Mary Poppins

I have had a few Mary Poppins moments in my life – I remember them clearly. The wind changes and, as quickly as I arrived, I’m gone. New friends say “you’re leaving? for good? just like that?” like it’s somehow related to them. A rejection. Michael and Jane’s little faces when Mary leaves. But it’s not that at all. Bert – he knows they’ll meet again. And what a good time they’ll have when they do.

Last week I came home and knew. The wind had changed. All my furniture had gone, my kitchen equipment, the dining room table, and chairs, even the fridge. I sat in the middle of the now-large empty living room, on the floor, and knew. “I guess it’s time to Mary Poppins out of here”. And so I did.

The house has treated me well. Really well. The first time we’ve had a land-base for o so long. A place where we can welcome visitors, grow food, store (and accumulate) stuff comfortably, and listen to birdsong in the morning. A place that is in exactly the same state upon return as it was left. A place to call one’s own.

The work was fantastic too – and NZ IceFest a real success. Huge thanks to Antarctica New Zealand and Christchurch City Council Events for bringing me into the fold. It was a blast. Something for everyone: an immersive art installation, an ice rink, two bars, comedy, music, a magical-looking site, a kids programme, posh dinners and cocktail parties, an Air Force open day, and a science programme too. For my part (responsible for the science and outreach components), I’m pleased with what was delivered – over 100 “real Antarcticans” in a wide range of talks and discussions – about 30 in all – spread over a month. Topical debates, chat-show style interviews, timeless Antarctic Yarns, and the southernmost Café Scientifique, three times a week… all with really engaging speakers. And lots of positive feedback. I’ll write more about the festival, and post some pictures, anon. For a taster of events, you can listen to the IceFest podcasts thanks to Veronika Meduna at Radio New Zealand National.

Now, somehow, I’ve found myself in Wellington, on our boat, surrounded by bags. That’s where Mary Poppins pips me – she has that magical bottomless bag. You don’t see her packing and unpacking and agonizing over logistics of how to get boat, car, bike, bags, and people all to the same place, effortlessly, and with sanity in tact. She remains my hero though, and I strive to achieve her dizzy heights of boundless carefreeness, balanced by thrilling efficacy, in appropriate measure.

My next job has already begun, but I’m excited to launch myself into it properly. All sorts of projects around putting science in context, and conversations around science: University courses, public engagement activities, building networks,  tailored events, workshops, research and relevance… there are so many opportunities and ideas when you open that can that it’s both exciting and also a little scary. I thank the Faculty of Science at Victoria University of Wellington for not trying to put me in a box.

First, however, and most importantly, my parents are in the country and it’s time to go and spend some good, quality time together. That, without a doubt, is priority number one.

2 thoughts on “Mary Poppins

  1. Thanks so much for keeping me ‘in the loop’, Mary – sorry, Rhian. It’s always fab to hear your news and how well your work is going for you – wishing you all the best with your new job as well, of course. Hoping you spend some lovely and very memorable time for however long they are staying with you. Please give them a very big hug from me and tell them that I think of them most every day.
    Must dash: Expecting a house-full of guests in under 15mins and am not nearly ready!
    As always, very best wishes to Andy and lots of love to you all,
    Steve xxxx 🙂

  2. Hello Rhian!

    Yes, you really are The Poppins, aren’t you! Think of the day you floated to earth back at Waterbeach when we all thought you on the far side of the world…….

    But as far as the Bottomless Gladstone Bag is concerned, I’d nip over to the University Particle Physics Department with an old suitcase or rucksack…… I mean, now Cern have finally nabbed the Higgs Boson, they’ll have no problem knocking up an Infinity Containment Field for you over a couple of lunch breaks.

    I suppose the only drawback would be the truckloads of batteries required to power the Field Perimeter Stabilisers…….. I foresee portability issues, but I’m sure they’ll solve it…

    Then there’s the Gravitational Field Polarity Reversal Palabora, or ‘magic umbrella’……..

    That one might take them more than a lunch break…….


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