Just the thought of the place makes me feel all mellow. I sometimes dream that I’m back there, studying once more (although that can come in the form of going into an exam about which I know nothing). There are parts of the city which feel like they’re trapped in the past and walking through them – as a young cockney girl from a pretty ordinary background – I sometimes felt like a fish out of water.
And like a fish, my mouth seemed permanently open. In awe.
The classic places – King’s Parade, St John’s New Court, the site of the legendary Great Court Run – were wonderful, but they’re all familiar to us. Today I want to celebrate some of the lesser known, and just as inspirational, places. Like the “New Museum”. I spent hours there, marvelling at the zoological exhibits and consulting the giant ground sloth skeleton. It was right in the middle of where most of my lectures were, so a convenient place to drop into over lunch.
Then there was Fenners for the cricket and Grange Road for the rugby. Saw the All Blacks there, and the American Eagles. Used to wander down the backs en route to or from the rugby. Always lovely, even when covered in snow or flooded and with ducks nesting on them.
I did spend some time in the University library (who allowed thatmonstrosity to get planning permission?)
Then there are the really ‘secret’ parts. Like the monument in Christ’s chapel that says: ‘So that they who while living had mingled their interests, fortunes, counsels, nay rather souls, might in the same manner, in death, at last mingle their sacred ashes.’ It marks the burial in the same tomb of two men, John Finch and Thomas Baines, who met as students at Christ’s in the seventeenth century. And in Gonville and Caius, a memorial commissioned by the master of the college, Dr John Gostlin, to commemorate himself and his friend Dr Thomas Legge. There’s a flaming heart held aloft by two hands and an inscription: ‘Love joined them living. So may the earth join them in their burial. Oh Legge, Gostlin’s heart you still have with you’.
No wonder I was inspired to write the Cambridge Fellows stories. I had impeccable precedent!