The End & The Start

by Anna Parsec
Updated: July 9, 2024
15 minute read
Dawn in Belsize Village

The way I needed to sit down and write this post reminds me of moments in Guy de Maupassant’s novel Bel-Ami. The main character was employed as a journalist in Paris and had to write about his adventures in Algeria. He did struggle to start and do it all well – I understand him completely. It is not easy to write on demand, ‘by 3pm that day’ as it was in the novel. However, it is much easier to write it that way because with no due day or time there would be nothing written at all.

We have our deadline. It was meant to be done by Sunday night but our week was so intense and busy that Tuesday afternoon afterwards is the earliest I could do. Without further ado, week 27 of the year below.

Monday 1 July 2024

Rest, Business & Garden Day

We were meant to be resting after a really busy period including an intense weekend of writing up my PhD report. However, we actually realised that it was our first opportunity to sit side by side and do business’ outstanding tasks. We sat down to do it all quickly and stood up 8 hours later. We are very fast workers but that’s how long it took to brainstorm some ideas, send out emails, quotes and, of course, do the actual work.

Working still life

For entertainment after all of that James was watching football, and I was cutting away the hedges and mowing all the lawns I could find. I also made a bouquet out of wild flowers.

An afternoon in the garden

We were so tired that the only thing we made for dinner was our new invention – a starter of crackers, cheese and hot fried mushrooms. Delicious!

Inventing a new starter with mushrooms and cheese

I concluded the evening by reading a book and James – by watching Ronaldo feeling all emotional during the Portugal vs Slovenia game.

Emotional game Portugal-Slovenia
Tuesday 2 July 2024

A boring day for a change

On Tuesday I was doing lots of PhD admin and preparing for my pre-upgrade presentation the next day. James was working at home. A quiet day but in anticipation of many other events that week.

Wednesday 3 July 2024

Shaken up by the panel

I did my pre-upgrade panel presentation. I thought I did my presentation really well but then I was grilled a lot by my panel and especially by the panel chair. It was unexpected as I thought it would be all really informal and friendly. I was really shocked and puzzled by my actual experience. Yes, I didn’t do that much background reading just yet because I was terribly busy with various applications, events, outreach, posters and presentations. Not to mention my actual data analysis results. I don’t think all of that was taken into account. It looked like I didn’t do a good job but I know I did.

Later that day James got to MSSL as usual but to play football.

James arrived to MSSL to play football

It was nice and relaxing to watch him play.

James and MSSL staff warming up

At home I was not able to do anything else apart from deciding what to wear the next day at my conference presentation and watching on repeat the ‘You can’t handle the truth’ fragment from ‘A Few Good Men’ to give me some courage.

Anna and James in clean room suits
Thursday 4 July 2024

A Performance

We woke up early because before taking a train to London, I wanted to vote. I actually voted for the first time in my life which is a bit shocking. It was the first time when it was easy but also made some sense. It’s funny that a lady at the polling station questioned whether my passport was British (which it was). She probably wondered that by listening to my accent. I reassured her that I am Russian but a British citizen as well. I hope it gave her some comfort. James refused to vote because he sees that all as an illusion of democracy.

Voting day - elections 4th July 2024

I took the train to London and it was the moment I was able to look at the slides. I was pasting images and content where I wanted them to be while James was polishing it all off at the same time while sitting at home.

I needed to make a decision whether to dress in the clean room suit or not. I made that decision within a minute before the start of the session where I was presenting. After the shock of the previous day’s presentation it was slightly worrying to perform. However, I pulled all my energy left to do this swan song (swan song because it was the last event of my personal PhD semester).

Anna in a clean room suit

I did really well. My presentation was short, confident and clear (someone also said that it was funny). I had lots of questions from the audience immediately afterwards and more ideas later that day.

Anna presenting at CPS summer conference
The day was full with more talks from people from MSSL, UCL, Birkbeck and other universities. The drinks reception moved to Tavistock and Russell Squares. I got home at around 11pm to retell James all about my day.
Planetary group MSSL
Friday 5 July 2024

Back to the Coast

In the morning we watched the first speech of the new UK Prime Minister. I’m glad I didn’t vote for him because he didn’t make much sense – just some super vague statements.

When we realised how boring it was to listen to Keir Starmer, we set off on our drive to Eastbourne to collect my mum from her friend’s house.

Anna selfie during the drive

She spent about 2 weeks there swimming, sunbathing and hanging around with another Russian lady.

Russian ladies talking in Eastbourne

Once we collected my mum, we walked around Eastbourne, bought a couple of candleholders, ate fish and chips in the place we quite like and returned back home.

Anna and her mum in Eastbourne
Saturday 6 June 2024

London Adventures

What a busy and different day! We all drove to London, where James dropped my mum and I off in Chiswick to get our hair cut. I go there every 10 months or so and really trust Tony with all my hair stuff.

James parked the car at West Hampstead in our old street and headed to the Green Park area, his default position in central London. By that moment mum and I had done our haircuts, and set off towards Tate Britain. James felt a bit sensitive because it was questionable how he would watch England play at 5pm so I got him a margarita pizza on the way to cheer him up.

James classic pose in Tate Britain
We walked around the museum and saw some interesting works, both new and old. It is a lovely museum with lots of British art exhibited.
After an hour in the museum we walked towards Covent Garden via Westminster and took lots of pictures with Big Ben. Fortunately, the weather was somewhat sunny.

James loves visiting Covent Garden. That’s his other go-to place. He showed my mum where to drink free tea and hot chocolate so they are always keen to do that (Whittard shop).

James checking his boots in Covent Garden

For the past month or so I kept dreaming of a Barbour coat. I couldn’t imagine my country living without it. James was persuaded by that idea as well. Hence, one of our Covent Garden stops was at the Barbour shop where I tried the jacket to confirm that it’s all good and got it. Pretty pleased! Apparently, that’s the sort of clothing that should be handed down to the next generation. James questioned where our Barbours were then.

We all travelled to Neda’s at West Hampstead. James started watching England play, us ladies started having coffee, tiramisu and catching up.

Once it was time, we started walking to Hamstead with football in hand (watching the penalties as we walked) to meet Allen and Chloe for dinner.

It was a chance to catch up about all our adventures, business ideas and celebrate Chloe’s birthday early. Shame I didn’t take a picture of all of us – we were too busy talking!

Sunday 7 July 2024

The beginning of the art collection

I woke up nice and early – at 3:50 – even though we were drinking wine and talking until 1am or so.
Dawn in Belsize Village
Anna at sunrise

By 11am after many cups of tea and lovely conversations, James and I returned back to West Hampstead. We didn’t expect there would be the whole brunch waiting for us.

The final event that was planned for our trip to London was our visit to the artist Lydia Bauman’s studio. I thought that for our wedding anniversary I wanted either jewellery or a painting. A painting was a little more affordable. As far as I remember, that’s my first ever artistic purchase. Perhaps, that’s the beginning of my art collection. James dreams of a Canaletto – that’s his thing. Some day for one of our anniversaries we’ll get that too.

Side note: the title of this post refers to the end of my PhD semester even though there is no such thing but it felt that way for me. The start refers to the first art purchase and the beginning of our art collection.

Anna on the artist's chase lounge

If you are curious, here are our living costs for this week 27 of the year (1-7 July 2024).

1 July – 7 July 2024
One week at our rented house
Train and tube (some of which will be refunded by the university)
Small shops here and there and eating out
Barbour jacket, haircuts, artworks and smaller purchases
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First published on: July 9, 2024

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