I have been in this group meeting for two and a half hours. My shoes are off and I am sitting cross-legged on this swivel chair. I do not care if my feet stink through my socks nor do I care if my continuous swivelling from side to side irritates my colleagues. When I am sitting on a mobile chair whilst having a conversation, I like to move about because it gives my mind the illusion of activity. I am conscious of this peculiar habit of mine and I quite embrace it.
We have been discussing Bovine Tuberculosis in the UK and how best to control it, as we have done since October. We have exhaustively researched arguments pertaining the topic and have basically come to the conclusion that the disease needs to be controlled by a mix of strategies i.e. culling, vaccination and biosecurity. Those strategies are currently being carried out albeit quite ineffectively and rather incongruently. So, we have put our recommendations forward despite not having much authority on the matter.
I find it rather amusing thinking how much politics are involved in the science, and how science tends to ignore the social aspect of the problem to a certain extent. Nonetheless, we have gathered with our knowledge of the complex facts and twisted propaganda to thoroughly prepare our presentation slides for the assessed oral presentation on Friday.
Today is Sunday the sixth. A bright, sunny Sunday.
I am the kind of person who trusts her instincts. I texted Su on Thursday.
Me: There’s some sort of exhibition at the Botanical Garden this weekend. Would you like to join me on Sunday?
Su: Yeah, sure!
And so after the rather productive meeting about cattle and badgers, I meet Su outside the library at 1 pm.
We climb the steep Cardiac Hill, which is a 45-degree pathway that connects the main Science Site to the Biology and Psychology departments 600 meters above ground level. I might be exaggerating but it’s basically a climb that is not for the weak. And don’t ask me why those departments decided that they are so mighty as to be isolated from the rest!
The Botanical Gardens is located near those departments. We enter the gift shop and café and out through the other side without much glancing at the food being served lest we get tempted by the strong aroma of bread and coffee. No one stops us to check whether we are actually students who are allowed to go in for free. But what about other guests? Don’t they need to pay an entrance fee? It doesn’t seem like it.
We absent-mindedly follow the pathway while exchanging trivial updates on each other. It has been a while since we last hung out and each of us has been busy with work, especially our respective laboratory practical sessions. I personally have mixed feelings and opinions about my lab sessions, but Su seems to be enjoying hers.
We are now passing by the glasshouse, which we have decided to go in. The flyer on the glass wall by the entrance door mentions the exhibition that I skimmed through online. I did not quite read about what the exhibition is about. I just thought that it’s a good enough excuse to visit the garden. It turns out that it is a showcase of traditional crafts particularly card designs and silver ornaments.
After passing by cacti, orchids, interesting insects in glass cages, a zen-like fish pond, and a water lilly pond we are now finally at the humble exhibition. It is just a set of tables with lots of crafts to be sold and a couple of enthusias artists. There are cards with quirky and ingenious designs that rather tempted me to purchase. Each card is unique as they are all meticulously designed by hand. Su and I agree quite confidently that we can actually make them ourselves so really there is no need to buy them. We just take this opportunity to get some inspiration.
The silversmith has his tools on the table. He is explaining to curious visitors how he forge a piece of silver into an intricate jewellery. It is remarkable how much time and effort he puts into perfecting his craft. Basically, he has to first make holes on a piece of silver so that the fine saw could penetrate through and start sawing off to create patterns. Then, he would have to use a file (kind of like a nail file) to create a 3D effect. Finally, he uses the pestle and mortar to beat the silver into shape. The result is a beautiful piece of jewellery.
Another interesting part of the glasshouse is the tropical rainforest. That is where we inadvertently arrive at. There is the red button by the door that when you push it, ‘rain’ will come out. It is already very warm inside and neither of us has taken off our coats so the splatter of fake rainwater is rather cooling.
“Look! A banana tree!”
“Look! Coffee Arabica!”
And so on and so forth with our excitement. I have been quite homesick lately and so being surrounded by familiar plants from home that I have often taken for granted is very much therapeutic.
The cool air greets us as we step out of the stifling glasshouse. Because it’s winter, there aren’t flowers blooming outside. So we spend the next half hour or so admiring large trees. Needless to say, both Su and I are awestruck by such magnificence.
Two hours in the Botanical Garden is enough to cure me of lingering negative thoughts and subsequently replace them with positivity and inspiration. Two hours feel short and I wish we could stay longer, but assignments await. I am keen to do this more often, perhaps when the weather gets a bit warmer.