Freshers’ Week 2009

This Way To The QM Union

The beginning of the academic year at Glasgow University is preceded by a week dedicated to welcoming the newest students to the University, the Freshers. It’s one of, if not the liveliest week of the year at the University of Glasgow. This year’s Freshers’ Week took place September 14th to 18th.

The week’s events are kicked off by the Freshers’ Address in Bute Hall, where high-ranking members of the University staff, the heads of the student unions, the chaplains and the rector welcome the new students to the University. The Address has a secondary purpose for the students unions, as they have a further opportunity to convince the new students to join their union, as demonstrated by the Freshers’ Helpers from the unions sitting on both sides of Bute Hall, with the GUU on one side and the QMU on the other (GUSA and SRC are on the sides too, but to a lesser extent and in smaller numbers), chanting away and hurling witty abuse at each other over the heads of the Freshers.

QMU President at the Freshers' AddressGUSA President at the Freshers' AddressGUU Hon. Sec. at the Freshers' AddressSRC President at Freshers' AddressThe Rector at the Freshers' AddressFreshers' Address in Bute Hall

For days two and three of Freshers’ Week Bute Hall is turned in to a hub for the societies to set up a stall and try to recruit new members for their respective societies, during Freshers’ Fair. Due to the huge number of societies, there was also a tent in the East Quadrangle for the societies that didn’t fit in Bute Hall.

Freshers' Fair in Bute Hall

I spent both days of the Freshers’ Fair at the Politics Society stall, recruiting new members and occasionally running around and taking a bunch of photos of everything that was going on around Bute Hall.

Official PhotographerPolitics Society and STAG

Along with the student societies and services, outside companies and especially brands, clubs and bars were out in force advertising their products and whatnot. Here’s some more photos of the events and scenes around the University:

Registration for New StudentsBute Hall on Freshers' WeekPredator?Chivalric Dream FightingSuperheroes on Freshers' WeekUniversity of Domino's PizzaGeisha Girls on Freshers' WeekEscape!Recruiting for the GUOTCQMU Freshers' Week EventsRed Bull Party BugSubcity.orgChivalric Dream Fighting

Radio PlacardsGUU Decorations

Steampunk SocietyThe Garage in ChalkOne Voice BalloonsFancy a Ride?Black and Purple BalloonsGUU Freshers' Week

I’ve also created four collages of the photos I took during the first four days of Freshers’ Week (there was really nothing going on on the fifth day. Click on the thumbnails below to see the collages in larger versions on Flickr.
Freshers' Week 2009 - Day One Freshers' Week 2009 - Day Two Freshers' Week 2009 - Day Three Freshers' Week 2009 - Day Four

More photos from September 2009 on my Flickr page.

Cross-posted at

Posted in Events, Freshers' Week 2009, Photos, University of Glasgow | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Glasgow University Photo Blog

Glasgow Uni Photo Collage

Armed with a brand new camera and a huge pile of photos from my first year at the University of Glasgow. So what to do with all the photos and the scores more which I will take in the next 3 years?

Starting today, I will begin another blog, a photo blog this time, the Glasgow University Photo blog at

As a brief introduction, the photo blog will be comprised of a daily photograph about the buildings, students, studies, and curiousities of Glasgow University. For the first three months, the time between the acedemic years, I will post a photo from my 2008/2009 archives once a day at noon GMT. Starting in September 2009 and Freshers’ Week 2009, I will post a current photograph on a daily basis. To find out more about the photo blog, visit the inaugural post or the About page.

To stay up to date with the (daily) photos, you can visit the site on a daily basis at, you can follow the RSS feed in a reader of your choice, or have a daily email sent to your inbox. [More info]

So head on over and check out the first photo(s)!


Posted in Photos, University of Glasgow | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

To Be Set and Sown in the Garden

To Be Set and Sown in the Garden - Share on OviIn the most central spot at Glasgow University (between the Round Reading Room, University Avenue, the University Library, and the Fraser Building) sits a slight grassy incline with 10 benches, 10 hedges, 5 small trees, and several larger trees. Devoid of any signs screaming ‘PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH THE SCULPTURES’ or ‘DON’T STEP ON THE GRASS’, this area and the benches are quite popular with students throughtout the day, especially so on those rare days when the sun bothers to make and appearance. It’s a common sight to see the benches occupied by students catching up with friends, reading a book, grabbing a bite to eat, or taking a quick nap.

Taking in the sun, University of Glasgow - Share on Ovi

Taking in the sun outside the Fraser Building - Share on Ovi

Crazy thing is, sometimes you might be sitting on a piece of art without knowing it.

During Open Day last April the student tour guide, when passing the library, mentioned the

benches and how they resembled dissection slabs used in autopsies, complete with a porcelain headrest and a groove for the blood to flow off the table in. Knowledge of this makes the sight of someone catching a few Z’s on one of the benches with their head resting on the headrest, well, an interesting sight.

With what little I previously knew, I figured the benches were merely a rather macabre tribute to the University’s contribution to the academic fields of anatomy and medicine. Seemed likely, considering the number tributes spread around the University campus, celebrating the University’s famous sons and daughters, and their inventions and contributions to their respective fields. Considering how many of the buildings around the university are named after famous people (the Adam Smith Building, the Joseph Black Building, the (John) Boyd Orr Building, (Joseph) Lister House, the (John) Graham Kerr Building, every building and statue and so on named after Lord Kelvin, and so on), this seemed a likely scenario.

To Be Set and Sown in the Garden - Text - Share on Ovi

Ah, but there is more to this story than a mere nod to people hacking up corpses in the name of science. I had seen the lights before, at night, having figured them to just be (somewhat ineffective) lighting for the hedges, similar to lighting buildings at night. Sitting on one of the benches on a sunny day with a friend, it was brought to my attention that the lights weren’t just fancy lighting. There was text next to each of the 10 hedges, lit up even during the day!

As visible in the crummy mock-up above, the lit-up text is difficult to photograph during the day. Ah yes, but as they’re lit up at night, creating more than just ambient light, I went out one evening to photograph the entire story spelled out by the lit texts, running down the hill towards University Avenue. Below is a composite picture of each of the texts, and for the sake of making it easier to read, the text is also written below:

ToBeSetAndSownInTheGarden - Share on Ovi

  • To Be Set and Sown in the Garden                  Christine Borland, 2001
  • Commissioned to mark the 550th Anniversary of The University of Glasgow
  • The porcelain pillows are replicas of the wooden headrests used in anatomical dissection
  • Each pillow is inscribed with a plant illustrated in Fuchs’ herbal ‘The History of Plants’ 1542
  • The first suggestion of a physic garden in Scotland is a planting list by Mark Jameson
  • Jameson was Rector’s Deputy in 1555, when Glasgow University was sited near the cathedral
  • Jameson’s annotated copy, 1549, of Fuchs’ pocket herbal, is kept in the University Library
  • Many of the plants selected were considered extremely dangerous if taken during pregnancy
  • The reason for Mark Jameson’s selection of plants with gynaecological properties, is unclear

I’ll let the texts above tell the story of the garden, a line at a time: Continue reading

Posted in GU Secrets, Sights, University of Glasgow | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Going To Cambridge!

No more lectures in Year 1, no more tutorials, just studying for the exams in late April and early May.

Easter holidays have now began and everyone’s off to soak up some sun, snow, shopping, or a few weeks with parents and friends back home.

We, on the other hand, are not going to a sunny place, or a snowy place, or even a place know for its shopping. No, we are going to Cambridge, England for a week. On second thought, it might be sunnier down south than in rainy Scotland.

It’s 8:30 in the morning and I’m writing this from a train about to leave from Glasgow’s Queen Street Station to Edinburgh, where we’ll change trains. Then we’re off to York (another change of trains), Peterborough (another change) and finally arriving in Cambridge at 16:17.

For those too lazy to do the math, that’s almost an 8 hour trip through a bit of Scotland and quite a bit of England.

When we come back in a week, there’ll be lots and lots of photos posted and I’ll write up a little recap of the little holiday. In the meantime, I’ll be twittering the trip, beginning right now as the train leaves the station. (For those of you who live in a cave, Twitter is a microblogging site where one posts blog posts in 140 characters or less.)

You can follow my posts on Twitter at The tweets (that’s what the posts are called, I didn’t just invent a new word) are also visible on the right hand side of this blog.


Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Scotland vs Finland: Meat Packaging

Meat Packages - Share on OviThis one is purely a short rant, one which I have several times a week. Bare with me.

In Finland, pre-packaged meat products come in a plastic container, with a thin film of clear plastic covering on top. To open the package, one simply grabs one of the corners of the film with two fingers and in one fell swoop pulls the film off in one piece. No knife needed, and your fingers remain clean.

In Scotland, pre-packaged meat products come in a plastic container, with a thin film of clear plastic covering on top. To open the package, one simply grabs one of the corners of the film with two fingers and in one fell swoop pulls the film off in one piece tears a small bit of the film off, without breaking into the actual package as there’s a second layer under the first. In order to remove the entire film cover, one can either a) tear the film off in tiny shreds in about a minute or five, growing increasingly frustrated at the darn thing, or b) use a knife to cut the film off.

Is the United Kingdom so afraid of germs and bacteria that in order to avoid contact with raw meat the package has to be made impossible to open with bare hands? Fine, guess that might make sense to some who make these decisions. Then why on earth would the identical flimsy plastic film cover be on ready meals?

Which do you prefer:
a) open package in one swift hand motion, removing the plastic film and then dip contents on to a hot pan, or
b) pick up a knife, cut package open by removing the film or by cutting film almost open, pick up film from package if completely removed , dip contents on to a hot pan, wash dirty knife.

Meat Packages - Share on Ovi


Posted in Food, Rants and Raves, Scotland vs Finland | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

United Kingdom Welcomes Google Street View

This day has finally arrived! The day that Google Street View finally arrives in the United Kingdom. It is now possible to explore the United Kingdom from street level. This first phase of Street View in the UK consists of the cities (and sometimes surrounding areas) of: Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Scunthorpe, Sheffield, Southampton, Swansea, and York. (List source: Google Blogoscoped) I’m sure more of the UK will eventually be visible in Street View, as apparently the Street View car(s) with the tell-tale gigapixel camera mounted on the roof has been spotted around the UK in more rural areas and smaller cities than the ones mentioned above.

What I’m pleasantly surprised about is how nice the weather was on the days that the Street View car(s) went around Glasgow. You can actually see some rare blue skies! Alas, as this is Scotland we’re talking about, rain drops can be seen on the camera’s lens every now and then. I’ve gotten conflicting opinions on when the Street View car(s) went around Glasgow, although I found a road sign on our street which gave some clue to the period of time in question:
From Google Street View - Share on Ovi

In celebration of this new level of geekdom/surveillance/voyeurism/procrastination, below are 10 sights of Glasgow, as seen in Street View. You can pan around and  zoom in and out each of these embedded street views, or click the link below them to open the view in a larger window. I’ll be using Street View to enhance my posts about Glasgow and Scotland in the future, in addition to the hundreds of photos I take here.

To go exploring in Street View yourself, head on to (or Google Earth), find the city you want to explore, and pull the little yellow pegman from the left-hand side of the screen onto a street on the map. The roads which become highlighted in blue are the ones where you can go exploring. Then just pan around, zoom around, and explore! If you find something exceptionally funny or cool in street view in Scotland, especially in Glasgow, please post the link in the comments section below!
(Hit the link below to view embedded street views)

Continue reading

Posted in City Centre, East End, General, Glasgow, Sights, West End | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Scotland vs Finland: Shopping Cacophony

Buchanan Galleries - Share on Ovi

Buchanan Galleries

A large number of the differences between Finland and Scotland are quite subtle and likely to be generally ignored by most people. Furthermore, many little aspects of the society go unnoticed, whether it’s in your home country or abroad. In order for one to notice some insignificant difference between two societies, someone has to point it out to them, after which the newly discovered difference becomes glaringly obvious. Kind of like when someone points out a barely audible sound while you’re in a lecture, after which you can’t focus on anything else but that sound which you had not heard before.

In Finland, shopping malls and supermarkets continuously have music and/or advertisements blaring through speakers audible everywhere you go, even in the car park and the staff breakrooms.
In Scotland, not so much. There’s no music blaring through speakers when you park your car or walk from store to store. There’s no repetitive advertisements tempting you on a sale going on at a shoe store or such.

The difference is vast. Anyone who has ever worked in supermarkets or shoppings malls in Finland (I have, in both, and in many of them) would greatly appreciate the change in atmosphere, the quietness and lack of repetitive advertisements and catchy slogans which’ll get stuck in you head and haunt you in your dreams.

To understand this difference, allow me to explain the atmosphere in these situations in both Finland and Scotland (mainly Finland, where I’ve lived and worked longer.) The focus here is on shopping malls, large shopping centres and larger supermarkets. There are some exceptions to be found in both countries and I’ll address these at the end of this post.

Large Supermarkets
In Finland, the largest supermarkets, such as Prisma and CityMarket, have music playing through speakers at all times, audible everywhere within the supermarket, including in the car park and the corner of the loading dock where stressed out cashiers go to have a calming smoke and bitch about stupid and crazy customers. Essentially, the entire time you are within the store, you are listening to “calming” music, to create an “enjoyable” shopping atmosphere. This is only interrupted by the occasional advertisement, reminder to customers that all winter coats are on sale, or an announcement saying that could the idiot who parked their Mercedes-Benz in front of the escalator please move their bloody car (not in those words).

Christmas, the season which starts earlier each year, is the worse time of the year. Everyone’s a bit more stressed out than usual, and the playlist of the 20 Corniest Christmas Songs blasting through the speakers 24 hours a day (yes, even the cleaners at night have to listen to the cacophony of Christmas cheer) makes things a whole lot worse. Could you listen to the same 20 songs for 8+ hours a day, 5-6 days a week, from September/October to late December, without going insane?

In Scotland, I’ve yet to hear any advertisements and music is a rarity. It’s oddly quiet, really, and it allows one to have a relatively peaceful shopping experience. No Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, no Beach Boys, no Beethoven’s umpteenth Symphony. (Disclaimer: I’ve yet to go to a truly large supermarket, although some of the stores which we have been to here are large enough to have music and ads in Finland.) [Correct me if I’m wrong, in the comments below this post.]

Shopping Malls
Supermarkets in Finland tend to focus on relaxing and opiate music most of the time, to put the customer into a drugged state of shopping where you’d be more susceptible to bright and big signs screaming “Buy 12, get 1 half price!” or something like that. Shopping Malls, being in multiple occupancy whereas supermarkets have a single company calling the shots, have to cater to a larger pool of demanding shop owners and business entrepreneurs. This means the music is out of the window, and is now replaced with commercial advertisements for all the stores in the mall, continuously ad nauseum. Well, especiallythe stores which a) have competition in the mall, and b) have a lot of disposable income to spend on advertisement, such as banks, which have a branch in every mall. These advertisements aren’t like the ones on TV, as they’re supposed to catch the attention of shoppers in 10-15 seconds in mered words, no visuals, which, unfortunately means catchy tunes and slogans, or matter-of-fact voices running through the reasons as to why everyone absolutely must go shopping at a particular store.

Inside St.Enoch Shopping Centre - Share on Ovi

St. Enoch Shopping Centre

Being bombarded with crappy music and annoying advertisements for that hour or so which you’re out shopping at a supermarket or shopping mall is a nuisance to some/many/most, but after that hour long shopping experience you get to go home and all is good in the world. The workers, on the other hand, have to spend anywhere from 4 hours to in excess of 10 hours a day, most days a week, working and having to listen to the repetitive playlist of catchy pop songs and addictive advertisement slogans, day in, day out. One objective of advertisements is to be catchy and as such, who is more likely to have that stupid slogan burned into their memory, forever repeating in their mind: the shopper who spends an hour or two walking around shops; or the lowly shop clerk who has to listen to the ads for up to over 40 hours a week? Guess who will be humming the tunes and slogans they hear 400 times a day?

Now, this is where the exceptions to this post come into play. Shopping malls in Scotland do not have advertisements blasting at you about the sales you might miss if your eyes were closed. There is no music following you wherever you go in the mall between stores. BUT, as you enter, say a clothing store, loud eurotrash or RnB music will blasts you from all sides. Makes you wonder how the people working there feel like, having to listen to loud music all day long whilst working. Then again, all the people working in these stores are young and their music is contemporary, meaning they were probably allowed to pick their own music and the volume they’re listening to it at.

Now, having only been in Glasgow for just over 6 months, my experiences in this regard are relatively limited. I have been to Buchanan Galleries and St. Enoch many times, and Braehead once (those being the largest and most significant shopping malls in Glasgow, with the exception of Glasgow Fort, which is more of a retail outlet.) With that in mind, I end this blog post with a plea. If I’m wrong about Scotland’s malls and supermarkets in this regard, please, please let me know in the comments. In addition, if you work (or have ever worked) at a shopping mall or supermarket in Finland or Scotland, please shared your experiences in relation to this post in the comments! Thank you!


Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments