In the latest round of the never-ending quest to sort my head out, I have been going through old diaries, and I found this, from about eighteen months ago:
Cambridge is cold and windy, and beautiful in the winter light, and a little bit aloof.
That was when I was living in Guildford and going up to Cambridge once or twice a month to see Tony, and wondering whether I would ever actually be able to live there. I found the city terribly intimidating: it’s so old, and so full of terrifyingly clever people. In all fairness, I was intimidated by Guildford when I first moved there: so full of terrifyingly rich people.
I’ve been in Cambridge a year now, and we are beginning to become acquainted. There are some parts – my cycle ride to and from the station; the section of the Cam from the Green Dragon in Chesterton up to Baits Bite Lock – that I pass through daily or weekly. I can find my way around the city centre without a map now. I’ve been doing lots of walking – I always explore a new place on foot, if I can. But there’s still an awful lot that I haven’t discovered. There’s probably a lot that I’ll never discover.
One of the loveliest things has been discovering Cambridge with other people. One of them has known Cambridge longer than I’ve been alive, and dragged me off to Fitzbillies for the best Chelsea bun in the world. One grew up in Cambridge – and gave me a long list of pleasant places to eat and wander in. One had never visited before – and we downloaded a walk from the internet and found all the colleges. My father came to stay and went for a drink in the Mitre – where, he casually mentioned, his grandfather had almost certainly drunk before him. That made it better.
I like Cambridge. I like the cherry blossom and the pale yellow stone and the rowers. I like the way that everybody cycles and how ridiculously easy it is to get to London. I like the college arms that line the staircase in Boots. I like the Te Deum windows in Great St Mary’s. I like the Renoirs in the Fitzwilliam and the Chelsea buns in Fitzbillies. I like the charity shops on Burleigh Street.
There are probably all sorts of other things I like, but I haven’t got round to them yet. No matter. There’s plenty of time.