On Excessive Amounts of Sport and Other Exhausting Pursuits

It’s Paddy’s day, and this time two years ago I recall spontaneously hitting up a couple of the college bars in Durham, dashing between them to avoid the penetrating cold that had already claimed all of my extremities. But it was only after a few snakebites when they started dishing out huge green Guinness hats that I finally remembered the occasion. But this year it’s hard to forget, as our student bar known affectionately as the “Tav” is holding a Paddy’s day special starting at 11am. And what a contrast this day is: a pleasant 27 degrees with just a hint of a warm breeze, which was softly swaying the Eucalyptus trees as I walked along the Swan River to my early morning stand up paddle boarding session. This weekly activity somehow qualifies as one of the units doing, which, when combined with arts practicum, classics and astronomy makes for a pretty damn easy semester.

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Walks along the Swan River

This is a relief, as following three months of travelling any notion of work makes my stomach turn. But my classics unit is fascinating and led by a hilariously sarcastic professor in his late fifties, who tends to make a series of euphemisms during his lectures. This proves popular with the students though, and the unit is so oversubscribed that there are two lecture theatres assigned to the unit, the second of which broadcasts the next door lecture live. This makes it useful for when I inevitably come in late, but it is rather too futuristic for me. My astronomy unit is equally interesting, and I’ve now developed a fascination with general and special relativity and the curvature of spacetime. It sounds just as confusing as it is, and I’m having trouble getting my head around notions like the absolute possibility of time travel, and the fact that I’m actually accelerating as I sit completely still in my chair. It will take a fair amount of time before I can actually wrap my head around this, that is, if time actually exists…Anyway, enough of that.

My arts practicum unit involves much needed work experience at a local newspaper. I turned up late on my first day of course, sweating profusely, having missed the bus, run back to get my car, run out of petrol and then spent several crucial minutes trying to work a malfunctioning petrol pump. My supervisor Steve commented immediately on my level of perspiration asking “did you cycle here?” Oh yes, that was definitely the explanation. I’d also already committed a gaffe when I referred to him as “Steve Inhouse”, misreading the email that actually was referring to “Steve in house”, y’know, because he was the chief of staff and he worked “in house”. Embarrassing. I expected to be given menial tasks like coffee making and photocopying, but within the first five minutes he provided me with a phone number and a debrief, and told me to write an article, prefacing it with “I don’t want to drop you straight in the deep end”. I hate phone calls, let alone conducting interviews while the entire office of my new work listens in. But after twenty minutes, I forced myself to pick up the phone and dialled his number. Within an hour I’d completed the article, and I was then given a series of political questions and asked to go and interview people around Freo. This was both interesting and exhausting, as I have genuine facial recognition problems so I couldn’t remember which people I’d interviewed and which ones I hadn’t. I also didn’t know much about Australian politics, so when I was asked to clarify a few of the questions I was forced to massively improvise and pretend that I knew exactly what the questions were referring to. I’m pretty sure I convinced them, though. Although it was stressful it was great fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed saying to people “I’m Ottoline Spearman, a journalist from the Fremantle Herald”.

Aside from committing work-related gaffes, I’ve also been partaking in a ridiculous amount of sport. I now do sailing, tennis, badminton, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding. And somehow I’ve also become a member of the UWA swim squad. This is a rather interesting development, as I’ve never swum properly in my life- unless a brief dip in the sea counts. The first session was horrendous. My housemate had to drag me down the road before I was convinced, and after much coaxing, I found myself in the fastest lane. I was in at the deep end- literally, and the first length saw me crashing head first into a rather unfortunate swimmer as I swam (or rather flailed) in the wrong direction. I then managed to switch lanes while swimming backstroke, despite the fact that the lanes are separated by a series of large floats. Hideously embarrassed, I ducked back under the floats and followed my housemate. Let’s hope no one noticed. But two horrible 7am sessions later, I can now swim consistently for an hour without bumping into anyone (!), and I’m in the process of learning to swim butterfly without resembling a drowning dolphin. That’s progress, eh?

And I may also now qualify as a token Australian: I eat vegemite on a regular basis, I refer to places by their shortened names such as “Freo” and “Cott”, I no longer feel the need to hit the beach when there’s a glimmer of sun and I say “hey” at the end of my sentences. And last week, at a kayaking session run by the outdoor club, I got into a jellyfish fight. It was a glorious 35 degree day, and we hit the water with enthusiasm. Suddenly, we found ourselves surrounded by a huge swarm of terrifying looking jellyfish- brown, heavily tentacled and about the size of footballs. Then without warning I was covered in a thick brown slime as the guy near me hurled one in my direction. And so began a jellyfish war, as these poor creatures were thrown back and forth between the kayaks. A couple of people were rather too enthusiastic and soon found themselves in the water surrounded by the jellyfish, rather like that scene in Finding Nemo. But they emerged, unharmed from the sea of slime.

And now, after sitting through an immensely dull tutorial during which I’ve been writing this, it’s time to hit the Tav with my wonderful housemates. Two o’clock is a perfectly reasonable time to start drinking, right?

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