On Thursday, as I drove from my appointment at
the dole office JobCentrePlus, Cambridge looked beautiful enough to break your heart. Compared to Oxford, you don’t see people in gowns much here, but I passed a line of them walking very decoratively along The Backs that afternoon. The sun was shining low—through trees that hadn’t even got around to doing their golden foliage thing, but still looked gorgeous—and dappled the black figures as they processed beyond a long rank of parked cars. Luckily I snapped out of my reverie in time to avoid removing the vehicles’ wing mirrors. Commenter casualsavant will testify to my near complete failure to take advantage of the sights here, but when I’ve been rowing and running around the place I’ve seen some lovely picture-postcard scenes. (Given the chance, cs would also have a thing or two to say about my driving.)
Nothing much happens in Cambridge, but I’ll miss that too. Lately, however, the local papers have been excited to have a juicy murder plot to report. No one died, of course, but that means everyone can enjoy the tale without feeling guilty—except for the plotter, that is, who the cops got bang-to-rights. Karen Quinton became infatuated with a man who wasn’t her husband so she decided to hire a contract killer called “Dave” to remove the man who was. She promised Dave £10 000 from Mr Quinton’s life insurance on delivery of her widowhood. Unfortunately for Mrs Quinton, but fortunately for her husband, Dave was an undercover policeman. I mean, what are the chances of there being a bloke sitting in a Cambridgeshire pub, ready to do away with an inconvenient rellie for you? You could probably find a bloke called Dave ready to explain string theory to you, ready to guide you through the microeconomics of health insurance in Texas, ready to recount the social history of the Kite area of the city, ready to build you a custom PC, or even ready to teach you how to play the lute. But ready to commit murder? You’ll have to nip down to London for that, love.
Funny thing is, I was in the Co-op supermarket the other day and I caught sight of the front page of the Cambridge Evening News, the main non-free newspaper round here. Mr Quinton was on the front cover, publicly declaring his love for his homicidal wife in spite of everything. Just goes to show: not everyone in this town is very bright.
“… beautiful enough to break your heart … The Backs … some lovely picture-postcard scenes … Nothing much happens in Cambridge … the Co-op supermarket … the Cambridge Evening News … not everyone in this town is very bright …”: It all comes flooding back, 24 years on. If nostalgia is a disease (as Doris Lessing, for one, insists), you already seem to be incubating the Cambridge strain of it. Welcome to the rest of the world, broken heart and all!
Only soft southern fairies go to universities with picture postcard scenes. Real men go to Manchester to feast on a visual diet of graffiti, vandalism, violence and litter.
All the more reason, PG, to do “the tourist thing” around Cambridge. It’s CRIMINAL that you don’t know all the odd bits of history and trivia in the very city you lived in for so long. It’s well worth your while and would definitely make you laugh.
Cambridge really does break your heart. You either take it all in and go in a fiery blaze of nostalgia or you close yourself off to it (or try to) and be a complete wuss boy. 🙂
Siaw – did all three of you go to Cambridge at the same time?
Next question….you’ve guessed it … did y’all go to Trinity?
(Sorry, couldn’t resist!).
OP: This is close to being OT (or even OTT), but, FYI and FWIW, two of us were at Cambridge at the same time – not at Trinity (no thanks), but at the alma mater of Cecil Parkinson, Graeme Garden, John Harvard … Enough clues yet?
SIAW are tabs? Now that IS something to break the heart.
Cambridge IS beautiful – I personally find the architecture at the very least superior to Oxford’s, to say nothing of London, and the heavy pedestrianisation actually allows you to stand and stare. It’s the only city where I’ve ever been casually overtaken by a family of otters………
SIAW hail from Emmanuel, the prequel of Harvard, and the college with the best prime rib and the snow bunny. 🙂
I’m from Corpus, which is famous for Christopher Marley (spy, drunk, or unlucky bloke at the pub?) and “that bearded voyeur Satan” Lewis.
PG is from that *other* place, where he was at Balliol.
They drive like animals.
James: What are “tabs”?
casual: Got it in one. BTW, you’ve conflated Christopher Marlowe with Bob Marley – easily done, as they look so much alike ; )
PG: As in “Bring Your Otter to the Slaughter”.
We’ll get our (fur) coats …
casual: Also BTW – enjoyed the story about “Satan” Lewis, but it’s deeply, deeply shocking to see a Cambridge college putting a period on “St”. Has it been taken over by Americans? Or people from Oxford?
Ye k’yan be seh-rious, siaw, mon! I-and-I is de one true bard in de Fenland Babylon!
ROTFL, as they often say over a joint and a rum in the Fellows’ Common Room …
Siaw: Tabs, as my Oxford educated wifey would tell you, are from Cambridge (canTABridgian). Tends to be derogatory, and used by Oxford sports teams (rowers, rugby players etc.). Even college level athletes would use the term. As a Cambridge graduate I can tell you there isn’t a special derogatory term we used for Oxford students. Never seemed to need one.
Stef: Thanks for that. We thought that James might have been calling us cigarettes, and felt confused. Now we know that it’s yet another Cambridge-related term we missed because we didn’t do any sport there.
That’s an interesting link to the Kansai Dragons on your blog, by the way. We remember seeing them on the Yodogawa years ago, when we lived in Osaka – but (to get back on topic) there’s an opening for another bout of nostalgia, so we’d better stop.
Stories such as Mrs Quinton’s appear regularly enough for me to wonder how exactly one does hire a contract killer. I imagine Mrs Quinton diffidently walking up to the bar of a crap pub in a rough part of town and asking the barman “Excuse me, do you know of a reliable killer for hire? I’m on a budget, so ideally I’d like to get 2 or 3 round for a quote.” It’s hard enough for landlords to hold on to their tenancies when drug dealers want to use their premises let alone being a business centre for assassins. So naturally their first inclination would be to point out the first undercover policeman and tell her “you want to talk to Dave, love, he does all the killing round here.”
Better to do your own murdering I suspect.
No, not cigarettes, SIAW. Although that does remind me of a week I spent in the company of some visitors from the USA in the mid-90s. I was a smoker then, and I learned later that there’d been concern and costernation behind my back each and every time I announced to the assembly that I was popping out for a fag.
James: Here in Canada we’ve quickly learned to stop saying “fags” – the last time one of us did, the guy at the Canadian Tire [*] store pointed us towards the fax machine.
[*] One of the few words Canadians spell the US way – there’s a sociolinguistics thesis waiting to be written on the subject, though not by us.
Siaw: good catch! Corpus would be ashamed of me. Christopher Marlowe it is. 🙂 As for the non-standard period / full stop, perhaps their webmaster was a yank. Corpus isn’t too well known for its IT capabilities.
Commenting on a post that’s “ancient history”, but it needed to be completed. Apparently if you’re a serious varsity Cambridge sportsperson, Oxford are “the filth.” So it’s “Tabs” from “Cantab” as an insult on one side, and “filth” from, erm, well, on the other.