10 Things I Miss About Cambridge
Overseas correspondent BEN DALTON explains how being on his year abroad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
“Jammy Trevors!” some of you might have been heard to snarl, as your newsfeed grows thick with sarongs donned and toes dipped in waters oh-so-glassy-and-besparkled. A glance back to the “Late Exeat Form” reminder nestled atop your Hermes, and you’re just about ready to expunge yourself to death.
However, ’tis a secret til now devastatingly well-kept that such hateful MMLers of the aforementioned variety, be they gently browsing the well stacked shelves of their local Fnac before a Bourgogne-Chardonnay 13% on the cobbles or tickling a porpoise’s underbelly in a far-flung DOMTOM, sometimes miss Cambridge. Sometimes they even miss it a lot.
To follow are the top ten most unexpected things to engender nostalgia in the M.I.A Y.A.-ing Cantab. Be sure never to take them for granted.
1) Personal Tutor Sessions
A free psychiatrist that may or may not come with free coffee and rich tea digestives. Scrawl your name deliciously and voluptuously across three boxes of the sign-up sheet earning yourself a deluxe fifteen minutes rather than the suggested five, and knock on Professor Egoboost’s door in your hairiest sweater. Plant bottom firmly in armchair, and germinate slowly as he opens on a witty weather observation. Tell him about your cat dying, your sleep apnoea, your holiday to Portsmouth, your Moon Cup, your Miley Cyrus pencil case, and you’ll be met by the most soothing onslaught of smiles and head nods. Because he cares.
2) Feeling important and needed
Those teaching overseas might recall their first day treading the black-boards, upon which they puff up their chest ripe as that of a Redbreast, squint majestically into the Sun Of Glory shinning through the classroom window, and write ‘CAMBRIDGE’ in chalk, expecting perhaps the subsequent explosion of some sort of congratulatory firework. Alas, most pupils will inevitably have no idea what or where Cambridge is and will at the very best ask half-yawned questions like “Ohhh, is that where they filmed Lord Of The Rings?”, the fact that they mean Harry Potter making the suggestion no less incorrect or agonizing. The bubble is thus well and truly burst.
3) The Cold
Here, I refer of course to the Franco and Hispanophiles presently confined to climates of the more Benidorm variety. Yes, whilst they might be woken each morning by droplets of golden sun ringing their foreheads like a tropical halo, this does depressingly little to horse-whisper the loin out of his unquenchable snowlust. Oh, that we were again buried under a double duvet in our collapsible single beds, imagining the cheap nylon to be bear fur and with Attenborough’s ‘Africa’ on iPlayer as the only true source of heat.
4) Surrounding Psychosis
The melting-clock, lobster-phone folly that, whilst having lurked below the surface since the very first day, detonates with full force around the final two weeks of each term. Having heard not so much as an impassioned squawk from your neighbour in days, you knock at their door with the sole intention of verifying that they are still alive, and if not, to arrange the collection of the carcass before it begins to pong. The door creaks open, soundtrack à la Amityville Horror, and you find your dear collocutor dressed in their long white nightie, shaking hands clasped at an empty mug and fragmented Sugar Puffs lining the bird nest atop their head. The entourage more likely to be enveloping your average MMLer on their year abroad is one of a depressingly calmer, happier temperament, and unfortunately up to fifty per cent less likely to experience one MML library fine too many, crack, and run naked through Waterstones, pouring a carton of their own urine over their heads.
5) Deadlines And Stress
As I’m sure anyone that has found themselves in the horrifying situation of being on holiday for too long has told you, there is little in this world more stressful than too much leisure. Whether the MMLer is developing derrière-sores from all those cinema seats, or has lost the majority of their back hair to overly frequent sand-exfoliation, that they are suffering at the malevolent hands of an empty schedule is an extremely safe bet. Some, in desperate quest of the thrilling time limits and pidge-runs that once furnished their quotidian, have even been known to set deadlines for the laying of their beach towels and apply word-limits to their shopping lists.
6) Murray Edwards
What’s not to miss. I know not an MMLer abroad whose mind does not every now and then wander back to the crisp bangers of brunch ‘pon a Saturday morn, or to the heavily imposed and infamously weighty collection of vaginally inspired art which provides simultaneously a cold splash in the face and a tonic to the tired eye, particularly when elements of it are hung just above the condiments table at breakfast. Murray Edwards, imposing breeze-block fortress with ash-tray inspired water feature as it is, will always be a lantern in the dark to the weary traveller whose knee caps have been lost prematurely to Castle Hill. The widely revered and almost folkloric comfort here consists of a mug of tepid Camomile amid the all-encompassing scent of Dove For Women; a potent combination to be found nowhere else on earth.
7) Hermes Greetings
Hermes; a lost world of endless politeness, witty quips and bottom-licking. The voyaging mind of the uprooted MMLer no longer quibbles over the ‘Yours Sincerelys’ and the ‘All Bests’, standing in front of the mirror and passing each one in front of their chest on invisible coat hangers to see which suits, and its absence is felt. The adrenaline gymkhana associated with receiving word from that much loved supervisor or from finally expunging that dissertation thread of eternal woe, now has to be transplanted onto other, less white-knuckle pleasures in the new life of the MMLer. These might include switching loyalty between greengrocers, buying an organic apple, or going on a supermarket sweep at your local pharmacy.
An adrenaline rush greater than that to be found between the sheets, and decidedly longer lasting. This coming summer, so many of your foreign tongued friends will be attempting desperately to stifle their tempestuous academic libido. Whilst other faculties know us for our baguette-wielding and law-fac café dwelling rather than our virility with a ball-point, many of us will be looking upon our local stationary shop this May with haunting looks of enforced impotence. Where now will the forlorn MMLer plant his or her seed, if not in the passionate ravaging of a twelve-page answer booklet?
9) The Long Corridor In The UL
Perfect for the power strut needed by anyone who has lost a testicle or two in a head-on with their DOS. The wooden stacks, the odour of dusty copulation, mounted oil portraits, a meandering, magically appearing and re-appearing, consistently rude German Greer; these are things that a power strut through anything from a Parisian park to The Great Wall are inevitably going to lack.
10) Toilet Rolls
Contrary to popular belief within the bubble, these do not magically renew themselves. Seeing such a product available on the shelves in Sainsbury’s was before, for many of us, a bit like seeing a toy in a toy shop at Christmas, whilst wondering how it can both be on sale in Woolworths yet also lying in wait at the North Pole ready for export on the morning of the 25th. Now, not only is a significant bite of the weekly budget designated to toilet paper, we are also forced to think twice before indulging in the habitual majestic fistfuls for the more minor wipe.
And so, as is above demonstrated, the grass is often no greener on the other side (of the English Channel) than on the rigorously protected lawns of Cambridge. The fact that we can now walk on ours remains, however, the MMLer’s final trump card.
Featured Image by Tom Porteous