Sunday, 17 August 2014

Also In Cambridge

As I hope I've already shown you through these pages there's a lot to see in Cambridge besides King's College Chapel. And it's beside King's College Chapel that we'll start off today.

The University's Senate House is not easily missed despite its grand neighbour. But it is easy to look briefly, register that it's a nicely proportioned white building and move on. However for those who linger, a closer inspection reveals a wealth of intricate and beautiful carving, even right up under the eaves.

And I would bet that even the most observant visitor will not be aware of the memorial to Cambridge men who gave their lives during the First World War. Unlike the sea of ceramic poppies which has "sprung up" at the Tower Of London, this is a plain and modest memorial, much more in keeping with the mood of the time. There is a list of the names of the fallen which is flanked by these two simply carved soldiers. To me it says all you need to know about the character of these men. For those who want to see the memorial it's on the east wall of Great St Mary's church, overlooking the Market Square, right in the centre of the city.

Many people coming to Cambridge will comment on the narrow, congested streets. And those travelling by taxi will undoubtedly have heard the views of the taxi drivers on the subject! However many of the streets have been made wider since medieval times. The older street pattern is retained in a few small areas such as the narrow streets around Portugal Place. The street gets its name from the fact that many businesses in the area relied on the import of port wine from Portugal. The said beverage was drunk in copious quantities in times past by the senior figures in the University, and maybe still is for all I know. The houses in this little neighbourhood are now highly valued residences, though in my younger days were mostly flats rented by students and other young people. Some wild parties took place there most weekends.

Someone who probably didn't go to wild parties, or drink too much port, is remembered by a plaque high on the wall of one of the houses "ALLAMA MUHAMMAD IQBAL" it says "Born 1877, Died 1938, Poet Philosopher of Pakistan, Lived here 1905-6 while at Trinity College". Although not a household name in the west, throughout Pakistan, India, Iran and Afghanistan he is regarded as The Poet Of The East. His writings gave rise to the birth of Pakistan where his birthday is now a national holiday.

And in almost every city in the world it's always worth looking up above the modern shop- and restaurant-frontages where often there is a wonderful display of varied architecture.

Take care. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Bubble-Man Cometh

Cambridge has long been a magnet for all kinds of street entertainment: a one-man-band, a string quartet, jugglers, African drummers, fire-eaters, pavement artists, puppeteers, morris dancers, operatic tenors, face painters, acrobats, jazz bands, unicyclists, tight-rope walking fiddlers - I've seen, heard and enjoyed them all. But today.....

....the bubble-man came to entertain!

All he needed were some contraptions made of string and sticks and a bucket of soapy water to entertain kids of all ages for much of the afternoon.

From time to time he interrupted his own fun to remind people to put some money in the hat - "This is what I do for a living - I'm a great disappointment to my mother!"

With its high number of students, academics and tourists it's an ideal place to 'work the crowds'. You're more likely to see people carrying books or cameras than shopping bags in Cambridge!

This weekend sees the annual Buskers & Street Entertainers Festival so they'll be all kinds of acts taking to the streets on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

It was a tricky subject to photograph as it was impossible to tell where the breeze was going to take the bubbles and how long they would survive before popping. Taking lots of pictures and some drastic cropping was my solution.

And I was not the only one chasing those elusive bubbles...

Take care.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Beaches...But No Seaside

Cambridgeshire is a land-locked county which can boast two beaches - the twin villages of Waterbeach and Landbeach. Before the drainage of the Fens these two settlements were at the water's edge. Now they are far inland. But they do have a kindergarten school called "Beach Babies" which always makes me smile.


While pedalling towards Denny Abbey I couldn't resist peeping into the churches of the two villages. Waterbeach has a tower while Landbeach favours a spire but both are fairly typical village churches. My grandmother spent the last few years of her long life in a care home in Waterbeach and the last time I went into the church must have been with her. I remember that she was very taken with it.

Although the building is much older, it underwent a major facelift in the late Victorian age. So most of what you see dates from the same sort of time as my dear Granny, who was born in 1894. 

Usually Victorian restorations resulted in the quaint and crumbling being ripped out and replaced with the huge and horrible, but here the additions are rather attractive if perhaps a bit over-elaborate for modern taste.

I find myself siding with Granny's enthusiasm for the place. And the ladies of the village can certainly do a mean floral decoration....


A perfect little church nestling in its churchyard. Inside it's seen no major renovation, just the usual patching-up-enough-to-make-it-serviceable. But it does have this remarkable lectern...

    I've never seen anything like it and it's certainly not the kind of thing you'd expect to find in a little parish church. Apparently it's thought to be Dutch and to have arrived here via an antique dealer in York.

There's also a tantalising glimpse of medieval wallpainting and, looking upwards, some rustic- looking angels....

There are eight in total - here are the others...

The shields, which might have been painted later, are, left to right - the arms of the Bishops of Ely, the arms of Corpus Christi College, the arms of Cambridge University....but then I'm struggling!

Outside I was aware of someone else looking down at me. Could it be W C Fields? Winston Churchill? Or perhaps Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker?

Take care.