James Mitchell

JAMES MITCHELL can’t stand libraries, but at least his high score on Temple Run is impressive.

academic bike Cambridge column cycling game james mitchell Library ordeal punt PUNTING river river cam rower temple run Tourist transport UL

There are many Cambridge traditions that I still haven’t mastered in the 18 months that I’ve been here.

Take the ubiquitous student bike for example – my dad bought one for me because he thought that Cambridge students were compelled to ride them to lectures. I have tried to make use of this conveyance, but so far without any success.

Last time I took the bastard out for a ride, I attempted that ‘one arm in air, other arm on bike’ indicating move that most students seem to pull off with relative ease and swerved into a car on the other side of the road.

Favouring life, I now opt to walk to my various appointments.

Walking around Cambridge is pleasant enough, but without a bike (and looking a bit older than most of my contemporaries) I am convinced that I am often mistaken for a tourist. This matters to me, although I am not sure why it should – besides being asked if I’d like to go for a punt every time I pass through town.

In any event, to avoid such confusion I make sure that I always scurry purposefully, head bowed, carrying a file and/or books in the manner of someone late for a lecture – and appearing to mull over some profound and obscure academic hypothesis of which only a Cambridge student is capable.

Then there’s the UL.  I am probably completely on my own here, but I cannot understand the appeal of the libraries. How can anyone conduct serious research in these God forsaken places?

Yes, I know that most students say things like – “I can’t work in my room” or “I’m too easily distracted anywhere else”, but please tell me what could be more distracting when composing an essay than a room full of complete strangers, routinely clearing their throats, sniffing and shuffling their books.

Moreover, in the unlikely event that you should find yourself sitting in view of someone attractive, you risk losing the whole day.

I have to confess as well that the sight of dozens of people appearing to be working hard and fully focussed makes me panic. At least at home, in my room, I can pretend that trying to beat my high score on Temple Run and taking sporadic afternoon dozes is the normative approach to attaining a respectable degree.

To me, attending the library is an ordeal. For about one hour, every week, it’s like participating in a game of Supermarket Sweep – rushing about the aisles, checking the spine to see if the book has the 10-digit code that’ll lead you onto the next one. Guerrilla warfare tactics typically ensue.

I have also had to hand over upwards of a hundred quid in fines since I started here, returning books late since it takes me a least a day to work out which chapter I’m supposed to be reading and longer still to read it through and take notes. By the time I leave this place, I shall probably have contributed in fines sufficient to fund the new Mitchell wing of the UL.

So there we have it – I don’t like bikes and I can’t stand libraries. Should I just leave now?