Saturday, July 30, 2005

Cambridge



I was going to go into London again to see my friend Michele & family who are visiting from Hong Kong, but couldn't face the A1 again, so turned around and headed north east to Cambridge, only about 40 miles away.

We had a pretty nice time looking around the college-dominated old town centre, although the place is really overrun by tourists - more per square foot than anywhere else I've been in the UK. We turned a corner near Kings College Chapel, and several hundred Korean schoolkids greeted Bondi with a blinding barrage of camera flashes. We were momentarily relieved by the distraction of a man walking 4 gigantic mastiff-like dogs in the other direction, and I ducked into a music store where I was able to spend a minute or so convincing my hands that they could still play the piano after 2 months' lack of practice. They coughed out some Brahms and Scarlatti before my left hand decided it didn't want to play any more, so I picked up some of Peter Donohoe's recent Naxos British Concerto CDs and set off for some coffee by the river.




Sitting at a cafe's outdoor table, we could watch tourists in self-propelled or chauffeured punts, a prominent feature of the River Cam since Edwardian times. Student touts patrol the nearby streets enticing visitors to their respective company's boats, and indeed were quick to enquire if my dog would like an hour on the river. I was pretty keen to go out but was waiting for new friend Paul to arrive for a drink.



When he did arrive, Bondi was very much the focus of attention of succeeding waves of photographers, and now more than ever did I wish that I was charging for the privilege.

Punting plans were postponed: Paul took us to see the Tattersalls yards in nearby Newmarket, and thence to an informal engagement party. There was an interesting array of guests, including an Australian-born vicar, Canon Peter who looked rather familiar to me - I was told he'd been a child star of something back down under - who seemed very taken by the frocks and smells of the Anglican church. He'd grown up in the west Riverina not too far from where I went to school, and pointed out to someone that his diocese there was twice the size of England.

I also talked a lot with a very amusing couple of Londoners who were relocating to some land in Cyprus, where they were building a home, and making stumbling attempts at learning Greek. Having had the benefit of both a mathematical education (so I could read the Greek alphabet) and the tutelage of Greek friends at college, I was able to pass on the requisite knowledge of Greek profanities, even being able to point out some Cypriot variants. We got on to the topic of Greek food (in which I'd been educated by the mothers of my language tutors) and then, in a clumsy attempt to explain the derivation of galaktoboureko by means of an analogy with galactorrhea, managed to put the poor woman off custard for life. She and her husband were still mightily impressed by my Greek, but I pointed out that it was probably only good for insulting caterers.

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