Tuesday 29 September 2020

Joy of Childhood Things

We are home from Cambridge, having had a splendid time. 

On Sunday B.A. and I went to the TLM at Blackfriars, walked down as far as St Mary and the English Martyrs, and then met our Cambridge Uni pal for a Sunday roast at the Architect. After that we ambled down to the river,  agreed to take a river tour and were punted down and up the river by a genial guide with a good line of patter for 45 minutes.  

We saw many beautiful buildings and bridges and heard a number of interesting stories, some of which might even be true. 

Then we all took a long walk towards the railway station and, after some delay and looking at maps, found the place where my parents, my brother Nulli and I all lived when I was 3 and 4. To my delight, the woods looked the same, although the field (now screened with hedges) seemed a lot smaller. The raised "duckpond" has been drained, which is sad, but at least it is still there. The next time I visit, I will remember to crouch down and to look at everything from a four-year-old's point of view. 

Our house-complex (Grade II listed) was in a pretty neighbourhood, and B.A. and our friend enjoyed looking at the older houses as we made our way back to Hill Street. (I was on Cloud 9.) 

St. Mary's was open, so we all went in. I thought I recognised the pews, but I hadn't remembered how beautiful the church itself was. Naturally when I was four, my parents didn't think it was necessary to tell me of the lives and sufferings of St. Thomas More and Bishop St. John Fisher, depicted in stained glass. In some ways, St. Mary's is a monument to 19th century English Catholic triumphalism, but it has a Polish Mass on Sundays, which sweetens that. 

The challenge of the weekend was staying warm. Thanks to the Covid lockdown, our friend couldn't invite us into college rooms, and our AirBnB was tiny, so our days consisted of walking around between one reservation to the next. To kill time and rest our feet on the way to supper at the Mitre, we all ducked into one of the more Evangelical Anglican churches shortly after a service had ended. Rather soon we were approached by an Evangelical couple who welcomed us to Cambridge and asked who we were, etc. They asked my friend if she had come to Cambridge for a new job, and I was unpleasantly reminded of how, when I began a doctoral program, 15 years ago, people would assume I was too old to be a student.  

Life tip: when meeting someone older than you at a university or in a university town, never assume he or she is not a student just because they are over 30. It's intensely aggravating. Thank you. 

Eventually we were chased out of the church, which probably would not have happened pre-Covid, so no hard feelings, and we turned up early at the Mitre, which let us in. One or the other of us did all the frightening police-state routine with a smartphone. In short, if you want entry in a pub or restaurant in Cambridge (and presumably elsewhere in England), you must register yourself there with your smartphone. This, alarmingly, is called "Track and Trace." You are encouraged to order by smartphone, too, although at the Mitre we didn't. Instead we ordered pies and a trio of puddings from the waiter. The trio of puddings, which were classic British ones like bread pudding and jam sponge, were simply heavenly. 

Then it was only 8 PM or so, but we said good-bye as we were all terribly sleepy from a day out of doors and pub grub. 

On Monday, I studied Italian for 45 minutes and then wrote an article for work. B.A. brought me a pain au chocolat from the Castle St. Fitzbillies, which was very kind of him. Then, at lunchtime, I departed the AirBnB with my computer and the luggage, and met B.A. and our friend in the same Fitzbillies for a good-bye lunch. Then we all walked down to the railway station (which took exactly 32 minutes), and B.A. and I got on the 13:27 to London. We alighted at Hitchin, and took the 14:19 to Peterborough, whence we caught the train to Edinburgh. (The ladies' loo in Peterborough gave me a very bad impression of Peterborough.) 

During this complicated train journey, I managed to write another article, so I didn't feel guilty about travelling on a work day. The thing is, there was no return journey on Sunday. Meanwhile, my heart gave a bounce when I saw Berwick Law, for it meant we were back in lovely Scotland. 

My overall impressions are that Cambridge is a lovely town and students there are greatly to be envied. Covid has reduced much, but not all, foreign tourism, and most tourists are from other parts of Britain.  The "track and trace" system is shocking, annoying, and even frightening. If you or a companion does not have a mobile phone, you will not be permitted entry into pubs and some restaurants. 

The New Blogger is pretty terrible, so I have given up inserting photos and will just put them below.


  1. We have a Track and Trace in Australia too. It's called CovidSafe. It isn't mandatory though. Back when we were allowed to go to restaurants, we had to sign physical logbooks.

    Tell you what, this whole Covid lockdown thing has really destroyed dating too. I have no idea when I will be allowed to meet someone in person. Well, I guess I could already, but only if that person lives within a five kilometre radius of my house. I am almost considering using Tinder, because at least then I might have a hope of meeting someone I can actually meet in person. CatholicMatch has plenty of guys from overseas and interstate, but I doubt that my state's borders will open in the near future.