Jubilee

Cambridge, on a punt.

There are ups and downs on this journey – though not of course on the roads and paths here in Cambridge, where the biggest hill is Garrett Hostel Lane – and that’s only a bridge over the river.

Everyone comes to Cambridge to see the river, and the Collge Backs, which back onto it.  It’s very beautiful.  The best thing to do, of course, is to admire them from the river itself, in a punt.

Today, being Jubilee bank holiday, half the world has come out punting, and the river is chaotic.  Koenraad, a PhD researcher from King’s College, whose academic interest is the restoration of Italian antiquities, is punting me and the cello.

I’m sitting on my folding stool, a bit precariously because it’s a boat and of course it wobbles, playing The Swan, Debussy’s Syrinx, and other watery things, and being videoed by a million tourists.  Only once did a sudden collision – it came out of nowhere, honestly, officer – threaten to capsize the enterprise.

That was an up.  It was followed by a down.  I was booked to play on the sacred and forbidden cobbles outside King’s itself, and expected a crowd.  There were indeed crowds, but they weren’t interested in a cello.  Except for one small child, whose parent thought it was fun to film it trying to dismantle my set-up while I played.

But when four shirtless and shoeless fellows set up a loudly amplified beatbox in the middle of the road, and began dancing to it they attracted a big crowd in an instant.  Ah well.

I was a student here, at Selwyn College, about a hundred years ago, and ex-students can occasionally invite themselves to take dinner at High Table with the College Fellows.  And tonight, after a special Jubilee evensong in the soaring red-brick chapel, there’s a very special Jubilee dinner.

I sat between a theoretical physicist, and the retired University Librarian – 9 million books – opposite a professor of medicine, and a lecturer in Italian.  We ate Coronation Cauliflower.  We clapped the Jubilee Pudding as it was carried in like a haggis.  And with our cheese we drank 1952 Madeira and 1977 Port.

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