Well this has been quite a week. Initially when I got this position I was not at all keen to take it, but….I did. I had been to Cambridge before, about two years ago on a one day bus trip and although it was interesting I was not much impressed with Cambridge and always said I preferred Oxford.
Now that I have been here for a week and had time to really look around and explore I find that I now hold a more favourable view. I have had time to really look at the buildings, walk along the streets and the weather on some days has been quite lovely, which always helps.
Cambridge is of course a University town. The University is made up of different colleges; namely: Kings College, Trinity College, St John’s College, Queen’s College and Magdalen College (pronounced Maudlin) – no, me neither…I have no idea why!
Anyways, having been meandering the ancient cobbled streets and occassionally sneaking in where I am not supposed to be, I have had a great time finding out more about this fair city and can now see the attraction. I have had time to meander along the banks of the River Cam, stroll across the bridges, oooh & ahhh at the architecture and strain my neck to view the statues and decorations high above my head, adorning the sides of the buildings and colleges, have a quick sneeky peek at some hidden treasures and visit the market in the square fronting the Guildhall.
The highlights of my stay have been the view of the river in the mornings from the house; a glimpse inside the ‘Round Church’; a trip to the theatre to see ‘The History Boys’, a play by Alan Bennett; talking to the scientists at the Halley Research Station in Antarctica via video-link on Saturday morning; walking across the ‘Mathematics’ Bridge in the afternoon; ringing the bells at church on Sunday last and today a tour of Trinity College – (my client read maths there aeons ago) plus a return visit to the church to see the bells that I helped to ring! 🙂
There was most certainly a Saxon Church on the spot, thought the present church dates back to the 13th Century. We climbed an ancient winding staircase that has been around since the 1400’s right to the top of the tower, spent time viewing the bells and then climbed even further up some very rickety stairs to the medieval belfry to view the ancient beams that used to support the bells. Fortunately I suffer from neither vertigo nor fear of heights! At last count there are 5,000 people buried on the church grounds (and I was glad not to add to their number). The grounds of the church are not very large so many of the dead must be buried one above the other as well as the many who are buried inside the church.
On our tour of the college, I enjoyed a cup of coffee relaxing in front of a friendly fire in the Masters Parlour (very posh – but not as well appointed as one might expect), a tour through the grounds of the college right through to the back (known as ‘The Backs’) which leads onto the river Cam that winds past the ‘Backs’ of the various colleges, and thence to the Wren Library where I got to see some fantastic books, one of which is an 8th Century original manuscript of the Epistle of Paul written in Latin by an Irish Scribe back in the mists of time, a copy of the notebook wherein Tennyson wrote the original draft of his poem ‘Maud’ in 1855; (100 hundred years before I was born), the 1st folio of Shakespear’s comedies printed in 1623 and the letter Isaac Newton wrote to Hooke depicting the fall of a stone, whereupon Hooke declared this to be inaccurate and thus led Newton to further research, and eventually to write the book Principia.
After this adventure we then made our way to the main dining hall, which is a scene right out of Harry Potter, with even the table lamps on the tables. The tables, of which there are about 6, are very long (like in the dining hall scenes from Harry Potter), seat about 40 people each. One of the tables at the head of the room is raised on a dias and the other tables are all lengthways down the hall. The roof is splendid with arched wooden trusses soaring above, beautifully decorated and in the centre of the roof a glass folly rises high above into a point, which can be seen soaring above the roof when standing on the lawns outdoors. There are a number of waiters who hover around, silently seeing to the diners, clearing tables and resetting places. There is the learned chatter of the professors and undergraduates, some of whom are the epitome of the characterisations you see in books; absent-minded, touselled hair, tweed jackets or twin-sets, ‘Proper’ English accents (which sounds like they’re talking with hot-potatoes in their mouths), and the conversation is of esoterical and weighty matters. 🙂
And there was me….in my very worn trousers that have seen better days, my ancient trainers that have walked with me right around the UK, the USA and Europe for the last 8 years, a black fleece jacket that is worn but not yet torn and a bright green t-shirt!!! My camera in hand and an accent to frighten the ‘natives’ 🙂
Trinity has been described as ‘rich, handsome and clever’, one of those could also describe the people in the dining room….I’ll leave it to your imagination as to which! Now in it’s fifth century since being refounded by Henry VIII, the college reigns supreme as the largest and wealthiest of the Colleges, having famously produced more Nobel prize-winners than France.
The church where I got to ring the bells is the 3rd to have stood on that spot since approx 800AD. The founding fathers of the Reformation used to meet there in the early 1520’s and at the Christmas Midnight Mass at St Edward’s in 1525 one of them, Robert Barnes, preached what was probably the first openly evangelical sermon to be preached in any church in the country, proclaiming the Christian gospel and accusing the Church of its heresies. St Edward’s can thus claim to be ‘the cradle of the Reformation’ in England. And I got to ring the bells on Sunday….how cool is that!!!