I’m going home

Slept remarkably well above the large party last night. Met Neil and Jonathan for a leisurely breakfast and then packed to leave at 11.00 after sorting out some e-mail things at work. The driver arranged by the British Embassy didn’t arrive at 11, and when I got though to him it turned out he’d been told to pick me up as 12.00. This was okay and I had an entertaining journey from Águas de Lindóia to São Paulo airport—the driver did a lot of talking and was very entertaining and intelligent company. We made it to the airport by 2pm, which was fine for the 4.20 departure. Super-fast check in and security and I was having sushi for a snack before I left, along with an empanada since it was there. Bought a couple of bottles of cachaça for making my very own caipirinha (they look dead easy to make!). I was mooching around the other duty free shops when I was lured into buying a new briefcase because of the good exchange rate with the dollar and the good price at duty free: bought a Tumi Briefcase Tumi briefcase in full leather, which is rather lavish, but very, very beautiful and well made. I still feel guilty!

The flight back went by quite quickly. The entertainment system was broken and we were offered 10,000 airmiles as compensation. I thought that this was very generous as we still had some access to movies. I sat through the Golden Compass and Narnia, both of which I’d seen before but it was comforting to see them again. i suspect I won’t get my airmiles as the cabin crew who took my form shoved it on a shelf out of the way!

Party night at the SBQ

Had to phone room service at 5am to order an emergency supply of water to slake my thirst! That will teach me for having three caipirinha. Had a couple of successful meetings with colleagues at the SBQ, and lunch and dinner followed the same buffer format. There was a special buffet selection of Feijoada Brasileira which is a black bean stew with dried pork. It was quite strongly flavoured and the pork tasted like it had been dried over a very smoky wood fire for weeks: it was black with smoke. It was good to try, but not as good as the regular beans we’d been having with rice.

The highlight of the day promised to be an evening party, from 10pm in the large Sala Real, At 10pm, I was the only person in the room and I quickly got fed up with being this untrendily early. Found Simon, Jonathan and Neil in the bar (drinking caipirinhas of course) and we stayed there until about 11ish. The party still hadn’t really got going even by then, but there was a large crowd in the room waiting for the live band to come on stage. By 11.30, I’d had enough waiting, and Neil and I both headed off—Neil had to give his plenary lecture the next morning. Jonathan hung around hoping to catch the first song, but failed and went to bed shortly after. The party went on late into the evening!

Jonathan and Neil

SBQ Party

SBQ Meeting

Awoke to the loud howling of a pack of dogs, which was a bit freaky. It sounded like they was a prowling around the hotel, baying for blood. I was safe on the 6th floor! Spent 90 mins finishing the minutes for PUB to e-mail them off before breakfast. A nice breakfast buffet with Neil, Jonathan and Christina. She was very helpful in getting my missing registration pack and badge and so I could now be scanned into talks in the Sala Real. The programme for the meeting was all in Portuguese, although we did learn yesterday that there were 26 foreign speakers and so there were some lectures we could understand. Jonathan gave his talk in the massive Sala Real, and his talk was very good. The room could have held all 2,500 delegates (and was set up for 2000 the night before) and luckily the organisers had reconfigured the room for the talks, so it was more cosy.

Jonathan, SBQ, Brazil

Lunch, then tried to meet with Celso, our book rep in Brasil. I got a bit of an earful from him about arrangements and then found out that none of our material had arrived. Eventually tracked the stuff down to customs via our importers head office and they said that they wold try to get it released and delivered tomorrow. (I think the same thing happened last year too).

Went to a few lectures in the afternoon and tried to meet up with some people from the SBQ. Finally managed that at 16:30, which was in good time to have the meeting and then go to the poster sesion. This was amazing: The hotel is a massive, sprawling complex. Neil put it well when he joked that they had built the rooms and then wondered how they would connect them together. It’s all a bit large, brutal and disorganized. The poster session was up the triangular spiral ramp, and along the zig-zag walkway up the side of the building, where you reached the car-park floor (just like a floor on a multi-story car park) This is where the poster session was held, and it worked really well. They Brasilians are mad for their posters. Lots of chat and noise and hugging—a big family affair.

Aguas Hotel

Hotel Monte Real Resort Spiral Ramp, Hotel Monte Real Resort

Enjoyed some jelly at dinner tonight, which seems unusually popular in Brasil. Enjoyed a few too many caipirinha in the bar, this evening with the addition of Richard and Simon.A few too many was three!

Jelly Buffet

Arrived in São Paulo

The journey out to Brasil was long and uncomfortable. Despite being in premium economy I felt cramped and couldn’t get comfortable. I was sitting in a middle row seat, next to someone who had moved to get an aisle seat, then only got out of it once in 12 hours without me asking him to move. Watched Beowulf CGI, which was pretty dire, but the Grendel and his mother were very well done and worth watching just for them. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to read Seamus Heaney’s excellent poem again without thinking of the film version.

Arrived in São Paulo at 5.30 and had a cup of tea while I waited for Jonathan and Neil to arrive on the TAM flight an hour after me. They were very chirpy when they arrived, having flown business class and making good use of that. We were all met by Carolina from the British Embassy, who took us out for a coffee with Damian and Christina, also from the British Embassy, and we discussed science funding in he UK and Brasil.

Made a visit to the University of São Paulo and met a few members of the Department and made a tour of the labs. All very impressive. From there, back to the Brish Embassy São Paulo British Embassy for lunch on the top floor at Drakes: good buffet. The British Embassy is in a lovely modern building.

Christina went with us out to Águas de Lindóia, where we would be spending the rest of our time at the Brasilian Chemical Society Annual Meeting. The traffic was bad leaving São Paulo and the journey took about 2 hours 30 mins, to Aguas. We entered the spa resort via a Swiss-style gateway, which was a bit disconcerting even though Damian had warned us that it would like being in a Swiss Village (with palm trees).

Hotel Monte Real Resort

I was a bit disappointed with my (albeit massive) room in the Hotel Monte Real Resort: spartan, empty minibar, boasting a mere three bars of soap. No pampering this week then. The shower was great though and had I by then forgotten how spartan the accommodation was until I grabbed a towel and found a limp, grey thing in my hand had seen a few too many washes.

Met up with the three others for dinner at 7, and then was introduced to Prof Mangrich the outgoing president of the SBQ. Dinner was very good, with lots of lovely vegetables from a buffet (buffets for every meal in Brasil) After dinner we went to the opening ceremony and met Norberto, the secretary of the SBQ. He gave a formal welcome speech in English and told us that we might as well leave after that as the rest would in Portuguese and no-one would be offended: so we slipped way silently after that and had a150px-Caipirinha2.jpg caipirinha in the bar before bed. This cocktail deserves a separate paragraph—

Well a caipirinha is pretty perfect and lovely. It’s a bit like a mojito without the mint and with a lot more lime. It’s made from cachaça, lime and sugar- very simple and very potent. One of these slipped down nicely and set me us for a good nights sleep (and having been awake since 3 am helped too!)

Smoked Pigeon and Stinking Bishop

Grabbed a lovely lunch in the sun at the 35th Cambridge Beer Festival run by CAMRA. Had a lovely couple of pints and managed to fir in some red beers, which I failed do do on the previous visits


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Had an interesting and strongly flavoured lunch: smoked pigeon breast from the River Farm Smokery in Bottisham, and Stinking Bishop cheese, which tasted like it had been smoked with lightly burning car tyres!I was just falling asleep lying in the sun half way through my second pint when a massive cheer went up from the crowd as someone downed a yard of ale. I was too slow to react to see the feat.

Beer Fest

Another beery night

Went up to Manchester with Harp today and we got back to Cambridge just before 5. So Michael and I were able to get to the beer festival nice and early. We met up with quite a few people tonight: Dave Bardwell, Graeme Robertson, Marcus and Richard. It was a lovely bright evening and not as cold as monday: some more time to relax. 408.png

Graham tried:

  • Cambridge Moonshine, CB1 Best Bitter, 4.2%, which was a bit nutty and a bit hazy in flavour.
  • Concrete Cow, Cock n Bull Story, 4.1% from Milton Keynes. It was ok,
  • Cropton, Endeavour Ale, 3.6%, which was fruity and refreshing
  • North Curry Brewery, Red Heron, 4.3% — I was really keen for a red beer, this was good but not red!

Michael tried:

  • Reinart Tripel, 9%, from Belgium
  • A few other beers that I can’t remember!

More nice cheese and pork pies, and this time an intense chilli sausage to blow our heads off. Excellent.

First night of the Beer Festival

2008 Cambridge Beer Festival Logo Rather chilly first night of the 35th Cambridge Beer Festival run by CAMRA, so the tents were popular. It seems that the area is slightly bigger this year and the Festival moved to a new location on Jesus Green.

Graham Tried:

  • Fat Cat , Where’s the Cat?, 4.1%, which was a bit like Green King IPA, from the famous Fat Cat pub in Norwich
  • Hebridean, Seaforth Ale, from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, which was described as a continental style golden beer. Very nice!

Michael tried:

  • Fox, Heacham Gold, 3.9%, from Norfolk.
  • Woodforde’s Sundew, 4.1% pale golden beer from Norfolk (again!)
  • Milton Brewery, Worts and All, 6.5%! which isn’t mentioned on their web site so is probably a festival special. It was rather strong and sweet as you might expect

We also had a nice meal as always: pork pies (which apparently only get sold in three places—The Beer Festival, the Live and Let Live pub and Harrods—they are very nice), scotch eggs, lovely cheese and this year I tried some tasty smoked eel from River Farm Smokery in Bottisham. Had dinner with Rob and Craig from the Free Press. Also met Andy from work and Anna from Engineering. A very nice if chilly evening.

Michael Beer Festival on Jesus Green

Misummer Common at Dusk

Fun night in London

I have a new favourite hotel in London the City Inn Westminster Hotel. We arrived about 8 on Friday night and were impressed by the lovely tea selection and the free iMAC/television in the room. The hotel is very smart, has a good looking restaurant and was only £100 for the night, which is OK for central London. We walked over the river to Barcode in Vauxhall for a couple of beers and to listen to the good DJs there. It was good to bump into Tony, an ex press officer at the RSC, who left a year or so ago. adam-001.gif We headed around the corner about 11:30 to go naked clubbing at Stakers which was as good as always. The mix of men and women was better than in the past (that means more women!) and the atmosphere was very friendly. We left about 2.30 and it was really great to only have a 10 minute walk over the river to get to the hotel: no messing with late night buses.

We managed to get up and out the hotel by 11.30 on Saturday, missing breakfast because we were heading over for a meaty lunch at Santa María del Sur in Queenstown Road. It’s an authentic Argentinean restaurant that Michael’s been wanted to try for a while. We had a Parrillada Mixta, which is a mixed grill served on a charcoal braziers: Argentine-style pork sausage + Sirloin steak + black pudding + provolone cheese + mushroom. We started with a lovely pisco sour cocktail which helped us on our way to a great lunch. We left about 3 and took the bus back to central London to go to an evening at the Dragon Hall in Covent Garden, organised by the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA) to mark International Day Against Homophobia. The evening was commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the implementation of Clause 28, in May 1988, and also the official launch of the new LAGNA website www.lagna.org.uk.

There was an excellent exhibition of press material from the 80’s that reminded everyone just how horrible the press was towards gays during the AIDS/Section 28 period. We heard a couple of great lectures: Professor Jeffrey Weeks: the political context of Clause 28, and Lisa Power: the campaigns against the Clause. Followed by film footage, including the lesbian invasion of the BBC news studio on the day the Clause was passed. There was more to come in the evening, but stuffed full of Argentinean beef, wine and pisco sour, it was difficult to concentrate for too long, we se headed off about 6.30 to head back to Cambridge. It was a very good event, and it was good to get an invitation from Oliver.

Riverbank Wine

230216625.jpgJust back from an early evening at the riverbank club. Left work a 5, to get to Newnham by 5.30 and was met by Michael with a bottle of lovely Moldovan Rose from Waitrose (Firebird Legend Merlot Rosé 2006 Vulcaneshti, Moldova). Had a swim up to Dead Man’s corner and back, and the water was a lovely 17°C. Lots of may flies were hovering over the riven in big clouds and with a bit of breeze there were fairly charging towards me as I swam back from Dead Man’s Corner. The wine had me scunnered (Scots usage!).