Thursday, October 9, 2008

Serenity now!

I'm going to coin a new term: "townaphile". I've got kind-of a crush on Cambridge. Frankly, it's cute as a button.

Firstly, it's a bike town. Apparently, about 1 in 4 people in Cambridge travel by bike, which is the highest ratio in the UK. Because this is England, cars are banked up everywhere not moving. But there are cycle paths everywhere, and the bikes go whizzing along without impediment. It is the way the world should work.

Secondly, Cambridge is pretty tame. I admit to being a country hick. In London, my natural state when out in public is to walk around with my eyes wide and darting, flinching from perceived threats, like a blind cat on a busy motorway. In Cambridge, it feels fine to roam the streets at night. After the TV taping in London last week, we didn't get back to Cambridge until well after midnight and I had to bike across town. Even the type of person who lurks on the streets of Cambridge after midnight on a weeknight seemed pretty benign. My flat is in the area of Cambridge that I was warned to stay away from. I asked my Irish flatmates if it is dangerous here, and they rolled on the floor laughing. Apparently, "Cambridge dangerous" is not on the same thing as "Ireland dangerous".

On Sunday I sat on the couch until 2pm, and then, disgusted at my inactivity, I put on my jacket and wandered through town to the Fitzwilliam Museum. For a small town museum, it was surprisingly well stocked. There is a temporary exhibition of gold jewellery taken from 2-millenia-old Georgian burial mounds that is really impressive.

Just down my street, there's a bookmaker shop and around the corner there's a woman in white, thigh-high boots on the curb (I wonder if she offers foot massages?). It sounds pretty rough, but now amend you mental picture of the street to show the next shop, which is called "Yuppy Puppy" and sells cardigans for dogs. Yes.

Cambridge is just flat-out cool. When I came here, I half expected to see groups of blonde Sebastian Flytes poling around punts, with Aloysiuses lolling dangerously at the prow of the boat. The people are actually pretty much the same drippy-nosed scruffs you see everywhere in England, but the punts and rowing sculls really are always out on the river. Last night I went for a walk after dark, and there were people rowing silently along the inky river, past a couple of white swans and some houseboats. It was serene.

If none of that sways you that this is a cool place, yesterday I realised that I didn't know what my flatmate does for a living. It turns out he's a student studying astro stuff. A couple of his friends are supervised by one Professor Hawking. I don't why Hawking's famous, but he's been on "the Simpsons" twice, so I'm impressed.

On a different note, I do miss antipodean company. Tomorrow I'm off to the pub to meet the members of the local Australian/NZ society. I hope no one mentions the cricket.

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