Post by Tom Kitching:
One of the nice things about working at MSSL is that the department consists not only of the building in which we work, but also the grounds in which it lies. This is particularly enjoyable during the summer, for example one can eat outside at lunchtime talking about science and looking at the amazing views for inspiration; if there is a long paper to read there are many places to sit in peace in the fresh air. MSSL also remarkably has a outdoor swimming pool (perhaps we will blog about that in the future), which is not too cold(!), and nice to use on really hot days. The various lawns in the grounds are also put to good use, football is played regularly, and in the summer the department has a Croquet tournament!
Before this summer I had never before played croquet in my life, so it was with a sense of trepidation that we formed the team Mullard Cosmology Croquet (MC^2), myself together with Dr Jason McEwen. However after the first game I realised that it is a wonderfully game, from quite simple rules very complex matches can result, full of strategy and tactics.
The tournament at MSSL is regularly held each summer, and its a really nice way for the different groups in the department to mix. Neville Shane is the tournament organiser and all the information is posted on a nice website here. The game we play is Garden croquet, which is the most common variant of the rules played; teams consist of two players that take it in turns to hit the ball through a series of hoops. The interesting aspect, that causes many complicated playing scenarios, is that if one hits another players ball then this results in two shots, the first of which can be used to move that players ball for example.
The tournament structure has two group stages, in which each team plays every other team in the group. The winner and runner up of each group plays the runner up and winner of the other group in the semi-finals, followed by a final show down. The MC^2 team somehow (with a good dose of luck) has managed to get through to the final, with some really close games.
Having such group activities in a department is very important. It creates a sense of community, it builds friendships, all things that a good science department should have. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my croquet experiences so far, and will certainly look forward to getting out on the lawn next year.