materials crowd. Dr Ganga Radhakrishnan (below) was very good fun. In addition to her met two other FRSCs who were long-time members and had a 2 hour tour of the labs. Covering Analytical; NMR and EPR; Polymers; Physical and XRD. The labs were all air conditioned, but still hot and humid.


The labs have good facilities overall, and there are plans to improve the overall level of equipment. After wandering around the (unsheilded) NMR room I suddenly realised that I should be in fear of my credit cards, so I left them outside. Felt much safer, but stupidly left my electronic room key in my pocket. All was OK in the end and I did manage to get back into my room.

Rob had a narrow escape (20 metre clearance) with a rabid dog (at least it was rabid in his mind). Quote of the day: “It did look rabid-like!”

Had a hassle getting a taxi back from the CLRI. The sun set very quickly (it was dark when we came out from the NMR lab that we’d been in for only 15 minutes). We ended up in the dark phoning the hotel on Victor Balu’s phone and in the end, Professor Mandal drove us back to the hotel. It was another wide ride, this time in the dark with some near misses. I’ve convinced Robert that we should do the journey by tuk-tuk tomorrow.

We revised our presentation in the bar and made some changes to the final version: essentially to remove discussion about English language polishing. The English here is very good indeed, and the people are justifiably proud of this.

We ate in a nice fish restaurant in the hotel, and both of us had “King Fish” which is a bit like sea bass. We had some Indian wine, which turned out to be German Rielsing, either fermented or bottled in India. I’ll need to get to the bottom of this. Either way it was about 1/4 the price of equivalent European wine.

Tried to have a sauna to relax before bed, but it shut at 10. Pretty exhausted now after one night with an hours sleep: bed beckons!

Lunch at Le Meridien Royale

Was quick in the hotel: yes, we had curry! It all tasted pretty much the same. I hope this was just the hotel and not a pattern.

Rob was looking a bit pale and tired but he’d made contact with the Central Leather Research Institute and they are all eager to meet us at 3. It should take 10 mins to get there by taxi.

Arrived in Chennai

Robert Eagling and I have arrived in Chennai on schedule, via Colombo. Sri Lankan Airways were great, lots of leg room and a pretty empty flight. We had curry for dinner and then for breakfast: lunch in an hour or so will be will be more curry I imagine. This might have contributed to my illness on the flight, culminating in a rush for the toilet clutching a sick bag when we landed, Welcome to Colombo!


We took an exciting taxi ride from the airport to our hotel, Le Meridien Royal. You can compare the photo on the web site for the hotel, with the view from my bedroom window below! I think I’m in the cheap rooms. The roads are chaotic, filled with tuk-tuks and motorbikes. Great fun, but the smell of petrol fumes in the ancient cab got pretty overwhelming.

Off to try to get an hours sleep, before we meet for lunch and then head out for our first university visit: University of Madras.

Starting at Zero: Black Mountain College

Really glorious day, with crisp air and bright sun. Temperature was only a few degrees. We wandered out to see what was on at Kettle’s Yard — Starting at Zero: Black Mountain College 1933–57.

An interesting exhibition based around work from a highly creative art college in the USA, 1933–1957. Buckminster Fuller lectured and worked there, which was interesting. There were a couple of pieces that I really liked, with excellent modern compositions: Robert Rauschenberg for example.

An emotional weekend

Some good news on Friday: Emma and Chris have had a little boy, Finlay Kit. We’ll get our first chance to meet him at our civil partnership ceremony next month.

Yesterday Dan phoned us to tell us that Bruno had died in Paris. He’d been fighting cancer for a few years. Bruno was always so chipry, happy and positive—it’s hard to realise that he’s gone… He was only in his mind 30’s. His partner, Dan, is in Paris with Bruno’s parents.

The Piper Window at Iffley Church

Got a lovely thank you card from Jonathan after the sailing. The card has a photo of The Piper Window at Iffley Church on the front, which is new to me. It’s a lovely window showing a lamb and different birds in a tree announcing the nativity. The card is quite small and the latin phrases coming from the birds’ mouths was just readable. So I was straining my eyes to read these words and doing quite well remembering my latin to translate.

As I was reading it out, Michael was doing an even better job of translating than I was and guessing he words that I was struggling to read. I was impressed until I realised that he was reading the card from behind, where there was a full description of the exchange in Latin and English!


 Products 1306 R Tireflys2 I had to take my bike to the repair shop yesterday because the chain split and got mashed into the rear gears. It was a bit of a mess and I needed a new gear set on the back wheel and a new chain, along with a few other bits and bobs and quite a bit of labour to make the bike roadworthy. It was £63 which was a bit of a shock.

In addition to having a well lubed and much faster bike, I picked up a couple of valve adapters that let me fit the blue LED tireflys that David bought me for Christmas. They look great and I flashed away on the way back home in the dark. Thanks David.

Tasting, Hotel Felix

Had a lovely tasting of potential Civil Partnership courses tonight at Hotel Felix . In the earlier planning we couldn’t choose between two starters and two deserts. Beforehand I thought that a tasting was a bit of an excuse for a free meal. And, well, it is! But it was very useful in deciding between the different choices. I’ll not say what we went for in the end. The starter was easy. the deserts quite tricky.

We were really impressed with the service and presentation of the food al the Felix. This was both reassuring and pleasing. The restaurant was very smart and stylish, the lighting superb.