Another much loved, and more familiar city, home of the other Bridge of Sighs. As always, when we first caught sight of the tower of the University Library (currently sharing the skyline with a crane) my heart lifted. I went up to university the year after my parents died, and it was the place where I grew up and began to grow into myself. In some ways, Cambridge still feels rather like home.
It was strange to be pounding the pavements instead of cycling everywhere; oddly, distances seemed rather smaller…perhaps an indication of how college centric my student experience was, with life revolving around Trinity, the West Road Concert hall and Sidgwick Avenue. I’m sure, for example, that Robinson is nearer to the heart of things now than it was 20+ years ago!
Having started the day feeling very aged and rather sad (where did all those years go?) , I was hugely cheered by a Trinity porter whose response to my tentative request that we might explore was “You’re a member of college….You belong here”
Thus emboldened, we had huge fun visiting old haunts and then branching out.
We popped into the chapel at both Trinity and Trinity Hall…the one my own college, the other the place where I sang Evensong week by week, since Trinity choir was men only in those days. I did visit Trinity chapel once or twice to hear the Dean, John Robinson preach,- and he himself made an impact even on my "officially agnostic" young self. At Tit Hall we had Keith Ward….and, of course, I took this as much for granted as the privilege of hearing Geoffrey Hill read poems he’d finished only that day…or Gombrich lecturing on the history of art. Maybe I did know, really, how fortunate I was….but in the general climate of excellence, it was too easy to lose sight of the specific examples of greatness offered to us.
The object of the day, was for TeenWonder to get a flavour of the place to help his deliberations as the application forms begin to loom larger. With this in mind, we wandered high and low, and I found myself noticing details that I’d just not absorbed in the happy whirl of student life.
I bet, for example, that Serena (who made us feel hugely welcome) hasn’t noticed this rather charming flying pig (or is it a dragon) at Christ’s. I did visit a dragon there, in the shape of a Don who so scared me that I was capable of only what he categorised as "small social noises" during my initial supervisions.
Spring seems to be further advanced in Cambridge than here in the west, with sprinklings of aconites and crocus around many a tree. Perhaps even the flora are precocious?
Driving home, I realised that, though I'd loved revisiting my past, I love here and now even more.
That was a wonderful realisation, for which I am truly thankful.