Wednesday, 12 January 2011

I was hiding under your porch because I love you

TODAY I gave a lab meeting on my PhD progress to date, or at least since my last meeting. This in itself isn't remarkable, except that it also happened to be my 15 month formal meeting, attended by my internal assessor, to examine my progress and assess my achievements and enthusiasm. Needless to say I've been extremely stressed, prone to error and subjecting myself to perhaps more than I can handle since returning from the holidays. Last Friday, for example, I was juggling two separate experiments, each a day's work in themselves, all while trying to prepare for new experiments this week, using techniques entirely new to us all.

The meeting went well, and in fact I was the most relaxed in any lab meeting I have ever given, perhaps because I think - though I stress that it is only that I think - that I finally know a little about what I'm talking about.

This meant that the rest of the day whooshed by in a daze, as I swanned around humming to myself and feeling content. I haven't achieved all that I had wanted to by this stage in my project, but my supervisor and internal assessor seem to be happy with my progress. When I left for home my spirits were high, not dampened by the drizzle falling from the heavens. A gentleman passed me on the way to the train station, clearly also having had a good day. He was walking faster than me and, just after overtaking me, he began to skip, heading straight - sploosh - into a puddle. At this he let out a "weee-heee-HEEE!" and then returned to his walking pace, undoubtedly rather pleased with himself.

This evening, in celebration, I watched a DVD I have been coveting for a while that, following a documentary on the BBC recently, I purchased in a fit of temptation. It was Pixar's Up.

If you haven't seen it, it's not possible to explain the plot with justice: it just sounds silly and odd. It is about a man who ties balloons to his house and flies to South America. But it is the reasons why he does this, the interplay between him and an eight-year old accidentally caught on his doorstep as the house takes off, and the ever present touch of sadness throughout the film that make it something absolutely special. This is not your standard silly animation, although for sure, its plot is preposterous and never tries to be anything besides. But when I saw Up at the cinema I am quite happy to admit that it made me cry - in sadness and delight in equal measure. The first ten minutes particularly are heartwrenching. Yet I think I probably cried even more tonight on viewing it once more. This is a film about adventure, love, appreciation and memories, tangled up with the cords of those balloons. I know such a review sounds clich├ęd and ridiculous, and sure, I'm a sucker for an ounce of celluloid silliness lovingly sprinkled in Pixar dust, but I honestly think Up is one of the greatest films of the last decade. It never ceases to affect me in a deeply personal way.

As I reviewed it upon leaving the cinema when it was first released, I consider Up to be pure joy in film form.

And now I retire after a triumphant day, ready for the adventures tomorrow will bring. Furthermore, they will be adventures with my wife by my side. Adventures are what makes life fun, and without them, I would be lost.


Siobhan said...

This post is just lovely. Up really is deeply moving. And adventures with your wife by your side? What more could you wish for?


Simon Varwell said...

Yeah I was a big fan of Up, too. I have to say it wasn't quite as good as Wall-E and so isn't quite my favourite Pixar, and I do feel it dragged a wee bit every now and then, but is definitely a beautiful film that looks great and has a lovely story. It's amazing how much they bring so much humanity into animated characters.