It has been very quiet on my blog for the past two weeks. The reason is simple: I have not only started a new job, but I also packed and moved the lab, and we moved house – all in one week. So, it is about time that I reflect on my first week in Manchester, which is in many respects very different from Lancaster!
Our house is lovely – it is a red brick house in the south of Manchester, and it is beautiful, warm, and light. In contrast, although very nice, the two late 1800’s terraced houses we lived in in Lancaster were dark, moist, and cold, and so were all our friends’ houses. We got used to having a cold house by default – always below 15 degrees during the day – and blasting the heating for a couple of hours in the evening. This warmed up the air in the house, but never the walls, the bed, the contents of the kitchen cupboards, or the bathroom. I always wore two jumpers in the house, drank tea to stay warm, and slept with a hot water bottle – even in summer. To Dutch readers, this might sound medieval. In Lancaster, it’s just how it is – you either have a cold house with character, or a comfortable house without a soul.
In Manchester, those two things can apparently be combined. Our 1950s (this is my guess, and I will have to find out more about the history of Manchester to be sure) house is lovely, with original features and wooden floors, but it is fitted with a thermostat, and because of the insulation, this keeps the house at a constant temperature of our choice. As a result of living in the cold for four years, our new house simply feels like a luxury resort.
And it has to be, because the world outside is a lot more hostile than in Lancaster. My first week of cycling to work has been quite eventful: ranging from being forced to ride in the gutter, with all its crap, mud, and potholes, by rows and rows of stationary cars, to being cut off by buses, which seem to have a monopoly on the combined bus and bike lanes. The absolute low of this week was my bent rim and lost bike light because of a two inch deep, one foot wide pothole – just when I had regained my happiness happy of a newly found quiet cycle route. Where I persisted to cycle to work without a helmet in Lancaster (something every Dutch person will understand) I have now bought one for my daily commute. And don’t get me started about proper training rides. We went on our first two-hour road ride yesterday, of which 30 minutes was on a nice road skimming the Peak District. The rest was avoiding cars and potholes on busy B roads.
But of course, the reason why we moved to Manchester was my new job as a Research Fellow in the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Manchester. The first week has been pretty overwhelming, both as a result of moving house and the commute, but also because everything seems so well arranged, and everyone is so welcoming and helpful! Even though some things haven’t been resolved yet – for example, I don’t have an office yet, so I am based in a communal write-up area – everyone has really tried to make my first week as comfortable as possible. My impression of the Faculty and the University is one of great opportunities and ambition, and I am very excited about the possibilities for my own research.
It is also great, although dangerous for your purse, to work at a university in the centre of a big city like Manchester. How nice is it to be able to choose from hundreds of places when going for a coffee or for lunch! The Environmental Research group’s journal club is held in a pub, and going for a quick, after-work drink on Friday, you can choose between three proper pubs, all at a stone’s throw from the Faculty. On Friday, we went out with some colleagues and ended up in an Armenian restaurant in the city centre – funny to think that one of our favourite destinations for a weekend trip is now on our doorstep!
So, all in all, my first week has been very eventful and overall positive – I have met some great new people, but I didn’t forget about the people I have left in Lancaster. It does make me reminisce about the transience of academic friendships, and I think that will be what my next blog post is about.