Back to Cambridge! (Briefly.)

Big thanks to Simon for putting me up in Cambridge for the weekend – I feel like I packed a lot in, and it was nice to catch up with a bunch of people. There was a real mixture of emotions as I walked alongside the river into the centre of town on Friday afternoon: the mist just beginning to build up, students bustling about not realising how quickly their student lives will be over, and so by the time I was strolling briskly down Trinity Street I was immersed in deep thought. Which, naturally, meant I knocked over one of those bloody bicycles resting outside Caius and sent it crashing to the ground, neatly bringing me back to real life

Anyway, things! Tea with the ever-wonderful and informative Peter Mandler in which we agreed about education a lot, which more than made up for the latest instalment of ‘overheard at Caius and resisted butting in’ the next day. (“…I mean, I do agree with putting more money into state education, because y’know, it’s a disgrace that you just have to go private at the moment…” – oh, really, do you now? Missed that memo.) Met a bunch of Simon’s MPhil colleagues, of which approximately 97.3% are American. Not that this is a problem or anything, but it does introduce cultural barriers when it comes to jokes; I plan on not extolling the virtues of Four Lions the next time I’m in US customs. Friday night actually descended into a rather fun but intensely odd night in which someone decided I must be a communist. (Saoirse: “happens to me all the time”.) He was from New Zealand, and as such extolled the virtues of plenty of sport and cold showers at school, which would have been ever so slightly more convincing had he not also insisted that we all move from sitting comfortably around the table outside the pub to perching awkwardly on the stairs inside the pub because it was a bit chilly outside. Having said that, he did buy me a drink and keep us all entertained, so fair’s fair.

On Saturday Michael took me back to hall at Caius for brunch – very nice to see him, and also very nice to return to our habit of skimming the Daily Express over meals to check for any evidence of the stirrings of evolution towards primitive consciousness or intelligent thought. (Result: negative. I do wonder about Express writers sometimes. Because, let’s face it, if you were an aspiring journalist with a cynical penchant for – well – lying, what you’d really want to do is go work for the Mail, right? To end up at the Express represents a professional failure in the field of shitiness, like ending up as a judge on Five’s Don’t Stop Believing rather than The X Factor.) (Deep breath.) Also caught up with Sharon, who has a wonderful knack for conveying enthusiasm about her science work without reducing it to a series of metaphors designed for arts graduates – i.e. you can really learn stuff from her, and it’s wonderful. Talking of clever people at Cambridge: I also ran into (among others) Felix at the Seeley – yeah, I totally hit the Seeley – who I really hope will end up running Cambridge History one day. Or at least sign a book for me.

That evening I ended up in the Picturehouse bar with, um, the family that’s rather hard to name succinctly but includes Bill, Katie, Troy, Lilith, Max, Caitlín and many others. (It was Emily’s 18th, so happy birthday!) And, as always with these lovely lot, more and more people seemed to turn up until about half the bar had been given over to us, chairs and tables requisitioned piecemeal. It was quite a job to explain the complex interrelationships to Simon when he turned up, but that didn’t stop us tagging along to dinner afterwards courtesy of Troy (thanks!) who still failed to run off with my uber-cool Troy Story t-shirt. Finally, Simon and I ended up cycling home very slowly alongside the river, which I comprehensively failed to fall into – quite an accomplishment. And then, finally x2, Patrick joined us for another instalment in the highly enjoyment series of bad movies: Under Siege. Oddly, at a number of points I jokingly suggested ridiculous half-baked courses for the plot to take, only to watch them materialise. I should work in films, me.

Sadly, the length of this post means that most people will have given up by the time I get to Sunday, which is a shame because on Sunday I hopped across to Suffolk to see my adorable cousins who deserve to be read about. Because they’re awesome. Kieron, who is 9, was so impressed by what I taught him about gravitational vs. magnetic fields (yes, really, and yes I’m totally qualified to do this) that he went round telling everyone else about it – hurrah! Amongst much else, we also modelled the solar eclipse using oddly shaped magnets and established that bonobos are humanity’s closest living relative. (The innate curiosity of children about the real world, unsullied by pretension, is joyous. People get it so wrong when they go on about the ‘innocence’ of children – innocence is just ignorance, and we all share in that. The real magic lies in curiosity.) And it was especially great to spend some time with Julie, my first cousin, who I am determined to see more often. Watch this space.

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