• Juniper

Murder Mystery on second day off

Updated: Mar 2, 2019

After my first story of ending up in a Travelodge storage room on my day off in 2013, I had the opportunity to work at CABI again in 2015. This time, I made sure my day off would go smoothly and be educational. And educational it was!


During my first time at CABI, I looked after two greenhouses, one 'normal' on and one where we followed quarantine procedures (e.g. putting on lab coats, shoe covers, entering chambers in a specific order and bleaching items we brought out). There was however, a third quarantine lab in another building. In 2013, we made up stories what happens there as people tended to disappear for hours at the end of the day and my imagination grew wild. The possibility of poker games and a pool table were gossiped.


Upon my return, I was finally taken up there where an overall suit has be put on, hair net and shoe covers and what you take in, it does not come out. I will leave the reader wondering what really went on there but I will say that dancing is not impossible in those outfits.


This year, I finished my first semester at Anglia Ruskin University which equals to half a semester as I was studying part-time while working full-time at a National Trust restaurant near Cambridge. I received the Anglia Trust Foundation Scholarship (£750) to go to Namibia, for a Field Skills in Biology course and do some volunteering afterwards.

Going to Africa has always been a dream of mine but my bank account was on zero by the end of every month. In order to get all the vaccinations, we held a cake sale at CABI titled 'Save Juniper' and I got to jab myself with expensive rabies vaccine and lived in a tent throughout the summer. But that is another story...


(The blow up crocodile improved work morale and as I was living a tent, I got to dry my clothes in an abandoned room at CABI. The illustrations are from the Scientific Illustration course.)


Knowing that I HAD TO take off a day or two during the summer, I decided to travel down to Plymouth to complete the Marine Biological Association's Scientific Illustration course. I booked the cheapest hostel as I got used to the YHA's high quality but cheap hostels. But this hostel was no YHA and I could not find it online now so I hope it was closed.


As I arrived with a tiny suitcase and a dress, there was a man in his 50's in underpants ironing and another guy on a sofa smoking weed. I booked an 'ensuite room' and was shown to it. Ensuite meant that there was a toilet within the room and there was a girl crying her eyes out in the corner. She told me that she has stayed here for two nights and the men staying there tried touching her.


I packed up and spent the night on a bench. I planned that I would have £30 to spend during my stay and the cheapest last minute rooms started at £70 in the summer. I showed up to the course being rather tired and told my experience to the group. Everyone was very kind and a lady on the Marine Biology MSc course told me that I could spend the night at her house. Very kind.


The course itself was brilliant, on the picture above we had a group exercise where everyone had 1 minute to draw the sample before them and then move onto the next specimen - leaving behind their drawing so the next person would continue drawing on those. We also used charcoal to learn not to smudge and how a simple drawing could be easily scanned and with a bit of Photoshop make it look professional.


At the end of the day, I was ready for a shower and some rest. While waiting to be picked up by the nice lady's father, I asked how has she been doing. In a rather slow, foggy way she said that she has been having a tough time lately. 'Oh, why?', I asked. 'Well, I've been getting these letters', she said.

'What kind of letters?' - thinking that it would be a harmless, causal situation.

'Well, someone keeps threatening to kill me.'


My first kind of thoughts were like 'Why did you take a day off again?!'.

It turned out that the police were coming over in the evening to collect fingerprints around the house and I noticed a big bottle of Prozac in the kitchen. We had a lovely dinner, trying my best to keep a straight face and when we went to walk the dog, I was assured that nothing would happened to me because strangers only come up to her when she is walking her dog by herself.


After a rather sleepless night, the course continued and this time everyone got to pick a specimen to illustrate. I found a beautiful deep sea fish frozen and tried to leave worrying thought behind while sketching it. Having shared my experience from last night with the organisers, they could not have been nicer - they gave me that frozen fish in a plastic bag to take home with me.


On my way home, naturally, the trains were late and I missed a connection, leaving me sitting on the floor at Reading station with a frozen fish in my backpack for hours. The following morning, I went to work and I was sent home to get a proper sleep and no one told me to take another day off for the rest of the summer. I do have to add, that I left that fish behind after house sitting for a colleague- it is a good thing that biologists think of such a house-sitter as 'perfectly normal'!



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