Day 50 Chelmsford to Cambridge



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!


11 responses »

  1. *sniffles* That’s lovely.

    I’ve never been to Cambridge. But I’m not playing favourites because I’ve never been to Oxford either. It sounds like the super place to take in the atmosphere.

  2. I adored studying in Cambridge. I must have spent most of my first term cycling around looking at stuff and struggling to believe how lucky I was!
    I never really warmed to the University library – too big. I loved the profusion of smaller libraries you’d find around the place, like the English Lit library in my college where I first read A Room With a View and most of the works of Thomas Hardy (while I was supposed to be revising Physics – oops!) and the one attached to the old science lecture theatres whose name escapes me, where I found a fascinating blow-by-blow account of a hanging, drawing and quartering.

    • Ooh, yes. I remember that library. Library of Periodicals? I liked the biology one. (Go into New Museums site with Chem Eng on left, go right and into the building and it was on the corner. I loved the smell around the biology bits.

  3. When I first visited Cambridge I was twelve, a little boy lost, living in a world of his own. I was a member of a party of schoolboys who made up a choir, and we were out for a treat while visiting to sing in King’s College Chapel, punting on the Cam. I took it into my head to play Greensleeves, or possibly some sea shanty or other, on my recorder as we made our stately way along the river. I was completely taken by surprise when, on turning a corner into one of the stretches where the college lawns slope down to the river and students and others like to sit or lay there in the sun, our boat was suddenly deluged with pennies thrown from the bank. I remember acute embarrassment and hesitancy over whether to stop, or to continue with renewed vigour. As far as I remember, showmanship won out.

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