Monday, March 16, 2009
On Saturday, we tootled down to Cambridgshire to meet up with our Son. He's joined the Army with a view to becoming a helicopter engineer and is currently completing his basic training. Pleasantries over, we decided to spend the day in the county town.
I've never been to Cambridge before. What a place. I haven't felt as English since we visited Bath last year. The centre is a synergy of fantastatic architecture, bicycles and Mensa'd grey matter in long wooly scarves. It was weird really - the place is one of the most cosmopolitan cities I have ever been in. There are students and visitors from all over the world - but at the same time, it is quintessentially English.
First stop was a look at the simply awesome King's College Chapel building. If anyone wants to see the best medieval building in the world then this is it.
From the wafer thin fan-vaulted roof to the enormous size of the beautiful stained-glass windows, this building is just sensational. Built in 1441 under the patronage of Henry VI, it is the zenith of medieval master masonary. So it was a bit of a let down then that we couldn't get inside because of a students' function. Never mind - there was always the pub.
And this being Cambridge, we ended up in a hostelry with an illustriously intellectual past. The Eagle is a gorgeous pub, ancient, heaving, warm. and hearty. It was the place where Francis Crick interrupted patrons' lunchtime on 28 February 1953 to announce that he and James Watson had "discovered the secret of life" after they had come up with their proposal for the structure of DNA. The anecdote is related in Watson's book The Double Helix and commemorated on a plaque next to the entrance. How civilised. The meaning of life cogetated and chewed-over on the back of a beer mat in an English Pub.
The place was absolutely stuffed to the rafters with the world's intellectual humanity. Behind us, a group of South American students were having a deep discussion about the culture of Sao Paulo. To the side, a dozen Chinese people chatted about the Science Fair and the lecture they had just attended. A middle aged bloke in a panama hat and a crumpled linen suit ambled into the courtyard and greeted a couple of friends smoking roll-ups.
"Hey man, how's it hanging?"...
To be honest, I think his mate was past caring how anything was hanging...
It's funny, but not one person talked about football - especially as the biggest game of the season was happening in the north west as we drank.
We strolled around the back street medieval lanes and ginnels. It sort of reminded me of Venice - you turn a corner and in an instant you've gone back in time 500 years. I was brought back to the 21st century by my Jerusalem ring tone.
It was my youngest Son telling us that Liverpool had just spanked United, 4-1.
Like I said, perfect day.