Today is Twelfth Night, the end of Christmas, and the Christian feast day of Epiphany. It seems like a good day to stop the partying and take stock of what has been happening over the festive season.
When I last left you, you were wondering whether Albert would ever make it to Buxton and whether we’d be able to get Michael and Julia to become friends. But with my genius self in charge, how could anything go wrong?
(That was a rhetorical question, by the way.)
Here was the plan:
1) Engineer a ‘surprise’ meeting between Michael and Julia in some cafe. (With all the things they have in common, this meeting alone would be sufficient to cause them to become best friends and want to meet again.)
2) Michael would then invite Julia to Buxton for New Year. (Inevitable given that Buxton is so pretty and Julia is complaining of not having seen hilly countryside for some time.)
3) Julia tells Michael how much she would love to meet all his sheep, forcing him to take them to Buxton with him.
4) Julia then takes me along to Buxton too, and….PARTY.
Easy, right? Humans are totally predictable.
Except that I was nearly thwarted at the very first hurdle. I told Albert to bring Michael to Black Medicine, which is a very friendly laid back coffee shop not far from the station. I had betted on this being one of Julia’s favourite places, and on her wanting to go to it after her morning masterclass was finished. What I hadn’t betted on was that she’d also be wanting food and company, so I was quite horrified when she texted a friend to meet her and headed instead for the St Giles Cafe on the Royal Mile. Luckily for me, the bad snowy weather meant that the cafe was completely full up, as was the next one she tried, so she had to settle for Black Medicine after all. Phew. In the meantime, Michael was ignoring Albert and heading to Anteaques to stock up on more tea for Christmas. Thankfully, the bad weather once again made Black Medicine (in its proximity to the station) seem like a much better idea, and so they ended up in the same place at the same table after all.
The rest of the plan went pretty much according to, er, plan! Michael was enthralled by knot theory and Julia wanted to hear more about using crystallography for carbon capture, so new year in Buxton was inevitable. Baggis decided to come along too, which was not such a good idea because the poor thing is prone to getting involved with the wrong kind of people. For example, he was nearly captured by this Australian pirate (see pic) down on the south coast of England!
Let me tell you a bit about Buxton, in case you’ve never been there. It is a little spa town not too far from Manchester, just on the edge of the Peak District. You might have heard of it from its most famous export: Buxton water. I would advise not paying loads of money for the bottled stuff, and instead rocking up to the town with some empty containers, for you can get the tasty liquid at St Ann’s Well in the middle of Buxton. The well and the hot geothermal waters were both thought to have healing properties, and have been visitor attractions for a few hundred years. Buxton became even more popular in the 1780s, when the Duke of Devonshire built a beautiful crescent (modelled on the Royal Crescent in Bath) and a giant dome – at the time the largest in the world. And you’ll never believe what it was built for… Stables! Gee, people love their horses even more than their sheep. Inexplicable, that.
It remains for me to tell you about our amazing New Year’s Eve party and all the new sheepy friends I’ve made. Here’s a group pic of all of us in the middle of our celebrations:
Starting from the front, we have our three childish troublemakers: Giovanni, Maxwell and Albert. (Sadly no McHaggis.) They had spent the evening playing with GeoMag and were very proud of their Platonic solid sculptures.
Then there were the draught excluder sheep, one of whom (Maximillian) has an easy life on the back of a sofa (much like our own friend Draggis) whilst the other one (unnamed!!) has a hard life guarding the front door and being trampled on all the time. It was no wonder he wanted to get dressed up and console himself with a stiff drink.
Another of our working sheep is called Goggle, and he is a doorstop. Or so he says – I think that perhaps he might be so heavy just because he has been stealing mince pies every night when all the humans have gone to bed. After a few glasses of port he decided to wear the Christmas decorations as earrings, which attracted the admiration of the rest of the gang:
I particularly like the picture below of Baggis, Fernilee and I admiring our beautiful reflections. Fernilee is the one in the green scarf. He is named after a local reservoir, and only narrowly escaped being called Errwood instead (which is a much less pretty name).
It was really wonderful to make so many new friends, and I hope that they will be able to visit me in Edinburgh sometime soon.
Until then, it is time again to concentrate on the thesis and on communicating my love of maths to the general public. Next week signals the beginning of mine and Julia’s Open Studies course on “How Mathematical Ideas Shaped the World”, so I shall keep you updated on how that is going. (Don’t forget to sign up for it if you live in Edinburgh and haven’t done so!) The thesis is in the final stages of its long and drawn-out life and will hopefully be finished before I get Alzheimers and forget what on earth it’s about.
Fingers crossed on this portentious day for an epiphany about modulo 3 matrices…
Happy New Year everyone!
[P.S. Credit goes to MW for photography and JC for the lovely sheep outfits.]